Doctrinal Pet Peeve–Christ’s Righteous Deeds Were not Added to Your Account

Yesterday I stated that “Christ did not keep the law for you.” Yes, His Law-keeping, which showed Him to be the spotless sacrifice, was all done to provide us with salvation, so in a general sense perhaps Jesus kept the law for you, but that’s not what people mean when they say this phrase.

“Christ kept the law for me” is another way of stating “Christ’s righteous deeds were added to my account.”

In other words, according to this statement, I am counted righteous because Christ’s righteous deeds He did while on earth (His law-keeping), was added to my account, thus making me right with God.

The theological term is: Christ’s active righteousness.

This is all part of the Calvinist system of salvation.

The full system goes like this:

“He [Jesus] took our sins and their penalty in our place by dying on the cross for us. This substitution leaves us with a ‘not guilty’ verdict as we face God’s judgment with respect to our sin.

“Yet being ‘not guilty’ is not the same as being righteous. This is where Jesus’ obedient life comes in. As our sin is debited to his account, Christ’s active righteousness is credited to our account.”

That quote is from a Calvinist professor. I have a number of problems with that statement, but I’ll stick to the active righteousness part.

According to this statement, which is the Calvinist understanding of atonement, we are justified by works of the law, it’s just that Christ did the works of the law for you.

One wonders why He had to die and rise again. One also wonders why Paul said we are justified by faith in Christ’s blood.

“One act of righteousness leads to justification and life” Paul said in Romans 5:18. It wasn’t a life of righteous acts, it was one righteous act. What was the one righteous act Jesus did that justifies? Paul tells us several verses earlier, “we have now been justified by his blood.” His death was the one righteous deed that leads to justification and life.

The Calvinist predicament is that since Christ took all your sin away and replaced it with His good deeds, He obviously couldn’t have done this for everyone, because not all are saved. Which leads to Limited Atonement–that Christ only came for the elect.

This is contradicted by Scripture in several places. Here’s one, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” World doesn’t mean “elect.” If Limited Atonement is true, the New Testament is a liar, whosoever will actually can’t, and the Gospel is not for anyone who believes.

What Christ did on the cross was huge. It’s what we put our hope in. I have heard many people question why there’s so little talk about the life of Christ in the sharing of the Gospel.

Well, because according to 1 Corinthians 15, the Gospel is about Christ dying for our sins, being buried and rising again. We are justified by faith in His blood, not by His law-keeping.

If you are not a Calvinist, stop saying “Jesus kept the law for me,” or “Christ’s righteous deeds are added to my account.” Because, ultimately, you aren’t defending the Gospel; you are defending Reformed Theology, Calvinism, and Limited Atonement.

Doctrinal Pet Peeve–Jesus Did Not Keep The Law For You

I am preaching through Galatians, which is a very doctrinal book, particularly chapters 2-4. Paul’s main thrust of these chapters is that justification is by faith, not by deeds of the law.

This seems a straight-forward point, yet I have heard so much ridiculousness come out of these chapters, it aint even funny.

One of my doctrinal pet peeves is when people say stuff like “Jesus kept the law for me.”

This is not a biblical statement. Yes, it is what some theologians have said, but it isn’t what the Bible ever said.

We are justified by faith, just like Abraham was.

No flesh was ever justified, or ever will be justified, by keeping the Law. The law was there to drive people to see their inability and push them on to faith in the One whom God would provide for salvation–Jesus Christ.

Since no flesh is justified by works of the Law, it is completely silly to say I am justified because “Christ kept the Law for me.”

Christ did keep the law, hear me rightly, He never sinned, He always did the will of His Father. But his law-keeping (which didn’t look like law-keeping to Pharisees) was to show He was the spotless sacrifice. In that sense, we benefit from Christ having kept the Law, and ultimately, this was all done for us. So, if that’s what you mean by “Christ kept the law for me,” OK, but find a better, fuller way to say it, please!

Christ did not keep the Law for you.

Think of it–the Law was given to Moses (this is the Law Paul speaks of in Galatians 2-4–the one ordained by angels and received by a mediator, Moses) as part of a covenant with the People of Israel to inherit the Promised Land.

It was a conditional covenant for Israel relating to Land possession. Read Deuteronomy and note how often it talks about doing the Law for the Land. It was the whole point.

Israel never did fully inherit the Land. They got close, but they never did it. And, as we know, what little of the Land they did get, was eventually taken away. They were taken into captivity and dispersed.

Why were they kicked out of the Land? Because they didn’t keep the Law.

The Law was not given to justify people.

Let me repeat this repeated point in the New Testament:

The Law was not given to justify people.

If Jesus truly did keep the Law for you, this would make you eligible to inherit the Promised Land.

I’d rather have heaven.

How to Better Judge Hypocrites

Paul confronts Peter in Galatians 2 for not acting consistent with the Gospel. Peter (who some think is the first pope, thus eliminating any confusion over whether popes are infallible), was cool with Gentile company until some of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem came to town.

“Gentiles? What’s a Gentile?” suddenly became Peter’s attitude.

Well, that’s weird Peter. Why cool with Gentiles until bigwig Jewish believers come to town? Something isn’t right there.

The big problem with Peter’s actions is that other people follow Peter’s lead. Paul is concerned that “other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

Even Paul’s partner on his first missionary journey, Barnabas, is led after Peter’s sin. (Some think this is the initial conflict that later led Paul and Barnabas to split over Mark.)

The KJV uses the words “dissembled” and “dissimulation,” which is cool. Very fun to say. But what do they mean?

They both share the same Greek root word “upokri,” from which we get our word “hypocrite.”

What Paul is saying to Peter is “your actions led other Jews to be hypocritical and even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”

Hypocrisy is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Christians all over the place are judged for being hypocrites. But many of these charges really aren’t hypocrisy.

The Greek word means “acting under a feigned part,” and, as you’ve probably heard many times, it’s a word used to describe an actor playing a role, a role he plays on stage, not at home.

Are there actors playing the part of Christians in the church? Absolutely. But most people aren’t being hypocrites, they’re just being bad Christians!

Allow me to explain.

I am a pastor. I have absolutely committed myself to the Gospel and to Jesus Christ. I have put myself in a position to lead in the Church, to help others know Christ better. I love this. I am absolutely sincere about this all the time.

Even at the time when I lose my patience with my kids, or when I make that joke I probably shouldn’t have made, or when I blow off talking to someone because I want to get going.

OK, I blew it. I messed up. This doesn’t mean I’m a hypocrite, it means I messed up. Messing up is part of life. It happens. Most theologies deal with this problem.

This doesn’t mean messing up is OK. It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t hold Christians to a high standard (Christians should welcome a high standard and strive to meet it). It doesn’t even mean I shouldn’t be judged or criticized for having blown it.

But hold off on the hypocrite charge. I’m not playing a role that shifts based on who I’m with, I’m not fake, I just messed up.

Hypocrites are people who play one part in front of one group and another part in front of another group.

I guarantee you, whatever group of people I am with, I will say a joke I should probably not have said. That’s not me playing a part, that’s me not quite getting the oft-repeated lesson that I should shut up more.

Five Tips for Dealing With Jehovah’s Witnesses

The car pulls into the driveway. The old lady gets out. Ten minutes later she rings the doorbell.

“Oh Lord, what should I do?” I pray. “Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble. If I stay it will be double. So, come on! Let me know, Lord, should I stay or should I go?”

Yup, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have stopped by again. What to do? Over my years of experience dealing with JW’s here are my tips for dealing with the arrival of a Jehovah’s Witness.

1. Duck and Cover
This is a valid option. Yes, I have seen the old lady exit the car and then I dive behind the kitchen counter, army crawl into the hallway, and take shelter in a bedroom with the lights off. This also works effectively with Schwann’s trucks.

2. Argue
Hey, why not? You weren’t going to do anything else for the next hour anyway. JW’s have been trying to re-market themselves less as arguers, and more as friendly people just trying to get you to heaven. But many will argue. If you’re the kind of person who likes to argue, go for it, I won’t stop ya.

3. Edumacate yourself
If you’re going to have a problem with a group of people, you might as well know why. JW’s don’t believe Jesus is divine. They deny His bodily resurrection. John 1:1, according to their awful translation of the Bible (The New World Translation), says “the word was A god.” No trinity for them. There is no hell, unbelievers are annihilated. Only 144,000 go to heaven. They believe Jesus appeared on the earth in 1914 to teach a refresher course for true believers. They have wrongly predicted the date of Armageddon many times. They believe they are the only people to have a true and pure religion.

4. Always take the material they offer
I will often have a brief conversation with them, bring up how the 144,000 are actually Jewish folks during the tribulation period, which they have no idea what to do with that, so they will “be on our way” but will always offer printed material, which I take and throw away. It’s my small part to aid them on their way to bankruptcy.

5. Be nice
These are real people. The assumption is that door-to-door witnesses are highly educated, solid believers This isn’t the case. They have to do this sort of stuff. Many have no idea what they are talking about. They are trained to proof-text, not to do any in-depth thinking, you know, like Christians. You never know, you might help one truly find out who Jesus is.

In the end, JW’s do door-to-door witnessing to maintain good standing in their church. It took guts to knock on your door. More guts than most Christians have ever displayed. They look at it as a witnessing opportunity, and I believe you should too. Or you can army-crawl down the dark hallway. Either way.

Why there are Doctrinal Disagreements and What to do when Someone Disagrees with Your Doctrine

Doctrine is divisive. Christian unity is often predicated on the notion of “finding commonality.”

Loosely interpreted, “finding commonality” means, “let’s ignore 98% of doctrinal subjects.”

Over the years, many people have disagreed with my doctrine. There are two main reasons why this happens:

1) I not always communicate goodly. Putting doctrine into words that make sense to other people is tough at times. It is impossible to talk about the Trinity and not offend someone. There are times I know what I’m trying to say and also know I’m not quite saying it. Emotions also creep in and make me overstate things or use sarcasm or other such devices that don’t help.

2) People don’t hear well. This is an amazing one. I have had more people leave my church for having heard things I never said, than for hearing stuff I actually said. It’s an astounding phenomena. I had a person leave my church once because they said I was a Calvinist! If you’ve been around me for any length of time, you should pick up better on that one.

I used to take it very personally when someone disagreed with me. It took me a long time to realize there are other things at work in doctrinal disagreements besides doctrinal disagreements.

Never underestimate the force of personality clashes. Most church divisions are over personalities than over doctrine. I’ll stick to that statement. You can quote me on it.

One of the reasons people have a hard time hearing is because they’ve already determined to have a problem with you. Now to take something you said out of context to create said problem. Once I have that, then I can leave because of a “spiritual” issue rather than the petty fact I don’t like your leadership style because it reminds me of my dad.

Been there, done that.

About nine times now.

Another aspect of doctrinal division is that everyone is a sinner. Sin affects doctrine. Your pet sin, the one you have a particular penchant for committing, will cloud your reason and ability to apply God’s Word. Your guilty conscience, if nothing else, will keep you from talking on certain subjects.

Listen to a preacher for a couple years. Identify the sin he never seems to bring up. DINGDINGDING! That’s his favorite sin.

You can try that on me, but I’m the one who just said this, so I have, for years, attempted to address every sin so you’ll never know mine!

It’s also true that sinners are the ones disagreeing with your doctrine. What do they know anyway?!

No, you should always consider carefully people’s disagreements with you. Think over their arguments. Most importantly, consider carefully any verses they might use.

Remember this essential fact from the life of Christ–people disagreed with Christ all the time and HE WAS SINLESS!

Now, don’t go thinking you are sinless and have perfect doctrine like Jesus. You don’t. What you should remember is that the world is filled with morons.

Jesus told people how to know sound doctrine. Ready for it? Are ya sure? Cuz He told us how it worked. Lots of people say they want sound doctrine, but count the cost before reading ahead.

You sure you want to know this? You become accountable after reading it. Proceed with caution. Here it is:

“Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

The way to know sound doctrine is to desire to do the will of God. In case you don’t think that’s what it says because you don’t like my tone of voice, or the way I comb my hair, or whatever, here are some authorities on this verse:

Jamison Faucet and Brown—“singleness of desire to please God is the grand inlet to light on all questions vitally affecting one’s eternal interests”

Vine’s—“Sympathy with the will of God is a condition of understanding it.”

John Wesley—“This is a universal rule, with regard to all persons and doctrines. He that is thoroughly willing to do it, shall certainly know what the will of God is.”

Here’s what you do when people disagree with you on doctrine:

1) Examine yourself–are they right? Have you considered their verses in the forming of your beliefs? Is your sin blocking your growth or understanding here?

2) Consider the source–are these people who are concerned with doing God’s will? Are they desiring righteousness, or just picking fights? Is their life showing growth into Christ, or a testimony of sin and pride?

This is one of my greatest frustrations with internet communication. I have no idea who people are who disagree with me. I sort of have a “faceless mass of internet trolls” that I immediately assume disagree-rs are in. I generally dismiss all internet disagreements.

I think that’s why Church, being with other believers physically, is so vital to spiritual growth. A quote from Thomas Oden speaks volumes here

“The truth is harder to find when undebated than debated.”

In the end, doctrinal disagreement aint the worst thing that can happen to you. Especially if it comes from people you know, trust and live with. Internet debate? Yeah, that’s pointless. Here’s the Apostle Paul, who knows more than Thomas Oden, you, or me:

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

If people disagree with you. Lighten up. Don’t take you and your rightness so seriously. Instead, use it as an opportunity to grow into Christ and become approved unto God.