Wednesday, December 07, 2016

How Does a Gathering of People Obtain Church Authority?

Churches have authority.  This is seen through the whole New Testament, but for the sake of this post, I'm assuming that point.  How do the churches get that authority?  This is a theme brushed over in the latest series, yet unfinished, reviewing Kevin Bauder's chapter on Landmarkism (pts. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Yesterday I got a mass email from 9 Marks, Mark Dever's organization, which purports to specialize in ecclesiology.  I clicked on the link, and surfed to the latest journal, which explored various facets of church authority, and one of the articles, that caught my attention, by the Editorial Director of 9Marks, Jonathan Leeman, was entitled, "The Nature of Church Authority."  After his introduction, the following was Leeman's first section:
In fact, I don’t think the idea of church authority needs to mystify or scare us. It’s really quite simple. To strip off all the layers and whittle it down to its barest minimum, church authority is nothing more or less than two or three people agreeing about the gospel. 
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matt. 18:19–20) 
Suppose you and dozen other people are living on a desert island. You find a Bible, read it, and become convinced of the truths of Christianity. You repent and believe. You’re now a Christian, or at least you say you are. You share the gospel with two others. They, too, repent and believe. The three of you can now gather in Jesus’ name, because it’s no longer just you saying you’re a Christian; they’re saying it, too. 
The authority of your church of three consists entirely in your agreement with one another about Jesus and about each other.
I had never heard what he wrote in my entire life.  Had I missed something?  Is the above actually taught in Matthew 18, because it had never occurred to me.  Is that what people have really believed about church authority, that it is found in the agreement of two or three people?

As you continue in Leeman's article, if I am reading him correctly, he expands upon the above by saying that when two are three in gathered in Jesus' name, they have church authority.  He then defines "in Jesus' name" as, one, "agreement with one another about the good news of Jesus," and, two, "an agreement that the other two persons possess genuine faith in the good news about Jesus." I really don't get Leeman's point, if he's not saying that two or three people can be a church if each one of the two or three agree that the other one or two are saved people.  He says that a church can go public if it has two or three like this in one place who will agree.  Matthew 18 is for him the proof text for that.

Again, I have never heard that teaching from Matthew 18 in my entire life.  If I am representing him properly, then it is at least an attempt at a biblical basis for churches starting without the authority of another church.  In this case, he doesn't even mention baptism.  It can be a church without baptism at all.

I have understood the section in Matthew 18 to be an already existent church with authority.  Two or three witnesses agreeing is enough for a church to loose in church discipline.  The Old Testament standard for establishing the truth of something or the guilt of someone is two or three witnesses. A person's word is established by two or three witnesses.  When a church functions, it has the authority of Jesus Christ there.  Heaven is in operation on earth.

Matthew 18 is not providing a definition of a church, but it is helpful.  It's obviously a usage of the word "church" by Jesus in the gospels.  It is dealing with people in a single location.  It isn't universal.  A church does have authority, because it can add or subtract members.  The Lord teaches this.  He approves.

Matthew 18 is not speaking of the formation of a church by two or three without church authority.  It is not a passage teaching this.  Teachers like Leeman should not rely upon Matthew 18 as a passage to teach on the origination of a church.  It is teaching on church discipline for an already established, authoritative church.  A church has authority to discipline.  It must be a church.  To be a church, it must have that authority by means of another church.

Leeman compares these two or three agreeing to start the church to the start of any organization by a few people agreeing to start.  These two or three, he says, are ready to baptize too, if they agree that a new person should be baptized.  This idea is not in Matthew 18.  People don't suddenly have authority as a church because there are two or three of them, who agree that each other is saved.

I'm not going to go to all the passages that teach it, but authority passes from Jesus to a church to another church.  A church sends out evangelists.  They have the authority from that church to baptize.  That assembly becomes a church because a church says it is a church.

Furthermore, someone doesn't come into a church without the church.  Someone doesn't get dismissed from a church without the church.  A church doesn't start without the church.  The authority comes through church to church to church.  That is the pattern of the New Testament.

Leeman really does get it backwards.  Authority doesn't proceed from people agreeing.  Authority proceeds from a church, which proceeds from Jesus, the Head of the church. The two or three don't remove someone from a church.  The church removes someone.  Those three get authority from a church.  They don't become a church because they agree they are one.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Personal Thinking About Calvinism

Sometimes someone will ask me about Calvinism.  I would say, none in 29 years in door to door evangelism or any other form of evangelism, except that it is one.  One person.  It was three to six months ago.  I rang a doorbell, a man came to the door, and after I introduced myself to him, he said he was a Calvinist.  That was it.

We have had two Calvinists as members of our church.  Both were disciplined out of our church.  The first wouldn't get employment, and when we required him to look for it, instead of depending on his wife as a breadwinner, he just took off.  The other stopped attending because I didn't promote Calvinism.  I preached through scripture verse by verse, not missing anything, but he dropped out and stopped attending because he could no longer endure my lack of Calvinism.

In the real world, no one talks to me about Calvinism and I don't have to talk to anyone about Calvinism.  If there was no internet, I'm not sure I would be thinking at all about Calvinism.  I would be going my way merrily, not giving it a passing thought, except when I read Calvinistic commentaries, which commentators included it in their writings, and Calvinist theology books or writings.

I have not concluded that I could not fellowship with a Calvinist, even though we have none in our church.  The men I'm closest to are not Calvinists.  I don't have a negative mindset toward Calvinists though.  Many probably think I am a Calvinist.  I'm not.

When I think of someone saying he is a Calvinist, here's how I think about it.  He doesn't believe in salvation by works.  He believes that someone who is saved will live the Christian life and keep living it.  He considers salvation to be of God.  He understands man is ruined by sin.  He doesn't believe man initiates salvation.

I could explain myself as a Calvinist, knowing that I'm not one.  I could say that I believe in total depravity.  I believe everyone is a sinner and no one is a good person.  If unconditional election is that God elects before the foundation of the world, and no conditions have been met by someone before time, then I believe that.  Not everyone experiences atonement, so it is limited in that way.  Whoever God elects, we can count on that person not resisting grace.  When someone is saved, he will persevere in that faith.

However, I don't think depravity is to be so dead that someone cannot respond.  God elects according to foreknowledge, and He foreknows a man's saving faith and elects that man.  Jesus died for all men. Most men resist grace.  Saints do persevere.  That sounds like I'm a one pointer.  If I only believe one point, it doesn't make any sense to be a Calvinist -- there's no point.

I think you can believe in a true gospel and be a Calvinist.  If you are a true Calvinist as it relates to salvation, then you are depending on God for salvation.  I might say grace is resistible, but we both believe it is grace.  A Calvinist may think that regeneration precedes faith, but he thinks it is faith.

Calvinists as a whole, I believe, talk too much about Calvinism.  They see it everywhere and bring it up everywhere.  They see it all over the Bible.  As much as many say it doesn't effect evangelism, I see it has.  If someone thinks election is unconditional, it really doesn't seem to matter if he evangelizes or not. That person will still be saved.  I get that men are still responsible to evangelize, but it douses enough motivation, that I don't run into evangelistic Calvinists.  I know they are out there, Calvinist men who are fervent, regular, and obedient in evangelism.

The nature of Calvinism is that if someone really is a Calvinist, he has got to be divisive.  Without those five points, someone might be saved by works.  They have to confront that and they do.

All false teaching will have a negative or bad consequence, and since I think Calvinism isn't true, besides the error itself , I think other problems will develop and surface.

If people think our church is Calvinist, they do because of lordship salvation, one.  They think so because when someone is saved, we believe that person will overcome.  He will live the Christian life.  We expect it.  Our methods seem Calvinistic, because we don't manipulate or coerce.  We depend on the gospel, period.  We don't use church growth "techniques."  In the way that I'm describing, I could say we act more like Calvinists in many ways more than Calvinists themselves do. I don't know of a Calvinist who depends more on God than what we do.  In that sense, we are more committed to grace than the Calvinists I've seen.

Friday, December 02, 2016

The Testimony of the Quran to the Bible in Arabic

If you do not already have the pamphlet The Testimony of the Quran to the Bible available for members of your church, I would commend it to you as an effective resource designed to tear down the spiritual strongholds Muslims have from turning to Jesus Christ.  Today, the vast majority of Muslim apologists argue that the Bible has been corrupted.  This work demonstrates:

1.) The Quran teaches that the Bible has not been corrupted (a fact also demonstrated by overwhelming Biblical and historical evidence).
2.) Therefore, if the Quran is true, the Bible must also be true.
3.) Since the Bible is true, but it contradicts the Quran, the Quran cannot be true.

It also very plainly preaches the gospel and points out other problems with the Islamic religion.  It contains all the information a Muslim needs to know in order to understand the gospel, repent, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ and to the Triune God through Him.

Oftentimes one can hear Christian people on the radio and in other settings simply pointing out that Islam is evil and that sharia is incompatible with our constitutional republic.  This is, of course, true, but getting all the Christians who listen to the radio worked up about this while not encouraging them to go out and preach the gospel to the Muslims in their communities is misguided.

I am also pleased to announce that the Testimony of the Quran to the Bible has now been translated into Arabic for use in evangelizing Muslims from Arabic-speaking lands who do not speak English well.  It is online here:


and here:


I would encourage you to acquire copies of this work as well for use in your church. At the faithsaves.net/all-content/ page, you can download and personalize both compositions with the address, phone number, and website of your Baptist church.

Also, I did pay the skilled translator of the work into Arabic a significant amount to make the Arabic translation.  If you wish to help with that cost, please feel free to either send a check to my church address here and specify what the check is for or use the PayPal button at the bottom of the page here.  However, please, by all means, use the pamphlet in your church even if you are either not able to or do not believe you should assist with the translation cost.  I want it to be used in evangelizing Muslims--that is the important thing, not the cost in having it translated.

Finally, if your church has either stories about effective evangelistic encounters with Muslims that you would like to share, or other literature that you have found of value for them, please feel free to share that information in the comment section below.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism", pt. 6

Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five

Kevin Bauder begins the next section, entitled, "Alien Immersion and Rebaptism," with the sentence, "Landmark Baptists insist that a proper administrator is essential for valid baptism."  He sets up a strawman by saying that proper administrator means "the succession of baptisms that leads back to John the Baptist."  Graves himself denies that definition.  Maybe there are churches and pastors today who say that's a requirement.  I'm still saying I've never met one.  If they do believe that, they didn't get it from Graves, because he wasn't saying that.

What I say, which is essentially what Graves said, and what I know other men say, who are local only in their ecclesiology, is that proper authority or a proper administrator is needed to be valid baptism. Bauder starts the next paragraph with the statement, "All Baptists agree that invalid baptism is not genuine baptism at all."  Bauder himself writes that baptism must be valid.  However, when he discusses valid baptism, he does not include proper authority.

Bauder doesn't write this, but his universal church theory has a lot to do with acceptance of a baptism regardless of authority.  If the true church is the universal church, then someone out there can operate as a free agent without submitting to any church.  Someone could just starting baptizing people without any authorization, because he could claim that he was getting it directly from Jesus in a spiritual way.  This is not modeled in the New Testament.

Let's for a moment for the sake of this discussion argue from the standpoint that authority or proper administrator don't mean the ability to trace church succession back to the Jerusalem church.  On many occasions here I've written about proper authority.  It's obvious that authority matters in the New Testament.  Jesus gave keys to Peter in Matthew 16.  Each of the seven messengers, what are pastors, in Revelation 2 and 3, are in Jesus' right hand of authority.  Churches can bind and loose on earth and, therefore, in heaven.  Jesus speaks about possessing all authority when He mandates the Great Commission.

There is authority.  What is disobedience?  It is not obeying authority.  When John baptized, he baptized with authority.  The gospels make a big deal about his getting his authority to baptize from heaven.  Jesus traveled 75 miles or so to go to John to be baptized by someone who had authority.

Some of what I'm writing about here relates to the authority of scripture.  Are we regulated by scripture?  Are we regulated by biblical example?  If the New Testament speaks about how things are done, then we should assume that is how things are to be done.  When worship was and has been violated, men laid out the regulative principle of worship.  We know that methods should be regulated by scripture too.  Paul said that preaching was God's ordained method for the gospel or salvation. Other means are not to be used.

The ordinance of baptism was given to the church.  The church has the authority to baptize.  It must be a church.  What is often called a church can dip below the standard of being a church.  When a church becomes apostate, it loses its authority.  Jesus isn't welcome there any more.  The candlestick has gone out, the glory is departed.

Baptist churches have believed and believe that only Baptist churches today have divine authority.  I often call this "horizontal authority."  The Bible remains an authority always in this world, what I call "vertical authority."  A pastor, for instance, we see in a church has authority.  He can rebuke, like Paul told Titus, "with all authority" (Titus 2:15).  Hebrews 13:17 says, "obey them that have the rule over you."  Pastors have rule.  That is horizontal authority.

It is not a matter of checking out to see if the baptisms are chain link.  It's looking to see if someone has been baptized by a church.  The church must have authority.  Roman Catholicism has no authority.  It is apostate.  Protestant churches came out of Roman Catholicism, so they don't have authority either.  What does that leave you with?  Baptisms must come from Baptist churches.  I look to see if a church was started by another church.  I'm suspect if it isn't a Baptist church.  This is just following the example of scripture, being regulated by scripture, understanding how authority operates.  Scripture says authority is necessary.

When you read Graves, his concern was that Baptist churches had accepted Presbyterian baptism and Campbellite baptism.  A man sprinkled as an infant baptized someone, so the man baptizing wasn't baptized.  He doesn't have authority to baptize if he isn't baptized.  I'm not going to explain the Campbellite, because that should be obvious.

Bauder spends an entire paragraph explaining how that baptizing someone a "second time," rebaptism, confuses the gospel, like portraying a picture that someone lost his salvation.  He says it is heresy and sin to rebaptize, just because of alien immersion. The paragraph is an ignorant one.  It's hard to see how that he could have been serious.  I believe he was, but it's difficult.  It is rather simple if he spent a few moments, it would seem.  See, Bauder himself thinks that some baptisms are not valid.

To Bauder, baptisms are not valid if they are the wrong mode, recipient, or meaning.  So what would he do with those invalid baptisms?  Would he rebaptize?  Yes, he would.  Or else, he would say, like I would, a person wasn't baptized in the first place.  It isn't baptism if it is sprinkling.  It isn't baptism if a person wasn't saved.  Someone makes a profession as a small child, is baptized, later understands it was not a true profession, so this person is truly converted, and then is baptized.  He was never baptized in the first place.  It isn't a "second baptism" to Bauder because the first one wasn't valid.

Like Bauder believes baptisms are not valid, we believe that authority is another scriptural qualification for baptism.  The Bible teaches this.  Bauder leaves it out.  He doesn't give good reason for leaving it out, because he doesn't deal with the scriptural basis of authority, debunking that at all. He doesn't get into the history either.  He relies pretty much on conventional wisdom and his own opinion, what I call, seat of the pants.  I could say that he is sinning by leaving it out.  He should stop sinning.  He is disobedient to the example of scripture.  Jesus went to authority.  Jesus gave authority to the church to baptize.

Bauder is selective or just loose about authority.  This is being disrespectful to God, to the Bible, and to the church.  It is careless with something really important.  I get why people don't like authority. They like to free float and do their own thing without accountability. I get it.  Someone can behave in a more ecumenical fashion, to make people who teach and practice false doctrine to feel accepted, because he accepts their baptism.  It's just sentimentalism.  It isn't loving.  It's also very confusing, because it devalues actual baptism.  Yes, I'm telling you what I really think (except it's actually a little more harsh than this).

A person not baptized with proper authority is not baptized.  This was around before Graves and the 19th century.  Consider the 1689 London Baptist Confession:
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ.
Then consider the first Baptist confession in the American colonies, the Philadelphia Baptist Confession in 1742:
1. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world.  (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11;26)  2. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ.  (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 4:1)
I can give a lot more historical evidence.  It's all over the place.  When Bauder says that Baptists accept irregular baptism, that's a newer concept, that comes after modernism began really taking its way in the world.  His position is not the historical position.  It's the new one, the one that fits well with a universal church belief that is more concerned with getting along with more people, even with doctrinal and practical differences.

More to Come

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism", pt. 5

Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four

Certain Baptists, many of them, in the 19th century began accepting non-Baptist baptism and interdenominational sharing of pulpits.  These changes from the norm became rampant.  Others, however, repudiated these practices as unbiblical.  They understood that Baptists through the centuries had suffered over such doctrine as baptism.   From the others, leaders emerged, who encouraged Baptists to return to scriptural and historical moorings among which were local only ecclesiology, church perpetuity, and authoritative baptism.  They applied to a certain degree the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation, which taught that doctrinal and practical distinctions were worth preserving.  They believed that when professing believers and churches begin to stray from right teaching and behavior, something should be done about it.  The stances of these leaders and their proponents became known as landmarkism.

Kevin Bauder in his chapter, "landmarkism," treats the conviction of the landmarkers as an intrusion on a path of orthodoxy instead of the opposite truth.  Roman Catholicism and Protestantism encroached on the biblical belief and practice of the legitimate line of true New Testament churches. Bauder classifies local only ecclesiology as a deviation from biblical teaching.  He writes (p. 208):
Paul's teaching n 1 Corinthians 12:13 definitely indicates, first, that a universal Body of Christ exists; second, that this body includes all believers and not just members of a particular congregation; and third, that this body is constituted in or by the Holy Spirit.
Bauder sees 1 Corinthians 12:13 as the proof text for the catholicity of the church.  I've shown so far in this series of posts that in no way does 1 Corinthians 12:13 teach any of those three points above that he asserts.  He doesn't prove them with exegesis.  He reads into the text and really just assumes his position without justification.

Bauder says that the catholic church "is the church in the truest sense of that term."  This is how most advocates of a universal church express it, that "the true church is all believers and a local church is the visible manifestation of the true one."  The mystical or invisible being the "true," one should recognize as platonism.  Plato saw the reality in the ideal with actual items only a visible manifestation.  The ideal is the object in its truest sense, hence a universal church, the church of the ideal, with an actual church merely a visible manifestation.

Bauder goes to Ephesians to bolster his universal church belief.  He asks, "Can the word church rightly be applied to this body?"  To evince that point, he uses Ephesians 1:22-23, which read:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Bauder doesn't prove anything, just alleges that the church is all believers.  Why is it all believers? Bauders reasoning goes, 1 Corinthians 12:13 says the body is all believers (which it doesn't, it says the opposite, see 12:27) and since the body is the church in Ephesians 1:22-23, then the church is also all believers.

When New Testament authors use the word "church" in the singular, such as "the church," they either write of a specific assembly or are employing the generic use of the singular noun.  Those are the only two grammatical choices for a singular noun.  The application and invention of some type of platonic usage of the singular noun is not found applied to any other noun in the New Testament.

I've noticed Bauder's assumptions concerning the universal church are typical for those who accept that teaching.  It relies on circular reasoning:  Ephesians 1 teaches it because 1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches it, and why does 1 Corinthians 12:13 teach it?  Because Ephesians 1 teaches it.

Bauder does this too with Ephesians 5.  He writes:
If we already believe that the universal Body of Christ can be called the church, we will almost inescapably see the universal, invisible church in Ephesians 5:22-33.
He provides no exegetical basis from Ephesians 5 to make that point.  He assumes a universal church in Ephesians 5 for there to be one.  His only explanation is that since individual churches have unbelievers in them, Paul could not present them as the bride of Christ.  That doesn't prove his point and it really does the opposite.  A husband loves his wife by sanctifying her, like Christ sanctifies the church.  Even if the church were all believers, is Bauder saying that the church will have reached 100% sanctification when it is presented to Christ?  That line of reasoning doesn't prove anything, and if it did, it also undermines Bauder's own position.  He needed to think his argument all the way through, including his own position in his evaluation.

A lot in the text of Ephesians 5 contradicts a universal church understanding.  Bauder, like almost all universal church advocates, takes the metaphor of the bride further than he should.  Ephesians 5:23 reads, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."  "The church" is another generic singular noun.  It has to be, or else "the husband" and "the wife" also must necessarily be a universal, invisible husband and wife.  The verse actually has both of the two usages of the singular noun.  "The husband" is a generic singular and "the saviour" is a specific or particular singular.

"The husband" is not speaking of any specific or particular husband and "the church" is not speaking of any specific or particular church.  No one attempts to redefine "husband" to mean something different than it is, just because it is used in a generic way.  No one would say that there is only one husband, just because it is used in the singular.

A slightly different translation of Ephesians 5:23 can make a difference to one's understanding, such as what William Tyndale did with his translation there, "even as Christ is the head of the congregation."  The Greek word means "congregation" or "assembly."  If one understands the word as "the congregation" it is more difficult, even impossible, to fathom something universal in Ephesians 5.  Tyndale does the same in Ephesians 5:32, "I speak between Christ and the congregation," even as he does through the New Testament.  Was Tyndale a Landmarker?

The term "bride" doesn't occur in Ephesians 5.  The Apostle Paul is teaching concerning the husband and wife relationship in Ephesians 5:22-33, and he uses Christ's relationship to the church to illustrate the relationship of the husband to his wife.  Does Paul's comparison in Ephesians 5 mean that the church is "the bride of Christ"?  It might surprise you to know that the "bride of Christ" isn't terminology found in the New Testament anywhere.  The words "bride" and "Christ" do not appear together in any verse in the New Testament.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (5:25), but that doesn't mean that the church is Jesus' bride.  Revelation 21:2 says that the New Jerusalem is "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."  I would assume that is also "the bride" of Revelation 21:9 and 22:17.  Is "the bride" there "the church"?  Ephesians 5 is a wife metaphor, just like John 14:2-3 are one, and just like Revelation 21 and 22 are a bride metaphor.  The Greek word translated "bride" in Revelation 21 and 22 is translated "daughter-in-law" in Matthew 10:35 and Luke 12:53, so the word itself isn't even always a "bride."

Ephesians 5:26-33 proceed to describe how Jesus' loves the church, as an example of how the husband is to love the wife.  This doesn't mean the church is His wife.  The language is metaphorical, very much like the body metaphor with Jesus as the Head and individuals in the church as body parts or members.  Like body parts of a real body submit to their head, the members of a church submit to Jesus.  These are metaphors.

The next post will talk about landmarkism and "alien immersion."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Keswick's Misrepresentation of Orthodox Sanctification: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 10 of 17

Note:  The tour of Israel in early January that I discussed here, and on which my wife and I are set to go, Lord willing (click here for more information), is now open not just for one person in pastoral leadership or a related position per church, but is now open to deacons or (a few) other people at lower levels of leadership responsibility.  So, while you still have the opportunity, prayerfully consider signing up and go to Israel for a very, very good price (and add to the number of people who believe right on the tour!)

              Barabas argues against Warfield:  “The word of God does not teach us to expect, in this life, either the eradication or the improvement of the ‘flesh.’”[1]  While he does not cite the verse, Romans 7:18 clearly teaches that the flesh does not improve in any way.  Barabas’s statement, however, equivocates on the word eradication—if he means “absolute elimination of the flesh,” he is entirely correct.  If, however, Barabas wishes to refute Warfield’s position, he must demonstrate that the influence and power of the flesh is absolutely unchanged, which he fails to demonstrate or even argue for effectively.  Instead of refuting Warfield, Barabas sets up a false dichotomy, arguing that “the tendency to sin is not extinct, but is simply counteracted,”[2] as if those were the only two options.  The classical orthodox position represented by Warfield is that while indwelling sin does not itself get any better (Romans 7:18), mortification weakens the power of the sin principle and vivification strengthens the power of the new nature.  The ethically sinful flesh itself does not improve, but progressive sanctification weakens its influence as indwelling sin is put to death or mortified, a process only completed when the believer reaches heaven.  In this sense only did Warfield affirm gradual eradication, and in this sense Barabas does not touch his position.
               Barabas goes on to argue that Warfield’s position would require that “the longer a person lived the Christian life the less possible it should be for him to sin . . . [b]ut . . . spiritual growth is not determined by the length of time [one] has been a Christian.”[3]  Since Warfield never taught that simply surviving for a longer time as a Christian resulted in one’s growing less able to sin, Barabas’s criticism again leaves Warfield’s doctrine untouched.  Warfield would affirm that the more the Christian mortifies sin and the more his new nature is renewed by the Spirit, the more holy he is.  He never taught that sanctification was in direct and sole proportion to the length of time since the believer’s regeneration.
               In association with the misrepresentation of Warfield’s position as one of sanctification by survival, by a Christian’s existing for a longer period, Barabas argues that the record of Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10 proves that living longer as a Christian does not necessarily involve greater sanctification.  Furthermore, Barabas employs 1 Corinthians 9:27 to prove that “years after his conversion on the Damascus road, Paul himself declared that he dared not be careless[.]”[4]  Unfortunately for Barabas’s arguments, in addition to the severe problem that he is refuting a position Dr. Warfield did not advocate, Demas is presented as an example of a professing but unconverted individual, one who has no true love for the Father and who will not abide forever with God but will go to hell (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17), while Paul’s spiritual growth led him to ever-greater carefulness.  To aver that Warfield’s position is in error because if Paul were more holy years after his conversion he would be more careless about sin, rather than more careful to avoid it, is an astonishingly poor argument.
               Barabas’s last and presumably crowning argument against Warfield’s position is:
[I]f Dr. Warfield were right . . . [then] [i]f we lived long enough . . . we must reach a stage of spiritual development where the old nature was completely eradicated [and] sin were no longer in us . . . such injunctions as “reckon,” “yield,” “put off,” . . . would no longer have any meaning for us. . . . And when we reached this state of purity we would no longer have to depend upon Christ and the Holy Spirit to enable us to live a holy life. . . . Keswick is plainly right in rejecting [Warfield’s view, because of] . . . 1 John 1:8 . . . [and] John 15:5 . . . [his theory] tempts the Christian to negligence . . . carelessness [is] . . . easily fostered by a belief that sin was eradicated from one’s nature.[5]
Barabas seems to have neglected the fact that a huge emphasis in Warfield’s two volume work against perfectionism is that sin never is “no longer in us” at any moment before the believer reaches heaven.  Since Warfield confessed that “[t]he moment we think that we have no sin, we shall desert Christ,”[6] to argue against his position by making it into almost exactly its reverse is a terrible caricature.  Those—such as Warfield—who affirm the Biblical fact that God actually makes the believer more holy do not say that the more Christlike a believer grows the more self-dependent, careless, and negligent he becomes,[7] and the less concerned he is about yielding to God, putting off sin, and the like.[8]  To argue that God cannot make Christians more holy in this life because growing more holy makes one ever the more careless and negligent about spiritual things would mean that the saints in heaven would be the most careless and negligent of all.  What is more, if carelessness and negligence are only avoided by eliminating real progressive sanctification and the supernatural eradication of indwelling sinfulness, replacing this blessed truth with a mere counteraction of sin, then believers in heaven must also not have their sinfulness eradicated, but only counteracted.  Only so could the heavenly hosts avoid carelessness and negligence.  On the contrary, the more the victory over sin described in Romans 6-8 becomes manifest in the believer’s life, the greater is his abhorrence of his remaining indwelling sin—the more he loathes it, longs for perfect deliverance from it, and guards himself against it (Romans 7:14, 20-24). While Barabas may not recognize it, Scripture teaches that the Spirit actually makes believers more holy and less sinful, and a concomitant of that greater holiness is greater, not lesser, watchfulness, carefulness, and God-dependence.
               The following extensive quotation from Warfield, discussing the old evangelical piety of another of its staunch defenders, Thomas Adam,[9] both explains well the truly Scriptural and old evangelical orthodox position that Barabas opposes and shows just how radically Barabas misrepresents Warfield’s position:
[T]he eighteenth century . . . . English Evangelicals . . . [embraced] “miserable-sinner Christianity” . . . for themselves[.] We may take Thomas Adam as an example. His like-minded biographer, James Stillingfleet, tells us37 how, having been awakened to the fact that he was preaching essentially a work-religion, he was at last led to the truth . . . particularly by the prayerful study of the Epistle to the Romans. “He was,” writes his biographer, “rejoiced exceedingly; found peace and comfort spring up in his mind; his conscience was purged from guilt through the atoning blood of Christ, and his heart set at liberty to run the way of God’s commandments without fear, in a spirit of filial love and holy delight; and from that hour he began to preach salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, to man by nature and practice lost, and condemned under the law, and, as his own expression is, Always a sinner.” In this italicized phrase, Adam had in mind of course our sinful nature, a very profound sense of the evil of which coloured all his thought. In one of those piercing declarations which his biographers gathered out of his diaries and published under the title of “Private Thoughts on Religion,”38 Adam tells us how he thought of indwelling sin. “Sin,” says he, “is still here, deep in the centre of my heart, and twisted about every fibre of it.”39 But he knew very well that sin could not be in the heart and not in the life. “When have I not sinned?” he asks,40 and answers, “The reason is evident, I carry myself about with me.” Accordingly he says:41 “When we have done all we ever shall do, the very best state we ever shall arrive at, will be so far from meriting a reward, that it will need a pardon.” Again, “If I was to live to the world’s end, and do all the good that man can do, I must still cry ‘mercy!’”42—which is very much what Zinzendorf said in his hymn. So far from balking at the confession of daily sins, he adds to that the confession of universal sinning. “I know, with infallible certainty,” he says,43 “that I have sinned ever since I could discern between good and evil; in thought, word, and deed; in every period, condition, and relation of life; every day against every commandment.” “God may say to every self-righteous man,” he says again,44 “as he did in the cause of Sodom, ‘show me ten, yea, one perfect good action, and for the sake of it I will not destroy.’”
There is no morbidity here and no easy acquiescence in this inevitable sinning. “Lord, forgive my sins, and suffer me to keep them—is this the meaning of my prayers?” he asks.45 And his answer is: “I had rather be cast into the burning fiery furnace, or the lion’s den, than suffer sin to lie quietly in my heart.”46 He knows that justification and sanctification belong together. “Christ never comes into the soul unattended,” he says;47 “he brings the Holy Spirit with him, and the Spirit his train of gifts and graces.” “Christ comes with a blessing in each hand,” he says again;48 “forgiveness in one, and holiness in the other, and never gives either to any who will not take both.” But he adds at once: “Christ’s forgiveness of all sins is complete at once, because less would not do us good; his holiness is dispensed by degrees, and to none wholly in this life, lest we should slight his forgiveness.” “Whenever I die,” he says therefore,49 “I die a sinner; but by the grace of God, penitent, and, I trust, accepted in the beloved.” “It is the joy of my heart that I am freed from guilt,” he says again,50 “and the desire of my heart to be freed from sin.” For both alike are from God. “Justification by sanctification,” he says,51 “is man’s way to heaven, and it is odds but he will make a little [sanctification] serve the turn. Sanctification by justification is God’s, and he fills the soul with his own fulness.” “The Spirit does not only confer and increase ability, and so leave us to ourselves in the use of it,” he explains,52 “but every single act of spiritual life is the Spirit’s own act in us.” And again, even more plainly:53 “Sanctification is a gift; and the business of man is to desire, receive, and use it. But he can by no act or effort of his own produce it in himself. Grace can do every thing; nature nothing.” “I am resolved,” he therefore declares,54 “to receive my virtue from God as a gift, instead of presenting him with a spurious kind of my own.” He accordingly is “the greatest saint upon earth who feels his poverty most in the want of perfect holiness, and longs with the greatest earnestness for the time when he shall be put in full possession of it.”55
Thus in complete dependence on grace, and in never ceasing need of grace (take “grace” in its full sense of goodness to the undeserving) the saint goes onward in his earthly work, neither imagining that he does not need to be without sin because he has Christ nor that because he has Christ he is already without sin. The repudiation of both the perfectionist and the antinomian inference is made by Adam most pungently. The former in these crisp words:56 “The moment we think that we have no sin, we shall desert Christ.” That, because Christ came to save just sinners. The latter more at length:57 “It would be a great abuse of the doctrine of salvation by faith, and a state of dangerous security, to say, if it pleases God to advance me to a higher or the highest degree of holiness, I should have great cause of thankfulness, and it would be the very joy of my heart; but nevertheless I can do without it, as being safe in Christ.” We cannot set safety in Christ and holiness of life over against each other as contradictions, of which the one may be taken and the other left. They go together. “Every other faith,” we read,58 “but that which apprehends Christ as a purifier, as well as our atonement and righteousness, is false and hypocritical.” We are not left in our sins by Him; we are in process of being cleansed from our sins by Him; and our part is to work out with fear and trembling the salvation which He is working in us, always keeping our eyes on both our sin from which we need deliverance and the Lord who is delivering us. To keep our eyes fixed on both at once is no doubt difficult. “On earth it is the great exercise of faith,” says Adam,59 “and one of the hardest things in the world, to see sin and Christ at the same time, or to be penetrated with a lively sense of our desert, and absolute freedom from condemnation; but the more we know of both, the nearer approach we shall make to the state of heaven.” Sin and Christ; ill desert and no condemnation; we are sinners and saints all at once! That is the paradox of evangelicalism. The Antinomian and the Perfectionist would abolish the paradox—the one drowning the saint in the sinner, the other concealing the sinner in the saint. We must, says Adam, out of his evangelical consciousness, ever see both members of the paradox clearly and see them whole. And—solvitur ambulando. “It is a great paradox, but glorious truth of Christianity,” says he,60 “that a good conscience may consist with a consciousness of evil.” Though we can have no satisfaction in ourselves, we may have perfect satisfaction in Christ.[10]
It is clear that “miserable-sinner Christianity” is a Christianity which thinks of pardon as holding the primary place in salvation. To it, sin is in the first instance offence against God, and salvation from sin is therefore in the first instance pardon, first not merely in time but in importance. In this Christianity, accordingly, the sinner turns to God first of all as the pardoning God; and that not as the God who pardons him once and then leaves him to himself, but as the God who steadily preserves the attitude toward him of a pardoning God. It is in this aspect that he thinks primarily of God and it is on the preservation on God’s part of this attitude towards him that all his hopes of salvation depend. This is because he looks to God and to God alone for his salvation; and that in every several step of salvation—since otherwise whatever else it might be, it would not be salvation. It is, of course, only from a God whose attitude to the sinner is that of a pardoning God, that saving operations can be hoped. No doubt, if those transactions which we class together as the processes of salvation are our own work, we may not have so extreme a need of a constantly pardoning God. But that is not the point of view of the “miserable-sinner Christian.” He understands that God alone can save, and he depends on God alone for salvation; for all of salvation in every step and stage of it. He is not merely the man then, who emphasizes justification as the fundamental saving operation; but also the man who emphasizes the supernaturalness of the whole saving process. It is all of God; and it is continuously from God throughout the whole process. The “miserable-sinner Christian” insists thus that salvation is accomplished not all at once, but in all the processes of a growth through an ever advancing forward movement. It occupies time; it has a beginning and middle and end. And just because it is thus progressive in its accomplishment, it is always incomplete—until the end. As Luther put it, Christians, here below, are not “made,” but “in the making.” Things in the making are in the hands of the Maker, are absolutely dependent on Him, and in their remanent imperfection require His continued pardon as well as need His continued forming. We cannot outgrow dependence on the pardoning grace of God, then, so long as the whole process of our forming is not completed; and we cannot feel satisfaction with ourselves of course until that process is fully accomplished. To speak of satisfaction in an incomplete work is a contradiction in terms. The “miserable-sinner Christian” accordingly, just as strongly emphasizes the progressiveness of the saving process and the consequent survival of sin and sinning throughout the whole of its as yet unfinished course, as he does justification as its foundation stone and its true supernaturalness throughout. These four articles go together and form the pillars on which the whole structure rests. It is a structure which is adapted to the needs of none but sinners, and which, perhaps, can have no very clear meaning to any but sinners. And this is in reality the sum of the whole matter: “miserable-sinner” Christianity is a Christianity distinctively for sinners. It is fitted to their apprehension as sinners, addressed to their acceptance as sinners, and meets their clamant needs as sinners. The very name which has been given it bears witness to it as such.[11]
Warfield—and old evangelical piety in general—emphasized both the Spirit’s work in progressively eradicating indwelling sin and making the believer more holy and the Spirit’s work in reminding the Christian that he is simil iustus et peccator—both righteous and a sinner.  Such teaching—which is eminently Biblical—leads the Christian to recognize and hate his indwelling sin the more, and cling the more passionately to Christ alone, the more the Spirit makes him holy.  Steven Barabas’s attempt to set aside old orthodox position represented by Warfield fails utterly as a refutation. Indeed, Barabas fails to even understand and represent accurately the position he so strongly opposes.

See here for this entire study.







[1]              Pg. 72, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Italics in original.
[2]              Pg. 49, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[3]              Pgs. 72-73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[4]              Pg. 73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[5]              Pg. 73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[6]              Pg. 129, Studies in Perfectionism, Part One, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 7, B. B. Warfield.  Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.
[7]              One wonders if Barabas was aware that Warfield, in his “The Biblical Doctrine of Faith” (Biblical Doctrines, Vol. 2 of Works), made statements such as:  “Freed from all illusion of earthly help, and most of all from all self-confidence, [the believer] is meanwhile to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).”  Perhaps instead of grossly misrepresenting Warfield and affirming that the Princeton theologian’s position leads a believer to more and more self-dependence, carelessness, and negligence, Barabas should have considered what Warfield actually said, and noted that Warfield warned that the life of faith requires, “most of all,” a rejection of “all self-confidence.”
[8]              Indeed, the Keswick doctrine that the believer “need . . . not . . . be conscious of [his] . . . tendency to sin” (pgs. 49-50, So Great Salvation, Barabas) and that he must desist from “struggle and painful effort . . . earnest resolutions and self-denial” (pg. 90) is more likely to lead one to let down his guard than the doctrine of Scripture that sin, although progressively eradicated by the Spirit, remains within the believer until the return of Christ or the end of his life, and he ought to always be conscious of it, guard against it, and strive against it.  However, while Barabas dangerously affirms that the Christian does not need to be conscious of his tendency to sin, he does at least warn that one must not “be ignorant of Satan’s devices” (pg. 50) about sinlessness.  Hopefully the Christian who hears Keswick preaching will not take the affirmation of freedom from the consciousness of sin too seriously, while taking the warning not to be ignorant of Satan’s delusions on this matter very seriously, and consequently not be much less watchful than if he believed what Scripture actually teaches.
[9]              See, e. g., pg. 183, The Biographia Leodiensis, or Biographical Sketches of the Worthies of Leeds and Neighbourhood, R. B. Taylor (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co, 1865), for a brief biographical sketch of Thomas Adam (1701-1784).
37             “Private Thoughts on Religion,” by the Rev. Thomas Adam: ed. Poughkeepsie, 1814, pp. 22 ff. There are many other editions.
38             “These entries from his private diary, which were meant for no eyes but his own, bring before us a man of no common power of analytic and speculative thought. With an intrepidity and integrity of self-scrutiny perhaps unexampled, he writes down problems started, and questionings raised, and conflicts gone through; whilst his ordinarily flaccid style grows pungent and strong. Ever since their publication these ‘Private Thoughts’ have exercised a strange fascination over intellects at opposite poles. Coleridge’s copy of the little volume (1795) . . . remains to attest, by its abounding markings, the spell it laid upon him, while such men as Bishop Heber, Dr. Thomas Chalmers, and John Stuart Mill, and others, have paid tribute to the searching power of the ‘thoughts.’ ” A. B. Grosart, in Leslie Stephen’s “Dictionary of National Biography,” i. 1885, pp. 89, 90.
39             “Private Thoughts on Religion,” as cited, p. 72
40             P. 74.
41             P. 218.
42             P. 212.
43             P. 71.
44             P. 129. In the same spirit with these quotations, but with perhaps even greater poignancy of rhetorical expression is this declaration of Alexander Whyte’s (“Bunyan Characters,” iii. 1895, p. 136): “Our guilt is so great that we dare not think of it. . . . It crushes our minds with a perfect stupor of horror, when for a moment we try to imagine a day of judgment when we shall be judged for all the deeds that we have done in the body. Heart-beat after heart-beat, breath after breath, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, and all full of sin; all nothing but sin from our mother’s womb to our grave.”
45             P. 103.
46             P. 99.
47             P. 180.
48             P. 179.
49             P. 209.
50             P. 216.
51             P. 219.
52             P. 242.
53             P. 234.
54             P. 247.
55             P. 225.
56             P. 231.
57             Pp. 223 f.
58             P. 220.
59             P. 225.
60             P. 253.
[10]             Pgs. 126-133, Perfectionism, Part One, Vol. 7 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, by B. B. Warfield.
[11]             Pgs. 130-132, Perfectionism, Part One, Warfield.