Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, October 03, 2008

    Freedom in Naturalist Worldview is but an Illusion

    C.H. Dodd highlights this well when he says in ref. to Romans 6:16:


    ... Either one is a slave of "sin" or a slave of "obedience."
    Paul makes it clear in this "either...or" that there is no "possibility of
    neutrality" (Kasemann). One is never "free" from a master, and those
    non-Christians who think that they are "free" are under an illusion created and
    sustained by Satan. The choice with which people are faced is not "Should
    I retain my freedom or give it up and submit to God?" but "Should I serve sin or
    should I serve God?"


    Again on Romans 6:18, Dodd writes:

    ... we must remember that Pual's concept of freedom is not that of
    autonomouse self-directin but of deliverance from those enslaving powers that
    would prevent the human being from becoming what God intended. It is only
    by doing God's will and thus knowing his truth that we can be "free
    indeed".

    7 comments:

    jazzycat said...

    It is only by doing God's will and thus knowing his truth that we can be "free indeed".

    Is this correct? Man must act and do God’s will to be free indeed! Verse 18 states that God acts before man does anything. Jesus also says the same thing in John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

    swordbearer said...

    Jazzy,

    You are right: "God acts before man does anything."

    You are also right: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

    However, how does the Son (along with the Father) set us free?

    Ans: Not only through the atoning sacrifice (i.e., justification which sets us free from condemnation associated with guilt) but ALSO through the truth and righteousness he entrusts us over to when he delivers us from sin so that we do longer are slaves to sin but experience the freedom associated with his grace.

    Your error is that you have failed to recognize that in chapter six Paul has moved from justification to sanctification. Paul is no longer asking the question "How are we saved?" (to which the answer is (by faith alone), but is here answering the question "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? (to which the answer is "By no means" because we have been set free from slavery to sin that we may serve God)

    Apples and oranges
    ...justification and sanctification
    ...faith and works
    ...slavery and freedom

    Point: No arminianism here! :)

    jazzycat said...

    Sword,
    We are set free by regeneration through the Spirit.

    Certainly, I understand the exhortation that Paul is making for believers to be sanctified. My comment was concerning this statement, It is only by doing God's will and thus knowing his truth that we can be "free indeed". This statement seems to suggest two types of Christians. Justified believers that only experience being free through their own effort of obedience or some kind of carnal Christian believer who is saved but is not free because of a lack of obedience. I believe Romans 8 and 1 John both assert that all Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit achieve being free (though not perfection). If I could quote the late D. James Kennedy, “If there is no sanctification in a persons life then there has been no justification.” I hope Dodd does not mean to suggest that some Christians fail to be free indeed which means they fail to be sanctified. Romans 8:14 makes it clear that all (100%) of believers are led by the Spirit of God. Not perfect, but a new creature in Christ that is free from the domination of sin. I believe Paul is comparing the flesh, law (legalism), sin, and death verses grace, spirit, and life in Chapters 6-8. Those in these chapters who Paul says are in the flesh are not saved. Thus, while sanctification is being presented, Paul is asserting that those who are in the flesh and not being led by the Spirit are not saved. IOW, the root will produce fruit……….

    swordbearer said...

    Jazzy,

    First, let me state, the direction this discussion has gone was not my intent in the original post. It was simply to state that while unbelievers think they are "free", they are not.

    Second, you must be careful to "distinguish" what kind of "free" - dom you are referring to. For example, sometimes Paul uses it to speak of freedom from guilt (of sin) and condemnation (i.e. justification) at other times he uses it to refer to freedom from sin as a master.

    Third, rather than me speaking to the answer, let me ask you, is it possible for a justified believer (though ultimately freed from the dominion of sin - as a master) to still submit to sin (even as a master) for whatever reason (ignorance of the work of sanctification, fooled into thinking it doesn't matter if we sin, failing to understand that to give oneself to sin is to serve sin, failure to rightly value the righteousness & life God provides, etc.)?

    Fourth, I'd like to see you reconcile your statement "Those in these chapters who Paul says are in the flesh are not saved" with Paul's statement in v. 17 "But THANKS BE TO GOD that THOUGH you USED to be slaves to sin, YOU wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." Again in v. 22 "But NOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE FROM SIN and have BECOME SLAVES TO GOD..."

    jazzycat said...

    Sword,

    Third, rather than me speaking to the answer, let me ask you, is it possible for a justified believer (though ultimately freed from the dominion of sin - as a master) to still submit to sin (even as a master) for whatever reason (ignorance of the work of sanctification, fooled into thinking it doesn't matter if we sin, failing to understand that to give oneself to sin is to serve sin, failure to rightly value the righteousness & life God provides, etc.)?

    I have spent a great deal of time debating the GES who advocate the possibility of a saved person being totally unsanctified. They attack reformed theology very aggressively for what they call adding works to justification when we say that sanctification flows from being born again. Are you asserting as they do that the references to those in the flesh and slaves to sin in Romans 6-8 are saved?

    Fourth, I'd like to see you reconcile your statement "Those in these chapters who Paul says are in the flesh are not saved" with Paul's statement in v. 17 "But THANKS BE TO GOD that THOUGH you USED to be slaves to sin, YOU wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." Again in v. 22 "But NOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE FROM SIN and have BECOME SLAVES TO GOD..."

    It seems clear that Paul is speaking about how people behaved before they were saved with how they behaved after they were saved. Slaves to sin = unsaved. Slaves to God = saved. In the flesh = unsaved. In Christ = saved. When Romans 7:9-24 is seen to be a description of pre-conversion Paul, then I think Paul’s message in Romans 6-8 becomes much clearer. It really reconciles when the reformed view presented by Paul in Romans 8:29-30 is taken into consideration. Isn’t this whole process also described in Ephesians 2:1-10?

    swordbearer said...

    Jazzycat: I have spent a great deal of time debating the GES who advocate the possibility of a saved person being totally unsanctified. They attack reformed theology very aggressively for what they call adding works to justification when we say that sanctification flows from being born again.
    Response: One must distinguish between one living "consistently" with what one has become (i.e., a justified believer who in being delivered from sin has "become" a slave to righteousness) and one who (for whatever reason) is living "inconsistently" with their new being. When you distinguish these, you'll see that while works do "not add" to the basis/instrument of justification (i.e., grace/faith alone), righteousness (/works) are the consistent result/companion to justification. In this way, works are not meritorious, but still are expected.


    Jazzycat: "Are you asserting as they do that the references to those in the flesh and slaves to sin in Romans 6-8 are saved?"

    Response: The ultimate truth is that Paul is simply asserting te gospel he preaches to the Romans. In this sense, we do not know whether he is simply writing about the gospel(i.e., not addressing a "known" specific situation, but addressing a situation in "general"), or writing about specific situations he has heard about in Rome.

    This being said, it's clear that issues of the flesh and those who are slaves to sin on one level clearly apply to unbelievers. However, I do not think that is why Paul is writing to the Roman christians. In laying down basic truths concerning sanctification as it applies to the gospel (as well as perhaps speaking to general or specific situations), I believe Paul is addressing/teaching the basic principle that Christians (i.e., who have been justified) are both to "think rightly" as well as to live "consistently" with what they have become through union with Christ!

    As this is a problem among many (/all) in the church today (i.e., I often struggle with living consistently as do all believers...), I sure it was a problem in Paul's day just as it is in every generation. This results from the battle between the flesh and the spirit as we'll see in chapter 7. There's a need for believers to both understand the relationship between justification as well as sanctifiction as well as to continue to look to and depend upon Christ (i.e., his grace and powwer) for the solution, and the sanctified life leading to the experience of eternal life which is the result of holiness. (Rom 6:15-23)

    swordbearer said...

    Jazzycat: "It seems clear that Paul is speaking about how people behaved before they were saved with how they behaved after they were saved. Slaves to sin = unsaved. Slaves to God = saved."

    Response: Why write this to the Romans then if there is no possibility of them offering themselves to sin?

    Consider your own experience, have YOU (as a justified believer) ever offered any of the members of your body to sin rather than to God? (i.e., saved = while consistency calls for being "slave to God"... sometimes does not live consistently, ... and therefore needs teaching, correction, reproof, and training in righteousness.)