This is the second post looking at Rob Rufus's views on grace and how that relates to us being the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. The previous post was called; "Dr John Stott and Rob Rufus!!". A number of people have expressed concerns with Rob's teaching particularly in this area and particularly concerned that such teaching will "give license to sin". Now as I mentioned here - I am not a Bible exegete or a teacher and have no skills in looking into the Greek and Hebrew of particular texts. But I am blessed enough to be able to work back through my books and look at particular gifted ministries and see what they had to teach on this - and how it compares to Rob Rufus.
The particular quotes were from Dr Lloyd-Jones's commentary on Romans 3:20 - 4:25. Now this is very important to me - because I do think this particular wonderful doctrine of justification by faith carries HUGE implications for living the Christian life! Janelle Phillips, Julie and I are enjoying a lively debate about this exact subject over here on my post; "Effects of Grace and Law!!". Janelle always manages to make me think carefully through issues and this comment of her's particularly is important;
"All that to say, sanctification and being transformed into Christ's image is primarily done through confession of sin and working by God's grace to change. How else would that take place?".
I came back to her and quoted from Rob in his recent sermon; ""Do Christians Need To Confess Their Sins To God?" - that we do need to be consistent. If we join accountability groups and confess sins - then we need to confess ALL sins - not just the "big" ones! So why is confession of sin such a vital issue? Janelle touched on the answer in her response to me;
"I'm not talking about confessing my sin to become a Christian, I'm talking about confessing my sin to continue in sanctification".
This - theologically - is where I have always been (and still sort-of are). I am quite happy with the fact that Jesus Christ forgave my sins upon my conversion and wiped them away from His mind - never to remember them again. What I do struggle with - is the suggestion that my sins are STILL wiped from His mind! Would I be unfair to suggest (at least in my experience) that the same has traditionally been taught about "two types" of righteousness? Saving righteousness - (Romans 10:9, 10) that when we confess with our mouths and believe then we shall be saved. Then there is sanctifying righteousness - the sort Janelle has been referring to?
I find Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones incredibly similar to Rob at this point. He is obviously in the middle of expounding Romans 4 and speaking about Abraham. He starts off by mentioning the exact same hymn that John Stott refers to - Count Zindendorf's; "Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness". And he says;
"Let me use the kind of illustration that was obviously in the mind of Count Zindendorf when he composed his great hymn on this theme ... "Jesus Thy robe of righteousness, my beauty is, my glorious dress". This is the picture. There is a man standing in his rags, in his filth. There is the condemned, guilty sinner before God, the prisoner in the dock.
What happens? Well God puts on him this robe of righteousness - He puts on him the white robe of Christ's perfection and now He sees that and nothing else. That is the doctrine of justification. He puts that to our account".
"He sees that and NOTHING else!". So the question facing us is - is that situation a permament position? Or does our sin remove us from under that "robe of righteousness" and make God see us in our true sinful state? If that is not so, and we are indeed permamently and safely under that robe of righteousness, then what does sanctifying confession achieve? Let's go on. Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to say;
"Notice this other interesting statement: "he is a man to whom the Lord will not impute sin, he will not reckon sin to him". What does that mean?". The man has committed sin, how then can he be a blessed man? The answer is that though he has sinned and is guilty of many sins, God will not put down sins to this man's account in His heavenly ledgers. He might do so, He has a perfect right to do so. He does not put them down in the account. He leaves them out. He has sent them away - He has covered them up. He has forgiven them!".
He could punish us! He has a perfect right to do so! But He does not! What awesome grace! But again surely the key is in the timing of this statement; "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin". The Lord DOES NOT impute sin! Is that based on our confessions? Or is that based on the sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ then, now and forever? Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on in his explanation (one of the reasons I love him so much - he delves so deeply into these truths!) and says this;
"Let me put it like this: the man who is truly blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven as debt, whose sin is covered up so that God will never look at it again. He is one to whom it is never going to be imputed as a crime. There is the negative aspect. But it goes beyond that; he is also one to whom God reckons this righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is the doctrine of justification by faith. Here are we - all of us sinners in the sight of God.
What does this doctrine tell me? It tells me that as I stand there on trial my debt is cancelled, my sin is covered. God has cast my sin behind His back. He will never look at it again. He will never see it again. It is blotted out - out of His sight for all eternity. And I shall never be charged with it as a crime. I am completely delivered from it. But over and above that God puts this to my account and reckons to me, this righteousness of Jesus Christ His Son".
So there is this positive aspect to justification by faith in Dr Lloyd-Jones eyes and a negative aspect. The negative aspect - forgiveness of sin - is clear. But it is the positive aspect that I think Rob Rufus has devoted much of his ministry to. The fact that it is not simply our debts - our crimes that are wiped. But we receive the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ! This is probably one of the best definitions Rob gives to the gift of righteousness;
"Righteousness in the New Covenant refers to "right standing with a holy God without fear, without intimidation, without inferiority, without condemnation". You come boldly into the throne room of grace - you come with full assurance of faith to the most Holy Place with all your imperfections, all your failures and all of your mistakes and all of the things you still do wrong as a Christian and you come boldly with full assurance into the most Holy Place with the blood of the New Covenant that sprinkles your conscience from guilt and cleanses your conscience once and for all!".
Once and for all! But if you are anything like me you can feel your head protesting against this. It's unjust! It's wrong! We sinned! We should pay for it! We should have to confess for it! We should have to pay penance ... somehow. Dr Lloyd-Jones agreed;
"So let me once again state this great and most blessed doctrine; God does not reckon our sins to us. But you may say how can He do that and still be God? We have committed these sins, how is it possible or God not to reckon them to us though we have committed them and are guilty of them? The answer is that He has reckoned them to His only, begotten Son".
I think I could be right in saying that the hardest thing we as Christians struggle with is the realising that there is NOTHING we can do. Everything within us struggles to do "something". But as Rob said; Jesus + anything = Nothing. It HAS to be "in Christ alone!".
"That is what is meant by justification. It is all God's action. We do nothing at all - we cannot do anything at all. We have no works, our righteousness is as "filthy rags", it is "dung", "refuse". We love nothing at all. We are ungodly. We are helpless. We are hopeless. God does it all. It is entirely God's action. It is what He does with these sins of ours which He puts on Christ and punishes them in Him. It is what He does with Christ's righteousness which He puts on us. It is all done to us and we receive it passively from God".
So my wondering is - if we can accept it is all God's action at salvation - why are we so eager to regain control and start "doing things" after conversion? Can we have the faith when we first become Christians to realise there is nothing we can do - yet react against that post-conversion? Are we dividing that which shouldn't be divided?
Anyhow - the debate will go on - of that I am sure! I don't call on Dr Lloyd-Jones as though he (like John Stott) will persuade the doubtful! These are all just men and ministries given by the ascended Christ as gifts. But the reason why I am reading around this subject is to discover and prove to myself that again - if we are TRULY to preach the gospel of grace then we WILL be accused of antinominanism. The gospel of grace IS outrageous! I wonder ... if our gospel in our own mind has become a bit respectable then maybe - it's not the true, pure gospel and we have slipped into Galatianism. But all this debate aside -whether we agree on having to continue confessing sin or not - all this study has refreshed my wonder at the Gospel and the cost of what Jesus Christ went through that we might enjoy unhindered fellowship with God Himself!