Saturday, April 22, 2017

What is Wrong With This Talk by RC Sproul?

The subject of his talk is the Reformed doctrine of “justification by faith alone”. In it he gives a fair assessment of both the Catholic as well as the Reformed understanding of the subject. He tells us how Catholics understand it; he tells us how Calvinists and Reformed theologians understand it. But he fails to give us a correct assessment of how the Bible understands it or teaches it.

As we listen to his talk, we find that there is one word that is conspicuously absent from it (and which is central to the biblical doctrine); it is the word repentance! The biblical teaching is all about repentance. Repentance is absolutely pivotal to the biblical doctrine—but totally absent from his. In the Bible repentance takes the center stage:

Matthew 4:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 12:

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Mark 6:

12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Luke 5:

32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 13:

3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Luke 15:

7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Luke 24:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Acts 2:

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 17:

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Acts 20:

20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 26:

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Romans 2:

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

2 Peter 3:

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Revelation 2:

5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; …

Revelation 3:

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

That is how the Bible teaches the subject. The biblical doctrine is never about faith alone, but faith followed by repentance. Strangely however, it finds absolutely no place in his teaching. No mention whatsoever, not even a whisper. Why Calvinists so hate the word repentance, are scared to death of repentance, and want to keep it out of sight and out of mind as much as possible—when it is so pivotal to the biblical doctrine—is for them to answer.

Another interesting question this raises for Calvinists is, What does it mean to repent? They often try to get themselves off the hook when pressed over that issue by saying it means to “change your mind!” But that is not the biblical definition. The biblical definition is to stop sinning. Jesus came, “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Likewise, “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

In the Old Testament, the word “repent” is often used to mean to change your mind. When it talks about God “repenting” for example, it means God changing his mind. But in the New Testament context, the word is used to mean to stop sinning. It means to stop doing what is wrong, and start doing what is right. John the Baptist explains how:

Luke 3:

7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit [of repentance] is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then [to repent]?
11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do [to repent]?
13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do [to repent]? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

The biblical doctrine is that faith must be followed by repentance to bring about justification, sanctification, remission of sins, and salvation; and to “repent” means to stop sinning, and bringing fruits worthy of repentance. It is never faith alone. While it is true that the word “repent” in the Old Testament is often used to mean “change your mind,” the New Testament concept of repentance (meaning to stop sinning) is never absent from the Old Testament either. Isaiah 1:16–20; Jeremiah 7:1–7; Ezekiel 18; 33:1–20; Daniel 4:27 are typical examples.

Another thing that Calvinists like to say is that if you have genuine faith, “works” follows your faith automatically. If it doesn’t, that means that your faith was not genuine! The answer to that is, If works follows faith automatically, why then does the Bible keep telling people to do the works? Why does it keep telling them to repent, to do good, to do what is right, to keep God’s commandments, and to bring forth “fruit worthy of repentance”? Why doesn’t it just tell them to “believe,” and leave it at that?

Another thing that Calvinists say is that “faith” and “repentance” are also gifts of God. You can’t have them unless God gives them to you. You cannot “believe” or “repent” unless God makes you to―which raises the same question again: Why does God keep telling people throughout the Bible to believe, to repent, to exercise faith, to keep God’s commandments, to do what is right, when they can’t unless he makes them to? Reformed and Calvinistic theologians and preachers are full of this kind of false doctrine. They also distort scripture to support their doctrines. For example in the above video, at 38:02 into the video R. C. Sproul says the following:

“Existentially that night, I had never read the New Testament, and the first time I read, when Jesus told the story of the Pharisee and the publican, I got it the first time! where the Pharisee says, I thank you God—grace, I understand I am saved by grace; thank you Lord, not works alone here, not merited a lot; I thank you lord—thanking you, and I am righteous, that I am not like that miserable tax collector over there who is a quisling, a traitor to our nation, collects these extortionary taxes, so I thank you God! And I am not like other men—there but for your grace go I—but what about the publican? couldn’t even lift his eyes up to heaven; all he could do was cry out, God have mercy on me, a sinner! You know, most of the parables of Jesus are really difficult to understand; but this one he ends with a rhetorical question, you know really anybody could see, which one went to his home justified? The one who by faith was covered by the righteousness of Christ.”

The reference is to Luke 18:9–14, which is a lesson about humility, and has absolutely nothing to do with “faith” vs. “works”. The complete text is as follows:

Luke 18:

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The parable is entirely about humility. It has nothing to do with “faith” vs. “works”. Jesus condemned the Pharisees, not because they had no “faith,” but because they had no works; or because their “works” were hypocritical:

Matthew 23:

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke 11:

42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

He didn’t tell them that they needn’t have done any works, or that all they needed was faith, and nothing else. He tells them that what they had done they should have done, and should have done more. At 43:00 minutes into the video he says the following (emphasis added):

“But here is the good news: I despair of my righteousness; I acknowledge my sin; I put my trust in Christ, and in Christ alone. And the good news is that the very instant I do that, all that he is, and all that he has is mine! And for the rest of my days he has got me covered! that the Father looks at me, and beyond the impurities and everything he sees the cloak of the righteousness of Jesus. And now I am justified not for today, not for this week, not until I commit another sin, but for eternity. Is there any better news than that in the whole world?”

In other words, “faith” not only covers you for your past sins, but for your future sins as well! You can sin with impunity for the rest of your life, and you are covered! That would be great news if it were true. Too bad it isn’t.

Here is another interesting video I just found by Pastor Jim McClarty, discussing what he calls the “gospel,” but without any reference to repentance:

In it he talks about “imputation,” meaning that when we “believe,” the righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us as if it were ours, without us needing to do anything else (i.e. without the need for repentance, while still remaining in our sins). That of course is a complete perversion of the gospel. The biblical teaching is that, “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). If the the righteousness of Christ was already “imputed” to them, why would they need to “purify” themselves? And Peter tells us how they “purify themselves”:

2 Peter 1:

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

In Calvinism repenting, purifying, virtue, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness etc. are swear words! You don’t talk about those things. That is “works!” You are damned if you do. The biblical doctrine, however, is something different. It teaches that faith followed by repentance brings about a remission of our sins. That is the effect of the Atonement. That is how we become “righteous” in the sight of God. But even after that, our work is not done. We have to continue to do what John and Peter say, until we come “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about doing. The Sermon on the Mount is all about doing. The entire ministry of Jesus is about doing. The Old Testament is all about doing. The New Testament is all about doing. Calvinism is all about not doing! It is diametrically the opposite of what is taught by the gospel. It turns the gospel of Jesus Christ on its head.

Faith alone is the doctrine of the devil. It is satanic. It is the very antithesis of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It goes against the very essence of it. Avoid like a plague.

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