Romans 8:1-8 and the Inability of Man…

 

By Anthony W. Brooks

**This is actually a “vintage” article from the old website. But I believe that it addresses the recent challenges that Dr. Leighton Flowers raised on his YouTube channel about the common Calvinist understanding of Romans 8:1-8. Does Romans 8:1-8 address how one goes from being in the flesh to being in the spirit? If so does is say that this process is irresistibly caused by God? Our answer is, no, 4 verses (5-8 in which he is referring to) do not address this massive question. But the entire Bible might. We call this “Tota Scriptura”.**

One day I was messing around on a debate page on Facebook and I came across a post over Total Depravity. It was asking Calvinists which verses best supported the doctrine. I saw many of the classic responses: Romans 3, John 8, Ezekiel 36-37, Ephesians 2:1-4… But I didn’t see my favorite, Romans 8:1-8 on the list… So I decided to post it.
Well, to my surprise, Leighton Flowers (pre-doctorate) was responding to the comments and he responds to mine. The man can normally talk, but this time it was a short conversation that basically ended in his saying that Romans 8 doesn’t say enough to support this assumption.
I was surprised because I believe that it does say enough. So, in the words of Dr. Flowers, let’s unpack it:

Romans 8:1-8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This text is packed with truth from God. We have a contrast between the Life in the Spirit and the Life in the Flesh.

Life in the Spirit: they are set free, the law is fulfilled in them, they set their mind on the things of the Spirit, they have life and peace…

Life in the Flesh: they are condemned, they cannot fulfill the law, they set their mind on things of the flesh, they only have death, they are hostile to God, the will not and cannot submit to God’s law, they cannot please God.

Some say that the only application is the regenerated church member who has fallen into sin is this fleshly individual… But remember what they get, “death”. A regenerated individual will not get death… And the unbeliever will still live according to the flesh anyways because he doesn’t have the Spirit to live in.

But let’s focus in on the ability aspect for a moment. We have one aspect of this fleshly, carnal, individual that is pointed out here. That aspect is that they cannot please God. So I want to point out what the non-Calvinist says we must do to find salvation in the simplest of terms: Humility, Faith, and Repentance.

Humility is the act of denying oneself and humbling oneself to recieve his Grace. James 4:6 says “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” so this is something we must do to be saved. Well according to David, humility is pleasing to God, Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” And no one will deny this.

Second is faith. Faith is an obvious requirement, Ephesians 2:8-9. And faith is the instrument by which we live. So it is extremely important to us and our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 says this, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” That blatant statement is a repellent to the carnal man. He doesn’t have faith, it must be given, he can’t have it because he is an enemy of God.

The last thing is repentance. So much is said about Repentance… My favorite being Psalm 51 where verses 16-17 say this, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
So in this text, God is pleased with a broken and contrite heart (aka a repentant heart). And David spends the whole text repenting and being broken in his heart.

Now these three things are the items that Dr. Flowers would see as requirements of salvation. Humility, Faith and Repentance. All of them are pleasing to God, and the text says clearly that the carnal man cannot do them, because they are pleasing. They cannot do them unless the Lord gives them to him effectually. So I disagree with the assumption that this text doesn’t support Total Inability.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Confronting the Cage-Stage

Skyler Gerald
The idea of the cage-stage is all too familiar both inside and outside the reformed
community. It is the common ailment that occurs when someone first comes to affirm the doctrines of grace. They are loud and proud and will let you know they’re a Calvinist whether you asked or not; whether you’re a Calvinist or not (though especially if you’re not). It stays for a period of time until whether in their own reading of Scripture, prayer, or a loving brother/sister in Christ confronts them of it. Then it passes often leaving behind a trail of harmed friendships. Most of us know one and a lot of us were one.

Now, we can all agree that a desire to know the truth is important. We all eagerly want to
learn more about God, what he has done, and what he’s doing. But we have to ask ourselves, is this form of theological discussion in yelling and frustration biblical and edifying? Before we answer that question we first need to look at where the cage-stage even comes from. We know that it happens when people first become Calvinists but why?
A lot of current and former cage-stage Calvinists (though current cage-stage Calvinists
probably won’t acknowledge that they’re indeed cage-stage) will tell you that it sprouted from them feeling that they were “stupid” before and that they wish they had known earlier. That’s a very important thing to understand about all of this as we analyze whether this is Biblical or not. Romans 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 are crucial passages to look at here because they tell us the state of our minds and who it is that gives us the wisdom we need given our state. Romans 3:11a reads, “no one understands”. Left to our own devices we do not know what we need to know about God; we are not wise but fools. That’s not a very pretty thing think about… until we see what happens in spite of that. God, seeing our foolish state as we were steeped in sin, graciously opened our eyes to the reality of Himself (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Though He uses people to share his gospel, it is ultimately God who lets that truth penetrate their hearts. This is also not merely
talking on the occurrence that takes place at regeneration. It is the reality that we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for the truth. As I said, left to our own devices… we are fools.
Okay, God is sovereign and we need to depend on him for our understanding. That’s all
well and good, but what effect does all of this ultimately have on cage-stage Calvinism? There’s a reason why I said that cage-stage calvinists’ feeling of former stupidity is important. It assumes that our knowledge of biblical truths depend on our own intellect; our own ability to understand. But that is a gross misunderstanding of our need for the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17). I had once known a reformed professor of theological studies (who’s name and institution I will refrain from mentioning) once say, “Atheists are stupid, that’s why they don’t believe”. I couldn’t believe my ears. Now, of course Calvinists would not (or at least should not) say that non-Calvinists aren’t believers but I think the flawed argument is the same nonetheless. We must
depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us and instruct us, not our own depraved strength and minds. If we do we will know that, where we can affirm doctrines such as Calvinism and attempt to instruct others on their truths, it is ultimately God who administers wisdom among the believers and being loud and arrogant does nothing but hinder.

It is also additionally important for those who do not affirm the doctrines of grace to
know that experiences with cage-stage Calvinists, where very unpleasant, do not affect the truth of Calvinism. Calvinists, don’t be a cage-stager and don’t encourage it. Non-Calvinists, give your cage-stage brothers and sisters in Christ some grace and love them as God first loved you.

**Feature photo courtesy of Adam Ford**

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Lord’s Supper and the Real Presence… (What Many Evangelicals Have Forgotten and Forsaken)

One of the last things I found myself accepting in the Westminster Standards was the real presence of Christ in the Supper. Looking back on it now, I cannot reason why I ever had an issue with it in the first place, but, lo, I did.

One thing we as believers need to be balanced on before we look at this issue is that we shouldn’t be trying to look for a Jesuit behind every bush… aka… Just because we are discussing the idea of Christ being REALLY present in the Supper, does not mean that we are discussing the uniquely Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Mass as being propitiatory, or worshipping the consecrated host. Now, what are we talking about? Let’s look at what the traditional protestant position is from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

CHAPTER 29

Of the Lord’s Supper.

“I. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his Church unto the end of the world; for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body.

II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and can not, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.”

And the Westminster Larger Catechism:

“Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?

A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.”

———-

Okay… That is a lot to take in, I know, but it is necessary to understand 1. The doctrine of real presence and 2. How it fundamentally opposes the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Lets dive in…

What do Reformed Protestants traditionally believe concerning the Real Presence?

“V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”

This is the doctrine in a nutshell. The first thing we see is the elements are set apart by the blessing of the ministers (art III & V) and have a relation to the Crucified Christ and so can be referred to as the Body and Blood of Christ. But, this is important, remain truly and fully Bread and Wine, even after they are blessed.

After they are blessed they are handed out only to worthy receivers (a topic for another time). These believers, when they consume the bread and wine, inwardly by faith, feed upon the true body and blood of Christ spiritually, not carnally or physically. Therefore, feeding on all the benefits of his death. The body and blood of Christ are spiritually present to the faith of the believer in the ordinance just as much as the elements are to the outward senses.

So, to summarize, Christ is spiritually present within the bread and wine so that when we consume the elements we are truly feeding upon his body and blood. Now, what is the scriptural proof of this:

Luke 22:19 (ESV)

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

So Christ said “This IS my body”. I know that is what a Lutheran would normally say, but I have the personal belief that consubstantiation (using this phrase for the sake of argument) is as illogical as the Catholic position. But we hold the belief that it really is his body that we are communing with…

1 Corinthians 10:16

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

So Paul is making an argument that when we take the Supper we are really and truly participating and communing with the body and blood of Christ. We are not merely taking a memorial that is empty of his being… that is a-scriptural. Paul is arguing that the participation is real, so we argue this as well.

How is it opposed to the Catholic position?

“II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.”

This isn’t all the confession as to say in opposition to the Romish Mass, but it will have to do.

First, we do not see the supper as a sacrifice. Christ is not being offered up to the Father on the alter of a priest, that is a blasphemous way to look at it. But it is something we look to in remembrance of his offering himself up, by himself, once for all time… There is no elevation of the elements or words of consecration. There is no lighting of incense, but a simple service of scripture and communion. The confession states, “; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.” Which is to say that it is idolatrous and heretical.

Second, we believe that we should celebrate the Supper in a corporate setting. Also, when we take the Supper, we take both elements. We do not worship them, adore them, or keep them past the time of the Supper. When the ceremony is done, they continue their ordinary use. All of these things are contrary to the purpose the Lord gave the Supper.

Third, the Confession speaks directly against the papist doctrine of Transubstantiation. It calls it Repugnant to Scripture, common sense, and reason. It says that it overthrows the nature of the sacrament and has been and still is the cause of superstition and idolatry. This is a massive charge. But it is a consistently Protestant charge.

——–

So we see now that the Reformed concept of real presence is not just Biblical, but also fundamentally opposed to the position that it normally gets confused with, the Roman Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. So I hope this has been useful to you

Soli Deo Gloria!

Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda (or so we say)

One of the ideas that really kindles my wick is the idea of a perfect church… This is the idea that the church is perfectly formed with a perfect government, perfect hymnals, perfect Bible translations, perfect length sermons, perfect classes, perfect bulletins, perfect communion outlines… blah blah blah blah. This is called “infallible Tradition”, ya know, that thing that the Reformers were trying to REFORM!

Tradition is never a perfect set of beliefs and practices that can never be replaced. And the problem with many protestants today, is that they hold to their traditions so tightly that when someone challenges them, there is an all out split. I have seen church splits, and have heard great men say terrible things about other great men. I have counted votes to call and discharge pastors to and from the pulpit. Why is this ever necessary? Tradition…

Being a part of a Reformed Church does not guarantee one certainty that when the church needs reform, that it will be open to the idea. One of the safeguards is the presbyterian system of government that keeps these decisions in the hands of qualified elders, but, even then… Reform is never easy. The elder board can even split, the decisions can be overturned in Presbytery or Synod/Assembly and there could be rioting in the proverbial streets… So, why is reform so hard?

Comfort…

We are comfortable with what we know. And with a subject as important as our faith and practice, discomfort can be overtly concerning. Emotions get in the way of change and progress, its just life, bro. But what we need to do sometimes is not allow fallible emotions to get in the way of infallible truth. What the Church is tasked with Reforming are those things that are not in conformity with Infallible Truth. And when we as the believer get in the way of these Reforms, we are blocking Biblical progress, and safeguarding vanity and tradition. Comfy pews and comfy carpet is one thing, but comfy alter-calls and comfy Kari Jobe songs are another… Those things that can be Biblically dismissed as secondary (or tertiary) issues are not subject to reform, but those things that are Biblically outrageous and offensive should be cut down and dis-guarded.

The Church Reformed, Always Reforming is the title of this article. Mostly because those churches (like mine) who are reformed in name and practice need to be the example. We shouldn’t cry Semper Reformanda all the way up to someone actually trying it. We should repent of our sins before we demand others repent of theirs (i.e. Rome, PCUSA, and the Kardashians). Just a thought…

Soli Deo Gloria!