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!

What is a Protestant?

Pierr Bruneau

(1689 London Baptist)

There are many people out there who think that the word Protestant is only negative word of opposition, and Roman Catholics often criticize the Reformation as being only a negative movement of protest based on this one word. This, however, ignores both the historical reality of what happened when Protestants were first called Protestants and the meaning of the word itself.
The historical reality is that the Second Diet of Speyer in Germany sought to forbid any further reforms in what was called the Holy Roman Empire. As a result the princes of the Lutheran states, known as the Protestant princes, opposed this and wrote the Letter of Protestation. But this was not just a protest; it was an affirmation of their right and duty to proclaim the gospel and to stand on the word of God when it was contradicted by the words of men. They believed firmly that when the law of God and the laws of men contradicted each-other “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, the protest resulted because they saw that the liberty to proclaim what they affirmed was endangered, and not the other way around. The Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 sought to repeal the Edict of Toleration from the previous Diet of Speyer in 1526 which allowed the free exercise of religion until a General Council was held. The Protestant princes saw that this repeal would mean the death of many Protestants throughout the empire. Their protest was actually a stand on the word of God for religious freedom, and the freedom to obey one’s conscience rather than the tyrannical laws of men.
When it comes to the word Protestant, it is important to note that the meanings of words often change or shift over time. This is what happened with the word protest which has led to some confusion as to what a Protestant actually is. The word Protestant comes from two words: Pro-testari. The word testari meant to testify, and the word pro meant forth, and thus a Protestant was one who testifies forth. The Online Etymology Dictionary shows us how this word has changed over time. It says, ” protest (n.) c. 1400, “avowal, pledge, solemn declaration,” from Old French protest (Modern French prôtet), from preotester, and directly from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest,” from pro- “forth, before” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “in front of, before”) + testari “testify,” from testis “witness” (see testament). Meaning “statement of disapproval” first recorded 1751; adjectival sense of “expressing of dissent from, or rejection of, prevailing mores” is from 1953, in reference to U.S. civil rights movement. First record of protest march is from 1959.” When it comes to the verb protest it says the following: “protest (v.) mid-15c., “to declare or state formally or solemnly,” from Old French protester, from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest” (see protest (n.)). Original sense preserved in to protest one’s innocence”

(Protest Etymology).

Therefore, even by the meaning of the word itself, a Protestant is one who testifies forth, and yes there are times when protest is necessary, but it it necessary because of what we affirm and testify forth, not the other way around. A protestant is one who testifies forth the truth of the gospel based on God’s Word. Anyone who does not do this is not a Protestant no matter how much he may be opposed to Rome’s papal claims. As Protestants, it is vital for us to keep our eyes on what we are for, and that is Jesus Christ, otherwise we run the risk of forgetting our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Instead, may our “love and faith and service and perseverance” and “deeds” grow “greater than at first” (Revelation 2:19) as we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

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!