The Biggest Lie about Grace .... Law

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Wayne Wilson's picture

Snoeberger makes some sound biblical points.  It would be helpful if we had something from Olsen responding with a scriptural argument and more detailed explanation of what he means.  There is certainly a gracious aspect in the process of sanctification (Christ's yoke is easy, and we may rest in His love), but it is certainly biblical for a little fear to keep us in line as well when we are not quite so in tune with living by grace.

 

To say that "if there's anything that God hates --- it's moralism!" needs explanation as well.  I know there are six things God hates, yea, even seven...but moralism isn't one of them. 

 

I think it's safe to safe that grace is a teacher of righteousness, and grace creates a healthy fear of the Lord.

Don Johnson's picture

Couldn't believe it when I read Matt's post this morning. Astonishingly simplistic misrepresentation of the New Testament.

Kudos to Mark for an excellent and timely response.

And, as a matter of shameless self-promotion, I would point to my article on Proclaim & Defend - Distortions of Sanctification. It addresses the same subject, but, alas, not as succinctly as Mark does. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

ADThompson's picture

Perhaps I'm missing something. Matt's posting reads:

"Fear drives us to control people with rules and regulations. These have no power to produce what pleases God but instead only bring about a kind of religious moralism that is very far from genuine Christianity."

The author is saying that rules (developed because of fear and with the desire to control people) are unable to produce genuine Christianity. This is not a blanket statement about rules.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Snoeberger is talking about both fear and rules in his post. I'm not sure where "controlling people" fits in, but have we really reached the point where we think behavior does not need to be controlled?

Well, because the New Testament is filled with fear-motivated rules and regulations that function as legitimate self-disciplinary tools for the promotion of true Christian godliness. Note the following:

  • “Great fear” induced the early church not to lie (Acts 5:5, 11 cf. 19:17ff).
  • Paul exhorts us as believers to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of fear for God” (2 Cor 7:1).
  • Paul tells slaves to “be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ” (Eph 6:5).
  • Paul tells his readers, “As you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
  • The author of Hebrews tells his readers to persevere out of “fear” that they were self-deceived in their profession and might thereby miss God’s rest (Heb 4:1).
  • After exhorting his readers to “be holy,” Peter offers a vital reason: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here with fear” (1 Pet 1:17).

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

ADThompson's picture

Where, in any shape or form, does Matt suggest that "behavior does not need to be controlled"? I am not questioning Dr. Snoeberger's points; I question his inference from Matt's article. 

Steve Davis's picture

Whenever we get to the point that my obedience is mine or my gratefulness is something I have worked up, then we have missed something or added something to grace. Apart from the Holy Spirit at work in our lives there is no hope for obedience or gratitude. It is only because Christ has been obedient that God can look favorably upon us.
 

It seems that when Matt talks about fear it is the unhealthy, performance-driven, rule-based fear that for so long has permeated some segments of Christianity.  Since God has already given us all things pertaining to life and godliness there are no tools needed to promote godliness.

Speaking of "fear-motivated rules and regulations" as “tools for the promotion of true Christian godliness” (per Mark) gives the impression that the more tools we use the more godly we become and easily leads to moralism or standardism. We then measure ourselves and others by our obedience to rules and regulations (which we all fail to keep anyway). I see rather that our obedience is motivated by grace because God has given us a delight in him which causes us to stand before him with reverence and awe.
 

Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
 

Jeffrey Dean's picture

Steve, that was beautifully stated.  Saved me some typing and I would've have said it as well.

 

Anne Sokol's picture

we need to keep having it. i'm all agog that Olson is reading Fitzpatrick and her daughter. that puts his school on my possibility list for my kids, no joke.

before the discussion goes any further, you should listen to this:

http://castroller.com/Podcasts/WhiteHorseInn/2639057?start=undefined

an interview with E.F., kind of explains things here even better than in her book, I've heard.

will write more in a bit maybe about these actually two posts.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Speaking of "fear-motivated rules and regulations" as “tools for the promotion of true Christian godliness” (per Mark) gives the impression that the more tools we use the more godly we become and easily leads to moralism or standardism.

The debate about sanctification and the role of complex motivations in it is pretty important. But to get anywhere, we'll have to reason carefully. It doesn't follow that if fear and rules have a role, therefore the more fear and rules the better. Nobody is saying that.

We all agree that eating is good, but not that the more we eat the better. We agree that speaking is good but not that the more talk the better (Prov 10.19). Preaching... OK, some do think that if preaching is good, the more the better--not a good example. How about sleep: sleep is good, but nobody thinks more is necessarily better (Prov 6.10-11).

So the debate will improve if we can let it be about what it's really about.

(BTW, Snoeberger links in his own thread to this summary of DeYoung vs. Tchividjian on the question. This is not at all a "fundamenalists" vs. "everybody else" debate.)

 

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Part of the problem in the sanctification debate is--as the DeYoung-Tchividjian exchange shows--some of it seems to consist of differences in preferred language and emphasis rather than differences in substance. But there are substantive differences also.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Anne Sokol's picture

yes, stuff needs to be clarified.

1. the issue of "rules and regulations" needs to be cleared up.

2. the place of fear in sanctification

1. Grace doesn't mean there are no rules. It means you understand their limitations of helpfulness. (That's in brief, and this can be further shred apart.)

2. Fear: fear of what? Of consequences of our actions? Fear meaning respect of God? What fear are we talking about as an aid in sanctification? And when is fear wrong in sanctification?

I also think, it's essential to understand that when we emphasize human effort in sanctification, then how we often feel compelled to lower God's standards into something we can (usually) reach on a human level. When really, if we understand God's standards/laws ... Anyway, this needs to be clarified too.

also, very important, are we talking about a Christian who wants to grow or a Christian who wants to be worldly? For the second, I would more emphasize examining if s/he is really a Christian....

Steve Davis's picture

I think we have a pretty good idea how much we need to sleep or eat (although the speaking part eludes us). Once the idea has been introduced that rules and regulations have, not just a role, but that they actually promote godliness or as stated later that sanctification can be furthered by rules, a subjective factor has been introduced and no one will agree on how much or how many rules and regulations do the trick. And that’s part of the problem with Mark’s corrective.

You might be able to eat too much of a good thing, or speak too much, or sleep too much, but if rules and regulations really do promote godliness, what’s the right dose for how many rules needed to be observed? Of course if they don't promote godliness or further sanctification then we can come back to the solid ground of our sanctification in Christ alone and by grace alone in which our obedience is made possible by Christ's obedience and our rule keeping a response to something rather than to attain something.

Anne Sokol's picture

Wink

but people still have to think through it to see the logic, yk? that sanctification in this life is much more about the positional sanctification than we usually think or is emphasized. positional sanctification in christ is THE thing.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

It seems that the rules aspect is inherently included in the sanctification process in such verses as the put off the old man and put on the new man commands. Not only do they aid sanctification, they are an integral, inseparable part of sanctification. Much more than simply evidence that sanctification is happening, they are part of the sanctification. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:

Wink

but people still have to think through it to see the logic, yk? that sanctification in this life is much more about the positional sanctification than we usually think or is emphasized. positional sanctification in christ is THE thing.

Anne,

 

I don't think positional sanctification is THE thing, but is part of THE thing. Most of the NT discussion is about practical sanctification, not positional.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Anne Sokol's picture

can you never think an adulterous thought?

can you meditate day and night on God's Word, can it be always the joy of your heart?

Can you speak right and good words all the time?

even though I do want and seek these things, I can't do them the way God wants of me. I can make a rule for myself that I wll, for example, never be in the same room alone with a man, or that I will read a chapter of the Bible every day, or that I will not reveal the sins of others in our church that I learn about.

But by keeping those rules, am I making myself more holy? am I meeting God's standards?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

No, I can't. That's why I confess them and get cleansed. However, that is what God commands. That's why I confess them and get cleansed. Again, most of the NT focuses on practical sanctification. It's not there because God was bored or worried we wouldn't take the NT seriously unless He beefed it up a bunch. He really expects progressive sanctification to be a focal point of the believer's life from salvation until promotion.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Anne Sokol's picture

but the sanctification happens progressively not by focusing on myself and my rules and my obedience and my progress.

there is no outward law that can create in us what God requires of us. the focus of the nt is Christ and Christ in us.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Then Anne, why are we given imperatives to put off/put on in scripture? (Not to mention all the other imperatives in scripture)

 

No one is arguing that obedience somehow sanctifies us, but obedience is part of the process of being sanctified. In claiming that positional sanctification is THE thing, you eradicate all of progressive (practical) sanctification from the picture; there is no such thing in the paradigm you describe. You make it sound like it doesn't matter if I obey at all as long as I'm saved and eternally secure. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

James K's picture

Chip, Admiral Ackbar warns: ITS A TRAP!

I wonder where Mark would work in 1 John 4:17-19

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for we are as He is in this world.

18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment (kolasis - penal infliction, torment). So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.

19 We love because He first loved us.

Rules do not promote holiness.  The rule itself is powerless.  Bill Combs mentioned the command for a husband to love his wife.  Fine.  Having that rule does not make or empower that man to love his wife in sanctification.

If you are not obeying God from faith, it is sin.  Preventing worse evil is not the same thing as growing in righteousness.  

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Once the idea has been introduced that rules and regulations have, not just a role, but that they actually promote godliness or as stated later that sanctification can be furthered by rules, a subjective factor has been introduced and no one will agree on how much or how many rules and regulations do the trick. And that’s part of the problem with Mark’s corrective

Steve, I am not following you here. Isn't is undeniable that rules and regulations have a part in Christian living and sanctification and that fear is used in the NT (and OT) as a motivation for obedience? Mark listed a number of passages that seems to support this. I wonder if you might address a couple of them to show us how you would understand it differently.

Take for instance 1 Thess 4 where sanctification is tied directly to abstaining from sexual immorality, and sexual immorality in the NT is something that endangers one of hell. So there we see a rule and fear tied directly to sanctification. And this is repeated all over the NT. To me this is so obvious that it makes me wonder what I am missing in your comments here. 

While this is somewhat of an old discussion, rules to assist in the fight against sin seem not only biblical (since the Bible has quite a few), but also prudent. In your ministry, you probably deal with alcoholics. Do you encourage them to stay way from bars for dinner? I do. That's a rule that assists them in sanctification isn't it?

I also don't follow your last sentence in my quote. Why does subjectivity and the idea that no one will agree mean that we jettison the idea? There's always subjectivity (e.g., "How far is too far?"), but how why should that stop us from making rules? Again, I wonder what I am missing there.

Anne Sokol's picture

I have a little request ... Biggrin

just relax ... slow down a little, and try to understand what I'm describing. I am really not out to argue, I would rather not waste my time here with arguing with people who aren't listening. I'm just trying to help people understand what is actually a very difficult mental paradigm shift for many Christians to make. 

You don't have to make the shift, i just want you to understand it. And I'm asking that partly b/c it is hard for me personally to clearly describe this, so I need someone who is trying to understand.

... OK, I"m sitting here for a long time, and I simply cannot describe this in a universal way. 

Maybe you could describe it as works-sanctification vs. grace-sanctification ... ? 

Do I look at the process of becoming like Christ as my effort? Do I think making up rules will help me achieve becoming like Christ? do I think that by obeying rules I'm getting closer or farther from Christlikeness?

 

Or, do I look at the process of becoming like Christ is something I can entrust to God's leading? That I don't direct my own efforts or make lists to do or obey ... 

how to say it? 
 

Example? before I understood sanctification-by-grace I looked on the NT commands as things I needed to work toward. 

But now . . . . I read a command, and I think, Dear Jesus, you fulfilled this command perfectly on earth. How did you do it? What did it look like? Are you wanting to help me become like you in this area right now? What would you like me to do? What will it look like for me? 

Several months ago, God started putting His finger on my prayer life. But I made no rules, I just started opening up myself more and more, praying, asking God what He was wanting from me. Wondering, does he want me to stay up at nights as Jesus did? I will do that if you want. ... And God providentially brought things into my life at exact times to help me grow exponentially in this area. And I'm still in the middle of this process and not knowing where it's all leading. Will I grow into fasting, intercession, etc. ? 

Now, I'm not "praying without ceasing" yet. I'm not "making intercession for all the saints" yet. But Jesus did those two things perfectly for me. and I am wanting him to show me how, in my life, he wants to express those things in me. It will probably take time for me to grow into this. But I don't make rules that i have to pray every second--I know I will fail that rule, even though that is God's standard. Jesus did it, on my behalf, perfectly. I will look at him, listen for the leading through the Spirit, and do what God is showing me. It might look unique, it might not. But I trust that God will, in His time and way, keep growing me in this. 

Scratching my head. I'm not sure this is helping. 

Grace sanctification goes much deeper and wider than works, than gauging my obedience to rules. It's asking God to, in His time, transform my entire nature into the being of Christ--because Christ already lived it all perfectly, every day, in every single way.

i hope someone who understands this too can explain it better.  

 

 

Anne Sokol's picture

Larry wrote:

Take for instance 1 Thess 4 where sanctification is tied directly to abstaining from sexual immorality, and sexual immorality in the NT is something that endangers one of hell. So there we see a rule and fear tied directly to sanctification. And this is repeated all over the NT. To me this is so obvious that it makes me wonder what I am missing in your comments here. 

I'll defer all those questions to Steve, but I wanted to point out one difference i have noticed is that, you see, abstaining from sexual immorality is a minimum. It's a bare minimum of what God requires. And often, our rules are minimums, at best, even missing the point, requiring things that even unbelievers can do. 

For example, the point of sanctification is not aiming at abstaining from immorality. God wants so much more than that, you know? He wants us filled up with active, holy, amazing, righteous love and faithfulness. 

So when you look at Christ and ask how He abstained from sexual immorality, .. well, how many pastors would be comfortable having a prostitute crying over their feet and wiping them with her hair? ... The rules approach might save a man from immorality but not fulfill the greater commandment of living out the fulness of Christ expressing his life and love and righteousness through us. 

does that make any sense? Rules are OK, necessary in most social contexts, but in personal sanctification, they are not the gauge or growth factor .... 

Alex Guggenheim's picture

NIV 1 Cor 10:1-11

Warnings From Israel’s History

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea...6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

And ditto to the response by Mark Snoeberger. Night and day in a mature handling of the Scriptures.

Steve Davis's picture

Larry wrote:

Once the idea has been introduced that rules and regulations have, not just a role, but that they actually promote godliness or as stated later that sanctification can be furthered by rules, a subjective factor has been introduced and no one will agree on how much or how many rules and regulations do the trick. And that’s part of the problem with Mark’s corrective

Steve, I am not following you here. Isn't is undeniable that rules and regulations have a part in Christian living and sanctification and that fear is used in the NT (and OT) as a motivation for obedience? Mark listed a number of passages that seems to support this. I wonder if you might address a couple of them to show us how you would understand it differently.

Take for instance 1 Thess 4 where sanctification is tied directly to abstaining from sexual immorality, and sexual immorality in the NT is something that endangers one of hell. So there we see a rule and fear tied directly to sanctification. And this is repeated all over the NT. To me this is so obvious that it makes me wonder what I am missing in your comments here. 

While this is somewhat of an old discussion, rules to assist in the fight against sin seem not only biblical (since the Bible has quite a few), but also prudent. In your ministry, you probably deal with alcoholics. Do you encourage them to stay way from bars for dinner? I do. That's a rule that assists them in sanctification isn't it?

I also don't follow your last sentence in my quote. Why does subjectivity and the idea that no one will agree mean that we jettison the idea? There's always subjectivity (e.g., "How far is too far?"), but how why should that stop us from making rules? Again, I wonder what I am missing there.

The crux of the matter is Mark's overstatement of his case. I don't disagree with everything Mark said or your comment that rules and regulations have a part in Christian living and sanctification ... or that commands are somehow tied to sanctification. However from there to state as Mark does that "the idea that sanctification can never be furthered by rules does not seem to follow. In fact, such an idea seems to run counter to the totality of the NT Scriptures." I do not think the Scriptures he marshals as support teach that "the New Testament is filled with fear-motivated rules and regulations that function as legitimate self-disciplinary tools for the promotion of true Christian godliness or that rules further sanctification or maybe I don't understand what he means by sanctification or how it is furthered. Obedience to all the fear-based rules and regulations in the world will never promote godliness. No one's denying that scriptural commands are important.  But do rules and regulations further sanctification? That is the question. I think Mark gives a wrong or at best an inarticulate answer. And yes I do work with alcoholics and drug addicts as an addiction therapist in prison. I would not recommend a bar for dinner. You would say it "assists them in their sanctification" but that does not further their sanctification.

 

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Fear is treated as an acceptable spiritual motivation in th NT in part or in whole and that is Olson's major failure. He attempts to remove its legitimacy, its righteous function. But Olson appears to be metamorphising and this lazy and inconsiderate treatment of Scripture is not surprising with respect to his recent history.

Joel Tetreau's picture

So the idea that rules followed externally and then somehow through a spiritual reverse-osmosis result in a closer walk with God is actually something similar to behavioral-ism. So without listing all of the verses which I would love to do but can't do because I'm mentally shot after a long day of paper-work - Let me just summarize what I think Matt is saying here and then I'll add my own thought or two after that. By the way I just called Matt to see if I understood him right - and he said I did - so I'll do my best here.

1. Matt's issue is not looking at Biblical imperatives for NT believers - Matt believes they have a part in sanctification. However, Matt would also say that emphasizing even Biblical rules in and of itself does not produce a Holy Spirit progression in sanctification.

2. Matt's larger issue is institutional or xtra Biblical (man-made) rules that are sometimes passed out in homes, churches, or other ministries (maybe even a learning institution or two) that emphasize a kind of "performance-based" acceptance using "rules" (man-made) as the test as to if one is spiritual or not. See Math 15:9 - I think Mark 7 is the parallel.

3. Matt would say that in and of itself is a poor approach to judging or even encouraging true Godliness. I would add because many of you assume the worse you probably assumed Matt was throwing out rules altogether - of course the fact that NIU no longer is big on demerits would be your exhibit A. You miss the point - again.

4. Matt would probably emphasize Galatians 3 and other passages that explain one is not furthered in justification or even sanctification with a rules-based growth. Matt is tired of the damage caused spiritually by a performance-based Christianity. You know - Wow that guy is pure in heart because his hair is so short. I actually remember a Christian School giving out the "best Christian dressed" award. I actually knew a thing or two about some of the people that won that award. Uh - their sanctification was not being furthered by getting that award I can assure you!

5. Matt's is simply saying if you take a close look at the passages he noted (as well as others) it seems as if a vibrant growth in Christ is first of all activated through faith and a vibrant on-going relationship with Christ - via the Holy Spirit. Actually an emphasis on "law" might kill. This is not to say one does not care about the 1100 NT commands found in the NT for NT Christians (Which might be called the law of Christ).

Matt didn't say this but Joel will - It is to say that simply focusing on those (NT regulations given primarily in the epistles given directly to NT believers) or the 613 laws of Moses  - or another 1100 that fundamentalist have come up with or the extra 900 the pharisees came up with - will not result in an automatic closer relationship with God (again the language of Paul in Galatians 3 - Oh foolish Gal - you began in the Spirit but now you can continue on in the arm of the flesh [Tetreau paraphrase of Matt's thoughts coming out of Paul's passage - for whatever that's worth]). So I actually think like the Air Force Academy or West Point - my guess is they have as many rules as any of our institutions might. It probably helps the schools run smoothly. Great!

OK - you guys need an example. What about the ten's of thousands of kids that went to Christian Schools in the 70's and 80's in schools sponsored by Type A fundamentalist churches and had a handbook that was impressive if you like rules? So did those kids following all those rules in all those schools - did we bring in the Kingdom like the Chalcedone Papers (spelling?) said we would? Did it successfully fuel the moral majority? Do we even have a simple majority of those kids in church - let alone a fundamentalist church? Let me help you - no - those kids were not helped in their faith by following rules. Why? Because there was no heart change! Some of you would say - the majority of the rebels were lost. My response is no doubt many were lost - but many were disillusioned by the hypocrisy they saw (or that they thought they saw). I digress. Again - nothing wrong with Christian schools having rules - especially when the kids or the families or the parents sign a document that they would follow "said rules."

So I don't know if Matt would agree with any of that but I do. Rules are right when they come from Scripture. Matt nor I would argue against having rules in the home, the church or even the Christian University. All we are saying is that following the rules by themselves is not going to grown those who are in the faith apart from a total commitment to follow Jesus from the heart of the believer. That's why we have the emphasis of Scripture - "guard your heart - out of that grow the issues of life" (Prov 4 somewhere) If there is not a heart-loyalty to the Lordship of Jesus, all the rule-keeping in the world is just going to produce a self-righteous sinner who will roast in Hell right alongside of Hitler.

A few thoughts from the shadow of the cacti.

Straight Ahead!

jt

 

 

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Joel Tetreau's picture

One follow-up. For the record I love Christian schools. We've had our boys in a great Christian School for the the majority of their education and are very grateful - even for the rules. We just know the rules didn't change their heart - Jesus did! Christian schools can be a great aid to the institution of the home and/or the institution of the Church.

One point of clarity lest it get out that Joel Tetreau hates Christian school education - which is not the case at all!

Thx

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Larry's picture

Moderator

You would say it "assists them in their sanctification" but that does not further their sanctification.

Here would be the crux of my concern, and perhaps it is all about definitions. I am not sure what the difference is between assisting and furthering. Every day an alcoholic walks in sobriety with Jesus is a day that his sanctification is furthered. And not eating in a bar is part of that. It is not all of it, and it is possible to not eat in a bar and still not be sober, and not be obedient.

I don't think there is a one size fits all application or line. The Bible prohibits drunkenness and it is impossible to be sanctified without refusing to be drunk. Along the line, there are some rules that further sanctification. While I could eat in a bar with no problem (though the smell of alcohol would ruin it for me), the same thing would damage the sanctification of an alcoholic.

I think there are some real concerns that Matt points out, and some real concerns that Mark points out. But I wonder if there is not some semantic games going on with some of it.

Anne Sokol's picture

we have a rehab center in our house for drug and alcohol addicts. ... they come, they dont drink for days/weeks/months. many leave and start to drink again shortly. others stop drinking entirely. 

now, for those who stopped drinking, did the rule assist them in sanctification, the the formation of Christ in their inner man? 

I would say, not inherently. Some stop drinking but are still not Christians even. 

A rule, like do not drink/become intoxicated, cannot create in a person that which pleases God. Simply not drinking is not what pleases God (we must understand this!), but no less than the formation of Christ in that person, which is a process led and controlled by God through His Spirit. 

The reverse of Gal 5:23 is also true. No rule can create the fruit of the Spirit in a person, only the movement of the Spirit can do that. 

The rule not to drink can be used somehow in a person's life, but the formation of Christ in a person is not furthered by keeping the rule. Only the work of the Spirit in a person's heart can cause growth in true likeness to Christ. 

 

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