Written by Harry L. Reeder III
Thursday, May 29, 2014
It has been my joy to participate in a growing fraternal fellowship of Reformed and Evangelical pastors identified as The Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) for the past three years.
The GRN is committed to addressing some of the issues of Gospel preaching in today’s setting which has been influenced by what we have called a “contemporary grace movement.” The problem with this movement is not hyper-grace or too much grace. The problem is a dwarfed grace that rejects the right use of God’s law in sanctification and declares any preaching of Gospel imperatives and call to human endeavor in the life of a believer as at best moralism and at worst legalism.
Therefore, our fellowship has given specific focus upon the Biblical and historically Reformed understanding of the Gospel privilege and imperative of sanctification. In doing so the GRN also desires to highlight the multi-dimensional motivations that believers experience propelling them to obey our Lord’s call to “pursue sanctification.”
The GRN joyfully affirms the monergistic Gospel blessings of Effectual Calling, Regeneration, Justification, Adoption, Definitive Sanctification and Glorification while also vigorously, yet carefully, affirming the synergistic endeavor of progressive Gospel Sanctification. This requires Gospel preaching that communicates the foundational Gospel blessings of the elect in Christ and the Gospel responsibilities of the elect to “put off the old man and put on the new man” for Christ.
It also seeks to preach with the same care that the Apostle Paul displays in his Epistles as he intentionally lays a Gospel foundation of our positional blessings “in Christ” before calling the professing believer to the Gospel commands to “follow Christ.” This thoughtful and intentional Gospel of grace ministry is sometimes displayed in one verse such as “walk in manner worthy of our calling.” (NOTE – not in manner worthy to be called or stay called but in a manner that honors the sacredness, richness and regality of our calling) or “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (worship language) for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (NOTE– our responsibility to “work out” but we are only able to “work out” because of God’s grace and power which is sovereignly “working in.” Furthermore we are not working “for” our own salvation but working out an already grace-secured salvation and even more you are working out “your own” salvation, not someone else’s salvation.
Not only does Paul consistently do this but the other human authors of Scripture do so as well. For instance, Peter calls believers “to grow IN the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (NOTE – the imperative of human endeavor – “grow.” Also note the careful wording. You do not grow FOR grace but IN grace and it is only because of the presence of God’s grace and the indwelling power of Holy Spirit that the believer is enabled to “grow.”)
This is why we labor together with our fellow Gospel preachers to affirm the “whole Gospel to the whole man.” The contemporary grace movement’s penchant to either careless wording of the relationship and distinctives of Justification/Adoption (revealing our deliverance from sin’s guilt) and Regeneration/Sanctification (revealing our deliverance from sin’s power or purposed wording promoting antinomianism in order to attack legalism) must be lovingly but clearly addressed and rejected.
The preaching of the whole gospel to the whole man means that we must not reduce the Gospel to one element of the “ordo salutis.” The Gospel is not simply regeneration (born again)… nor Justification… nor Adoption.. nor Sanctification .. nor Glorification. Anytime the Church makes the Gospel one element of the Ordo Salutis it ensures a reaction toward another element in the next generation. Anytime the Gospel preachers attack the error of Quietism by promoting Pietism it assures the error of Quietism in the next generation. And obviously the reverse is equally true. Anytime the Gospel preachers attack the error of Legalism by promoting Antinomianism either with thoughtless zeal or with a purposed strategy they assure the error of Legalism for their children’s church. And again, clearly the reverse is equally true.
The intentional pursuit of holiness and the mortification of sin in the life of a believer resting in Christ alone for salvation and who is empowered by Holy Spirit is neither legalism nor moralism but the necessary evidence of love to Christ, His Word, His people, the lost and His glory.
The fact is, progressive Gospel-saturated Sanctification is set in motion by the monergistic work of God in Christ and through Holy Spirit with Effectual Calling, Regeneration, Justification and Adoption. And then it is effected in life with a supernatural synergistic work of God’s grace in the life of an engaged believer who is 100% dependent upon the power of God’s grace delivered by the indwelling Spirit of God and 100% devoted to the means of grace in pursuit of obedience to Christ out of love to Him who first freely loved us.
The Gospel reveals that God’s grace in Christ HAS delivered us from the persuasion of sin (effectual calling), the power of sin (regeneration), the penalty of sin (justification) and the position of sin (adoption) and furthermore, it IS delivering us from the practice of sin (sanctification) and gloriously one day it WILL deliver us from the presence of sin (glorification) through the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession and second coming of Christ. This progressive sanctification is the expression of our love to Christ by the power of Holy Spirit in that we, who once in sin lived to assassinate the glory of God now, by grace, desire and pursue the exaltation of the glory of God which is the joy of our new life in Christ.
With these thoughts, as one grateful participant in the fellowship of the GRN, I, without reservation commend to you (for reading) the Affirmations and Denials of the Gospel Reformation Network which we have adopted and if so led, for your adoption and subscription. But more than that, with thoughtful passion let’s unite to preach the Gospel of Christ – “the whole Gospel to the whole man.” By God’s grace, I would humbly yet boldly ask the Lord that together we might know the Gospel, love the Gospel, be gripped by the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel to the glory of our Triune God revealed in the preeminence of Christ our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Our nation, this world needs preachers of the whole Gospel to the whole man. My brothers, get up on a high mountain and proclaim Good News! Our God reigns! The Gospel is not an appeal from an impotent God through fearful people. It is a regal proclamation and a commanding invitation from the King who has sent us. He has won the victory over sin, death, hell and the grave and Our King reigns! Come to Him and reign with Him. This is the Gospel of reigning grace…greater than all our sin!
THE GOSPEL REFORMATION NETWORK’S AFFIRMATIONS & DENIALS OF THE GOSPEL AND SANCTIFICATION
We affirm that legalism is a dangerous problem that the church must always address.
We deny that legalism is the primary enemy of the gospel to the exclusion of spiritual bondage, moral rebellion and a love for sin.
We affirm that unregenerate man, being totally depraved, is unable to obey or please God unto salvation.
We deny that the believer, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, remains unable to obey and please God, by grace and in Christ.
We affirm that the gospel provides salvation for the whole man, including man’s need for both imputed and imparted righteousness.
We deny that the gospel is provides freedom from the guilt of sin in justification without deliverance from the power of sin in regeneration and liberation from the practice of sin in sanctification.
We affirm that both justification and sanctification are distinct, necessary, inseparable and simultaneous graces of union with Christ though faith.
We deny that sanctification flows directly from justification, or that the transformative elements of salvation are mere consequences of the forensic elements.
We affirm that gratitude for justification is a powerful motivation for growth in holiness.
We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic.
We affirm that believers are not under the Law as a covenant of works, where the believer is required to merit his or her own righteousness before God.
We deny that Christ has freed the Christian from the moral Law as the standard of Christian living.
We affirm that through the finished work of Christ believers are adopted by God as sons and now relate to God as their loving heavenly Father.
We deny that our adoption precludes God’s fatherly displeasure when His children rebel, or that God’s Fatherly love prevents Him from disciplining Christians who stray from the path of righteousness.
We affirm that God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered effort to put off sin and put on righteousness is necessary for Christian growth in grace.
We deny that all practical effort in sanctification is moralistic, legalistic or that the only effort required for growth is that Christians remember, revisit and rediscover their justification.
We affirm that growth in the Christian life comes through faith, which believes and acts on the promises of God in the Scriptures.
We deny that faith is wholly passive in sanctification or separated from good works in the same sense that justification is by faith alone.
We affirm that faithful preaching of the Law for use in the Christian life must always be done in the context of God’s provision through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.
We deny that preaching the Scripture’s indicatives without the imperatives is a healthy model for Christian ministry because such preaching fails to conform to the pattern seen in Scripture and is dangerous to the life and ministry of the church.
We affirm that Christians gain assurance of salvation by cherishing the promise of the gospel and by the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer’s life.
We deny that assurance gained through growth in godliness amounts to a performance-based religion or necessitates an unwholesome spiritual pride.
We affirm that Christians can and should experience victories over sin, however limited and partial, and that these victories bring glory to God and bear testimony to the power of His grace.
We deny that rejoicing in victories over sin amounts to spiritual pride or performance religion, although Christians may and sometimes do sin in this way.
Harry L. ReederIII is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and serves a pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala. This article appeared on his blog.