To my brethren in Christ,
It was recently brought to my attention by some of the brethren in “grace movement” circles regarding a controversy that recently came to a head at the Soldiers Training for Service Conference held at Shorewood Bible Church in Chicago, Illinois. There were several issues raised, mostly surrounding the exposition of Romans 8:17. After having listened to the messages, mainly those by Bryan Ross and John Verstegen, I felt that it was necessary that the elders at Columbia River Bible Fellowship discuss these matters and issue a response so that the brethren at various ministries around the country would know what our position is regarding the issue at hand. To this end, brother and fellow elder, David Busch wrote an excellent essay regarding the various issues raised, and the way in which it was handled. His essay is in keeping with the views held among the eldership at Columbia River Bible Fellowship. I trust you will find it both edifying and enlightening as to our position.
Your brother and fellow labourer in Christ,
Pastor of Columbia River Bible Fellowship
BRIEF THOUGHTS ON RECENT CONTROVERSIES IN THE “GRACE MOVEMENT”
The following is being written in light of recent controversies which seem to have emerged in “grace circles” in connection with the recent 2014 Soldiers Training for Service conference hosted by Grace School of the Bible in Chicago (hereafter referred to as “GSB”). The controversy centered around the issues pertaining to being a joint-heir with Christ, and concerns the brethren there apparently have with what is being taught by various other brethren about it.
Due to the nature of this particular controversy and ministry associations, I feel it necessary to personally address this as it has implications that will inevitably involve myself and the local fellowship of which I am a part (Columbia River Bible Fellowship). It is unclear precisely what the implications will be, as it is unclear just who and what precisely was and was not being criticized/attacked at this conference. This may simply be due to the limitations of the venue, but something of this magnitude demands caution and carefulness in its presentation. Without knowing what steps led to this event, it is difficult for me to comment further concerning what may have been going on “behind the scenes”. I wish certain things had been clarified in this regard, and I certainly welcome clarification/correction if I have misunderstood any of the things that I have heard thus far in connection with it (and therefore the conclusions I have drawn in light of it).
I will only be addressing two primary messages delivered at the conference which have been brought to my attention concerning this. While I did not hear any particular individuals identified in these messages, it is my understanding that the issues being raised were specifically in response to a paper produced by brother Ron Knight and key associates at his fellowship in Northern California. While other individuals and groups may have been implicated indirectly, it is apparently from this paper that certain excerpts were being quoted and criticized at the conference.
Having reviewed the two primary messages concerning this (delivered by Bryan Ross and John Verstegen), I am still unclear on the extent of their concern/hostility. There were narrow points made concerning certain textual and interpretive issues that I would be in general agreement with GSB on, although I would not share the seeming hostility (I have no problem with theological hostility when it is justified with core doctrinal issues at stake). There then seems to be larger issues which are being raised and implications being drawn that I must differ with. I have already addressed the relevant doctrine and verses substantively in other writings, particularly in the Fulness of Christ, so I will not be doing so here. I will simply be addressing in brief form the concerns that were raised at the conference, and the concerns I have in light of it.
This point was addressed by Bryan Ross. Concerning being joint-heirs, particular aim was taken at those who teach there are two inheritances in Romans 8. I agree that there is only one inheritance. However, there is something further in view in connection with that inheritance focusing on the “joint-ness” of it. This concerns the “reward of the inheritance”. All believers are joint-heirs (as I don’t believe this is the conditional element. The conditional elements in view flow from this “jointness” fact, not to it). However, not all believers will partake of that glory equally (this is the conditional element in view that is tied to what we have with him “jointly”). Paul’s tying of sufferings to this is extensive. Romans is the establishment introduction to this important Pauline doctrine that will be expanded on throughout his epistles. God’s inheritance, along with its glory and riches, is “in” the saints. This is why Paul is so concerned about you understanding the work of God in the believer today. It has a direct bearing on our hope and glory. We are not the only ones that “get” something in connection with the judgment seat of Christ and our coming glory. It is Christ as head and firstborn who will reap rewards in and through us as well. It has been God’s “good pleasure” to ordain it so and link his future riches with us. What we have “with” him now as a joint will affect what we have “with” him then.
Conditional: In an attempt to deny any conditional elements in regards to being joint-heirs, particular attention was paid to the phrase “if so be”. The endless appeals to “the Greek” were not only ineffectual and unconvincing, they were troubling. Why was he unable to defend this from the King James Bible? Why are we hearing this kind of thing from GSB of all places? The passages that were pointed to proved the opposite of what he was attempting to show with regard to the “conditional” aspects of the phrases involved and are wholly irrelevant to whether there are one or two inheritances. There is only one inheritance, but there is a conditional element in connection with it pertaining to our predestinated glory. There are indeed various ways that the single word “if” can be used by Paul with nuances being indicated by the text, but they only further confirm the “if/then” conditions in view in light of our unconditional position in Christ (ie. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above”, etc.).
Dwelling: Moreover, an appeal was made to the “dwelling” of the Spirit as proof that “if so be” was not conditional. The “dwelling” of the Spirit is not the same as having the Spirit. Paul makes this clear here and throughout his epistles. This is tied to the knowledge and effectual working of the word in the believer. It is tied to being “filled” with the Spirit. Many brethren do not appreciate this distinction with regard to the word “dwell”, and while I feel it is a very important doctrine that Paul will direct your thinking in accordance with and expand further on, I have no problem respectfully differing with them on that. However, it is improper to accuse brethren of being in danger of not believing all believers have the Spirit simply because they recognize there is a conditional element involved in the “dwelling” of the Spirit. I do agree, however, that this passage has nothing to do with a “corporate versus individual” interpretive lens apparently promoted by the paper in question.
Sufferings: There also seemed to be a downplaying, dismissal of, and hostility to the importance and role of sufferings in connection with the life of the believer and the effectual working of God’s word. Sufferings (however one may define them) are a huge issue throughout Paul’s epistles, and are explicitly linked to faithfulness, godliness and glory. What is driving this seeming defensiveness to the issue? Is there a reluctance to enter into these sufferings? Do verses declaring that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” rub certain people the wrong way because they are not experiencing this? There are many saints who are not experiencing this to the degree that Paul did (or anywhere remotely near it), but they also will not refuse to acknowledge what Paul confronts us with in this regard. The tenor of this particular speaker concerning the issue of sufferings does not seem to match the appreciation that I believe many of the brethren at GSB have concerning this issue, and the testimony they have given over time. Sufferings, and their “alway” progression, are a centerpiece of your sanctified life under grace and your establishment introduction to this in Romans makes this clear. The snide, light and insulting tone with which this particular issue was flippantly referred to was disturbing. Again, if this impression was simply due to the limitations of the venue, then I am happy to forgive this misunderstanding and ask the same in return.
My larger concern is this: It is unclear just what these brethren believe and what they are attacking. They seem to at times confess the same basic things concerning rewards, but then seem to attack these concepts in their critiques (not just the exposition of particular verses). Why is there such hostility to this idea being found in Romans 8? Do they only have a problem with it here? Or anywhere? If not elsewhere, why here? If the only gripe is with the semantics of Romans 8, I don’t understand what seems to be a larger hostility to the doctrine of rewards and the implications for sanctification. Brother Ross indicated that if one brought conditional elements into Romans 8, there was a dangerous “logic” that would ultimately lead to the undermining of the believer’s position in Christ. I do indeed see a certain logic here, but a quite different one. It became clear that if one seeks to downplay the joint-heirship of the believer in Christ, he will begin to downplay a number of other associated Pauline doctrines concerning godly sanctification as it relates to edification, sufferings and glory. In light of your settled position in Romans 1-7, you are supposed to be able to move forward in liberty from Romans 8 on where your Father will confront you with some key things before doing so. It is only after being grounded in the unconditional justified, sanctified and glorified position that you have been given in Christ that your Father can begin to deal with the various conditional aspects of your walk experienced with Christ as a “joint”. Many of the brethren seem incapable of getting past Romans 8 and unwilling to deal with the conditional elements your Father presents you with.
Simply put, my concern is not that they differ with other brethren and believe there is only one inheritance in Romans 8, as I myself only believe there is one inheritance. As it stands now, my concern is the deeper underlying reasons as to why they oppose the brethren who believe in two inheritances. Since the brethren being critiqued affirm that we are all heirs of God, I see no inherent danger in them holding to two inheritances, though I differ with them semantically on this point. The fact that certain brethren are apparently uncomfortable with the reality that the coming glory has conditional aspects and will not be the same in all of its particulars for all believers, and believe that it is somehow incompatible with the “grace life”, doesn’t change what is clearly taught by Paul throughout his epistles.
This point was addressed by John Verstegen. In addition to the joint-heir issue, a further issue was raised concerning being “complete” in Christ. The emphasis was upon critiquing a particular interpretation that involved making a distinction between “corporate versus individual”. Concerning this narrow point, I agree with the criticism that was raised by the GSB brethren. However, there were then larger issues implicated concerning edification.
Positions & Conditions: The case was made that any understanding of the believer’s completeness in Colossians that differed with that of the GSB brethren, particularly those interpretations associated with the idea of “attaining”, was an undermining of grace and the believer’s position in Christ. This is unnecessarily divisive. This is an unnecessary attack against brethren who are in agreement concerning the believer’s position in Christ and its implications for sanctification. It is one thing to say you disagree with these brethren regarding the interpretive lens they are viewing certain passages in. That is, yes, this is individual and not corporate. That, however, doesn’t answer anything. What do the verses and passages mean? What is the completeness being referred to? Why is anyone who may differ on the understanding of this passage being accused of undermining the “grace life”? Taking the position that many of the brethren do concerning this verse, one would be forced to use this verse repeatedly against Paul himself. I tell you, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. And you say, “But I thought I was complete”, and on and on the response could go to numerous Pauline exhortations. They don’t do this of course, but that is because they are being inconsistent with what this kind of general “positional” meaning to the verse would logically demand with regard to sanctification. The brethren are being selective in their use of this meaning, but the meaning (whatever it is they are ascribing to it) will not allow this. It may be handy when arguing with certain legalists (ie. They say, “You need to be water baptized” and you say “But I’m complete”, etc.), and when properly understood it can and should be used appropriately in this regard. But to use it the way many brethren do is simply nonsensical. The GSB brethren don’t think the believer is complete practically with regard to any number of things. If the desire is for the believer to stand complete, does this not have obvious and inescapable implications, regardless of his position in Christ? To use completeness the way that they do results in no true completeness at all for the word has been stripped of its substance and meaning. They are saying “complete”, but they mean something else concerning the believer’s position, something which is properly conveyed by other words, but not conveyed in the word complete. I agree with what many brethren mean when they say complete, but I don’t believe that is what the word complete means (both the word itself and its accompanying context). Regardless of the different views taken, all the brethren are attempting to understand the verse in a way that is consistent with the believer’s position in Christ. To say they are not doing so because you differ with their understanding of what completeness means in this verse is unnecessary and wrong. If they were attempting to use this verse to call into question the believer’s position in Christ as defined by Paul, then I could understand the alarm. But such is not the case.
Definitions & Contexts: Complete has a core concrete meaning. It stands in contrast to “in part”. Whether one has a complete set of something, or has completed a task, it has a specificity to its meaning which cannot be applied to your position in Christ in any practical way. Your position and identity is what it is. You are never partially who you are. Your identity may be many things, such as secure and unchangeable. Your position may or may not demand certain things of you. But it is not relevant or appropriate to talk of the position and identity itself as being complete, any more than it would be to describe the nature of God as being complete. Furthermore, various aspects and parts of your position and identity, such as your adoption, are not complete yet. There are various things that were/are involved in our position in Christ which could properly be described as being complete, but that is not the same thing as talking about your identity as being complete.
It is only in Colossians that you are told about the particular completeness in view. This is the group of saints it is written to and that has implications edification wise. This is only told to you after having been confronted with the Ephesians doctrine. He would not tell you that you are complete in this sense when you still only know “in part”. He will tell you this after Ephesians. You have a certain redemptive position in Christ, and while it is certainly part of your completeness, he does not use this language to describe it. You are specifically complete in connection with the doctrine of Christ being the “head of all principality and power” which he has “spoiled”. This is what you were confronted with in Ephesians. It is in light of Ephesians that you no longer have to know “in part” concerning your identity and position in Christ as the “one new man”. In light of knowing it, you are then exhorted to walk in accordance with it. Philippians and Colossians are to Ephesians what Corinthians and Galatians are to Romans. The Colossians were in danger of being “spoiled” and “beguiled” of certain things in connection with their completeness. Your completeness is to be found “in him”. He must be “learned”, and this process involves being “rooted”, “built up” and “stablished” in “the faith”. Many will attempt to “spoil” you and direct you elsewhere for your edification (philosophy, tradition, etc.) but Paul points you to the “knowledge of Christ” contained in his epistles, which knowledge is now complete, and which knowledge he now exhorts you in connection with having been “received”. This is where your life is to be found. This is what you are to walk in accordance with, not “vain deceit”. Moreover, simply because the believer is “complete” as far as their identity education is concerned, this does not mean they are done if you will. In many ways, it is just the beginning. It is only in light of their now “completeness” that they can be exhorted to pursue the prize, put on the “whole” armour, etc.
Before being complete,you did not have the “all” knowledge and therefore “whole” armour spoken of by Ephesians. Now you do and you are to “stand” in it. Certain labourers may be fond of using a particular verse utilizing the word “complete” as a moniker of their ministry, and this is in many ways legitimate and appropriate when understood properly. At the same time, it is important to understand that it is language from an advanced epistle being used and has a context in that setting. Brethren may still differ on the particulars of what they think the word complete means in a particular verse, but that doesn’t mean they are undermining the “grace life”. Complete must be properly defined and understood. This is not the language God uses when he speaks to you in Romans. He has other words and phrases to speak to you as a Roman. Complete is not one of them. This in no way undermines your position in Christ. It is rather an acknowledgment that you are not saved with a “complete” knowledge of it. It must be “attained” through “learning Christ”.
Edificational Status: Being complete in Colossians concerns knowledge and edification in light of our position and identity. The passage is referring to the believer’s position in Christ, as everything that Paul writes does. This position is not in itself, however, described as being complete (which would be meaningless without further definitions and limitations). The knowledge of it is what is being described as complete. Edification is about coming to the knowledge of that position and walking in accordance with it. There is an “image” that we are to “put on” which you have only seen “in part” up until Ephesians. The GSB brethren seem to both confess this and attack it at the same time with their hostility to the idea of “attaining” to something in connection with their sanctified life and walk. Your education concerning who you are in Christ is not complete without Ephesians. It is only here that you see “face to face” and know even as you are known, that is, how God himself knows you in accordance with his one new man. You are not complete without the Ephesians doctrine. Paul and his fellow-workers laboured to bring men unto the full knowledge of these things. Christ is where all the knowledge, wisdom, treasures, etc. are to be found. Where is this? There is only one way to know him (and specifically your position in him), and that is through Paul’s epistles. Your redemptive position in Christ was forever settled in Romans. That, however, does not complete your education as a son concerning the knowledge and “image” that Paul is going to teach you concerning who God has made you to be in Christ. He makes it clear he has more to tell you, particularly concerning your predestinated “hope” and “glory”.
This pattern has a relationship to the progression of Paul’s epistles, both historically (Acts epistles versus post Acts epistles) and edificationally. As promised in Corinthians, the things of the Acts period have been done away and Ephesians presents us with the things associated with the “fulness of Christ”. In light of Paul’s completed ministry, we now have the scriptures of “faith” which communicate to us the complete knowledge of Christ. What we have in the totality of Paul’s epistles not only remedies the “in part” knowledge, it is perfect. It works in connection with a “more excellent way” unto edification. Your Pauline education as found in the scriptures is not only complete, it is perfect. It has been designed a certain way and will perfectly accomplish it. In light of this perfect standard, we can engage in the work of perfecting the saints.
Complete vs Perfect: I further believe it is improper to view complete as referring to the full “effectual working” of God’s word in connection with the believer’s sanctified life. This is not what is being achieved when one “attains” completeness. This is rather the work of “perfecting” (which may also involve “attaining” to various things, such as being wise concerning that which is good and simple concerning evil). This point was not raised at the conference, but something of concern to me nonetheless. There are two parts to edification, knowledge and practice. If “completeness” is being taught by various brethren as synonymous with this practice aspect of sanctification/edification, then I do believe this can potentially have larger problems as it will inherently create issues in the proper exposition of many verses, in addition to not being a proper use of the word complete. As with applying it to the believer’s position, it would strip it of any real concrete meaning. I am not familiar enough with the teachings of the brethren under fire to know whether this is the case with them or not (and having listened to the conference messages it is still unclear to me what precisely they believe about the passages in question other than adopting a “corporate” view). Concerning my GSB brethren, I would agree with what they mean (concerning the immutable, unconditional and secure position we have) when they say these things about being “complete” in Christ, but I would not agree with the use of these “completeness” passages to that end. Complete is a specific concept in connection with “the revelation of the mystery” with its “knowledge of Christ” and the “will of God” today. In light of this, there is then a “perfecting” work that takes place as the believer “proves” certain things in his “transformed” daily life concerning the revealed will of God.
One should not make the mistake of equating the concept of “complete” with the ongoing perfecting work in the believer. I myself do not always speak this precisely in my common speech, but God does. The words complete and perfect, while closely related, are not the same. One may perfect what they have and not be complete. One may be complete and have everything they need to work, but then go on and perfect that as godliness is exercised and skills are honed. Such is the progression of wisdom and charity in the life of the believer. If this were not clear from the words themselves, the judgment seat of Christ and the reward of the inheritance should make this plain. We have a certain position and identity in Christ. We are to walk in accordance with the complete knowledge of it, which we must first know, which is precisely what Paul declares is the object of the Ephesian epistle. Their is very specific information that Paul wants us to come to the “knowledge” and “understanding” of concerning the “will of God” and “the mystery” so that we may “stand” in it and walk in accordance with it and its “effectual working”. This completeness then has many practical implications as we battle various systems that seek to “spoil” and “beguile” us concerning our identity and reward. We are complete in the faith, and need not look elsewhere for our edification. As Colossians makes clear, it is our complete faith, and only that, which should be governing and directing our walk of faith. Having “received” this completeness, the Colossians are exhorted to “stand” in it.
Definitions & Doctrine: I believe there are potentially equal dangers expositionally if one either makes “complete” synonymous with the believer’s position in Christ, or makes it refer to practical sanctification. It rather deals with the knowledge component of your edification. If the passage simply refers to the believer’s position in Christ, then it is clear that he has no true completeness in any meaningful sense that does justice to the word complete. Its application from that point to sanctification will only ever be selective, never being able to say “but I’m complete” to anything in a consistent and meaningful way. When brethren talk about being complete in Christ, they are talking about something that is indeed true of the believer (usually the eternal security of the believer, the irrelevance of works to that position, etc). This, however, is not what Paul refers to when he speaks of being complete. Your position in Christ is not described as being complete. The communication and knowledge of it is. The word complete, when properly defined and understood, would not be appropriate to describe your position in Christ. Equating it as synonymous with other vital doctrines concerning the unconditional security of the believer does not make it so. This in no way undermines the believer’s position in Christ. It is a difference in what we believe the passage is talking about. This is a difference of definition, not a dispute over the nature of the believer’s position and identity. That said, while I do think it is important to properly define complete and understand its usage in these passages, I am not hostile to the different understanding of these various brethren. These brethren differ on definitions, not the doctrine.
My larger concern is this: It is unclear just what these brethren believe and what they are attacking. They seem to at times confess the same basic things concerning sanctification, edification and “attaining”, but then seem to attack these concepts in their critiques (not just the exposition of particular verses). Why is there such hostility to any idea of “attaining” being connected with completeness and sanctification? Do they only have a problem with it in Colossians 2? Or anywhere? If not elsewhere, why here? If the only gripe is with the semantics of what is in view in Colossians 2, I don’t understand what seems to be a larger hostility to the doctrine of “attaining” and the implications for sanctification. They may not believe these passages refer to edification, but that doesn’t mean that those who do are somehow in danger of undermining/denying the believer’s position in Christ.
Simply put, my concern is not that they differ in their understanding of the completeness passages. To my knowledge virtually everyone would differ with my understanding as it appears both groups of brethren see it in terms of the believer’s position, whether individual or corporate. The brethren who see it as “corporate” are simply attempting to deal with the conditional elements of the believer’s life and also preserve the integrity of the believer’s unconditional position in Christ. The GSB brethren rightly reconcile many of those matters with a positional/practical dichotomy, whereas the other brethren apparently attempt to do so with a corporate/individual dichotomy. As it stands now, my concern is the deeper underlying reasons as to why the GSB brethren oppose the brethren who believe differently. It seems to be going beyond this interpretive difference. There is a hostility to the idea of “attaining” to anything in connection with the believer’s sanctification despite the clear and repeated declarations of Paul concerning it. This is being presented as if it is opposed to grace, and this is simply not so.
To Sum Up
- If the issue is simply differing about two inheritances versus one in Romans 8, I agree with the brethren at GSB.
- If the issue is about denying that the joint-inheritance has conditional elements connected with Paul’s doctrine concerning the “reward of the inheritance”, I differ with the brethren at GSB.
- If the issue is simply about the corporate versus individual interpretive lens, I agree with the brethren at GSB.
- If the issue is about denying that the “completeness” of the believer is not referring to the believer’s position in Christ, but rather is describing the edification process and the believer coming to the knowledge of that position, then I differ with the brethren at GSB.
Terminology: There are issues being raised with the terminology used by some in describing aspects of the edification process. The only question should be whether the concepts are scriptural and accurate. Do the GSB brethren deny there is a difference between a Roman and an Ephesian? If there is a corresponding package of “advanced” (itself a word God does not use in this context) doctrine, would it not be perfectly appropriate to describe it as a “level” (as is common with any education curriculum). This does not mean that one must agree with everything that someone may teach in connection with this. I agree that it is preferable to use scriptural words as much as possible. It is for this reason that while I will use many different words and phrases to describe the edification process and the Pauline education, the words that I primarily use to describe it are the monikers that God himself does, namely “established” in connection with Romans and “complete” in connection with Ephesians. This is the edificational status they are designed to accomplish in your education concerning “the mystery”. Since all of these brethren use terminology not found in the Bible to describe various biblical subjects and doctrines, it seems pointless to address it further. They don’t like it when it is done to them, but they seem willing to do it to others when they find it useful. I don’t expect that any of these brethren will cease using the unbiblical word “Bible” any time soon.
Treatment: There may be more going on here behind the scenes, but as it stands now I am a little confused about the way this matter/concern/controversy is being handled. We may differ on certain passages, but to my knowledge the fundamental doctrines are not being opposed. I am sure the GSB brethren don’t appreciate being accused of opposing the deity of Christ simply because they rightly understand that the “mystery of godliness” in 1 Timothy 3:16 is referring to God’s work in the body of Christ during the mystery (or variations thereof). The brethren are certainly free to differ in their exposition of particular passages, but to unnecessarily accuse other brethren of denying the larger doctrines in view because of it seems odd and unfair. To my knowledge, the brethren in view are not denying the completeness of the believer in the way that the GSB brethren mean it. They may differ in the meaning of the passage in question, but this is not the same thing. If there is something more dangerous being taught by these brethren in question that I am not aware of, I welcome education and correction on this score. Based on what I have heard from the conference, however, I have not seen it. As near as I can tell, both would ultimately agree about the basic issues involved when it comes to the security of the believer in Christ and the inescapable conclusions with regard to the judgment seat of Christ (despite the seeming double talk of some GSB brethren concerning the latter). They simply differ on certain passages, not the doctrine. Examination and vibrant discussion is healthy. Sharing differences and disagreeing with various brethren is an inevitable, proper and godly thing. However, there should be a corresponding dignity, honor and respect in how this is pursued. This is especially so when dealing with those in one’s own household. On the surface anyway, it does not appear it has been handled in this way.
Sanctification & Rewards: There seems to be a larger hostility to the doctrine of rewards and any “conditional” elements in Paul’s epistles. This at least is the impression that many, myself included, have gotten after continued fellowship with the brethren at GSB. They confess it, as they must, but it seems almost reluctant, as something to be explained away and not being in line with their ideas of the “grace life”. This is perplexing in light of the emphasis and tenor of Paul’s teaching concerning the importance of this subject not simply as a reality in the life of the believer, but a motivator as one keeps their eye on the prize and something not to be “beguiled” of. This can be pursued improperly of course with pride, conceit, etc, but that makes it no more illegitimate than any number of other things connected with the believer’s sanctification and walk.
While these brethren are certainly not Calvinists, there at times seems to be an almost Calvinistic view when it comes to the role of the believer in sanctification. That is, there are irrational cries of alarm anytime the role and responsibility of the believer is in any way brought into view, just as the Calvinists insist that belief is a “work”. Are you somehow not in the equation when it comes to the reward of the inheritance? Yes, it is Christ living in you. In you. How does this take place? Are you involved? Are you engaged in a work that will be reviewed at the judgment seat of Christ? Is this an event you need not attend as Christ will only be reviewing his own work which will, for some Calvinistic reason, be different for different people? It is tied to the effectual working of God’s word in you. The Holy Spirit is not doing everything. He is working “with” you. We are “labourers together with God”. We are now “free” to do this and because of it we can bring forth fruit that is acceptable to God as it is the product of grace.
Again, these brethren will confess this at various times, but then seemingly attack it when it is being addressed and expounded on practically in connection with the believer’s justified, sanctified and glorified position in Christ. I see the current controversy as a manifestation of this larger hostility. The reward of the inheritance, and the Pauline exhortations in light of it, are not contrary to grace. They are rather the very pinnacle of grace, and the Father desires you to appreciate the issues of his “glory” and “riches” being connected with it in the “ages to come”. This is part of the image that you are to be coming to a knowledge of and conformed to by the “renewing of your mind” in connection with the “effectual working” of his word. Those who should have the least to fear from the law seem to live in perpetual fear of it. We have nothing to fear from the law. It is in light of our grace position that we labour with our Father. Among many other things, this involves exhorting, rebuking, reproving, correcting and judging. Grace does not negate responsibility, it intensifies it. We are not children. We are men and are called by our Father to take the godly responsibility that is ours in accordance with the position we have been given in Christ.
I was encouraged by brother Rick Jordan’s message on the judgment seat of Christ at this same conference and hope this becomes a more prominent part of what is taught by GSB in connection with the grace life. The brethren at GSB are dear to me. The work they do is highly valued and has been profitable to many. They have truly been “helpers of your joy”. Based on what was said at the conference, it still remains unclear to me just where they are taking their stand (if at all) and how far their concern/hostility extends regarding the expositional issues in question. Regardless, for those saints interested, this is where I stand.
Seated in heavenly places with Him,
David Winston Busch