The statement, “Christianity is not about a bunch of do’s and don’t’s,”
is a bit ridiculous…

February 7, 2013

johnathan_pritchettBy Johnathan Pritchett


I find troubling statements like “Christianity is not about a bunch of do’s and don’t’s.” Sadly (for some, not me), the Bible protests against such statements, however popular they are. Avoiding the whole relationship between “Law and Gospel,” or “Law and Grace,” or “Biblical commands or principles,” or however one wants to deal with the related issues of Old Covenant and the New Covenant, or to there being New Covenant commands and how they function in and for believers, and just sticking to the New Testament in general; those under grace are given a whole bunch of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” There is no way around it. There is nothing wrong with it either. The “do’s and don’t’s” are from God.

One day, it ought to be possible to talk about “do’s” and “don’t’s” without having to preface the whole conversation with the total sum of Protestant theology. We don’t live in that day. So yes, no one is saved or justified by doing any “good works” or following “rules and regulations;” but, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is not the total content of Christianity.

See, I felt the need to preface this myself (though I will not expound it any further than the comments offered) because it seems that lately, certain folks at weird extreme ends of Reformed theology and the non-Reformed, easy-believism crowd love to rant and rave at anyone and everyone who actually talks about these sorts of things. They toss accusations of “your preaching law, not grace,” and “legalism,” and “works-righteousness,” despite the fact that folks are preaching NT texts filled with “do’s” and “don’t’s.”

I really admire the many holiness preachers from all the various orthodox theological traditions. They have no problem dealing with these charges. They deal with them by ignoring them. Likewise, they do not feel burdened with feeling the need to offer long-winded prefaces of Protestant theology and offering disclaimers before preaching from texts that have Spirit-inspired, apostolic commands, instructions, exhortations, etc., much less the ones from Jesus’ mouth in the Gospels. They just jump right in and tell folks what the Bible says they should do and not do.

However, sadly, it seems like one faces the “heresy” charge from someone anytime a person dares to exhort Christians to (gasp!) actually behave and act like Christians.

In any case, the idea that Christianity isn’t about “do’s” and “don’t’s” is totally devoid of having a sound biblical basis.

By having a glance at one New Testament Epistle, let us see if there are actually “do’s” and “don’t’s” in Christianity. Since Romans is the first one, we’ll take a gander at it.

1. Don’t: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires” Romans 6:12;

2. Don’t: “And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness” Romans 6:13;

3. Do: “But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God” Romans 6:13;

4. Do: “and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness” Romans 6:13;

5. Do: “For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification” Romans 6:19;

6. Don’t: “for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die” Romans 8:13 (i.e. don’t live according to the flesh);

7. Do: “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” Romans 8:13 (i.e. put to death the deeds of the body);

8. Don’t: “do not brag that you are better than those branches” Romans 11:18;

9. Don’t: “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid” Romans 11:20;

10. Do: “Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you—if you remain in His kindness” Romans 11:22;

11. Do: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” Romans 12:1;

12. Don’t: “Do not be conformed to this age” Romans 12:2;

13. Do: “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2 (passive, but still imperative);

14. Don’t: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think” Romans 12:3 (oh, how I wish this one were plastered on our foreheads);

15. Do: “Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” Romans 12:3 (ditto above comments);

16. Do:” If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith” Romans 12:6;

17. Do: “if service, in service” Romans 12:7;

18. Do: if teaching, in teaching” Romans 12:7;

19. Do: “if exhorting, in exhortation”Romans 12:8;

20. Do: “giving, with generosity” Romans 12:8;

21. Do: “leading, with diligence” Romans 12:8;

22. Do: “showing mercy, with cheerfulness” Romans 12:8;

23. Do: “Detest evil” Romans 12:9;

24. Do: “cling to what is good”Romans 12:9;

25. Do: “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love” Romans 12:10;

26. Do: “Outdo one another in showing honor” Romans 12:10;

27. Don’t: “Do not lack diligence” Romans 12:11;

28. Do: “be fervent in spirit” Romans 12:11;

29. Do: “serve the Lord. Romans 12:11;

30. Do: “Rejoice in hope” Romans 12:12;

31. Do: “be patient in affliction” Romans 12:12;

32. Do: “be persistent in prayer” Romans 12:12;

33. Do: “Share with the saints in their needs” Romans 12:13;

34. Do: “pursue hospitality” Romans 12:13;

35. Do: “Bless those who persecute you” Romans 12:14;

36. Do: “bless” Romans 12:14;

37. Don’t: “and do not curse” Romans 12:14;

38. Do: “Rejoice with those who rejoice” Romans 12:15;

39. Do: “weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15;

40. Do: “Be in agreement with one another” Romans 12:16;

41. Don’t: “Do not be proud” Romans 12:16;

42. Do: “instead, associate with the humble” Romans 12:16;

43. Don’t: “Do not be wise in your own estimation” Romans 12:16;

44. Don’t: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” Romans 12:17;

45. Do: “Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes” Romans 12:17;

46. Do: “If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18;

47. Don’t: “Friends, do not avenge yourselves” Romans 12:19;

48. Do: “instead, leave room for His wrath” Romans 12:19;

49. Do: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him” Romans 12:20;

50. Do: “If he is thirsty, give him something to drink” Romans 12:20;

51. Don’t: “Do not be conquered by evil” Romans 12:21;

52. Do: “but conquer evil with good” Romans 12:21;

53. Do: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities” Romans 13:1;

54. Do: “Do good and you will have its approval” Romans 13:3;

55. Do: “Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience” Romans 13:5;

56. Do: “Pay your obligations to everyone” Romans 13:7;

57. Do: “taxes to those you owe taxes” Romans 13:7;

58. Do: “tolls to those you owe tolls”Romans 13:7;

59. Do: “respect to those you owe respect” Romans 13:7;

60. Do: “and honor to those you owe honor” Romans 13:7;

61. Don’t: “Do not owe anyone anything” Romans 13:8;

62. Do: “except to love one another” Romans 13:8;

63. Do: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Romans 13:9 (and the commandments before it are thereby included);

64. Do: discard the deeds of darkness” Romans 13:12;

65. Do: “and put on the armor of light” Romans 13:12;

66. Do: “Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight” Romans 13:13;

67. Don’t: “not in carousing and drunkenness” Romans 13:13;

68. Don’t: “not in sexual impurity and promiscuity” Romans 13:13;

69. Don’t: “not in quarreling and jealousy” Romans 13:1;

70. Do: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 13:1;

71. Don’t: “and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires” Romans 13:14;

72. Do: “Accept anyone who is weak in faith” Romans 14:1;

73. Don’t: “but don’t argue about doubtful issues” Romans 14:1;

74. Don’t: “One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat” Romans 14:3;

75. Don’t: “and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does” Romans 14:3;

76. Do: “Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another” Romans 14:13;

77. Do: “but instead decide not to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way” Romans 14:13;

78. Don’t “By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died” Romans 14:15;

79. Don’t: “Therefore, do not let your good be slandered” Romans 14:16;

80. Do: “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another” Romans 14:19;

81. Don’t: “Do not tear down God’s work because of food” Romans 14:20;

82. Do: “Keep it to yourself before God” Romans 14:22;

83. Do: “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength” Romans 15:1;

84. Don’t: “and not to please ourselves” Romans 15:1

85. Do: “Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up.” Romans 15:2

86. Do: “Therefore accept one another,” Romans 15:7;

87. Do: “Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles” Romans 15:9;

88. Do: “and I will sing psalms to Your name” Romans 15:9;

89. Do: “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people!” Romans 15:10;

90. Do: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles” Romans 15:11;

91. Do: “all the peoples should praise Him!” Romans 15:11;

92. Do: “watch out for those who cause dissensions and pitfalls contrary to the doctrine you have learned” Romans 16:17;

93. Do: “Avoid them” Romans 16:17;

94. Do: “be wise about what is good” Romans 16:19; and,

95. Do: “yet innocent about what is evil” Romans 16:19;

That is 95 “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the book of Romans alone. I probably missed some. Granted, most of this becomes “more natural” to believers because of the Holy Spirit working in their lives during sanctification, but that is beside the point I am making here. Paul believed in the Holy Spirit and His work, and was inspired by that same Spirit to spell it out almost as a bunch of instructions to “do” or “not do,” as it were. Thus, trying to make it all indicative is irrelevant, because there it is in Scripture: A bunch of things to do and not do in Christianity. That is 95 things in one Epistle. The estimated number of laws in the Mosaic Law is 613. Hmm — I wonder if the NT passes that number. Whether you call these things law, commands, commandments, imperatives, or principles, the one thing they are is a bunch of “do’s” and “don’t’s” for Christians. Saying Christianity isn’t about that is wrong-headed from the start.

Please realize that those people who want nothing to do with “do’s and don’t’s” in Christianity, or claim Christianity isn’t about them, effectively remove a significant chunk of Romans, and, of course, the rest of the New Testament (I can do this for all 27 books, you know).

Why not embrace the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of Christianity, promote them, and expound them? That list is from God! It is Christ-centered because we are commanded not only to be like Him, but to obey Him as well, if we love Him anyway (John 15:14). The only way any of that happens is to believe in Him.

Exhorting all of this does nothing to endanger the doctrine of justification by faith alone. God is smarter than I am, and smarter than you are. So following all those “do’s” and “don’t’s” is probably a good idea. What is so wrong with all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” God has for Christians to obey and follow? Because of faith in Jesus, God makes us new creatures in Him, and through the Holy Spirit we can actually do (or not do, as it were) those things that please God and be obedient. Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and a whole host of other passages make the idea of “do-nothing believers” a contradiction in terms.

Are those things just that awful to talk about and preach? No way! Those are wonderful things worth adhering to in our lives as Christians. Rightly following those things doesn’t lead to arrogance, pride, “works-righteousness,” or boasting. Following them leads to pleasing God in the Spirit. That doesn’t sound so bad to me.

They are from God. I am thankful for them. So folks, please stop saying “Christianity isn’t about a bunch of do’s and don’t’s.” We believers need to worry less about issues of “legalism” and “works-righteousness” (and the charges involved) and as Christians be more concerned with holiness and living to please our Master; i.e. Christians should act like Christians. God gave us the Bible to instruct us for training in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16) So, let us all read it, delight in it, and get on with the training!

There seems to be plenty of “do’s and don’t’s” in Christianity and they are there for good reason. We should do (or not do, as it were) them. God knows best!

 

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Lydia

Thank you.

Max

Great piece Johnathan! As you noted, the extreme corners of both reformed and non-reformed tend to frown on such exposition, but there is definitely an imbalance of do/don’t these days that needs to be tended to. My concern lies particularly with certain New Calvinists in SBC ranks who hang with “there is nothing unclean” to the point of antinomianism.

A young, (very) restless and reformed pastor in my area recently proclaimed from his pulpit to his 20s-30s congregation that he can only be good so long before he has a “sin splurge”! That’s the kind of preachin’ a young generation loves to hear from their pastor! In a conversation with his associate pastor, he said his “life verse” was Romans 8:1 (ESV): “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I reminded him that my old KJV completed that passage with: “…who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” He opened his ESV and responded “Nope, it’s not there!” After an attempt to point out that this truth was embedded in the context of Romans 8, he clung to his view while I walked away with do/don’t still intact.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit YOU put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (emphasis added)

    I have benefited quite a bit from the (real) Calvinist tradition. While I disagree with their soteriology, I don’t disagree with them about everything.

    Since I admit to being shaped by that, and my fellow Trads around here will attest to my agreement on issues with them to which most Trads oppose (strong emphasis on church discipline being one example), I simply don’t get the YRR crowd.

    I love passionate preaching on passages from Ezekiel, such as 36:22-38 and the stress of God doing all these things unilaterally to His people for His own name.

    Now, many YRR pastors preach this passage as good as anyone, but I am perplexed that after all God has said about making people clean, giving them a new heart, new spirit, His Spirit, saving us, putting his statues and commandments in us and causing us to obey them, etc.’ they also sit around and talk about how wretched and dirty they are, how sinful they are, etc. (and smacks of fake humility to boot)

    One wonders if God really can clean, if the new heart is really all that much better than the stone one, if He really can cause us to obey His statutes, etc. after listening to them.

    Other than misinterpretations of Romans 7, or even Luke 18:13 and the like, we don’t see in Scripture all this wallowing around over how bad and sinful the authors are, and them “celebrating” it either. They don’t do that. Aside from the poetic expressions in the Writings, we don’t even see this much at all in the OT either. Perhaps the Biblical authors just aren’t as “humble” (cough at the misuse of the word) about their sinfulness as they ought to be according to some Calvinists.

    I also find it funny (i.e. pathetic) how plenty of Calvinists are quick to “correct” (cough) everyone else on “what Luther really meant” when he said to sin boldly, but then use it as a lifestyle motto when critics aren’t looking, and taking it to mean exactly what the critics said Luther meant.

      Tommy

      I guess, the Calvinist realizes the true extent of their sinfulness and are able to recognize that in contrast with God’s holiness. I absolutely love how Calvinism is demonized in this denomination, but only after it is completely misrepresented. I am guessing you have no problem singing “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a WRETCH like me.” You can accuse people of misrepresenting Romans 7:24 and Luke 18:13, but what you must realize is that these statements are true. We are sinful and we do not deserve salvation but God saved us anyway. I am sure there are some groups that hold to anti-nomianism but it certainly appears that this is getting applied to all Reformed thinkers. A true believer recognizes his sin and he laments over it. As long as we are living and breathing we will continue to sin. We will recognize our sin and we will cry out to God “Wretched man that I am who will set me free from this body of death?” We also then also glorify Him for Christ who died for those sins “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

        Johnathan Pritchett

        I see you missed the point then.

        I never said anything about not being repentant or sorrow over sin. What I do not do is wallow in vomit over it. I got no problem singing Amazing Grace. I was a wretch saved.

        As for Romans 7, Luke 13:18, you need to read up on what those passages actually mean.

          Tommy

          Well isn’t that kind of the entire point of Luke 18:13? Recognizing one’s own sinfulness? The Pharisee was thankful that he “obeyed the rules,” the tax collector on the other hand recognized his sinfulness. The thing is Johnathan you still are a wretch saved by grace. You said, “I was a wretch saved.” This insinuates that you are no longer a wretch which according to 1 Jn 1:8 would be a lie. Yes, a Christian obey’s the do’s and don’ts but why? I do not believe that it is out of obligation but out of appreciation. When we look at the cross we see what Christ had to go through. What does that mean? Christ the Godman died for me, He saved me. My sin put Him on the cross, I killed Jesus because I am a sinner. Thinking that He went through that makes me want to vomit, doesn’t it you? At the same time I can be completely filled with joy knowing about His love for me. Now as a believer I know not to sin. I know that because of what Christ did on that cross He gave me the power to say no to sin once I was born again. Knowing this magnifies sin in my life and when I discover sin in my life of course it breaks my heart and repent only to sin again. Paul also said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I don’t know about you but this recognition of sin makes me appreciate the cross all the much more. I do have one question though, how can your sin not make you want to vomit?

            Johnathan Pritchett

            “Well isn’t that kind of the entire point of Luke 18:13? Recognizing one’s own sinfulness? The Pharisee was thankful that he “obeyed the rules,” the tax collector on the other hand recognized his sinfulness.”

            Sort of. The tax collector was acting in humility seeking propitiation because he recognized the need for it. It is an expression of shame, not one of emotional guilt over his sinfulness. That was the point I was addressing.

            “The thing is Johnathan you still are a wretch saved by grace. You said, “I was a wretch saved.” This insinuates that you are no longer a wretch which according to 1 Jn 1:8 would be a lie.”

            Wrong, to say I have no sin would be a lie according to 1 John 1:8. God no longer views me as a wretch, so why should I still view myself that way?

            “Yes, a Christian obey’s the do’s and don’ts but why? I do not believe that it is out of obligation but out of appreciation.”

            Both/and, not an either/or. Slaves have obligations to their master. Given that our master is Christ, we can appreciate all the blessings of having such a master, and our obedience is an expression of gratitude.

            “When we look at the cross we see what Christ had to go through. What does that mean? Christ the Godman died for me, He saved me. My sin put Him on the cross, I killed Jesus because I am a sinner. Thinking that He went through that makes me want to vomit, doesn’t it you?”

            Vomit? Nope. What it does do is realize the shamefulness of me because of my actions for which he died to save me from the wrath I deserved for those actions.

            “At the same time I can be completely filled with joy knowing about His love for me.”

            Amen!

            “Now as a believer I know not to sin. I know that because of what Christ did on that cross He gave me the power to say no to sin once I was born again.”

            Yes.

            “Knowing this magnifies sin in my life and when I discover sin in my life of course it breaks my heart and repent only to sin again.”

            Of course, but this is a far cry from what I was debunking to which you responded.I was talking about people who sit around and wallow in their own vomit. The Bible knows nothing of this for believers. That is certainly not what the tax collector was doing.

            “Paul also said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

            And Paul was using the rhetorical “I” to represent an unregenerate person.

            “I don’t know about you but this recognition of sin makes me appreciate the cross all the much more.”

            Certainly, but again, this is a far cry to what I was debunking to which you responded.

            “I do have one question though, how can your sin not make you want to vomit?”

            No. It doesn’t make you want to vomit either. I am sure you do not vomit constantly.

            On the other hand, my sin shames me to myself, before others, before God, and makes me want to express sorrow, confess, and move forward in obedience.

            You need to read up on the honor/shame dynamics in the Ancient Near East. This overly emotional state of “guilt” (as opposed to the Biblical meaning of judicial guilt and the disposition of shame that goes with it) is a modern, western, highly individualistic, overly introspective and existential phenomenon foreign to the mindset of ancient people, including Jesus and the tax collector in his parable.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Besides, the best thing to do to relieve your self-inflicted nausea is to stop sinning. ;)

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Also Tommy, what I hope does not exist in your thinking, is some sort of premise or presupposition that the level of sincerity of one’s shame, remorse, sorrow, etc. one has over their sins, and the level of sincerity in their repentance and confession of those sins before God (and others) is somehow tied to how emotionally bad or emotionally guilty-feeling they become about these things.

            Please tell me that is not how you think, since that is completely unBIblical rubbish and all.

          Tommy

          I’m leaving the comment attached to this post b/c it won’t let me reply to the other one. As Christians we are not guilty, we are forgiven. Yes, we repent daily and we move forward daily but we must still recognize that we are sinners saved only by Grace. We do not deserve what God has done for us. If you want to know what leads to antinomianism it is having to light of a view on sin. If I could stop sinning believe me I would, but I can’t, not as long as I am living in this body of death.The nausea is recognizing my sin. It makes me sick to think that I could sin against God who sacrificed everything for me, when I am not worth it. I believe there is a major problem in the church today. So many pastors are more concerned about filling the pews than they are with feeding those already in them. As a result talk about sin has been downgraded and God has been made to look more like a weak old grandparent who is just crazy about you. What replaces talk about sin is the “do” list but it’s not your list out of Romans. Sure they may use a verse or two and then twist it in to some works that suit their cause. Then they will put it into practice by sending them out into the mission field so everybody can invite someone to church. Don’t forget to be mission minded. Instead of a discipleship class where the students learn doctrine, they sit in small groups and learn how to have a purpose driven life. The men might learn what it means to be wild at heart. The women may learn how to break free. The further the Gospel gets from the pulpit the less people care about sin. At one time the Gospel was central in the SBC but now it it is becoming more “seeker sensitive” and many, not all, but there are several who think that by tacking on an unbiblical altar call at the end of their service is sufficient. I fear that the SBC is quickly following in the footsteps of the PCUSA and ELCA. We have already began seeing the ecumenism creeping in considering that Liberty University invited Glenn Beck, a mormon, to deliver the commencement address. Okay, I may have gotten a little off topic but it is relevant. I have just noticed that man is elevated, God is lowered, and sin is reduced. The Gospel should be our focus and everything else will fall into place. We do not want to end up like the PCUSA and ELCA!

            Johnathan Pritchett

            I agree with some of what you are saying, but some of it I find a bit odd (and much of which is sorely dated). For one thing, John Piper is as much a friend to Purpose Driven Life as anybody. Me personally, I am indifferent towards that kind of thing. For another, everything the Bible teaches is doctrine, and Jesus in the Great Commission commanded that we “teach them everything”, and finding one’s purpose in Christ as part of the Body of Christ is no less important than justification, eschatology, or whatever limited categories you define as “Doctrine”..

            I don’t know anyone around these parts that sit light to sin though. Again, according to you, it seems that if one doesn’t speak in terms of being overly-emotional about something, they sit light to it. This is erroneous.

            Also, I don’t find much “seeker-sensitive” stuff in the SBC either. That seems to be a more non-denom phenom. Not saying it is entirely absent from the SBC, but it certainly isn’t prevalent.

            Commandments (dos and don’ts) aren’t works for their own sake though, they are commandments to be obeyed. I think sitting light to them leads to antinomianism more than anything else. Which is why “cheap grace” and the rest of it is associated with antinomianism, not sitting light to sin. It is very easy to sit light to sin when people do not pay much attention to the commandments and live by them so as to not sin.

            As for Liberty inviting Glenn Beck, I don’t think that is a sign of ecumenism and capitulation to Mormon theology. That is absurd. Liberty is a big college with many concerns, social as well as the theological, and Christians and Mormons share many of the same concerns regarding American culture. The invite was more along those lines, not theological ones. It is not theological capitulation to Roman Catholicism to work with Catholics on pro-life issues, and so forth. I think the agreement with Beck was on social issues, not theological ones. Now we can discuss the merits from that angle, pro and con, since that would be the proper context; but not some bogus charge of capitulation and ecumenism with Liberty and Mormon theology.

            Finally, the “alter call”…this gets old. There is nothing “unBiblical” about an “alter call” any more than there is anything “unBiblical” with passing around a collection plate in the middle of service. Come on, this is petty stuff. There is nothing wrong with providing opportunity to respond to the message, whether it be to deal with one’s sin, conversion, joining the church, or whatever else.

            Tommy

            I really don’t care what John Piper thinks about the Purpose Driven Life it’s irrelevant and I didn’t even mention John Piper. Weekly offerings aren’t unbiblical. In fact there are plenty of examples of a weekly collection in the Bible. Are there any examples of Jesus saying or anyone saying “Every eye closed every head bowed please raise your hand if you want Jesus to come into your heart.” After 15 stanzas of Just as I am please come forward and repeat this prayer after me. This methodology was developed by one Charles Finney who was a heretic. As for joining together for social issues, it does confuse the Gospel. I say this indiscriminately considering Al Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration. If you would just look at the ELCA and PCUSA you will see what I am talking about. Tolerance leads to acceptance, which leads to apostasy.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Where are these examples of weekly offerings taken by collection plate in the middle of every corporate service in Scripture?

            Fallacious slippery slope arguments aside, ELCA and PCUSA have nothing in common with the SBC. Like the neo-orthodoxy and universalism of Barth, most of the modern heresies have had their birth in the Reformed traditions, as the examples above make obvious.

            I wouldn’t worry about the SBC though, we already sent the liberals packing. ;)

            A lot of methodology in the Bible is different, a lot of methodology in the modern era is different. Since I have written about this elsewhere, I won’t rehash much of it here, but methodology is not the issue. There is no one way in the Bible in which the Gospel is presented, nor one way in which conversions come about. Your whole argument is misguided, and sounds a lot like the arguments the CoC give against instruments used in worship. Your argument, like their argument, is not just bad, but, quite frankly, it is stupid. No offense.

            It was stupid when Washer went on about it ten years ago, it was stupid when Platt parroted Washer a year ago, and it is no less stupid now than at any time before. At least Platt, regardless of his bogus spin after the fact, realized his error and signed the Resolution concerning the sinner’s prayer, because he realized he stuck his foot in his mouth, just as the majority of the SBC said he did. Bashing alter calls and the sinner’s prayer gets no traction in most SBC circles.

            As for “every head bowed, every eye closed…”, well, I wouldn’t do it that way, but it is useless to get all bothered about it, so I don’t, and you shouldn’t either.

            I don’t know what the anxious seat has to do with sinner’s prayers or “alter calls”.

            Ya know what else? All an “alter call” is, after all, is just a popular phrase given for the time allotted at the end of a message, whether at a church service, revival, or some other public proclamation of the Gospel, to give an opportunity for people to respond to what they have heard…KIND OF LIKE THE TIME PETER ALLOWED AT THE END OF HIS SERMON IN ACTS 2 FOR THE PEOPLE TO RESPOND AND INQUIRE “BROTHERS, WHAT MUST WE DO”!!!

            Sheesh…let it go brother.

            As such, I find this fictive bit of historical reconstruction and connection of Finney’s anxious seat to “alter calls” highly dubious. Besides, many Methodists were doing something similar in methodology already. The methodology being providing seats for those who wish to respond and inquire.

            So it appears that your gripe is about providing seats. Wow, talk about petty…

            Again, it isn’t “alter calls” that is the problem. You may not like it, you may not like how some go about “alter calls”, but that is hardly a concern worth getting uppity about. However people go about it, it isn’t like the concept of allotting time at the end of the message has no basis in Scripture. Far from it.

            Lastly, working with others on social issues does not confuse the Gospel. This is mere assertion, and has no basis in reality. The Gospel isn’t about Republican or conservative social values for which Liberty and Beck are in agreement. Again, the proper context to discuss the pros and cons of this is in that arena, not the baseless assertions regarding the arena of doctrine.

              Tommy

              No the Bible is not specific on what time the collection is to be made but it is clear that we are to give. (1 Cor 16:1-2, 2 Cor 9:6-7) As for the “altar call” in Acts 2 the people asked a question and Peter responded with a call to repentance. He didn’t instruct them to ask Jesus into their hearts either, he said “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Quite frankly your arguments are weak and unbiblical and I am sorry that you find that my arguments are stupid but I prefer to use the correct contextualization for my foundation. I wasn’t aware that Mitt Romney also spoke at Liberty but he spoke about much more than “conservative values.” I also found it ironic that there was a banner hanging behind him that said “Training champions for Christ.” You say that it does not confuse the Gospel but I will certainly beg to differ, considering both Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney are known by the multitudes to be Mormons. Liberty University also has the reputation of being a Christian university, not a conservative republican university. Inviting someone to speak is an endorsement of that individual, and 2 Cor. 6:14 clearly says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” So I would say that this has everything to do with doctrine and not the political arena.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            “No the Bible is not specific on what time the collection is to be made but it is clear that we are to give. (1 Cor 16:1-2, 2 Cor 9:6-7) ”

            Yes, we know the Bible says to give. That’s not what I asked, so again, your gripe about method is moot.

            “As for the “altar call” in Acts 2 the people asked a question and Peter responded with a call to repentance.”

            Which is precisely how I defined “alter call”. A time at the end of the message for response and inquiry.

            “He didn’t instruct them to ask Jesus into their hearts either, he said “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”

            Again, this is a moot matter of methodology. He did not tell them to “believe” in that quote either. Again,, “ask Jesus into your heart” never has and never is the only thing said about Jesus in any modern Gospel presentation. I don’t use that phraseology, but there is nothing wrong with people who do toss that in there. Just like there was nothing wrong with Peter telling people to “be saved” or “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” All such things imply faith and Lordship anyway…

            So again…moot.

            “Quite frankly your arguments are weak and unbiblical and I am sorry that you find that my arguments are stupid but I prefer to use the correct contextualization for my foundation.”

            Please demonstrate they are weak and unBiblical, don’t just assert it. You’ve done nothing but make empty assertions your “supporting arguments”, if we can even call your empty rhetoric such, fail at demonstrating.

            Anyway, Liberty is a lot of things, and inviting Mormons to speak at a graduation says nothing about compromising doctrine. They not guests who were lecturing on doctrine. So…beg to differ all you like, but you still haven’t said anything noteworthy. You are being too simplistic in your idea of “endorsement.” Where has Liberty endorsed Mormon theology? Nowhere. They invited people to speak at a graduation ceremony. I don’t think that means they are unequally yoked with them. Liberty is not a church, and Beck and Romney aren’t idols in the Lord’s sanctuary. They are speakers at a commencement.

            Worse argumentation doesn’t make your already bad arguments any better.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Just so were clear on you knowing what you are talking about, what years did you attend Liberty?

              Tommy

              I have never attended Liberty, nor would I. I have however attended the Master’s College and am planning on going to Southern at some point in the future, but I do not see the relevance of this. Is it impossible for me to make an observation without attending that school, especially when it is all over the internet. No Liberty University is not a church but it does have a statement of faith, which is contrary to that of the Mormon faith. There would be no problem if Liberty was not associated with the church but it is, and therefore should not have invited a Mormon to speak. I have continued to give you scripture supporting my arguments but you continue to reject them based on your personal opinion. One cannot claim to have a strong argument when Scripture is left out of it. Sure, in some cases methodology is irrelevant and people can decide for themselves which they prefer, such as music style and type of dress, etc. However, with that said I must bring up the idea of “altar calls” once again. I have seen some who have done what Peter did in Acts 2 but also I have seen mass manipulation taking place right here in the SBC. I do not have a problem with a benediction that says, “We are commanded to repent and be baptized,” or “repent and believe.” What I do have a problem with is pastors using manipulative wording in order to get people to the altar in order to repeat a superficial prayer and then proclaiming that they are saved. One of the most manipulative in recent years, that I have seen, would have to be Steven Furtick at Elevation Church. He even developed a list instructing pastors how to initiate “spontaneous baptisms,” although I do not see how it would be spontaneous if it were planned. I also found it interesting that you said, “You’ve done nothing but make empty assertions your “supporting arguments”,” My assertions and observations have been based on Scripture, I have given you scripture references but you simply deny that is what the Scripture says. You somehow believe that by saying my argument is “empty” my argument is void. I am not quite sure how you believe ad hominem attacks invalidate my argument or support your claims, but you continue to do so.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Sadly, I keep demonstrating your texts are out of context and non-applicable to that which you try to relate them.

            In your mind, a Christian institution with a statement of faith means that such an institution should not invite a Mormon to speak on matters unrelated to doctrine. Fine, that is your opinion, but that is ALL it is.

            Also in your mind is that because some things, like “alter calls” are abused, we should dump the whole thing? Fine, that is your opinion, but that is ALL it is, aside from being a non-sequitur.

Matt

“The Christian life is an expression of God’s grace rather than a check-list of dos and don’ts. It is an overflow of Jesus Christ. That is what Christianity is all about – freedom to enjoy the life God has given us, and freedom to share this truth with others.” – Charles Stanley, Living the Extraordinary Life: 9 Principles to Discover It, page 28.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Charles Stanley misses the pointthe and creating an either/or qhere a both/and exists.

    Ao, rather thanthan follow thethat error ofis Stanley, one shouldof say that it is an expression if God’s grace by living a life patterned after the dos and don’ts mentioned in Scripture, just as Jesus did.

    As Dallas Willard points out, grace is not opposed to effort, but opposed to earning.

    Why would any Christian not want to follow the dos and dont’s in Scripture? They are a blessing, and an expression of love for God and are not a burden (1 John 5:3).

      Matt

      I don’t disagree with you.

      Just pointing what several obvious non-Calvinists say. Max took the comment thread to Calvinism quite quickly.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        I got ya (please forgive the phone if this comes out jumbled).

        My disagreement is with Stanley and the ridiculous statement.

        This isn’t a Reformed issue specificly, or non-Reformed issue. It is a general issue in evangelicalism. I know many Calvinists and non-Calvinists who loath antinomianism, and both who champion it, if by action if not by outright affirmation.

        Bahnsen, Reformed, raked Moo, also Reformed, over the coals on this issue in a Five views book.

        Lydia

        Oh, this is not simply a Calvinism issue. I heard cheap grace preached all over the mega industrial complex for years. The approach was different than Calvinism which seems to imply that we cannot help but sin all the time after salvation and need to be constantly saved by preaching the Gospel to ourselves every day. .A perpetual Justification of sorts. Which leads to victims of crimes being told they are sinners, too, like the criminal. Moral chaos reigns.

        There seems to be a false dichotomy of sorts with both as in “sinless perfection or constant actionable sinning”. Where is the growing in Holiness? The New Creature in Christ?

        Stanley’s statement is ridiculous but i have not listened to him in many years, either.

Matt

“If name means character, then the character of Jesus, and not some set of rules, is the standard for our Christian life. The Bible is not primarily a rule book with a list of do’s and don’ts. Rules are for kids. The more immature a child is, the more rules his parents must lay down for him. … The greater the maturity, the fewer the rules. … This is a higher plane of living.” – Adrian Rogers, The Power of His Presence, page 17.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Yep. Popular pastors express popular erroneous catchphrases.

    Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:19 that keeping the commandments is what counts.

    If you read me on this site, you should know that I’ll pick on non-Calvinist folks when I think they are wrong, and so do the other contributors.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Rogers’ qualification “primarily” is duly noted though. On this, he is right. The Bible is not that.

      However, he is wrong in everything else he says here. Jesus Himself, along with the other NT authors had no problem with the word “commandments”, which are, at bottom, rules. The more we mature, the better we keep them. THAT is freedom.

      I like Rogers though generally, but no one holds him infallible around these parts.

    Lydia

    Matt, Perhaps you think all of us follow specific gurus? I was actually taught as a child in the SBC NOT to follow man but to be a Berean.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Indeed, if Calvinists would only critically examine their leaders as well like we do…

Dave Miller

Interesting. 95 of them. Perhaps you should find a door somewhere and nail them? Seems appropriate!

I think we sometimes let our theology cause us to be blind to simple scriptural teachings. The Bible is filled with commands, which we are to obey.

Of course, the power to obey the commands does not come from us, but from the Spirit of Christ indwelling us and producing the fruit of God. But that doesn’t change the fact that we have commands in Christ.

Interesting post.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Right, God enables in the Spirit, but God doesn’t obey for us. We must do that. Sometimes people think, wrongly, that if God does something in us, He then does everything for us. This is not only wrong, but un-Biblical and goes against passages of Scripture where we are exhorted to put to death deeds of the flesh, put on the new man, sanctify ourselves, etc.

      Max

      Yep, who’s supposed to kill the flesh, put on the new man, and walk in newness of life? We are, as empowered by the Holy Spirit … to live as overcomers not overcomed. This is not professing works righteousness, but life in the Spirit.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Amen.

Dean

Johnathan, I would caution making heroes out of some holiness preachers. Many have bound their members in legalism. Many holiness have preached fine sermons against TV, CPUs, makeup, going to public schools, etc… When we view the Christian life as a set of regulations we miss the mark. Jesus made an incredible statement in John 6 – the work of the Father is to believe in the One He sent. What a liberating statement. The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. He will lead us in our society and culture to avoid that behavior that disgraces God and to embrace that which honors the Lord. For example, I will not go to a movie. Did I find this in a rule book? The Spirit using God’s Word led me to such a conviction. Love God first and then man and the do’s and dont’s will not be an issue.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    One thing to do is not confuse holiness preachers with legalist preachers as if the two were even remotely similar. They are not, even if the antinomian crowd incorrectly labels the former as the latter.

    When we don’t view Christian life as the obedience of faith, to commandments scattered all throughout the Bible, we certainly miss the mark. That is sin, and after all, sin is breaking the law (1 John 3:4).

    The problem today isn’t too many “rules and regulations” in Christian life, as if stating it that way wasn’t bad enough since the Bible uses words such as commands, commandments, etc. without apology; rather, the problem is a lack of emphasis on the commandments and downplaying them. Which is what happens when goofy, ridiculous statements like the one under consideration here are bandied about. Or even trying to “relieve” the stress on them and “temper” the talk of commandments and obedience with talk of grace, as if grace is in tension with obedience, or contrasted with it. That, of course, is rubbish. That God has given us His Word to live by and obey IS ITSELF a grace of God.

    The certificate of debt has been erased, and since we are in the Spirit, we follow the Spirit and not the letter. Which is a good thing since the Law is Spiritual anyway. Since it is not against us, Jesus’ commandments are therefore for us. We should be all for following them.

    Of course, the Bible isn’t a rulebook any more than the Bible is a doctrine book. But the Bible contains “rules” (sigh), just as it contains doctrine. Men and women devise Doctrine Books from the texts, and so this post serves as a kind of “rule book” from the texts.

    I reject the notion that obedience simply happens on its own. Scripture rejects this in its exhortations (1 and 2 Corinthians are good examples). Our experience rejects this in our own observation. God enables us to obey, He does not do our obeying for us though. The commandments will always be an issue so long as they are downplayed in importance or ignored altogether. Suggesting that if we just “love God”, obedience happens upon itself in our lives is not what the Bible teaches. Loving God IS obedience. That is what the Bible teaches. (1 John 5:3) The Spirit leads, but we must follow and not resist the Spirit’s leading (Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 5:19). It is fine to say the Spirit leading you in God’s word leads you to this or that, but you had to actually follow the Spirit and actually read God’s word. That is the point I am making here.

    Anyway, legalism sucks. So does works righteousness. Obedience does not suck though. The Bible has enough dos and don’ts so that I don’t bother with any “rules” devised by men who misuse it to promote lifestyles the Bible never commands or implies.

      Dean

      Johnathon, in your opinion, is the antinomian crowd very large in the SBC?

        Johnathan Pritchett

        The answer to that is more than I know. I am not informed enough about the entire ranks of the SBC to render an opinion of any value.

        Now, having said that, I think that in any Christian culture, such as the Bible belt where I live, strip clubs are full of “Christians”, if you will. Many people will tell you they are Christians around here, but in a Christian culture, that may just be an identifier relative to the social background of the general populace. In such cultural settings, antinomianism is rampant.

      Max

      “One thing to do is not confuse holiness preachers with legalist preachers …”

      The reason we don’t have much holiness preaching these days in SBC ranks and elsewhere in Christendom is that we don’t have a holy leadership in most places. The pulpit won’t preach against the sins of the pew if they are themselves living in the defeat of sin. You can’t help someone out if you are still in! Simply gathering in huddles to confess sins one to another (wallowing in vomit) won’t cut it …the 21st century version of that kind of “repentance” only brings you back to the vomit over and over. The desperate need of the hour is for the church to genuinely repent (both pulpit and pew), but I don’t see much movement in that direction. We need the gift of tears that the Puritans talked about … a godly sorrow that worketh repentance over our sin and rebellion. God give use holy holiness preachers again!

Tim G

Great post. It is also important to remember that “we” also are to “put on” the armor of God. I think there is a missing of what “we” are to do these days. I have been tracking the number of commands in the Bible that are to be lived out in our Christian walk with Christ, via His power. The number is growing and to me humbling and shocking. If I love Christ as I should, I should allow Him to work through me to live out His life desire for me.

Great post!

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Indeed. I don’t think we stress the “we” enough in a lot of things. There is too much :”I” in American evangelicalism, and individualism mixed with too much existentialism has a lot to with it. It has led to many congregations wondering aimlessly when it comes to fulfilling their calling, since they are each overly concerned with their “personal relationship” to the point they ignore their corporate relationship.

    Maybe my next post will tackle this whole “personal relationship” business.

    Anyway, I am well aware that I don’t love Christ as I should, and need to love Christ more, as I should, so that His work in me can be brought out by me more, like it should. But this will be the case for all of us until we are glorified and know perfectly as we are known. In the mean time, we die daily and follow Him. :)

John H. Gregory

Thank You Brother for your article. As I read & study the letters of Paul, Peter, James, & the
others in the New Testament, I am energized & excited by what we as Christians are called to
do. We have the Greatest Gift the World has ever seen! The gift of eternal life IN CHRIST,
the joy of being an ambassador of & for Christ, & the ministry of reconciliation to a world of
lost people who are so in need of what God has for them. Do’s & Don’ts? For sure!
We represent Christ! We are to incarnate Christ in our lives and in all we do.
I am 67 years old. I have been a Christian for over 50 years. Yes, it is sometimes
very hard even with the Holy Spirit’s aid & guidance to live this calling. That is why we are told
“do not grow weary in doing good”! If Paul had to “strive” what makes us think that we should
be excluded in that same thing.
Great paper Brother Pritchett!
God bless,
John G.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Thank you sir. I have to keep these sorts of things right in front of me at all times or I do not represent Christ as I ought. Obviously, I fail more often than I should, but we are all works in progress. The key is to remember that reading Scripture is a humbling thing, and we ought to pay attention to God”s expectations rather than discard them.

rhutchin

Dos and don’t’s are unique to the Christian as the unregenerate care nothing for the Do’s and are unconcerned about the don’t’s. For the Christian, the primary Do is “Love one another.” Getting in the way are all those things that our flesh grew accustomed to by living in the world as we grew up and which continue to entice the Christian through his flesh (as Paul explains in Romans 7). The do’s and don’t’s are exhortations to be holy and warnings against temptations.

Christianity is not really about Do’s and Don’t’s. Christianity is about Christ The reality is that people come to Christ out of the world and shedding the things of the world is not always easy. It is easy to give up the murder, rape, and pillaging, but harder to control one’s thoughts which always seem to be easy prey for Satan. If a person thinks that doing the Do’s and not doing the Don’t’s is what Christ is all about, he has missed the point.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Speaking of missing the point, I think you have as well.

    The main central point of Christianity is that Jesus is the Messiah and the world’s true Lord. What I think the statement “Christianity is not about a bunch of do’s and don’ts” implies is that those dos and don’ts aren’t important as “having a personal relationship with Jesus” (whatever that means) and the like. The statement is a popular sentiment that erroneously downplays the importance of obedience and holiness and reflects antinomianism tendencies.

    The Primary “DO” is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. THEN, love your neighbor.

    However, God has defined love for Him as obedience. (1 John 5:3, see also John 15:10,14)

    How many of your personal relationships are based on “you are my friend if you obey my commands?” The “personal relationship” with Jesus is one of love, but Jesus has framed love in obedience to dos and don’ts. ;)

    Christianity in general is about several things, and dos and don’ts are certainly among them. We are saved by grace through faith for a purpose. None of this offends the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but it certainly offends cheap grace, antinomian tendencies, easy-believism, and hokum sentimentality about a feel-good, a la cart Christianity.

    So, no, I am not saying Christianity is all about, or even mainly about dos and don’ts. That wasn’t my point.

    And, no Christ is not “all” about doing the dos and not doing the don’ts…but Christ certainly IS about YOU doing them. He is your King, and in the words of Metallica, “obey your master”. ;)

    Romans 7 is certainly not about Paul, or the life as a Christian. It is prosopopeia concerning the unregenerate man. The Romans 7 man (the rhetorical “I”) is at war, in a body of death, a prisoner, no ability to do good, etc.. This is contrasted with Romans 8 where YOU (Rom. 8:2…other mss read “me”) the regenerate in Christ have life, peace, walk in the Spirit, are free, etc. But, that is a different topic altogether. Even the Reformed theologian Robert Reymond knows this. ;)

      Johnathan Pritchett

      All that is to say that, hence, statements like “Christianity is not really about Do’s and Don’t’s” is a bit ridicolous.

      It isn’t “ALL” about that, but it is “really” about that as much as it is about anything else, generally speaking of course.

      Romans 1:1-6

      “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the OBEDIENCE OF FAITH for the sake of his name among all the nations, including YOU who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,”

      (emphasis added)

Norm Miller

Johnathan:
Jesus summed up all the do’s and don’t’s — the totality of the Law, if you will — by saying love God and love your neighbor. Rescanning your 95 points, they all seem to fall into the two categories Jesus noted.
Whereas a number of excellent points have been made thus far, I get tickled at us all when we ‘overanalyze’ the simplicity of these 95 commands. They all apply to every believer who would claim the name of Christ, other theological convictions notwithstanding.
Thx for these 95 reminders, I think ;^> — Norm

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Indeed they do reflect Jesus’ summation.

    Of course, Jesus summing them up doesn’t mean Jesus reduces them down so that if we just love God and our neighbor, these things will naturally outflow from them without effort on our part. We are enabled, but we are not inactive. Were that the case, these would all be indicatives rather than imperatives. .

    It is important to keep these things in front of us to celebrate. They are a blessing. They teach us to be the human beings God intends us to be. God is certainly smarter than we are, so we should heed the dos and don’ts in Scripture since they are there for our benefit, and not for our burden.

George R. Krahn

Great post brother! I happened to ask our adult Sunday School group on Sunday morning if they thought that there were any “dos” and “donts” in the Scriptures for believers under the Grace of God. We came to the conclusion that there are many. Thanks for pointing it out to us all.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    No problem.

    I remember having a similar experience in a SS class years ago when our class was asked by our teacher this same kind of question. I was in my early twenties, and was one of those champions of mediocrity in terms of Christian living. I kept thinking I would love Jesus and do what I wanted, and eventually one day I would find myself being more obedient and less of a sinner. I was taught that God does everything and we are just on the ride. The teacher shell-shocked me and the rest of the class with the commandments of Scripture in the NT, and told us to basically shut-up, grow up, and obey King Jesus.

    That teacher also happened to be my dad, who was a great man of God (and a Calvinist, by the way). :)

Johnathan Pritchett

You are welcome. I hope to do this for all 27 books of the New Testament.

I am sure someone like rhutchin will complain, “You just turned the Bible into bunch of dos and don’ts” if I do it, but that misses the point of the blessing of obedience.

They are in Scripture, and if a person reads Scripture they would know that. I think it would no different than systematizing proof-texts of given topics for purposes of doctrine. The Bible isn’t a systematized set of doctrines either, but people make those kinds of arrangements from the Bible. So, why not do the same for the dos and don’ts…

Robert

Hello Johnathan,

Your initial post and following comments remind me of when I had first become a Christian. As a new believer I of course had this erroneous idea that Christianity is not about do’s and don’t idea. I was fortunate to have a good early mentor who dealt with this false idea with the following ideas. First, the Lordship of Christ doctrine, he is the Lord; we are His servants, so we live a life of obedience to Him and His commands. Second, if our heart is right, then his commands are not a burden but a delight (he showed this from David’s love of the law and delight in it as seen in the Psalms). Conversely, if your heart is not right then you will view His commands as a burden and not a delight (i.e. the problem is not in God’s commands but in our hearts). Third, His commands are meant to bless. They are not merely given so that he can boss us around. No, they are given to bless our lives.

To give one quick example of how these things work together. Christian husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That means that we are to be servants to our wives willing to sacrifice ourselves for them. Now if your heart is not right you want to boss your wife around, demand to be in control of things, you want her to serve you (cf. how some nonChristian husbands [and sadly even Christian husbands] are towards their wives, cook, clean house, meet my every need, be my chief servant . . .). If your heart is right you delight in being a servant to your wife, you put her needs ahead of your own. And wives know the difference, they much more appreciate having someone who truly cares for them and puts them ahead of them rather than someone who delights in “Lording it over them.” If you delight in this command, and joyfully obey it, your marriage will be much stronger and a witness to others about what Christian obedience looks like (hopefully I myself am modeling this well in my own life especially for my daughter). So in joyfully obeying this command you are practicing the Lordship of Christ over you, your heart is right, and you and your marriage will be blessed. And this kind of thing is true of all of God’s commands, if your heart is right and you joyfully obey His Word.

Robert

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Amen…

    Though, we must also admit Jesus and Paul could get bossy at times…James too, of course. :)

Jason Hardage

I agree with your general assessment regarding antinomianism. However I disagree with the idea of casually discarding teaching justification truths as they relate to sanctification. I would also warn against generalizing and over simplifying sanctification. One persons prescription to help them grow in grace is sometimes different from another’s and bible teachers and Counsellors need to be careful to make wise and thorough diagnoses.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Where did the idea of casually discarding teaching justification truths as they relate to sanctification? Why warn against generalizing and over simplifying sanctification?

    Who is doing either? Certainly no one around here. What is happening is considering one issue without having to say everything about all aspects of Christian theology just to discuss one issue.

    It is also worth mentioning that sanctification doesn’t simply equal better obedience to commandments anyway. Sanctification is total growth up into Christ, not merely better obedience as time passes.

    The Bible is, on the other hand, simple and general about one thing though: Obey King Jesus. Period.

    Nothing wrong with keeping that point simple. ;)

      Mary S.

      The foundation of santification is justification. Read the Greek of Romans 6:7 “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” It could just as easily be translated “JUSTIFIED FROM SIN” since what is translated freed here is the very same word translated “justified” in 26 places in Romans and other places in Paul’s letter. So the point is that for Paul, our santification flows from our being justified by faith.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Indeed.

Adam Harwood

Johnathan,

I enjoyed reading your article as well as interactions with your readers. Good work. Blessings, brother.

In Him,
Adam

Robert

Hello Max,

What is a “sin splurge”? What exactly was this pastor claiming?

This sounds rather bizarre and in my experience I haver heard of this concept being preached. Could you elaborate on what this is? Thanks.

Robert

    Max

    Hi Robert,

    “Sin splurge” was a new phrase for me as well. You never know what these YRR folks will come up with next! In this particular case, the pastor had earlier confessed to his congregation that he struggled with lying (fired from a church for that earlier). He also had a problem with pornography. He confessed that he could only be good for so long before he sinned again … before he returned to the vomit (as Johnathan put it earlier).

    Robert, we have a lot of young pastors in SBC ranks … influenced by the likes of Mark Driscoll … who simply do not need to be in the pulpit until they gain victory over sin.

theoldadam

The do’d and don’ts are so that we might live together in this world, as best as is possible for sinners, and to expose the fact that there’s not a one of us who is up to the task. To show us our need of a Savior. That’s the job of the law.

Then that gospel Word frees us, liberates us, and gives us new life…again and again and again.

Thanks.

    Tommy

    I agree, Someone once told me that God would never ask us to “do” something we couldn’t do. The whole time I was thinking about His Law. He has always told us to do or not to do, and we have always failed Him. But you’re right it does make us see our need for a Savior.

mike davis

“And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”– 1 Jn 1: 3 (NASB) –an obedience problem often results in an assurance problem.

John H. Gregory

Brother Mike , would you care to explain “obedience problem” for me, & how it may result in an
assurance problem”? I am not asking inorder to debate, there is enough of that allready. I just would like know more of what you mean>
Thank You, & God bless.
John G.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Not quite sure what he meant, but I think if one has an unhealthy obedience problem that never improves over time, they should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.

    We need to balance our personal assurance with personal examination, just as Paul says, and as 1 John as a whole implies. Such persistent, unhealthy obedience problems should give someone an assurance problem. On the other hand, having an assurance problem doesn’t necessarily entail they indeed have a salvation problem though. It is important to remember that as well.

    This is why all the emotionalism needs to be set aside when it comes to assurance, our sinfulness, etc. People need to evaluate these things, and themselves, in light of the relevant data in Scripture and in the company of others who love and profess Jesus. That, more than any “feelings” is the proper course of action.

      Ross

      So would you say that you are less of a sinner now than you were a year ago?

        Johnathan Pritchett

        In one sense, yes. One can be a sinner, and yet at the same time be less of a sinner than they used to be if they sin less frequency.

        In another sense, no. If one sins, then they are a sinner regardless of the frequency.

        So it depends on the sense you mean.

          Ross

          I disagree. I don’t think it depends on the sense.

          “if one sins, then they are a sinner regardless of frequency.”
          I agree with this statement. Scripture says that if we break one commandment, then we are guilty of breaking the whole law. Keeping track of our “improvement” is a waste of time and takes our eyes from Christ and His promises.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Your misunderstanding the James text as to how it relates to your original question aside, I don’t think is is logically possible to disagree with me in the other sense.

            If you sinned 50 times yesterday, and 40 times today, there is a sense that while still a sinner, you were less a sinner today than yesterday.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Examining our progress and growth is not at all a waste of time.

            We all called in Scripture to maturity and grow up in Christ in our sanctification.

            Ross

            “Your misunderstanding the James text”
            What James text?

            “If you sinned 50 times yesterday, and 40 times today, there is a sense that while still a sinner, you were less a sinner today than yesterday.”
            Not if sin is a condition.

            “We all called in Scripture to maturity and grow up in Christ in our sanctification.”
            Maturity is depending more and more on Christ and His work, and less on ourselves. It was in one of his later epistles that Paul called himself the chief of sinners.

            Maturity = I know that in me, nothing good dwells.
            Immaturity = Look at how much better I am than I used to be.

            Christ IS our sanctification.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            In Scripture, sin is literally (ontologically) a crime, and metaphorically a reigning power.

            Contrary to popular opinion, sin is not the spiritual equivalent of having herpes.

            What is the evidence that one trusts more and more in Christ?

        Johnathan Pritchett

        “Maturity = I know that in me, nothing good dwells.”

        Actually, maturity is getting Scripture right. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18)

        But then look to Romans 8:9! “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you…”.

        “Immaturity = Look at how much better I am than I used to be.”

        Agreed, which is why such has never been advocated here. Such statements to others (who else would one ask to look other than others?) is a bit immature. What has been advocated is self-examination. Self-looking, as it were.

        Hence, maturity would be “I need to look if I am much better than I used to be.”

Scott H

Growing up in a very conservative Southern Baptist Church, I basically caught the idea from the preachers, teaachers, etc. around me that Christianity was about three things: getting saved, keeping a list of rules and regulations until you die, and then you go to heaven. Some of these rules were found in Scripture (sexual purity until marriage for example) but there were also mixed into this non-Biblical rules (you must wear a tie to church, Christian music could not sound remotely like “rock music”, etc.). When I first listened to preachers and teachers that talked about the concept of walking with God (and the evidence of Scripture confirmed this)it was a radical notion that there was something more to the Christian life. As I went into college and realized that some of these rules had no Scriptural basis, it threw everything I had been taught into question. Thankfully through the guidance of Christian professors, pastors and others, along with reading those who taught walking with God in a personal relationship, I was able to find out that Christianity wasn’t just rules and regulations but was a much deeper and God honoring life. None of those who taught walking with God de-emphasized Scriptural commands but rather showed those commands to be not just a checklist so I can feel good about my spirtuality today but rather a path of freedom in Christ.

That is said to give context to why I was greatly alarmed when I read the title of your post as I am very concerned about unbiblical legalism spreading throughout SBC life (unfortunately, you can always find it). The phrase you find so objectionable is usually, in the context I’ve always been familiar with, used to defeat the notion that rules and regulations (many from outside the Bible) are the sum total of the Christian life. This is probably, I believe , the proper context to understand the Charles Stanley and Adrian Rogers quotes objected to earlier. And many Christians in the area where I live are still wrapped in a “rules are all there is” mentality.

So in closing, I think your post may be taking the “objectionale phrase” to mean something different than what it really means.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Well, experience is anecdotal.

    I usually find the phrase as some sort of catchphrase to De-emphasize something the Scriptures highlight quite often. The dos and don’ts relate to how we are to live as Christians.

    I am certainly opposed to legalism. I am also opposed to the notion of “personal relationship” if by that one means that they can define the nature of that relationship with Jesus the same way they define all their personal relationships for themselves, which is exactly what people do in personal relationships (they define them for themselves). This is a real danger, and we see it all the time in people. Modern Americans usually have no frame of reference what it is to be a slave, serving a King. In any case, along with the blessings of being adopted sons and daughters, and co-heirs with Christ, we are still slaves and subjects to the King of Kings.

    There are no shortage of verses posted around here that emphasize the call to obedience to commands, and the phrase, “Christianity is not about a bunch of dos and don’ts” lends to the idea that there isn’t any, or that following Christ is not about that. However, it is about that. Among other things, Christianity is about loving God, and that is defined in Scripture as obeying commandments. Hence, Christianity is something about a bunch of dos and don;ts. and the Bible is full of them.

    Anyone who mistakes the dos and don’ts in the Bible for legalism says exactly the opposite of what the Scripture says about the commands. The Bible says they are not a burden. Legalism is a burden.

    The Bible doesn’t say “rules and regulations”. The Bible uses the words commandments without apology. Sure, I am all for dumping any “rules and regulations” the Scriptures never state or imply. But the many that aren’t from the outside, but found in Scripture, we are exhorted to live by and obey. As I stated in another reply, with 95 in just the Book of Romans alone, the Bible has more than enough to be shaped by, we don’t need more imposed from without.

    I have never suggested here that following the commandments is the total sum of the Christian life. They are indeed, however, a very big part of it, and this part gets downplayed in a Christian culture that highlights “personal relationship”, whatever that means (and something not stated in Scripture), and an a la cart approach to some vague form of “believing in Jesus” of whatever. The Scripture knows nothing of following Jesus by resting in cultural sentiments, such as the ones offered by Rogers and Stanley, and frequent affirmations to doctrinal propositions with no visible Christ-like character developed in the Spirit by obedience to the commands.

mike davis

“…I think if one has an unhealthy obedience problem that never improves over time, they should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.”

Yup. unfortunately today that person is likely to be told to rely on their “moment of decision” rather than evaluate whether they are walking the walk.

    Tommy

    I agree with your point Mike. I have also seen a lot of people either 1) Relying on their decision. or 2) focusing so much on their works, such as going to church, etc.

John H. Gregory

Brother Mike, my disobedience grieves me & pushes me to 1John 1:8-10, & I am aware that
by my sinful actions I have grieved the Holy Spirit. But my assurance is not in question.
God bless,
John G.

    Ross

    What is the basis of your assurance?

      Mary S.

      Ross wrote: What is the basis of your assurance.

      Answer: “Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

      What else would one base his or her assurance on? Anything else is something less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

        Ross

        “I think if one has an unhealthy obedience problem that never improves over time, they should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.”

          Mary S.

          Ross, but I think you might be reading more into those words than were intended by Johnathan. Even the apostle Paul told us to “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” (2Cor. 13:5) We can, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13). Doesn’t that mean there should be some improvement overtime, even while we remain in these bodies of death?

          For all genuine believers, our assurance of salvation is in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I have full confidence where I’m going when I die because my confidence is in Jesus and His sacrifice for me. The only way I could be lost is if something were deficient in the work of Christ. And since there is nothing deficient neither in His life, death or resurrection, nothing can possibly seperate me from the love of God!

          Johnathan Pritchett

          I said that, not John.

          Do you disagree with that quote?

            Ross

            Yes I disagree with that statement. Tracking moral improvement is not a test to determine if one is in the faith. Faith in Christ believes His promises that our sins our forgiven. Faith is something only sinners can have. I would say the one who sees himself as improving (less of a sinner) is in more danger than someone with an “unhealthy obedience problem”.

            Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Obedience is not merely moral improvement.

            Once again, you are wrong and un-Biblical. The evidence of faith in Christ is the growth in the Spirit.

            Ross

            The reply button doesn’t show up under your last comment. This is in response to your 2:18 pm comment.

            “Obedience is not merely moral improvement”
            You’re the one who said that improving over time is a test of faith. Besides, this statement doesn’t address my point.

            “Once again, you are wrong and un-biblical”
            Says you. Sticks and stones and whatnot. I could say the same thing about you but it wouldn’t help our dialogue would it? In fact, you might tune out anything else I had to say. Pretty uncharitable (sinful) response.

            “the evidence of faith in Christ is the growth in the Spirit”
            which is determined by the sinner who says he is growing? Makes sense. Is there an objective test you can give me that I can use to figure out if I’m “growing in the Spirit”?

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Yes an increase in obedience is a test. I didn’t say or way the only test.

            Again, not all the commands revolve around just moral behavior,though those are definitely included.

            This test is objective in the sense that it is for everyone to apply, but subjective in the sense of each person. The former does not exclude the latter.

            It is like a parent telling kids to brush their teeth better after each get a bad report foment the dentist. When they do so and the report from the dentist concerning each is one if improvement, that improvement will be relative to each child in relation to the prior condition of their teeth individually.

            If you do bot see yourself growing in Christ, whom to love is to obey, then one needs to reexamine their faith.

            How can one believe Jesus is Lord but has desire to obey Him as Lord? How can one believe in the work of the Spirit if they are
            no more obedient than when they were lost or had just. been converted?

            Johnathan Pritchett

            1 John 2:3-6

            “This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.”

            Is this objective enough for you?

            Ross

            No.

John H. Gregory

Brother Mike, Sorry about the delay in responding. My assurance is that once I am born again & sealed by the Holy Spirit, I will not loose my salvation, (Romans 8:38-39, John 3:16).
I have been a Christian & a Traditionalist for over 50 years. I have no worry concerning assurance.
I know where I am going, where I I am destined, and why. I am bound for Glory. And praise
God for that assurance! Sin in my life is something that happens. I am NOT pleased about that sin,
but I will not loose my salvation! Ever.
God bless,
John G.

mike davis

Greetings John,

I was not contradicting eternal security nor do I have any reason to question your testimony since I don’t know you personally. The post was making the point that while we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, there are nonetheless many commandments (dos and don’t, “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” that are integral to living the Christian life. I just wanted to point out that keeping the commandments is one evidence of being saved (1 John 2: 3)–not the cause, but one evidence. And significant, unrepentant and prolonged refusal to keep the commandments can indicate one is in danger of not being saved (1 John 2: 4), even if they recorded a “moment of decision” in the back of their Bible when they were 10 Greetings John,

I was not contradicting eternal security nor do I have any reason to question your testimony since I don’t know you personally. The post was making the point that while we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, there are nonetheless many commandments (dos and don’t, “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” that are integral to living the Christian life. I just wanted to point out that keeping the commandments is one evidence of being saved (1 John 2: 3)–not the cause, but one evidence. And significant, unrepentant and prolonged refusal to keep the commandments can indicate one is in danger of not being saved (1 John 2: 4), even if they recorded a “moment of decision” in the back of their Bible when they were 10 yrs old. But it was just a general statement, and I did not have any specific person in mind when I made the comment. And you are correct that on this side of mortality, all Christians still sin at times, and 1 John 1: 7-10 deals with that issue.

I appreciate the interaction. Blessings to you.Greetings John,

I was not contradicting eternal security nor do I have any reason to question your testimony since I don’t know you personally. The post was making the point that while we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, there are nonetheless many commandments (dos and don’t, “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” that are integral to living the Christian life. I just wanted to point out that keeping the commandments is one evidence of being saved (1 John 2: 3)–not the cause, but one evidence. And significant, unrepentant and prolonged refusal to keep the commandments can indicate one is in danger of not being saved (1 John 2: 4), even if they recorded a “moment of decision” in the back of their Bible when they were 10 yrs old. But it was just a general statement, and I did not have any specific person in mind when I made the comment. And you are correct that on this side of mortality, all Christians still sin at times, and 1 John 1: 7-10 deals with that issue.

I appreciate the interaction. Blessings to you.

mike davis

Sorry for the “broken record (as we called it in my younger days)” comment. I tend to repeat myself (I have teenage kids, after all) but in this case, it was entirely inadvertent. I did not intend to triple-post the same few sentences. Hopefully the comment is still somewhat intelligible.

lydiasellerofpurple

“What is the evidence that one trusts more and more in Christ?”

Thanks Jonathan for engaging this topic. We can see there is a major difference in the understanding of sanctification…that some believe it is synergistic and some believe it is mongeristic as in Christ obeys for us. It might help to mention the Holy Spirit’s function in a synergistic sanctification?

To me, I see the do’s and don’t as ways to describe what love looks like in action. It is so important we understand that sin is lawlessness. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, God created us to be able to overcome. Not sinless perfection but surely a pureness of heart that lives out the fruits of the Spirit more and more over time.

“4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

The Pharisees were “lawless”. (Mark 7, Matt 15, Matt 23, etc)

In Matthew 5 Jesus was saying the Pharisees were not really righteous

    Johnathan Pritchett

    I am with Calvinist N.T. Wright on this one. Medieval categories of monergism and synergism are unhelpful, especially when talking about sanctification.

    If it is all God’s doing in us and for us, and we still sin, that means God has failed. If God has enables, but we must cooperate and put that enabling into action, then when we sin, we fail, not God.

    Agreed, our righteousness by faith in Christ exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes. Because they established a righteousness of their own; but our righteousness is a declaration by God, not by other men.

    “To me, I see the do’s and don’t as ways to describe what love looks like in action. It is so important we understand that sin is lawlessness. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, God created us to be able to overcome. Not sinless perfection but surely a pureness of heart that lives out the fruits of the Spirit more and more over time.”

    Amen, I couldn’t say it better. The commandments are for our benefit to become the human beings God intended us to become in Christ. The world watches, and when we obey, it really is love in action in contrast with and to the shame of the world, powers and principalities, and forces of darkness.

Johnathan Pritchett

May we all start singing this old hymn once again:

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

mike davis

Sanctification is a work of God (Philippians 2:13)and it also requires hard work on our part (1 Tim 4:8, Philippians 2:12).

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Amen.

lydiasellerofpurple

Johnathan, I had posted a link to the Calvinist NT Wright teaching on this very thing but it never made it out of moderation. He was speaking at Redeemer CFW in NYC.

gracewriterrandy

Lydia,

I think it is a stretch to call N.T. Wright a Calvinist.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Why not? He holds to all of T.U.L.I.P., is supralapsarian, and affirms almost all of Calvin’s views on other matters of theology such as the sacraments, etc. Given that, it is hardly a stretch. The only place he differs on with most Calvinists is imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer. Properly speaking though, he is very much Calvinist and very much Reformed in his theology. .

gracewriterrandy

Johnathan,

I believe you are correct in observing that Christianity involves paying attention to “do’s and dont’s.” Perhaps a better statement of truth might be that Christianity involves MORE than mere adherence to a list of “do’s and dont’s.” Nothing on the list you suggested can or will occur apart from Christ’s redemptive accomplishments. If we concentrate only on the rules, we will become moralists and legalists. If we ignore our responsibility, we may become quietest and libertines. My concern is that we never lose our proper focus. The writer of the Hebrews did not instruct his readers to fix their minds on the rules; he instructed them to fix their minds on Jesus. Rules don’t sanctify us; he does.

James T.

Cheap grace holds that since we have been justified by Christ, we have no need to live a life of obedience and sacrifice. If what you mean by his article is that we need to understand that we are dearly bought, and be ever mindful of the sacrifice made on our behalf, I applaud you heartily! If you go further and say that we need to be conscious of what sin is, and where it is in our lives, and that we should be constantly repenting and reforming, I cheer you on!

But you go beyond that. Your central point is that we need to be doing certain, specific things in order to be holy and please God. But… I’ve tried that. I can’t. You can’t. Those do’s and don’ts are not a pathway to God, or greater intimacy, or spiritual power, or whatever. They are reminders that we are not the sort of grateful, joyful, loving, godly people that someone who follows those all is. It’s foolish to say you can follow them. It’s foolish to make fun of an honest pastor who admits his multiple failings. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

The things on the list you gave are all good things. Be in prayer. Forgive your enemies. Be hospitable. But that’s not a description of how I live! At best, it is a list of aspirations. I’d love to be all those things. But the fact of the matter is that I’m not. And while it is good to tell me to strive for them, to tell me that I’m not following Christ because I haven’t perfectly followed a list of thousands of rules is to lay a burden on me that I cannot lift. Worse, to bring my primary focus on following an enumerated list, my attention is taken from actually following Christ in reality, rather than do-gooder fantasy land (which only exists in my head).

You close by saying, “God knows best”, suggesting that those of us groaning under the burden of do/don’t list are secretly trying to sneak outside of God’s authority. No. God knows best; that’s why he sent his son into the World. Not to condemn the world, but that the World, through Him, might be saved.

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