By Justin Edwards
There’s only one proof of the Holy Ghost in your life and that’s a holy life. - Leonard Ravenhill
In this series rebutting Dr. Andy Woods' article titled, What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation?, we have covered the issues of saving faith and repentance, which could be condensed to repentant faith as a requirement for salvation. Dr. Woods has a very unbiblical view of salvation, yet this view is common among the contemporary evangelical church today. The ramifications of this erroneous theology, which fundamentally is classic easy-believism, is the creation of an unorthodox category of "carnal Christians", a distorted view of sanctification, and a distorted view of assurance of salvation and perseverance of the saints (also known as "eternal security"). These latter three positions represent the final three arguments against lordship salvation by Dr. Woods and will be covered in the coming days.
Part 4 - Carnal Christians
In closing Part 3 last week, I addressed the following statement from Sugar Land Bible Church's Position #6:
That being said, we just as strongly maintain that salvation in Christ will result in a changed life (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Cor. 6:11).
Not only does this statement contradict Dr. Woods' view of repentance as it relates to salvation, but it contradicts his position of "carnal Christianity". If "salvation in Christ will result in a changed life", which it most certainly does, how does Dr. Woods account for this statement at the end of his third argument:
While carnal Christianity is obviously not God's perfect will for His children, such a categorization is a legitimate possibility.?
According to Dr. Woods' inconsistent theology, "simple belief" in Christ allows for a continually habitual lifestyle of unrepentant sin, such as homosexuality or adultery. This category is one that allows for no viable spiritual change in the life of the professing Christian. It constitutes that the professing Christian can continue living as an unbeliever despite the many references in 1 John to the contrary. Yet, according to his own Position #6, salvation will result in a changed life. You cannot have it both ways, Dr. Woods.
|Have you believed the deception?|
Third, Lordship Salvation ignores the possibility of a carnal Christian.
This is an untruth. Lordship salvation proponents - that is, believers in the unadulterated Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ - do not ignore the possibility of a carnal Christian, per se; but they do deny the possibility that one can remain carnal all the days of their Christian walk. Further, Dr. Woods concludes,
If complete commitment and yielding to Christ is an initial prerequisite for salvation, then there is no such thing as a believer who is carnal or not completely surrendered to Christ.
This is another misrepresentation of what faithful servants of the Gospel teach. To teach otherwise, one would have to believe in the heresy of sinless perfection. Moreover, it is not possible to be perfectly surrendered to Christ, but what Christ calls us to is radical submission to His will, which will result in habitual obedience as opposed to habitual disobedience to the Word of God (1 John 3:4-10). Additionally, Dr. Woods' statement further reveals his misunderstanding of the sovereignty of God in our salvation, as he believes any such commitment to Christ results in some kind of works-based salvation, when in fact, this radical submission to Christ is wrought of the Spirit of God through regeneration (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).
As a proof-text for biblical claims of carnal believers, Dr. Woods tells us:
Yet the Bible contains numerous examples of carnal believers. For example, Lot, who is called “righteous” three times (2 Pet 2:7-8), exhibits perpetual unrighteous behavior (Gen 19:30-38).
Perpetual? Merriam-Webster defines perpetual as:
continuing forever; everlasting; valid for all time; holding for life or for an unlimited time
Dr. Woods takes one example from Lot's life and extrapolates a whole category of Christians who live in continuous, wanton sin. However, just as he did point out, Lot was declared righteous by God (2 Peter 2:7-8). If Lot was called righteous by God, his life would have been marked by the habitual practice of righteousness (1 John 3:4-10). We cannot take one instance in Lot's life and develop an entire doctrine around it, such as perpetual carnal Christians. This is a gross abuse of the Scriptures. The truth is, Lot hated lawlessness and was "greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked" and tormented "his righteous soul over their lawless deeds". That does not sound like a man who habitually practiced a lifestyle of sexual immorality, lest he was a hypocrite and had no right to judge the acts of these wicked men.
Dr. Woods continues with the example of the Corinthians:
Similarly, the Corinthians are called saints (1 Cor 1:2) yet the rest of 1 Corinthians reveals their un-saintly behavior. Thus, Paul refers to them as carnal believers (1 Cor 3:1-3).
These "carnal believers" were operating according to their flesh in this one area regarding the resolution of personal conflicts, but nowhere in this text do we see they continued to operate as carnal believers in the whole of their life. On the contrary, we see in chapter 1 that Paul thanked God for their faithfulness and acknowledged they lacked no spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:4-9). In this particular instance, Paul was admonishing and instructing them as infants in Christ because they were acting in the flesh with regard to conflict.
Another admonishment from Paul is found in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, where he instructs the Corinthians in what to do with so-called brothers, eg. professing Christians, who willfully engage in a sinful lifestyle:
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Some may consider this to be harsh, especially in this age of tolerance within the visible church. But the Apostle Paul is not playing games, and neither is God. The so-called brother was living like an unbeliever, one who was still under the dominion of Satan (Ephesians 2:2). Paul instructed the Corinthians that the proper thing to do is address their sin and expose it to the light of Scripture, and if they refuse to repent, we are to cut off fellowship with them "for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5)". There are three possible outcomes in this situation:
1) There will be no repentance because this so-called brother is, in fact, not a child of God.
2) There will be repentance and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 2:6-8), which is the result of the Father's discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11).
3) The so-called brother will die in their sin, and we may have no assurance that they were born again believers.
If number 2 proves to be true, then this temporarily "carnal Christian" will no longer be so, or it could be that a false convert became born again as a result of conviction through the Holy Spirit and the loving discipline from the Body of Christ in the local church.
The bottom line is this: Christians do sin, but Christians do not practice sin as a lifestyle. Christians may act carnally, but they will not remain carnal. The evidence and assurance that one is born again is a continual progression in the conformity to Christ, while the evidence that one is not born again is a continuous state of carnality. And why is this so? Because as born again children of God, we are new creations in Christ. We have been purchased and are now owned by our Master, Jesus Christ, and are thus no longer slaves to sin but have become slaves of Christ. While we have been freed from the bondage of sin, we have now come under the freeing bondage of Christ's righteousness. We are no longer slaves of unrighteousness to obey it, which leads to death, but are now slaves to God to obey Him. These are marvelous truths that can be found in Romans 6:1-23, which can be summed up in verses 20-23:
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is God's promise to us: freedom from the bondage of sin, bought into slavery to God, obtaining divine fruit that leads to sanctification, which results in our glorification - eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In conclusion, there is no such thing as a category of Christians who continuously and habitually practice a lifestyle of unrepentant sin. Scripture shows us that Christians can live carnally, but carnal living is not the brand or recognized mark of the born again believer. On the contrary, the life of the believer is marked by holiness and a hatred of sin, though we may and will fall to temptation. Should a professing believer sustain a habitual lifestyle of unrepentant sin, they are to be cut off from fellowship for the sake of their souls. God has promised that He sanctifies every blood-bought child of God until the day He glorifies them (Romans 8:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Titus 2:11-14)); therefore, no child of God can remain in a continuous state of carnality as this opposes the will of God (our sanctification).
Dr. Woods teaches that a professing Christian can live any lifestyle they choose, and at the end of the day, they are still saved if they once professed faith in Christ. In today's carnal church, this false teaching contributes to the damnation of many poor souls in assuring them of salvation when they could biblically have no assurance according to their lifestyle of sin.
My friend, Mike Ratliff, posted an article earlier this month on sanctification showing that sanctification is a divine work of God that is rooted in the divine work of the Holy Spirit. I believe this gives us an excellent transition into Part 5 of this series, which addresses the relationship between justification and sanctification. Mike writes:
Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit “works in you to will and to act” according to God’s purposes; what he does is prompt you to “work out your salvation” (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Philippians 2:12-13). Christians become increasingly Christlike as the moral profile of Jesus (the “fruit of the Spirit”) is progressively formed in them (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; 5:22-25). Paul’s use of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows that for him sanctification of character is glorification begun. Then the physical transformation that gives us a body like Christ’s, one that will match our totally transformed character and be a perfect means of expressing it, will be glorification completed (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:49-53).
Regeneration was a momentary monergistic act of quickening the spiritually dead. As such, it was God’s work alone. Sanctification, however, is in one sense synergistic—it is an ongoing cooperative process in which regenerate persons, alive to God and freed from sin’s dominion (Romans 6:11, 14-18), are required to exert themselves in sustained obedience. God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 3:10-14; Hebrews 12:14). Knowing that without Christ’s enabling we can do nothing, morally speaking, as we should, and that he is ready to strengthen us for all that we have to do (Philippians 4:13), we “stay put” (remain, abide) in Christ, asking for his help constantly—and we receive it (Colossians 1:11; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:1).
Indeed, which is to say "carnal Christianity" is a myth and tradition of men, as sanctification begins immediately at justification as a result of the new birth.
For related articles, please see:
Dear "Carnal Christian"
Who Am I According to God? Who Are You?
Are You Living a Lie?
Don't Play Games with Your Eternity