Errors of the church of Christ (23) – Justification (5)

The Galatian Heresy

“I was trying to convert others to a body of truth or system of doctrine more than to Christ. Often addessing those who already believed in Jesus, I sought to convince them of a code of law which I thought they had failed to recognize and understand. But I was the one who needed more insight. Jesus rebuked me along with others like me in his day: ‘You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they they bear witness of me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.’ John 5:39”    —-Cecil Hook, Church of Christ preacher, from his book Free to Change.

J. Gresham Machen explained that, “Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical…order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified.” So, correctly understood, sanctification follows justification as growth follows birth. (From Christian Reconstruction by Gary North and Gary DeMar.)

Here is where we think the Church of Christ misinterprets the Bible on a very important point. As phrased by North/DeMar, “A Judaizer is someone who believes that salvation is by grace through faith plus keeping the law….But no one can be saved by keeping the law. This is the Bible’s point when Romans 6:14 says that the Christian is not under the law. This is far different from saying that the Christian is not obligated to obey the law as a standard of righteousness. Prior to regeneration, a person is unable to keep the law and is condemned for his ‘lawlessness.’ After a person comes to Christ the curse of the law is lifted.” So it seems that the Church of Christ makes the same mistake as the Judaizers!

North/DeMar continue: “This question needs to be answered in a no/yes fashion. No! Christians are not sanctified by the law if one means that the law is added to faith to save someone (the Judaizing heresy). ‘I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly‘ (Galatians 2:21). If there is anything that man can do to merit or retain his salvation, then there is room for boasting. The Bible says that rebellious sinners do not even add faith; it too is a ‘gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8)….‘We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law’ (Romans 3:21-28).”

RT – Again your theology has come more from man than Scripture. Moreover, what Scripture you have included in this current point of consideration is mishandled. I will demonstrate. **** The remarks by Cecil Hook as used by you are, it appears, to be understood as evidence that Christians have it wrong in their teaching. The only one in this regard that has (or had) it wrong was Cecil Hook. Anyone who fails to understand that one needs to be converted to Christ and His way is the one who needs to relearn Christ. **** With regard to Machen’s remarks – he is NOT the authority that a Christian adheres to. No matter how correct he might be, still, he is not the one to whom another turns to understand things spiritual and eternal (2 Peter 1:3). Moreover, where is North/DeMar in Scripture? **** What “law” is Paul speaking about in Romans 6? The same law he spoke about in chapter 5, of course. What law was that? The same one he referred to in chapters 3 and 4. That law was the Law of Moses. This is the very point of the struggle that one reads of in Acts 13:39 and 15:10. Your use of Galatians 2:21 is, once again, a failure to recognize the context. What is Paul’s point in his remark? The immediate context starts in 2:11; Paul confronted Peter with regard to Peter’s own struggle in the use of the law in relation to gentile association. Paul takes this point and develops the thought with regard to a purpose of the law (2:16-17), and how he (others) have been crucified with Christ and no longer lives under the authority of the Law of Moses. That’s the point! To miss it is to miss much. **** Since a man cannot “merit” his salvation, is there anything a man can do to “retain” his salvation? What did Paul say in Philippians 2:12? What did John say in 2 John 8? What did Peter say in 2 Peter 1:10? **** Your reference to Romans 3:21-28 is fine if one properly understands the context; what is that context? The context is a contrast between the systems of justification as revealed in the Law of Moses and the one revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul made abundantly clear, however, that the Law of Moses could not save, for it was never designed to save.