Phil Ryken on the doctrine of justification

JP: Phil Ryken on the doctrine of justification

Acceptable to God Through Keeping the Law?

“When it comes to being accepted by God, observing the law is completely ruled out. Here Paul makes an absolute distinction between salvation by works of the law and salvation by faith in Christ. Law-keeping cannot justify anyone.

Not that there is anything wrong with the law itself, which comes from the righteous character of God. As Paul said to the Romans, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12) The problem with the law is our lawlessness! The reason we cannot be justified by the law is that we cannot keep it. Even if we could keep God’s commandments outwardly, we break them inwardly. “No human deeds, however well motivated and sincerely performed, can ever achieve the kind of standing before God that results in the verdict of justification.”

…we are acceptable to God – not by keeping the law ourselves, but by trusting in the only man who ever did keep it, Jesus Christ. The doctrine of justification can be stated in these general terms: we get right with God not by observing the law, but only by trusting in his Son…

This principle, that justification cannot come by works, is what distinguishes Christianity from other religions. Other religions try to achieve ultimate bliss by scaling God’s throne through human effort, but the Bible says we cannot get to God this way. In fact, Martin Luther explained that if we try to merit grace by our works, we are simply “trying to placate God with sins.” Luther meant that even our best works are tainted by evil motives. Paul had learned this universal principle from the Old Testament, for he is virtually quoting one of the psalms of David: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). Or, as Paul translates it, “By works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Total depravity extends to all humanity.

Becoming a Christian, therefore, means admitting that you cannot be saved by the good things that you do. The Galations were tempted to gain favor with God by getting circumcised. This is no longer a temptation for most Christians, but many other things are. Going to church, reading the Bible, taking communion, giving to charity – these things will never get us into heaven. Not even becoming a martyr for the cause of Christ will qualify.

There is no way to be made right with God except through faith in Christ. In Luther’s words, “Now the true meaning of Christianity is this: that a man first acknowledge, through the Law, that he is a sinner, for whom it is impossible to perform any good work…. If you want to be saved, your salvation does not come by works; but God has sent His only Son into the world that we might live through Him. He was crucified and died for you and bore your sins in His own body.”


The Law’s Relationship to sanctification

A Widow and a Bride

Romans 7:1-6 illustrated
Click above for larger image

Notes for this week’s study are available here.

About the image: Illustrates Romans 7:2-3, “if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. … if … she marries another man … she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man”. A widow may remarry. Although the text is not primarily about widows remarrying, Paul uses this illustration.

Left side of image (the Widow) is from a Civil War reenactment site: here. Right side of the image (the Bride) is from a vintage (’50s) sewing patterns site: here.

A Spelling Bee word for our times!

Laodicean - Spelling Bee

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)

JP: See my comments below:

In the news: ‘Laodicean’ launches Kansas teen to spelling bee victory


Thirteen-year-old Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, spelled “laodicean,” Thursday night to take top honors in the 82nd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The eighth-grader won $40,000 in cash and prizes for nailing the final word. Pronounced lay-odd-uh-see-an, the word means lukewarm or indifferent, particularly in matters of politics or religion.

This year’s bee — an event that has skyrocketed in popularity, thanks to exposure on television and in movies — started on Tuesday in Washington with a record 293 spellers.

The competition went 15 rounds. Spellers ranged from 9 to 15 years old. According to the contest’s Web site, 117 of the spellers speak languages other than English, and English was not the first language of 33 of the spellers.

The first National Spelling Bee was in 1925 and featured nine contestants.

In an event that has seen contestants visibly crack under the strain of the national spotlight in past years, Shivashankar — competing in her fourth national finals — appeared composed throughout.

As she spelled words that included “phoresy,” “hydrargyrum” and “huisache,” she calmly went through the routine of asking each word’s pronunciations, origin and roots before ticking them off for the judges.

Dictionary: Laodicean


  • I neither know what these words mean, nor could I spell them: “phoresy,” “hydrargyrum”, “huisache”, and “Maecenas”
  • I know “Laodicean” and know I could spell it. I’ve never heard it used outside of Christian circles. Examples: “He’s Laodicean about health care reform”. If I tried this at work – “He’s Laodicean about Linux” – I would get laughed out of the office!
  • Each of us should be able to use ‘Laodicean’ in a sentence. Example: “I will not be Laodicean about faithfulness to my local church!”
  • I’m not sure about the process about how words are chosen for the National Spelling Bee, but “Laodicean” seems to be a word that is appropriate for our times! As in “Don’t be Laodicean about living for Christ!”

The blessing of unanswered prayer

JP: A good article on prayer by Jean Williams.

The blessing of unanswered prayer


In his mercy, God doesn’t say “yes” to my petulant, childish demands. Like a loving parent, he says “no”. When I respond with whining self-pity, like a spoiled child declaring, “It’s not fair!”, my wise Father doesn’t give in. He gives me what is truly good—what makes me more like Jesus, what furthers his kingdom, and what brings glory to his Son—rather than what looks and feels good to me at the time.

God sees things from a very different perspective to me. He sees things from the perspective of inconceivable wisdom, infinite goodness and immeasurable love. He sees things from the perspective of his glory. And perhaps, just perhaps, as he leaves my petty prayers unanswered, he nudges me towards bigger prayers—prayers not just for my comfort and my family’s happiness, but for our persecuted brothers and sisters, the millions who haven’t heard the gospel, and the coming of his kingdom.

Praise God for the blessing of unanswered prayer.

Comment: Image from Psychology Today

Contentment in a Consumer Culture


JP: John MacArthur on consumerism and contentment

John MacArthur: Contentment in a Consumer Culture


… another secret to contentment from Paul’s life [is]: “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity” (Phil. 4:11–12).

He appreciated the revived generosity of the Philippian church, but wanted them to know he hadn’t been coveting it. He kept his wants or desires in check, not confusing them with his needs.

“Not that I speak from want” is another way of saying, “I really don’t have any needs that aren’t being met.” Our needs as human beings are simple: food, clothing, shelter, and godliness with contentment. Scripture says to be content with the bare necessities of life.

That attitude is in marked contrast to the attitude of our culture. People today aren’t content—with little or much. My theory is that the more people have, the more discontent they’re apt to be. Typically, the most unhappy people you’ll ever meet are very wealthy. They seem to believe their needs can never be met. Unlike Paul, they assume their wants are needs. They’ve followed our materialistic culture’s lead in redefining human needs.

You’ll never come across a commercial or ad that tells you to eat food, drink water, or go to sleep. Mass media advertises items that are far more optional and discretionary, but you’d never know it from the sales pitch. The appeal isn’t, “Wouldn’t you like to have this?” but “You need this!” If you expose yourself to such appeals without thinking, you’ll find yourself needing things you don’t even want! The goal of this kind of advertising is to produce discontentment and make a sale.

“dog tags”, Metro Women’s Center, & Ice Cream

JP: Service opportunity for Metro Women’s Center.

  • What: Earn $ 750. for the Metro Women’s Center Amazing Grace Home
  • When: Friday, June 5th @ 7:00 p.m.
  • Location:
  • How: Put rubber “silencers” on metal dog tags
  • Steps:
    1. Take metal dog tag
    2. Put rubber grommet (called a “silencer”) on the dog tag
    3. Chain goes through the hole in the dog tag
    4. 50 tags with silencers go into a plastic bag
    5. Bags go into a box
    6. Completed
  • The estimate is that 10 people can do this work in 1 hour. That’s $ 75 per hour for a good cause
  • Afterward … ice cream and fellowship (Cold Stone in Plymouth)

From Lindsay Tuttle: Let’s get together at Millennium Gardens in Plymouth (behind Plymouth Creek Center) on Friday, June 5th @ 7:00 p.m. to do a box of dogtags. Proceeds benefit Metro Women’s Center. If we have 10 people, it shouldn’t take more than an hour. Then we can go have ice cream! Reply to Lindsay [ltuttle[AT]fourthbaptist[DOT]org] if you can help.

Take your medicine and put your trust in God

JP: Albert Mohler addresses the case of Daniel Hauser of New Ulm that has been in the news:

First the news items:

CNN: Hearing Tuesday for 13-year-old cancer patient

Boston Globe: Court orders Minn. parents to treat son’s cancer

Star Tribune: Daniel Hauser faces custody hearing today


NEW ULM, MINN. — Colleen and Daniel Hauser, who ended a dramatic weeklong manhunt Monday, were back at home this morning and facing a court hearing this afternoon to clarify Daniel’s custody and the next steps in his medical care for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Hausers returned home to Minnesota on a predawn charter flight after turning themselves in to authorities with the assistance of a lawyer in Southern California. Early reports said that Daniel, 13, was turned over to the custody of Brown County child protection workers.

But he was seen by reporters late this morning riding a four-wheeler with his mother on the family’s farm in rural Sleepy Eye, heading across the road to their dairy farm.

Calvin Johnson, an attorney for the teen’s parents, said Daniel was in the company of Brown County child protection workers and, later in the day, was having his cancer evaluated at a Twin Cities hospital. Daniel’s parents were with him, Johnson said, and the boy was expected to return to the family home Monday night.

A court hearing is expected to begin between 2 and 2:30 p.m. today in New Ulm to clarify Daniel’s custody arrangement and determine the next steps in his medical care. Brown County Attorney James Olson said he doesn’t expect to charge Colleen Hauser and said arrest warrants have been quashed because she voluntarily returned. The county attorney said the judge will want to know where the parents stand on chemotherapy treatment, which could influence his own course of legal action.

Albert Mohler’s commentary and Christian perspective: When Medicine and Faith Collide — What About the Child?


… there is a strong moral consensus in this country that children deserve medical care and that the state has the obligation to intervene in such cases. This consensus includes both political liberals and conservatives and includes the vast majority of Americans regardless of religious conviction. Though there are important legal issues at stake, a broad consensus exists on this narrowly-defined question. In cases like those recounted above, there is no outcry against state intervention from Christian conservatives or from secular liberals.

The 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision Prince v. Massachusetts set parameters that continue today. In that case, the Court acknowledged the rights of parents as fundamental. In an important statement the court expressed this right: “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. Pierce v. Society of Sisters, supra. And it is in recognition of this that these decisions have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.”

But the Court also found that there were issues of the welfare of a child that could draw state authorities into this “private realm.” Specifically, “The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”

As a parent, I respect this point. I cannot imagine denying my child any needed medical treatment or defending the right of others to do the same, whether claiming religious liberty or parental freedom for the care and nurture of the child.

I would defend the duty of the state to intervene in these cases, and I am thankful for the broad consensus that stands behind this duty.

I am not without concerns. Given the power of government and the reach of the state into almost all areas of life, the danger exists that the state could seek to expand this duty into other decisions related to education, discipline, and nurture — the very issues acknowledged by the Court in Prince v. Massachusetts to “reside first in the parents.” Yet, vigilance on those questions is the price that must be paid, lest more children be added to the list of those who die or are endangered by parents who claim a religious right to deny their child urgently needed medical treatment. As adults, parents have the right to refuse medical treatment for themselves. They do not have the right to refuse urgently needed medical treatments for their children.

As a Christian theologian, my concern is also directed to those who oppose medical treatment on what are claimed as biblical grounds. The Bible never commands any refusal of legitimate medical treatment. I am unspeakably thankful for modern medicine, for antibiotics and anesthesia and chemotherapy and dialysis and diagnostics. The list goes on and on. There is no Christian prohibition against legitimate medical treatment. I believe that God heals, that we should pray for healing in Christ’s name, and that our lives are in God’s hands. I believe that all healing comes ultimately from God, but that He has given us the blessings of medicine for the alleviation of much suffering and the treatment of disease. There is no conflict here.

There are serious issues of medical ethics in the case of some treatments, even as there are excruciating dilemmas that confront physicians, patients, and parents. Those must be acknowledged, but they are not the issues at stake in these cases.

In these cases I advise what the great Reformer Martin Luther advised — take your medicine and put your trust in God. For parents, this means to give your child the best care that modern medicine can offer, and to entrust your precious child to God and to God alone.