Vol.XII No.IX Pg.2
November 1975

"Either-Or" Camps

Robert F. Turner

The Augustine-Pelagius controversy of the fifth century crystallized two extremes: man is free to accept or reject God, or is bound by depravity. Then Calvinism (1536) so specialized grace as to make it the opposite of obedience. Today we hear that any necessity for obedience on mans part is a rejection of salvation by grace. We should not allow ourselves to be pushed into these either-or camps. When Paul wrote to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt (Rom. 4:4), the context refers this to seeking justification by perfect work (i.e., no sin; 3:20-f, Gal. 3:10-12) and does not negate our role in coming, and being faithful to Christ.

But sometimes the language we use in trying to teach truth lends itself to either the grace camp, or to the works or law camp. A recent religious paper carried such an article. The writer affirmed what is basic to the just nature of God —- that God does not require something man is unable to do. But he did not make a proper distinction in justification by law (a perfectness that needs no forgiveness), and justification through our faith (in Him who died for us, making forgiveness possible). In fact, he said Nathaneal, Job, Abel, Enoch, and Abraham kept the law. In context of the grace-law controversy this says they didnt need the blood of Christ; but I know the writer too well to believe he meant that. I can only conclude that he was extremely careless in his choice of words. In his zeal to combat errors on grace he has provided those so inclined with ample ammunition for a come-back.

The law was holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12), but was weak through the flesh (8:3); i.e., mans weakness makes a system that depends upon law alone, a curse unto him. If he fails to keep it perfectly, justice demands his condemnation. Take forgiveness out of the new covenant (make it just another law) and we are still under a curse. But Christ did more than give new laws. He died in our stead.

1 Jn. 1: is written to saints who are imperfect. If we confess (v.9) is present, active, subjunctive: If we keep on confessing. The cleansing also continues, and certainly is not limited to that which took place at our baptism. Sin is not excused, condoned, or encouraged in these verses; but its continued presence is affirmed. Hence, our continued need for an Advocate who ever liveth to make intercession (Heb. 7:25). We are made righteous, in Christ, by forgiveness.

Surely we can combat grace only without embracing law only.