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William B. Evans and Sean Michael Lucas have been engaged in a profitable discussion over at Reformation 21 on sanctification and the gospel. Here are their exchanges:

Rick Phillips also added a helpful and important post summarizing seven assertions about the relationship between justification and sanctification.

As I’ve mentioned before, Kevin DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian have been engaged in a longer--though less direct--discussion addressing similar issues:

I am thankful for this iron-sharpening-iron among friends done in a respectful and edifying way.

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35 thoughts on “Gospel, Grace, and Effort: Roundup”

  1. RL Keener says:

    DG Hart:

    Green Baggins:

  2. pduggie says:

    I think Evans’ last point of his last response to Lucas is kinda devastating, not to mention the rest of the response.

    WCF 19.6 says its totally ok to be motivated to obedience by law qua law, and its promises and threatenings. (law is from Christ anyway: if you love me, keep my commandments). Evans asked Lucas if he agreed with WCF 19.6, and Lucas wiffed and said “yep, 19.6 is all about how the indicatives of the gospel motivate obedience”

    It elided the distinctive point of 19.6.

    See, Horton and others argue that anytime you have promises and threats for obedience and disobedience, you have either a covenant of works or a typological covenant of works. No Christian is ever supposed to try to keep a COW: it will only end badly and lead to apostasy and roman catholicism.

    but 19.6 says its ok to obey because law says obey, and God will reward you and or punish you if you don’t.

  3. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    The majority of individuals in church strive to obey without being constantly reminded to strive. I don’t need an article of the WCF to remind me to do this.

    1. John Thomson says:


      Were the NT writers and Jesus misguided when they regularly urged gospel/Kingdom living (good works) upon the people of God?

  4. Jason D says:

    In all these discussions about justification not one of these men even once cited James 2:24, “people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone.” Luther is grinning ear to ear in his grave.

    1. Bill says:


      You can’t just pick the sentence in James 2:24 and leave it at that. That verse marking wasn’t there when James wrote the letter. You need to read the whole paragraph (and the whole letter).

      Reading James 2:14-26, you get the opposite sense that you’re trying to convey with James 2:24. “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Even James is saying that faith comes first, then works. But faith without works is dead. This also does not imply that works without faith is anything.

      Just before the James 2:24 you like to quote comes James argument for the justification of Abraham:
      Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. (James 2:21-23 ESV)

      Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. That comes first (not in the text, but in the justification). His faith was active along with his works, and indeed his faith was completed by his works. James is arguing that Abraham’s faith was true because his works proved it to be true. You cannot separate the two, but works indeed flows from faith, and faith is was God counts as righteousness.

      1. Jason D says:

        Hi Bill,

        I’m not saying James 2:24 should just be “left at that.” I’m simply noting that this very straightforward and foundational passage is never even mentioned. Not even once! It might as well not even exist. This is due in no small part to Luther’s influence. The man believed in “faith alone” so much that he decided James wasn’t even Scripture. Talk about trying to re-write Christianity! (He went on to call for the ethnic cleansing and even murder of the Jews, by the way, which I believe to be no small coincidence)

        I’m not going to sit here and argue about what came first in his justification, Abraham’s faith or his works. The whole point of this passage is that you can’t separate them. Believe it or not. The truth is that works do justify us. Works of the law do not, but works of love do. This is especially evident by the fact that James cites good works that weren’t specifically listed in Moses’ law (James 2:21 and 2:25) when he says works justify us. Paul taught a mixed Jewish audience that what didn’t justify were works of “the law” of Moses, always listing works specifically from that law (such as circumcision).

        If works justify us, and James plainly says they do, then we should be preaching that truth. All of these people that are being taught, in practice, that James 2:24 might as well not exist are going to find out the hard way that it does I’m afraid… as I’m sure Luther did. The passage is there for a very good reason, and these men treat it exactly like Luther wanted them to: as if it doesn’t exist.

        1. Mitchell Hammonds says:

          So God has given you the ability to know who goes to hell and who doesn’t? Have you performed enough “works of Love” in order to justify yourself?

          I continue to read posts from others just like you on the GC who seem to have reached the pinnacle of the Christian life. No shortcomings in your life… or maybe only small acceptable sins… right? But still after all… you float when you enter a room.

          Comments like yours are more novelty than anything to take serious. Get a hobby that doesn’t involve judging the rest of Christianity. Life is a lot better that way.

          1. Jason D says:


            Thanks for taking the time to ask. I’ll answer your questions in the same order you asked them.

            1) No, God has not given me that ability to know the eternal state of any person, and I have never claimed to be able to. I’m sorry if what I meant by “the hard way” was unclear.

            2) As Paul said:
            “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and all people,” and, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people’s hearts. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
            I feel similarly. However, I have not always.

            To say I can justify myself by works simply because I believe James 2:24 is like saying you can save yourself through faith because you believe Romans 4. First Corinthians 6:11 says we are both sanctified and justified, ultimately, “by the Spirit of our God.” “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

            3) Wrong. I have many shortcomings. However, I strive to not sin intentionally. (Hebrews 10:26)

            I don’t believe I’m judging you. Sorry if I came across poorly. If speaking our beliefs to one another is “judging,” then I suppose we’re judging one another. Even still, I don’t see how I am judging you any more than you’re judging me.

            1. John Thomson says:


              You didn’t come across badly. I’m afraid Mitchell sometimes reads into what people actually say, what they don’t say.

  5. Dan says:

    Justin – This is a great summary of links having discovered these discussions last night. Thank you for posting this.

    One thing however, on the TGC links, they yielded “not found” results. Remove the “/justintaylor/2011/08/” from each link as far as I can tell, and all links should take you to the KD/TT blogs. Hopefully an easy fix!

    1. Jason D says:

      I wonder how he would explain his words, “In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful,” in light of the Apostle James’ words (“we are justified by what we do, not by faith alone”). I feel like it would be more clear to say, “In justification our own works of the law of Moses have no place at all,” since I understand that to be what Paul taught (Acts 13:39 makes it especially clear).

      What also concerns me is this line: “The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit.” In a sense, I think it is better to say we have no righteousness of our own at all. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3) Then again, there is a sense in which both justification and sanctification are “ours” (since they are gifts to us from God, as First Corinthians 6:11 says). However, the other side of that coin is the sense in which both are God’s (since they ultimately derive from His grace. Ryle ultimately does admit sanctification is from the God, but the wording just struck me as odd especially with the contrast to justification. It is almost like he is saying we earn our sanctification but our justification. I would rather say we earn nothing from God, and we work out both our sanctification and our justification by His grace alone.

      Also, I don’t see agree how justification can said to be stagnant (while sanctification is progressive) in light of James 2:24. It would seem to follow James’ teachings that justification is not a once-for-all, instantaneous pronouncement guaranteeing eternal salvation. Rather, justification is a living, dynamic, day-to-day reality for the one who follows Christ.

  6. Tom says:

    I would love to hear John Frame’s perspectival approach to this issue. Anyone know of anything written there?

  7. Here is an essay which Frame wrote on the relationship between law and gospel.

  8. Daniel F. Wells says:

    I don’t have Frame’s ‘Doctrine of the Christian Life’ in front of me, but there he speaks briefly about the Sonship controversy. Frame says that he agrees with with Sonship affirmed (that our justification and adoption are motivations for sanctification) but he disagrees with what is denied (the positive role of the law in aiding our sanctification).

    Thus, Frame would say that the Bible gives us various motivations or reasons for obeying God, and we should affirm all of them. He believes in the 3rd use of the law and the so-called ‘spirituality of the law.’

  9. mark mcculley says:

    Justification is not because of faith or works. Justification is because of Christ’s righteousness obtained and imputed. John Murray not only taught that Christ died only for the elect, but also taught that “faith alone” for nine reasons could not be the righteousness imputed. You can look at these reasons in his commentary on Romans.

    Romans 4:24-25 “IT will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised up for our justification.”

    1. Christ and His death are the IT. Faith is not the IT. Christ and His death are the object of faith. But Christ and His death are the IT credited by God.

    2. We can distinguish but never separate His person and work. Also we can distinguish but never separate his death and his resurrection.

    3. God counts according to truth. God counts righteousness as righteousness! a. The righteousness counted as righteousness is not our righteousness (not our works of faith) but legally “transferred” to us when God legally marries us to Christ, so that what is His is still His but now ours also. b. Justification is what legally happens when God imputes the righteousness to the elect.

    4. Imputation means two different things. One, the transfer, the legal sharing of what belongs to another. Two, the declaration. God Himself is justified, declared to be just. God is counted as just because God is just. No transfer is required for that, but transfer is required when God justifies the ungodly, so that God is just and judges according to truth.

  10. Bruce Russell says:


    Isn’t the justification mentioned in Romans 4:25 a redemptive historical reality? Christ’s death and resurrection secure for Him and His the title to salvation blessings. The resurrection then propels us toward the eternal reward given to those who render the “obedience of faith”.



  11. mark mcculley says:

    Bruce, I am not sure if I understand your question, but I am enough adventist to remind you that, while Christ is the first-fruits (R/H reality),there remains a “not yet” resurrection to come for those who have already been justified.

    But if by “obedience of faith”, you mean that passive resting trusting assent and submission to Christ’s righteousness being the end of the law for as many as believe the gospel, well yes, God Himself will be the reward to the elect for whom Christ has finished doing and dying.

    I Peter 1:11 tells us of the Spirit’s prediction of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” I Peter 3:21 speaks of an “appeal for a good conscience, through the resurrection.”

    The gospel is not Christ’s death without the resurrection, or Christ’s resurrection without His death. The good news about one is good news about the other. The Lutheran Gerhard Forde made this same point in his excellent book On Being a Theologian of the Cross. Calvin also writes: “When in scripture death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection.” (Institutes 2:16:13)

    1. Bruce Russell says:


      Imagine Romans 5:1 is translated as follows…

      “Therefore, since we have been justified FROM faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

      Christ’s faithfulness to the Old Covenant inaugurates the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was doomed from the beginning, until fulfilled by Jesus. The Old Covenant is a re-enactment of Adam’s sin. The New Covenant explodes on the seen through this “Already” death and resurrection. Our “obedience of faith” is rendered in confident hope by the power of the age to come.

      Are we on the same page?


  12. mark mcculley says:

    On second thought, perhaps you wanted me to comment more on
    Romans 4:25???? Raised because of our justification or raised in order to and for the purpose of our justification?

    Quickly,briefly, I do not come to this discussion as an advocate of eternal justification or of justification at the cross. I do not identify the obtaining of reconciliation with the receiving of reconciliation. I do not identify atonement and justification.
    Justification is more like the imputation of the sin of Adam than it about the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ at the cross.

    Of course there are those that would argue that “Jesus’ resurrection is not a result of our justification because our sin was not a result of His death”. But, since Christ’s death is a result of the sins of the elect, one parallel would be to say that His resurrection is a result of the justification of the elect, even if that is a justification later than the cross itself.

    But I myself have no great problem with a non-parallel reading of Romans 4:25(see Seifrid, Christ our Righteousness, or Vickers , Imputation of Blood and Righteousness) that says that the resurrection was for the purpose of the justification.

  13. John Thomson says:


    I’d be interested to see some biblical texts that show:

    1. ‘Christ’s faithfulness to the Old Covenant inaugurates the New Covenant’

    2.’The Old Covenant was doomed from the beginning, until fulfilled by Jesus’

    3. ‘The Old Covenant is a re-enactment of Adam’s sin’

  14. mark mcculley says:

    Bruce, it doesn’t sound like we are on the same page. The elect were justified by Christ’s righteousness, even during the time of the old covenant. In Galatians 3, when Paul is writing about “before faith came, the law was our cop”, he was not only revealing a change in covenants and in redemptive history. In these same verses, Paul is concerned with individuals being justified by Christ being made a curse. Paul is concerned about individuals being baptized by God into Christ

    Even though I don’t think it’s right to ignore the difference between the old and new covenants (thus only stressing that now people can do the law and want to), the solution here is not only to see that the old covenant law is not the same as the new covenant law. The solution is to remind us that, even during the time of the new covenant, there are many non-elect folks for whom Christ never died.

    The Galatians were tempted to add their works to Christ’s righteousness (the only proper object of “hearing”). This temptation does not come from true faith which fears God, but comes from the fear which does not trust the cross to be enough to justify. But if Jesus died for everybody, and not everybody is justified, then the cross is not enough to justify.

    To summarise what cannot be said in this brief of space: what we think about the effectiveness of the atonement will be informed by what we think about law and gospel. If you can’t go by train (because the train doesn’t go there), you have to go by car, and you can’t go by train and by car at the same time. If the only kind of atonement revealed in the Bible is definite and effectual (for the sheep, and not for those who will not believe, John 10), then there is no atonement revealed in the Bible for everybody.

    I have no interest in being rude or offensive, but when it comes to the thing that really matters, the cross, then I want to follow the rule of Galatians 6. Old covenant or new covenant, we need to boast (glory) in the cross alone.

  15. Andrew says:

    Jason D,

    The Reformed theological tradition unlike some strands of Lutheranism happily embraces the book of James!!!

    However it understands Paul to speak in legal categories when speaking of justification and James to be speaking in existential categories.

    Let me explain. When Paul addresses justification he is speaking of the great problem of how we can stand before a holy and perfectly just God who will punish lawbreakers and reward those who have obeyed the law. Why is that a problem…because no one has obeyed the law perfectly since Adam…except Christ. No one therefore will be declared righteous (read justified) by keeping the law Paul tells us. But now a righteousness apart from the law has been made known a righteousness that is by faith in Christ.

    I know John won’t agree with this but Reformed theology understands Christ to have kept the law perfectly for us as the second Adam and suffered the punishment due for our sins. He is the new representative of all who trust in him. When we trust in Christ his righteousness as our representative is credited to us and we recieve a postive legal standing and so are declared righteous or justified. It doesn’t change because Christ’s righteousness never changes. We never stand before God to either be condemned or accepted by any other righteousness then that of Christ’s.

    When James talks about justification he is speaking in existential categories. Mitchell and others cannot comprehend how the bible can say that we are justified apart from works and yet we gain assurance that we have the true faith by which we are justified by good works. Read first John. Good works are not the cause of our justification…good works demonstrate our justification because they demonstrate we have true faith not dead faith as James says. Read 1st John and he will say over and over, “this is how we know” and then talk about obedience.

    So our assurance comes from the objective promises of God that those who look to Christ will be justified apart from their works.

    Assurance comes from walking in the obedience of faith and is one inward grace that gives us justification to believe we have saving faith.

    And assurance comes throught the testimony of the Holy Spirit that we are children of God.

    I usually don’t like to agree with Mitchell (sorry Mitchell) but I think you really need to be sure that you are not trusting in your own works to be righteous befor God and acceptable.

    Helpful link…

    1. Mitchell Hammonds says:

      Sorry we had to agree.

      I wouldn’t say that I disagree with what you say about works. My issue is the incessant need that some give about them. In doing so the Gospel’s “Good News” is smothered and has become about what “we” can do. I have grown up Southern Baptist so trust me… I get the idea of assurance from works; the Souther Baptist service is not much more than VBS for grownups. I have works… as a husband… father… son… friend… firefighter etc. By my new nature God is inherently in everything I do as pertains to obedience; love… patience… kindness… you know the list. But these are not things I practice in a way for me to find any comfort in them; that comfort is found in God’s promises alone. It’s funny that knowing this doesn’t make me want to rush out and commit all sorts of sinful acts… though I’m sure I take care of that without thinking too much.

      It boils down to sitting in church and hearing Sunday after Sunday, blog after blog, about how we should be obedient… and I’m saying “We are obedient.” Imperfectly. If it is imperfect obedience it’s ludicrous to think you can measure it in a way that insinuates “I’m a good little Christian and your not because you don’t seem to have as much obedience as me.” And this is how much of this “rambling on” sounds.
      So I’m not against works/obedience… just the way some present them, as if they’re the goal.

    2. Jason D says:


      Thank you for the explanation and the link to Gidley’s writings. Regarding those writings, they say, “In Romans 4, Paul addresses the question, How was Abraham justified? In this question, ‘justified’ means “reckoned righteous before God,” and Paul’s answer is: by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, received by faith alone.” However, that is not truly Paul’s answer. Paul never once says justification is by “faith alone” in Scriptures. The phrase “faith alone” only occurs once in Scripture, and it is in James 2:24. Paul’s answer, rather, was that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. Faith apart from the works of the law is not necessarily “faith alone” because it can be joined with works that are not of the law. Indeed it must be joined with works for a person to be justified according to James.

      Gidley continues, “[In James] justified means ‘judged to have made a valid claim,’ and James’s answer is: by producing good works.” The problem with that definition for James’ justification is that 2:24 ends up meaning, “We are judged to have made a valid claim to have faith by works, and not by faith alone.” But who even believed that “by faith alone we are judged to have made a valid claim of faith”? No one. In fact, that doesn’t even make sense. No, James’ justification actually means the same thing as Paul’s.

  16. Paul B says:

    Thanks for the roundup! The link to De Young’s “Gospel-Driven Effort” post is slightly broken. I think it has an extra forward slash that causes it to give a database connection error when followed.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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