Resources On the Doctrine of Sanctification And The Third Use Of The Law

batman-sanctificationApparently, there is only one way to speak about sanctification and it is no longer sufficient to uphold and teach the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Westminster Standards (Reformed confessions) on justification, sanctification, and the third use of the law. I’m getting correspondence from my left, from genuine antinomians accusing me of moralism for advocating the third use of the law and pushback, as if I’m antinomian, from the other side because I’m not opposing oppose those whom the “orthodox” are supposed to oppose. Well, that’s not about doctrine or piety. That’s about, to borrow a phrase, “control, authority, and power.” I’m not interested in them but I am interested in trying to help the confessional Reformed communions recover what we confess, both in the narrow sense of what the churches confess in the confessions and catechisms and in the broader sense of how those documents were historically understood. We confess both a hermeneutical distinction between law and gospel and the third use of the law. It’s not a matter of either/or but both/and. This is not an exhaustive list of resources. It’s just a sampler. There’s a lot more on the HB including

2 comments

  1. Scott, (I’m mainly a lurker) and fellow posters,

    I was wanting to pick up on the law-gospel distinction that appears in the post featuring David Robertson but that is now buried under other posts, so this will do.

    The gospel law distinction is vital and no where does this distinction show up more sharply than in worship, or at least should do.

    Unfortunately most services of worship in my experience have become truncated when compared with the full diet offered by Calvin and his fellows in the company of Pastors.

    Law should precede Gospel (1st use), but law should also follow gospel (3rd use, Man’s Gratitude, LD 32f). This is a Scriptural pattern especially when we remember that much of the second portion of Paul’s letters are in fact law. This pattern also accords with Calvin’s teaching on the twofold nature of grace, the first grace being that of justification based on “this wondrous exchange” and the second grace of repentance and sanctification, a grace we grow into – through our own participation in union with Christ – all the days of our lives.

    Thus in either the Call to worship there should be law or else supplemented by a reading of the law (1st use) followed by confession (hopefully repentance, which is, ought to be a BIG element in worship) then assurance of pardon (gospel), then psalms/hymns, readings, prayers, preaching with application (law in its 3rd use), but always followed by gospel (because of the accusatory power of the law) which can be done by an appropriate hymn, benediction, short Scripture reading.

    In the circles in which I exist, much of this law gospel framework of the Bible, so essential to spiritual well being is lost and needs somehow to be rediscovered.

    Apologies for being a little off topic.

  2. I suppose I am that ‘genuine’ antinomian but I still say that you are seeing in my position what you want to see.

    An antinomian is surely someone who believes that Jesus has fulfilled AND abolished the law; that for Christians there is no more law and equally there would be no such thing as licence – the words would not apply

    My position is much more complex than you allow for. I am essentially adopting Austin’s and Horton’s idea of the performative speech-act of the Word) but you outright accuse anyone of antinomianism who even seeks to discuss the meaning or application of the third use in the Institutes, HC or WCF in ways other than yours.

    If it made you any happier, I would be happy to say that I uphold the third use of the law – provided we understand that it is not used ‘qua law’. Yes, its content is; indeed it is the Decalogue from Sinai and all the apostolic epistolary commands but they are not requirements placed on man with his jumped-up post-enlightment sense of his own capabilities. They are and have always been God’s speech-acts. In one He blocks ears and His Word condemns; in another, His Word leads to the cross.

    Man’s words are symbols, but God’s Words are acts. You might say there were not one but two commands in ‘Lazarus, come forth’ The first called into existence a Lazarus when there was no Lazarus; the second was equally a speech-act, a calling forth. Both were impossible for Lazarus in himself, as are Justification and Transformation

    Justification and Transformation are different (one is for us and the other in us) but we cannot separate them into two different works of God, with us participating in the latter. That way, even with the notion of ’empowered by God’, we so readily end up with synergism. No, both remain impossible for us in ourselves

    We know that, for Justification, we must avoid faith in faith; but for Transformation, we seem to believe it important to believe in our ability to act. Same error – we need only; indeed we must believe in our inability to act. But the Transformation still happens! Like the game of Grandmother’s footsteps. it is when we look for it that it does not happen!

    As for anyone calling you antinomian (other than as a general slur – perhaps much in the way you have used it of me and Forde – to try to bully you on board their platform), I do find that hard to believe! But, to his credit, I can see why people (wrongly) accuse Tullian of such.

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