09 February 2010

Spiritual transformation: half a thought on Colossians 3:12-14

by Dan Phillips

This is a maybe-slightly-more-than-half-formed thought based on Colossians 3:12-14. You may want to hang on to your receipt, in case it's not fully-baked enough for you.

The pastor of the church we attend is doing a (to me) whirlwind series on Colossians — I say "whirlwind" because I really love Colossians, and when I preached it I'd sometimes just take a verse, or a phrase, and camp out on it. Families started, kids went off to college, married, raised children of their own; empires rose and fell...

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate.

At any rate, I openly doff my hat to a man with a more disciplined mind.

The pastor's opening illustration was very effective. He told of a drunkard who was adopted by a group, for a convention of (I think) barbers and the like. These men gave the drunk a haircut, a shave, a manicure, a change of wardrobe — it was a major makeover. He was displayed to the group as a rousing success, an amazing transformation.

A few days pass, and here's the same man, the grand sartorial success story. But in what condition? Very different... and yet not different. He's back in the gutter, drunk, of course.

Changing the outside does not change the inside.

At this point I depart somewhat from Pastor Finch's sermon to pursue my own thoughts with you. First, here's the translation I made when I preached through Colossians:
Put on, therefore, as people selected by God, holy and abidingly loved, compassionate affections, kindness, humble-mindedness, gentleness, long-suffering, 13bearing with one another and freely forgiving one another if one should have a complaint against someone; just as also the Lord freely forgave you, thus also you should do. 14And on top of all these things put on love, which is the unifying bond that leads to maturity. (DPUV)
Point of departure: Pastor Finch's illustration was absolutely right: you can't change a heart by changing clothes. What is interesting, though, and what got me thinking, is that the word translated "Put on" in v. 12 is Ἐνδύσασθε (endusasthe) — which means to put on clothes!

I started musing. Odd, isn't it, that Paul spoke of spiritual transformation, using a word that seemingly suggests the very thing Pastor Finch had just negated in his introduction. The good pastor said putting on clothes won't change a man... and here Paul uses a word meaning to put on clothes.

Was the pastor wrong? Do we transform ourselves from the outside in?

But no, of course Pastor Finch was exactly right. For one thing, Paul's language is clearly metaphorical. You may have noticed over the years that I am no fan of the NIV (nor of the NET), but both hit the idea very well with their "clothe yourselves with." We could equally render it "wear," or "dress yourselves with." But what follows is not a list of accessories, but a catalog of Christian graces. So Paul was not speaking of putting on clothes.

But was the apostle speaking of taking something that isn't ours, though we're Christians, and putting it on from the outside so that we can be transformed on the inside?

The major interpretive key here, I think, is in verse 12 — "as people selected by God, holy and abidingly loved." There is the font of the transformation: election by sovereign grace, whence springs our effectual call, our regeneration, our conversion. That is where I am really changed, when God by sheer grace brings life from death, light from darkness, a child from an enemy (Ephesians 2:1ff; Colossians 1:13; 2:11-14; 3:1, 3; etc.).

But then what is the point of Paul telling me to "put on" these virtues, these graces, these little fragrant whiffs of the character of Christ? Are they mine by regeneration, or not? If mine, why "put them on"? They're already there. If not mine, how can I make them mine?

Hm, this is already longish. Let's take this back up Thursday, Lord willing.

UPDATE: next post.

Dan Phillips's signature


Robert said...

I think this is one area where we should all feel challenged. Paul is saying since we are Christians, that we need to be progressively sancitifed (set apart). Take off the worldly and start putting on the eternal. When God changes our hearts, this should be a natural response...the thing is, we are still in this world and have to battle against all of the ideas that Satan is throwing at us out there. We have to battle against the powers and principalities and they are going to be relentless in trying to make us pursue fleshly desires.

So we need to renew our minds by reading Scripture and then apply what we read by putting on Christ (and the fruits of the Spirit) and taking off the fleshly desires/characteristics. Sancitification is a lifelong process and we need to keep these words of Paul in mind as we go out into the world every day.

Sorry...wasn't trying to push forward, but you just got me thinking about my Christian life and what I need to be focused on. I hope that you are all as encouraged as I am just reflecting upon Scripture and knowing that God has changed my heart and provided a means to take off my old fleshly desires and attitudes and put on Christ. Thank you, God...and please forgive me, a horrible sinner.

Tim said...

When Paul said we should wear these things like clothes, here's how the word picture struck me: just as one's clothing is one of the first things other people notice when they see you, so should these qualities be so apparent in you that others cannot fail to notice them.

David Regier said...

It seems to me he's saying, "These clothes are yours. Put them on. God gave them to you."

James Scott Bell said...

That's a great illustration (the drunk's clothes). Its lesson is fundamental: one cannot do outward acts and expect that will clean up the inside. I note the "clothes" language also used in Gal. 3:27. Here there is one outward act, baptism, with the result, being clothed with Christ (cf. Rom. 6:4).

DJP said...

Oh, thanks, David! Now there's no point in writing the other post.

OTOH... Friday off....

Woo hoo!

Mike Barlotta said...

Phil - thanks for the half a thought and looking forward to the other half. See you on Thursday.

I agree with Robert and David. Asa believer we have a closet full of outfits - some are fashions of the flesh while others are spiritual styles. I get to choose which one I "take off/put on". This represents the fight that we have daily as we war with our fallen nature to be more like Christ. Paul did tell Timothy that godliness was hard work but worth it.

DJP said...

Yeah, Phil's a great writer. I love his stuff.

greglong said...

Yes, an interesting word choice by Paul. The word is used of the literal act of being clothed or putting on clothing in Luke 16:19; Acts 12:21; Matthew 27:31.

Note that Paul uses the same word in v. 10, where he tells us that we already have (aorist) put off the old self (v. 9) and put on the new self.

As many others have explained, there is a kind of already/not yet aspect to sanctification. You've already put on the new self (not that you did it, of course, but God did it for you), but you need to put it on daily. You've already been clothed in righteousness at salvation, but you need to clothe yourself daily with righteous deeds. In other words, you need to "walk worthy of the calling to which you've been called" (Eph. 4:1).

I think the "put off/put on" picture (see also Eph. 4:17-32) is helpful because it clarifies the fact that we need to RENEW our minds (change our mind about our sinful behavior), REMOVE sinful behavior (take it off, kill it, mortify it, throw it away, etc.), and REPLACE sinful behavior with godly conduct.

When I preached on Eph. 4, I arranged for a young man to come up on to the platform. Before the service I had given him one of my old white shirts to put on. When he came up I made him stand on a towel and I squirted chocolate syrup on his (my) shirt.

He had to RENEW his mind by deciding that his shirt was dirty and needed to be changed, REMOVE his dirty shirt (he had an undershirt on underneath, of course), and REPLACE the dirty shirt with a clean one.

Strong Tower said...

I think 'putting on' is the right interpretation. We are encouraged to 'dress up' the Gospel. We, all of us, wear masks, and even more so in Church than in anyother venue in life.

Both regeneration and sanctification are of the Lord. However, we are commanded everywhere to perfection, 'be holy as I am holy' but are unable in ourselves to accomplish it. So we fake it.

But hypocrisy is not the point. Children dress up because emulating their parents, or heros, expresses an inward desire to be like that ideal they love. It goes beyond that though. To be a concert violinist takes practice, so also do those graces which accompany the character that is in the likeness of Christ.

Christ himself 'grew in wisdom and favor'. He was not some non-child- like kid who didn't need to learn his lessons.

The fact is we have rules in church. Rules that no one knows until they enter the front door. That is not just a truth in church, but in society, in the family, in work-place. We learn, we socialize. Unfortunately, we also spiritualize the simplicity with which we are being transformed by making it some gnosis instead of the normal means of instruction, practice, and mastery.

Weeks said...

I find that when I want to kill a habit, it never works to focus on the mental, or attitude, part of things to the exclusion of all else. when I need to change a long-standing habit, the one thing that works for me is simply to DO it, to start putting sticky notes all over the place, carry reminders with me at all times, to fix my mind on the desired behavior and let attitude follow actions. I've put to death a number of habitual sins this way, by carry a Bible on me at all times for ready reference, by changing the music I listen to, turning my commutes into prayer sessions, etc. For me, it seems like my actual actions have a great effect on my attitude and the resulting desires of my heart.

In Romans 8:1-11, I think Paul is describing this sort of thing exactly.

I dunno. That's this layperson's $0.02. Worth every penny of what you pay for it. ;)

olan strickland said...

On March 11, 1830, a ten-year-old girl in England began her daily studies with her tutor. Her lesson for the day was the succession to the royal throne; as she studied the geneological charts, she discovered for the first time that she was the next heir to that throne!

Victoria's belief influenced her behavior!

David Regier said...

This gets to the heart of the whole "imputed" thing.

God's clear command is for us to walk in our imputed righteousness. Daily I ask myself, "But if I've got the righteousness of Christ imputed to me, how does it matter what I do?" And the Scriptures (given to us for, uh, "training in righteousness"} say "therefore. . . walk."

Erik Hoffman said...

DPUV - Dan Phillips Unabridged Version? Where can I buy a copy? ;)

David said, "These clothes are yours. Put them on. God gave them to you."

I agree that this is the gist of what the passage is saying. This would, however, suggest a flip-side to the equation, wouldn't it? He is already talking to the elect. So the clothes are in the wardrobe, waiting to be donned. They are in our arsenal, if you will, ready to be deployed. Can an elect, regenerate person, then, be naked? Can an elect, regenerate person walk through this life without ever wearing the clothes that his master has given him to wear?

This trends into the realm of the so-called “carnal Christian,” doesn't it? I would offer that if we do not see any of these garments in our lives, that it may be time to heed the admonition of Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Is that too harsh?

Terry Rayburn said...

"Yeah, Phil's a great writer. I love his stuff."

Spitting coffee.

Seriously, we are a new creation, old things have passed away, behold new things have become new.

Now let's act like what we are in the new core of our being.

The same author made the outrageous exhortation to "Reckon [consider, choose to believe] yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus".

He didn't say "pretend".

When James says to "be doers of the Word and not hearers only", one tends to skip over the "BE" and emphasize the "DO".

But it's the BE that comes first.

If I may slay the grammar...

We already BE doers if we BE born again. Now let's DO what we BE.

DJP said...

Spitting coffee.

Thanks, Terry; good to know someone notices.


DJP said...

Eric — DPUV = Dan Phillips Unauthorized Version

(or, less kindly, "uninspired")

Not in print. You'll see some more of it in my upcoming Proverbs book, though, Lord willing.

Erik Hoffman said...

Well, as long as it's not "unintelligible," I'll be looking forward to it. :D

Strong Tower said...

Pretend, practice, Rayburn, your legalisms crack me up.

If you would spend half your energy really in grace rather than pushing your legalistic mandates to live it, your antinomanism wouldn't be nearly as unbearable.

Now, tell us Terry, are you good, or do you just pretend to be. My guess is that you're practicing, but as yet, unless you're greater than Paul, you have not yet arrived.

olan strickland said...

Strong Tower, which is it: is Rayburn a legalist or an antinomian?

You can't have it both ways :)

DJP said...

Strong Tower can.

But color me not getting the outburst against Terry, either, and looking at the blog rules with raised eyebrow.

olan strickland said...


Van said...

I have a closet full of clothes I almost never wear. I usually dress in a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt. My wife exhorts me regularly to wear some of the better stuff... and to please her I do, knowing that it is mostly a reflection of her good taste. Wearing jeans and t-shirt are a habit I picked up a long time ago, and don't take much thought. Dressing up requires thought, and even input from someone else most of the time.

Paul sure makes it look like the Colossian church had all those things due to regeneration and adoption, and he was reminding them to stop wearing the old clothes consisting of anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (Col. 3:8)and put on the new wardrobe they already had.

Terry Rayburn said...

Strong Tower,

I'm not sure what part of left field your vitriol is coming from.

"Legalistic mandates"?

I literally have no idea what you're talking about, unless you think "grace" (the doctrine of which I push like a crack dealer to everyone I can get hooked on it) nullifies any biblical exhortation to right living.

"Now, tell us Terry, are you good, or do you just pretend to be?"

The answer to that can only be understood by an understanding of the new creation vs. the flesh.

I, like you if you are born again, have been made "good" in my new nature (that is, in my spirit, which is both renewed and "one spirit with Him", 1 Cor. 6:17).

But, as Paul said, "Nothing good dwells in me, THAT IS, IN MY FLESH."

Mysterious, but true.

And so we have a continual choice, watered and fed by the truth or lies we expose ourselves to...

...to walk by the [Holy] Spirit (which is also to walk by our own new spirit) or to walk by the flesh.


David Regier said...

Okay, let's flesh this out a little:

"Here, put on these clothes that God gave you."

"I don't want to wear those. I'd rather wear these."

"Those stink, they're ragged, and they don't fit you. Put on these."

"Hey, God didn't give me those nice clothes, I made them myself, and wow, don't I look nice."

"You know that's not true. You can't deny who gave them to you."

"Well, I'm not really denying Him. I'm just, well, uh, I want my old clothes back."

"Put on the new clothes."


Is this man regenerate?

James Scott Bell said...

We already BE doers if we BE born again. Now let's DO what we BE.

I like that. Good bumper sticker. A little long for a WWJD bracelet thingy, but I prefer this formulation.

And I'm also flummoxed by the "outburst."

Strong Tower said...

Sorry Terry, I didn't know you had reembraced the law as a means of sanctification.

Good to know.

Anonymous said...


I'm with you and Dan, on this.
What comes to mind is "Be doers of the law and not hearers only."

Who loves my wife? Why me, of course.
How? By doing stuff.

I figure that if John thought that loving God involved obeying His commandments, then using the law as something to be obeyed...well, if it's good enough for John, who am I to disagree.

Erik Hoffman said...

Strong Tower:

I fail to see where, in this particular blog topic, Terry is even coming close to embracing the law as a means to sanctification.

Surely we all understand that obedience is an evidence of our salvation rather than the means to it.

Obedience isn't a four-letter word.

Strong Tower said...

But Dan is. It is infact the whole of the point.

It is true we are what God has declared us to BE. However as Dan points out:

"But then what is the point of Paul telling me to "put on" these virtues, these graces, these little fragrant whiffs of the character of Christ? Are they mine by regeneration, or not? If mine, why "put them on"? They're already there. If not mine, how can I make them mine?"

It is by the exhortations, law if you're willing, that we do so.

Everything we will be was ours in regeneration, 'he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies'. However there is the why of putting them on, putting them in practice. It is quite right, we do not give the increase, God does. Sanctification is his, just as regeneration is, but we are not passive in the former. Though it is not by our actions that we grow. That is by grace.

But it is not as some would have us believe that we just BE these things. We must "pretend'... that is we put them on. Yes they are true of the NEW MAN, and he is all that matters. However, we are not yet what we will be. And until then we must strive against the sin nature and in any area where that striving exists, the perfection of it has not yet occurred. Despite that, we fight as thought it has.

Mark B. Hanson said...

One use of the metaphor of "putting on" is quite simply, we as Christians are naked, and should be embarrassed, when we fail to put on Christ. And we know what it's like to have someone see through our lack of spiritual clothes... (it's usually our kids or spouse).

We could also tie in here Jesus' parable of the wedding garment...

Erik Hoffman said...

Strong Tower,

Your last post still doesn't explain how you arrived at the conclusion that Terry is embracing the law as a means to sanctification.

David Regier said...


Thanks for throwing the Snickers bar into the pool.

It's still just a Snickers bar ;p

Verification word: infun

Mike Barlotta said...

Obedience isn't a four-letter word

But obey is... :)

We already BE doers if we BE born again. Now let's DO what we BE.
And if we are already "BE a doer" then doesn't that mean we are DOing. Doesn't James warn us not to just BE hearers. Isn't the problem we BE justified and often lack the DOing...

Brad Williams said...

You bunch of antinomian legalists! I have had it with you. Dan, you especially.



Erik Hoffman said...

Lol @ Brad.

Antinomian legalist; the ultimate dichotomy.

DJP said...

Ah yes, "antinomian": now there's a pellucid term!

Chuck said...

I just quick scanned the comments because I have to head to class, and I saw someone (didn't notice who) put 'kill a habit'.
For some inexplicable reason I was immediately transported to Looney Tunes.

'Kill the habit, kill the habit, kill the HA-bit!'

Not in any well helpful, I'm sure.

Erik Hoffman said...

Thanks for driving me to dictionary.com, Dan; and I was certain I knew everything.

Antinomian legalism would be like saying pellucid opacity.

donsands said...

"And on top of all these things put on love.."

This must be the cloak, or perhaps the coat, and if someone takes your coat, then give him your cloak as well.

Good post. That portion of Colossians is never old, is it.

I agree the key is we are God's elect, and He quickened dead sinners, to be alive to the truth, and who now live to love Christ, because He first loved us.

We will never love God in the same degree as Jesus, but we can surely, by His Spirit, love God in the same manner. Our Father makes the fruit of love come forth, as He prunes us.

"..and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."

Hey if you all get a chance say a prayer for us over here in Maryland. We just had 28 inches of snow, and another storm of 10-20 inches is on the way.
I wish the Lord would take that storm somewhere else, maybe Miami, or Indianapolis even?

Mucho gracias!

Erik Hoffman said...

donsands said: Hey if you all get a chance say a prayer for us over here in Maryland. We just had 28 inches of snow, and another storm of 10-20 inches is on the way.
I wish the Lord would take that storm somewhere else, maybe Miami, or Indianapolis even?

Banish the thought! I'm on my way from Jacksonville to Indianapolis as we speak. Please, señor, direct your prayers elsewhere. :D

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I hate cliff hangers. :)

Godly virtues are like clothing-visable to others. We can't see something that is not visable.

Donsands, here in Michigan we are getting up to 12 inches of snow by tomorrow, I feel for you.

DJP, I love your humor. You said: Yeah, Phil's a great writer. I love his stuff.

Well, folks, today is Tuesday, and that is not Prince Spaghetti day, it is Dan Phillips day, so please let him shine. LOL!

ezekiel said...

"I'm with you and Dan, on this.
What comes to mind is "Be doers of the law and not hearers only."

These come to mind, among others when I read that. And if we want to get into a discussion of obedience, let's define whose. Christ's or mine own. Then we can get into obedience to what. The letter or the Spirit.

Rom 7:6 But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of life].

Gal 2:19 For I through the Law [under the operation of the curse of the Law] have [in Christ's death for me] myself died to the Law and all the Law's demands upon me, so that I may [henceforth] live to and for God.

DJP said...

No doubt there are dozens of pseudo-sophisticated, pious-sounding ways to try to evade the undeniable Biblical teaching of the centrality of believing obedience on the part of Christ's blood-bought slaves.

None of which will be tolerated in this meta.

James Scott Bell said...

Yes, and saints need to remember they've been delivered from slavery to sin. Some saints just don't seem to feel right unless they can point out their own sin -- in thought, word and deed, every day, or even every hour. Odd way for a delivered slave to act...

Anonymous said...

The "put ons" does follow the "put offs" - which isn't just a one time thing.

Rachael Starke said...

Oh I so love this topic! I love Colossians. I love Phil(lip)'s question (I'm sure that's what Mike meant to write). I love David Paul Regier's answer.

But what I especially love is Terry's comment - which he often offers up in response to this discussion, and which inevitably gets the whole antinomiannomian mah-na-mah-na argument going.

Because I still remember the first time I read his thoughts and came absolutely mentally unglued. Like Strong Tower, I used to have some pretty strong reactions to all the "choose/will/do" language that ultimately left me frustrated and discouraged, and often kind of hiding out under my pile of failures because I wasn't choosing and doing enough.

What I didn't understand (then) was that, when the Holy Spirit makes us alive to God, it's not just some kind of external makeover. He's not just doing what those two crazy people do on What Not to Wear, where they take a frumpy woman, give her a whole bunch of money to buy expensive,well-fitting clothes, a new haircut and some makeup tips. She looks different enough on the outside so that her friends and family don't recognize her. But underneath, she's still the same person. (Just to rework your pastor's analogy for da moms. ;))

That's the opposite of what the Holy Spirit does!

He works literally from the inside out, giving us a new spiritual self, living inside us to that we can see with His eyes, speak His words, etc.

In Him we live and move and have our being.

And as we come to understand that, and we look down at what we're wearing, we see that our old clothes just don't fit right. And they smell bad. And they just don't tell the right story about who we are. We occasionally get nostalgic about them, forget how bad they make us look. But because we're just not that person anymore, the Holy Spirit regularly puts us in front of the mirror of His Word and says, "Really?? That's really what you want to look ilke?" And, even better, like David said, He says to us, "Here. Have My clothes." And you put them on gladly, all the more so because they're a gift from the One who paid for them with His blood.

It was only after I understood that I even began to have the courage to study books like James, or even Proverbs, with a spirit of hope instead of fear.

Erik Hoffman said...

In light of Ezekiel's comments, I think it should be clarified that I, at least, am not talking about obedience to the Mosaic law. When I was questioning Strong Tower's misrepresentation of what Terry said, concerning obedience, I was talking about obedience to the Word and to Christ; meaning everything in it that applies to Christians under the New Covenant. I certainly wasn't trying to derail the meta into a law vs. grace debate. I think the topic of this meta would be ill served if it migrated into Mosaic law vs. New Covenant grace. I am under the impression that most mature Christians have graduated well beyond that elementary discussion, as important as it is.

It seems, in my experience at least, that at the very mention of obedience, someone inevitably jumps in and cries, “foul,” or in this case, “legalist.” It happens not only on blogs and in forums, but in life as well. There is such a stigma against the word, as if it somehow cannot coexist with grace.

The Word of God vociferously speaks to the contrary.

Word Verification: snide. - Rofl! I hope it didn't mean me.

Unknown said...

The whole reason why dress codes exist is so that people will act the way they dress. Generally you don't see men in three piece suits playing in the mud, and you don't see neurosurgeons performing surgery while dressed in a hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. Your clothing is a reflection of who you are, and we choose the clothes we wear each day.

In the same way, we clothe our mind based on who we are. If we are Psalm 1 type of people who delight themselves in the Law of the Lord and fully understand our utter unworthiness before God outside of the grace of Christ, it is a no-brainer to put on humility, gentleness, meekness, patience, and above all, love, because these are a reflection of who we are in Christ.

Too often we wait for feelings to lead us toward Godly attitudes, but the problem with this is that feelings are fleeting and untrustworthy (just like our hearts - Jeremiah 17:9). I must choose to be who I am, regardless of how I feel, and dress accordingly.

JSA said...

Metaphorically, it references the way that we put on animal skins after the fall.

DJP said...

Erik, the more diabolical deal is there are a dismaying amount of Christians so desperate to avoid the very suggestion that they should obey God that they'll shred the NT to stay where they are. All to flee the thought that if God tells us to do something, we should do it.

Erik Hoffman said...

Dan, I fully agree. However, I just can't seem to wrap my brain around that mentality. It doesn't compute.

As Glenn Beck is fond of saying, it's enough to make blood shoot out of your eyes.

DJP said...

Oh, watch our metas. They're here.

But not just here. I had a brother decide he had to leave the church I was pastoring for that very reason: I taught that we should obey what Christ commands us through His apostles. Just that alone made it so he couldn't sit and listen to me preach.

Erik Hoffman said...


I have a friend that talks like the good ol' Southern boy that he is. To that he would say, "Well, that right there done blowed my hair back."

Tim Nixon said...

Reading through all of this reminded me of the conclusion of the Parable of the Wedding Feast from Matthew 22:11-14, 11"But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14For many are called, but few are chosen."

Strong Tower said...

"the inside out, giving us a new spiritual self"

I don't deny that Rachael. But I believe he works that into us by the Word. After all it was he who said and prayed that we are and were to be sanctified by the word. The just BE ethic is hauntingly familiar to the gnosticism of word-faith. As if it were just believing and not the practice with believing, that is working all things together.

There is a reason why, as s.driesner, said that we have dress codes. Bodily exercise profits little, but it does profit. Even though we are not perfect we are commanded to be, and even though we cannot love (at least in the perfection to which we are commanded), we are commanded to. Those bodily exercises are requirements without which we cannot be sanctified. If you are not disciplined then you are not a son.

Just BEING doesn't get the job done. We are actually to do. That means, even though we are dressed within we are to be dressed without. What I mean by that, is that Scripture doesn't wait until the grace is given inwardly before it commands you outwardly. (The BE ethic assumes that perfection was given in regeneration, so just BE). We are not to wait until the prompting of the Spirit to be what we are commanded. In other words, we are to dress up despite the true state of our heart. Which, by the way, if we were to reflect our heart, in our dress, it would not be in formal attire, or even Sunday go-to-meeting clothes, but more like the gas valve attendants at Treblinka. The flesh is still active and without the discipline of the word, that is the law, we would not be able to put it to death.

Don't grab the Snikers in the pool, unless you're sure.

I did poke at Terry as I think his form a grace pulls up short of what Scripture teaches. And Terry has in my interactions with him been less than charitable when someone doesn't accept his take on it. Thus the legalism. His JUST BE, as I said, is like that of the prosperity teachers, IMHO, one that requires a certain insight that you just must have to make it work. They would say, you just have to have the faith, he says, just BE.

But that isn't what the Scripture says. We are not yet what we will be, but we are commanded by the law to be what we are not. He can call it pretending, and perhaps he didn't read my post, perhaps he wasn't reflecting on my suggestion that following the commands is much like that. Initially, in one sense, that is all that it can be. It isn't mastered, it isn't perfected, and being tainted with sin, it really isn't virtuous at all.

There is a difference between virtue and virtues. As Edwards might explain, virue is our nature. If we're born again. But the virtues are not native to us. They must be inculcated, nurtured into us. That is by the law. We cannot just BE because we are the New Man. The new man must be trained and unless one becomes as a little child he will not inherit the kingdom of God. We are to receive the word as a child. Or as the Proverbs say, my son. Paul is explicit in teaching that virtues are to be added to our faith. Eventhough he uses the singular, he lists them. Virtues and faith are not interchangeable. In the truest sense, before one masters the violin, he is doing nothing more than pretending, or I might say, practicing. All the exhortations to right behavior point to this, that Christ is the author and perfecter so that we are to stir one another up to good works. We do not just love, instead we are pointed to an example and exhorted to follow. We look to him. Paul exhorts Timothy to pattern life after him because he is after Christ, studied in the word that is useful for training in righteousness.

For everyone I know, that means a life long treak, and never coming to just BE.

And by the way Rachael, you are absolutely correct. The power which raised Christ from the dead is resident in us, and if God gave us his only Son surely he will give us all things including that resurrection life, life even now to our mortal bodies.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post first of all...and mostly good discussion.

Dad used an illustration regarding this very topic in his sermon on Sunday.

Suppose you are a 16 year old out playing basketball in your yard when an angel appears and tells you that God has blessed you with amazing talent and that you are going to go to a D1 school, win 2 national championships and go down as one of the best NBA players of all time.

How do you react? Do you say, "oh, ok...cool. Guess I don't have to practice. I'll go inside and play video games. Can't wait till I make all that money." and then sit around and wait for the payoff... or do you say "Hot dog! Thanks Mr. Angel, let me get back to my drills, I got a lotta work to do!" and then dedicate yourself to perfecting the craft of basketball.

How you respond will depend mostly on how you think about basketball. If you are a 16 old whose power went out in your house and thats the only reason you were playing in the first place because you couldn't care less about bb, the you probably will react like the first example. You can see there will be benefits, money and fame an such...but you have no desire to play.

If you have a love for the game, then you'll react like the second kid...the promise of what is to come wouldn't make you lazy, it would fire you up to practice.

Similarly, with the issue of the already/not yet...the promise of who we are in Christ will always make us strive with all the power of the Spirit to become like Christ right now...if becoming like Christ is attractive to us. If we love worldly things...then we may have the attitude of the first kid. Eh, I've got the promise, sweet, let me do what I want for now, I'll obey later.

If your heart responds to the promise of who we are in Christ by thinking it means you don't have to worry about obeying, you might want to ask yourself why you think you are a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Strong Tower. I almost think you didn't even read Terry's post.

Your last comment said, as far as I can tell, pretty much exactly what both he and Dan wrote.

As for pretending...it's only pretending if it's not really you.

So behaving yourself, as a Christian, even if you don't want to, isn't pretending by any measure, it's obeying despite yourself.

How can a Christian possibly pretend to be holy? Unless it's by carrying oneself in a holier-than-thou way.

What you said earlier sounds a bit like saying that the worse-than-average ball player who dives and actually makes the catch, is only pretending to play ball.

I wonder if, as you intimated, you're really only reacting to what you percieve to be what Terry thinks, and not what he said at all.

Eric said...

Strong Tower,

You're all over the place.

DJP said...

Have you ever read a comment by Strong Tower before, Eric?

Strong Tower said...

Just remaining true to character.

Daryl, no God accepts our persons as though in the Son, not because we caught the ball playing sand-lot, but because he is the MVOMT. And only his catches count:

"but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants; and because they are good they proceed from his Spirit, and as they are wrought by us they are defiled and mixed with so much weekness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s punishment... Yet notwithstanding the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as thought they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight, but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfection.

As for pretending... no I love my kids even when they were pretending. It didn't make them any less real. And infact, I could see in their emulating me, their love for their father. And that love was of a most pure kind. Their sole motive was to please me, because they loved me. As they grew their obediences changed, the things done more real, chores, even when not asked, jobs done. And so they learned the meaning of the love they once gave but did not understand. Nope, all that pretending stuff, was just as real as anything and good practice. I can say now with great confidence, that when I die, that because of all that practice, they will still be trying to please me.

Anonymous said...


Whose talking about being acceptable to God? Sanctification has nothing to do with that.

We obey because God tells us we must.
We don't despair because the price has been paid and we are already declared righteous and holy.

Which was exactly Terry's point when he said "...now DO what you BE."

No pretending or play-acting about it. I try to be holy because I am. Full stop.

Now for a non-believer to try and live like a believer, now that's pretending. But it's still better for those living with them, that they pretend.

And, for the record, I haven't arrived. I don't need to. Jesus already arrived.

But that don't mean that I can "keep sinning that grace may abound".

Erik Hoffman said...


Yeah. What he said.

David Regier said...

Hmmmmm. . .

Who convicts us of sin?

Who leads our sanctification?

Who testifies to us that we are God's children?

Who gives the commandments through Scripture for our training in righteousness?

If we're in disagreement with whoever that is on any of these points, then we're in need of some correction somewhere.

Erik Hoffman said...

What is MVOMT?

Most valuable...I give up.

Strong Tower said...

Most Valuable One Man Team

"their good works also are accepted in him"

It is not because those works are in and of themselves acceptable. They are filthy rags. It is not because you caught the ball. It is because he did it. That being the case, your works are dress up, mud pies, by any comparison, only, as the confession says worthy of punishment: "that they cannot endure the severity of God’s punishment." In their place are the finished works of Christ. His obedience not ours for which we are rewarded.

That being said, I am, as DJP points out, ubiquitous.

Back to the rabbit hole then: "Are they mine by regeneration, or not? If mine, why "put them on"? They're already there. If not mine, how can I make them mine?"

Well, in once sense you can't, in another, you have no choice but to do so. Therefore, yes, but no.

There how's that for definition.

Terry Rayburn said...

Strong Tower,

You wrote,

"His [Terry's] JUST BE, as I said, is like that of the prosperity teachers..."

This is slander, of course, for three reasons:

1. I have never taught "JUST be".

"JUST be" would imply that there is nothing to do, no imperatives to follow, no good works to lovingly to as unto the Lord.

If you can find ONE single instance where I have EVER taught "JUST be", I will thank you, repent, and publicly apologize.

2. The prosperity teachers are more "just SAY", acting like God in "calling things that are NOT as though they WERE".

The day they "just be" and shut up, we will all be better off.

Still, you misrepresent even them.

3. I have repeatedly held up the commands of God as good and perfect and right and holy.

Those commands (even those of the now-obsolete Mosaic Covenant) reveal to us the heart and mind of the Lord Whom we love.

It's just that in addition I have held up the glory of the New Covenant, wherein we died to the Law and are no longer "under" it (Rom. 6:14), but under grace.

Much is resolved on this subject by Phil. 2:12,13,

"...work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

The DECLARATION (God is at work in you) is foundational and prerequisite to the IMPERATIVE (work out your salvation).

But that doesn't nullify the imperative, as you would slanderously accuse me of doing.

Barbara said...

Following the thread a bit here, just two more cents I guess --

Maybe we are told to put these things on because we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in, and because we are to be a people known for being zealous for good works.

Maybe He is teaching us how to live and function together as His people in fellowship and as salt and light in the world, so that He may be glorified in and among the Body, and this is one way He has chosen to do that...by teaching us which items in our closet are desirable and which ones need to be pushed back (preferably burned).

I like the analogy I've heard before that what we choose to feed - flesh vs. Spirit - is what will grow; whichever we starve will wither and die. Just seems to be another analogy, a different metaphor in use here.

I'm no expert.

But I do know that whether or not we desire to obey and to learn goes directly to the heart of ...well,the matter of where one's heart is. From what I can see, Scripture seems to be full of references to the concept that what onesays and doesis a direct reflection on the heart, for the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart, and Jesus will redeem us, but apart from Him our deeds will condemn us; and now in Him, our works are to be shown as being wrought in Him, to His glory - not our own.

I know that I'm still attached to this flesh package and still very
finite in my understanding of things, but I'm growing, and in that process of growth I - like my Savior, whose image I'm amazed at having the privilege of being conformed to - have to learn obedience. And He has given us the immense gift of instructions and descriptions of what that looks like, what it involves, and what my responsibility is in that process as we learn how to live in His Kingdom, seeking His grace and the strength and power to put on and rightly wear these wonderful new robes.

And if our heart's desire is that He be glorified, why in the world would we not strive to be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer, so that we do not profane His name among the Gentiles by being lazy and/or disobedient?

I agree that we're going to desire obedience, but even His Word tells us to put these things on; who are we to argue against His wisdom in the matter?

Maybe it just really helps those poor folks who have been given the Spirit of God in rebirth and now have a complete distaste for the rebellion that they once lived in, to see and know that they're not completely crazy, and to have a guide? Because we (Biblically) do have a degree of responsibility in these things?

Just a thought or two. Sorry if they ramble a bit.

donsands said...

"Because we (Biblically) do have a degree of responsibility in these things?" -Barbara

Amen. And it's the putting the carriage before the cart that gets us off the path, so to say.

Jesus said: "“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15

"If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." John 14:23-24

Love for Christ, because He loved us, is what fulfills the law.

And this love is affection for our Lord, and an heart toward Him, and the Father. This love will sacrifice and obey, because the Holy Spirit lays this love throughout our heart.

I was debating a Seventh Day Adventist not too long ago, and he was sharing that we can actually live without sinning, and yet never be perfect. Amazing how the works portion of the Scriptures can really mess with one's mind and heart, unless we understand the grace of God.

Stefan Ewing said...

I can't read through all the comments, but I agree with the general direction that most of the comments are going, probably most succinctly summed up by David (3rd comment).

Dan's study seems to be zeroing in on the distinction between justification and sanctification, and our relative roles and responsibilities in each (none versus quite a bit)—and how, while they are different, the former is the grounds for the latter.

CR said...

Another good topic once again, it appears, being derailed by the meta. While the danger of legalism and antinomianism are real dangers, it's not, as I understand it, the topic.

Paul is dealing with a very important topic and it only applies to the believer. Two things, we are to put off certain things which Paul dealt with in the verses before. But many Christians make the mistake and stop there. We can't just live the Christian life by putting off certain things, we have to also put on certain things. I've heard this sometimes referred to as the displacement theory.

Since the Christian has already died to sin and we've been raised from the dead, it is no longer us that sin, but the members of our body that sin. So, what Paul tells now that you have died to sin, put off certain things and put on these things described in vv.12-14.

PS - Your names are similar. Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips.

DJP said...


Anonymous said...

Great article Turk, loved it.

It is Dafranklip Philturkson, right?

philness said...


Awesome post. My musing led me (from your clothing-take off, put on observation) the term from the NKJV knit in verses 2:2 & 2:19. Perhaps it could be said as we are changing our cloths daily; spiritually speaking, in our progression to be transformed like Him, the new cloths we put on our regenerate selves are to be knitted together amongst us, fastening ourselves together, in our local churches of course. Binding us and sharing with one another in common chains at combating the law of sin/flesh that haunts each and every one of us from the left over remains of the Spirits' baptizing us into Christs death and thus consequently not leaving us empty handed or unclothed but rather indwelling us with His power to fight against our flesh during this learning and growing sanctification process. Man that was a lot of words. And perhaps therefore this understanding of saints being knitted together is part of 'the attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3. in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'. What do you think? Just a thought- the whole knitting thing.

Oh, I didn't answer your question if we got this clothing at regeneration or not. I would say we did, but its not until we are beat down in battle of our sin and being grieved of it that we realize we have it to appropriate it. For nothing is ever realized until it is needed. So what do we say then that sin is good? No, certainly not, but if we are truly saved it does cause us to turn to Christ/Word for renewing our minds which leads to transforming our behavior- and in that order. And that there is a good thing, amen? Man I hope I'm making sense.

DJP said...

Daryl — yeah, Turk's a great writer. I love his stuff.

Robert said...

Strong Tower,

I don't get your filthy rags comment...I know Isaiah 64:6 well, as I have quoted it many times when I have taught. However, I would say that as Christians, Galatians 2:20 should apply to us. To quote John MacArthur, "The believer's old self is dead, having been crucified with Christ. The believer's new self has the priviledge of the indwelling Christ empowering him and living through him." (MacArthur NASB Study Bible - Galatians 2:20 commentary) I fullheartedly agree with this assessment and would say that because Christ is empowering me and living in me, that my righteous acts are acceptable to God and are not unclean like the filthy rags.

However, if we are being legalistic and trying just to follow laws and think that saves us, then our righteous deeds are like those filthy rags (Isaiah is actually describing menstrual cloths here, so we should hink about that next time we want to go through the motions). That all boils down to motivation and why are we doing what we are doing. Is it because we are doing what we be (to follow Terry's wording)? Or is it because we want to pretend to be like Jesus?

Either way, I hope that this discussion leads people to ask God to examine their hearts, as it has for me. We all need to be convicted by the Word so that we can be progressively sanctified. I thank the guys on this blog for prodding us and keeping us active on this path of sanctification.

Anonymous said...

I've tried to figure out which of you is the better writer/exhorter.

Just when I think I've decided...one of the other two writes another zinger.

I give up. It's all worth reading.

Erik Hoffman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

hmmmm....I like the post so far.

As to preaching as empires rise and fall...the church I am attending now has just recently gotten into John 9. We started John in January. January 2009. Gotta love the "camp out" preaching.

DJP said...

Sounds like a whirlwind tour to me.