The Reason for This Site

“…there is nothing more notable or glorious in the church than the ministry of the Gospel…”
John Calvin, Institutes, 4. 3. 3.

The goal of this site is twofold:

The first goal is to help you understand why God has saved you.

He has saved you to live a holy life and to glorify Him. The Glory of God is the great end of sanctification by grace through faith (cf., 2 Thess. 2:14)!

Sanctification by grace through faith humbles man and exalts God alone. On your own you can bear no fruit that is good and acceptable to God (cf., John 15:5). You are unable by your fleshly efforts to do anything that is good. None of your good works come about by your own strength, resolve or willpower but rather by faith in the power of Christ and His Spirit who is living in you.

The second goal is to help you understand how to actually live out the purpose for which you were saved.

There is considerable confusion today within Evangelicalism as to how believers actually live the Christian life. To be sure, true godliness is a great mystery (cf., 1 Tim. 3:16). So great in fact believers mistakenly think they must work up a holy disposition by producing it in themselves.

This common error is what I call, “The Galatians 3:3 Road.”

Those walking down this road think that they are justified by faith but must be sanctified by works. Such a common misconception is based on a misunderstanding both of the Gospel and of the discipling process.

This bewitching of American Evangelicalism (cf., Gal. 3:1) has caused considerable distress to many believers in matters concerning what the Bible calls holiness, righteousness, godliness and obedience.

One of the purposes of this site is to keep you from stumbling down The Galatians 3:3 Road and to direct you to run on the Gospel-Driven Road of joy. Or as Walter Marshall once wrote, “…to keep you from killing yourselves through failed attempts at holiness! And, for God to enlarge your heart to run in the way of His commandments with great cheerfulness, joy and thanksgiving!”

The key to holy living is the Gospel’s truth of union with Christ.

If you are going to live a holy life, you must be in Christ, and Christ must be in you through a mystical union. Apart from union with Christ, you can do nothing!

The Gospel is what encourages you to obey God not law (i.e., “relevant, practical tips,” not self-help, self-discipline, 40-days of purpose, not discovering the champion in you, not 30 thoughts for victorious living, incorporating more spiritual disciplines, surrendering more, etc…).

The Scriptures reveal two means by which the Holy Spirit brings about this mystical union and fellowship between Christ and the believer:

    1. The Gospel of the grace of God
    2. Faith, which is wrought in us by the Gospel

When you come into union with Christ, He (i.e., Christ) begins to impart His godly nature to you. You do not produce a godly nature by your own works out of your own resources (you have none!). Rather, by faith you receive a godly nature from Christ. And, as you live in fellowship with Him, you begin to receive a holy disposition, which is in Christ Himself. This holy disposition consists of your whole life being conformed to all of God’s moral law.

The only way one can be empowered to live a holy life is through union and fellowship with Christ by faith.

Learning to live by faith to obey and glorify God (i.e., live a holy life) is one of the driving (pun intended) purposes of this site. In order to live a holy life, you must live by faith according to your new nature. Walter Marshall put it like this,

“I am telling you to act according to your state in Christ. Obey God and do the works of the law by gospel principles and means. This is the rare and excellent art of godliness, in which every Christian should be a skilled expert.”

The bottom line is:

“You have to understand the privileges and blessings of your new position in Christ that you received through the Gospel of grace. It is the Gospel that empowers your new nature to live a holy life. You have to be stirred up by faith in the Gospel to carry out the duties of holiness- both to God and to other people. When you walk in this way, your heart will be comforted and established in every good word and work. You will grow in holiness, until you attain maturity in Jesus Christ.” Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification


52 Responses to The Reason for This Site

  1. Richard says:

    I thank God for your ministry. Several years ago, I attended a men’s Bible study at our military post where we “studied” Rick Warren’s PDL book. Since I came from a Reformed and Lutheran background, I quickly sensed the theology behind the book was completely wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger directly on the problem since I did not have a good grounding in Reformed sanctification. God providentially placed in my path Bryan Chapell’s book, “Holiness by Grace,” and the Lutheran-Missouri Synod guys at “Issues, etc” and the WHI, especially Rod Rosenbladt’s works and comments on the finished work of Christ. What a breath of fresh air compared to the works treadmill evangelicals present us with! Please keep up the work–the church needs to hear this!

  2. Richard says:

    One of the works that also blessed my soul as I was struggling with the issue of sanctification was reading Martin Luther’s Introduction to his commentary on Galatians. Powerful stuff.

  3. Mike Sears says:

    OK, OK, I’ll get Walter Marshall’s book! Man, do you have to keep pounding me about it? :) Love your site! Very edifiying!! Thanks!

  4. Dean Lang says:

    Hi John,

    I would like to leave you a personal e-mail. May I have your e-mail address.



  5. Jeff DeNeui says:

    John, It is great to see you grow and be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. My only criticism is that covenant theology will not provide the answers you long for and will also bring no transformation. It is just another system for men to get their arms around an infinite God. It lacks promise/fulfillment, as well as the neglect of the Bible as literature. When these are missing, Christ can be talked about and emphasized and yet still missed as the 2nd Adam who will forever be the God/Man. When that happens we fall into our most common of errors the ability to say we have Christ and yet not have him at all. Thank God that God’s masterful plan to have a people of his own does not depend on finite men. To God be the Glory and thank him that once in his hand we cannot depart. Your friend and brother, Jeff

  6. Dear Jeff,

    You seem to be saying a couple of things at once:

    1) no systematic approach to Scripture is useful;

    2) the covenantal reading of Scripture is particularly bad because it leads away from Christ.

    The latter first. This is a peculiar criticism since usually covenant theology is criticized for being “too Christ-centered” and of “flattening out” the story of Israel in favor of Jesus. We’re usually accused of “spiritualizing” the Bible to get to Jesus.

    On this see:

    (“What the Bible is All About,” Modern Reformation, 16 (March/April 2007): 20-24.)

    The first criticism would apply to any system whether dispensational or covenantal. The response is to ask and answer the question whether one can discern in Jesus’ and the Apostles a way of reading Scripture. I’ve argued (see my site) that we can and should discern and imitate the apostolic hermeneutic.

    Finally, I would ask whether you have actually ever read any real Reformed covenant theology such as G. Vos, Michael Horton, or Herman Witsius? Those writers are quite representative of our tradition and they are nothing if not Christ-centered and oriented around the first and second Adams. Thus, I cannot for the life of me imagine what sort Reformed theology you have in mind.

    R. Scott Clark
    Assoc Professor
    Westminster Seminary California
    Oceanside URC

  7. cavman says:

    Kudos on the Marshall book recommendation- it is worth putting in the time to read.

  8. Jeff DeNeui says:

    Dear R. Scott,

    Thanks for the response and consideration of my thoughts.

    1) I am not saying that we should destroy any systematic approach to scripture…this would be impossible, we must have a system…what I am noting is the fallibility of all systems and how we have a tendancy to rely on our system instead of Christ.

    2) Interesting criticism calling for me to read Reformed Covenant Theologians. You mentioned all of my favorites, except Kline…so yes I have read them and gained much from reading them… Theologicaly I stand with these gentlemen.

    3) My problem with the system is it’s tendency to miss promise/fulfillment, which means you miss Christ. The system drives interpretation which can yeild a missing of Christ on key issues. The system should always be being reformed by understanding Biblical Theology and then reapplied…Hence the need to continue to understand the Bible as literature as Captured by Silva in “Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation.” When this is done the system becomes a useful and neccessary tool in order to interpret a passage and yet at the same time is flexible enough so as to not drive the passage by presupposition alone. I would love to hear back from you on these issues.

    Sorry for all the typos…I am typing at record speed now!!! No time to edit.

  9. Jeff DeNeui says:

    R. Scott

    One other issue…yeah and amen to using Jesus’ and the apostles approach to interpreting the Old Testament. I went to seminary at a dispensational school and was told that the apostles were inspired and we’re not…therefore we can’t do what they did with the O.T. My response was and is they were inspired therefore we better do what they did with the O.T. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for these comments.

    When you say “the system” I take it that you mean “systematic theology or do you mean “the system of Reformed covenant theology”?

    If you mean the latter, Reformed covenant theology as practiced since 1534 is all about promise and fulfillment. Indeed, it was so much about promise and fulfillment that some have reduced it to that when it is much more than that.

    Inasmuch as Reformed dogmatics is the topical expression of that exegetical work (in typologies and the like) it is also about promise and fulfillment.

    Mike Horton’s latest volume in his series does a nice job of unifying these things.



  11. Sorry about the typos in the previous post.

    It should be:


    (in typologies and the like)


  12. Robert K. says:

    With the unity of the Covenant of Grace throughout the history of redemption, in Covenant Theology, you have ultimate promise and fulfillment. Am I missing something…?

  13. Martin T says:


    Please could you explain what you mean by Christ imparts His “godly nature” to us and cite appropriate scriptures. “Godly nature” could mean different things to different people.

    Many thanks.

  14. Hi Martin. Thanks for reading and the question. By “godly nature” all that is intended is quality not essence. For example, in 2 Peter 1:4, Peter states that God “has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” The end of the gospel, says Calvin, is “to render us eventually conformable to God…But the word nature is not here essence but quality.”

    Through the gospel and faith, the Holy Spirit brings believers into union with Christ. In this union, believers really and truly possess Christ Himself which brings about not only forgiveness of sin but also life and holiness as well (cf., Eph. 3:17; Gal. 2:20; John 3:36; 5:24; 1 John 5:12).

    Faith is designed by God to give us a holy nature (godly nature if you prefer) and mindset, which you receive by way of union with Christ (out of His fullness, Eph. 1:23; 3:19).

    To sum up, in salvation, the image of God (Eph. 4:24) in true righteousness and holiness is restored in us and throughout our life, the Holy Spirit, through the gospel, transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).

    I hope this helps. Gospel blessings!

  15. Martin Thorley says:

    Thanks for your reply. (Sorry for my delayed reply and sorry also that I mistakenly addressed my original question to Jeff!)
    In short, I’m just not sure. I think it was more the word ‘imparts’ I was questioning than ‘godly nature’. It’s probably just my lack of capacity and understanding. Let me try to summarize what I believe and then you might be able to show me where we differ or where you would want to add or subtract to what I am saying.

    I believe that all progress in outward and inward conformity to Christ is by faith alone in utter dependence on God alone and is made possible only because of and by means of our mystical union with Christ. However, I am cautious of any use of the word ‘progress’ since we are so prone to think we’re getting somewhere and thereby set ourselves up for a humiliating fall. Any semblance of ‘progress’ is a product of God’s grace at work in us so we should not think of it as progress in the sense of a milestone reached from which we cannot retreat. Without God’s grace continuing towards us we would go straight back to the grossest of sins as sows returning to the mire (recognizing that, for some people, the grossest of sins may not be what is condemned on external moral grounds or appearances but rather a return to self-righteousness and law keeping). I think the best way to describe a Godly nature would be the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22. It goes without saying that it is the Holy Spirit at work in us that produces those fruit. But the fruit are not imparted in the sense that once you have them you have them or that they are automatically increasingly visible (even though they *ought* to be increasingly visible). They are the product of our dependence on God, our faith, the extent to which we are walking with Christ, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, etc. The problem is that we will so readily and regularly go back to the beggarly things of this world because we have such little faith. When we do all true manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit disappears. It is not that our mystical union is affected but rather our enjoyment and appropriation of it is (temporarily) lost. When we forget who we are in Christ and what Christ has done for us our motives consequently become living to please ourselves rather than God thus, whilst incredibly we remain clothed in the righteousness of Christ in God’s sight, yet we cannot then be said to have a godly nature before men or our own consciences.

    In summary then I think I’m ok with all you say above but wouldn’t want to give the impression that those gifts of Godly conformance we receive are permanent but are rather produced only as long as we are living by faith in line with the reality of our adoption, union and absolute dependence upon our glorious Lord who bought us with His precious blood to free us from all vain striving for righteousness, justification or satisfaction and whom God raised up, forever exalted to whom be all the glory, honor and praise. Amen!

    Grace and peace,

  16. Phil says:

    Hey chaps. I came across this via google on my phone…I really like what I’m seeing. I’m coming to similar conclusions,tho my experience is not there yet. I reckon that the message of Rom6-8 and Galatians are far fuller than much reformed theology has had them, and characterizes persons not living according to the privileges of new Covenant life. I noticed what was said above on CT and promise-fulfilment. Can I suggest to you a New Covenant Theology hermeneutic?

  17. Phil says:

    Jeff made some good comments above. Our understanding of (biblical)doctrine and how scripture fits together serves,not as an end in itself,but a means to reveal living spiritual realities of a living Lord and Christ. Our theology must always be uniquely and solely biblical,and not import extra-biblical organizing principles,else we’ll suffer its results. A redemptive historical,teleological NT-driven hermeneutic,with a distinctly New Covenant that brings a change in the law, exegetically furthers your aim.

  18. Phil says:

    Can I also humbly suggest that for sanctification by grace to practically work,a la Rom8v30,we need to know we have heaven on the basis of justification alone. Else sanctification sneaks in as a second ground of justification. 2Th2v13,14 is referring to one’s effectual calling,or ‘positional’ sanctification,not ‘progressive’. Also,I don’t think Christ uses the dictates of written code in sanctification. He doesn’t provide lifting force for such a yoke. We die to law to serve in a new,living,dynamic way.

  19. irishanglican says:

    Amen to what Phil is getting at…Christ’s active obedience! We can only serve God in the power of the “new nature”.

  20. Phil says:

    Sorry,irishanglican,not quite sure what you mean. For what it’s worth,I believe the bible teaches Christ’s ‘active obedience’ brought in the ‘righteousness of God’-a very necessary non-legal based righteousness-and it’s this that is imputed and justifies. I can no longer find the imputation of Christ’s active obedience in scripture-it’s absent from Rom3,and must be read into Rom5 from Covenant theology. Gospel righteousness is fundamentally on the basis of promise,not law,and through faith right through.

  21. irishanglican says:

    I would agree with you, remember I am an Anglican. The active obedience of Christ moves right down into the both justification and santification. And the new nature is always connected in this reality! Sanday & Headlam’s Roman’s is still a good place to look. Also somewhere few people look now days, is John Wesley’s doctrine of Justification. At the same time conversion brings Justiying grace, both imputed righteousness (relative change), and the new birth, the imparted or real change takes place. “Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgivness of all our sins; and what is necessarily implied therein, our acceptance with God. The price whereby this hath been procured for us (commonly termed ‘the meritorious cause of our justification’), is the blood and righteousness of Christ; or to express it a little more cearly, all that Christ hath done and suffered for us, till He ‘poured out His soul for the transgressors’. The immediate effects of justification are, the peace of God, a ‘peace that passeth all understanding’, and a ‘recoicing in hope of the glory of God’…”At the same time that we are justified, yea in that moment, sactification begins. In that instant we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit: there is a “real” as well as a “relative” change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel ‘the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us’; producing love to all mankind, and more epecially to the children of God…” (Sermon; The Scripture Way of Salvation, 1765)

    Here, we cannot but note, that John Wesley uses the Holy Scripture to define his teaching, which is fundamentally Reformed in attitude! But, the Law for him had no place in loco justificationis. Justification turned Wesley’s heart & mind to God’s grace in Christ. This is now (for him) the only cause of humen justification and new birth. Since man can offer nothing but sin, this salvation is God’s gift. It comes to man by faith. And typical for Wesley of this justiying faith is a personal trust in the efficacy of Christ’s work for mankind. This trust is above all a trust in the atonement-death of Christ.

    This is still the basic, but Anglican evangelical doctrine!

  22. irishanglican says:

    Sorry about my poor type (some errors). I am 58, but still on the curve..I hope? lol

  23. Phil says:

    Hey there. Would that Wesley had believed in eternal unconditional justification tho! I’m not very aware,but I recently read some of the Anglican John Davenant,and tho I’m all for his universal atonement/particular application,he seemed to have the active obedience imputed. I think perhaps we must have union with the risen Christ as well as pardon in justification. Daniel Kirk wrote a helpful paper on the subject ‘nothing but the blood.’ Also, W Kelly on ‘the righteousness of God. What is it?’

  24. Phil says:

    I’m still thinking about there things as a younger chap, tho. I think the bible’s own hermeneutic is a redemptive-historical one,and thus I want to understand and realize the fullness and newness of the new Covenant. I think NCT is correct,but I’m not happy that the ‘law of Christ’ be just a new,higher written code. I think perhaps we need to better understand ‘Christ in us’, a la Jim Fowler. Thanks for the comment! I hope our friends here don’t mind us posting like this. Are you guys reading this?

  25. Phil says:

    Sorry..just to add,George Whitefield had the active obedience position,didn’t he?! I was also referring to the theological ‘covenants’ of grace,works and redemption,that prop up a law-based theology that tends to make the new Covenant more ‘new administration’of the old Covenant. I think it will hamper sanctification, just as you said,in a fashion not dissimilar (despite a different context)to the Galatian situation.

  26. irishanglican says:

    Both Wesley brothers are worth reading, at least as Anglicans. But always men of another time and culture.
    I too like and use the redemptive-historical method. But, the ultimate authority in the church is always the Spirit speaking through Scripture/Text. Bernard Ramm said that the primary priciple of authority was God in His own self-disclosure, and this was produced through the authoirty of the Spirit speaking thru the scripture text. That is the reforming principle itself, and the constant of the Reformation. But, both catholic and reformed as to the Church, least for us evangelical Anglicans.
    Whitefield was a great preacher, but a calvinist of his time. But seen as the Father of the reformed Anglican Church. I would not place him there myself. But a great man of God certainly.
    The doctrine of the New Nature is indeed a great Pauline revelation. “Christ in you the hope of glory or glorification.” (Col. 1:27)

  27. irishanglican says:

    Got to run mate, another time?

  28. Phil says:

    Can you clarify the comment you gave by Bernard Ramm for me? I’m concerned that scripture must mean what it can be seen to objectively mean on the page,without private interpretation.

  29. irishanglican says:

    Let me point you to the horse’s mouth itself! lol “The Pattern of Authority / The Pattern of Religious Authority (reprinted under this second title) “The Witness of the Spirit: And Essay in Contemporary Relevance of the Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit.” And, “Special Revelation and the Word of God”. These are all Ramm’s. All written in the 50-60’s I think? Maybe in print somewhere? And for Ramm this means that the NT authority is because it is the apostolic witness to the revelation of God in Christ! (But also, Ramm makes a statement in his book: Witness of the Spitit: “The internal witness of the Spirit can be operative in situations where there is no written word, such as through sermon, song, or Christian literature.” But this must be held in a different place, and as perhaps private, but not really interpretative. (In strict sense at least)

  30. Phil says:

    Got you-I think. So you would agree that scripture is plenarily inspired,witnessed to by the Spirit? Right doctrine is descriptive of living reality,and serves that end.

  31. irishanglican says:

    Yes, amen! Christ is the Logos Old and NT. But any redemptive knowledge of God is only God’s self-disclosure in the Logos. Which now has become historic with the Incarnation and the full spiritual history of the Death & Resurrection of Christ. And for the Christian, the Cross is a spirituality of redemptive suffering. (2 Cor. 4:7-11)
    “I have often wondered whether we might not say that the Christian doctrine of the Atonement just meant that in Christ God took the responsibility of evil upon Himself, and somehow subsumed evil under good.” (Letters of Principal James Denney to his Family and Friends, p. 187)…This is one of my favorite quotes, as to the Atonement! (Note the whole Godhead is involved in our redemption, Heb. 9:14!)

  32. Phil says:

    What would you say 2cor4v10,11 mean? On your quote on the atonement,I think in the same vein, from Rom3,Paul’s saying that God by the cross found the way to vindicate the sinner by turning his righteousness FOR him in Christ,whereas outside it could not but be against him. Thus we are made the ‘righteousness of God’ in him. Such restores the sinner to functional faith-dependance on God,as the derivative creatures we are,deriving fruit not from ourselves,but his grace activity in us, by his indwelling.

  33. irishanglican says:

    First, in the exegetical sense, St. Paul is talking about the living apostolic ministry he himself is able by God’s grace to manifest “In Christ” (here it is efficacious, see 2 Cor. 4:12, ” So death is at work in us, but life in you.”). But this applies also to the whole of the Christian community – And my statement: For the Christian, the Cross is a spirituality of redemptive suffering. But it is only in the power and person of the new nature. In Christ, the Christian does really suffer, and in some real but spiritual sense each Christian person is ‘another humanity wherein Christ renews all of His mystery/power (v.7).’ And there the Christian life is itself or becomes “cruciform” – always shaped by the reality of the death and yet the resurrection of Christ! So this is the meaning to 2 Cor. 4: 7-11. But the end, and the verses 4: 16-18, are again very expressive to all this. The end product for the Christian in this scene of waste and outer “affliction” (the fallen world..1 John 2:15-17) is that “glory” beyond all comparison!

  34. Phil says:

    Thanks for replying.

  35. Phil says:

    …I appreciate what you’ve told me above :)

  36. irishanglican says:

    Hey Phil, thanks. I am myself still just a student of God’s word, and always will be! But what a class this is eh? A wonderful reality we have in the Christ above..still “our” Incarnate Life, in the presence of God! (Heb. 9:24)

  37. GORDON says:




  38. Phil says:

    John et al,can I bring to your attention a book I’ve just started reading that you may find interesting?It’s called ‘The Rest of the Gospel:when the partial gospel has worn you out’ by Dan Stone and David Gregory. Also, Terry Rayburn’s blog at ‘’.

  39. I am familiar with and have read The Rest of the Gospel. While there are some points of emphasis that are good, I do not recommend this book. A far better book is The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall.

  40. Phil says:

    Thanks for the reply. Out of interest, what do you take exception to it the book I mentioned? I have WM’s book,though I haven’t read it yet. I’m fairly aware of the theology though. I don’t agree CT’s propositions. It’s consequent view of law will always hamper new Covenant living. Still,while I may be able to guess some of what you might say,could you give me some response on my question? Either way I need to be right on these things.

  41. Phil says:

    John,I would add to the book and material I mentioned above Steve McVey’s ‘Grace Walk’and ‘Grace Rules’.

  42. Michael says:

    John, Great site! It is wonderful to see God’s work through you, and the delivery of good Bible and gospel based messages.

  43. centralityofthegospel says:

    Dude, I love your BLOG!!!!!!

    Stop by mine someday. I will add you my BLOG roll

  44. Matt says:

    Interesting perspectives I never thought about it like that.

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  46. David Conn says:

    30 Years ago this year.
    Contact Me: Google: David Conn and Rev. Jim Jomes

  47. Yuri says:

    gloria Dios ,naw ,i know you are my friend fonville,long time ,please repaly this words.

    i love you friend.

  48. Yuri says:

    jonh,please ,replayme

  49. george may says:

    It would be interesting to catalogue the ideas concerning the topic of sanctification within the arena of real combat amongst combat veterans.

  50. Charley says:

    Hi John….

    I have been reading over your blog with great interest….
    I would like to ask you some questions by email…
    John..please send me an email so that I can ask you some questions directly by email…


    God Bless You..!!


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