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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Thursday, November 23, 2006
Another 4500+ Word Tangent...
Innocently enough, I was reading a short little post over at Faith Classics, when I became somewhat engrossed in the meta discussion on a post about Antinomianism. Jim posted the following:

This word has been used a lot lately around the blogisphere in what my good friend and "heretic" brother in the Lord would call a theological cussword.

While their are many nuances to this word, my basic understanding would be that antinomianism is the setting aside of the law. So an antinomianist would be one who preaches lawlessness or disregard for law keeping.

Am I correct in this assumption? How do you see the position of the law in a believers life? How does the law of Moses relate to our christian walk?

and because I know Jim, and I know his heart is genuine - that is, he isn't looking to debate anyone, but has a genuine interest in knowing where things come from and whatnot - I decided to make a quick post to answer his question:

A very good and timely question Jim.

As I know while the word is formed as a compound "greek" word (anti [against] + nomos [law) it isn't in fact a biblical or even a standard Greek word, but was first coined by Martin Luther to describe a faulty doctrinal position regarding the relationship between faith and repentance that was originally held by a fellow named Johannes Agricola - though in a latter day letter (addressed to the Elector of Saxony) he more or less recanted of that unfortunate error.

The word itself I suppose has as its foundation in the idea that knowledge of the law brings condemnation and not salvation - thus in a practical way, the knowledge that one is a sinner (i.e. a law breaker) logically precedes the desire to do anything about it - that is, logically precedes repentance - and that since it was the undisputed position of every professing believer (at least until that point in history) that repentance preceded faith, it was understood that a knowledge of the law (or at the very least, a knowledge that one is condemned by the law) -must- precede faith. Thus because repentance was a gift from God and came after one was condemned by the law, it stood to reason that repentance must come immediately subsequent to saving faith.

I say, that was the opinion of the protestant church up until Agricola speculated that perhaps it was faith that preceded repentance!

In this new doctrine Agricola speculated that repentance was a "work" - and as such, it played no role in regeneration, but was in fact an immediate consequence of saving faith.

Really, the issue, as I understand it was about whether repentance happened the split second before you were saved, or the split second after. It wasn't as if Agricola was suggesting that you could repent at your leisure later - both sides understood that faith and repentance came (for all intents and purposes) together - what was argued was which one actually came first.

Practically speaking the precision was not that important - if you were a genuine believer you repented - that was understood. But the theological implications of Agricola's speculation were profound. The idea that you could receive saving grace without ever being humbled was not only unbiblical - it was dangerous - it was a new gospel.

In insisting that repentance played no part in saving faith - Agricola's position did away with the law as the moral instigator - hence the term "antinomian" - against the law.

While scripture teaches that the law is the tutor that brings us to Christ, and that god gives grace to the humble - the implications of Agricola's doctrine were that the law played no role whatsoever in bringing anyone to Christ, and that one could come to Christ and receive grace without humbling themselves before God in the slightest - which is no doubt one of the reasons Agricola recanted of his new gospel.

The word Antinomian isn't so much a cussword as an historical descriptive of anyone who imagines that they can come to Christ without first being convinced that they are a condemned sinner - and without ever repenting of their sin (humbling oneself before God and consequently receiving grace).

I think most reformed thinkers today would not insist that repentance "precedes" faith, because that suggests a chronological dependancy that scripture doesn't imply. But must would hold that repentance produces (leads to) faith, that is, there is a causal relationship between the two - even if in practice they always show up together.

Anyone who imagines that you can believe today, and repent later - either doesn't stand on the traditional, historical doctrines that formed the reformation - or hasn't done their homework as they ought to have.

The word Antinomian, therefore - rightly applied - refers not to the role of the law in the believer's life, but rather to the law in the unbeliever's life.

I wanted to answer the question about the relationship of the law too, so I added another quick comment to address that:

Jim asked: "How do you see the position of the law in a believers life? How does the law of Moses relate to our christian walk?"

I wanted to answer this in a separate comment so as not to confuse my explanation of where the word antinomian comes from, with my opinion about the role of the law in the life of the believer.

Briefly (as if brevity were one of my gifts - pffft!), prior to conversion, the law leads the believer to see themselves as condemned, and therefore in need of a Savior.

Once a person is "saved" the role of the law is to convict them that they are not walking according to the Spirit.

The law simply paints (in words) what the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus looks like. As long as a person is walking in the Spirit, their behavior will conform to the "law" - since both their behavior and the law are reflections of the same Spirit of life. It isn't that they rigidly conform themselves to the letter of the law through their own efforts - that would be trying to please God "under the law" (c.f. Romans seven) - rather they walk in grace, and so long as they are humbled before God (surrendered) they receive grace to obey, and their obedience conforms to the law. These are under grace. The former have no peace, and no victory, because they are still carnal - still babes - they still try to obey the law by simply keeping the law. The latter keep the law because no one who is humbled before God will transgress the Spirit whose life is reflected in the law.

The role of the law therefore, in the believer's life is to identify carnality - for when one breaks the law, one is not spiritual, but carnal.

Our old friend Antonio weighed in and quoted Calvin, painting him, as is Antonio's wont, as though Calvin were a free gracer at heart, so I answered again to give some clarity to my previous thoughts, and to provide some contextual alternatives for Antonio's spin on Calvin, and by implication, the reformation:

I think when the term "antinomian" is tossed about today by Joe Pew-warmer it us typically used to describe someone who believes and/or preaches a view of the law that promotes or leads to immoral license, and I think if we didn't have a rich reformed history to examine, that would probably be where we left our definition. Surely the Greek words from which it is formed present us with that sort of conclusion - and only that sort of conclusion.

However, when we are talking to those of some historically savvy in the reformed persuasion, we can expect the word to be used in its historical context - where, as I have previously mentioned, the term antinomian is used to identify a person who believes that faith precedes repentance.

Luther considered the idea of faith preceding repentance as "not only misleading but positively dangerous ... a scourge, the spread of which, cannot be tolerated." Certainly anyone interested in what what the reformers believed, will find an English translation of "Against the Antinomians" or at the very least, look up men like Johannes Agricola, Melanchthlon, etc. to see what history has to say about the antinomian dispute. It was settled in Luther's time, and the "faith precedes repentance" side lost.

Calvin understood that repentence does not come before faith, and that faith does not come alone, but is accompanied by repentance. In the very same article you mention from Calvin, he writes, "For since pardon and forgiveness are offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance." - which is to say, that we are saved by faith alone, but that the faith that saves does not lack repentance.

It is one thing to adamantly deny that repentance precedes faith, and quite another to say that faith comes in a "repentance free" vacuum. Calvin definitely did not write or teach, or even leave vague room for the notion that faith came without repentance. The two were bound together and where the one was, the other was always found.

My own personal thoughts are that God produces repentance and faith simultaneously, that just as Calvin said, "forgiveness of sins never can be obtained without repentance, because none but the afflicted, and those wounded by a consciousness of sins, can sincerely implore the mercy of God..." - Calvin wasn't suggesting that we behave as the papists do and regard the symptoms of sin as what must be repented of - as though we might repent of this sin on the left and be forgiven, while all the while cherishing and holding closely the unforgiven sin on the right. Calvin was referring to the moment of justification - the moment all of our sins are forgiven - that moment cannot be obtained without repentance. Not that repentance produced that moment - it didn't, God produced it - but that repentance was "in" that moment alongside faith.

That is my understanding of Calvin's position, and I am pleased that it agrees with my own opinion since I came to the same position without ever having studied Calvin.

It is interesting, in the context of this post at least, to recognize that even Calvin believed that one must see themselves as a condemned under the law (a sinner) before they can receive grace - which would mean that Calvin was no "antinomian" in the Lutheran sense - but held to the idea that the law produces an awareness of guilt that precedes that same repentance that accompanies saving faith.

Jim asked therefore about the causal relationship between faith and repentance - and that is a bit trickier - especially since Jim asked for prooftexts (ugh!). My reply was somewhat verbose - but I include it here because it makes good blogfodder:

Jim, I will give you a "handful of verses" (as per request) that I believe point to the relationship between repentance and faith - I shall do so, not as a spokesman for reformed thought however, but as a brother in Christ who is explaining why I am convinced from scripture of a particular thing - that is, I don't want to represent (and I am certain I would be a very poor poster child for) all of reformed theology by presenting a few prooftexts.

You see, I myself am seldom convinced of anything biblical simply because someone provides a few proof texts - Satan himself quoted scripture to Christ which ought to caution us against plucking a verse out of scripture and presenting the seed as though it were in fact the whole tree. Which is simply my way of saying, if we are convinced by a few prooftexts, our conviction is of that beggarly and tempermental sort, inclined to change with each new verse. Such a persuasion is not a very solid foundation, and I don't like to play with scripture as though it were a random mess of quotes - that is, while I may lift a verse out of its context to be gazed upon for its brevity in encapsulating some articulation of the greater truth reflected in abundant nuance elsewhere in scripture - yet I do not hold the verse as the "proof" - it is merely the briefest expression of what I am articulating and given as a shorthand way of demonstrating that whatever I am concluding does not reflect a theologically vaporous whim, but in fact reflects my understanding of the word of God as a whole.

Sorry for the length of the caveat, but I absolutely deplore prooftexting - not because I prefer to hold my opinions as though whatever airy-fairy whim I descend upon is valid simply because I believe it, and that there is therefore no need for me to fortify my opinion by demonstrating a real relationship between my peculiar fancy and the words of scripture - but rather that I believe that where one man reads the scriptures as a whole and identifies key passages which articulate the grand message he reads in scripture - and therefore supplies these passages in good faith as summaries of what he believes the whole of scripture echoes - yet another will read the bible as though it were a disjointed recipe book, reading here and there with no order, and building their faith upon a patchwork of passages all of which are taken either out of context, or coupled with verses that are taken out of context - and so builds up a hodge-podge argument for a position that scripture doesn't support - but that their "verses" purport to demonstrate. So great is my loathing for this second sort of prooftexting, that I desire to distance myself from it and its practitioners with all zeal.

Sadly, it is the latter group who are most abundantly found, and it is no doubt this same group who, under the puppet strings of our enemy, who have made such a wreckage of scholarly discussion.

Nevertheless, even though I disdain providing prooftexts for fear that some "schmoe" of the latter variety will come along with their hodge-podged noodle-mass "defense" against what I have said, and I shall be subjected to an eternity whereby as I pull the first noodle from the mess, and lay it out straight, this same debator cuts and pastes a tenfold more mass of noodles into the discussion and by his hodgery and podgery effectively strangles the life out of the discussion. The only solution to that sort of buffoonery is to sit and spoon feed the entire bible to one another in context. Not that such wouldn't be edifying - but that my life doesn't currently allow for such a profound effort (online).

So for what it is worth, I will give you the prooftexts you ask for, but only after couching them in my eternal disdain. ;-)

Seriously though, looking into scripture together, we do find some passages that illumine (in summary) the relationship between faith and repentance:

I suppose the first place to start would be in 2 Corinthians 7:10 - "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." [ESV]

Recall the scene? Paul had "greived" the Corinthians in a previous letter wherein he called them to obedience; their response was to repent. This change of heart was more than the standard weepy-eyed sorrow over what they had previously done, and the half-hearted (or even whole hearted) desire to someday stop being disobedient - it was an actual change in behavior - and it is -this- change in behavior that Paul is talking about when he speaks in general about repentance here - he is saying that godly grief is not simply weeping and feeling bad about the consequences, it produces repentance and makes the point by contrasting it against the repentance that brings "leads to" salvation.

Note: repentance itself, that is, the change in behavior from disobedience to obedience is not salvation - it merely leads to it. The Greek actually says, repentance "into" salvation which doesn't carry the chronological baggage of the translation "leads to" - but it does demonstrates a quantifiable relationship between repentance and saving faith.

One might argue that the salvation Paul is speaking of is not justification - that is, it is not salvation from sin (c.f. Matthew 1:21 "He will save his people from their sins...") but merely some sort of temporal easing of tension - a salvation from a difficult situation - but that is pretty weak. If one has repented from doing something, one no longer needs to be "saved" from doing it, and quite frankly, the salvation spoken of here is passive (I am saved by something else) as opposed to active (I am saving myself by what I do). Thus I don't buy the idea that Paul is speaking about salvation from the disobedience they have already repented of since the text speaks of repentance into salvation and not repentance as salvation itself. Surely, Paul remarks elsewhere on repentance with regards to justification - that just as we received Christ Jesus (i.e. in repentance) so we should walk in Him - that is, when Paul encourages us to walk in the same submission by which we were saved - we conclude that some act of repentance is present at the moment of salvation - that is, we recognize a relationship between saving faith and repentance - even if we haven't defined how it works - we still do well to acknowledge that the one does not exist without the other.

In the gospel of Matthew we read in Matthew 21:32, "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. " [ESV]

The word translated here as "change your minds" is used only once in the NT that I am aware of (metamellomai) and is the more general synonym for metanoia which is normally translated as "repent" - the KJV translates them both as repent, but the newer translations recognize that metamellomai (compared against the Septuagint) doesn't produce a change in behavior necessarily, but means a change of heart, where metanoia carries the meaning of a change in behavior that flows from a change of heart/mind. The former therefore does not imply a change in behavior as the latter does. I mention the distinction up front to avoid anyone thinking that I am infusing greater meaning into the word in order to make some sort of case for a relationship built on the grammar of the text. I am not. But I do hope to describe why I think this verse still demonstrates a real (albeit general) relationship between repentance and faith.

In the context, Christ is rebuking the chief priests and elders because (as he demonstrates) those with far less knowledge of the scriptures than priests and elders (the very people whom they hold in contempt) are entering the kingdom of God. Consider that. The priests and elders have witnessed firsthand a profound repentance by the very people whom they themselves have given up on - having regarded them as sinners beyond the scope of human hope - that is, the Chief priests and elders are witnessing a repentance amongst the very people that their religion has painted as so entirely lost and beyond the reach of any call back to the faith that they are without excuse when they see these same people repenting in droves - because it clearly demonstrated that Christ was doing a work that according to their own continuing failure to affect any change in them even with all their knowledge and ministry - was humanly impossible - this repentance that they were witnessing was a work that only God Himself could be doing - yet they themselves refused to change their minds (relent) about "who" Jesus was - even having seen it firsthand with their own eyes.

We see therefore that the reason the chief priests and elders could not come to a saving faith was first and foremost because they were blinded by their own theology - and their stoic refusal to re-examine it even in the light of enough evidence to warrant a full and detailed examination - they refused to do so because changing their mind about who Jesus was was "out of the question." This changing of their mind, this failure to relent of their wrong opinion in the light of its clear and obvious error barred the path to enlightenment - it choked out all possibility of saving faith - and if a mere refusal to change their minds superficially (metamellomai) about whom Jesus was did in fact bar the way to the tree of life, how much more so would a deep and granite-like refusal to change their behavior (metanoia) - impede saving faith? That passage paints a relationship between willful ignorance and failure to enter the kingdom. How much moreso willful rebellion (unrepentance)?

Of course, we have the very obvious references, such as Acts 20:21 where Paul speaks about the gospel he was preaching to the gentiles - "repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" or Hebrews 6:1 where we learn that the elementary foundation upon which our hope rests is "repentance from dead works and faith toward God." - These are described as the foundational and elementary principles of Christ - that is, those things that produce Christianity as opposed to those things which flow from it.

We see in Acts 5:32 a very clear and straight forward reference to whom God gives the Holy Spirit. He doesn't give the Holy Spirit to the unregenerate, and the moment you receive the Holy Spirit you are joined to the church (saved) - so the reference is to those who are saved, and so when we read, "And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him" we understand that those who do not repent do not receive the Holy Spirit.

Now there is nothing in these verses that demands a chronological understanding of repentance - that is, while we understand that no one can receive God's spirit who does not repent, we do not prescribe repentance as the works-doorway to the faith that saves - rather we recognize that the faith that saves includes repentance.

If this subtlety is overlooked - you get some pretty shrill voices crying a rather tired old tune - that repentance is a "work."

I want to be unequivacable here - repentance is clearly not a work, but a gift granted by God as we see in Acts 11:18, "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”", and 2 Timothy 2:25, "in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth," (this same truth, I might add, is what "sets you free").

If anyone wants to call the free gift that God grants (in the process of regenerating a sinner through the gift of faith) a "work" they have earned whatever derision and ridicule their claims generate.

As for me, I am persuaded that faith and repentance are so profoundly intertwined that examining one at the expense of the other is not only folly, but error. I would consider myself the greatest fool to insist that one preceded the other - as it is clear to me that they come as a pair. Likewise I see no benefit in pressing my opinion that one causes the other - for even though I might hold an opinion on that, it produces no effect on my theology since I regard the two as duality not unlike the trinity in complexity. Should I say that faith is begotten of repentance or even that repentance is begotten of faith - even here I enter into a precision that I feel cannot be rigorously defended by scripture.

What can however be rigorously defended is the idea that faith can not exist without repentance, or that repentance can not exist without faith - I would gladly die on some hill defending that idea - for it is the gospel itself that is in jeopardy of corruption on that point, for if we suggest that faith is mere assent to facts, we err to the damning of souls. We build upon the foundation of the church, not with the gold, silver and precious stones of genuine converts, but with the wood, hay and stubble of worthless, vacuous, "counterfeit converts" virgins with no oil in their lamps, tares all dressed up as wheat - self deceived and deceiving others, souls for whom is reserved the gnashing of teeth, and the empty cry "Lord, Lord!" when they have never bent their knee to anyone's sovereignty but their own.

But if someone wants to bandy about which produces the other, the chicken of faith, or the egg of repentance - I may have my opinion (and I might even feel that my position is biblically superior), but frankly that is all smoke and mirrors - the real issue is whether or not faith accompanies repentance and the answer is ABSOLUTELY.

I was planning on posting this on my own blog and just linking to it here - but I have been doing that a lot lately - so I am going to post it here in toto, and put it on the blog (with no link).

Bottom line - while I suspect that many Calvinists may "see" a causal relationship between repentance and faith - I think most wouldn't die on that hill - we see repentance and faith as co-existing and being endowed simultaneously; and those of us who like to be precise may try and define the roles played by each player (faith and repentance) with respect to how they interact together to bring about salvation in a person. I personally think repentance is the paved road upon which the vehicle of faith is delivered, but that both appear at the same time. If I insist that one plays an entirely "causal" role and the other is entirely begotten of the former, well, I think that is more precise than I am willing to go. That is, I see some overlap and because I do, I would be hard pressed to isolate one from the other even in this way. It is enough (for my faith at least) to understand that repentance plays a paving role for faith - not necessarily causing it, nor preceding it, but certainly providing a foundation for it. No model captures the relationship well enough because even all the models I can imagine imply far more of a causal relationship that I want to endorse.

So if you are inclined, and think you know which "causes" which - I wouldn't mind hearing your opinions, and I am sure Jim would like to hear them too.
posted by Daniel @ 3:23 PM  
  • At 3:54 PM, November 23, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    I know, I know - I am up to my ears in other work - but apparently even thus engaged I can still whistle off a post long enough to heal even the most ardent insomniac...

    Brevity is the soul of wit - proving again that I am, without a doubt - witless.

  • At 5:04 PM, November 23, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    Happy Thanksgiving, my Canadian friend....repentance is the path you are to walk on, faith is walking on it...

  • At 9:27 PM, November 23, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, there you go. Simply copy the thread of your conversation and you have a post.


    I kind of like that thought.

  • At 4:36 PM, November 24, 2006, Blogger jazzycat said…

    Your are right, I would not die on that hill.

    It seems to me that the instrument to take hold of the gift of eternal life is faith. That faith is in the Son of God paying our sin debt on the cross. Therefore, prior to seeking the solution (the atonement), one must have a knowledge and regret for the problem (our sin). I think I have talked myself out of saying repentance comes first. I would just say that they are both gifts from God and are present at conversion.

    BTW, I noticed Antonio punted rather than engage you.


  • At 8:35 AM, November 25, 2006, Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said…

    "No model captures the relationship well enough"

    I agree.

  • At 12:29 AM, March 26, 2007, Blogger Patrick said…

    About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

    Peace Be With You

  • At 7:58 AM, March 26, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Patrick - thanks for sharing your experience with us. Christ indeed saves us by grace alone through faith alone, and when I say grace I do not mean that we ourselves generate this grace through our own ceremony or effort - but rather the grace that is God's unmerited gift to use (lest anyone should boast.)

    Walk in the truth,


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