Excerpt from chapter 3….Proud to be “Humble”
There was such a deep resentment in the church toward any who seemed to live holier than we did, especially if they gave credit for their godly living to the power of God’s grace, rather than the oppressive CoC doctrines that we had to follow. Because we took pride in the fact that we believed one must live right. Yet we were hypocritical in how we actually lived, due to our false humility and self-imposed religion that had no true power against sinful indulgences.
“These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23, NKJV).
No wonder there was such a vicious animosity and jealousy toward any who claimed to actually be saved. I remember verses (e.g. Rom. 12:3) that were pulled out of context and used against them, to try to make them look like they were evil for daring to have blessed assurance in Jesus’ power to save and change them through simple faith in Him alone. ₂
It was falsely assumed that all who claimed such assurance were abusers of grace who thought they had a license to sin. The CoC system contained no knowledge of how a truly saved person would battle sin and serve Christ out of love, rather than legalistic fear. Therefore, it had to resort to obedience-based control in order to keep its unconverted members in line.
So, consequently, we were theologically trained to believe that if anyone had a right to God’s favor… it had to be us….because we worked for it. Since our doctrines nourished the belief that we were better than others, we were inevitably led to believe that God was indebted to us. So, sadly, we were not only set up for boasting, but for inevitable failure, for we were paradoxically proud to be “humble.”
“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).
Although our doctrines indicated that we had to be absolutely perfect or end up in Hell, deep down we all knew that we couldn’t really pull off perfection. So we excused our sins (especially the sin of self-righteousness) by constantly and legalistically performing what we thought was repentance for our sins, according to our “second laws of pardon” doctrine.₃
This man-made idea is strikingly similar to the Roman Catholic sacrament of “penance” (the so-called “second plank” of justification), where one must try to regain the salvation one initially had in baptism, but lost again and again due to sins committed after baptism. In summary, subsequent works were necessary after baptism, as a secondary means of justification.
So, although I was constantly performing what I thought was repentance, there was never a true removal of guilt, for the sin supposedly pardoned through repentance one minute was replaced by another sin the next! And it had the potential to land me in Hell just as surely as the one previously pardoned! So, without the true gospel, I had to try to stay sane by either adopting an antinomian view of sin (an abuse of God’s grace as an excuse to live in sin), or else become an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist.
Although our “second laws of pardon” were conditioned upon our own works, the CoC claimed that these works were exempt from Paul’s condemnation of works salvation, because they were supposedly works of a different category….those that baptism had made acceptable for salvation.
The CoC would also elusively dodge Paul’s condemnation of works salvation by giving lip service to the fact that one couldn’t earn salvation. But what was really meant was that one could not initially earn salvation, for one could not lay the sacramental groundwork for salvation, which Jesus supposedly did when He instituted baptism. But after baptism, “works” of repentance, faith, etc….could be meritorious, for they were now “baptized works,” acceptable for meriting or earning salvation. So, the gist was that one couldn’t earn salvation by works…until after baptism, which was still a salvation by works… just misleadingly worded different.
Copyright ©2019 by Lee Anne Ferguson.