From DGH on The Divine Acceptilatio Submitted on 2015 02 25 at 10:43 am


During this season (for some) of Lent and (for others) Fifty Shades of Gray, I wonder about the title of your post. Acceptilatio doesn’t sound Latin or learned. It sounds dirty.

But that’s a mere quibble. I am glad to know that you acknowledge that our sins (doh!) works are flawed and God accepts them despite how much they fall short of his righteous standard. But why is it so hard for you to say the j-word?

Because God accepts less – often, a lot less (i.e., “small beginnings”) – than perfection from us because of his Son and for the sake of his Son, who is glorified in us.

Is this fair? Doesn’t God accept us because of Christ’s righteousness? I mean, if being glorified in us is the standard, then what about my cats? God is glorified somehow in them. What about Saddam Hussein? Wasn’t God glorified in him sort of like the way God was glorified by Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery?

So why do you have such a hard time saying “justification.” You seem almost as reluctant to say it as George Washington was to utter “God” (he liked divine providence, Great Parent, Supreme Benefactor but seemed to gag on God).

Again, the Belgic Confession which you also seem reluctant to quote puts the relationship between justification and sanctification so well:

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” — thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ ”

Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.

So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior. (Art. 25)

A piece of advice here — your posts on the law, obedience and sanctification toss some of your readers back and forth and undermine assurance. Do you really want to do that?

One other point. You write that God is always please with us, a point that seems to conflict with other posts you’ve written about the punishments believers receive in this life for disobedience:

God accepts imperfection because he is a gracious Father, who has a perfect Son, who sends his Spirit into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). Why are we called righteous and good? Why are our imperfect works acceptable and pleasing to God? The answer: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So does this mean that we now don’t have to worry about the sort of retribution that God’s people faced according to the Psalmist?

Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God
and did not keep his testimonies,
but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
they twisted like a deceitful bow.
For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
When God heard, he was full of wrath,
and he utterly rejected Israel.
He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
and delivered his power to captivity,
his glory to the hand of the foe.
He gave his people over to the sword
and vented his wrath on his heritage.
Fire devoured their young men,
and their young women had no marriage song.
Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows made no lamentation.
Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame.

He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves. (Psalm 78:56-68 ESV)

If you now think that saints in Christ no longer face this kind of treatment because of their sins, I’m happy to know that. But again a word to the wise, this post doesn’t seem to cohere with your recent advocacy and rationales for obedient faith.


55 thoughts on “From DGH on The Divine Acceptilatio Submitted on 2015 02 25 at 10:43 am

  1. You said: “I am glad to know that you acknowledge that our sins are flawed…”

    Did you mean to say that our good works are flawed?


  2. Good post, Dr. H.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if Jones would actually come here and respond to you when you write these letters to him? Could be worthwhile, but I’m not holding my breath.

    A mere quibble of my own, of the proofreading kind: I think in the first line of the second paragraph, you may mean “works,” not “sins.”



  3. “Obedient Faith” makes as much sense as “Passive Aggression”.

    You’re either relying on your own obedience or you’re relying on faith in what Christ’s obedience does for you. It can’t be both.

    You’re either passive or aggressive, you can’t be both, as much as many online commenters try to pull it off.


  4. “for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment.”
    I think Luther called them “splendid sins.” I used the latter phrase while teaching at our church on the WCF–you should’ve seen the looks I got.


  5. “God manifests his grace not only in providing a perfect (imputed) righteousness that can withstand the full demands of his law, but also an inherent, imperfect righteousness that he declares to be both good and pleasing.”

    I also found the addendum really helpful in terms of his analysis of how the Reformed differ from the Arminians. So I believe the J word is not only mentioned, but defended.

    You seem to have a weird obsession of trying to find something wrong with him.


  6. Darren, so when Jones says “The obedience we offer to God does not have to be sinless obedience or perfect obedience, but it must be sincere obedience…We should encourage Christians that God accepts sincere obedience,” that doesn’t raise any red flags for you?


  7. “So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? … Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works”

    Um yeah.


  8. Cletus: “So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? … Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works”Um yeah.

    Something about the servant cooking the supper and waiting until the masters are done and then he gets to eat and he was just doing his job anyways, so there’s no reward.


  9. what is the difference between imperfect works and sins?

    Are sinful works somehow not “sins”?

    Is the difference between sins of commission and sins of omission some idea that the death of Christ for the elect only expiates the sins of commission imputed by God to Christ? Are we still on the hook for our sins of omission, so that we get punished for these sins and lose out on lots of blessings that those with more “obedient faith” get it on?

    No forgiveness for sins of omission? According to Mark Jones, our failure to do the “necessary and sincere works” will cause us to miss out on final salvation. Is this failure “sin”? Is there some other solution for sinners not found in Christ’s death as the satisfaction of God’s law?

    G Beale , A New Testament Biblical Theology, 2011–“Since the person Jesus Christ is the one true Israel, there can be no distinguishing marks between those in Christ”


  10. it’s simple—keep the “alone” only for when you talk about “justification”

    otherwise, the alone is never alone

    and don’t talk so much about justification

    move on to the other stuff, which stuff makes it safe to talk about justification in the first place


  11. The problem with concepts like “sincere obedience” is that it plays into the hands of soul-plumbing Edwards enthusiasts like former commenter Richard Smith. These folks are only too happy to provide their systems, spiritual inventories, and checklists to help you identify whether or not your obedience is “sincere”. It’s all subjective and, in the hands of the wrong pastor, potentially damaging if not outright abusive. It’s a trap, in other words.


  12. lame fox, at least it’s God who rewards, not some man wearing a funny hat.

    Or are you now feeling how we feel when you distinguish veneration from worship (and you have a lot more of those mind twisters than we do).


  13. My point is BC says “what would we merit [with good works]?” then says we are rewarded for good works. So which is it?

    “According to Mark Jones, our failure to do the “necessary and sincere works” will cause us to miss out on final salvation.”

    He would probably say it will cause you to reveal yourself as never having been justified in the first place. Which should get a hearty amen from you I would think.


  14. I really don’t get why so many people have latched onto Jones. It’s amazing how vitriolic and defensive his followers can get after any criticism (I criticized him twice on my blog). And I think your observation here is correct. There is almost a fear of speaking about justification, and when he does, that’s always immediately qualified just to _make sure_ one isn’t falling into antinomianism!


  15. DG, all the freaks in Portlandia are sincere. Until they’re not. Then it’s whatevs. Sorta like going hardball on obedience while cracking cheeking jokes and wearing a rasslin’ mas…..never mind.


  16. I really feel………………like Mark wants to say more. He thinks, ‘how can I say it, without actually saying IT?!’ Maybe that’s the not so subtle purpose of the mask. It wasn’t me, it was my alter.


  17. Clete, and I here I though you only cared about infallible pronouncements.

    You’re doing well, young padawan. Keep up the good work, yo.


  18. It is very difficult to exhaustively get your views down in writing on these matters.

    And it is worse when you are aiming for both the people who are unsure of their regeneration and want to know their sincerity is a good thing, and those who are angry that other people appear to still be sinning after they join the visible church.


  19. CVD: “My point is BC says “what would we merit [with good works]?” then says we are rewarded for good works. So which is it?”

    Option (C): “Reward” is not “merit.”


  20. maybe there could be a pact –accepting ’ imperfect, sincere’ speaking of the Lord’s word. (but not including outright omission, denial, resisting, distorting, nor mocking His principles, neither adding nor taking His words away); would also include not distorting, mischaracterizing words of others Rev 22:18-19; Prov 30:5-8a; 6:16-19


  21. a.,

    What nice verses for me to read to start my day. You’re the best!

    I skipped my morning devotional time, so your directing my attention to those verses was key.

    Best to you on your website design, I’d be curious to know what company your church uses to design it. As always, give a shout if I can be of help with that, interweb stuff is fun, if you are into that sort of thing..


  22. “I skipped my morning devotional time”

    Hi Andrew, oh well, how come? some other thing more important?
    I ID with a famous teacher who said without their nose in the word, they are just a week away from worldliness. Psalm 119:105, 130


  23. Failing to base “sanctification” on justification results in

    1. basing “sanctification” on regeneration and union and Christian ability and disposition

    2. and not basing “sanctification” on the” sin shall not have dominion over you because you are not under law” of Romans 6

    3. misreading Romans 6, by ignoring legal justification categories and reading into the chapter the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration

    The effect of this misreading is to say that Christians “commit acts of sins” but are not basically sinners by disposition anymore .


  24. a., even if you can’t set up a website, you should be able to be on Facebook, right?

    I was busy doing the work of Christ’s church (setting up facebook as a religious organization, let me know if I can help you with that).

    You really need to be on the web, how else do you plan to advertise your church to the wider world? Do you use smoke signals?

    That’s a good quote, my friend. Thanks.


  25. devotions this am, Andrew? speaking of the word – good article here this am, you might enjoy, thinking of smoke signal content (ps. our church is on the web but don’t think on FB)
    We need the word of Christ to dwell in us richly today more than ever. Then churches may escape being a mess and become the radiant body of Christ as God intended.”


  26. Then send the link.

    Proverbs 4:18-19 this morning.

    Proverbs 17:28 always on my mind.

    Deut 23:13.

    Proverbs 17:6

    Hello from Providence, I’m the one in the blue long sleeve button down, gorging myself at the food table in pic 2 or 3, of 11.

    You said your site was getting a redesign overhaul, a.


  27. a., that’s a good point about the word-less church.

    bad news.

    A pastor once told me he knows whether or not his congregation, likewise, is one of prayer or not.

    Have you read Tim Keller’s latest book on the topic?



  28. Good ones Andrew. love all the word’s light and sun imagery

    for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Mal 4:2

    we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19

    there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. Rev22 5
    even like your funny Deut -the OT word is so rich and instructive in every way

    to be honest, hesitant to expose my pastor’s teaching (He is always faithful to expounding the truth) to the ruthless vultures here, so will ask him about sending it.


  29. Nah, no worries then. I’m not one for doxing.

    Peace man, happy friday. If you live near or have family, spend time with them, and not bozos like me.

    insert emoticon



    the Roman Catholic anti-Christ is not my mother

    when DGH asks his 2k question (why can’t we set aside both the gospel and the law when it comes to protesting the killing of un orthodox folks) I actually do know the answer

    Because the supposedly less “narrow” world we have in common with non-Christians is not nearly so non-sectarian as people assume

    Because all “natural theology” is an attempt to epistemologically circumvent the law of Christ revealed in the Scriptures in favor of “common sense”.

    The problem with an “old school” cultural “worldview” is

    a. it doesn’t even know that its inductive defense of the status quo is a “worldview”

    and b. its “realism” appeals to “the way thing are” in a way that ignores what Jesus said about the power for His kingdom on earth coming from heaven so that Christians should not kill Muslims (John 18)

    Because the kingdom has not come and will not come until Jesus comes, the 2k worldview thinks it quite acceptable to have two masters, one of which is “whatever common sense democracy thinks will work”….

    It has come about with the passing of time, in God’s providence, that we want some useful generalizations about civilization which are not Jesus-specific. It’s as if we are saying that, since the gospel about Christ, it would be a mistake to talk about the law of Christ.

    That which has come about with the passing of time needs to be refused and repudiated. Not all mothers are my mother…

    My suspicion may be “sectarian” but it is not neurotic.


  31. Mark, Darryl’s got a few trolls, and today “John E” posting for clarification.

    The brave new world of a “disqus” up vote and response comment section system is getting traction. Hey, I got (all about) my name on a thread of his over there, didn’t I?

    Let the games begin.


  32. If sincerity is the mark of Godliness, we are all going to hell.

    Sincerity, like faith, must have an object. The object of faith is Christ. The object of sincerity is one’s self. Heaven forbid that anyone stand before Christ on the last day and tell him “Lord, Lord, did you see the sincerity with which I performed good works in your name?” To which Christ will respond, “You want to talk about sincerity? Ok, let’s go through each instance and see how sincere you really were. Remember, nothing less than perfection cuts it around here.” Goodness, it gives me the shivers.

    Here’s a question from an outsider looking in:

    I noticed that DGH quoted the Belgic Confession above. Do the Confessionally Reformed have some of these same disagreements going on within their greater sphere like the Presbyterians do? Is there something about the Three Forms of Unity that shapes things a little different? Just curious. I know that you all are part of NAPARC, so there’s a 99% of overlap. I just wonder if the Reformed (as opposed to the Presbyterian) nuances temper some of these issues within their circle.

    But as a complete outsider I can understand if the answer is no. I’m just curious.


  33. As a 3 Former in Canada, there are a few areas of diff…. church government, Sabbatarianism, cultural and temperamental influences…

    not enough that we couldn’t get along unless we wanted to pick a fight…. and some within the 3FU show hostility all the time on the internet, hopefully their only forum of influence.



    Bottom is catholic enough to have it both ways at once—–“the Protestant theologian D. G. Hart suggested that ‘perhaps the problem is that Protestants are too devout and guard what qualifies as genuinely Christian while non-Protestant Christians are more used to the big tent of mixing and matching.’ Admitting ‘the paucity of Protestant novelists’—….Hart concluded with a dismissal of the project of identifying religious fiction: “Protestants intuitively know (but often refuse to admit) that novels don’t need to be Christian, that the question of whether a novel is Christian is actually silly.”

    Bottom—“Silly is a curious word to use for the…. search for the truths of Christianity in a major art form of Western Christendom for nearly three centuries—especially when the complaint is made by someone writing in English. The greatest contributions of Great Britain and the United States to the arts have come in literature, after all…. Still, D. G. Hart is not exactly wrong. Novels don’t need to seem especially Christian to Protestant readers and writers, because the novel itself is a Protestant-inflected art form….”

    mark: As long as we assume that the “more common” society agrees with us “Protestants” that Jesus is redeemer but not law-giver, then we can all still work together to get the people killed who need to be killed …”Protestants” are Catholic enough to not narrow in on some sectarian “come-outer Jesus” who would give us scruples when it comes to taking control of history so that “justice” can be done….


  35. ‘Plausible Deniability’ seems to be the retreat trench/foxhole/cover for those who teach Salvation by Grace + My Faith & My Works Alone (Sanctification). When you press them, they always go back to Grace and hide under the canopy of that tree, but they ultimately downplay/deny that the root and the fruit of the tree is Christ Alone.

    Also, anytime there is obsession with sanctification, you can be certain that ‘Works’ couched in discussion as ‘Rewards’ is the object, and not Christ Alone, creating a lapse into ‘Works-Righteousness’ by overemphasizing Sanctification to the diminishing-eclipsing of Justification.

    I fully recognize the real element of Antinomianism, but that’s truly rare, I think, in the church by comparison to Neonomianism, which the present-day church is eaten-up with, and exists by the camoflauge of key buzzwords which are popular throughout Christianity in our time. Sort of like Mormon-speak until you press more deeply about it……”Oh no, Jesus is not God”………”Oh no, we must live lives which are full of faith and fruit, as the Book of James declares”…..”and also, let it (sexual immorality) not once be named among you”………..

    ………which is more possible outwardly, but what about inwardly? Especially all of the young (and older) believers who struggle so? I appreciate Dr. Hart’s challenge to Challies about the other commandments (underscoring our need to rely on Christ’s active obedience on our behalf for comfort and assurance, while at the same time, Christ is working in us to desire to become like Him).

    You can always tell by how people talk, and also by how they deny that they are Law-Works-based. Oh yeah, Small-Group Discipleship-Accountability (just another Holy Club with the Buffet and Fixins) is a dead giveaway to this concept, along with other terms/buzzwords.


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