By Leslie Diestelkamp
In Truth Magazine issues for March 27, April 3, 10, 17, 1980, I had articles discussing grace from a positive point of view. The following three responses have come to my attention: (1) Some brethren of unquestioned reputation have commended the articles without reservation, either in conversation with me or in letters. Some have expressed the idea that such positive material was long over-due. (2) One faithful brother and friend of many years took exception to the last article (on the matter of continuous salvation and consideration of sins of ignorance). (3) Brother Arnold Hardin of Dallas, Texas, has reproduced some of my material in his bulletin, The Persuader, expressing complete agreement with it. In this regard I am conscience bound to commend as follows:
When I write that which I believe is truth, I am happy to have it reproduced anywhere so long as it is not mis-quoted or taken out of context. For instance, if I write on morality and some denominationalist copies it, I am glad. If I write on the inspiration of the written Word and it is copied by sectarians, I rejoiced. If I write on the authority of Christ and brother North would publish it in the Gospel Advocate (please do not hold your breath until he does this), I would stand up and clap! So, having written some things that I believe are important on the subject of grace, I am happy to see that brother Hardin agrees.
If other editors would publish what I write on morals, authority or inspiration, no one would expect me to respond by pointing out every disagreement I have with such editors on other matters not discussed in that which they reproduce of my material. So it should seem unnecessary that 1 respond now by pointing out every item in which I disagree with Brother Hardin. However, in view of the fact that he proclaims that what I wrote was what he had been writing, some may think that means what I wrote agrees with everything brother Hardin writes related to salvation by grace. Such is definitely not true, and I must stipulate somewhat as follows:
I understand that Brother Hardin has been writing on this subject for several years. But I do not ordinarily receive his bulletin and was only aware of his teaching as I have seen excerpts of it in other publications. Just the last few days someone has favored (?) me with a large quantity of his bulletins and after some scanning of them I must point out these matters:
1. Brother Hardin teaches that we are saved by the “doing and dying” of Jesus. I agree wholeheartedly that the life Jesus lived – sinlessly – was essential to our redemption. Only a sinless sacrifice was sufficient. Only by His sinlessness did He become the adequate price for our pardon (Heb. 9:14). But Brother Hardin teaches that the sinlessness of Christ is “imputed” to us – that God credits true believers with the perfection of Jesus. This I do not believe at all. I find nothing in the scripture to justify such belief and I have found nothing in brother Hardin’s material that proves it. In fact, his efforts in teaching this doctrine contain. little effort at proof but a great deal of assertion.
2. The above doctrine actually involves the idea that when the Christian sins, God “looks the other way” and does not impute sin to us, but rather imputes to us the sinlessness of Christ. This is indeed a dangerous and destructive doctrine, providing a false security, and that discourages repentance. Why quit sin if God does not count it against me? Why be anxious about sin if God counts me sinless because of the “doing” of Jesus? The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The Holy Spirit does teach us that we can receive forgiveness of sin (Rom. 3:24, 25; 1 Jn. 1:7) and when he has forgiven He will have forgotten and will not charge us again regarding the same sin (see Heb. 10:17, 18; Rom. 4:7, 8). God will forgive the sins of the Christian who “walks in the light” B. and He will never charge those forgiven sins against us.
3. Brother Hardin quotes another author who says that we are not under law but under grace (see Rom. 6:14). But the impression may be left that we are not under any law at all. Rather, we are indeed not under a law of human works, accomplishing merit on our part, but we are under the law of faith – the law of Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:21). He says, “Law (merit) and grace do indeed exclude one another.” Yes, merit and grace exclude one another, but law and grace do not, if it is the law of Christ, which is truly the instrument of God’s grace.
4. Brother Hardin writes scores of pages about imputed righteousness. In one breath he says that the imputation of righteousness is “nothing but salvation given as a gift.” With this I agree. But then in another breath he says that it is the imputation (crediting) to us the perfect life that Jesus lived on earth., That I do not believe, nor did he produce a sentence of proof. Let us briefly study righteousness:
A. Primarily righteousness means being right. Vine says it is the character or quality of being right. God is righteous in that He is always right, wise, just, fair and faithful. Jesus, while He had the human body, was righteous because He never sinned; He always did that which is right. Mankind is never thus righteous – he is not always right. He cannot merit God’s favor. God cannot impute righteousness to him because of merit on man’s part.
B. But by His amazing grace, by which He provided a ransom price for our redemption, and thus through the shed blood of Jesus God forgives the sins of those who come to Him in obedient faith (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 6:17, 18). Paul calls this action on man’s part, “obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16). In other words, when our faith brings us to obedience, God forgives our sins and credits us with righteousness, not by merit at all, for when we have obeyed we have earned nothing and God is still obligated to us none at all. He pardons us by grace and counts that quality of guiltlessness as real righteousness.
Brother Hardin says that Rom. 10:4 which says that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness . . .”, means that Christ ended the old law. But rather, I believe it means Christ is the objective, the goal of the old law – to bring righteousness by the grace of God to forgiven sinners. Brother Hardin says that our sins were reckoned to Christ -they were reckoned as His (see 2 Cor. 5:21). Macknight translates the verse: “For him that knew no sin, He bath made a sin offering for us, that we might become the righteousness of God through him.” If I understand that verse it does not mean that Christ was counted as guilty in bearing our sins, but He was counted as a sin offering for our sins and was adequate for such because of His sinlessness. Thus He became the “price paid,” indeed “Paid in full” for our salvation.
I have no ill-will whatever for brother Hardin, whom I do not know personally. I regard him as a dearly beloved brother in Christ, but I fear he has allowed himself to be caught up in an obsessive defense of many speculative and dangerous concepts that are only remotely related to the true “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
I plead with all gospel preachers to teach more on the true grace of God for it is absolutely essential that all people realize the futility of merit and the necessity of grace as the source of the salvation (righteousness) they seek.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 31, pp. 500-501
August 7, 1980