Regeneration not an event before God’s Imputation of Righteousness
Reformed folks know that people have to be born again in order to believe, so they often make the new birth another condition (with faith) before God’s imputation of righteousness.. Some of the Reformed (Gaffin, James Jordan) have noticed that the Bible does not talk about regeneration as a distinct event before divine imputation.
I have not signed on to a Reformed confession, not because I don’t like confessions but because I don’t agree with some of the chapters. It is inconsistent to say that justification by righteousness and the cross are the priority (as I think Calvin does) and then make the Spirit uniting to Christ by faith the condition of God’s imputation of rightetousness.. They end up saying that definitive sanctification (defined by them as release from sinning too much or too often. or, biblically, as having a heart cleansed by faith in the gospel, Acts 15:9) is a result of union, along with justification, but then fail to explain what union by the Spirit means if it’s not this very same “sanctification”.
People are begging the question about what union means. If union results in justification and sanctification, but then also sanctification is what union means, then it would be better to say straight out that sanctification (biblical, definitive, cleaning by the Spirit) results in justification, and that therefore justification is not of the ungodly.
But I deny that new birth comes before God’s imputation of righteousness, and say that it’s the righteousness imputed which results in having Christ and life. So am I also begging the question about what union means? I hope not. Christ, who was far off, is brought near by the news of the gospel (Romans 10:8), and united to the elect when they are imputed with His righteousness. The elect don’t get Christ and then get His righteousness . The elect cannot first get in Christ, and only after that get His righteousness. Imputation is union. Imputation is God’s putting us in Christ and in His death, so that we who were ungodly are now dressed in His righteousness.
Being baptized into Christ in Romans 6 (which is NOT regeneration by the Spirit, which is NOT baptism by the Spirit) is another way to talk about God’s imputation. And this means that Christ baptizing the elect with or into the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13) is not the union, but a result of the legal union with Christ.
Christ is in the elect, but not until after the elect are in Christ. The elect are always loved in Christ, but they do not have life or Christ or justification, until they are made righteous on the basis not of faith or the new birth but only because of Christ’s death and resurrection for the elect alone. This explains why Paul can write about Andronicus and Junia being “in Christ before me” in Romans 16:7. All three of them were elect before the foundation of the world. By His Spirit now indwelling them, Christ is in all three of them . But the union described as being “in Christ” has to do with when God justified them. God justified Christ when God raised Christ from the dead, but the many (the elect in Christ) will be justified at various times, so that some are in Christ before Paul was and some are in Christ after Paul was in Christ.