Archive for October 2009

If Union with Christ is Defined as Effectual Calling

October 23, 2009

Anytime somebody talks about “union with Christ” we need to ask them to define it. They should not be allowed to list various aspects of “union” but then only use one of those aspects as their working defintion.  If they say that “union is by faith”, then they are identifying “union” with God’s effectual call that results in faith in the gospel.

The effectual call only takes place by means of Christ’s justification.  There are not two “unions” here, one which is by faith, and another which is legal. The effectual call which results in faith is the gospel is a result of legal union with Christ in God’s imputation of righteousness.

Present union with Christ is legal. The already justified Christ gives the Spirit. It is not the Spirit who gives Christ. It is not the Spirit who makes Christ’s work effective. It is not the Spirit who makes Christ present.

We do not contemplate God’s gift of faith as getting us close to Christ so that he may justify us. Only the already elect in Christ for whom Christ died are baptised  (without water) by God the Father into Christ’s death and only then do they begin to have faith in and trust Christ.

It is not effectual calling that causes righteousness to be credited to us. It is union with Christ by means of righteousness imputed and forgiveness declared that creates the effectual call to fellowship and communion.

I Corinthians 1:9–“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I Corinthians 1:30–“God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Galatians 3:17–” in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham comes to the Gentiles, so that we receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

Romans 8:10–“the Spirit is life because of righteousness”

The Spirit does not give us life so that we can get righteousness. We trust Him who justifies the ungodly. Romans 4:5.

Did we All Kill Jesus, so that Jesus Died for All?

October 1, 2009

Many religious songs have those who sing them confess themselves as having put Christ on the cross by their sins. But this sentimentality is false on several levels. First, if we all put Christ on the cross, then Christ died for all sinners, and that is the false gospel being taught almost everywhere, even in mainline Reformed groups.

Second, nobody but God has the ultimate power to put Christ on the cross. If we all are supposed to feel bad about crucifying Christ, then is God also to apologise? May it never be! Acts 2:23-24, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

The Bible teaches that God’s sovereignty does not eliminate the accountability or agency of sinners. Certain specific lawless men killed Christ. But also, God gave Christ up to die for the sins of the elect alone. God and not man determined for whom Christ would die. Christ purposed that He would die. God purposed that Christ would die.

This does not eliminate the accountability of “the lawless men”, even if they were soldiers, or of the “you” Peter is addressing in Acts 2. Specific humans 2000 years ago purposed that Christ would die. This means that not all humans purposed that Christ would die. His mother Mary, for example, did not kill or intend to kill Christ.

If we sing about having ourselves put Christ on the cross, we do not yet understand what the gospel teaches about the transfer of guilt. We are not the imputers.

We do not get to decide when and if we put our sins on Christ. We do not get the opportunity to contribute our sins so that then Christ contributes His righteousness. Neither election nor non-election is conditioned on our sins.

Although believers are commanded to reckon what God has already reckoned, we can never be the original reckoners (imputers).

Yes, those specific lawless men were guilty of what they did. Even though they did not know what they were doing, they could be forgiven for that sin without being justified and forgiven of all their sins.

The cross is not what condemns. Good news for the elect, the gospel is not what condemns the non-elect. Rejecting the cross is not what condemns the non-elect, because we are all already condemned in Adam . The false gospel which says that Jesus Christ died for every sinner is not gospel. The false gospel turns a supposedly universal death into guilt for those who don’t meet the conditions which supposedly make that death effective.

Who died With Christ?

October 1, 2009

One died for all, therefore all have died

Substitution is the death and resurrection of Christ for certain specific sinners, so that these elect sinners do not die for themselves. These elect sinners do not die for their sins. But doesn’t the New Testament use the word “with” and not only the word “for”?

I Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but who for themselves for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

We can think about a “for” which is not substitution. I can score a goal for my team, without any idea that I am the only one playing the game. I score the goal for the sake of others on my team, and not only for myself, but that does not mean they do nothing and I do everything. In II Corinthians 5:14-15, it is not the “for” which get us to the idea of substitution.

What gets us to substitution is “therefore all died”.

It is a mistake to reference the death of the all to some conversion experience that believers have. The death of all is not their repentance. Nor does “those who live” refer to faith or to conversion.

The idea is not that Christ died one kind of death and as a result believers die another kind of death. The idea is not that Christ rose again from death and as a result believers now experience regeneration and the possibility of pleasing God.

The idea is that the death Christ died to propitiate God’s wrath because of imputed sins. This death is counted to the elect. The elect do not die this kind of death.

Their substitute died it for them. Christ alone, by Himself, without them, died this death. And it is that death, not some other kind of death, which the text teaches “all died.”

Sanctified by the Blood

October 1, 2009

The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate was in the new covenant. I do not think it is even saying that the apostate appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation if you want to work out a visible and invisible church contrast. The “Son of God” is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”.

Of course we need to remember that “sanctify” does not mean to get better and better, as most systematic theology would have it. “Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context of Hebrews 10, (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself in common for every sinner so that maybe (and maybe not) these sinners will be sanctified. Not only do they wrongly define sanctification as getting better, but they turn that getting better into the condition which can make the common death something special.

But the book of Hebrews instead gives all the glory to Christ’s death. “We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He would taste death for every… (2:10). The verses which follow tell us every “son to glory”, every ”those who are sanctified”, every “the children God has given me”.

Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory and honor of Christ is dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They tell us that the One crowned was sanctified for more than are sanctified. They dishonor Christ by telling the children God gave Him that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God.

Christ is crowned with honor and glory, not ultimately because of three hours suffering before death, but because “of the suffering of death.” Many have died, but none but Christ has died as the sinless Son of God. Many have suffered, but none but Christ has died because of the imputed sins of the elect, the children God gave Christ.

Christ sanctified Himself does not mean that Christ got better and better but that Christ set Himself apart to die for a people set apart before the creation of the world. These elect people are one day sanctified by faith given by Christ’s Spirit, but before that, in both the Old and New Testaments, God’s elect are set apart by the death, by the blood of Christ.

Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.” All the elect will obey the gospel but it is not their doing so which is the source of their salvation. But if Christ died in common for every sinner, and not every sinner is set apart, then it is not the blood of Christ which sanctifies. It is not special, and it does not do anything special. God forbid!