Archive for June 2010

Both the Death and the Resurrection

June 29, 2010

Warnock (Raised with Christ) asks some good questions about the connection between the death and resurrection of Christ, and left me with several texts to keep pondering.

For example, I Peter 1:11 tells us of the Spirit’s prediction of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” I Peter 3:21 speaks of an “appeal for a good conscience, through the resurrection.”

The gospel is not the death without the resurrection, or the resurrection without the death. The good news about one is good news about the other. Warnock quotes Calvin to this effect: “When in scripture death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection.” (Institutes 2:16:13, p 75 in Warnock).

Mr. Warnock does well to give us the Ephesians 4:8 quotation of Psalm 68: 18—“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he also descended…?” Warnock: “Paul explains that, in the one word ‘ascension’, the descent from heaven is implied.”

But Warnock never quotes or comes to terms with the idea of John 3:13:“ No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.” To think about this would jeopardize his traditional assumptions about immortal souls (p243, in his very messy chapter on “our resurrection bodies”.


Justified by Works, but Don’t Think of it That Way?

June 28, 2010

Run to Win the Prize, 2010, Crossway, Thomas R. Schreiner

This little book is from lectures given at Oak Hill in London. It’ s a summary of the thinking found in the book Schreiner wrote with Caneday, The Race Set Before Us (2001, IVP) Schreiner again engages in some special pleading for a “paradox” (p73) in which works are necessary but also for not focusing on works but Christ. How it’s possible to rationally live in that paradox is not so clear. I guess words like “premeditation” and “intention” and “byproduct” play a big part.

I would not say that Schreiner’s thesis comes from the “new perspective”. There’s no need to go to NT Wright, Norman Shepherd, or John Armstrong, to make his case. Rather, he goes to Jonathan Edwards against John Calvin to argue that works of faith are necessary for justification. In this respect, Schreiner is simply making popular a path already made by Dan Fuller in The Unity of the Bible (1992, Zondervan).

I quote from Unity (p181): “In commenting on Genesis 2:17 -do not eat from that tree–Calvin said, `These words are so far from establishing faith that they do nothing but shake it.’ I argue, however, that there is much reason for regarding these words as well suited to strengthen Adam and Eve’s faith…In Calvin’s thinking, the promise made in Genesis 2:17 could never encourage faith, for its conditionality could encourage only meritorious works. `Faith seeks life that is not found in commandments.’ Consequently, the gospel by which we are saved is an unconditional covenant of grace, made such by Christ having merited it for us by his perfect fulfillment of the covenant of works. Dan Fuller comments: “I have yet to find anywhere in Scripture a gospel promise that is unconditional.”

More from Unity (p310): “If Abraham was not declared forgiven until ten years later, was he still a guilty sinner when he responded positively to God’s promises in Genesis 12:2-3 and also during the following years up until 15:6?” “Calvin gave a meaning to James’s use of the word justification which is not supported by the text…He argued that for James, `justify’ meant the `declaration’ rather than the `imputation’ of righteousness.”

Calvin (3:17:12): “Either James inverted faith and obedience–unlawful even to imagine–or he did not mean to call him justified, as if Abraham deserved to be reckoned righteous. What then? Surely, it is clear that he himself is speaking of the declaration, not the imputation, of righteousness.”

Back to Fuller (p313): “Paul would have agreed with James that Abraham’s work of preparing to sacrifice Isaac was an obedience of faith. He would have disagreed strongly with Calvin, who saw obedience and works as only accompanying genuine faith…James’ s concern in 2:14-26 was to urge a faith that saves a person, not simply to tell a person how they could demonstrate their saving faith…Calvin should have taught that justification depends on a persevering faith, since he regarded Abraham as already justified before Genesis 15:6.”
And then Fuller quotes Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity that faith gives to salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.” For more from Edwards, see Schreiner’s new little book (p20, 70, 92).

Rob Zins, who wrote his masters on Shepherd’s view of Justification, writes about James in his book on Romanism (2002, p184): “The best we can do with James 2 is to say that Abraham was `shown to be just’ by offering Isaac up on the altar. It may be stretching things too far to say that Abraham was `shown to have been justified’ when he offered Isaac. One can be called righteous without being declared justified by God…Certainly there is a demonstration here, but it is a demonstration of faith rather than a demonstration of righteousness.”

Zins writes on p189 about Romans 2: “It is difficult to grasp how Paul could be speaking hypothetically. Paul rather seems to be making direct statements of reality. .. The question revolves around whether God gives eternal life `because’ of good works or `in accordance with good works’. ” And then on p192, Zins concludes: “both James and Paul do not hesitate to apply the word `justification’ when God approves a sinner on the basis of good works…Yet these justification notifications stem from a previous justification by imputation…The blood of Christ had to be applied to Abraham for his justification despite both his faith and the completion of his faith by his good works.” And then Zins quotes favorably ( p196) the conclusion of Jonathan Edwards about God considering from the first the future works of faith of the believers.

I have been trying to set the Schreiner book in a context, but in doing that, I have written more about Dan Fuller, Rob Zins, Jonathan Edwards, and John Calvin, than I have about Schriener’s exegesis or about the psychology of making assurance depend on present working without at the same time depending on present working. Now, I am going to compound the strangeness of this review, by closing with a quotation from Fesko’s excellent new book on Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine (2008, P and R). This time it’s not Dan Fuller against the later Luther, but Fesko against the later Richard Gaffin (even though he supports Shepherd, Gaffin should not to be confused with Shepherd. See my review of Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight, another Oak Hill lecture.)

Fesko writes on p 315: “Gaffin tries to argue that works are not the ground of judgment. `It is not for nothing, I take it, and not to be dismissed as an overly fine exegesis to observe that, in Romans 2:6, Paul writes “according to works” and not “on account of works”… Gaffin’s point is that `in accordance with works’ are synechdochial for faith in Christ. (Ridderbos; Paul: Outline, 178-181; also Murray; Romans, 78).”

Fesko responds: “Can such a fine distinction be supported by the grammar alone…What difference exists between the two? `Corresponding to’ is common in reference to the precise and impartial standard of judgment that will be applied on the great Day. Gaffin and Venema fail to account for judgment according to works for the wicked….According to Gaffin’s interpretation, are the wicked judged according to their works, but the works are not the ground of their condemnation? Romans 4:4–“now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as WHAT IS DUE.”

Surely there are many unanswered questions. If the non-elect are condemned ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR WORKS, how do the elect live with the notion that works of faith are necessary for their justification? I will say the one simple thing I keep on saying: God does not count faith as the righteousness. Neither the initial act of faith nor the continuing acts of faith are the basis of justification. God counts the righteousness of Christ earned for the elect alone as the righteousness. The elect have legal union with Christ’s obedience to death for the elect. The elect come to share in this righteousness by legal imputation. The righteousness credited ( a free gift received, Romans 5:17) results in the justification of elect. But you cannot have faith ( beginning or continuing) in this righteousness if you have not yet heard and understood and assented to what the gospel reveals about election.

How Does a Dead Man Race?

June 27, 2010

Hebrews 5: 10-11 The one who has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…

Philippians 3:10 to share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…

If we were to ever become like Him
It would not have been us who did it
If we were to ever become dead
Christ would have killed us

If we were ever to become dead like Him
Then there would be no more confidence in the flesh
No more looking to our racing
We would become counters
Who count in a new different way

Pressing to not suspend our future
On a divine life in us
Now that we are dead
We count as flesh
What we used to count worship

If we were to ever become dead
We would have had it
Done to us
Death is the loss of all things

We would have lost making outcomes
Depend on God causing us to obey
It is God Who will have to keep us

If we were to ever get dead,
Christ’s death would be counted by God as our death
Our death would be His death our only hope

We do not hope for righteousness
We hope because of righteousness
We have passed from death to life
Now let’s see
If we can stand still.

Enemies of the cross
Say that Christ died for everybody
But that the good of the death
Stays conditioned on sinners not yet dead

Gospel Repentance

June 24, 2010

Gospel repentance is a repentance which comes as the gift of God by the Holy Spirit as He enlightens our minds to the Gospel — God’s promise to save guilty sinners, freely give them all of salvation (including the work of the Holy Spirit in them), and entitle them
to final glory based solely upon the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ freely imputed to all who believe the gospel.

It is only in this light that sinners can come to a repentance that is pleasing to God. Before hearing and believing the true Gospel, all repentance is no more than legal conviction that motivates a sinner in seeking to remove the guilt and defilement of sin and to recommend himself to God by his own self-efforts at remorse, reformation, obedience, and dedication.

This is the repentance and sorrow of the world that “works death” (2 Corinthians 7:10) as it motivates sinners to bring forth “fruit unto death” (Romans 7:4) and “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 9:14).

Such “fruit unto death” and “dead works” include any attempts of a sinner to attain or maintain any of the blessings or benefits of salvation based on anything other than the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ freely imputed by God.

A person therefore may be acutely aware of his guilt and defilement. He may admit his total depravity and utter worthlessness. He may adamantly and continually confess that God would be just to damn him based on his sins, but true godly repentance can only be determined by this:

Where does he find relief from his guilt, defilement, and depravity?

If he finds relief anywhere but in the righteousness of Christ (His substitutionary obedience to death on the cross), he has not been “made sorry after a godly manner” (2 Corinthians 7:9) nor come to “godly sorrow” which “works repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). His repentance is no more than legal, natural-conscience conviction of which he needs to repent.

We would all agree that the Bible teaches the necessity of repentance
Luke 13:3 “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Acts 17:30 “God commands all men everywhere to repent.”

Christ said in Matthew 9:13, “for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

He told His disciples that (Luke 24:47 )“repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Paul characterized his ministry in the preaching of the Gospel as… (Acts 20:21) “testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What exactly is this repentance?

When most people think of repentance they most always think of reformations of life involving a change from a life of immorality or lack of dedication in religion to a life of morality and dedication in religion. Most who go through such a change end up better in society as they conform to moral standards and begin to practice responsible behavior. Their families and their societies may be the better for it.

But such reformations do not characterize the true nature and heart ofgodly repentance!

Such reformations may accompany godly repentance, but if this is as far as it goes, the person may have turned from immorality to morality, but they have not repented in God’s sight. In fact, if such a person reforms in character and conduct as motivated by the darkness of false religion, then they are “twofold more the child of gehenna” (Matthew 23:15). The fact is that most people repent of immorality and irresponsible behavior before they are ever saved and come to true godly repentance.

The Greek dictionary defines repentance as “a reversal of your thoughts; a radical change of mind.” In the New Testament, the word “repentance” means a change of mind that brings about a change of life, walk, and conduct. In the Old Testament, the word “repentance” meant a turning as in the case of a person going in one direction and turning around to go in the opposite direction.

This godly change of mind and conduct which is called repentance can come only in light of the Gospel wherein Christ and His righteousness
is revealed as the only ground of salvation . This godly repentance is a change of mind concerning the character of God (Who He is) and the only ground upon which He can justify the ungodly. It is achange of mind concerning Christ (Who He is and what He accomplished) and the value of His obedience unto death (His righteousness) as being the only ground of salvation. It is a change of mind concerning ourselves (who we are) as being guilty, defiled sinners who owe a debt to God’s justice we cannot pay, who are in need of arighteousness we cannot produce. It is a change of mind concerning our best efforts to remove the guilt and defilement of sin, our best efforts to recommend ourselves to God, our best deeds aimed at attaining, maintaining, and entitling us to salvation.

The Apostle Paul illustrates this clearly in Philippians 3:3-10. In trueGospel faith and repentance a sinner comes to see and trust that Christ’s righteousness alone entitles him to all of salvation, including the subjective work of the Spirit, BEFORE he makes any efforts to obey God and persevere. In this specific light, he comes to see that before faith, his best efforts at obedience, all that he highly esteemed and thought was profitable in recommending him unto God, is now “loss,” no more than “dung” (Philippians 3:7-8) in light of Christ’s obedience to death.

What he before thought was pleasing unto God and works of the Spirit, he now sees as “flesh” (Philippians 3:3-4). What he once highly esteemed, he is now ashamed of it (Romans 6:21) and now, in light of the Gospel, counts it as fruit unto death, dead works, and evil deeds. He now sees that before faith, before believing that Christ’s righteousness alone entitled him to all of salvation, his thoughts of God were all wrong and that the god he worshipped and served then is an idol. Therefore, in repentance, he turns from that idol to serve the true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

This kind of true godly repentance can only come in light of the Gospel as it takes this specific truth, this light, to expose the sin that deceives us all by nature (John 3:19-20). Before we hear and believe the Gospel we are all deceived by sin (Romans 7:11). The sin that deceives us all by nature is not immorality. All of us by nature, by natural conscience know that immorality is sinful (Romans 2:14-15).

This knowledge may not keep sinners from indulging in and even excusing or justifying such immorality, but this is the result of not retaining the knowledge God has given in the conscience. The sin that deceives us all by nature is the sinfulness of seeking to establish a righteousness of our own before God. It is the sin of thinking that our reformations, our faithfulness, our tears of repentance and remorse, our attempts at obedience, our prayers, or anythingthat proceeds from us could attain, maintain, and/or entitle us to any part of salvation. This reveals the true nature and heart of godly repentance.

Consider John 16:8-11.
John 16:8 And when He is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

John 16:9 Of sin, because they believe not on Me;

John 16:10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see Me no more;

John 16:11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

This refers to the work of God the Holy Spirit in theconversion of God’s elect. It describes the conviction (convincing) that
goes on when the Holy Spirit brings sinners to repentance. He convinces God’s elect “Of sin, because they believe not on Me.” Many claim that this means that the Holy Spirit convinces sinners merely of the sin of unbelief. This is certainly included, but it goes further. The Holy Spirit convinces sinners that everything before faith, before hearing and believing the Gospel, was sinful (dead works, fruit unto death).

God the Holy Spirit convinces God’s elect “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father.” This means He convinces sinners that Christ’s righteousness alone entitles them to all of salvation. He convinces God’s elect “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” This is a large part of Gospel repentance in that the Holy Spirit puts within every believer a new standard of judgment. The believer no longer judges saved and lost based on Satan’s lie (outward appearance, reputation, etc.) (Genesis 3:4), but he now judges saved and lost based on God’s truth (Gospel) (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:18; 2 John 9-11).

It is true that there is a continual aspect to repentance. It is true that believers must repent constantly over the presence and influence of remaining sin. We see examples of this in the Bible. The Corinthians were called on to repent over their sinful conduct. They were called on to be ashamed enough to change their behavior. The Galatians were called on to repent of following false religious teachers who corrupted the Gospel with legalism.

All this is true, but Gospel repentance begins with repentance of dead works and former idolatry. If this does not take place as the first evidence of true saving faith, then all continual repentance is no more than legal, natural-conscience conviction.

Now, in light of this we must judge from God’s testimony as to whether or not we have truly repented. For example, there are many who have changed doctrines but who have never truly repented. Many have come from believing in the false god of free-willism, and have come to believe in a sovereign God. Many have come from believing auniversal atonement to believing in a particular atonement. Many have come to claim to believe in the doctrines of total depravity, election,irresistible calling, and perseverance of the saints, but they have nevertruly repented.

How can this be?

They have never admitted that while they believed God would save them based on something other than the righteousness of Christ which entitles sinners to all of salvation, that while they imagined that God would save them, keep them, and entitle them to redemption based on something that proceeded from them, they worshiped and served an idol, they were lost, and all their efforts were fruit unto death. They have never been made ashamed of such religious pride and self-righteousness, they exalted themselves and had confidence in the flesh.

They have never repented of believing and promoting a universal atonement which reduced the blood of Christ to a worthless pedestal upon which sinners could stand and boast of their own faith, repentance, and perseverance. They have not yet seen how such doctrine dishonored every attribute of God’s redemptive character, casts shame and reproach upon the Person and the work of Christ, and gave them room to boast. They will not
admit that believing and promoting such God-dishonoring doctrines proved that they were not submitted to Christ and His righteousness as the only ground of salvation.

Some may argue, “But these are only implications that can be discovered only by a mature and skilled believer.” For those of you who believe this is a valid argument, you need to refer to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Such doctrines that dishonor God, deny Christ, and leave sinner’s room to boast are damning (Galatians 2:21; Galatians 5:1-4; Galatians 6:14-16).

Think about this — How can we honor God, exalt Christ, and leave ourselves no room to boast?

This can be accomplished only in believing that Christ’s righteousness alone entitles us to all of salvation, including the Holy Spirit’s work in
us, before we take the first step in seeking to serve the Lord and persevere in the faith. One cannot believe this Gospel savingly without
having repented of everything else. If you have not believed this up to this point, then you need to repent and believe the Gospel!

By Bill Parker

Effective, Even if Nobody is Saved?

June 24, 2010

The Lutheran Jacob Preus has written an interesting book on Just Words: Understanding the Fullness of the Gospel (Concordia, 2000). About reconciliation, he writes: “Faith is necessary to appropriate the reconciliation of Christ. However, our faith does not make Christ’s work effective. It is effective even if no one approves it, even if no one is saved.” (p140).

Many “Reformed” folks like Mike Horton like this book. It has a lot of talk about sacraments and objectivity. But Lutherans have an “objective reconciliation” that does not reconcile. That kind of objectivity is not gospel. It’s not good news to make salvation depend on “appropriation”.

Even if you say that grace has to overcome the bondage of your will to “take it” (the word appropriate sounds like “steal” to me, but Sproul uses it so it must be ok: it means there for you but you got to consent to go get it with your empty hands), there are two problems with this false gospel.

One, there is no notion here that Christ’s death purchased the work of the Spirit and faith for the elect. Even if God by grace gives the faith, that faith is not a certain result of Christ’s work, even though the Bible teaches that it is (I Peter 1:21;II Peter 1:1; Eph 4:7-8; Phil 1:29).

Two, there can be no notion of a penalty for specific sins imputed, and therefore Lutherans end up with a propitiation that does not propitiate, a ransom that does not redeem, and a reconciliation that does not reconcile.

Part of the problem with the Preus chapter on reconciliation is that he seems to have no idea of God Himself being both the object and subject of His own reconciliation. Preus limits the concept to the sinner’s enmity to God, and not to God’s enmity to unjustified sinners.

Even when writing about the Father and the Son (p142), Preus tells us that “Christ was at enmity with God”. This is wrong. It is a result of not talking about the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. Instead of seeing that Christ was “made sin” legally because of imputation, Preus turns Christ into a sinner angry at God. Christ is and was human, but in no way a sinner except by imputation.

But of course no Lutheran who teaches an universal objective atonement can dare talk about the imputation of the guilt of the elect to Christ. They cannot even talk about an imputation of the elect’s penalty to Christ. On p 84, Preus explains that the ransom “should not be understood to be only for some and not for others…not all will be set free because the gift is to be received through faith.”

An universal ransom always means an ineffective ransom. Faith becomes what ransoms, even if you deny that and try to give the credit to a false Christ who died for everybody.

But does not the Bible use the word “reconcile” only with human sinners in mind? No. Let me channel John Murray for a minute. First, Romans 5:17 speaks of “receiving the reconciliation”. Surely, this does not mean overcoming your enmity in order to overcome your enmity! It means to passively receive by imputation what Christ did.

Second, Matthew 5:24 (sermon on the mount) commands “leave your gift there before the altar and first be reconciled to your brother.” So, even though we are the objects of reconciliaton, though we receive it, that it is not only the overcoming of our hostility, but what God has done in Christ to overcome God’s own hostility to sinners.

Why bother to write more? Didn’t I know that he taught an universal ineffective atonement before I read the book? Yes, but it’s interesting to see how that one simple thing complicates everything else. For example, on p 150, Preus writes that repentance “is a necessary prerequisite for forgiveness”, but then three pages later, he writes that “our repentance must not be thought of as a necessary prerequisite for forgiveness.”

Instead of the death of Christ being what God has done to expiate the sins of the elect, Preus thinks of the cross as a “means of grace” people can use to get the wrath averted. (p171).

Sinners become the imputers, whenever you leave out the good news that God is the imputer and that God has already imputed the sins of the sheep to the Shepherd (and already not the sins of the goats ). Perhaps that is why Preus avoids the biblical metaphor of the Shepherd.

For at least three of the biblical metaphors (birth, cleansing, salvation), Preus gives the efficacy not simply to “baptism” (saves you, I Peter 3:21) but to water baptism administered by ordained clergy. On p 125, there is a typo: instead of Ephesians, the reference to Adoption should be Galatians 4.

Let me close with two good statements, which of course are contradicted by what is written elsewhere in the book about universal atonement (and not written about imputation). On p 109, Preus argues for the possibility of translating Romans 3:21 as “but now a justification from God, apart from law, has been made known.”

Of course we could add detail to that. In Romans 5, it’s clear that a “free gift of righteousness” has resulted in “justification”. So there is room for a distinction between what Christ has done, and God’s declaring the elect to have legal union with that (justification). But it is the same greek word, so Preus has a point. But of course he contradicts it later by saying that faith is credited as the righteousness.

The second good statement relates to this. On p 111, Preus writes: “God’s righteousness is in the one who justifies, not in the one who justified.” That is right, but you cannot maintain that if you say that Christ did the righteousness even for those who perish. You cannot maintain that if you say that God counts the faith of the sinner as the righteousness.

So Preus sees the problem, but he cannot fix it, and that is inherent in any universal atonement which is conditioned on the faith of the sinner.

Imputation, The Transfer is Legal Union With and Because of that Christ Died

June 18, 2010

The Bible sometimes has imputation without transfer. For example, Psalm 106: 30-31 tells us that “Phinehas stood up and intervened and the plague was stayed and that was counted to him as righteousness.” Nobody replaced Phinehas or did his killing work for him, nor is the idea that something not really righteous got counted as righteous.

God counted Phinehas killing the two people as righteousness because it was righteousness, not to justify him but as sufficient cause to stop the plague against Israel. The story of Phinehas is not gospel, because it has no transfer to or from Jesus Christ.

God is righteous always and God imputes righteousness for what it is.

The Bible also has imputation, and transfer, and still no gospel.

When the sin of Adam is transferred to every human person (not when they are teenagers but when they are born), this transfer of guilt is not good news. God does not transfer the guilt of Adam to us because we are united to Adam in sharing the same nature.

United to Adam by his guilt transferred to us, we share Adam’s nature. To make the union something prior to the guilt keeps begging several questions. Unless we know that a transfer of guilt is unjust, we have no reason to define our union with Adam in metaphysical terms about the organic essence of the one and the many.

Transfer of guilt is union, and results in depravity and death. This depravity is not for the elect alone, because the guilt of Adam is not for the elect alone.

The gospel has a glorious transfer , but It is not a transfer of depravity. Christ was not imputed with the depravity of the elect, but with their guilt. Even though depravity is part of the punishment for imputed guilt, Christ was not imputed with depravity but with guilt.

Even though many Calvinists focus on the supposed “spiritual death” that Jesus experienced in the three hours before He died (see Michael Lawrence in It Is Well, or Harold Camping, or W. E. Best), the Bible itself never says that Christ Jesus experienced depravity, not even for three hours. Christ Jesus bore the guilt, the sins of the elect. The result of that was death.

The entire human race is now born guilty and depraved in nature. Christ was born truly human but not depraved. He did not have to be depraved to be human. Nor did He have to be guilty to be human. This means that Christ can be and was imputed with the guilt of the elect alone, and not with the guilt of the non-elect.

I do not know for sure when this guilt of the elect was transferred. Because of Christ’s lifelong suffering, I tend to agree with Smeaton that God transferred the guilt at His birth. Surely that guilt was not satisfied though until Christ died on account of the sins of the elect.

But what we can say for sure is that not only punishment for guilt, but that guilt itself was transferred to Christ. The gospel talks about election, because the gospel talks about Christ bearing sins.

Isaiah 53:5 speaks of the punishment which brought us peace. But Isaiah 53:6 also tells us that “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us.” The servant Christ bore not only punishment but also iniquity.

There is no biblical reason to isolate three hours of existential agony from all the rest that Christ suffered. As God uses Satan to cast out Satan, God can and does use sin against sin. We do not have to look for something direct and without the involvement of humans.

God ordained specific sinners to sin against other specific sinners. And God ordained specific sinners to sin against the One who had been imputed with the sins of specific sinners. Using the power of the nation-state-empire, God punished Christ who was legally charged with all the sins of the elect alone. This is not unfair. It is good news but only for the elect.

Faith is Not the Righteousness, Turretin

June 16, 2010

Turretin on faith and justification. (p75, Justification, ed Dennison, P and R, 1994)

First,the false mode of justification by faith (introduced by the Socinians and Romanists) must be removed. The act of believing is not considered as our righteousness with God by a gracious acceptation. A. Because receiving righteousness cannot be our righteousness itself formally. Rom 5:17-18)

B. Because faith is distinguished from the righteousness itself imputed to us, both because it is said to be “of faith” and “by faith” (Rom 1:17; 3:22; Phil 3:9) and because Christ with his obedience and satisfaction is that righteousness which is imputed to us (Is 53:11; Jer 23:6; I Cor 1:30; II Cor 5;21; Gal 3:13-14). Faith has this righteousness as its object, but with which it cannot be identified.

C. Because we are not justified except by a perfect righteousness. For we have to deal with the strict justice of God, which cannot be deceived. Now no faith here is perfect. Nor can it be considered as such by God and a gratuitous lowering of the law’s demands. For in the court of divine justice, there cannot be a room for a gracious acceptation which is an imaginary payment.

D. If faith is counted for righteousness, we will be justified by works because this faith cannot but have the relation of a work that justifies. And yet it is clear that in this business Paul always opposes faith to works as incompatible and two antagonistic means by which man is justified either by his own obedience or by another’s obedience.

“The faith of Abraham,” it is said, “was imputed to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3). Not properly because in this way he would have been justified by works. But metonymically, faith is taken for its object (Gal 3:25), ie, for that which faith believes. (ie the promise, Gal 3:16)

Nor is this to wrest Scripture and to expose coldly the power of faith, as it is charged. Nay, no more clearly and truly can the genuine sense of that imputation be set forth. For since that thing which is imputed to us for righteousness ought to be our righteousness before God (that on account of which God justifies us), nor can faith be that, it is clear that this phrase is to be taken metonymically with regard to the object.