Does Faith have “Instrumental” Efficacy?

My problem is not that the traditional “instrumental” language can be misunderstood. Any explanation of faith’s necessity that I give can also be misunderstood.

I believe that faith in the true gospel (which gospel includes “for the elect alone”) is necessary in order for an elect sinner to pass from a state of condemnation to a state of justification. This faith in the gospel is not a knowledge that a person has been justified all along, or assurance that a person has been justified from the time of the cross or before a person was born.

This faith in the gospel, which includes understanding of the gospel, is the immediate result of being born again, which is the immediate result of being imputed with the merits of Christ’s death. (I don’t insist on the word “imputation” let alone the word “merits”, but I mean the righteousness –the thing itself, not only a resulting status or effect– obtained by Christ’s death. )

In the false gospel which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, faith is misunderstood as making the difference between saved and lost. Faith is not thought of as merit but it is thought of as “instrumental” condition. Even in cases where the fine print tells you that this making-the- difference faith is a result of predestination and regeneration, the credit for salvation does not go to Christ’s death.

The credit may go to the Holy Spirit or to predestination, but it cannot go to Christ, if Christ died for all sinners but only some sinners are saved. We need to put a stop to the double talk which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, but then explains later (not to everybody but only to those who have already professed Christ) that Christ died for some people to get them something different and more for them than Christ did for everybody else.

This kind of double talk implicitly teaches that Christ propitiated the wrath of God for all sinners but that Christ also died extra for the elect to give them the faith to get the benefit of Christ’s propitiation. In other words, there is no antithesis with the false gospel of Arminianism.

Since they still want to be thought of as evangelicals, and still want to have influence on evangelicals, “Reformed evangelicals” agree to the heresy that Christ died for everybody. Even if they don’t explicitly say that Christ’s death was to take away the wrath for every sinner, by their silence about the question, they go along with what everybody already understands, which is that faith alone makes the difference.

They can try to put boundaries around that, and say that the object of faith is important. They can even imply that Mormons and open theists are not evangelicals, and maybe not even justified. But they are still agreeing, sermon after sermon, every time that they do not say “for the elect alone”, that it is faith alone which makes the difference.

In their fine print, the glory may go to God for predestinating the Spirit to give us faith. But it is no longer Christ’s death which saves, if Christ died for all sinners, and some of these sinners are lost. And though we may talk of Scripture alone, we end up with a canon within a canon, where what the Scripture says about the elect in Christ and therefore being elect in His death gets left out of the gospel.

Instead of saying that Christ died only for the elect and not for the non-elect, The new “winsomde and gentle” Calvinists leave out the e word and say that Christ died for believers, which means all of us, which then means that faith alone makes the difference and not Christ.

If they want to keep the “thoroughly reformed” happy, they might say sometimes that Christ died for his covenant people, but then later they will make it clear that the covenant is conditional and that the his people are believers, so that it will all come back to faith alone.

According to Scripture, faith alone is “not works”. The point of faith alone is “grace alone”. And according to Scripture, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. Romans 9:11, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

When “Reformed evangelicals” leave out the “for the elect alone” and try to discuss the gospel without talking about election, then mostly all they can say “not because of works but because of faith alone”. Sometimes of course they do talk about the “but because of his call”. On these infrequent occasions they say that the reason you believe is not your freewill but God’s effectual call. Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, Reformed evangelicals will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that false gospel.

Of cours in select groups (for example, conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of anything you already believe. Before you believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel. But now you know that the faith came from God, and that this prevenient gift was not to make your faith possible. Now you know God made sure you believed.

Faith is not something you bring to the gospel. Faith is something that the gospel brings to the elect. It is necessary for us to HEAR the gospel. This HEARING is not works but faith.

Galatians 3: “ Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith… I know then that it is those of faith who are the children of Abraham. The Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham.”

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4 Comments on “Does Faith have “Instrumental” Efficacy?”

  1. Given the concern here that some have allotted too much credit to the Holy Spirit and God’s predestination and not enough to Christ–we may rightfully ask: what are we to make of our Lord’s own comments: Jn 17:6-7 where Christ Himself give credit to the Father for His role in the process of salvation?

    • markmcculley Says:

      Good question/ thought! Often the Father is forgotten. Not that I understand the Trinity, but it seems that God the Father acts as representative also of the Son and the Spirit. I hope I said that right. I Cor 1:30–“He is the source of your life in Christ”. I don’t think that means that “Christ is the source of your life in Christ” or that “the Spirit is the source of your life in Christ”. It is the Father who calls. It is the Father who declares just those who were guilty. It is the Father who imputes….

      1. The Father is God.
      2. The Son is God.
      3. The Holy Spirit is God.
      4. The Father is not the Son.
      5. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
      6. The Holy Spirit is not the Father.
      7. There is Only One God.


    unless the atonement can be left out of the gospel, then neither can election be left out of the gospel

    Lewis Sperry Chafer. ST, 3, p187—-”The highway of divine election is quite apart from the highway of redemption.”

    Herman Bavinck, Sin and Salvation, volume 3, Reformed Dogmatics, 2006, p 469—-”The center of gravity has been shifted from Christ and located in the Christian. Faith (not the atonement) has become the reconciliation with God.”

    Jonathan Gibson, From heaven, p 358—-Election and the Atonement do not operate on separate theological tracks. What God has joined together, let no theologian separate. Affirming union with Christ before the moment of redemption accomplished counts any disjunction between the effect of Christ’s death and the effect of His resurrection. (Those who put union later) sound as if Christ’s death might lead to the death of some sinners, but not also to their resurrection. This is not only analogy. if one, then the other. if death with, then resurrection with.

    Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like his.

    mark: Being united with Christ before the moment of redemption means that the atonement is both substitutionary and representative. The death is not only representative, not only “on behalf of”, as if there could be other deaths along side the one death. But also the death is not only substitutionary, as if Christ were some arbitrary individual who died for no one in particular because he had no covenantal relationship with those for whom He died, as only some “available substitute”. Christ was already united by election to those for whom He died.

  3. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Bruce McCormack—-“The work of the Holy Spirit does not complete a work of Jesus Christ which was incomplete without it. The work of the Holy Spirit does not make effective a work of Jesus Christ which is ineffective without it.”,

    The term ‘ingrafting’ is used in Romans 9-11 to speak of a share in gifts and privileges. That Paul would preface his use of the horticultural image with the affirmation that the adoption belonged to the Israelites before the Gentiles suggests that the image of ‘ingrafting’ is used as a synonym for adoption. The horticultural image is subordinated to the legal.. Since the gift of the Holy Spirit is itself a consequence of adoption (Romans 8:15) and not the condition of adoption, a legal metaphor is used to describe the objective side of the act in which God turns toward the individual in his grace without respect for the subjective consequences of that turning in us

    p 229, “The Actuality of God, Engaging the Doctrine of God“

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