Christ’s Continuing Work in Our Hearts or Christ’s Finished Death at the Cross?

John Fesko in a footnote:

“Richard Gaffin tries to argue, on the basis of the grammar involved in a similar Pauline statement, 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 (kata) to works,’ not ‘on account of (dia),’ expressing the ground, nor ‘by (ek) works,’ expressing the instrument” (By Faith, Not By Sithgt [Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006], 98-99;

Though Gaffin’s comment concerns Paul’s statement in Romans 2:6, at the same time we find the same prepositional combination with the accusative in John’s statement in Revelation 20:12e, the only difference being in the use of the singular and plural pronouns (cf. Rom 2:6). Gaffin argues this point because he wants to preserve sola fide in the judgment of the works of the believer.

Relying upon the analysis of Ridderbos and Murray, Gaffin’s finer point is that the judgment kata works is “in accordance with” the works, and such works are synecdochical for faith in Christ (see Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard de Witt [1975; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], 178-81; Murray, Romans, 78-79).

Yet can such a fine distinction be supported by the grammar alone? The use of “dia” with the accusative means “because of, on account of,” and the use of “kata” with the accusative means “in accordance with, corresponding to” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 368-69, 376-77). One must ask, what difference exists between the two?

In fact, when we delve more deeply into the significance of “kata” with the accusative, we find that “often the noun that follows kata specifies the criterion, standard, or norm in the light of which a statement is made or is true, an action is performed, or a judgment is passed. The preposition. will mean ‘according to’, ‘in conformity with’, ‘corresponding to.’ This use is common in reference to the precise and impartial standard of judgment that will be applied at the great Assize (Matt. 16:27; Rom 2:6; 1 Cor 3:8; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev 2:23)” (Murray J. Harris, “Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament,” in NIDNTT, 3:1200).

Gaffin’s argument apparently fails to account for judgment kata works for the wicked. This point seems to be borne out by Paul’s own use of kata, as he says, “He will render each one according to [kata] his works” (Rom. 2:6), but this rendering kata works is for both the righteous (v. 7) and the wicked (v. 8).

According to Gaffin’s interpretation, are the wicked judged according to their works, but are they not the ground of their condemnation (see 2 Cor. 11:15)? Again, note how Paul uses kata: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due [to de ergazomeno ho misthos ou logizetai kata charin alla kata opheilema]” (Rom 4:4; see also Brian Vickers, Jesus Blood and Righteousness [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006] 95.

Judgment therefore is indeed kata (in accordance with, or on the basis of) works – the evil works of the unbeliever and the good works, THE GOOD WORKS, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS, OF CHRIST.”

“Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine” p. 315

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6 Comments on “Christ’s Continuing Work in Our Hearts or Christ’s Finished Death at the Cross?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    But Gaffin always has a not yet finished. Though we are justified now (because faith in something, even Arminianism, unites us now to Jesus), Gaffin still teaches a justification by sight, ie by works.

    Instead of reading the “according to works” texts as having to do with the distinction between dead works (Hebrews 6:1,9:14) and “fruit for God” (Romans 7:4), Gaffin conditions assurance in future justification on imperfect but habitual working.

    Instead of saying that works motivated by fear of missing justification are unacceptable to God, Gaffin teaches a justification which is contingent on God’s work in us.

    Gaffin follows his mentors John Murray and Norman Shepherd in taking Romans 2:13 to be describing Christians. The hope for future justification is not Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession alone: challenging any law-gospel antithesis, Gaffin teaches an “unbreakable bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of assurance and hope for future justification. (p100, Faith/Sight)

    Faith (in which gospel?)is the lone instrument, he agrees, yes Christ’s finished work outside us is the alone ground, he affirms, but at the same time and however, works in us also factor in.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Now Christ is seated in heaven (Acts 2:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13). The justified elect are not in heaven, except by legal union/imputation with Christ. The justified elect have not ascended to a place from which they never descended. (John 3:13)

    Psalm 110:1–”The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The justified elect do not share God’s throne and do not sit at God’s right hand. The heavenly glory Christ had enjoyed in the Father’s presence before His incarnation has now been “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death. (Hebrews 2:9)

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Richard Gaffin, p102, By Faith Not by Sight,–“This expression obedience of faith is best taken as intentionally multivalent…In other words, faith itself is an obedience, as well as other acts of obedience that stem from faith.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    The fruit of infralapsarianism? Richard Gaffin, by Faith not by Sight, p 103–“The law-gospel antithesis enters not by virtue of creation but as the consequence of sin…The gospel is to the purpose of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer…With the gospel and in Christ, united to him, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Cunha’s book on Gaffin, p83—“Whatever is made of the fact that the new birth precedes faith, the Biblical definition of faith itself must not be altered in order to acommodate a notion that the forensic act of justification cannot be preceded….by the actual change produced within a man through the creative work of the new birth. To say that faith is merely an awareness of justification that has occurred prior to faith is to define faith in a way that is foreign to Scripture….

  6. markmcculley Says:

    When did Christ finish the finished work?
    Did Christ finish the finished work before time began?
    If we do not agree that Christ finished the finished work before Christ created the world, does that mean that we are Arminians who think we finish the finished work?


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