Archive for July 2011

Adam the Judicial Representative Even of the Elect Before Their Justification

July 30, 2011

Romans 5: 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

The text does not say that “all sinned in Adam”. Nor does this chapter ever use the word “imputation”. But the sin of verse 12 is not the result of death.  The death is the result of  “because all sinned”.  So we look to the context to see how it is that the all sinned.  They all sinned because of the representative sin of Adam.

Adam was our substitute. We don’t need to sin ourselves to be condemned to death. We are condemned to death because Adam  sinned for us, as our representative. We are not guilty based on our corruption. Corruption is mediated to us because we are guilty.  We sin but before that we were already constituted sinners.

Romans 5:13 “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”

It’s not only infants who died who did NOT sin like Adam.  Everybody who died after Adam’s first sin but before the Mosaic law was given did NOT sin like Adam. Yet because of Adam’s sin and Adam’s representation, all these people died.

But didn’t they live a while and then die? Why did they get to live even a little if they were born guilty?  Genesis: in the day you eat, you will surely die. The death is sure, but not yet executed upon all those represented by Adam.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  “Truly I say to you
today you will be with me in Paradise.”
  Luke 23:43 Jesus did not wait until after He died to promise the justified thief that He would remember him. The promise to be with Jesus in paradise is sure, even on this day when Jesus died. “David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up.” Acts 2:31

Romans 5:16 “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

God has a just nature but the Bible never says that death for Adam’s guilt imputed in any way undermines the goodness of God

Imputation is not only about the punishment of sins. Imputation is about the bearing of guilt.  Infants who die have been imputed with Adam’s sin, and that doesn’t mean they only bear the punishment of Adam’s sin. They sinned when Adam sinned.

So how did the elect die when Christ died? Again, the logical inference is by imputation of what their representative accomplished. What did Christ get done? What did Christ finish? Christ died for the sins of the elect imputed to Him. Not only did God impute the sins of the elect to Christ, but God also imputes the death of Christ (this good and just death, because of sins) to the elect, in time and individually, one by one as God justifies these elect.

No Time-Lag After Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness Until Regeneration

July 26, 2011

What does the application of Christ’s work mean? First, it means that God imputes that work (not only the reward, but the righteousness) to the elect. Before the cross, God imputed the work to some of the elect. After the cross, God continues to impute the work to some of the elect.  So there is a difference (not only in time) between the work and the imputation of the work.

For example, Romans 6 describes being placed into the death of Christ.  There is a difference between the federal union of all the elect in Christ before the beginning of the world and the legal union of the elect with Christ when they are justified.

Second, the application (purchased by Christ for the elect, and thus  their inheritance) includes the conversion which immediately follows the imputation.  We could go to every text in the New Testament about the effectual calling into fellowship, but let us think now of only two.

Galatians 3:13-14: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come…, so that we would receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

What is a second text which teaches us that regeneration and conversion immediately follow the imputation? Romans 8:10–but if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

Because the work (righteousness) is imputed, the next result will be life, not only legal forensic life but also the life  the Holy Spirit gives by means of the gospel, so that the elect understand and believe, and are converted.

As II Peter 1:1 starts, “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Christ did not die to forgive any elect person of the final sin of unbelief of the gospel. Christ died to give every elect person life, and thus faith in the gospel and conversion.

Calvin Denied Original Guilt, by David Engelsma

July 22, 2011

from the Protestant Reformed Seminary Journal, April 2002, by David Engelsma

Against the interpretation of Calvin that has him teaching original guilt, albeit in embryonic form, however, stands Calvin’s commentary on Romans 5:12ff. He explains our relation to Adam in terms of Adam’s extending his corruption to us, which corruption constitutes our only guilt in the matter of Adam’s sin. Calvin explicitly rejects the doctrine of original guilt in the sense of our responsibility for Adam’s deed of disobedience.

There are indeed some who contend, that we are so lost through Adam’s sin, as though we perished through no fault of our own, but only, because he had sinned for us. But Paul distinctly affirms, that sin extends to all who suffer its punishment: and this he after wards more fully declares, when subsequently he assigns a reason why all the posterity of Adam are subject to the dominion of death; and it is even this—because we have all, he says, sinned. But to sin in this case, is to become corrupt and vicious; for the natural depravity which we bring from our mother’s womb, though it brings not forth immediately its own fruits, is yet sin before God, and deserves his vengeance: and this is that sin which they call original.

Commenting on verse 17, which compares death’s reigning by Adam and our reigning in life by Jesus Christ, Calvin calls attention to a “difference between Christ and Adam”:

By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, as though we were punished only for the sin of another; but we suffer his punishment, because we also ourselves are guilty; for as our nature is vitiated in him, it is regarded by God as having committed sin. But through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation.

For Calvin, our sinning in Adam, as taught in Romans 5:12, is strictly that “we are all imbued with natural corruption, and so are become sinful and wicked.”8 The race becomes guilty for Adam’s transgression only by sharing in Adam’s depraved nature. Adam sinned. The punishment for Adam was, in part, the immediate corruption of his nature. But this is the nature of all his posterity (Christ excepted). All of Adam’s posterity are held responsible for the corrupted nature. Not sheer legal representation by a covenant head, but involvement in a corporate nature renders the race guilty before God. I am not responsible for Adam’s disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit. But I am responsible for the sinful nature with which God punished Adam for his act of disobedience.

This view of original sin leaves Calvin with a huge problem. By what right did God inflict the punishment of a corrupt nature on Adam’s posterity? That the corruption of human nature was divine punishment on Adam, Calvin acknowledges. But it was as well punishment of Adam’s posterity. This, Calvin does not like to acknowledge. Rather, he likes to regard the depraved nature only as the guilt of Adam’s posterity. The question that exposes the weakness — serious weakness — of Calvin’s doctrine here is this: If I am not guilty for Adam’s act of disobedience, with what right does God punish me — not Adam, but me — with a totally depraved nature?

Calvin’s explanation of the origin of the sin of the human race also has an important implication for the headship of Adam. Adam was head of the race, to be sure. But his headship consisted only of his depraving the human nature of which all partake. His was not the headship of legal representation. Adam did not stand in such a covenantal relation to all men, that, altogether apart from the consequent corrupting of the nature, all are responsible before God for Adam’s act of disobedience.

In view of the apostle’s comparison between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12ff. (“as by the offence of one … even so by the righteousness of one,” v. 18), Calvin’s explanation of the headship of Adam would mean that Christ’s headship also consists only of His being the source of righteousness to His people by actually infusing it into them. If Adam’s headship was not legal representation, neither is Christ’s headship legal representation. But this destroys the fundamental gospel-truth of justification as the imputation of Christ’s obedience.

Calvin recognizes the danger. Therefore, in his commentary on Romans 5:17 Calvin proposes a “difference between Christ and Adam.” “By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone,” but “through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation.”

The trouble is that Paul does not teach such a “difference between Christ and Adam.” Paul rather declares, “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).

If our guilt in Adam is not by imputation of a deed of disobedience, neither is our righteousness in Christ by imputation of a deed of obedience. This is the theology of Rome, dishonoring the God of grace. It is also the heresy that increasingly finds favor with Protestant theologians.

The “difference between Christ and Adam” that Calvin injects into Romans 5:12ff. does not exist. Verse 18 teaches that the transgression of one man — Adam, according to verse 14 — was the condemnation of all men. In verse 19, the apostle states that the disobedience of the one man rendered many people sinners. The verb translated “made” by the King James Version does not mean “made” in the sense of causing people actually to become sinful. Rather, it means “constituted” in the sense of a legal standing of guilt before God the judge.

One could translate: “By one man’s disobedience many were declared sinners.” Even so, the righteousness of one — Jesus Christ — was the justification of all whom He represented, and His obedience constitutes many people righteous.

The comparison between the two covenant heads of the human race in history consists exactly of this, that both are legal representatives of others, Adam, of the entire human race, Christ only excepted, and Christ, of the new human race of the elect church. Because Adam was covenant (federal) head of the race, his act of disobedience was imputed to the race as their guilt. Because Christ is covenant (federal) head of the elect church, His obedience is imputed to the church as our righteousness.

God Does Not Deal with Individuals?

July 18, 2011

Many reformed defenses of infant baptism depend in some way on not focusing the redemptive-historical character of covenants. Despite his Meredith Kline (some would say dispensational) model, Stellman also relies on “the covenant” talk, expecially when he claims that worship is the same in the new as the old covenant.

My aim here is not to pit one paedobaptist against another (though that’s fun enough, see the little book from Evangelical Press by TE Watson).That does not get to the crux of the question, which has to do with ordained “ministers” doing something and saying that God is doing and man is not.

“Ancient sacramental” folk spend a lot of time quoting Calvin and Nevin to their pietist congregations. And I will grant them that the Constantinian tradition is on their side: the Godfrey-Horton-Doug Wilson types can find plenty to support them even in Zwingli. But it’s going to take more than accusing others of being Gnostic and quoting the confessions about the office of the “minister” to convince us.

Stellman claims that “God never deals with us as individuals” (p9) I do not agree. I disagree that, when we hear Christ preached, we then hear Christ preaching. (p13) I disagree that we hear an official “minister” absolving our sins, that we hear Christ forgiving our sins.

WHO IS HEARING? Are the non-elect not hearing, because they don’t care about their sins? If so, then it comes back again to the faith of the hearers? Or, instead, are the non-elect hearing “you are forgiven” by the “minister” as telling them that THEIR sins are forgiven?

Is it “pietism” to warn people that the New Testament is written only to “as many as” are individually Christian? It’s ironic that Stellman can make distinctions for Sabbath (no death penalty for this! ) but he won’t divide individual Christian from individual nonChristian for those “taking the sacrament”.

Why go on pretending that everybody listening to the sermon and observing the sacrament is an exile from the world and a Christian? But since he refuses “to speak to the church as if were the world” (even though he baptises the infant world into the church), he needs to think more about about the possibility of water passing on salvation to pagans who are not children, and about the supper being converting for those halfway in.

Or, as he himself asks, Even if there is no faith, is there no blessing? (p 14)

To the extent Stellman uses “the covenant” to argue for sacraments, his distinction between the old and new covenants collapses. When he talks Sabbath, he doesn’t want the death penalty to apply, but when he talks sacraments, he still wants to talk sanctions and curses. (p77) Like his mentor Kline, he warns that God may break you off if you don’t observe the rituals.

Stellman doesn’t want us to talk about “dead” Christians (p80) as if some internal work of the Spirit needed to be done, but rather ask if people are “observant” at the sacraments. Maybe you agree with him.

My point is that not even all paedobaptists agree with him on that.

If you are faking it at the sacrament, then God can kill you. That argument in itself does not prove that it is a sacrament or that God is the agent in water baptism and in the Supper. Those questions have to be answered biblically. By that, I don’t exclude any sense of individuality at conversion. Neither do I exclude use of confessions.

The Politics of Mainstream Calvinist DoubleTalk

July 15, 2011

This double talk 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, it has no antithesis with the false gospel of Arminianism.

Since the Together for the Gospel folks still want to be thought of as evangelicals, and still want to have influence on evangelicals, they agree to the heresy that Christ died for everybody. Even if they don’ 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.

Of course “evangelicals who also happen to be Calvinists” try to put boundaries around their relativism, and say that the object of faith is important. They even say that Mormons and open theists are not evangelicals, and maybe not even justified.

But these compromising pragmatists 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. And when they do that, there is no Christ alone left. In the fine print, the glory may go to God’s predestination of the Spirit to give faith.

But they cannot and do not teach that it’s Christ’s death which saves, if Christ died for all sinners, and some of these sinners are lost. And though they 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 becomes segregated out from the gospel and thus unspoken or denied.

Instead of saying that Christ died only for the elect and not for the non-elect, they leave out the e word and say that Christ died for believers (which means all of us if you don’t ask “believers in what?). This then means that faith alone makes the difference and not Christ.

If the double-talkers 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”.

No Gospel Without Predestination, but You can Have Predestination Without the Gospel

July 13, 2011

I just read a good book from Trinity Foundation about Knox seminary breakup (Reymond and Sproul out) called Imagining a Vain Thing by Steven Matthews.

Matthews challenges biblical theology’s “interpretive maximalism” and James Jordan and the federal vision and Vos. He attacks the mysticism of “Christ is in every verse of the OT” which sets itself up against “rationalism”. He shows the papist origins of a Sensus Plenior hermeneutic. (p66)

A current professor at Knox Seminary, Warren Gage, got his PHD (in political philosophy) from Roman Catholic University of Dallas, and taught that Protestants slandered the pope by identifying him as the antiChrist.

Matthews observes that James Kennedy’s willingness to be ecumenical with Romanists in “his eagerness to fight the culture wars”. (p102) Many (not all) Reformed people tend to care a lot less about tulip (Gage called unconditional grace rape) but want to “hold the culture”. (p51)

One reservation I have about the book is Matthews saying that “predestination is not the gospel” (p104). I would say that it’s part of the gospel, that election is good news, and that you cannot teach the nature of the atonement without teaching its extent–sufficient only for the intended).

But I think I agree with the larger point of Matthews: a person can sincerely believe in predestination, and still be clueless about how God is just and justifier. I believed in predestination long before I was converted (when God handed me over to the doctrine of the gospel, Romans 6:17).

In other words, a false gospel can teach that God predestinates and monergistically enables a sinner to be justified by works. A false gospel can teach that the death of Christ was sufficient for everybody but not effective until the predestinated work of the Spirit causes the elect to by faith make the atonement effective in their case. And so on…

The Faith of Christ Means “Faith in Christ” and not “Christ’s Faith”

July 13, 2011

Some Reformed folks are so unhappy with the idea that faith is a condition that also deny that faith in Galatians 3 is the human act of believing. I too deny that faith is an instrumental condition before justification. But take a few minutes to read Gal 2:16, 3:22; Romans 3:22,26; Phil 3:9; Ephesians 3:12. When I look at all the texts together, I cannot deny that faith often means the human act of an individual elect person hearing, understanding, and believing the gospel.

Here’s the question. Is Christ the subject or object of faith? The view I oppose says we should read all these verses as saying, “Christ’s faith.” Some of the Reformed people who say this remind us that God gives us faith, that God is the source of faith.  I agree that faith is God’s gift to the elect. But Christ does not believe for us. Christ makes us both able and willing to believe the gospel so that we do believe the gospel. Christ indwelling in us does not believe, and so I disagree with Primitive Baptists who deny that the elect need to hear or understand or believe the gospel.

But many who agree with me that the elect need to believe the gospel still insist that “faith” in these texts means “Christ’s faith”, either in the sense that He is the source of my faith, or in the sense of Christ Himself believing. But no other texts refer to the act of Christ believing, unless these texts do.

James 2:1 tells us, “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” I think that Christ is the object of faith, and that our faith is in/toward Christ and not toward His act of believing.

Romans 3:3 does refer to God’s faithfulness. “Does their unfaithfulness nullify the faithfulness of God? The gospel is about Christ’s death as that which satisfies God’s justice. Justice demands death because of the elect’s sins imputed to Christ. To believe that gospel promise is to believe in Christ’s death. We can’t have a gospel which speaks generically about God’s faithfulness without talking about Christ’s death.

Romans 3:25,26. “God put forward Christ as a propitiation by his blood to show God’s righteousness, to be RECEIVED by faith.” The receiving here is the human act of believing. Yes, God is faithful to His law and therefore just, but also God does not justify all sinners, but only of those sinners who have faith in Christ and His propitiation. This language no more makes faith the condition of salvation than does John 3:16. God does not love everybody. God only loves the elect, and the elect are identified as those who believe the gospel. There is no reason not to talk about election in John 3 or Romans 3, but also there is no reason not to talk about “as many as” believe the gospel.

Some Reformed people, to avoid making faith a condition of salvation, tell us that the continual faith in the gospel by the elect is a work. They do this in order to prove that the elect are saved not by believing but by the work of Christ.  For example, Harold Camping quotes John 6:28-28, “ What shall we do to do the works of God? “ Jesus answered and said unto them, “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He has sent.” Then Camping quotes Phil 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

Then Camping goes to James about faith working and then says this proves that our human act of believing is no part of salvation. He claims that it’s Christ’s faith that saves. The logic is clear. The elect are saved by Christ’s work. And then Camping reminds us that Christ’s faith is Christ’s work.

II Peter 1:1,“ To those who have obtained faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Romans 4:24-25 “IT will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised up for our justification.”

1. Christ and His death are the IT. Faith is not the IT. Christ and His death are the object of faith. But Christ and His death are the IT credited by God.

2. We can distinguish but never separate His person and work. Also we can distinguish but never separate his death and his resurrection.

3. God counts according to truth. God counts righteousness as righteousness! a. The righteousness  God counted is  not our righteousness (not our acts of faith) but Christ’s death legally “transferred” to us.   When Christ legally marries us, what is His still belongs to Christ but now ours also. b. Justification means that God imputes this righteousness in time to the elect.

Genesis 15:6 God Does not Impute Faith as the Righteousness

July 8, 2011

To begin to understand Genesis 15:6, we need to know that “as righteousness” should be translated “unto righteousness”. (See Robert Haldane’s commentary, Banner of Truth). That’s important to see, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t explain the imputation.

Whether we see imputation as the transfer of something, or if we see imputation as the declaration of something (without a transfer, or after a transfer), what is the “it” which is being imputed? No matter if we have gone to great lengths to say that it is not credited as righteousness but only unto righteousness, what is “it” and why is God imputing “it”?

The “new perspective” tells us the imputation is without a transfer, and that it only means declaring that certain folks are in the covenant. In this way of thinking, “it is imputed” simply means that God declares people just without talking about how and why they got that way.

“It” has an antecedent, but the antecedent is not faith alone. God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel.

“Faith” in Galatians 3:5-8 is defined in two ways: not by works of the law, and the gospel preached to Abraham.

God did establish a conditional covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 17, he warned that anybody not circumcised would be cut off from the covenant. But that conditional covenant with Abraham is not the gospel God preached to Abraham.

God did not say to Abraham: if you believe, then I will bless you. God said, I will bless you without cause, not only so that you will believe but also so that in your offspring there will be one who will bring in the righteousness for the elect alone required by the law.

The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Abraham’s seed Jesus Christ for the elect alone.

Galatians 3:5-8, which quotes Genesis 15:6, tells us that Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness. Everybody from Martin Luther to John Murray reads this as saying that faith alone is imputed as the righteousness.

Of course there are different explanations. Luther reminds us that to have faith is to have Christ indwelling, and tells us that God really is pleased with the faith God has given us, and this faith is really righteous in God’s sight. But Luther does not explain how this righteous faith (produced by God in the water of regeneration) satisfies the law of God .

Luther also taught that, if you were a sinner, Christ had died for you. This means that Luther’s message cannot be that the elect were saved by Christ’s death alone.

But John Murray not only taught that Christ died in some sense only for the elect, but also taught that faith alone for nine reasons could not be the righteousness imputed. I like his reasons, and you can look them up in his commentary on Romans. But still, at the end of the day, Murray claimed that every honest exegete would have to agree with him that Genesis 15 does teach that the faith alone is what God imputes.

Romans 4:24-25 “IT will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised up for our justification.”

1. Christ and His death are the IT. Faith is not the IT. Christ and His death are the object of faith. But Christ and His death are the IT credited by God.

2. We can distinguish but never separate His person and work. Also we can distinguish but never separate his death and his resurrection.

3. God counts according to truth. God counts righteousness as righteousness! a. The righteousness counted as righteousness is not our righteousness (not our works of faith) but legally “transferred” to us when Christ marries us, so that what is His is still His but now ours also. b. Justification is not only the righteousness, but the righteousness imputed to the elect.

4. Imputation means two different things. One, the transfer, the legal sharing of what belongs to another. Two, the declaration. God is justified, declared to be just, without transfer. God is counted as just because God is just.

When God Justifies an Elect Sinner, The Verdict is the Right Verdict, and God is Justified

July 5, 2011

In human justice, some innocent people get the death penalty. And also some criminals get away with murder. But God’s salvation of elect sinners is not only by grace but also by justice.

Romans 4:4 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”. The salvation of the elect (with all its blessings) has been earned by Christ because of His death. It is not grace from God the Trinity to give Christ the salvation of His people.

This does not mean we can say without qualification that the elect are entitled to salvation. Salvation is by grace to the elect. But this salvation is by justice. The Son not only “has it coming”, but God the Trinity’s nature and just character demand that this salvation one day be given to all the elect.

This is important, and it is something which I did not know when I was a lost five point Calvinist for 20 years. We need to avoid a nominalism in which God is only sovereign and not just in His character or actions. God is both just and justifier of the ungodly.

The death of Jesus was not merely one way (among many) God could have saved the elect. Calvin seemed to think that God could have saved by grace apart from the death but only sovereignly chose to do so. John Owen agreed at first , but then changed his mind. See also Abraham Booth, Justice Essential to the Divine Character.

Now some would say that Owen and Booth denied God’s sovereignty to have the option of saving apart from Christ’s death. But God cannot lie. And God cannot save sinners apart from the death of Son.

After Christ died and rose again, God cannot in justice not save all those for whom Christ died. This is not about the infinity of Christ’s person (both divine and human). Christ has earned by his death all future blessings for the elect (access, adoption, resurrection!!!).

Counting is involved in this justice. 1. Christ’s death was offered only for the elect and will count only for the elect. 2. But the death did not count for the elect all at one time. it is imputed by God (not by the sinner, not by the church) to individuals one at a time, both before and after the death. This view (see John Owen in Death of Death) best fits the evidence which says that the elect are both loved and also born under the wrath of God. It fits the evidence that Abraham was not simply tolerated but justified (before his circumcision!)

The soundbite that “Abraham was saved 2000 years ago when I was” is more misleading than helpful. Christ obtained by His work of death the justification He imputed to Abraham years before He died. Christ by His death justly obtained for every last ungodly elect sinner who will ever be justified that correct verdict.

One thing I learned at conversion is that God is justified in justifying. God is not only sovereignly gracious to us. God is right, and we are wrong. God is right in saying that we deserve to die. God is right in the way that Christ dies to satisfy justice. We learn to take sides against ourselves in agreeing with God about this.