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.

Some Non-Essential Differences Between Those who Do Trust Christ’s Righteousness, by John Owen

July 24, 2011

That which is of real difference among persons who agree in the
substance of the doctrine, may be reduced unto a very few heads; as, —

(1.) There is something of this kind about the nature of faith whereby we are justified, with its proper object in justifying, and its use in justification. And an instance we have herein, not only of the weakness of our intellects in the apprehension of spiritual things, but also of the remainders of confusion and disorder in our minds; at least, how  true it is that we know only in part, and prophesy only in part, whilst we are in this life.

For whereas this faith is an act of our minds, put forth in the way of duty to God, yet many by whom it is sincerely exercised, and that continually, are not agreed either in the nature or proper object of it. Yet is there no doubt but that some of them who differ amongst themselves about these things, have delivered their minds free from the prepossession of prejudices and notions derived from other artificial reasonings imposed on them, and do really express their own conceptions as to the best and utmost of their experience.

And notwithstanding this difference, they do yet all of them please God
in the exercise of faith, as it is their duty, and have that respect unto its proper object as secures both their justification and salvation. And if we cannot, on this consideration, bear with, and forbear, one another in our different conceptions and expressions of those conceptions about these things, it is a sign we have a great mind to be contentious, and that our confidences are built on very weak foundations.

For my part, I had much rather my lot should be found among them who do really believe with the heart unto righteousness, though they are not able to give a tolerable definition of faith unto others, than among them who can endlessly dispute about it with seeming accuracy and skill, but are negligent in the exercise of it as their own duty.

(2.) There has been a controversy more directly stated among some
learned divines of the Reformed churches , about the righteousness of Christ that is said to be imputed unto us. For some would have this to be only his
suffering of death, and the satisfaction which he made for sin thereby,
and others include therein the obedience of his life also. The occasion, original, and progress of this controversy, the persons by whom it has been managed, with the writings wherein it is so, and the various ways that have been endeavoured for its reconciliation, are sufficiently known unto all who have inquired into these things.

(3.) Some difference there has been, also, whether the righteousness of
Christ imputed unto us, or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, may be said to be the formal cause of our justification before God; wherein there appears some variety of expression among learned men, who have handled this subject in the way of controversy with the Papists.

The true occasion of the differences about this expression has been this, and no other: Those of the Roman church do constantly assert, that the righteousness whereby we are righteous before God is the formal cause of our justification; and this righteousness, they say, is our own inherent, personal righteousness, and not the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us: wherefore they treat of this whole controversy — namely, what is the righteousness on the account
whereof we are accepted with God, or justified — under the name of the
formal cause of justification.

In opposition unto them, some Protestants, contending that the righteousness wherewith we are esteemed righteous before God, and accepted with him, is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, and not our own inherent,
imperfect, personal righteousness, have done it under this inquiry, –namely, What is the formal cause of our justification? Which some have said to be the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, — some, the righteousness of Christ imputed.

But what they designed herein was, not to resolve this controversy into a philosophical inquiry about the nature of a formal cause, but only to prove that that truly belonged unto the righteousness of Christ in our justification which the Papists ascribed unto our own. ..They all deny  that in the
justification of a sinner there either is, or can be, any inherent formal cause of it.

Wherefore, notwithstanding the differences that have been among some in
the various expression of their conceptions, the substance of the doctrine of the reformed churches is by them agreed upon and retained entire. For they all agree that God justifies no sinner, — absolves him not from guilt, nor declares him righteous, so as to have a title unto the heavenly inheritance, — but with respect unto a true and perfect righteousness; as also, that this righteousness is truly the righteousness of him that is so justified; that this righteousness
becomes ours by God’s free grace and donation; and that this is the perfect obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed unto us.

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…