Archive for September 2011

Life in the Son

September 27, 2011

I John 5:11-12, “God gave us lasting life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life.”

Having life is having the Son, but what is the condition of having the Son? It’s a fact that all who have life and the Son are those who “believe in the testimony that God has made concerning His Son”’. It’s a fact that part of this testimony (in places like John 6 and 10) is that the Son has been given an elect people and that the Son has come to give His life for them alone and not for those God has not chosen.

But is believing in the Son, and believing in election, the condition of having life? No. How can a dead person believe to get life? How can a dead person do anything to get life? Before a person can believe the gospel, that person has to be born again and before that person can be born again, that person has to have life and the Son.

“Whosoever” in I John 5 (and in John 3:16) is not indefinite. The idea is not that potentially the number could be bigger, if only more people would believe. Rather, “as many as”, no more and no less, believe are the only ones who will not perish and who have life. Those who have the Son are being identified. God has an exact number who will believe God’s testimony, and we know them as those who have life.

But notice that the text does not teach that their faith causes them to have life. Nor does the text teach that their having life causes them to believe. The point is about an identity between having the Son and having life. Even though we can make a distinction between “lasting life” (forgiveness and justification forever) and the life we need in order to believe the testimony of God about the Son, both are part of “salvation”. Life to believe the gospel is also a gift from God, and certainly not our gift to God.

The Arminian conditions having life on the sinner believing. The assumption is that if we need to have life before we can believe, then we can have life without believing, and believing becomes unnecessary. As if a newborn baby did not need to breathe, since that baby has to have life to breathe!

My friend David Adkins reminds us to ask: necessary for what reason? Yes, believing the gospel is evidence of having life. Faith does not have to be a condition of anything in order to be necessary. All those who have been saved from God’s wrath need to believe God’s gospel, including God’s testimony about election. And they will believe! They believe in the Son not in order to get the Son but because they have the Son.

So I John identifies having the Son and having life, but which comes first? The justified elect have the Son and life at the same time, but logically which is first? If we get the Son by first getting resurrected to life and being born again and believing, that would mean we get resurrection and new birth first before and without the Son.

Nobody gets any blessing apart from being elect in Christ. Those who are elect don’t become elect by believing. We don’t become elect by having Christ. Election itself is in Christ and by Christ. God loves nobody apart from Christ. God did not first put a sinner into a future judicial relationship with Christ and then elect that sinner because of that future relationship with Christ. God’s decision for the elect is also at the same time a decision about Christ.

God chose the elect for Christ’s sake. Hebrews 2:11, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.” Isaiah 8:18, “Behold, I and the children who the Lord has given me.”

All who get life have been elected in Christ, and this election in Christ before the beginning of the ages is the reason these sinners are eventually imputed with Christ’s death and then born again. The same Christ who gets life for the elect gives life to the elect. People either already are or are not elect in Christ. Everybody needs Christ to get life, but not everybody is elect in Christ.

But being elect in Christ is not the same as having Christ according to I John 5. Whosoever has Christ has life, but the elect in Christ do not have life before God’s imputation of Christ’s death to them.. God has promised the elect in Christ to have Christ, and that promise is sure, but the elect in Christ do not have Christ until they are justified by God in Christ.

Life, both in the sense of new birth and also in the legal sense of lasting life, is a result of the elect being baptized by God into Christ’s death and being raised with him, and thus no longer under sin. (Romans 6:10).

Sanctification Is Not “More and More”, by AW Pink

September 26, 2011

In the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Assembly the question is asked, “What is sanctification?” To which the following answer is returned: “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby, they whom God hath before the foundation of the world chosen to be holy, are in time through the powerful operation of His Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.”

Now far be it from us to sit in judgment upon such an excellent and helpful production as this Catechism, which God has richly blessed to thousands of His people, or that we should make any harsh criticisms against men whose shoes we are certainly not worthy to unloose. Nevertheless, the best of men are but men at the best, and therefore we must call no man “Father.”

First, the definition or description of sanctification of the Westminster divines is altogether inadequate, for it entirely omits the most important aspect and fundamental element in the believer’s sanctification: it says nothing about our sanctification by Christ (Heb. 10:10; 13:12), but confines itself to the work of the Spirit, which is founded upon that of the Son.

This is truly a serious loss, and affords another illustration that God has not granted light on all His Word to any one man or body of men. A fuller and better answer to the question of, “What is sanctification?” would be, “Sanctification is, first, that act of God whereby He set the elect apart in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy. Second, it is that perfect holiness which the Church has in Christ and that excellent purity which she has before God by virtue of Christ’s cleansing blood. Third, it is that work of God’s Spirit which, by His quickening operation, sets them apart from those who are dead in sins, conveying to them a holy life or nature, etc.”

Thus we cannot but regard this particular definition of the Larger Catechism as being defective, for it commences at the middle, instead of starting at the beginning. Instead of placing before the believer that complete and perfect sanctification which God has made Christ to be unto him, it occupies him with the incomplete and progressive work of the Spirit.

Instead of moving the Christian to look away from himself with all his sinful failures, unto Christ in whom he is “complete” (Col. 2:10), it encouraged him to look within, where he will often search in vain for the fine gold of the new creation amid all the dross and mire of the old creation. This is to leave him without the joyous assurance of knowing that he has been “perfected forever” by the one offering of Christ (Heb. 10:14).

Our second observation upon this definition is, that its wording is faulty and misleading. Let the young believer be credibly assured that he will “more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life,” and what will be the inevitable outcome? As he proceeds on his way, the Devil assaulting him more and more fiercely, the inward conflict between the flesh and the Spirit becoming more and more distressing, increasing light from God’s Word more and more exposing his sinful failures, until the cry is forced from him, “I am vile; 0 wretched man that I am,” what conclusion must he draw?

Why this: if the Catechism-definition be correct then I was sadly mistaken, I have never been sanctified at all. So far from the “more and more die unto sin” agreeing with his experience, he discovers that sin is more active within and that he is more alive to sin now, than he was ten years ago!

That we may not be charged with partiality, we quote from the “Confession of Faith” adopted by the Baptist Association, which met in Philadelphia 1742, giving the first two sections of their brief chapter on sanctification: 1. “They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also (a) farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, (b) by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; (c) the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, (d) and the several lusts thereof more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. 2. This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war.”—

This description of sanctification by the Baptists leaves something to be desired, for it makes no clear and direct statement upon the all-important and flawless holiness which every believer has in Christ, and that spotless and impeccable purity which is upon him by God’s imputation of the cleansing efficacy of His Son’s sacrifice.

In the second place, the words convey a misleading conception of the present condition of the Christian. To speak of “some remnants of corruption” still remaining in the believer, necessarily implies that by far the greater part of his original corruption has been removed, and that only a trifling portion of the same now remains. But something vastly different from that is what every true Christian discovers to his daily grief and humiliation.

All the Reformation “standards” (creeds, confessions, and catechisms) will be searched in vain for any clear statement upon the perfect holiness which the Church has in Christ or of God’s making Him to be sanctification unto His people. Most theological systems have taught that while justification is accomplished the moment the sinner truly believes in Christ, yet is his sanctification only then begun, and is a protracted process to be carried on throughout the remainder of this life by means of the Word and ordinances, seconded by the discipline of trial and affliction.

But if this be the case, then there must be a time in the history of every believer when he is “justified from all things” and yet unfit to appear in the presence of God. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and yet, according to the doctrine of “progressive sanctification,” until we can say it we are not meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

Not only are those who have no complete sanctification unfit for eternal glory, but it would be daring presumption for them to boldly enter the Holiest now—the “new and living way” is not yet available for them, they cannot draw near “with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” What wonder, then, that those who believe this doctrine are plunged into perplexity, that such a cloud rests over their acceptance with God.

The glorious Gospel of God reveals to us a perfect Savour. It exhibits One who has not only made complete satisfaction to the righteous Ruler and Judge, providing for His people a perfect righteousness before Him, but whose sacrifice has also fitted us to worship and serve a holy God acceptably, and to approach the Father with full confidence and love.

If the conscience be still defiled, if the eye of God rests upon us as unclean, then confidence before Him is impossible, for we feel utterly unfit for His ineffable presence. “Now where remission of sins is, no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:18, 19).

The same sacrifice which has procured the remission of our sins, provides the right for us to draw nigh unto God in acceptable worship. “By His own blood He entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:13).

The Christian is regarded not only as guiltless, but also as spotless and holy. Oh to realize by faith that we are assured of the same welcome by God now as His beloved Son received when He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. God views us in Christ His “Holy One”.

No-Law-Ism is BOTH Antinomian and Legalistic

September 24, 2011

Romans 7:4–“You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we bear fruit for God.”

Saying that our “activity” is not law-obedience is still NOT the gospel. First, there is no end run around God’s law. God is both just and justifier of the ungody, so God’s law has been satisfied for the elect alone by Christ’s obedience to death. Second, faith has as its object not just any “Jesus” or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).

There is no escape from legalism in a “difference” between a demand for faith and a demand for law-obedience. Does faith include works or not? If faith works and faith is an instrument, why can’t works of faith be an instrument?

In our day many folks think they have escaped legalism by simply eliminating any antithesis between law and gospel. Thus they want to distribute Christ’s righteousness to both the “instead of us” AND the “in us”. They instruct us to stop looking only at the past and at the cross, and begin to look also to the salvation of the Holy Spirit in us (and thus the future work of Christ in our “activity”)

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation. Only one sin puts you under its curse. No matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

The “end of the law” is Christ’s death satisfying what the law demand, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

We must not attempt to eliminate the law/gospel antithesis by the abolishment of law. “No-law-ism” is not only antinomian but also still legalistic –it misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect.

Christians sin, and therefore their activity (even if you don’t call it “fulfillment of the law” as in Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s law will not go unsatisfied.

The law is not the gospel and it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

Romans 4:17 NOT A LEGAL FICTION—calls things into existence that do not exist

September 19, 2011

Romans 4:17 —-as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Many Reformed theologians, even though deny that forensic imputation is a “legal fiction”, nevertheless worry about the reality of “mere” justification by Christ’s righteousness “alone”. They say: don’t worry about that, because in the same “union”, God also “sanctifies” and that takes care of the reality problem.

This vision of God’s grace locates the “ reality” in ideas like “infusion” and “impartation”. It claims “made sin” is “MORE than legal” and “become the righteousness” is “MORE than God’s legal declaration”.

Abraham did not die at the cross. Christ died for Abraham, as Abraham’s substitute, so that Abraham would NOT die the second death but be raised to life on Resurrection Day. Yet the legal reality is that Abraham did die at the cross, and that by imputation, so that Abraham was legally “constituted” as righteous many years before Christ died.

The ‘things which are not’ refer to the things determined by God to come to pass but which have not yet been been fulfilled. Abraham was justified by a righteousness which had not yet been brought in by Christ. But this does not mean that Abraham’s justification is a “legal fiction”. It does not mean that God in sovereignty can simply declare the elect righteous without Christ actually coming into history to die to bring in righteousness.

But neither is God’s righteousness only about God’s justice. God’s righteousness is always about God’s sovereignty also. And when God justifies Abraham on the basis of an atonement that has not yet happened, then that is both just and “real”. It’s not fake and it’s not arbitrary. Abraham received by imputation the reconciliation before the reconciliation was even made. The elect who are now being justified are receiving the reconciliation long after the reconciliation was made, but that does not mean that God is being arbitrary or merely sovereign.

God is just in God’s timing. It is not unjust for God to be sovereign in God’s imputing. Even though future sins have already been imputed to Christ, some of the elect have not yet been justified and therefore have not yet been “joined to His death”.

Romans 4:23-24 “Righteousness” was counted to Abraham was not written for Abraham’s sake alone but for ours also. Even when our justification has not yet happened, Christ was raised because of our justification. Romans 16:7 “Greet Adronicus and Junia…They are well known to the Apostles and they were in Christ before me.”

God’s imputations are sovereign. 1. God only imputed to Christ the sins of those God loves. 2. God legally makes each of those for whom Christ died members of Christ.

Where does the Bible speak of impartation or incorporation?

Since faith is not the righteousness of Christ, then we should not speak of “justifying faith” because what God uses to justify sinners is Christ’s death. Faith in Christ’s death is not Christ’s righteousness. Christ’s death is Christ’s righteousness, and Christ’s death is the object of faith.

Infused and Imparted–Esteemed among Humans, Abomination to God

September 16, 2011

That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:15

I often ask Calvinists about why they have not yet reformed from using the idea of “infused righteousness”.

I want to see the word “righteousness” in the Bible where it has the meaning of “infusion”. I am not asking to see the word “infusion”. I know it’s not there. But I want these Cavinists to show me some inner righteousness, which is not legal and imputed.

Many read Romans 6 with the assumption that it says that the Holy Spirit (or the church) unites us to Christ on the inside. The chapter does not say that, and we should not read it with that assumption.

It’s not enough to give a formal “I don’t deny that it also means the legal also”, if you then consistently look at texts and say “more than the forensic”, especially when the texts don’t mean anything other than the forensic. The legal death has effective inner consequences, but the consequences are not to be equated with the death or the righteousness.

Romans 6:20,21–”when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed. The end of those thing is death”

It is legal union with the death which has justified the elect and set them free. Before their justification, they may have already been ashamed of immorality. But they were not ashamed of their piety, their self-righteousness, or of their attempts to cooperate in the building of their own righteousness in attempts to gain assurance by a pattern of obedience to imperative. Now they count all that as trash (Philippians 3).

Christ’s righteousness is the merit of His work (His death). Christians are “servants of righteousness”. But it has not been demonstrated that “the righteousness” is both imputed and infused.

But Calvinists continue to talk like this: “I would say that the righteousness that is imputed to us in justification is the same righteousness that is also infused into us in our sanctification.”

Where does the Bible use the word “righteousness” in such a way that we should know that it means infused habits, imparted energies or “inside you” righteousness?

Many assume “if imputed, then also infused”, but if that were the case, then how could we from Scripture show any distinction between that righteousness which is “sanctification” and that righteousness which justifies? How could we avoid the path to Osiander?

If It’s Faith that Causes You to be United to Christ, then it’s Faith that Causes Your Sins to be Imputed to Christ

September 15, 2011

Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

Romans 8:10–“But if Christ is IN YOU, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Galatians 4:5-6 –“to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Imprecise “union” talk can be very dangerous. SOME theologians (Kevin Dixon Kennedy, Torrance) are using the concept of “union” to say that the atonement which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. Therefore, no double jeopardy, they say, unless somebody for whom Christ died has been “united to Christ.” In other words, SOME OF THEM TEACH THAT CHRIST DIED ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL PERISH.

It’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.

Although John Owen taught that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, Owen did not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Owen taught with Romans 6 that the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are “placed into” that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But SOME use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse the rest with thinking there is no need for faith. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it. This is the claim made by SOME who use “union” to make the application of the atonement to be the atonement.

But it’s clear that Owen did not teach justification apart from faith. It’s also clear that Owen did not teach that faith was a mere recognition that we were already justified. (See Carl Trueman’s various books and essays on John Owen). “Unionists” should not ignore Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement. Some unionists do, some don’t
Some “unionists” locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to unite people with that propitiation. This is their argument: “you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”

But otherwise, it is claimed, you can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to them, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. So, again according to them, it’s the “union” which designates for whose sins Christ died.

Imputation Without Hands, Into the Death which is the Death of Death

September 11, 2011

Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses….

Even though it was ordained by God, the death of Christ was done by human hands. In my view, the “circumcision of Christ” is not a reference to Christ’s literal circumcision as a child. Nor is the “circumcision of Christ” a metaphor for regeneration and the work of the Spirit in the elect. It’s one circumcision, both for Christ, and for the elect. Colossians 2 is about the elect’s legal identification with Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, NOT some other death done IN us.

Even though God used human hands in the state murder of Christ, imputation by God into Christ’s death is made without hands. Human sinners do not make the imputation.

The imputation is something you can’t see. But that legal “you also were circumcised” is the basis for God’s forgiveness of the sins of the elect.

Some “Calvinists” stress God’s sovereignty but not God’s justice, and so for them, God can and does forgive without any legal identification of the elect with Christ’s death. Many Calvinists are against “easy believism”, and so their response is to not deny that what I have said is theologically true, but to still assume that the three Bible texts are talking about “something more” than merely justification and the forgiveness of sins.

When these Calvinists say Romans 6 must also be about regeneration and not only about not being under the law and the guilt of sin, in just what way are they affirming that legal identification (without hands) with the death of Christ is the death of death for the elect?

Isn’t the result of legal union with Christ glorious good news? Isn’t the result of “circumcised with Christ” an immunity from death for sin?

Romans 1 shows the irony of sin as a punishment for sin. God sovereignly “hands over” sinners to more sin. Sinners are not only punished by being sinned against by other sinners, but also punished by God by being “given over” to more sinning. But there is irony in the good news as well. God’s solution for death is death. The death of another (the last Adam) is the death of death for the elect. There is nothing more gracious (and yet just) than the legal transfer of the death of Christ to the elect, so that there is legal solidarity of the justified elect with Christ’s death.

Sin has no power over the justified elect to kill them, because in Christ’s death they already died. This is grand. This is hope. This clears the way for a future. While most folks want something else, or something more that they can see, let us rejoice in what God does without hands: God counts the death of Christ as also the death of the justified elect.

Hebrews 10:28-29, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the One who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.”

Hebrews 10 has been often used to teach that the new covenant is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. The idea of “common grace” is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in the covenant, and even more grace for the elect. This idea of common grace is not biblical.

The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate was in the new covenant. I do not think it is even saying that the apostate appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation if you want to work out a visible and invisible church contrast.

The “Son of God” is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. Of course we need to remember that “sanctify” does not mean to get better and to go in the right direction, as most common theology would have it.

“Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context of Hebrews 10, (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself for some sinners in “the covenant” who will nevertheless perish. They teach that, elect or not, some are set apart in “the covenant” who will not be justified by Christ’s blood.

Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory of Christ involves dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They dishonor Christ by telling us that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God.

When we baptize with water, we baptize with hands and we cannot know for sure if the subjects know the Lord. But this does not eliminate our duty to judge by the gospel. Baptism with hands is NOT about putting folks into a conditional covenant.

Submission to the righteousness brought in by Christ’s death means that we confess our personal bankruptcy, and this rules out past and future covenant keeping as a basis for blessing. Our only hope that we will be raised to immortality is that we died when Christ died. And if that legal identification with Christ’s death has happened, it was an imputation made without hands that nobody could see.

Circumcision in Colossians 2 is not a reference to “regeneration” or to “vital union” but to the bloody death of Christ. Don’t assume that Colossians 2 is saying the same thing as Romans 2, Colossians 2 is talking the justified elect being legally identified with Christ’s death, and thus cut off from Adam’s body, from Adam’s guilt. Water is done by hands, so water can’t be the antitype. Water does not replace physical circumcision in Colossians 2. That’s an assumption read into the text. Many commentaries (Bruce, Dunn, Garland, O’Brien) takes the “body of flesh” as Christ’s flesh and the “stripping off of the body of flesh” as the same as the “circumcision of Christ” as metaphor for Christ’s crucifixion. Two different circumcisions doesn’t work in the context of Colossians. It’s the same circumcision, both for Christ and for the elect, Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, not some other death done in us. It’s not Christ died and then we died. It’s we died when Christ died.