The Gospel Includes the “In Us”, but Also Includes Election in Christ and Atonement in Christ
Louis Berkhof, History of Christian Doctrines, p220–”Calvin and Luther both described justification as a forensic act which does not change the inner life of man, but only the judicial relationship in which he stands to God. Moreover they deny that justification is a progressive work of God, asserting that it is instantaneous and at once complete, and hold that the believer can be absolutely sure that he is translated forever from a state of wrath and condemnation to one of favor and acceptance.”
The next time you hear that same old Calvin quotation (as long as outside us, 3:11:10), please read L Berhof back to the quoter. (from his systematic, p452)
“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. “
“Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”
In By Faith Not By Sight, Richard Gaffin teaches that the “in us” of the gospel means that there is a future aspect to the justification of an individual sinner. His assumption is that its faith in us (not election in Christ) which unites a sinner to Christ and thus to the power to do the works necessary for future justification.
It is God who gives the faith; it is God who gives the works; therefore it seems right to Gaffin to condition justification on the faith and works of the sinner. Gaffin does not tell us what gospel must be the object of the faith which unites to Christ. Nor does he tell us how imperfect works would have to be to miss justification and be condemned.
Gaffin: “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p110
Gaffin wants to say that both the “in us” and the “outside us” are our hope. And so do all of us! But part of his hope is an “in us” defined power over against sin despite our “incomplete progress, flawed by our continued sinning”.
Gaffin says many good and right things about imputation, the crediting of the “outside us”. For example, on p51, he lists three options for the ground of justification. A. Christ’s own righteousness, complete and finished in his obedience…B. the union itself, the fact of the relationship with Christ…c. the obedience being produced by the transforming Spirit in those in union. Gaffin rightly concludes that “the current readiness to dispense with imputation” results from taking the last two options as the ground of justification.
Gaffin agrees that we are united to Christ now and justified now (because faith in something, he thinks, even in Arminianism, unites us now to Jesus), but then he always implicitly defines the “union” as the “in us”. He always puts what he calls “union” before justification. He always puts the “in us” before the “imputed with the outside us”.
And then also Gaffin always has a “not yet”. He 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 faith and works.
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 outside us alone. Without defining “sanctification” (by the blood?, by the Spirit?, or by us working out what’s been worked in?) Gaffin warns of an “unbreakable bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of assurance for future justification. (p100)
Yes, faith (in which gospel?) is the alone instrument, he agrees, yes his finished righteousness is the alone ground, he affirms, but at the same time and however, works in us factor in also. Just remember that these works which factor into your assurance come from God working in you and not from you.
I agree with Gaffin that the gospel is not only about what Christ did outside of the elect for the elect; the gospel is also about the effectual call which results from election in Christ and atonement in Christ.
One evidence of effectual calling in us is that the justified elect do not put their assurance in their “bearing fruit for God”. To work for assurance of future justification is to “bear fruit for death”. Romans 7:5