Archive for October 2011

Conditional Promises, by W J Berry

October 31, 2011

God is not Obligated to Man by Conditional Promises

Religious teachers for hundreds of years have been putting forth the idea that God made a conditional covenant with Adam, thereby leaving the eternal destiny in the hands of the creature, the man Adam. This was not true.

It is either true or false. If it is true, then the eternal destiny of the Adamic race rested entirely on the conditional act of Adam. If it is false, then the popular religious teaching, including that of Christendom, is guilty of teaching and preaching a far-reaching error.

Referring to the creation of Adam, the word says, “the creature was made…by reason of him [God] who has subjected the same in hope.” (Rom. 8:20) When God created and formed the first man he was made upright and without sin, but he did not possess immortal life; nor is it intimated anywhere in Scripture that by his first disobedience he would lose immortality or eternal life, as he had neither.

When God placed Adam in the garden, He subjected him to the fall, and informed him that when, or in the day he committed this offense of the divine command, he would die; that was the death of the Adamic man which “passed upon all men.” (Rom. 5:12)

It is prevalent teaching, based on the first error, that when Adam fell he disobeyed a conditional commandment and lost the immortal life he regains in Christ. This is not true. Christ, the Son of God said: “I am come that they would have life, and that they would have it more abundantly.” (John. 10:10)

Speaking of His sheep (v. 28) He said: “I give to them eternal life.” Referring to this same life Paul wrote: “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom. 2:7) This word means deathless, incorruptible LIFE. Adam in his best estate did not possess this
kind of life.

God the Creator did not make any such conditional covenant with Adam with a promise of life—either temporal or eternal FOR his obeying a command. Neither did God ever promise any of Adam’s posterity any life, blessings eternal FOR his obeying a commandment or law given since Adam’s fall. It was then, and remains God’s absolute sovereign right to both command and punish His creatures in consequence of any failure. He is never obligated any time or in any sense to His creatures.

Religious work-mongers continually quote as conditional such scriptures as Isaiah 1:19: “If you be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land.” This gracious promise was given to a sinful, rebellious, unworthy people, to be bestowed out of pure grace, and not in payment for any service
to God the Giver. So with all of God’s promises, commands, blessings, mercies and savings.

It must and should therefore be clearly understood and freely acknowledged by every sin-convicted redeemed (no others can) that from Adam to the end, there are none in nature or grace—that could ever, by word or deed, be able to earn the very least favor of Almighty God. Our Lord Himself made all this plain when He said: “Does he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded him? Likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)

How presumptuous then, is it for depraved sinners of Adam’s race to believe and teach others to expect they will or can receive any favor of God—either in providence or in grace—apart from His own good will and unconditional right to bestow it. This being so, how utterly pharisaical and confusing, is the whole present work-monger system of men. It is difficult to believe those who teach this error, have yet to see themselves for what they are before a holy sovereign Almighty God.

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The Elect Will Believe the Gospel: Christ “Actually Atoned” for the Elect, but Christ Never Died for Anybody Who Never Believes the Gospel

October 29, 2011

The cross-work (the righteousness) of Christ not only entitles the elect to justification (even before they are justified) but also entitles the elect to conversion.

Even before they believe the gospel, the elect are entitled (because of Christ’s work) to the converting work of the Holy Spirit. Christ bought both the forgiveness of sins and the legal application of the legal satisfaction God made in Christ that God needed to forgive and continue to be just and holy.

What does the “legal application” of Christ’s work mean? First, it means that God imputes that the value of Christ’s work (not only the reward, but the righteousness) to the elect. God does not only impute Christ’s status as justified to the elect. God imputes the legal record of Christ’s satisfaction of God’s law to the elect.

Before the cross, during Old Testament times, God imputed that legal record of Christ’s satisfaction to some of the elect. After the cross, God continues to impute the “merits” of Christ’s legal satisfaction to some of the elect.

So there is a difference between Christ’s satisfaction of God’s law and God’s imputation of that satisfaction to the elect for whom that satisfaction was made. 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.

The application (purchased by Christ for the elect, and then legally imputed as their inheritance) includes the conversion by the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit which immediately follows the imputation to an individual elect sinner.

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.”

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

At once after the elect are in Christ (not only by election but by imputation), Christ is also in the elect. Christ indwells the elect by the Holy Spirit.

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.”

We need to be careful about explaining that Christ “actually atoned” for the elect alone and not “potentially” for everybody. We need to be careful because Christ did not die to forgive any elect person of the final sin of unbelief of the gospel. All the elect will believe the gospel.

The elect will believe the gospel, as soon as the actual atonement is imputed to them. “Actual atonement” does not mean that the atonement is justification. The very real legal record of the very actual atonement is not imputed to all the elect at one time. Even though the sin of Adam is imputed to all humans, that imputation is not at one time. And even though Christ died to give every elect person faith in the gospel, the propitiation Christ made for each elect person is not legally imputed until immediately before their conversion.

No elect person dies unconverted, because Christ died to give them the new birth and the conversion which follows. In our thinking and preaching, we need to take into account the time between Christ’s actual work of reconciliation and God’s legal imputation of that reconciliation which the elect receive. Romans 5:11 and 17 teach us that the elect receive not only by faith but first of all by imputation.

Christ died to obtain not only the redemption but also the legal application of the redemption. Christ did not need to die for final disbelief by the elect because Christ died instead that the elect will not finally disbelieve.

Is By Faith Alone the Gospel, If Jesus Died for Everybody?

October 27, 2011

Josh Moody (No Other Gospel) rightly asks why the Galatians were tempted to add their works to Christ’s righteousness. Moody rightly answers that this temptation does not come from the faith which fears God, but comes from the fear which does not trust the cross to be enough to justify.

But if Jesus died for everybody, and not everybody is justified, then those who trust this false Jesus SHOULD BE AFRAID They will need to be careful to complete their faith with works, and thus we have the typical Calvinist stress on the the idea “now in the new covenant and with the Holy Spirit we can and want to do the right thing”.

Most of these Calvinists are failing to teach that Jesus Christ did NOT die for everybody. Thus they are failing to teach that Christ’s death is the only reason one person is saved and not another. Even the Calvinists who have “limited atonement” as their “shelf doctrine” are not teaching the doctrine. They are certainly not teach definite atonement as part of the gospel message, so that Spirit-enabled works are rejected as any part of the reason for “future justification”.

If you can’t go by train (because the train doesn’t go there), you have to go by car, and you can’t go by train and by car at the same time. If the only kind of atonement revealed in the Bible is definite and effectual (for the sheep, and not for those who will not believe, John 10), then there is no atonement revealed in the Bible for everybody, and you can’t have it both ways, no matter what Martyn Lloyd-Jones or anybody else tried to do.

You can say all matter of true things about the difference between law and gospel (and I have no doubt that the false teachers in Galatia did so), but you have no legitimate right to say them, if you avoid the offense of the cross being A. for the elect alone and B. being alone effectual, being the difference, since Christ’s death was not for everybody. And the true things you say about the cross, or about law and gospel, end up not being true things, just like the doctrine of the false teachers in Galatians.

You can say that Christ died for everybody and not be a “semi-Pelagian” or “soft legalist”. But if Christ’s death was the righteousness intended and obtained for everybody, then it’s not His death but our faith which must make the difference. And if that is so, we need to be very afraid.

Nobody comes along and says that Jesus didn’t need to die. They just say that Jesus died for everybody but that it doesn’t work unless the Spirit causes you to consent to it. They just say that, even if you are not elect and even if the Spirit doesn’t cause you to consent to it, Jesus loves you and died for you and offers to save you, but His death didn’t take away your guilt and it doesn’t work, because you didn’t have faith in it.

But if Jesus died for everybody, then the promise of the gospel is not about Christ alone or His death alone; and if it is about your being changed (so that grace is not cheap and Jesus is King), then salvation is not by Christ’s death. The message of His death plus your not wanting to sin anymore is really at the end a message about your not wanting to sin anymore.

Without the Visible “Church”, the Gospel is Not True?

October 25, 2011

The “federal vision” deconstructs any difference between water and union with Christ. They are also willing to reject any difference between a ritual Lord’s Supper and God’s “real or legal” means of union and communion. They will defend anything (slavery, the confederacy) “ancient” just so long as it is anti-liberal.

Unwilling as individuals to return to the Roman Catholic Church, despite a common faith in a justification by works, those in the “federal vision” write essays against individualism and also against counter-cultures. The most consistent advocates (theonomic postmillenialists) plan an end of exile by means of ordained violence.

The next time they are Constantine they promise to do it better. In the meanwhile they remind us that even what Constantine did in the past was a result of God’s sovereign providence, and hope for a liberal-free future in which cross-bearing will no longer be necessary.

To get at the error of ritual Christendom, we need to do more than talk about Protestant associations with Romanism. That’s like criticizing Billy Graham for his associations instead of his false gospel. Graham works well with “others” because they all have the same false gospel.

Those who tell us that the gospel is not true without their “church” are trying to sell us a narrative in which the reality and visibility of Jesus Christ has to do with traditional rituals inherited from Augustine and others who used violence in the name of God.

With John Milbank, those in the “federal vision” tell us that the “pacifist” rejects power and effectiveness. They assume there can be no power without violence. Thus they tell us that the “pacifist” is a liberal who rejects even the power of the resurrection. They tell us there is no “church” without “kings” and no gospel without this “church” given by kings.

But God’s gospel does not depend on our power, not even on those of us who are Republicans. And Christianity is not necessary for the survival of the American empire.

Roger Olson’s Christ’s Death as a Risk God Takes

October 23, 2011

Against Calvinism, Zondervan, 2011, Roger Olson

I am glad to have read this volume. It shows how contradictory the compromised Calvinism of Piper, Sproul and Boettner is. Olson does a good job of exposing the problems with modern Calvinism’s traditions like “the free offer’ and “sufficient but not efficient” and “non-arbitrary infralapsarian”. But Olson ignores consistent Calvinists like John Gill and Paul Jewett. Instead of attending to AW Pink or Tom Nettles, he pushes the ideas of “Reformed” people like Berkouwer, James Daane, and Richard Mouw. He spends no time on the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession (first or second).

I have not yet read Mike Horton’s For Calvinism, though I doubt that Horton can fairly present a “mere Calvinism” without the distortions of his sacramental “covenant theology”. I can only hope for the day when Horton writes “Against Lutheranism” and for the day when some big name Calvinist writes “Against Any Idea that Jesus Bore and Propitiated the Sins of Every Sinner”.

We live in a day when not many Calvinists think of Arminianism as the greatest heresy we face. Most Calvinists are far more concerned to warn against eternal security and antinomianism. They worry less about neo-nomianism and the denial of the imputation of Adam’s guilt than they do about “open theism” or the role of men and women in society.

But let me make this “against Roger Olson personally”. Let me quote his conclusions. “If it were revealed to you in a way that you couldn’t question or deny that the true God is actually as Calvinism says, would you still worship him?…I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster.” (P85) Or as he explains on p 159, “Satan wants all damned to hell and God only wants certain number damned to hell.” Olson has cut through all the sophistry of analogy to human judges who reluctantly condemn criminals. If God has already forgiven some who have committed the same sins but does not “try to” forgive the next person who committed the sins, then Olson is just not going to worship that God.

We are talking about different gods, and it is personal. Either there are many or no gods, or there is one God and all other gods are idols we should not worship. We cannot simply excuse each other with the idea that the other person is not as smart and consistent as I am.

Olson rejects any “necessary connection” between the accomplishment of redemption and the application of redemption. (p150).

He wants to insist that if the redemption by Christ makes the redemption of the elect certain, then this must mean that the elect are born already redeemed and there is no need for faith or the legal application (imputation) of the redemption.

Even though most modern Calvinists have been less than clear about the problems of “eternal justification”, this does not change the fact that Olson‘s need for faith Is an “application” which he thinks has no “necessary connection” to what Christ accomplished. Where Piper double talks about Christ dying in some sense (not propitiation, therefore governmental?) for all sinners, Olson simply denies that Christ purchased faith in the gospel for the elect.

To glory in the cross alone, let us read what Olson writes about the idea “that the same sin cannot be punished twice. That’s false. Imagine a person who is fined by a court $1000 and someone else steps into pay the fine. What if the fined person declines to accept that payment and insists on paying the fine herself? Will the court automatically refund the first $1000? Probably not. It’s the risk the first person takes in paying his friend’s fine.” (P149).

That notion of Christ’s death as a risk God takes is a false gospel. This is what we need to talk about. This is more important than Olson’s defense of prevenient grace (what he calls “partial regeneration”). It is even more important than Olson’s false either-or about Romans 9. (Either redemptive history or individuals, think NT Wright, but see Piper’s best book The Justification of God.)

We can debate the philosophy. When Olson generalizes that “what is necessary cannot be gracious” (p75), we can ask him what makes events certain for God to foresee, if God does not make those events certain? Why even watch the tape, if your reputation as the god that Olson can agree to worship depends on your not changing anything to make events certain? But I think we need to focus on the Cross. Unlike other Arminians who know they cannot believe in penal substitution, Olson wants to hold on to that idea, or at least to the “form of words” about that idea.

If Christ’s death for a sinner does not save a sinner (when legally applied to that sinner in time), and if there is no refund to Christ and yet that sinner fails to believe the gospel and dies in his sin, then the gospel of Isaiah 53 is simply not true.

Isaiah 53:10—When His blood makes an offering for sin, He shall see His seed….

The Non-Elect Dead Are Only Raised for Condemnation

October 12, 2011

Resurrection is for the elect alone.

When I say that only the elect alone are raised to life, I am not denying that the non-elect are raised after the first death in order to be destroyed in the second death. Since God is holy and just, that future judgment of the non-elect is necessary and important.

But the resurrection to life is only for the elect, and that is why I Corinthians 15 pays no attention to the non-elect. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (v17-19)

Even though non-elect do not suffer until the second coming, Christ has never known them and they have no safety from His coming wrath.

Hebrews 9: 27-28, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

When a person dies, life has left the body; breath has left. Genesis 2:7 teaches us that dust plus breath from God is the “soul”–the living being. So death is the “separation” of life from a person. I have no problem with the word “separation” if you also continue to tell us what is being separated.

But the idea of separation surely does not prove the Roman Catholic dogma of a separate and immortal “soul”. God alone is immortal and will give immortality to His justified elect.

If the death of death is no more death, does that mean the world keeps all the death it already has? That death has won all its victories, and that they cannot be undone, but now there will be no more deaths added to the ones that already happened? One thing I know: death is not our friend but our enemy. Resurrection is our hope.

“Poured out his soul” goes to the definition of the word “soul”. The soul is the blood; the soul is that which can physically die. That is what a reading of Isaiah 53 gives unless you impose some non-biblical definition of soul onto the text.

Justification: Five Views, IVP, 2011

October 11, 2011

The rejection of the biblical view of God’s justification of the ungodly is one result of the rejection of the imputation of the guilt of Adam to sinners. Michael Bird, in his “progressive Reformed view”, writes: “For some commentators, Adam’s disobedience is imputed to sinners and then believers have Jesus’ obedience imputed to them for justification…No matter how much people may try, kathistemi does not mean logizomai. The word kathistemi refers to an actual state of affairs and not to transactions. To say that believers will be made righteous is to posit a rectification in both their legal status and in their moral status.” p113

My point is not simply for you to see that justification has been defined to include transformation. My point is that this argument is based on the rejection of the legal transfer of guilt from Adam to sinners. This debate is not only about the “new perspective” (NT Wright) saying that only the status and not the legal record of Christ’s obedience is transferred to the justified elect. The debate is also about penal substitution. The debate is about a denial that the guilt of the elect was transferred to Christ. Representative “union” will be allowed, but legal substitution is rejected.

The “new perspective” wants to say that it’s not denying anything but trying to include more metaphors. Thus it defines justification as both forensic and transformative. But the new perspective does indeed have its own antithesis. The forensic can be included but it CANNOT be “hegemonic”. This is the new antithesis: legal categories cannot be controlling. It cannot be grace vs works, but grace and works. It cannot be faith in Christ vs works, but Christ’s faith which we share in also. It cannot be justification now vs justification by works then, or we will end up being “couch potatoes” (p155).

But look at the two central denials. Status can be transferred, but “righteousness” is not a property which can be imputed. Thus the antithesis—we are not allowed to say anymore that the legal record of Christ’s obedience is a property which can be transferred. That would make Christ to be the “first Pelagian” racking up frequent flyer miles (merits, p145).

And why are we not allowed to say that the righteousness is Christ’s righteousness? We are not allowed to say that Adam’s guilt is a legal property that can be transferred to sinners. Bird argues that the “made sin” is not corruption or guilt, and that this proves that the “become the righteousness” is not allowed to mean that the justified status is a result of Christ’s obedience to the death because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

Of course the Roman Catholic view in this book agrees with Michael Bird. “Original sin does not refer personal guilt but to the sinful condition in which and into which human beings are born.” (p128) This first denial goes along with an even worse second denial, that there is no penal substitution in Isaiah 53. “But what about ‘the Lord has handed him over to our sins…Through the discipline of such punishment, they can be turned from their evil ways and healed…In the sixth century bc, no distinction had yet been drawn between the absolute will of God and the permissive will of God. Such a distinction allows us to understand how God may allow even his totally innocent Son to be handed over to sufferings and to be punished by human beings…The meaning of this vivid poem should not be pushed beyond what it actually says or misread as if it were a precise theological treatise about the transfer of personal guilt.”

Notice that for all the claims of wanting to include everything and not be precise, these folks are always finally very precise in EXCLUDING PENAL SUBSTITUTION. We want more, they say, but they also always want less. They are motivated not only by a desire to say that Jews are saved apart from the obedience of Jesus Christ but also motivated by a hatred for the just God who cannot and will not justify the ungodly apart from the legal record of God having punished God for sins that God legally transferred to God. Don’t be so mechanical and precise, they say, but they routinely and specifically deny any legal solidarity with guilt or with Christ’s death as a legal satisfaction. Some will allow “punishment”, but none will talk about individual guilt being borne by Christ and then taken away.

In the process, the penal substitution view is caricatured. On p 175, the Roman Catholic view explains II Cor 5:21: “supporters of the penal substitution view understand Paul to state that Christ really became a sinner. Our transgressions were counted against him …How could God transform an innocent person into a sinner? What about the possibility of saying, without doing that, God associated Jesus with all sinful men and women and charged him with their sins? …Paul does not use a judicial vocabulary here. God is not said to accuse, charge, judge, or punish.”

Why am I not talking about the difference between Mike Horton and Richard Gaffin on union and justification? I have in other places, but the most important debate about justification is the idea of including transformation into the definition of justification. We cannot say that justification is both forensic and transforming, or we will end up saying that the final forensic verdict is based on works (or “according to works”, and there is no real difference between based on and according to, since condemnation is both based on and according to sins.)

Notice that the quotation above assumes that “really become a sinner” cannot mean “legally charged as a sinner because of imputed sins”. That idea is unthinkable. In the end, according to the new perspective, the verdict is NOT based on a “both-and”, because the verdict is NOT based on the “judicial” but on us not being couch-potatoes. As Michael Bird explains (and Tom Schreiner agrees), Romans 2 is not an empty set (Horton, to his credit, defends empty set, 158).

The idea is that we can share the verdict Christ got when Christ was justified, but not the righteousness Christ got. The idea is that the Holy Spirit will enable us to live so that we will get the same verdict Christ got. Never in view is the problem that we are born as guilty sinners. To quote from one of the five views I have not yet cited, hear Jimmy Dunn: (p119)

“Horton wrote—‘The sin of Adam was imputed to the human race as a covenantal entity in solidarity because it was imputed to each member.’ Not only do we seem to be back into the most offensive (and unfounded) ‘original sin” interpretations of Romans 5:12, but an important element in Paul’s argument is being ignored. Paul makes a point of restricting guilt to the conscious act of breaking the law: sin is not imputed where there is no active disobedience.”

I think it’s Dunn who is ignoring the context. Paul is explaining why those without the law between Adam and Moses died. Why did they die when there was no law they were disobeying? Paul’s answer is that Adam disobeyed the law to Adam. But Dunn simply assumes that Adam’s guilt cannot be justly transferred by God to those after Adam.

Dunn also rejects any idea that Christ’s death can be credited to the elect (Romans 6, placed in the death, before that free from righteousness). At best, Dunn thinks of Christ’s death as a gift to be kept or lost, and so he warns us to take the warnings against apostasy in the way he takes them or not “be serious”.

To Dunn, one of the added advantages of the “new perspective” is that it “undermines the law-gospel antithesis”. (p198) Though nobody in this volume points to Daniel Fuller’s work, they all (except for Horton) seem to think that we are the ones who fulfill the requirement of the law in us. What matters to them is not so much the demand of the commandments of Christ, but the idea that we begin to claim that are keeping those commands. And since what Christ did is not going to help us get that done, we need to get off our couch…and start talking about justice and…keeping the commands or else…