Beware of Gaffin’s “Mysterious Math”

Salvation by works is the problem.

The unionists (Gaffin) say
1.”definitive sanctification” and “progressive sanctification” are also by grace, not by works.
2. But then they also say that the “grace-works” antithesis is removed once you are “united” and justified.
3. And then finally they say that justification is not by synergy, but that sanctification is by synergy.

p73, Gaffin, By Faith Not by Sight—“Here is what may be fairly called a synergy but it is not a 50/50 undertaking (not even 99.9% God and 0.1% ourselves). Involved here is the ‘mysterious math’ of the creator and his image-bearing creature, whereby 100% plus 100% =100%. Sanctification is 100% the work of God, and for that reason, is to engage the full 100% activity of the believer.”

My conclusion is not about motives about the results of this kind of “unionism”.
1. Justification is not seen as part of the “union”.
2. “Union” is defined by antithesis so that “union” is not justification, not sanctification, not any of the benefits, but rather the presence of the person of Christ (naked, alone, without His benefits).
3. “Union” is nevertheless conditioned on “faith”, and faith means not only Christ already indwelling but already a “break with sin”, and that “freedom from sin” is defined NOT IN FORENSIC TERMS but in ontological terms.
4. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is read into Romans 6. Christ’s “break with sin” is read out of Romans 6. Justification is left out of “union”, and “sanctification” is put back into “union” and not seen as only a result. The second Adam theme is being confined to Romans 5.
5. So supposedly we have this “double grace”, and sanctification is by grace also. But also sanctification is a synergy, where works by grace are different than works without grace, and thus sanctification by grace is by both grace and works.

Beware of “mysterious math”.

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19 Comments on “Beware of Gaffin’s “Mysterious Math””

  1. markmcculley Says:

    To begin to understand the use Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4, 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.

    “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 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.

    (John Murray not only taught that Christ died in some sense only for the elect, but also taught nine reasons that faith was not 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 faith was 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. 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!

    4.. The righteousness counted as righteousness is not our righteousness (not our works of faith) but legally “transferred” to us when Christ legally marries us, so that what is His is still His but now ours also.

    5. Justification is not only the righteousness. Justification happens when God imputes the righteousness to the elect.

    6. 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 legal transfer. But God does not count the elect to be just without legal transfer.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    According to Romans 4:5, faith is “not works”. The point of faith is “grace alone”. “To the one who does NOT work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, it is counted as righteousness.”

    According to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

    I want you to see the connection between “not because of works” and election. When evangelicals attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, then mostly all they can do is say “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

    Galatians 3: 8, “ And the Scripture, for-seeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham….

    Faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1: 18, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

    The true gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners (and not just those who have the bucks to get into Reformed conferences). The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel.

    It is not enough to talk about calling and election, if election is simply to make sure that some sinners have faith . If the object of the faith is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this faith is not in the true Christ.

    We don’t bring faith to the true gospel, because the true gospel brings faith (hearing) to the elect.

    Faith alone is not the condition, but to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

    Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel.

    Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11, “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.” Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

  3. markmcculley Says:

    To conclude that Romans 6 is about sanctification and not about justification, you need to do more than beg the question by assuming that “the power of sin” is not legal condemnation.

    1. How was the Lord Jesus “free from sin”? Not by “union”, not by “faith”, but by His death.

    2. How are the elect “free from sin” in the Romans 6 context? Not by the work of the Holy Spirit, but by legal union with… Christ’s death to sin.

    3. Why is that Romans 6:14 promises that “sin will have no dominion over you”? Is it because of an advance in redemptive history, so that we now live in an age with the Holy Spirit? That answer is NOT given in Romans 6:14. Rather, the explanation is “you are not under the law but under grace.”

    And why are the justified not under the law? Because they are legally united to Christ’s death. Faith in the gospel is imparted to them, yes, but the basis of that is God’s imputation.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    scott clark: Gaffin’s notion of “definitive sanctification” is anything but purely forensic–and has us infused with sanctity in exact logical parallel with our justification. He thinks he’s forestalling the criticism that we marginalize sanctity.

    This is a serious mistake. The moralists will never be satisfied. This move is like trying to pay off a loan shark with a quarter. No, he wants the whole thing with interest. We’re justified on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Full stop. Sanctity flows from that. Let the moralists scream. I could care less.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Scott Clark: Paul says that it is the ungodly who are justified. I don’t see how Gaffin can reconcile his view of the logical simultaneity of the two benefits with Paul’s language

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Gaffin, By Faith not by Sight, p77, “Surely our gratitude is important. But sanctification is first of all and ultimately not a matter of what we do, but of what God does. As Machen says, the works which James commends are different from the works which Paul condemns

    Machen, Notes on Galatians, p178–“You might conceivably be saved by works or you might be saved by faith, but you cannot be saved by both. It is ‘either or’ here not ‘both and’. The Scripture says it is by faith. Therefore it is NOT works.”

    Machen, p221–“If James had had the epistles of Paul before him he would no doubt have expressed himself differently.”

    Norman Shepherd, “comments on the opc justification report”—“I consider this statement of Machen to be an indictment of the Holy Spirit who inspired James.”

    I agree with Cunha (The Emperor’s New Clothes, Trinity Foundation) that the Machen quotation on James is dangerous

    justification is not by works
    not by works before justification, and not by works after justificatio

  7. markmcculley Says:

    p 167, Marcus Johnson, One With Christ, Crossway—”I am referring to the application of redemption in space and time. Some of the benefits of our union with Christ occur above and beyond time (our election in Christ, for instance).

    Johnson writes on the same page: “in salvation God has included us in Jesus Christ, and with this in mind, we are free to discuss his benefits in any order we want…”

    mark: This is a bit slippery. I don’t think the real concern is the order in which we discuss the benefits (even though Gaffin does worry about that when he reads Calvin’s Institutes looking for support for his central thesis). The concern is not about our discussion, but about the logical order, and nobody is more concerned about this than the “unionists”.

    They may say— if you get the person of Christ in there, use any order you want. But they don’t mean it. They are attempting a deception. Because if you don’t agree with them about “union” priority, then they will accuse you of putting the person “in the background”. ( see Gaffin in Always Reforming, ed McGowan, p 280).

    But no way are they saying “use any order you like”! They forbid us putting anything before “union”. But what this comes to is them forbidding us putting God’s legal imputation in front of “union”. They contradict “any order you like” when they themselves put ‘faith” (and the Holy Spirit) before “union”.

    But besides God’s imputation to the elect of Christ’s death, there is Christ bearing the sins of the elect. The death of Christ is not timeless, but comes after imputation to the OT elect and before imputation to the NT elect. But before either Christ’s death or any imputations, first there was election before the ages.

    What’s interesting to me is that Marcus Johnson won’t even allow election to be a cause or condition or source of the “union”. He writes of election as the “benefit” of “union”. But this is more confusion, added to earlier agreement that election is one aspect of “union”, and then his announcement that his book is not about that sense of “union”, but instead about “the application of union”. Johnson proceeds to call the application of union “the union”.

    Even though Marcus Johnson will allow faith and the Holy Spirit to come before “union”, he does not directly call faith a cause or a condition or a source of the “union”. Perhaps he would agree that faith and the work of the Spirit are also “benefits” from the “union”. But even if he does, he still insists that faith must come before “union”.

    But he also insists that God’s imputation is a benefit and a result of “union”, and therefore must come after “union”, Johnson will not say that faith come after “union”, but insists instead that faith comes before “union”.

    I suppose Johnson would have to agree that election comes before “union”, since election comes before time, and Johnson’s topic is the “application of union” which is an event in time. But nevertheless he calls even election a ‘benefit” of “union”.

    I find all this very curious, especially in light of Gaffin’s accusations that those of us without an “union priority” put the person of Jesus into the background. I think that’s Gaffin’s way of saying that those of us who disagree with him about the order of application are inherently people who don’t think enough about redemptive history, about the “biblical theology” which focuses on what God has done in Christ apart from us. In other words, Gaffin thinks “union priority” is “redemptive-historical priority”.

    But where is God’s election in redemptive history? i think Gaffin (with Johnson and other unionists) has managed to put election “into the background”. Election is not denied, but if election becomes a benefit of the “union”, then “union” has been defined as some kind of Holy Spirit “application” which must precede God’s imputation. This means that not only God’s election but also God’s imputation have been “put into the background”.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Berkhof, describes Barth’s position: “And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner”

    Berkhof rejects Barth’s positional view of sanctification and falls back on a progressive view. Berkhof sees sanctification as two parts: (i) “the mortification of the old man, the body of sin”, and (ii) “the quickening of the new man, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” . Berkhof defines sanctification as “that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works” (p 532).

    John Murray (Redemption Accomplished and Applied), argues that sanctification is both positional and progressive. “Sanctification is not achieved by a process, nor by our striving, or working to that end. It is achieved once for all by union with Christ” (p 143).

  9. markmcculley Says:

    In 1 Cor. 1:2 the word ‘sanctified’ denotes a completed action in the past, with ongoing continuing results. He uses the verb in the same manner in Acts 20:32 and 26:18. The children of God have been sanctified in Christ. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11

    Many read Romans 6 assuming that by “the dominion of sin” Paul has an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote “so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the verb he chose to use was logi,zesqe. This verb means to “consider”, to “count” orto “credit” Such a verb is not used in an ontological sense.

    Many assume that being freed from the dominion of sin means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law, Paul, on the contrary, suggests that such freedom means Christians are absolved from the law’s demands.

    One must ask what relevance the imperatives have in proving the progressive nature of sanctification? Unless one is ready to make the Pelagian presupposition that God would not give us a command unless we were able to keep it, one cannot assume that because believers are given a command that the believer has the ability to keep them.

    Someone might read think that Jesus is asking his hearers to obey more, to sin less, to become more sanctified. However, that would only be relaxing God’s command of perfection and thereby be guilty of what Jesus is warning against: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, (Matt. 5:19)

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Someone might wish to ask, “if the law’s condemnation is removed, then what reason is there to obey God? What keeps believers from moral laxity?” However, such an objector fails to realize his question presupposes that the only reason to obey God is fear of the law’s condemnation. But if the only reason to obey God is fear of condemnation, obedience is only done for one’s own sake and thus fails to be “in relation to God, for God’s sake, and with a view to the service of God” (Berkhof, 532)

    But the “obedience boys” never get asked that question.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    Semi-Pelagians believe “God imparts His common grace to all men, which enables them to turn to God and believe” (Berkhof, 247).

    “God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work” (Murray,149). His understanding of progressive sanctification entails that man cannot claim anything good “in and of himself”.

    What relevance does the imperative have in proving the progressiveness of sanctification, if it’s the Holy Spirit alone who does the work? “What the apostle is urging is the necessity of working out our own salvation, and the encouragement he supplies is the assurance that it is God himself who works in us” (Murray, 149).

    But nless Murray assumes the command to be upon someone who had the ability to perform the command in some sense, then the command is irrelevant in respect to the ability of the regenerate.

    “God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required result” (Murray). Murray would see both full divine participation and full human participation in the sanctification process. This is synergism

    I agree with Ed Boehl (The Reformed Doctrine of Justification, notice the critical preface by Berkhof to the last edition, in which he claims Boehl is too Lutheran). If conforming into the image of Christ is truly the work of the Holy Spirit alone, then it is difficult to claim ar a new ability, in the regenerate man. Tthe regenerate man is not given an improved ability from the Holy Spirit to obey God. This position does not deny that the regenerate man bears fruit. Nor does it deny that the Holy Spirit sometimes enables the believer to overcome sin. However, it not the case that this is an ability found within justified sinners.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070222222828/bettercovenant.org/papers/threeuses.htm

    In the third use, the Law as a description of the obedience in which believers should walk, the “Law” no longer functions as a covenant at all. (Legalists–and we all know plenty–would disagree at this point. And I think in our battles in the Reformed church, perhaps the key line of attack is to force them to come out in the open about this and say point blank that the Law functions as a covenant between God and the Church.)

    Rather, this “third use” considers the Law in the abstract as a delineation of righteous behavior, though not as a covenant by which we will be justified or condemned. This attempt to strip the Law of its covenantal sanctions and use the remainder is fraught with peril. Far better to see the Law fulfilled in Christ and take our example from him. He will not lead us astray. Nor will his example lack anything necessary.

    Luther told us rightly that we sinners cannot approach a naked God, but must always approach him in Christ. We also cannot approach a naked Law, but must always approach the law in Christ as well.

    This is true not merely for our justification, but for our sanctification. This truth is obscured in most formulations of the “third use of the Law.” Those formulations speak of the Law as a guide for the believer directly. They rarely mention the necessity of a Mediator and a better covenant at this point, having covered that necessity in the “second use.”

    This has unfortunate repercussions. It can lead believers to think that, for their justification, they approach the Law in Christ; but for their sanctification, they approach it directly. Having begun by the Spirit of Christ, they seek to be perfected by the flesh. Justified in the Spirit, they seek to be sanctified by their own efforts. They approach the Law as though it has been de-fanged and may now be handled directly without harm. They attempt to approach God on their own apart from Christ.

    The Law has indeed been “de-fanged” if you will; its curses have been borne by Christ, and God’s wrath has been turned aside. But the conclusion to this is not that we may now approach God or his Law on our own. Rather, the conclusion is that we may approach him and his Law in Christ. And as we do so, we find not an implacable Judge but a loving Father. For the Father loves the Son and all who are in him.

    So it is with the Law. We can never approach it as those to whom it has primary reference. Its primary reference is to Christ, in its third use as much as in any other. Any attempt to approach the Law apart from its fulfillment, our Savior, will produce in us either legalism or despair (and may God be gracious and grant that it produce despair).

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Cavanaugh sounds like Gaffin “God can perform an act which is both mine and God’s at the same time. ‘To be moved voluntarily, is to be moved from within, that is, by an interior principle: yet this interior principle may be caused by an exterior principle; and so to be moved from within is not repugnant to being moved by another’ (I.105.4, ad 2).” William T. Cavanaugh, “A Joint Declaration?: Justification as Theosis in Aquinas and Luther,”

  14. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Kalrberg—-According to the view of Gaffin and Strimple, there is no works-principle functioning in the covenant God made with Israel through Moses, mediator of the old covenant. This means that the sole principle underlying the old covenant is the principle of (saving) grace, identical to what is the case in the new covenant. The blessings and curses of the covenant of law – fully and explicitly laid out in “the Treaty of the Great King” (the Book of Deuteronomy), as elsewhere throughout the Old Testament – are administered on the basis of Israel’s obedience or disobedience. If the position of Israel were secure in the earthly land of promise (Canaan) – which is the case for recipients of God’s saving grace with regard to reception of the heavenly, antitypical reward (life in the eternal kingdom yet to come) – there is then no place for curse and exile from the land. Such judgment upon Israel of old is, in the final analysis, inexplicable. What the Murray school of interpretation must conclude, to be theologically consistent (what is the aim of the systematician), is to say that believers under the new covenant are likewise subject to both the blessings and the curses of redemptive covenant in accordance with (non-meritorious) good works. This point is crucial: in this school of thought there is no genuine difference between the two economies of redemption, wherein reward is bestowed “on the basis of” or “in accordance with” the believer’s works of obedience. This is precisely the doctrine Shepherd and Gaffin have been eagerly advancing; and they have taken the argument one step further by eviscerating the law/grace antithesis entirely in their doctrine of the covenants (pre- and post-Fall).

  15. markmcculley Says:

    Gaffin—- where Calvin brings in the proposition, “faith without works justifies”- he says …although this needs prudence and sound interpretation. For this proposition that faith without works justifies is true, yet false … true, yet false… according to the different senses which it bears. The proposition that faith without works justifies by itself is false. Because faith without works is void. But if the clause, “without works,” is joined with the word, “justifies,” the proposition will be true. Therefore faith cannot justify when it is without works because it is dead and a mere fiction. Thus faith can be no more separated from works than the sun from its heat…. Notice what Calvin says. It needs prudence and sound interpretation. It is true yet false. Now there is a paradox. True yet false, depending on the way it is read.

    Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:—-As that judgement decides, in its way, we’re going to wanna (sic) qualify that deciding, but as it decides the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. That is, death or life. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

    Gaffin, By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38—From this perceptive, the antithesis between law and gospel is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer

  16. markmcculley Says:

    opc report on justification, p30—When Paul speaks of justification, he invariably establishes the starkest imaginable contrast between law and works, on one hand, and grace and faith, on the other hand. (Though his is not true when Paul speaks about sanctification, in which law and works, and grace and fatih, are perfectly complementary, since the good works of the law flow out of this faith that comes by grace.)

    My guess is that Gaffin wrote that part (no antithesis for the Christian) but I also guess that most people don’t have a problem in talking about “sanctification” that way

  17. markmcculley Says:

    Cunha—The foreword to the recently published second edition of Gaffin’s By Faith, Not By Sight is written by PCA pastor Mark Jones and is, unfortunately, fully consistent with the understanding that there has been no positive change in Gaffin’s teaching on justification.

    Cunha–The selection of Jones to write the foreword, a man who has on more than one occasion publicly suggested that works of evangelical obedience have some efficacy in justification, is itself noteworthy. Jones gushes at the beginning of the foreword that “It is a unique privilege and a remarkable providence to write a foreword for a book that has been so deeply influential in my own theological thinking.” He then attempts to defend Gaffin’s views on soteriology, and especially justification, largely on the basis of historical theology….

    Cunha–Jones says that Reformed theologian Peter Van Mastricht (1630-1706) taught that there are three stages of justification and that in the third and final stage “in which believers gain possession of eternal life, good works have a certain ‘efficacy,’ insofar as God will not grant possession of eternal life unless they are present.”

    Cunha–Jones goes on to say that, based on what he discerns to be a shared view on Paul’s teaching in the first half of the second chapter of Romans, both Gaffin and Van Mastricht “hold firmly to the Reformed view that good works are a necessary condition (consequent, not antecedent, to faith) for salvation.”

    Cunha— When I first read this last statement, I was struck by Jones’s sudden shift from the word “justification” to the word “salvation” at this place. The word “salvation” can be used to denote something broader than the word “justification” (e.g. encompassing sanctification and glorification), but, based on the context, is clearly being used here as an equivalent term for justification….

    Cunha–“Jones suggests, approvingly that both Van Mastricht and Gaffin stretch justification out into multiple stages and that good works are in some way efficacious in the final stage. Such a scheme violates the antithesis between works (Law) and faith (Gospel) with respect to justification. This is entirely consistent with the explicit denial of the Law/Gospel contrast expressed by Gaffin in By Faith, Not By Sight.”

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/update.php?id=3

  18. markmcculley Says:

    Bradley Green, Covenant and Commandment, IVP, 2014, p 63—-“According to Meredith Kline, we are saved by a works principle (Christ’s work for the elect), but Kline thinks that Christ’s work must be kept totally and utterly sequestered from Abraham’s work and from our work. …Kline imports unnecessary categories when he says that there are no conditions (hence not a necessity of obedience) related to the heavenly realm where grace reigns. Does it not make more sense to simply say that within a gracious covenantal relationship God moves his covenant people to obey him.?

    mark mcculley–I am reporting, not agreeing with Green or John Frame or Gaffin. Have you ever noticed that the folks who want to say that there was “grace” in the garden before the fall are the same persons who want to say that grace after the fall includes law and conditions?

    John Frame (law and gospel) —“It is impossible to say that the law is excluded from the message of the gospel.”

    Gaffin ( By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38)—”The antithesis between law and gospel is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer.”

    Mark Seifrid—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. ….

    The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. For the Reformed the Law is no longer a “hard taskmaster,” who exacts full payment. It rather urges believers on to the goal of their lives, exciting them to obedience. In describing how the regenerate experience the Law, Calvin appeals directly to Psalms 19 and 119.

    Calvin regards the Law as addressing the believer as a regenerate person. This “regeneration” is not fully effective in us, but weak and impeded by the “sluggishness” of the flesh. —Calvin regards regeneration to effect a new state within the human being, which is partially present and active. The “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us. For Calvin, the most important function of the Law lies in its speaking to us as regenerate persons, urging us onward to the goal that lies before us. In speaking to the regenerate, the Law has lost its condemning function–: it no longer works our death, but only furthers the new life which is partially present in us already.

    Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. The old, fallen creature exists as a whole alongside the new creature, who is likewise a whole. The picture of the human being is either darkness or light, without any shading of tones. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. In so far as the Law deals with our salvation (and does not merely guide our outward conduct), it pronounces our condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    Psalm 119 strikingly ends on the same note as Rom 7:24: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant! For I do not forget your word” (Psalm 119:176). The whole psalm is summarized in this closing statement. The one who delights in the Law of God, who recounts it, meditates on it day and night, and clings to it, nevertheless does not yet know it in his heart and experience, and repeatedly appeals to the Lord to teach him. As he implicitly confesses in the opening of the psalm, his ways are not yet “established” in keeping the Lord’s statutes. He still is ashamed when he considers them (Psalm 119:5-8). In view of these petitions and the closing of the psalm, there is good reason, contrary to usual practice, to render the whole of Psalm119:9 as a question: “How shall a young man purify his way? How shall he keep it according to your word?” This petition recurs in varying forms, as the psalmist looks beyond the Law to the Lord, whom he asks to teach, instruct, and revive him (e.g., Ps 119:12, 18, 25-26, 29, etc.). The condition of the psalmist is not essentially different from that of the believing Paul, who likewise delights in the Law of God, but finds a different Law at work in him that makes him a prisoner of sin. What the psalmist sought from the Lord (and undoubtedly in faith received) is found, Paul with joy announces, in the crucified and risen Christ (Rom 7:25). In Psalm 19, too, the psalmist, even after his exalted praise of the Law confesses that a saving work of God beyond the Law is necessary in his heart: “Who can discern (their) errors? Make me innocent of hidden sins. . . . Then I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression” (Ps 19:11-13). Admittedly, Psalm 1 lacks this element of confession. But the shadow of the cross lies across this psalm: who among us can claim to be that person here and now? As the psalm itself suggests in its promise that “his leaf does not wither,” the path of the righteous one whom it describes leads through testing and trial on its way to the “season” of fruit (Psalm 1:1-6).

    The sins of which we are aware, dangerous though they may be, are not the most dangerous ones. These hidden faults are more deeply rooted in our person and being than we can imagine, and finally consist in the desire to do away with God and to possess that which properly belongs to our neighbor.

    Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another

    http://www.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2010/07/sbjt_102_sum06-seifrid1.pdf

  19. markmcculley Says:

    Moo, “Justification in Galatians”, p 172, (essay in the Carson f , Understanding the Times)—”Nor is there any need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to one another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight). The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification=stemming from our union with Christ.”

    http://www.wtsbooks.com/common/pdf_links/9781596384439.pdf


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