Archive for January 2012

Imputation Is NOT an Experience, but Results in Hearing the Gospel

January 26, 2012

The Holy Spirit does not impute Christ’s righteousness, so we cannot refer only to the Holy Spirit in the “application” of the accomplished atonement. Even though there is no justification apart from regeneration and faith, the righteousness of Christ has priority over the work of the Spirit, and legal imputation is not the work of the Spirit.

Romans 4: What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him unto righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is imputed unto righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not impute his sin.”
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was imputed to Abraham unto righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

Some translations of Romans 4 and Genesis 15:6 decide that “as righteousness” should be translated “unto righteousness”. But that difference does not explain why imputation happens or what is imputed.

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 and why is God imputing “it”?

Many “Reformed” folks now tell us that imputation is without any transfer, that it only means declaring that certain folks are in the covenant or in the church. 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.

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 was imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Abraham’s seed Jesus Christ for the elect alone.

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. But Christ and His death are the IT credited by God. This legal application of the accomplished atonement is not done by the Holy Spirit.

2. We can distinguish but never separate Christ’s person and work. Also we can distinguish but never separate Christ’s death and his resurrection. Thus also we can distinguish between imputation and the work of the Spirit. The Spirit gives faith but faith is not imputed. Faith in the gospel is a result of imputation.

3. God imputes according to truth. God imputes righteousness as righteousness! a. The righteousness counted as righteousness is not our righteousness (not our works of faith) but legally “transferred” to us when Christ marries us, so that what is His is still His but now ours also. b. Justification is not only the righteousness, but the righteousness imputed to the elect.

4. Imputation therefore 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 transfer. God is imputed to be just because God is just.



January 18, 2012

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, mostly all they can say is “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, “Reformed evangelicals” will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that falsehood. Of course they won’t tell you it’s heresy, but in select groups (for examples, conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of a false gospel.

Before you believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God.

Galatians 3: 8, “ And the Scripture, forseeing 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.

If the object of the faith alone 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 alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone. But “faith alone” is not the condition of justification, and 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.”

Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. The righteousness of God obtained by Christ is imputed unto the elect alone.

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

Corruption Not the Condition of Guilt, The New Birth Not the Condition of Justification, by AA Hodge

January 10, 2012

The question is one as to order, not of time, but of cause and effect. All agree (1) That the satisfaction and merit of Christ
are the necessary precondition of regeneration and faith as directly as of justification; (2) That regeneration and justification are both
gracious acts of God; (3) That they take place at the same moment of time. The only question is, What is the true order of causation?

Is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that we may believe, or is it imputed to us because we believe? Is justification an analytic
judgment, to the effect that this man, though a sinner, yet being a believer, is justified? Or is it a synthetic judgment, to the effect
that this sinner is justified for Christ’s sake.

“By consequence, the imputation of Christ’s righteous to us is the necessary precondition of the restoration to us of the influences of
the Holy Spirit, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to our regeneration and sanctification.

“The notion that the necessary precondition of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness is our own faith, of which the necessary
precondition is regeneration, is analogous to the rejected theory that the inherent personal moral corruption of each of Adam’s descendants is the necessary precondition of the imputation of his guilt to them.

“On the contrary, if the imputation of guilt is the causal antecedent of inherent depravity, in like manner the imputation of righteousness
must be the causal antecedent of regeneration and faith.”

From The Princeton Review —A. A. Hodge, “The Ordo Salutis”

If Christ Were Made Sin Not Only By Imputation, by Flavel

January 8, 2012

They tell us, (1.) That the righteousness of Christ is subjectively and inherently in us, in the same fulness and perfection as it is in Christ; grant that, and then it will follow indeed, That Christ himself is not more righteous than the believer is. (2.) That not only the guilt of sin was laid on Christ by way of imputation: but sinfulness itself, was transferred from the elect to Christ: and that by God’s laying it on him, the sinfulness or fault itself was essentially transfused into him.

First, we thankfully acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Surety of the New Testament, Heb. 7.22, and that as such, all the guilt of our sins were laid upon him, Isa. 53.5,6. That is, God imputed, and he bare it in our room and stead. God the Father, as supreme Lawgiver and Judge of all, upon the transgression of the law, admitted the surety-ship of Christ, to answer for the sins of men, Heb. 10.5,6,7. And for this very end he was made under the law, Gal. 4.4,5. A

God by imputing the guilt of our sins to Christ, thereby our sins became legally his; as the debt is legally the surety’s debt, though he never borrowed any of it: Thus Christ took our sins upon him, though in him was no sin, 2 Cor. 5.21, “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”

We thankfully acknowledge, that Christ hath so fully satisfied the law for the sins of all that are his, that the debts of believers are fully discharged. His payment is full, and so therefore is our discharge and acquittal, Rom. 8.1,31. The guilt of believers is so perfectly abolished, that it shall never more bring him under condemnation, John 5.24. And so in Christ they are without fault before God.

As the guilt of our sins was by God’s imputation laid upon Christ, so the righteousness of Christ is by God imputed to believers, by virtue of their legal union with Christ; and becomes thereby truly theirs, for the justification of their particular persons before God, as if they themselves had in their own persons  suffered the death  threatened.

No inherent righteousness in our own persons, is, or can be more truly our own, for this end and purpose, than Christ’s imputed righteousness is our own. He is the Lord our righteousness, Jeremiah 23.6, We are made the righteousness of God in him, 1 Cor. 5.21.

But notwithstanding all this, we cannot say, that over and above the guilt of sin, that Christ became as completely sinful as we are. He that transgresses the precepts, sins: and the personal sin of one, cannot be in this respect, the personal sin of another. There is no transfusion of the transgression of the precept from one subject to another. This is utterly impossible; even Adam’s personal sins, considered in his single private capacity, are not infused to his posterity.

The guilt of our sin was that which was imputed unto Christ. I know but two ways in the world by which one man’s sins can be imagined to become another’s. Either by imputation, which is legal, and what we affirm; or by essential transfusion from subject to subject. We have as good ground to believe the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, as this wild notion of the essential transfusion of sin.

If we should once imagine, that the very acts and habits of sin, with the odious deformity thereof, should pass from our persons to Christ and subjectively to inhere in him, as they do in us; then it would follow that our salvation would thereby be rendered utterly impossible. For such an inhesion of sin in the person of Christ is absolutely inconsistent with the hypostatical union, which union is the very foundation of his satisfaction, and our salvation. Though the Divine nature can, and doth dwell in union with the pure and sinless human nature of Christ, yet it cannot dwell in union with sin.

This supposition would render the blood of the cross altogether unable to satisfy for us. He could not have been the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, if he had not been perfectly pure and spotless, 1 Pet. 1.19.

If the way of making our sins Christ’s by imputation, be thus rejected and derided; and Christ asserted by SOME OTHER WAY to become as completely sinful as we; then I cannot see which way to avoid it, but that the very same acts and habits of sin must inhere both in Christ and in believers also. For I suppose our adversaries will not deny, that notwithstanding God’s laying the sins of believers upon Christ, there remain in all believers after their justification, sinful inclinations and aversations; a law of sin in their members, a body of sin and death.

Did this indwelling sin pass from them to Christ? Why do they complain and groan of indwelling sin (as in Romans 7) if indwelling sin itself be so transferred from them to Christ? Sure, unless men will dare to say, the same acts and habits of sin which they feel in themselves, are as truly in Christ as in themselves, they have no ground to say, that by God’s laying their iniquities upon Christ, that Christ became as completely sinful as they are; and if they should so affirm, that affirmation would undermine the very foundation of their own salvation.

Nothing which Christ did or suffered, nothing that he undertook, or underwent, did, or could constitute him subjectively, inherently, and thereupon personally a sinner, or guilty of any sin of his own. To bear the guilt or blame of other men’s faults makes no man a sinner. So then this proposition, that by God’s laying our sins upon Christ (in some OTHER WAY THAN BY IMPUTATION of guilt) he became as completely sinful as we, will not, ought not to be received as the sound doctrine of the gospel.

We Warn Legalists that They are Not Christians

January 6, 2012

If you were operating out of legal fear instead of gospel motives, how then do you know you were justified all along?”

How do I know I am elect and now justified? Because I believe the gospel. Did my believing the gospel cause justification to happen? No! Did God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness result in the elect believing the gospel? Yes.

So what shall we think about those who say that “I was born justified, or I was justified but did not know the gospel”, or “I believe in grace now but I don’t repent of what I believed then” or saying that “I know that I believed the gospel even though all that time I was operating out of legal fear”? Some of them say: “now I am more gospel wakeful.”

Well, you could say, more legalistic Christians sure got bad results, like Peter who ended up betraying the Lord three times. That’s why he messed up so bad, because of his legal fears.

But we all still sin. We are still all getting bad results. The justified elect are still habitual sinners. They are still not doing so well in morality, when they are measured by God’s standards for morality.

There’s an in and out. Ecclesia: called out, gathered together here from there, separated by doctrine. The question is: what is the gospel, and do you believe it? Was the “gospel” that left you in legalism really the gospel?

The gospel is not that you are elect (or that I am). Not: God loves you. Not: God loves me. But: God loves as many as are believing the gospel of Christ’s death for the elect.

The gospel can’t tell you that you are elect until you are believing it already. If you confess yourselves as still being motivated by legal fear, then how has the gospel made you to submit to the Lord and His doctrine?

Either God is pleased with you or not. How do you know? Are you believing the gospel? You need to know this before you try to please God. You can’t please God if you don’t already please God. And you don’t please God yet if you haven’t believed the gospel yet.

We talk about legal fear of God to lost people who are not born justified.

Am I saying that we get lost and saved again every time that we fall into legal fear? No. Am I saying that we never are motivated by legal fear? No. But no Christian should be addressed as though they were still legalists. But plenty of people listening to us should be addressed as legalists still lost in their sins.

We do not threaten Christians with the idea that they are still legalists. We warn legalists that they are not Christians

When a person is operating out of legal fear, that person may have a very dutiful prayer and Bible reading life, but it’s all an abomination to God, dead works coming from a dead person.

Smeaton on Romans Six

January 5, 2012

Smeaton, The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement, p 161 : To understand what is meant by dying with Christ, we need to see the connection between the previous chapter and Romans 6. In Romans 5:12-19 Paul described our standing in Christ, and then he added “where sin abounded, grace much more abounded.” Anticipating the objection that would be made to such a view of God’s grace, Paul says, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” and then he rejects that thought with total abhorrence of the idea.

But not content with his mere “God forbid” rejection of the thought, he then goes on to prove that this type of perversion of grace could not logically follow for a reason which touches the deep elements of God’s moral government, and makes it totally impossible. Paul argues from a fact-the great objective change of relation that comes from dying with Christ.

We need to ask, then, what Paul means by these expressions that he
uses, on which he makes his point so strongly (verse 12): “dying with Christ”, “dying to sin”, “buried with Christ”, “crucified with Christ”. One particular verse of Scripture will give us a key to the meaning of the above phrases: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14

In this passage, Paul uses two expressions interchangeably; that is, “He died for all”, and “all died in Him.” He is describing the same thing from two different points of view. The first of these expressions describes the vicarious death of Christ as an objective fact. The second phrase speaks of the same great transaction, in terms that indicate that we too have done it. So then, we may either say, “Christ died for us”, or “we died in Him.” Both are true. We can equally affirm that He was crucified for us, or we were co-crucified with Him.

We are not referring here to two acts-one on Christ’s side and another on ours. Rather,we have but one public representative, corporate act performed by the Son of God, in which we share as truly as if we had accomplished the atonement ourselves.

It is a mistake to not carry Romans 5 into Romans 6. If we carry the thought of the representative character of the two Adams from the one chapter into the other, then the difficulty vanishes.

All men sinned in the first man’s act of sin; for that public act was representative, and all Adam’s offspring were included in it. From God’s perspective, there have been but two men in the world, with the two families of which they are the heads; there have been just two public representatives.

The idea of Christ being our Surety and the representation of His atonement as the act of “one for many”, run through this entire section of Romans. But the passage we are studying (Romans 6:1-8) contains one difference as compared with other passages, and that is that here we are described as doing what our representative did.

Let us notice the expressions used in Romans 6:1-8: It is said that “we died to sin (verse 2). As this phrase is misunderstood quite frequently, we must discover what it really means. It frequently occurs in the writings of Paul in different forms, and it always alludes, not to an inward deliverance from sin, but to the Christian’s objective relation. It means that we are legally dead to sin in Jesus Christ.

This is made very clear by two other expressions occurring in the section. The first of these passages applies the same language to the Lord Himself; for He is said to have died to sin once (verse 10). Now the only sense in which the Sinless One can be regarded as dying to sin, is that of dying to its guilt, or to the condemning power which goes along with sin, and which must run its course wherever sin has been committed. He died to the guilt or criminality of sin when it was laid on Him. He certainly did not die to sins indwelling power.

The second of these phrases shows that this dying was the meritorious cause of our justification. “He that is dead has been justified from sin” (verse 7). The justification of the Christian is thus based on his co-dying with Christ; that is, we are said to have died when Christ died, and to have done what Christ did. The words undoubtedly mean a co-dying with Christ in that one corporate representative deed; that is, they mean that we were one with Christ in His obedience unto death, just like we were one with Adam in his disobedience.

Christ’s death to sin belongs to us, and is as much ours as if we had born the penalty ourselves. And the justification by which we are forgiven and accepted has no other foundation. It is noteworthy that Romans 5 describes all this in the third person, whereas Romans 6 describes it in the first person, and from our own share in it.

Paul also says in this section that our old man is crucified, or co-crucified with Him. The entire section of which this is a part is to be regarded not as an exhortation, but as the simple statement of fact; this passage does not set forth anything done by us, but something done on our account, or for our sake, by a Surety, in whose performance we participate.

It might be asked, “can’t we understand that these statements designate two separate actions, one done by Christ, and a similar or parallel one by us?” NO. The acts are not two, but one, described from two different points of view. There is not one crucifixion on the part of Christ, and a second, parallel and similar but different, crucifixion on the part of His people. There is but one corporate act—the act of “one for many.”

But what is the old man that is said to be co-crucified with the Lord? Does not this refer to our inward corruption? NO it does not. Such an explanation is untenable, as it would make the expression synonymous with the next clause which is not only bad theology but also inept reasoning. Instead, the first clause is made the condition of the second.

The old man is crucified in order that the body of sin (sin within us, or the flesh) be destroyed. Now there must be a difference between the two clauses, as the former is in order to attain the latter. The old man said to be crucified with Christ, is therefore our standing “in Adam”, which is terminated so that we have a new relationship to God in the crucified Surety.

To summarize, Romans 6:1-5 says we have been crucified with Christ, which tells us that our standing has changed from being “in Adam” (with its curse and condemnation) to being “in Christ” (with all of its blessings and benefits).

The first five verses of Romans 6 are statements of fact, then verse 6 is an exhortation, so a one-sentence summary is, “because we were crucified with Christ, we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

But to bring even more clarity to the mind of his readers, Paul says we were baptized into His death (verse 3). Christ is presented to us as laden with sin , and satisfying divine justice; and baptism, as a symbolical representation, shows our connection with Him, or rather our participation in that great corporate act which Jesus did on the cross, in the place of all His people.

We are seen as having done what He did, and to have done what He did, and to have undergone what He underwent, to satisfy divine justice. The symbol of baptism teaches this, and Paul tells us the fact that it was a baptism into His death, an emblem of oneness with Christ, or fellowship with Him in His death to sin (verse 10).

The death was the price of the life. The one was the cause, the other was the unfailing reward or consequence. The apostle declares that not only was the death of Christ a substitution in our place, but that the consequences of it being a substitutionary death are that we may be said to have done what He did. And, because of our oneness with Him, we are discharged from sin as a master.

Still Asking for Clarity about what “Union” Means

January 5, 2012

I am asking two things.

1. I ask that we define “union”. It does no good to agree that “union” has various aspects (ie, it’s by election and it’s legal also) if we then go on from that to use the word “union” to mean something very close to “regeneration” or “definitive sanctification” or “break with the pattern of sin”.

Supposedly, regeneration and sanctification and break with sin are all also results of “union”. So what is “union” and why does it come down in the end to assuming that it means the work of the Spirit in the elect sinner? (btw, we need to define words like “regeneration” and “sanctification” also).

2. I am asking that we locate what we say in specific Biblical texts, and not in traditional confessions of faith. For example, Romans 6 is certainly a key text on the relationship of justification and the Christian life. Many read Romans 6 as if it were saying: don’t worry about that two legal heads stuff in Romans 5, because there is another answer besides justification as to why we don’t sin, and that is “union”.

Others (like Haldane) read Romans to say that the answer to the question about the Christian life is not something else besides legal identity with Christ’s death and resurrection. We read Romans 6:7 as saying that the answer continues to be “justified from sin”.
We insist on that because Christ became dead to sin, was justified from sin, and that certainly was NOT “regeneration” or the work of the Spirit in Him. We insist on reading Romans 6 in terms of “sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law”.

Others of course read Holy Spirit baptism into Romans 6. They don’t talk about Christ giving the Spirit (which is not in Romans 6). They talk about the Spirit giving Christ (which is also not in Romans 6). Others talk about the sacramental water of the church. But it is no way acceptable to them to think that Romans 6 is still about justification and legal identification. They already have their minds made up that imputation is not a good enough answer to the question of Romans 6.

Yes, I know the Confessions say that the Spirit applies the work of Christ. Since I think God’s legal imputation applies the righteousness Christ obtained for the elect to the elect, I don’t think I agree with the Confession’s language. But right now, I want some folks to tell me what that language means. What biblical texts are you thinking about? Does the Spirit “applying the work of Christ” make imputation secondary or even unnecessary?