Where Faith in the Gospel Is, Christ Lives, but Christ also lives in Heaven and Not Just Your Heart
Some who tell sinners to look outside themselves end up telling these sinners to look to “the sacraments” and to the priests authorized to dispense the “seals” in which the “sign is united with the reality”. But salvation from death and the forgiveness of sins are mediated realities, in which the Mediator is Jesus Christ, the great High Priest.
John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[a] Footnote: Some manuscripts add who is in heaven
Some scholars think that this verse is talking about Christ’s continuing divine presence in heaven, even from the beginning of His incarnation. Maybe so. I know the verse is teaching us that no other human has gone to heaven except Christ alone. We wait for heaven to come to earth.
But right now I want to think about two other truths. Christ in His humanity is now absent from earth. We wait for Him to return. Christ in His divinity is now present also in our hearts.
Objection: God reckons this thing Christ purchased for the elect to the elect. If that’s the case, then I have to ask, where does Christ fit into that? Why don’t you talk more about real stuff, like Christ in your heart?
mark: 1. Christ being God is the imputer. Christ took the sins to Himself, and thus took the death to Himself. 2. Christ, besides being the earner who obtained all the blessings of salvation for the elect by His obedience, now does these two things. Christ both indwells (lives in) the justified and also intercedes (in heaven) for the elect.
The indwelling—- Where faith is, Christ is. Luther was right about that, but it’s a mistake to locate the righteousness in the faith, or identify the righteousness with Christ’s life inside us (as Osiander did.
The work to earn righteousness for the elect was done outside of the elect. The righteousness which resulted and which is imputed is always outside of the elect. Bunyan explained: the righteousness is in heaven. The righteousness belong not to us alone on the inside but also to all the elect. The righteousness also belongs still to Christ.
objection: Because if that is indeed the case, then to be blunt about it, we don’t even need Him anymore. He bought what we need, so now He can step back, go do whatever while God hands out what He purchased. Why would we have faith in Him? Our faith would be in what He purchased instead. How does that glorify Christ?
mark: I do think you for these questions. Of course Socinians who deny forensic justification often ask this. But you are not denying any forensic thing I am saying: you want that plus more, also Christ Himself the person living in you.
And my answer: justification is not the only thing. Christ the person is not a something to be imputed. I agree that the true Christ is given to live with the justified elect and in the justified elect. I am glad that we don’t need false alternatives, such as “HIM vs His work”. I am glad that you don’t deny “imputation” as a fiction which is not real. But I am concerned when you dismiss assent to the gospel of imputation as something less important than the “life of God in the soul of the man”.
In By Faith Not By Sight, Richard Gaffin : “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of
Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p110
Gaffin wants to say that both the “in us” and the “outside us” are our hope. His hope “as well” is Christ’s life in us defined as the power to avoid sin despite our “incomplete progress, flawed by our continued sinning”.
Instead of reading the “according to works” texts as having to do with the distinction between dead works (Hebrews 6:1,9:14) and “fruit for God” (Romans 7:4), Gaffin bases assurance on Christ’s life in us
evidenced by our imperfect but habitual obedience.
Gaffin follows his mentors John Murray and Norman Shepherd in taking
Romans 2:13 to be describing Christians. The hope for future
justification is not Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession
outside us alone. His hope “as well” is Christ in you. Without
defining “sanctification” (by the blood?, by the Spirit?, or by us
working out what’s been worked in?) Gaffin warns of an “unbreakable
bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of
aasurance for future justification. (p100)
Yes, Christ’s finished righteousness is the alone ground, he agrees, but at the same time and HOWEVER, Christ’s life in us factors in also. Gaffin cautions to remember that the obedience and avoidance of sin which factor into your assurance come from God living in you and not from you.
I agree with Gaffin that the gospel is not only about what Christ did
outside of the elect for the elect. The gospel is also about the
effectual call which results from election in Christ and atonement in
One evidence of effectual calling in us is that the justified elect do not put their assurance in Christ’s life in them as proven by their “bearing fruit for God”. To look in us for Christ’s life is to “bear fruit for death”. Romans 7:5