Does Finding Assurance in the Mirror of Christ Mean Don’t Think About Election?
Calvin—“The persons, therefore, whom God has adopted as his children, he is said to have chosen, not in themselves, but in Christ; because it was impossible for him to love them, except in him … if we are chosen in him, we shall find no assurance of our election in ourselves; nor even in God the Father, considered alone, abstractly from the Son. Christ therefore, is the mirror, in which it behooves us to contemplate our election; and here we may do it with safety…. Thus we have a testimony sufficiently clear and strong, that if we have communion with Christ, we are written in the Book of Life” (3/24/5).
The sins of the elect demand not some philosophical (and non-biblical) idea of some “infinity” or “equivalent”. The sins demand death. The death of Christ was God’s justice, God’s wages for all the sins of the elect.
To glory in the cross is to see that the death of Christ cancels the debt for all the elect when they are placed into that death. Romans 6:9-10: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has any dominon over him. For the death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.“
The reason that the debt of the sins of elect cannot hold Christ is
not some “equivalent” of suffering and torture. The reason that the debt of the sins of the elect cannot hold Christ is Christ’s death. Christ died to sin. This does not mean that Christ was born again. And Romans 6 is not talking about the elect being born again either.
The Triune God caused Christ to die because the Triune God by legal
imputation already did or did not lay the sins of each individual sinner on Christ. And this in turn means ONE that Christ is no longer imputed with those sins, because He has died once for them and will not die again. It means TWO that it is not sinners (nor their faith nor their apology) who give their sins to Christ. God gave the sins of the elect to Christ already, and God already did not give the sins of the non-elect to Christ.
Let’s think about a text parallel to Romans 6:9-10. Think of II Corinthians 5:15: “One has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Even so called Calvinists talk about one-sided deals in which the ony thing they “contributed” was their sins. “I offered God my sinful heart and God gave me His righteousness.” But God is the only imputed, and God already imputed your sins to Christ or not. Romans 8:3—“What the law could not do, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin-he condemned sin in the flesh.”
II Corinthians 5:15 teaches us the gospel about Christ’s death being the death of all those who will be justified. Those who attempt to find assurance in Christ but without thinking about election have a false Christ, a false Christ who did not die only for the elect, a false Christ whose death does not save. The false gospel can only tell us that Christ died “so that our guilt COULD now be taken away, and we COULD be counted righteous.” This “might or might not be” false gospel always conditions the imputation of sins to Christ on the faith of the sinner. The false gospel says: “Jesus suffered the penalty due our sins so that we do not have to.”
SO THAT WE DO NOT HAVE TO
In a few words that’s the same false gospel I have been hearing all my life. Most people who profess to be Christians profess that what Jesus did (in death and resurrection) sets up a plan which makes it possible for you to give him your sins and then for Him to save you. Most so called Calvinists not only professes to have been saved because they believed this false (Arminian) gospel. Most so called Calvinists continue to teach that same “so that we don’t have to” false gospel.
II Corinthians 5:15 does not teach that Christ died for our sins so that we don’t have to; it says that those for whom Christ died also died with him. That is substitution, and you cannot teach substitution without confusion unless you describe which sinners Christ died for. You cannot teach biblical substitution without teaching about election.
If Christ died for every sinner but some of these sinners will perish, then that may be a substitution but it not a saving substitution. II Corinthians 5:15 does not use the word “elect”, but the only other way to understand the identity of the “for” and the “with” is to teach an universalism in which every sinner has died to sin and will be justified.
I think most “middle-camp” tolerant Calvinists would rather live as practical de facto universalists then dare talk about election in connection with II Corinthians 5. They want a future judgment for the elect, even while they quibble with NT Wright about that not being a future justification. They fear as antinomian any good news which teaches that the elect have already died to judgment when Christ died for them.
Another advantage for most “middle camp” evangelicals in not talking about election in II Cor 5 is that they can take the phrase “live for Him who died for them” and use it to lay duties on every sinner they meet. But there is no point in talking about any such duties until a sinner has obeyed the true gospel and repented from the dead works of the false gospel.
The false gospel is a “but” gospel. It says that “we are saved not only by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen Savour.” But the true gospel does NOT tell any particular sinner that Christ died for their sins. The gospel does NOT tell sinners who the elect are; the gospel tells sinners about election and substitution.
It is a gospel fact that there was one kind of “union” of the elect in Christ already at the cross. Before (or after) the elect are justified, Christ paid by death for their sins. Faith does not make this election happen. Faith in a false Christ is not a mirror to give us assurance that we belong to the true Christ. Only faith in the Bible revealed Christ gives us assurance that we are elect.
Galatians 3 does not start with believing to get justified, and it does not end with believing more to get more of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3 starts with “before your eyes Christ publicly portrayed as crucified.” T Yes, there is a promise of the Spirit through faith, but that is because first “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” SO THAT this will happen. Not so that it COULD OR MIGHT happen.