“In real time, through baptism and faith, we were united with Christ in His effectual penalty bearing death.”
Let me begin by saying that there is something good in this statement. Christ’s death is effectual. God’s justice demands that Christ’s death take away the guilt of all for whom Christ died and give them all the blessings of salvation. So, the statement is correct that Christ’s death is effectual and also with the idea that Christ’s death was not sufficient to save everybody but only effectual for some.
At least the statement is talking about getting hooked up with what Christ did in the past, and not hooking up with Christ to get us to do now what needs to be done. And that’s a big thing.
But having said that, as you have come to expect, I disagree with the rest of the statement I not only disapprove of the idea that water baptism by something which calls itself “the church” (and claims that God is objectively doing something and promising something) is what causes the imputation. I also disapprove with the idea that faith is what unites us to the imputation.
I know that some Reformed confessions point to such ideas, but the Bible does not say that water baptism and faith unite us to Christ’s death. The Bible says justification is by faith, through faith, but this means that imputation creates the faith in the gospel in us. There is no justification without faith, but logically there is imputation before faith.
So I dislike the statement. I think the statement aids conditionalism and sacerdotalism. What does “baptism” mean? I am rational enough to want some definitions. Is the idea that “baptism” won’t work without faith, but also that the faith won’t work without the “baptism”? So what exactly is the “baptism”? Is it water? Is it God’s imputation? Is it regeneration? Is it both, or all three?
If you make imputation rely on water baptism rather than God baptizing us into Christ, then the consistent implication would be a man-centered false gospel. Humans calling themselves the church are claiming to be one of the two (or three) factors in uniting us to Christ’s death.
Another weird thing that I notice is that, you could say make this statement, ie that it’s water and faith that hooks you up, and still say that what you are hooked up is what Christ did, not what you are doing. God caused you to hook up with the death, and then after you are hooked up, it’s not your faith or your hooking up that saves, because after that, it’s only Christ’s death saving you.
That order of salvation application would still be wrong, but logically you could read it that way, and the tradition does read it that way for “justification” but not for “sanctification”. Because some Reformed confessions tell folks that “sanctification” is a process, and they read that into the Bible.
Even more seriously, once you have “front-loaded” the gospel (or at least the order of application) with regeneration before imputation, then you don’t really have justification of the ungodly anymore. You have justification of the regenerate.
And with many folks it seems to be a very quick step from that statement to saying that the same regeneration which makes you godly enough to have the faith which is the condition of justification, that this same regeneration is going to make you godly enough and believe enough so you will keep getting better.
And most Calvinists think that, if you don’t agree with them about that, then you must be an Arminian who simply denies that we need to be regenerate before we can believe the gospel. So the Arminian idea of faith without needing a new birth first is seen as the only other alternative to the idea of sanctification as “getting better.
Saying you can have faith and be justified, all before you are
regenerate, that’s what Arminians say, and then some of these Arminians also deny (as I do) that “sanctification” is “regeneration causing you to be better”. The third alternative, the correct view, that imputation causes regeneration, is not much considered.
Of course it doesn’t divide up this neat, with Arminians and Calvinists on each side, because many of the Arminians (like Tozer) agree that “sanctification” means getting better and that if you don’t get better that means you weren’t justified. And many of the “Calvinists” don’t really talk about imputation at all, much
less imputation before faith. No, most Calvinists are only talking about regeneration being first, and not about the atonement, or election the atonement, imputation.
Most Calvinists doesn’t talk about election when they talk about legal identification with Christ’s death.They talk about “baptism” and faith and regeneration, not about election.
Even though there is a sense in which we “count ourselves dead to sin” (Romans 6), we sinners are never the primary imputers. Our counting only true if it’s based on God’s counting. We don’t do something to “make the exchange”. We don’t even “contribute our sins”. God already did or did not count our sins to Christ.
Also, in the application of Christ’s death to sinner, in our uniting to Christ’s death, again it’s not our counting which is first but God’s counting. We don’t believe so that God will impute. God imputes so that we believe.
Remember that “impute” sometimes has two sense, always declare, but sometimes also “legally share We don’t ever cause the “legal sharing. God both declares and does legal sharing. We do declare, but only after God has declared, and we count (agree, say amen, reckon) based on God’s declaration.
But what good is this “declaration”, since it’s not audible words we hear from God, telling us “you are justified”? And no, when we hear a sacerdotalist or a clergyman’s absolution, that’s not God’s declaration, no matter if the guy is from Rome (I forgive you) or from Geneva (God forgives you).
So what good is a legal thought in God’s mind, a declarative transaction we can neither hear nor see? To me, it’s my only hope, because I know that a. this is the gospel which I believe and that b. I only believe it as a result of God’s imputation, and my believing it was not a condition to make it happen, to get me hooked up or in union with Christ.
I simply don’t care even if you were getting as better as you think, because if you are still a sinner (and have been, always been one) then your only hope is if God imputes Christ’s death to you. God won’t do that, if God has not already elected you and has not already imputed your sins to Christ when Christ already died.
Notice I did not say that “God won’t do that, if you don’t believe.” Rather, if you end up not believing the gospel about God’s imputation, then that will be evidence that God never imputed Christ’s death to you and that Christ never died for you.
And if you say that this is not fair and gives you nothing to do, then that shows you that your religion is still man-centered and that as of yet you have not been regenerated so that you believe the gospel.
There is of course a sense in which God hasn’t forgiven justified Christians yet for the sins they haven’t committed yet. But I would not say that dailty forgiveness depends on daily confession as its condition. What do we confess? Do we confess in order to be forgiven? Or we do confess the evil or our sins and also the grace of God already forgiving our sins?
There is an one time justification, a before and after, so that we have passed from death to life. We are not being re-justified every day, nor are we passing from death to life every day, even though some Lutheran rhetoric sounds that way. But that’s what you expect from people who think Christ died for and justified everybody, but that somehow in the end not all these folks are justified.