Faith in Christ’s Death, not Faith in Faith or the Working of Faith

God’s Words, p 145—the rendering which declares Abraham’s faith to have been counted “as righteousness” is not good. “As” suggests identity, as if righteousness was being used here in Romans 4 in the sense of man’s obedience to God. “As” represents the Greek proposition eis, meaning “toward” or “with a view to” and “for righteousness” was a much better way to translate it. Paul is not saying there that faith is our righteousness….

Our faith needs to be in Christ, and not faith in faith, not even faith in faith caused and enabled by God’s regeneration. My own opinion is that we will never stop finding assurance in our WORKS of faith until we also stop finding assurance in our FAITH. Works of faith are not our righteousness. But neither is faith our righteousness.

Galatians 3:5-8, which quotes Genesis 15:6, tells us that Abraham believed God and “IT” was imputed to him as righteousness. Many read this text as saying that faith alone is imputed as the righteousness. Luther, for example, reminds us that to have faith is to have Christ indwelling, and tells us that God really is pleased with the faith God has given us, and this faith is really righteous in God’s sight. But Luther does not explain how this righteous faith (produced by God in the water of regeneration) satisfies the law of God . It is NOT our faith (or works) which satisfies God’s law.

To begin to understand Genesis 15:6, 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 does not explain the imputation. What is the “it” which is being imputed?

No matter if we have gone to great lengths to say that the “IT” is not credited as righteousness but only unto righteousness, what is the “IT”“ and why is God imputing “IT

Those who now define justification simply by talking about “union” with the resurrected Jesus feel not need to talk about a legal transfer of a righteousness that Christ brought in for the elect by His death.

The “It” has an antecedent, but the antecedent is not faith alone. God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to the person justified by the gospel.

Galatians 3:5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and IT was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith

In Genesis 17, God warned Abraham that anybody not circumcised would be cut off from the covenant. But that conditional “work of faith” is NOT the gospel God 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 SEED 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 Christ Jesus for the elect alone.. The death of Christ is the righteousness of Christ and this is the “IT.

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13 Comments on “Faith in Christ’s Death, not Faith in Faith or the Working of Faith”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Christ’s righteousness is imputed not imparted, and as a result of imputation, faith is imparted, but faith is not imputed
    Christ did not believe for us
    Christ did not repent for us
    Christ was not regenerated for us
    Christ was not our substitute in believing for us
    Christ was not our substitute in repenting for us
    Christ was not our substitute in being born again for us

    Galatians 2:20 I live by faith of the Son of God, does not mean being saved by Christ’s faith imputed to us, it means we have faith in Christ and His righteousness
    What is given to us is not Christ’s faith in place of our faith. Instead a result of God’s imputation is the Spirit giving us faith in Christ

  2. markmcculley Says:

    “Imputation before faith” is not to be equated with “justification before faith”. We have to keep our eyes on what is being imputed.

    Imputation is not being imputed. Faith is not being imputed. Christ’s righteousness is imputed, and the result of that is justification.

    “Imputation” is both the “legal transfer” and the “declaration that the person is now justified.” Imputation is logically before justification, but justification is “imputation” in the second sense of “declaration”. This justification does not happen without faith in the gospel happening at the same time. Romans 8:10–”the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

    All who are gospel believers are justified, none are justified who are not gospel believers.

    None are born again who are not gospel believers, none are justified who are not born again

    My own opinion is that we will never stop finding assurance in our WORKS of faith until we also stop finding assurance in our FAITH. Works of faith are not our righteousness. But neither is faith our righteousness.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Scott Clark on faith as a “power”—-The English noun “virtue” is derived from the Latin noun ” the root sense of which is “power.” To speak of faith “as a virtue” tends to cause folk to locate the power of faith in faith itself.

    WCF 8.6: Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect….

    WCF 13.1 .–They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them…through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection

    2 Peter 1:5 is to the point here: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue (αρετη), and virtue with knowledge….

    Neither the Three Forms nor the Westminster Standards speak of faith as a “virtue.”

    WCF 14.1 The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe…. is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,

    There is nothing intrinsic to faith that makes it powerful. The mystery of faith is that it is, in itself, empty. It is a sign of our perversity that we continually try to fill faith with something other than “Christ for us.” We want to make the power of faith to be faith itself or Spirit-wrought sanctity or something else beside Christ.

    Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

    Faith does not justify because it is “formed by love,” i.e. made powerful by Spirit-wrought sanctity—–.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Tianqi Wu—- In the scripture, “faith” can refer to the object of faith. This is why I do not feel obliged to read “Christ’s faith” everywhere salvation is said to be “through faith” (justification, preservation, etc). Here’s an example. Luke 7:47 For this reason I say to you, Her many sins are remitted, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, he loves little.
    48 And He said to her, Your sins are forgiven. 49 And those reclining with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this who even forgives sins?
    50 But He said to the woman, YOUR FAITH has saved you. Go in peace.
    The text explicitly says “your faith” . The Arminian view would be that the sinner’s faith is the condition of salvation, which here is about the forgiveness of sins. But the context shows us that “your faith” has Christ as the object of her faith.
    The passage above is one of the several accounts of Christ forgiving sins on earth before He died on the cross because of the sins of his people .Romans 4: 23 Now IT (the object of faith, not only Christ but His righteousness) was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, 24 but also for us. IT (the object of faith, His righteousness) will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered up because of] our trespasses and raised because of our justification. 5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him through faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Silva: what light, if any, the use of πίστις Χριστοῦ in Greek Christian literature might shed on the Pauline use of this same phrase, noting, in particular, a number of errors that can be (and usually are) made when weighing the evidence.
    “As far as can be determined, Greek-speaking writers in the early church who commented on Galatians 2:16 (and parallel passages) understood the phrase as a reference to out faith in Christ. To be sure, they do not stop to address directly the question of whether it refers to our faith or Christ’s: they just repeat the phrase, apparently assuming that the meaning is obvious (though this factor itself may be a significant clue). Occasionally, however, they make their understanding explicit. Chrysostom, for example, paraphrases the thought of Galatians 2:15-16 by saying, ‘we have fled for refuge to the faith which is in Christ’ (κατεφὐγομεν εἰς πίστιν τὴν εἰς Χριστόν). More important, both Chrysostom and other writers, in their exposition of the passage as a whole, make repeated references to the Christian’s act of believing in Christ, while never once unambiguously speaking of the πίστις that Christ himself has or exercises*.

    [*Footnote, page 228: “Here again, the question is not at all whether the church fathers believed in the theological significance of Christ’s faithful obedience . . . , but whether they were likely to use the phrase πίστις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ to express that truth” (emphasis mine).]

    “The significance of this facts needs to be fully appreciated. It is not a matter of how much weight should be given to an ancient writer’s exegetical opinion. The point is rather that native Greek speakers seem to have perceived no difficulty whatever in understanding the expression as an ‘objective genitive.’ Even if some exceptions were to be found in the literature, the fact would remain that a reference to the believer’s faith did not at all offend the linguistic intuitions of those for whom Greek was their mother tongue—indeed, they preferred such a reference and apparently (as far as we can tell) did not entertain the possibility that there was another option.

    “What this means for the present debate is that one can hardly take seriously certain linguistic arguments that have been advanced against the traditional interpretation, such as the view that the ‘objective genitive’ is not natural, or that a majority of the extrabiblical instances of πίστις with a genitive are ‘subjective,” or that the objective genitive ‘demands a verbal ruling noun . . . whose cognate verb is transitive.’ These and other arguments fail to take into account the point I have emphasized above: genitival constructions merely indicate that a relationship exists between the two nouns in question, and the nature of the relationship can be established only by the reader’s knowledge of the linguistic and historical context.

    “The matter can be easily illustrated with reference to Luke 6:12, which tells us that Jesus spent the night ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ. The phrase is, of course, universally understood as a so-called objective genitive and translated, ‘praying to God’ (NRSV, ‘in prayer to God’). Now let us fancy someone arguing along the following lines:

    The usual translation of this phrase does not seem very natural, and in fact the construction cannot be an objective genitive because the verb προσεύχομαι is used with the dative, rather than the direct object, of the person to whom one prays. More important, every other NT use of προσευχή with a genitive is subjective (Acts 10:4, 31; Rom 1:10; Eph 1:16; 1 Thess 1:2; Phlm 4, 22; 1 Pet 3:4; Rev 3:8; 8:3-4). As if that were not enough, there are almost sixty occurrences of the construction in the LXX, and all of them (except for the unusual phrase in Isa 56:7; 66:7) are also subjective. The normal way to express an objective relationship would be with the dative, as in Psalm 42:8 (LXX 41:9), προσευχὴ τῷ θεῷ τῆς ζωῆς μου.

    “Superficial statistics of this sort may appear impressive to some, but they totally miss the point and are thus altogether irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that, as both Luke and his readers know, God is never represented as praying (or as possessing prayers or whatever), while people are routinely spoken of as praying to God. Let us then return to πίστις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ and ask, What information would have let the Greek fathers to understand this phrase as a reference to faith in Christ?”

    Moisés Silva, “Faith Versus Works of Law in Galatians,” in D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (eds.), Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 2: The Paradoxes of Paul (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck and Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), pages 228-230.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    faith is not works

    faith is the opposite of works

    and yet, no faith in the gospel, then no good works

    through faith we uphold the law

    Romans 3: 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. 28 For we conclude that a man is justified THROUGH FAITH apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God for Jews only?Is He not also for Gentiles? Yes, for Gentiles too, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised THROUGH FAITH and the uncircumcised THROUGH FAITH 31 Do we then cancel the law THROUGH FAITH? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

    • markmcculley Says:

      Mark Jones—In debates with Remonstrant (i.e., Arminian) theologians, the Reformed and the Remonstrants seemed to agree on the formal cause of justification, i.e., imputation. But they differed on the material cause. What is imputed to the believer, our act of faith or Christ’s righteousness apprehended by faith? The Reformed held to the latter, whereas the Arminians typically held to the former. But even on the so-called “formal cause” there was an important difference between the two camps: for the Arminians, imputation is an aestimatio – God considers our righteousness (i.e., faith) as something that it is not (i.e., perfect). The Reformed, however, view imputation as secundum veritatem – God considers Christ’s righteousness as our righteousness, precisely because it is, through union with Christ. The verdict that God passes on his Son is precisely the same verdict he passes on those who belong to Christ – but only through imputation.
      So in saying that God accepts our imperfect obedience, we must be careful not to bring this “acceptilatio” into the realm of justification, but keep it in the realm of sanctification.

      • markmcculley Says:

        Baxter was one of those “diversity” guys. Like those today who would welcome certain versions of “hypothetical universalism” into the “Reformed mainline”, Baxter created a lot of division with his “anti-division” ideas. The anti-denomination folks tend to be the very most sectarian, because what they subtract from the gospel adds up to a false gospel. When they exclude various antitheses, they thereby include the idea of salvation conditioned on the sinner.

        Baxter had a situation specific “gospel”. Believing that he lived in a day when not legalism but antinomianism was the problem, Baxter concluded that any assurance based on Christ’s death alone was presumption. For Baxter, “did you hear and agree” is not the question, because for Baxter the only “real” assurance depends on “what did you do”?

        To say that gospel depends on the situation tends to men that the gospel depends on those who hear it. In that situation, moralists need the gospel to be the law, and they even need the “gospel” to be what condemns people. Thus the moralists think even of the “conditions which can condemn” as “grace”.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Hebrews 11:6 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this Noah condemned the world and BECAME an heir of the RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES THROUGH FAITH

    Romans 10: 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down

    Romans 3:22 –“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”.

    Romans 4:13–“the promise did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith….

    Phil 3:9–“and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.”

    Robert Haldane, p194–“there are some who, strongly impressed with the great evil of making faith a work, have plunged into a contrary extreme, as if justification were independent of faith, or as if faith were merely an accidental or unimportant thing in justification. This also is a great error. Faith is as necessary in justification as the sacrifice of Christ itself, but necessary for a different purpose.”

  8. markmcculley Says:

    thesis and antithesis on God’s imputation of Christ’s death

    God imputes Christ’s righteousness
    faith does NOT impute Christ’s righteousness

    righteousness is imputed
    faith is NOT imputed

    God’s righteousness is Christ’s death
    God’s righteousness is NOT in us

    God’s righteousness is the external objective value of Christ’s death
    Christ’s righteousness is NOT imparted or infused

    God imputes Christ’s death to create effectual calling
    God does NOT effectually call in order to imputed Christ’s death

    God imputes Christ’s death to cause faith
    God does NOT impart faith in order to cause imputation

  9. markmcculley Says:

    we believe something

    there is a content and knowledge to the “object of faith”

    either you believe that you were already justified before you knew the gospel

    or you don’t believe that you were justified until when you knew and believe the gospel

    you can’t believe both those things at the same time

    and we should not remove the word “faith” from all those Scriptures that talk about “the righteousness of faith” out of fearful reaction that somebody will think we are saying that “faith is the righteousness”

    We explain, think, teach

    we don’t simply repeat ourselves

    we don’t say that “faith has nothing to do with justification”

    we don’t say that “faith has nothing to do with righteousness”

    John 6: 40 And you are not willing to come to Me in order that you have life.

    Romans 3:22 –“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”.

    Romans 4:13–“the promise did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith….

    ”Romans 10: 6 But the righteousness that comes through faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?”… 8 On the contrary, what does the righteousness that comes through faith say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

    Philippians 3:9–“and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.

    the atonement does not have decisive priority in t false narratives. In false gospels, faith becomes the condition of “union” and “union” the condition of imputation. Since we are the ones who believe ( I agree with human agency in faith), these views make us the ones who impute the righteousness to ourselves. And for all practical purposes, this makes faith our saving righteousness. In the case of Gaffin and Jones, this makes future works of faith our saving righteousness—I am united to the risen Christ and the same gracious power which enabled him to obey will also enable me to obey.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    f saying that Christ’s law keeping is imputed to us by God helps some to say that faith is not the righteousness imputed, that’s a good direction by means of a bad doctrine

    if it helps us to say that faith is not obedience to the law, that’s a good thing
    but. most of the people (and confessions) who teach imputed law-keeping also teach that this imputation takes place only after faith, and that it depends on faith–in other words, that God imputes righteousness (which is not faith) on the basis of faith, which means that a. faith is not a result of the righteousness and b. that “exercising faith” is still more important that the righteousness and c. that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is more important (and first) before the righteousness

    so what has been gained?

    The righteousness of Christ’s law-keeping is not the righteousness of Christ imputed in order to justification.

    The righteousness of Christ’s death is the righteousness of Christ God imputes to the elect in order for the elect to become justified.

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