Is Your justification Still a Work in Process, both In You and In Heaven? (Mark Jones and Gaffin)

In his preface to the new Presbyterian and Reformed edition of Gaffin’s By Faith Not by Sight, Mark Jones confuses John Cotton’s position oo faith and justification. Mark Jones falsely identifies Cotton teaching imputation before faith with Cotton teaching justification before faith.In A Faire and Easy to Heaven (1978, p43), William Stoever quotes Cott0n: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth. And how can we be good trees, before we be engrafted into Christ?”

Cotton was not teaching that anybody can be justified before or without faith. Cotton was denying that faith is something the elect have before or without God’s imputation of Christ’s death to these elect. The apriori assumption for Jones and Gaffin is that faith is a condition of what they they call “union”. What they call “union” is a condition for their view of “justification”, a view in which justification continues to have “not-yet” aspects, so that final justification is conditioned on continuing works of faith.

Gaffin and Jones insist on faith before “union”, but if their logic holds, then “union” also has “not-yet aspects”, which are conditioned on the “not yet” aspects of “faith after”. Thus they have an incomplete union and an incomplete justification.

It is a CONTRADICTION to say that all of God’s acts depend on “union”, and then to turn around and also say that “union” depends on faith. Does faith also depend on “union”? Or does “union” depend on faith” While Gaffin and Jones never clearly define “union”, it seems like they think that we receive the “personal presence” of Christ inside us BEFORE we receive the benefit of Christ’s finished work. In other words, since Jesus is now the Holy Spirit in redemptive history, for Gaffin and Jones (and for Sinclair Ferguson and many others), this is read to mean that we must obtain possession of Christ as a person not only before we are justified but also before God will impute Christ’s righteousness to us.

(Despite all their focus on the priority of redemptive history, Ferguson and Gaffin and Jones are not clear about how any of this changed between the old covenant economies and the incarnation of Christ.)

There are many unanswered questions about this “not yet” paradigm which are ignored in Gaffin’s little book. If there is some sense in which those who have been justified are not yet justified, is there also some sense in which God has not yet imputed all the sins of all the justified to Christ? Since the absence of “works of faith” is seen by Gaffin as not only a lack of evidence of final justification but also as the means by which many who have been “baptized” will instrumentally fail to be finally justified, how do the sins (or non-works) of the not-yet completely justified factor into their final justification? Is there a difference between good works and faith, or between sins and lack of faith and works?

If faith is a condition of “union”, and if faith is yet incomplete and uncertain (as far as one individual is concerned), does that not mean that “union” is also incomplete? How does a person get faith before they are united to Christ? If a person has to get faith before they can get the personal presence of Christ, how does a person get this faith? How can “calling” be a condition of the “union” but not a benefit of the “union”?

If the gift of faith is not given to us based on Christ’s righteousness (as taught in II Peter 1:1 –To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ), but instead the righteousness of Christ is given to us based on union, and that union is based on faith, and that faith is still always incomplete, how can anyone now think that their sins have already been imputed to Christ or that Christ’s righteousness has already been imputed to them? if our justification by God is in some sense future, does that not mean that our baptism into Christ’s death is still in some sense future?

Jones acts as if he all who disagree with Gaffin are antinomians who do not even know the difference between impetration” and ‘application”. Jones writes: “Faith marks the transition from being in a state of wrath to being in a state of grace”. “Marks” is an interesting word choice here, because Jones avoids the word “cause” while at the same time assuming that the “application” is created by faith. (Norman Shepherd and others use the same word when they say that water baptism “marks” the transition).

But my big question here concerns the main factor in the transition from wrath to favor, between the two states. While Gaffin and Jones claim that it’s faith which marks the transition, I agree with John Cotton (and Berkhof, and Bavinck and many others) that it’s God’s imputation of righteousness to the elect individual which marks (Causes!) the transition.

Sure, we  agree to a distinction between impetration and application. But is the application the gift of faith before and apart from God’s imputation? is the application (calling by the gospel to faith) before and apart from God legally placing the elect into Christ’s death? (Romans 6) Why must we agree that Gaffin and Jones that we receive the personal presence of Christ in us before we are legally planted in Christ’s death? I get that Gaffin and Jones are insisting on this priority, but I do not get where they have argued convincingly for the priority.

Why would they want to say that the person of Christ is more important than the work of Christ? is it because they want to say that the present work of Christ (now as resurrected and as the Spirit) is more important than the past work of Christ? (death by law as a satisfaction for the all future sins of all the elect) Is their priority on the present work because they don’t think justification is complete yet? Since they don’t seem to think faith and union are complete yet either, why are they so eager to say that Christ in us is “union” and thus “the cause of all other graces”, when they themselves are saying that our faith is the cause of “union”? Since our faith has not worked and persevered completely, how then could our “union” be complete? How then could Christ be personally present in us already completely?

It really is ironic when Jones claims that “the Lutheran view” ends up “attributing to justification a renovative /transformative element”. First, Jones still has not defined either union nor sanctification, but he seems to be equating “sanctification” with ethical renovation. Second, if we were to say that God’s imputation results in or causes ethical renovation, that is NOT saying that imputation is the renovation. It’s saying that renovation is a result, not the imputation. Imputation is one thing, the renovation is another thing.

I am seeing this accusation more and more, and it makes no sense. God’s legal declaration in imputation (based on Christ’s death) results in many blessings, including regeneration and the work of the Holy Spirit. But that does not confuse the Spirit’s work (or regeneration) with imputation. In fact, it makes the distinction plain. On the contrary, to start with undefined “union”, which consists of Christ’s personal presence but which is somehow before God’s imputation, is the ordering which opens the way for “union” as a renovation. If Christ can enter your heart before Christ’s righteousness is imputed to you and as the “condition” for that imputation then taking place, then what you have is something taking place in us before any legal transfer by God of the results of Christ’s past work. It seems like some kind of “renovation” is happening, merely by Christ’s presence, which is supposedly more important than Christ’s death or at least which does not depend on Christ’s death.

II Peter 1:1 –To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all believe in a distinction between what Christ did (impetration) and the application of that. But the application is by God’s imputation, and Jones and Gaffin want to put something else into the application first before God’s imputation. And I cannot help thinking that the reason they point to Christ’s present resurrection instead of to Christ’s past righteousness (either imputed already to a sinner, or not) is because they think of our justification as a process which still depends on our faith, with faith as defined as that which changes us, with faith defined even as that which unites us to Christ and that which keeps Christ united to us.

Gaffin follows his mentors John Murray and Norman Shepherd in taking Romans 2:13 to be describing Christians. Jones agrees, and continues to label John Calvin’s reading of Romans 2 as the “hypothetical” view.  I myself argue for the  “empty set” view (nobody will be justified by works),  What I see is that old covenant members Ishmael and Essau (along with many others) by their sin earned God’s wrath Romans 5:20 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass”

So, instead of Jones complaining about  those who introduce “hypothetical merits” into Romans 2. I will complain about him suggesting that some really are saved (by doing the law the right way) in Romans 2. Romans 2 is teaching that nobody is justified by doing the law, no matter which way they do the law. I quote Paul Helm: “On the Gentile Christians view, while Paul argues that all are under the just judgment of God, the section 2.1-16 is not a direct contribution to that argument, but…takes us forward to the last judgment, and …. to some people who are under grace and not under the law – Gentile Christians). But such a claim might simply be a begging of the question at issue….It is only a reasonable assumption if Paul has in mind Gentile Christians, which is precisely the issue we are considering.”

Jones is caught in between saying that what Gaffin has written is nothing new but also saying that everybody in the Reformed tradition now needs to say it the way that Gaffin says it. But to say even this much is to agree that not all Reformed people say it or have said it the way Jones wants it to be said. But instead of leaving the diversity as it is, Jones wants to argue that we must not anymore like Luther said it, and that Calvin never did say it that way. First, Reformed folks never taught law-grace antithesis to that extreme. Second, and also, now is the time for Reformed folks to stop teaching law-gospel antithesis to that extreme.

For example, Jones writes “the idea that Christ’s resurrection and justification is also our resurrection and justification are also our resurrection and justification is not a recent invention. Of course, and the idea that Christ’s death is our death is not a recent idea either. It’s in Romans 6. and the idea that Christ’s death becomes our death by God’s imputation is not a recent idea either, but Jones now wants to say that union with Christ the person must come first before this imputation of Christ’s death to us. Does this mean that union with Christ the person must come first before our resurrection and our justification come to us? Do the resurrection and the justification come to us by imputation? Or do the resurrection and the justification come to us “by the union” and not by imputation? Does the resurrection come to us “by faith” and not by God’s imputation? Is God’s imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness only after faith? If this faith does not come from God’s imputation, and if this faith comes before “union”, how does this faith come to us?

I am having difficulty seeing why all Reformed folks have to agree to say it Gaffin’s way. But part of the problem is that Gaffin is still not giving arguments about why the link between redemptive history and the order of application must put faith in priority to imputation. Sure, we all know the difference between impetration and application, and we all know that Romans 6 (and Colossians 2, with the other texts) is not only talking about Christ’s new life but also about our new life, but all that being the case, why is it that we must put the focus on Christ as the personal life-giving Spirit now instead of talking about Christ’s completed righteousness. as some Reformed folks used to do?

Gaffin’s thesis is that there is a future aspect to the justification of an individual sinner. His assumption is that it is faith (not election nor imputation) which unites a sinner to Christ and thus to the benefits/power to do the works necessary for the not yet aspect of justification.

Since it is the same God who gives us the faith who gives us the works, therefore it seems right to Gaffin to condition our final justification on the faith and works of the sinner. Faith works yes, but also work believes. Gaffin does not tell us which gospel must be the object of the faith which unites to Christ. Does that gospel ever mention that God imputed only the sins of the elect to Christ? Nor does Gaffin tell us how imperfect works would have to be to miss out on the not-yet aspect of justification so that those once in (Christ and covenant) might still be condemned.

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…” p 110

Gaffin wants both faith in Christ’s past work and also in Christ’s present work in us. He cannot place all his hope in what Christ already did to satisfy the law for the elect, because part of his hope is a “sanctification” defined as a power over against sin despite our “incomplete progress, flawed by our continued sinning”.

Gaffin does not deny but affirms many correct things about imputation. For example, on p 51, he lists 3 options for the ground of justification. A. Christ’s own righteousness, complete and finished in his obedience…B. the union itself, the fact of the relationship with Christ…c. the obedience being produced by the transforming Spirit in those in union. Gaffin rightly concludes that “the current readiness to dispense with imputation” results from taking the last two options as the ground of justification.

But Gaffin always has his not yet. That’s the way he keeps it all gray. Though we are justified now, Gaffin still teaches a justification by sight, ie by works. 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 conditions assurance in future justification on imperfect but habitual working. Instead of saying that works motivated by fear of missing justification are unacceptable to God, Gaffin teaches a final justification which is contingent on faith and works.

Gaffin teaches an “unbreakable bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of assurance and hope for future justification. (p 100) Yes, faith (in which gospel?) is the alone instrument, he agrees, yes Christ’s finished righteousness is the alone ground, he affirms, but at the same time and however, works factor in also. Just remember that these works which factor into your assurance come from God working in you and not from you.

I hope that critics of Gaffin will not make the mistake of identifying him with N.T. Wright who denies imputation. I also 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 Christ’s work for those elect . One evidence of effectual calling is that the justified elect do not put their assurance in their “bearing fruit for God”. To work for assurance of future justification is to “bear fruit for death”.

Gaffin, By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38

From this perceptive, the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself. It is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer

Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:

That judgement decides…the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

Gaffin, By Faith, Not by Sight, p 106—IN book 3 of his Institutes (The Beginning of Justification and its Continual Progress), Calvin explains “We must have this justification not just once but must hold it it throughout life.” Justification is bound up with Christ’s present ongoing intercessory presence, in the sense that our remaining in the state of justification, depends on this unfailing intercession. His presence in that place of final judgment is the effective answer….Christ is the living embodiment of that righteousness…and as such he continues to work for the justification of God’s already justified elect….Because of this intercession they cannot and will not ever fall from the state of justification.”

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32 Comments on “Is Your justification Still a Work in Process, both In You and In Heaven? (Mark Jones and Gaffin)”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    I’ve appreciated that you have engaged this issue with Scott. We need more of this kind of back and forth. And you touch on what I think is at the center of this discussion/disagreement –

    Rick: “I am a WTS union-with-Christ guy. Sanctification does not begin with justification or an appreciation of it. Sanctification begins in the effectual call of Christ and its effect of regeneration within me. Justification and sanctification are the dual graces that result from union with Christ through faith and both “begin” in him.”

    As opposed to:

    Berkhof: “The mystical union in the sense in which we are now speaking of it is not the judicial ground, on the basis of which we become partakers of the riches that are in Christ. It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.”
    —Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 452.

    Rick Phillips: when asked, Surely you don’t really disagree that sanctification begins with a deeper appreciation of our justification?

    Actually, I do disagree with this, as I would have thought you would know given that I am a WTS union-with-Christ guy. Sanctification does not begin with justification or an appreciation of it. Sanctification begins in the effectual call of Christ and its effect of regeneration within me. Justification and sanctification are the dual graces that result from union with Christ through faith and both “begin” in him. This is why the new covenant promise in Jer. 31:31-34 and Heb. 8:10-12 can list sanctification first and justification second, as does Calvin in Book III of the Institutes. So no I would never agree that sanctification begins in justification or my appreciation of it. It is inseparably joined to justification, of course, through my union with Christ in faith, so that sanctification is never abstracted from justification (or vice versa). Having said that, I will certainly agree that my gratitude for the whole of Christ’s work and his benefits (justification is a vital one) is an essential motive for my sanctification.

    rick: Justification is the forensic benefit of union with Christ and sanctification is the spiritual/transformative benefit. The relationship between justification and sanctification is that between twin brothers, not a master and his servant. So just as it would be wrong to say that justification is the status gained from your sanctification, it is also wrong to say that sanctification is living out your justification..

    Scott Clark: When the Belgic says that good trees produce good fruit, it means to say that it is the justified who are being sanctified.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Paul Helm continues: ” Paul is simply stating the terms of justification or judgment by personal fulfillment of the law. Anyone, by those terms, if they keep the law will be justified. “The keepers of the law will be rewarded” is consistent with “There are none who are keepers of the law” AND “Therefore none will be rewarded with immortality”.

    Paul Helm: “Referring to those who are considered in Romans 1.16 Wright claims ‘These people are Christians, on whose hearts the spirit has written the law, and whose secrets, when revealed 2.29) will display the previously hidden work of God.’ (p 166) Gathercole claims that ‘the gentiles who have the Law written on their hearts will be justified on the final day’ (p 126). …An equivalence being claimed here between the law being written on the heart and regeneration. But in Romans 2, regeneration, the work of the Spirit, and so forth – these factors are not in view. Paul is referring to the matter of the law, ‘not isolated parts but the Torah in its entirety’…. The replacing of the heart of stone with the heart of flesh and all such associated matters do not arise here. Paul is simply maintaining the symmetry between the situation of the Gentile and the Jew, blocking the possible inference that since the Gentiles do not have the Torah they will escape the judgment of God.”

    Paul Helm: “The Gentiles’ consciences bear witness to the ‘matters’ of that law, in its commands and prohibitions, and sometimes they observe that law and are excused, they experience an internal relief; and sometimes they disobey it and are rightfully self-accused….Paul is not discussing inner motivation, but the equity of an arrangement according to which both Jew and Gentile are judged by the law Such judgment will reveal hypocrisy in the lives of all men, including those of the Jews,…In fact Paul is saying nothing about actual outcomes, but stating how law operates, what its demands are and how these are satisfied.”

    Paul Helm: “Does what Paul goes on to say in 2.25-29 overthrow this older view, showing us that when the chapter is taken as a whole he has a class of Gentile Christians in view throughout? In my view, to go in this direction is to misunderstand the force of 2.27-9, which is answering the question, how is true Jewishness to be defined? Deuteronomy 30:6 answers in terms of the circumcision of the heart. Paul concludes (1) If a person who is uncircumcised kept the law he would in effect be circumcised And (2) If a person is physically circumcised but breaks the law that physical circumcision is cancelled, made null and void.”

    Paul Helm: “There is a different method of justification about to be set forth than the method of works-righteousness. But Paul is not yet ready to make that move. One step at a time. At this point he sets out the scheme of salvation by works. He follows this by setting out what true circumcision is. The implication of these definitions is that the Jews, because of their hypocrisy (2.17-24) are condemned, as were the Gentiles earlier. (1.18-2.11, 2.1-5)

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Rick Phillips— “Justified Christians are actively to engage in Christ’s work of sanctification”

    as in, when we work, Christ is working

    Rick Phillips— the way to pursue assurance of salvation is not ONLY to rest on your justification but ALSO to ADVANCE in YOUR sanctification.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Sanctification by synergism is the soft underbelly of some parts of the Reformed tradition.

    Vos, The Pauline Eschatology , p 153

    “Much light falls on the forensic significance of the resurrection IN believers from a comparison with the case of Christ’s resurrection. The Spirit is in Christ… through his exalted state, produced by the resurrection, the perpetual witness of the continuous status of righteousness in which He exists.. To say that forgiveness of sin procured though the imputation of Christ’s merit constitutes only the initial act in the Christian life, and that thereafter, the slate having been wiped clean, there is no further need for nor allowance of recourse to it is wrong because it ignores forensic righteousness as a vital factor in the exalted state of the Savior.”

    Aquinas–: “God can perform an act which is both mine and God’s at the same time. ‘To be moved voluntarily, is to be moved from within, and yet this interior principle is not repugnant to being moved by another”. William T. Cavanaugh, “A Joint Declaration?: Justification as Theosis in Aquinas, p 270

    Gaffin, By Faith not by Sight, p 73, —”Here is what may be fairly called a synergy but it is not a 50/50 undertaking (not even 99.9% God and 0.1% ourselves). Involved here is the ‘mysterious math’ of the creator and his image-bearing creature, whereby 100% plus 100% =100%. Sanctification is 100% the work of God, and for that reason, is to engage the full 100% activity of the believer.”

    Mark Jones—”We contribute to His mediatorial glory and His delight in Heaven… His sending of the Spirit is the guarantee that His labor was not and will not be in vain. In this sense, Christ “needs” our good works!….Christ is most satisfied when you most glorify.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Kalrberg—-According to the view of Gaffin and Strimple, there is no works-principle functioning in the covenant God made with Israel through Moses, mediator of the old covenant. This means that the sole principle underlying the old covenant is the principle of (saving) grace, identical to what is the case in the new covenant. The blessings and curses of the covenant of law – fully and explicitly laid out in “the Treaty of the Great King” (the Book of Deuteronomy), as elsewhere throughout the Old Testament – are administered on the basis of Israel’s obedience or disobedience. If the position of Israel were secure in the earthly land of promise (Canaan) – which is the case for recipients of God’s saving grace with regard to reception of the heavenly, antitypical reward (life in the eternal kingdom yet to come) – there is then no place for curse and exile from the land. Such judgment upon Israel of old is, in the final analysis, inexplicable. What the Murray school of interpretation must conclude, to be theologically consistent (what is the aim of the systematician), is to say that believers under the new covenant are likewise subject to both the blessings and the curses of redemptive covenant in accordance with (non-meritorious) good works. This point is crucial: in this school of thought there is no genuine difference between the two economies of redemption, wherein reward is bestowed “on the basis of” or “in accordance with” the believer’s works of obedience. This is precisely the doctrine Shepherd and Gaffin have been eagerly advancing; and they have taken the argument one step further by eviscerating the law/grace antithesis entirely in their doctrine of the covenants (pre- and post-Fall).

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Now if adoption is both “already” and “not-yet,” Gaffin reasons, and if all of the benefits of salvation are enjoyed in union with Christ, then it stands to reason that justification would also have both dimensions. .. Gaffin teaches that we will be openly acquitted and vindicated insofar as the transformative benefits of union with Christ will have worked themselves out in our lives as the effectuation of the totality of our salvation in union with Christ. But The “not-yet” aspect of justification (if we must speak of such a thing) is bodily glorification, not the vindication of the profession of one’s faith on the basis of the fruit of faith, i.e., evangelical obedience.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Click to access hodge_ordo.pdf

    AA Hodge In consideration of the same meritorious work of Christ and the grace thereby impetrated, God graciously declares the relation of the now regenerated believer to the law to be
    changed, and the righteousness of Christ to be credited to him, for the sake of Christ, now apprehended by faith. The question is one as to order, not of time, but of cause and effect. All admit,
    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 and 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 Our catechism suggests the latter by the order of its phrases. God justifies us, “only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Gaffin—- where Calvin brings in the proposition, “faith without works justifies”- he says …although this needs prudence and sound interpretation. For this proposition that faith without works justifies is true, yet false … true, yet false… according to the different senses which it bears. The proposition that faith without works justifies by itself is false. Because faith without works is void. But if the clause, “without works,” is joined with the word, “justifies,” the proposition will be true. Therefore faith cannot justify when it is without works because it is dead and a mere fiction. Thus faith can be no more separated from works than the sun from its heat…. Notice what Calvin says. It needs prudence and sound interpretation. It is true yet false. Now there is a paradox. True yet false, depending on the way it is read.

    Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:—-As that judgement decides, in its way, we’re going to wanna (sic) qualify that deciding, but as it decides the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. That is, death or life. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

    Gaffin, By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38—From this perceptive, the antithesis between law and gospel is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer

  9. markmcculley Says:

    The congregation in which Mark Jones is the professional will always know that he’s the one with the “classical” view, and that those who disagree with him are idiosyncratic. But what they need to see is how antinomian Mark Jones is—by factoring into the not yet aspect of a future justification our continuing faith, and by redefining this faith as our works of obedience to the law, Mark Jones has lowered the perfect standard of God’s law, which is satisfied by nothing less (or more) than Christ’s righteousness.

    His most recent Reformation 21 essay asks republicationists for more definitions, but Mark Jones has not bothered to define even the word “merit”. But he’s against it. When Mark Jones rejects the idea of Christ’s merits, he is saying that Christ Himself was saved by grace.

    OPC Report on Philippians 2 (lines 796 ff)–James Jordan argued that this passage actually rules out the notion of merit in regard to Christ’s obedience, because in 2:9 Paul uses the word echarisato, which etymologically derives from the word for “grace,” charis, to describe God’s giving the name above every name to Christ. This indicates, he claims, that the Father exalted the Son not meritoriously but graciously.This argument as it stands fails, however.

    Click to access redefining_merit.pdf

    • markmcculley Says:

      Mark Jones—-According to Geerhardus Vos, who comments on Philippians 2:9, “Echarisato means that God bestowed it as a gracious gift, not, of course, in the specific sense of the word ‘grace,’ implying that there was any unworthiness in Christ which God had to overlook, but in the more general sense implying that this was an act in which the graciousness, the kindness of God manifested itself. We have the example of Philippians 2:9. Paul uses the Greek word, “echarisato.” The same Greek word appears earlier in Philippians 1:29, where believers are “freely/graciously given” the privilege of both believing in and suffering for Christ. Was Paul sowing confusion into the minds of the Philippians by using the same word in different senses? Of course not… Personally, I do not think we should be so comfortable using vocabulary in theology that is (significantly) different from biblical uses of the vocabulary. Of course there is a unique nature to theological discourse, but I think we should have a spirit of humility that says “let the Scriptures govern too my understanding of what charis may mean….Robert Letham: “In Protestant scholasticism, long entrenched by the time of Westminster, condescensio was used for God’s accommodation of himself to human ways of knowing in order to reveal himself. This was closely related to gratia Dei (the grace of God), the goodness and undeserved favor of God toward man, and to gratia communis (common grace), his nonsaving, universal grace, by which, in his goodness, he lavishes favor on all creation in the blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good. These are the clearest senses of the terms for the Assembly…” (The Westminster Assembly, 225-26).

  10. markmcculley Says:

    a number of recent Reformed commentators acknowledge that Paul is sharply contrasting faith and works of the law in these and parallel passages, yet deny that the Mosaic law itself can be contrasted with faith (in this sense adopting a similar conclusion to many New Perspective advocates). Instead, these Reformed commentators
    believe that when Paul quotes Lev 18:5 or refers otherwise to the law so as to contrast it with faith he thinks not of the Mosaic law itself but of the law as misinterpreted in a legalistic way by his Jewish contemporaries.36 In my judgment this line of interpretation should also be rejected.37 That Paul dealt with people whom he judged to have misinterpreted the purposes of the Mosaic law is unquestionable, but that the law itself stood in contrast to faith, at least in certain respects, was Paul’s own view. That Paul would concede the interpretation of Lev 18:5 to legalistic Judaizers both in Gal 3:12 and Rom 10:5 (where he introduces his quote by saying, “Moses writes” about the righteousness of the law) is farfetched. Furthermore, in Gal 3:19 Paul asks a rhetorical question, understandable in light of the contrast of law and faith in previous verses: “Why then the law?” His explanation in 3:19-4:7 is that God’s own purpose in giving the Mosaic law was to keep his people imprisoned under sin for a time, a condition from which Christ released those who believe in him. In this same section of Galatians Paul speaks of Christ himself being “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (4:4-5), which must be speaking of the Mosaic law in the light of preceding verses. As Israel was under the Mosaic law so Christ came under the Mosaic law. Yet Paul could hardly have been asserting that Christ, whom he says elsewhere “knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), lived under a subjective misinterpretation of the law. Both Christ and the Israelites came “under the law” in an objective sense that reflected God’s own purposes in giving it—but where the Israelites failed Christ prevailed. (pp 316-18) David VanDrunen, ISRAEL’S RECAPITULATION OF ADAM’S PROBATION UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES, WTJ 73 (2011): 303-24

  11. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones explains that you cannot really have an indicative for your children unless you are willing to “assure them” that God loves them and that they are Christians. Saying God the creator’s law commands obedience, according to Mark Jones, is “moralism”.

    Mark Jones has a “large commanding gospel”, and it’s his gospel which commands obedience. God is your God, even if you are not-elect is not enough “indicative” for Mark Jones. Only if you welcome all your children to the water and to the table, can you avoid legalism. Only if you say there was already grace for Adam before Adam sinned, can you avoid legalism. Being a mere creature of God is not enough “indicative”.

    In this way Mark Jones has achieved the balance between “hyper-covenantalism” and “hyper-conversionism”. Assure your infants that they are already Christians, but will remain so only if they keep repenting, because security in election and justification is “presumption”. (hyper-decretalism, antinomianism). Because all the covenants are the same one covenant, Mark Jones warns that those once in the covenant may not remain in the covenant.

    But if imperatives demand an indicative which assures your children that they are already Christians, then God’s grace must be common and God must love a person before God can dare command that creature to obey God. And if you are going to command all your children, then you may not have to teach an unlimited atonement, but you are going to have to teach an atonement for all your children, because to avoid moralism, you will have to tell them they are already Christians, even if it turns out in the end that some of your children fail to repent and reveal themselves to be non-elect, once in the covenant but not in the covenant on the last day…..

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Francis Turretin. XVII. There is not the same relation of justification and of the covenant through all things. To JUSTIFICATION, faith alone concurs, but to the observance of the cvoenant other virtues also are required besides faith. These conduce not only to the acceptance of the covenant, but also to its observance. For these two things ought always to be connected-the acceptance of the covenant and the keeping of it when accepted. Faith accepts by a reception of the promises; obedience keeps by a fulfillment of the commands. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” And yet in this way legal and evangelical obedience are not confounded because legal obedience is prescribed for the meriting of life.

    Evangelical obedience, however, is only for the possession of justification. Legal obedience precedes as the cause of life (“Do this and thou shalt live”)) evangelical obedience follows as its fruit, not that you may live but because you live. Legal obedience is not admitted unless it is perfect and absolute; evangelical obdience is admitted even if l imperfect provided it be sincere. Legal obedience is only commanded as man’s duty; evangelical obedience is also promised and given as the gift of God (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.17).

  13. markmcculley Says: 1. no such thing is ever to be found in the scriptures, namely, that good works are necessary to salvation. But if this was so principal a part of evangelic truth, as the adversaries plead, it should, be contained in express words in the scriptures
    2. The apostle treating of the causes of our salvation, removes good works, and entirely excludes them; and teaches, that he only has blessedness, to whom God imputes righteousness without works, Romans 4:6. Compare Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5. If therefore good works are entirely excluded from the causes of salvation, how will the same be necessary to salvation?
    3. That which is not necessary to our justification, that is not necessary to salvation; because there are no other causes of salvation than of justification: But good works are not necessary to justification.
    4. If we are saved by grace, then good works are not necessary to salvation; for the antithesis remains firm, If of grace, then not of works, otherwise grace is not grace, Romans 11:6. Romans 6:23. Ephesians 2:8, 9.
    5. If by the obedience of one Christ we all obtain justification of life and salvation, then we are not saved by our own obedience: Romans 5:17-19,
    6. What is ascribed to faith alone, as it is contradistinguished from works, that is not to be attributed to works: But salvation is ascribed to faith alone, John 3:16; Mark 16:16; Romans 1:17 and 4:6; Galatians 3:11;Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5. Heb 10:38. Ergo,
    7. What is necessary to salvation, that, as much as it is necessary, is prescribed and required in the evangelic doctrine, Romans 1:16. and 3:27. But good works, as necessary to salvation, are not prescribed in the gospel John 3:16 and 6:40; Romans 1:17 and 4:6, seeing the law is the doctrine of works, the gospel the doctrine of faith, Romans 3:27; Galatians 3:12.
    8. Add to this, that this assertion concerning the necessity of good works to salvation, has been already rejected as false, in the false apostles, Acts 15:5, where an opposition is formed to the sentiment of the apostles, that we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ
    9. If good works were necessary to salvation, we should have whereof to glory; but the holy Spirit takes away all glorying from us, and for this very reason excludes good works from hence, Ephesians 2:8, 9. Romans 3:27 and 4:1, 2.
    10. If our election to salvation is of grace, and not of works, as the apostle teaches, Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:9, good works cannot be asserted to he necessary to salvation; for as we are chosen from (before the ages)
    11. By whatsoever doctrine the certainty of our salvation is weakened or destroyed, that ought to he rejected: But such is the doctrine of the Socinians,
    12. Wherever the scripture produces reasons for which good works are necessary, it mentions quite others, than that they are necessary to salvation; namely, that we ought diligently to perform good works, because of God, because of Christ, because of the holy Spirit, because of the holy angels, because of our neighbour, because of ourselves, yea, even because of the devil. John Gill,

    • markmcculley Says:

      opc report on justification, p30—When Paul speaks of justification, he invariably establishes the starkest imaginable contrast between law and works, on one hand, and grace and faith, on the other hand. (Though his is not true when Paul speaks about sanctification, in which law and works, and grace and fatih, are perfectly complementary, since the good works of the law flow out of this faith that comes by grace.)

      My guess is that Gaffin wrote that part (no antithesis for the Christian) but I also guess that most people don’t have a problem in talking about “sanctification” that way

  14. markmcculley Says: mark jones: Christ claims that He remained in his Father’s love because He kept his Father’s commandments. Because the antinomians did not view the law as a true instrument of sanctification, to them the preaching of the law could only condemn believers.

    mark: it is mj who assumes that there is only one way to “preach the law”. If somebody preaches the law as showing our need of grace and of Christ’s death, then mj would call that preacher “antimomian”. If somebody preaches the law as denying the possibility of our gaining blessing by imperfect obedience, then mj would call that person ‘antinomian”

    mark jones: Today, many understand Christ’s words in Matthew 5:20 (“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”) in a similar way. Yet, Christ is not here speaking of His own imputed righteousness. The Pharisees did not actually keep God’s law; rather, they left the commandments and held “to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Those described in Romans 8:4 surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees because their obedience is Spirit-wrought and far more extensive.

  15. markmcculley Says:

    Beeke and Jones, in their conclusion to the chapter in ‘A Puritan Theology’ on Covenant Conditions—‘The conditions of the covenant were principally faith in Christ and its fruit of new obedience. The former condition was understood, against the antinomians, as an antecedent condition, so that no blessing procured by Christ could be applied to the believer until he or she exercised faith in Christ. Only then did actual justification take place. Being in covenant with God, the believer is required to believe and keep God’s commandments. Therefore the pursuit of holiness and practice of righteousness are also conditions, but they are consequent to the initial exercise of faith.’ (p.318)

  16. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones—How does God accept such imperfect obedience? Consider the following:
    Christians have pure hearts.
    If you are a Christian, you have a pure heart (1 Tim. 1:5). If you want to worship God, you need a pure heart (Ps. 24:4). Those who are pure in heart, and only those, will see God (Matt. 5:8). And we should constantly desire to receive the gift of a renewed purified heart (Ps. 51:10).
    Christians are good and righteous.
    Zechariah and Elizabeth are described in the following way: “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Lk. 1:6). Joseph of Arimathea is similarly described as a “good and righteous man” (Lk. 23:50). Christians are slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18). We hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).
    Christians are blameless.
    Paul writes to the Philippians: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Phil. 2:15). Paul expects that children of God should be blameless. He is not here saying: you are blameless because of your justification, but be blameless, innocent, and without blemish because of your conduct.
    How can Christians be all of these things?
    Because God accepts less – often, a lot less (i.e., “small beginnings”) – than perfection from us because of his Son and for the sake of his Son, who is glorified in us (Jn. 17:10).
    God is our Father. Parents will no doubt understand the joys that our children can bring to us in their obedience, even if their obedience falls short of what Christ would have offered to his own parents. God is not a hard task-master, reaping where he hasn’t sown (Matt. 25:24). He remembers we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and treats us accordingly.
    As our Father, he accepts less than absolute perfection because he accepted absolute perfection in our place. Moreover, our works are pleasing to God because we (i.e., our persons) are pleasing to God as a result of our identity in Christ. There is a “person-work” order in our Christian life.
    In God’s sight, we are good, righteous, blameless, and pure in heart. Indeed, we are to purify ourselves because of our hope in Christ’s return (1 Jn. 3:3). If we can’t admit these truths about ourselves, then we can’t admit what the New Testament explicitly says of God’s people. And that’s not good.
    The obedience we offer to God does not have to be sinless obedience or perfect obedience, but it must be sincere obedience. Sincere obedience means we may be called “blameless.” The Westminster Confession of Faith sums up this principle well:
    “Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections” (WCF 16.6).
    In our imperfection, we may please God. God rewards imperfect works, according to the riches of his grace, because he is our Father. (Even if the devils would perform good works, God would delight in these works, according to Charnock and Witsius).
    The fact that our works are tainted with sin does not invalidate them as good works. Just as the fact that we have indwelling sin does not mean we cannot be called good, holy, righteous, etc. It is wrong-headed, I believe, to suppose that we exalt the grace of God by suggesting that the only righteousness pleasing to God is Christ’s righteousness. This is a radical form of substitution that would confuse any honest reader of the Scriptures.
    God manifests his grace not only in providing a perfect (imputed) righteousness that can withstand the full demands of his law, but also an inherent, imperfect righteousness that he declares to be both good and pleasing.
    What’s the pastoral benefit?
    We should encourage Christians that God accepts sincere obedience. The “divine acceptilatio” explains why and how we can be zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14). Children should be encouraged that obedience to their parents pleases the Lord (Col. 3:20).
    Because we are accepted in Christ, God really does call us good. We really do have pure hearts. We really are blameless. We really can please God in our imperfection (Heb. 11:5). And that, to me, really is good news. This view reflects the already-not yet theology whereby we are now pure in heart but one day will be pure in heart. We are good, but we wait to be good.
    Do we want to say that the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4 was not pleasing to God, but instead “filthy rags”? Was God pleased with Joseph of Arimathea in Mark 15:43? What about the woman in Matthew 26:7ff? What about the mother who patiently teaches her children the things of the Lord? And the wife whose good conduct wins over her husband (1 Pet. 3:1).
    Are we allowed to pray the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 18:20-24)? Or are these words only true of Christ?
    The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
    21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
    22 For all his rules were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
    23 I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from my guilt.
    24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
    Yes, as Christians, we often sin (1 Jn. 1:8). And we can act shamefully at times. The power of indwelling sin is real. Nothing above is intended to deny how vile we can be. But how amazing that notwithstanding the very powerful indwelling sin that remains in us, God thinks more of our obedience than we do. This keeps us from despair regarding obedience and highlights that the Reformed have historically done the most justice to the grace of the gospel.
    God accepts imperfection because he is a gracious Father, who has a perfect Son, who sends his Spirit into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). Why are we called righteous and good? Why are our imperfect works acceptable and pleasing to God? The answer: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    There is a word used by Arminius: acceptilatio. The concept behind the word is good, but he places it in the wrong category, namely, justification. Imperfect faith is “accepted” as righteousness. This is what distinguishes Arminians from the Reformed on the crucial doctrine by which the church stands or falls.
    So 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.

  17. markmcculley Says:

    Cunha—The foreword to the recently published second edition of Gaffin’s By Faith, Not By Sight[15] is written by Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) pastor Mark Jones and is, unfortunately, fully consistent with the understanding that there has been no positive change in Gaffin’s teaching on justification.

    The selection of Jones to write the foreword, a man who has on more than one occasion publicly suggested that works of evangelical obedience have some efficacy in justification, is itself noteworthy. Jones gushes at the beginning of the foreword that “It is a unique privilege and a remarkable providence to write a foreword for a book that has been so deeply influential in my own theological thinking.” He then attempts to defend Gaffin’s views on soteriology, and especially justification, largely on the basis of historical theology….

    Jones says that Reformed theologian Peter Van Mastricht (1630-1706) taught that there are three stages of justification and that in the third and final stage “in which believers gain possession of eternal life, good works have a certain ‘efficacy,’ insofar as God will not grant possession of eternal life unless they are present.”

    Jones goes on to say that, based on what he discerns to be a shared view on Paul’s teaching in the first half of the second chapter of Romans, both Gaffin and Van Mastricht “hold firmly to the Reformed view that good works are a necessary condition (consequent, not antecedent, to faith) for salvation.”

    Cunha— When I first read this last statement, I was struck by Jones’s sudden shift from the word “justification” to the word “salvation” at this place. The word “salvation” can be used to denote something broader than the word “justification” (e.g. encompassing sanctification and glorification), but, based on the context, is clearly being used here as an equivalent term for justification….

    Jones suggests, approvingly that both Van Mastricht and Gaffin stretch justification out into multiple stages and that good works are in some way efficacious in the final stage. Such a scheme violates the antithesis between works (Law) and faith (Gospel) with respect to justification. This is entirely consistent with the explicit denial of the Law/Gospel contrast expressed by Gaffin in By Faith, Not By Sight.


    pointing out that Paul’s two proof texts for justification in Rom. 4 — Gen 15:6 and Ps. 32:1 — are probably not references to initial justification. Both Abraham and David had been walking in obedience for a long time when these declarations were made about or by them.

    In section 12, Calvin–For if Christ’s righteousness, which as it alone is perfect alone can bear the sight of God, must appear in court on our behalf, and stand surety in judgment. Furnished with this righteousness, we obtain continual forgiveness of sins in faith. We can be assured of continual and even future justification because we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, which continues to avail for us

    Calvin II.14. 10: Therefore, God does not, as many stupidly believe, once for all reckon to us as righteousness that forgiveness of sins

  19. markmcculley Says:

    mark jones vs sproul

    There is practically nothing on union with Christ, sanctification, and glorification. His creed
    only mentions one applied aspect of salvation: justification (“He took our filthy rags and gave us His righteous robe.”).

    What is it about the fact per se of Christ’s death that entails imputation? The “because” suggests a relationship of necessity: because of Christ’s death, ergo our sin imputed to him etc. The syntax should be reconfigured to clarify that imputation is the issue being confessed, In my view, Christ’s life of obedience and death, on their logic, also entails impartation.

    They say: “We deny that we are justified on the basis of any infusion of grace into us; that we are justified only once we have become in ourselves inherently righteous; or that any future justification will be based on our faithfulness.” This last part (“or that any future justification…”) could conceivably rule out many Reformed Protestants who spoke of a double justification. A charitable reading would mean that “based on” means meritorious, in which case I would agree. But “based on” can be used generally, in which case previous Reformed luminaries would have to disagree with the statement. Would, then, these Reformed Protestants end up denying justification by faith alone, which, in the words of the document, is tantamount to denying the gospel (i.e., “We further affirm that to deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone is to deny the gospel.”)? Do Arminians, with their different understanding of justification by faith, also deny the gospel?

    I have a problem with Article 10 (the Affirmation). The problem with this Affirmation is that nearly all modern critics of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ could affirm Article 10. This Affirmation misses the point entirely. These critics do not deny the reality of Christ’s active obedience. Rather, they deny that that is the righteousness imputed. Even Norman Shepherd would have no problem with Article 10. The
    documents provided by Ligonier are a little too justification-centric for my liking. Even when they do speak of justification they don’t frame the issue as narrowly or carefully as one might expect from them.

  20. markmcculley Says:

    Lee Irons—Gaffin has misunderstood Lincoln’s argument. The argument is not that Israel’s being on the verge of entering the land is a type of the invisible church’s actual present enjoyment of heavenly rest. Rather, the argument is that Israel’s being on the verge of entering the land is a type of the visible church’s being called in the gospel to enjoy heavenly rest now by faith. This distinction is crucial. In fact, Gaffin….assumes that Israel in the wilderness functions as a type of the true, redeemed people of God rather than a type of the visible covenant community (which is not coterminous with God’s hidden election according to grace).

    P 27

    It is questionable to argue that, since the Exodus functions in biblical theology as a type of redemption, the object of that redemption (Israel) necessarily functions as a type of the redeemed. And even if such a typological use of Israel were demonstrated in other passages of the New Testament, our text clearly employs Israel as a type – not of the redeemed – but of the evangelized: “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just at they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (4:2)

    According to Gaffin’s understanding of the typological structure of this passage, the wilderness generation’s apostasy and failure to enter the land can only signify the loss of genuine salvific blessings (i.e., regeneration and justification). If “believers have already experienced deliverance from the power of sin, pictured by the Exodus from bondage in Egypt” (p. 38), and if the Exodus “here in this passage [3:16], and in terms of the controlling model, is justification by faith” (p. 45) then who are those “who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness” (3:17)?

  21. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones–Often, any threatening is understood as law threatening, and so the gospel is held out as a mans of escaping such threatening, p 50 Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest, P and R, 2013

    Mike Horton—The law condemns and drives us to Christ, so that the Gospel can Comfort without any threats or exhortations that might lead to doubt…. The Gospel acts without threats, it does not drive one on by precepts, but rather teaches us about the supreme goodwill of God towards us. …. Even after conversion, the believer is in desperate need of the Gospel because he reads the commands, exhortations, threats, and warnings of the Law and often wavers in his certain confidence because he does not see in himself this righteousness that is required. Am I really surrendered? Have I truly yielded in every area of my life? What if I have not experienced the same things that other Christians regard as normative? Do I really possess the Holy Spirit? What if I fall into serious sin?

    Machen declared, “According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as ‘making Christ master’ of one’s life…But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism.”11 In another work, Machen added, What good does it do to me to tell me that the type of religion presented in the Bible is a very fine type of religion and that the thing for me to do is just to start practicing that type of religion now?…I will tell you, my friend. It does me not one tiniest little bit of good…What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me.

    While the Gospel contains no commands or threats, the Law indeed does and the Christian is still obligated to both “words” he hears from the mouth of God.

    Mike Horton—”God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. … ..To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? ”

  22. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones–Man exercises faith in order to receive the saving benefits of Christ’s works of impetration… Good works a necessary part of our perseverance in the faith in order to receive eternal life. Good works are consequent conditions of having been saved.

    Nathan J. Langerak, –What Mark Jones means by “consequent conditions” is that they are new conditions of salvation imposed on the saved person because the person is now saved

    No benefits applied before faith is exercised? Is not faith itself applied before it is exercised? What about regeneration

  23. markmcculley Says:

    First, justification is forensic in nature, rather than ontological. While inherent righteousness is an essential component of the Christian life, this does not constitute justification coram Deo. Instead, one is declared righteous on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Second, the means by which one receives this declaration is faith alone, apart from any human work.

    Differences—-While the notion of a central dogma by which every other doctrine if derived, supposedly being predestination for the Reformed and justification for the Lutheran, has been thoroughly debunked, the doctrine of justification does certainly play a more fundamental role in Lutheran thought than Reformed. . How it plays out is in the precise position of justification temporally in the ordo salutis.

    The Reformed and Lutheran traditions both place (subjective) justification after regeneration and faith in the logical order of the events involved in the application of redemption. However, the Reformed tradition generally speaks about justification in the past tense, as an act which occurs at the moment of conversion never to be repeated, and impossible to be lost.

    In the Lutheran, however, justification is a declaration which frames the entire span of the Christian life coram Deo. It is true that one can speak in the past tense of having been justified (Rom. 5:1), but that forensic act is not limited to one punctiliar event. Instead, the verdict of one’s justification is repeatedly declared and given.

    Franklin Weidner—(1) It is instantaneous; not gradual or successive, like illumination or sanctification.

    (2) It is perfect. Our sins are completely forgiven; not almost, or only half, or only a certain number. They are either forgiven or unforgiven. I. John 1: 7; Rom. 8:1; John 5:24.

    (3) Assurance. Rom. 8:38, 39; Eph. 3: 12; Heb. 10:11

    (4) Is renewed daily; for we must daily repent of our sins, and be daily, continually justified.

    (5) The state of justification may be lost. John 15: 2; Heb. 6:5, 6; I. Tim. 4:1.

    (6) But it may be recovered. John 6: 37; Isa. 1:18; Luke 15:11-32. [1]

    The possibility of genuine apostasy in the Lutheran tradition also results in the possibility of losing this divine verdict as well, which is an impossibility in the Calvinistic system.

    This concept of a continual justification arises out of the Pauline text itself. In Romans 4, Paul cites two particular examples of justification from the Old Testament to demonstrate his point. The first is from the life of Abraham, wherein God considers the patriarch righteous, not due to works, but faith (Gen. 15:6).

    Were the pure past-tense approach to justification correct, then this would constitute the beginning of Abraham’s life of faith in Genesis 15. This becomes a problem, however, when looking at the Genesis narrative itself, as God first gives his promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3. Abraham’s response to this promise is one of faith (surely saving faith) which is commended in Hebrews 11:8. It is difficult, I think, to deny the fact that justification must have occurred in both of Abraham’s calls described in Genesis 12 and 15.

    The other text cited by Paul in defense of justification by faith apart from works is from Psalm 32:1-2, wherein David speaks of the non-imputation of sin to those who believe. David is not describing some kind of conversion experience here, Instead, justification is counted at all times of confession and repentance. This is not to say that justification is continually lost and regained. It is better to think of justification, not just as a single act, but as a state that one is in, whose reality is continually declared and re-enacted through Word and Sacrament.

    While such a discussion might seem like a mere debate of wording, I think there are significant implications of this distinction in these respective systems. There has recently been quite a bit of controversy in the Reformed world over John Piper’s differentiation between justification and final salvation. Mark Jones has demonstrated that the Reformed tradition has historically spoken about the necessity of works for salvation, as the category of “salvation,” is much broader than justification. Works are a kind of means or even cause of entrance into glory, though it is to be acknowledged that there is quite a bit of nuance as to how those terms are used. While I have continually voiced disagreement with Jones on this point, I do think that he is properly representing the Reformed tradition.

    For the Lutheran tradition, works have always been removed from the category of salvation as language of good works being “necessary for salvation,” was rejected in the Formula of Concord. This is due, I think, to the conviction that justification covers the entire span of salvation for the Christian coram Deo. It is not a mere past event which then leads to other realities, but it is the continual reality of one’s relatedness to God. With this being the case, there can be no division between justification and final salvation whatsoever. One cannot speak of salvation without justification at the center.

  24. markmcculley Says:

    Here are some quotes from Wilhelmus à Brakel (a Calvinist theologian) from his work “The Christian’s Reasonable Service” dealing with daily justiification.

    “God justifies man by faith, and thus justification is God‟s judicial pronouncement toward man. This sentence is not only pronounced once upon the first act of faith, but is made as frequently and as often as man exercises faith in Christ unto justification.”

    “The justification which occurs upon the first act of faith, and which occurs time and again after that, each time includes the
    forgiveness of sins—sins to be committed subsequently virtualiter, that is, as far as virtue and efficacy are concerned;
    thus declaring that they would also each time be forgiven ctualiter, that is, actually. However, sins cannot be forgiven
    in actuality prior to being committed. We cannot speak of that which does not exist; whatever has not been committed
    cannot be forgiven.”

    Brakel then goes on to describe the errors of a group he refers to as the “Hebrews” because someone in the group had learned some Hebrew and thought he knew everything now. They deny the office of the ministry and teach a sort of antinomianism. Brakel says that this antinomianism is rooted in their belief in a justification from eternity and deny that justification is received daily by faith. They teach that as long as you believe Christ died for you, you are justified regardless of your lack of repentance. Brakel then goes on to say:

    “Fifthly, God justifies believers when they actually exist and confess their sins. “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Ps 32:5); “This man went down to his house justified“ (Luke 18:14); “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).”

    On pages 381-391 of Brakel’s work he deals specifically with objections against justification as a daily occurrence. Y…

    There are certain things that Brakel says which a Lutheran isn’t going to agree with and you don’t find much in the way of the sacraments brought up but it’s still worth the read.

    Click to access reasonableservicevol2.pdf

  25. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Karlberg–”For someone to rely wholly on Christ’s finished work at the cross, Gaffin warns, he has then cut himself off from the ‘whole Christ’ —the Christ who now is working out the benefits of atonement. What is obscured in Gaffin’s formulation is the fact that the application of salvation has already and completely been secured by Christ in his work of reconciliation. There is nothing future to be attained by Christ.”

  26. markmcculley Says:

    Gaffin teaches that the baptism by God of the elect is into Christ’s regeneration
    Gaffin calls that Christ’s Resurrection Righteousness

    but I will keep pointing out
    that Christ was never corrupt and therefore never regenerated
    Christ was dead because of condemnation
    Christ was condemned because of the imputed guilt of the elect
    but Christ was never corrupt and never regenerated

    Christ was raised from the dead because of the justification of the elect
    Abraham was born condemned and then Abraham was justified
    Christ was raised from the dead because Abraham was justified

    Christ was not raised in order to regenerate the elect enough in order for them to become justified
    Christ was raised because of the justification of the ungodly elect

    for Gaffin the righteousness is not Christ’s death by imputed sins
    for Gaffin the justification of Christ is the resurrection of Christ
    since Christ is only the first-fruits, the resurrection of Christ is not yet over and done

    elect sinners are not justified because of Christ’s resurrection,
    because Christ was resurrected because Christ paid for the sins of elect sinners imputed to Christ with His death and by this death obtained justification—Christ the elect raised because of the justification of the elect. Gaffin and those who follow Gaffin confuse this because they think of Christ’s resurrection as still unfinished and as defined by changing the inner dispositions of the elect

    Gaffin –Regeneration brings into view the specific result of that activity; the state of being regenerate.. The exercise of the Spirit’s energies in calling produces an enduring change… marked by a new and lasting disposition inherent in the in them, That is, at the core of my being, I am no longer against God and disposed to rebel against his will but, now and forever, for him and disposed in the deepest recesses of whom I am to delight in doing his will.

    we become the righteousness of God in Christ
    does not mean
    now we are already present up in heaven with Jesus

    the righteousness of God in Christ becomes ours
    does not mean
    now Christ in our hearts indwelling gives us the power to avoid sin

    we become the rightousness of God in Christ
    means that
    we are justified before God once and permanently

    the righteousness of God in Christ becomes ours
    means that
    God has imputed legally with Christ’s death

  27. markmcculley Says:

    1 Corinthians 6:11 And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    I Corinthians 15: 45 the first man Adam became a living soul. The
    last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.

    2 Corinthians 3: 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit
    of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are
    looking as in a mirror at[d]the glory of the Lord and are being
    transformed into the same imagefrom glory to glory. This is from the
    Lord who is the Spirit.

  28. Mark Mcculley Says:

    the justification taught by Augustine, by sovereign grace but not by Christ’s death but by water regeneration and then continuing “Christ formed in us” . It also seems to be the way most professing “sovereign grace” find assurance—by the struggle in us against sins and for works that bring glory to God

    Philip Cary–. Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me.” For what the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe). It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. IF I CLING TO THAT in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me

  29. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Brinsmea–The false idea of continuing security apart from continuing faith grows out of the confusion of justification by faith with the finished work of Christ. True, the idea of “once saved, always saved” is a reduction and a caricature which does not do justice to the great stream of thought known as Calvinism. Yet it can easily grow out of the failure to recognize the dynamic, ongoing nature of justification by faith. Evangelicals today would be enriched by considering the insight that Luther had into Pauline thought. Then we would see a greater willingness to exegete the book of Hebrews without indulging in a lot of fancy footwork around texts whose import is transparently obvious.

    The limitation of justification to a once-for-all event results in an artificial distinction between justification and forgiveness. Since it is as clear as the sun that we need to be continually forgiven, some have therefore contended that in this respect forgiveness is different from justification.

    We submit that this distinction between justification and forgiveness is altogether an artificial theological device which is quite unbiblical. True, justification is a broader term than forgiveness, implying not only pardon but a positive verdict of righteousness. Yet the Bible does at times use the two expressions to describe the one blessing. Note:

    Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things . —Acts l3:38,39.

    But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. — Rom. 4:5-7.

    In his Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Melancthon appealed to these scriptures to show that justification consists in forgiveness of sins and not, as the Romanists contended, an infusion of righteousness. We have already seen how Luther, in “The Disputation Concerning Justification,” freely uses justification and forgiveness interchangeably.

    It is our privilege as well as our duty to keep praying for forgiveness, even as our Lord taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Blessed is the man who does this and goes down to his house justified — daily.

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