Archive for January 2015

“Faith Alone” in What?

January 17, 2015

Faith alone can be misunderstood. Even though Romans 5:1 tells us, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus is not the cause or condition of justification.\

Of course I have read discussions about distinctions between conditions, where it is explained that faith is an “instrumental” condition. However confessional that term may be, I don’t agree with that explanation of faith. My problem is not that the traditional “instrumental” language can be misunderstood. Any explanation of faith’s necessity that I give can also be misunderstood.

I believe that faith in the true gospel (which includes “for the elect alone”) is necessary evidence that a person has passed from a state of condemnation to a state of justification. This faith in the gospel is not a knowledge that a person has been justified all along, or assurance that a person has been justified from the time of the cross or before a person was born. This faith in the gospel, which includes understanding of the gospel, is the result of being born again, which is the result of being imputed with the merits of Christ’s death.

In the false gospel which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, faith is misunderstood as making the difference between saved and lost. Even in cases where the fine print tells you that this making-the- difference faith is a result of predestination and regeneration, the credit for salvation does not go to Christ. The credit may go to the Holy Spirit or to predestination, but it cannot go to Christ, if Christ died for all sinners but only some sinners are saved.

Much Amyraldian double talk says that Christ propitiated the wrath of God for all sinners but that Christ also died extra for the elect to give them the faith to get the benefit of Christ’s propitiation. In other words, there is no antithesis with the false gospel of Arminianism. Since they still want to be thought of as evangelicals, and still want to have influence on evangelicals, Amyralidans agree to the heresy that Christ died for everybody. Even if they don’t explicitly say that this was to take away the wrath for every sinner, by their silence about the question, they go along with what everybody already understands, which is that “faith alone” makes the difference.

They can try to put boundaries around that, and say that the object of faith is important. They can even imply that Mormons and open theists are not evangelicals, and maybe not even justified But they are still agreeing, sermon after sermon, every time that they do not say “for the elect alone”, that it is faith alone which makes the difference. And when they do that, there is no Christ alone left.

In the fine print, the glory may go to God for predestinating the Holy Spirit to give faith. But it is no longer Christ’s death which saves, if Christ died for all sinners, and some of these sinners are lost. And though we may talk of Scripture alone, we end up with a canon within a canon, where what the Scripture says about the elect in Christ and therefore being elect in His death becomes segregated out from the gospel and never proclaimed or discussed.

Instead of saying that Christ died only for the elect and not for the non-elect, they leave out the word election and say that Christ died for believers, which comes to mean that” faith alone” makes the difference and not Christ.

If they want to keep the “thoroughly reformed” happy, they might say sometimes that Christ died for his covenant people, but then later they will make it clear that the covenant is conditional and that the his people are believers, so that it will all come back to “faith alone”.

According to Romans 3 and 4, “faith alone” is “not works”. The point of faith alone is “grace alone”. And according to Scripture, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. Romans 9:11, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.” Please notice the connection between “not because of works” and election.

When “evangelicals” attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, then mostly all they can do is say “not because of works but because of faith alone”. Sometimes they do talk about the “but because of his call”. They say that the reason you believe is not your freewill but God’s effectual call. Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, Reformed evangelicals will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that.

In select groups (for examples “Reformed” conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of false gospel. Before you believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God, and that this was not only “prevenient or common” grace to make your faith possible but that it made sure that you would being to believed that Jesus died for everybody.

The point of faith alone is “not by works”. Faith is not something you bring to the gospel. Faith is something that the gospel brings to the elect. I am not saying we have to hear a preacher or a sermon. But it is necessary for us to HEAR the gospel, and that this HEARING is not works but faith. Galatians 3: 5-8, “ 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—just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. I know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, for seeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham….”

Since this text does not talk about election, and since it does talk about faith four times, what then is the gospel preached to Abraham that we should preach? First, notice that faith is a hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is not in us but in the gospel message. I Corinthians 1: 18, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” I am sometimes falsely accused as advocating that the gospel be given to the elect alone. At other times I am falsely associated with those who attempt to “prepare” people to introspect to see if they are elect. (But I don’t want to get distracted by what might be said. If you want to explore that kind of thing, read Abraham Booth’s “Glad Tidings” and “Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character”, in which he fully answers the slanders of Andrew Fuller).

The truth is that I believe the full gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners (and not just those who have the bucks to get into Reformed conferences). The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel. The promise of the gospel is not for the children of the flesh but for the children of the promise, but we don’t know who the children of the promise are until they have been called. As Romans 9: 7 reminds us, not all are offspring of Abraham because they are his offspring. As Acts reminds us time after time, the promise is for “as many as“ are called. (2:39, 4:4 ). Since Romans 8:30 teaches us that as many as He called were also predestined, I see no reason to leave out the idea of election from the idea of calling.

Those who don’t want to talk about election leave Christ out of the idea of election. It is not enough to talk about calling and election, if election is simply to make sure that some sinners have faith alone. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then the faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone The message (for the elect alone) is to be proclaimed to elect and non-elect alike, but it (the message) is the power of God to the elect alone.

Galatians 3: 5-8 does not use the word election but it does talk about God’s calling. It’s not simply that God was powerful with Abraham, but also that God preached the gospel to Abraham. The word of the cross is the power of God. I Corinthians 2:12,“ Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we would understand the things freely given us by God.” I Corinthians 2:12 explains that the elect are given the Spirit to UNDERSTAND the things freely given us by God. One of the blessings given by God in Christ is understanding the word of the cross, which word I Cor 1 calls the power of God.

Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel. The gospel of “for the elect alone” needs to be proclaimed to every sinner because that very gospel message is the power of God which saves and causes elect sinners to believe. The gospel proclaimed to a non-elect sinner is not the power of God for salvation, but rather “to those who are perishing, a fragrance from death unto death.” (II Cor 2:16).

The idea of election goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11, “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.” Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.” Does the apostle Paul not understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why does Paul not just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works. Paul does not believe that God imputes or regards or credits faith as if faith were what the law required.

Christ’s Life in Us, the Result of Being in Christ’s Death

January 6, 2015

I John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the lasting life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, in order that you also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

I John 5: 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and lasting life.

Colossians 3:1 So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. 3 For you have died, and your LIFE is hidden with the Messiah in God. 4 When the Messiah, who is YOUR LIFE, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory

John Bunyan—I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him. I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was brought in by Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. and I lived sweetly at peace with God. Now I could look from myself to him I saw that my precious hope was indeed in a very safe trunk, not in me but in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption. (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners)

In Christ, there is true transfer of blessing and benefit, and this transfer is not by infusion or impartation. The elect move from a condemned state to a justified state because of God’s legal imputation. They are no longer part of the “old man”; they are now part of the “new man”.
To get to the real question in the debate about impartation v imputation, we need to ask: what is transferred? Is guilt transferred to Christ, or is a corrupt “old nature” also transferred to Christ?

Our hope is not ultimately a “new nature” which still leaves us sinners, along with an “old nature”. Our hope as sinners is that we be counted righteous on the basis of imputation, and thus legally constituted (declared) as righteous, in a new legal state.

What is transferred to the elect? Those who define “union” as the indwelling presence, need to be asked if the merit of Christ’s death is legally transferred to the elect. If so, what does that mean, and why does it matter, if the more basic question is not the transfer of guilt or merit? If Christ is “made sin” by “more than” guilt-transfer, then is it Christ’s life in us (or some “new nature”, and not the merit of Christ’s death, which finally matters?

We need to question the idea that “union with Christ” is only about Christ’s indwelling presence in us. God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect justifies them. There is union by election from before the ages, but in our lifetimes, nothing is more fundamental than justification by God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

1. We need to define what we mean by “regeneration”. Since the Bible word is “new birth”, we need to think about this new birth in terms of “effectual calling” by the power of the Holy Spirit with the word of the gospel. We need to get away from the idea that “regeneration” is a “change in substance or nature” and then a time gap between that and the hearing of the gospel.

2. We need to define “in Christ” in terms of justification. Although the Bible does teach that the sheep are always in Christ by election, Romans 16 teaches that some of the sheep are in Christ before other of the sheep. This change is not a first of all a change of regeneration or birth but legally a change of state before God. As a result of this legal change, the Shepherd comes into the sheep, indwelling them as they believe the gospel. But “union with Christ” does not precede justification, except “union by election”.

3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of Christ’s indwelling presence. God does not justify because God knows that God is going to live inside a person. Christ’s life is in a person because God has justified the person.

Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”. We tend to judge people (even ourselves) to be saved on the evidence of morality. But God sees that morality as something to be ashamed of, when those moral people are still in their sins, still not yet justified.

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. Instead of a “sacrament” which makes us “participate” in Christ (or makes Christ live in us), our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

I want to keep thinking and talking about Christ’s indwelling presence in us. I want to focus on our need for Christ in us and the wonders and glories of that reality. But Christ’s life in us is not all there is to being in the “new man”. The “new creation” has to do with a change in legal state, and not only with a new birth so that Christ can indwell our hearts.

II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh (judging by morality or immorality or by other non-gospel standards)….If anyone is in Christ, there is a NEW CREATION. The old has passed; the new has come.”

“Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about life in us, not even Christ’s life in us. “We died” is about an imputed legal reality. Christ is here now in our hearts, yes, but also, Christ is not here, not yet, and we believe and hope, waiting for the day when Christ will be here. Christ is not now coming down from heaven, but Christ will come down from heaven someday. Though we are legally “seated in the heavens now”, that is only because our legal surety is now seated there. Nobody has now ascended to heaven who was not there before. (John 3:13) We are in Christ legally. The old has passed. The legal verdict has already been declared. One day, our resurrection, will be the visible evidence of that verdict.

Romans 5:19 describes two events in history as our “being constituted”. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were APPOINTED sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be APPOINTED righteous.”

Notice, first, that “the many” are the elect in Christ. Like I Corinthians 15, Romans 5 is not talking about the non-elect who are also constituted sinners by Adam’s disobedience. The same exact number who are chosen in Christ were also all born legally dead in Adam and constituted as sinners. Even though they are elect in Christ, they are born into this world needing Christ and needing life.

Trying to understand these imputation events in Romans 5 without talking about election is impossible, but almost everybody tries to do it. They end up changing God’s freely GIVEN salvation into something caused by sinners actively “receiving”, even though “receive” in Romans 5:17 is passive and does not refer to the consent of sinners.

Man does not become a sinner by consenting to Adam’s sin, and the elect in Christ do not become appointed righteous by consenting to Christ’s obedience. The elect in Christ become righteous by imputation. This legal events results in new birth, but it does not include new birth.

Why does this distinction matter? Even if you agree with me that sinners are made guilty in Adam by legal imputation,why does it matter? Don’t I agree that the moral corruption of sinners is the immediate result of the imputation of guilt? Am I just being picky, just arguing for argument’s sake?

NO! If the only problem elect sinners have is corruption and inability to believe, then the only need they have is for the Holy Spirit and the new birth. Then it finally does not matter what Christ did, and it certainly makes no sense to argue about for whom Christ did it.

If “lasting life” in the Bible is ONLY about the ability to believe God’s testimony about the Son, then the good news is no longer what the Son did and finished, but only about the new birth and the Holy Spirit. And when we focus only on the new birth, the good news tends to become our believing, and being careful to give God all the praise for our believing. The new birth is absolutely necessary, but the new birth is a result and not a condition of God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect.. The elect don’t become united to Christ by believing. Nor do the elect become united to Christ by water baptism. The new birth does not unite the elect to Christ. The Holy Spirit does not unite the elect to Christ. God unites the elect to Christ by judicial declaration.

John 4: 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to lasting life.

I John 1: 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

I Corinthians 1:28-30, “God chose even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh can boast in the presence of God. God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Having Christ’s life in us is a result of justification. If the elect could have Christ’s life in them before justification, it would be too late for justification, and there would be no need for justification or for the cross. If we could get Christ’s life in us without the righteousness, we would not ever need the righteousness. Romans 8:10, “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

If Jesus Christ is simply everywhere, who cares if Jesus Christ comes back here in the future, since we have Him by His Spirit already in our hearts? I am suggesting that we talk about Christ’s kingdom without placing the present time into competition with what Christ got done at the cross. Whether I am talking to a five year old or to a old old man on his death bed, I don’t want only the omnipresent God, even though God surely has always been and is anywhere and everywhere. And I don’t want only the God who lives in the hearts of justified sinners, even though Christ in us surely is the hope of glory, a real reason to eagerly expect Christ’s second coming to heart. (Hebrews 9:28) But we also want and need the Christ who is now seated “up there” in heaven, because of His accomplished sacrificial death.

Romans 8: 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also WITH HIM graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—WHO IS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, who indeed is interceding for us

Hebrews 9: 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

Yes, even now God’s love is present in our hearts because Christ’s life is present in our hearts, but that amazing reality is only ours because we have legally received the reconciliation Christ made when Christ came to earth the first time.

Romans 5: 5 has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I look to Christ in heaven for my righteousness, not simply because the God-man who died with the imputed sins of all the elect has ascended there, but also He is coming from there. These historical events are not below my bellybutton or under my chest. The righteousness by which the justified REIGN is NOT a righteousness imparted (or infused) into us by Christ’s life in us.

Romans 8:10 If Christ is IN YOU, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Because of righteousness. Is that righteousness what you think God is doing in you? Do you agree with Osiander in thinking that the righteousness is Christ’s life in you? Or is that righteousness what God did in Christ’s satisfaction of the law? What is the “righteousness of faith” ?

Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith says: Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven (to bring Christ down), or who will descend (to bring Christ up from the dead). The word is the news about what Christ did (by His death to satisfy law) is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

The word, the news in the hearts of the justified elect is not only Christ’s life in them, the Living Word, because that word, that news is the written word of the gospel which tells the justified elect about Christ accomplished outside them. That gospel tells the justified elect that the Christ who died for them and who is given to them to live in their hearts is the same Christ who is now seated at the right hand in heaven, resurrected because the justification of all the elect is sure.