A Separation Between Provision and Application?

The false gospel does not talk about the justice of Christ’s death meriting anything. The false gospel does not talk about the justice of God having already imputed only the sins of the elect to Christ.

The false gospel assumes that only “eternal justification” is consistent with definite atonement. If there is a distinction between “provision” and “application”, then God can apply only to SOME sinners what God has provided for ALL sinners. This is sneaky double talk which does no good for anybody, not least those who perish under the wrath of God. What good is a provision that is not applied? Why is the application not provided? Romans 8:32 teaches that God will give all other blessings along with Christ to all who God loves. Does it make God look better to say that God “provided” something which is never applied? Does it do anything good and gracious for the sinner to tell the sinner that the application depends on him or that the application depends not on Christ’s death but on the Holy Spirit’s “separate” intention now?

The “multiple intentions” (two wills) view continually describes the application as “subjective application” or (even uglier) “appropriation”. But this ignores the reality of God’s imputations. God not only imputed the sins of all the elect to Christ, but in time God also imputes the death of Christ to all for whom Christ died, to all for whom Christ provided propitiation. Only after the elect are legally placed into the death of Christ are they regenerated and given faith in the gospel and justified. But this legal placing in time into Christ’s death is NOT “subjective application” but God’s legal active imputation of the merits (value) of Christ’s death to the elect sinner. This distinction is clearly described in Owen’s Death of Death, but that discussion seems to have gone down the memory hole.

Instead of talking about God’s legal imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ, or about God’s legal imputation of Christ’s death to the elect, it seems now that almost everybody rushes to one paragraph quotation from Calvin about “union with Christ”. And this strategy is clear in this new book. On p 164 as long as Christ is outside of us, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us. “(3:1:1). Here is the fruit of Torrance’s agenda at work. First, ignore the legal reality of being “in Christ” by imputation. Second ignore the “in Christ” by saying instead “union with Christ” and conflating the “in Christ” with the “Christ in us”, and then confuse this with “the Holy Spirit in us” at work causing us to believe. Third, make the atonement about what’s happening now in us and not about what happened at the cross. Fourth, say there are two intentions at work. Don’t deny that Christ died because of sins but don’t say that God imputed the sins of the elect to Christ. But do deny that Christ’s “provision” to be the Savour of all sinners provides the application of that provision, so that salvation does not depend on Christ but on the Holy Spirit. Fifth, this makes the Holy Spirit’s work to be that which really atones. And perhaps even more important for the false gospel it makes the location of the atonement to be our own hearts instead of the justice obtained in Christ’s death at the cross, back then, over there.

As a Dallas four pointer (Stephen Strehe) explains it—“The limited atonement arguments of double jeopardy and universalism are not valid, because their proponents also must inconsistently make the atonement ineffective until it is actually applied. ” The idea is that the only way for a definite atonement person to be “consistent” is for that person to also teach eternal justification. But John Owen (in an argument in the Death of Death which is either ignored or unread and unknown) has already explained that God’s delayed legal application of what Christ has already legally purchased (impetration) does not make that purchase by death any less legal or effective. Indeed, the merits of that death were already imputed by God to some of the elect (Abraham and all who were justified before the cross) even before Christ died.

theologians (Kevin Dixon Kennedy, Torrance) are using the concept of “union” to say that the atonement which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. Therefore, no double jeopardy, they say, unless somebody for whom Christ died has been “united to Christ.” In other words, SOME OF THEM TEACH THAT CHRIST DIED ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL PERISH. But it’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.

Although John Owen taught that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, Owen did not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Owen taught with Romans 6 that the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are “placed into” that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But SOME use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse the rest with thinking there is no need for faith. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it. This is the claim made by SOME who use “union” to make the application of the atonement to be the atonement.

But it’s clear that Owen did not teach justification apart from faith. It’s also clear that Owen did not teach that faith was a mere recognition that we were already justified. (See Carl Trueman essays on John Owen). “Unionists” should not ignore Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement. Some “unionists” locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to unite people with that propitiation. This is their argument: “you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”

But otherwise, it is claimed, you can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to them, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. So, again according to them, it’s the “union” which designates for whose sins Christ died.

Nathan Finn-“Chun agrees with scholars who emphasize greater continuity than discontinuity between Edwards’s understanding of the atonement and the moral government view of the New Divinity theologians. Fuller embraced governmental language and was actually much closer to Edwards, who also allowed for a governmental aspect . Both men combined a universal sufficiency with a particular efficacy, the limitation being in God’s covenantal design rather than in the nature of propitiation itself.”

Romans 3:25-“Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith…” Andrew Fuller (Reply to Philanthropos, Complete Works,II, p 499) comments: “There would be no propriety in saying of Christ that He is set forth to be an expiatory sacrifice THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, because He was a sacrifice for sin prior to the consideration of our believing in Him. The text does not express what Christ WAS as laying down His life , but what He IS in consequence of it.”

The righteousness of Christ is His death and that death is real, so why would it be a fiction for God to count that death as the death of the elect? Thus the two senses of “imputation”. First, a legal solidarity. Second, on the basis of that REAL TRUTH, God then declares the justified elect sinner to be righteous, to be justified.

This is NOT a question about the duty of the non-elect to have faith in the gospel, and the related question of “two kinds of ability” (as argued by Edwards and Andrew Fuller). That is another distraction from the greater question about the nature of the atonement.

This is not even a question about the optimism of the post-millennial fantasies of Andrew Fuller. It’s a question about the justice of God, and about the justice of God in Christ dying for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ by God. If the sins of the elect are not “really” justly imputed to Christ, then the death of Christ itself is not that which “really” makes God both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Instead we would have to look away from the cross itself, and look to what God is now doing in terms of some kind of “covenantal intent”.

Though Andrew Fuller affirmed a particular atonement in a certain sense- in that the atonement will procure faith for only the elect-he is not willing to say that Christ was only the propitiation for the elect alone. Instead of telling that plain truth, that Christ either already died for a sinner or already did not, Andrew Fuller wanted to say that Christ died for all sinners in some sense. This universal sense advocated by Andrew Fuller has to do with the nature of propitiation. He denies that Christ in the past propitiated the Trinity for the sins of any specific person. Rather, Andrew Fuller teaches that Christ died to make an offer of propitiation to every sinner.

According to Andrew Fuller, what’s important is the “covenantal design and intent” of what Christ did, that there could be propitiation now if the Holy Spirit were to cause a sinner to accept the offer of propitiation and thus join themselves to Christ through faith . Fuller asserted an universal conditional sufficiency in Christ’s death for all sinners. It is an old and subtle doctrine, but Andrew Fuller was a very subtle man, much like John Wesley, using words like “imputation” in ways meant to mislead those who had a different meaning for the words.

What does Andrew Fuller accomplish by shifting from what Christ DID back then over there to who Christ Is and what He “Can” do here and now if the Spirit helps a sinner to take up the “offer”? Andrew Fuller changes the meaning of the propitiatory death of Christ. With the Arminians, he makes the propitiation to be dependent on the sinner having faith. The subtle “hybrid” part though is that (with other Calvinists) Andrew Fuller also makes the having faith be dependent on what God obtained by means of Christ’s death.

Andrew Fuller ends up putting the emphasis on grace as opposed to justice. God is sovereign now to give faith to elect sinners because of Christ’s death. The idea that God has already been JUSTLY propitiated for a sinner (or not) is no longer in the picture. Andrew Fuller’s notion of “sovereign grace” is opposing the gospel of God being justified in justifying the ungodly. He is opposing justice in the name of grace.

we must be careful in dismissing a “commercial view” of the atonement, not only because Christ can and does do things by measure (healing some but not others) but because the Bible does talk about being bought by blood and belonging. We need to talk about sins being imputed.

The best discussion in print on this is by Tom Nettles in By His Grace and For His glory. Check out his chapter on Christ Died for our Sins, According to the Scriptures. Nettles refutes the Dordt formula (sufficient/ efficient) while at the same time being honest about the history of most Calvinists liking it. Nettles quotes Andrew Fuller: “We could say that a certain number of Christ’s acts of obedience becomes ours as that certain number of sins becomes his. In the former case his one undivided obeidence affords a ground of justification to any number of believers; in the latter, his one atonement is sufficient for the pardon of any number of sins or sinners.

Nettles explains that Fuller “misconceives the biblical relation of imputation. Justification should not be considered as analogous to atonement but rather to the imputation of Adam’s sin”.

More from Nettles’ refutation of Andrew Fuller and “sufficient for all”. Error one: it’s tantamount to identifying the doctrine of effectual calling with atonement. What one really means by definite atonement is that the difference is not in the atonement but in the Spirit’s work of calling.

“A second error is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as passive obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s passive obedience to what he actively accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

Nettles quotes John Dagg and Abraham Booth against the “sufficient” general view of the atonement. Here’s some from Booth’s Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60 “While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

And from Dagg (Manual of Theology, p330): “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him…

I quote from Carl Truman’s essay on John Owen and the timing of justification in the Westminster Seminary collection Justified in Christ.(ed by Oliphant, 2007) Carl Trueman, p 91–“The Protestant doctrine of justification by imputation was always going to be criticized as tending toward eternal justification. Late medieval theologians (nominalists, occasionalists) had used the distinction between God’s absolute power and God’s ordained power to break the necessary connection between the priority of actual righteousness and God’s declaration that a particular person is justified. In placing the declaration in God’s will, not in the intrinsic qualities of the one justified, it would be argued that any necessary connection between justification and any chronological factors had been decisively abolished”.

mark: In other words, since “synthetic” (the imputation of another extrinsic factor) justification is not about what’s happening in the sinner now, why not say that all the elect were justified at one time, either at the cross, or before the beginning of the ages? This is what Baxter accused John Owen of doing, of simply “announcing in the gospel” that the elect had already all been justified. That’s not what Owen did, but Baxter said he should do that to be consistent. Baxter wanted to get “chronological factors” into the equation, because Baxter wanted to make “intrinsic conditions” a factor in justification.

mark: The assumption of Baxter, and even of most Protestants, is that if you remove the chronological changes (inner transformation), then you only have an appeal to God’s bare sovereignty, and then you might as well say that God justified all the elect at the same time, or even all of them before the beginning of time. But justification is NOT a matter of God’s bare sovereignty but also a revelation of God’s righteousness, and God’s justice demands that God impute in time to the elect the death which Christ earned in time for the elect. If all you have is bare sovereignty, then there is no need for imputation in time, and also there is really no need for Christ to die to satisfy justice.

John Owen used to agree with the nominalists (John Calvin on this particular question) that the death of Christ was not strictly necessary, but then John Owen changed his mind. Owen concluded that justification is not only a matter of God’s declaring the elect to be just (while yet sinners). But neither does justice demand that “justification be imputed” to all the elect at one time, either when Christ’s righteousness is actually accomplished, or when God decrees the death of Christ. Owen concluded that justice demands a connection between Christ’s death and the imputation of that death, but it does not demand that the death be imputed at the same time to all the elect. It’s not “justification” which is imputed. It’s Christ’s righteousness which is imputed.

Carl Trueman, p 92—Samuel Rutherford saw eternal justification as the foundation of an antinomian trajectory in English Puritan thought which was also connected to the sinister calls for the most un-Presbyterian tenet, liberty of conscience in religious matters. Others were quick to say that eternal justification subverted the need for the moral imperatives.”

mark: while I also oppose eternal justification (as did John Owen), it’s not because of the two reasons given above. First, I am for voluntary churches and religious liberty. Second, even though I oppose any notion of justification by “bare sovereignty” unrelated to law-satisfaction and Christ’s righteousness, I do oppose justification based on what God does intrinsically in the sinner, so any affirmation of justification by imputation (such as mine) is going to be accused of “cutting the nerve that leads to morality”. My response to that is that the motive for obedience to moral commands should not and cannot be to make justification “fitting” ( as Jonathan Edwards and his contemporary followers would have it). The motive for obedience is gratitude for a present justification and a faith that every blessing will be given to those who are already in Christ.

Carl Trueman, p 93–“Baxter claims that if Christ has paid the actual price for our sins, as Owen argues in The Death of Death (1647), then this payment is not refusable by God, nor is it possible that there could be a chronological delay between payment of the debt and the dissolution of the debt, since it is either paid or not paid, thus all the elect are already justified in Christ, and thus faith can only fulfill a mere epistemological function whereby the elect come to acknowledge that which they are already, namely, justified.”

mark: Notice that this is not what Baxter himself advocates. It’s what Baxter is accusing Owen of believing, or needing to believe, if Owen were consistent. This is really rich in a way, because Baxter is saying that Owen would not be following strict justice if Owen allows a time lag between Christ’s death as payment for sins and the actual forgiveness of sins, but Baxter himself has rejected any notion of strict justice, substituting a”new law” (neo-nomian) whereby God accepts something less than strict justice, namely, the chronological changes of moral improvement in the life of the one to be justified. It’s as if Baxter is saying, let me show you that not even Owen is being strictly just, so strict justice is not the issue. Baxter accuses Owen of not being just, while at the same time Baxter makes no claim that his own view is strict justice.

Owen would agree that justice demands that “the payment is not refusable” but would not agree that this demands the justification of the elect sinner at the very same time payment is made.

Carl Trueman, p 95–“Owen argues that it is crucial to understand that God’s desire to save is prior to the establishment of the covenant of redemption, and thus to any consideration of Christ’s satisfaction. Thus Owen precludes any notion that Christ’s death in any way changes the Father’s mind or buys his favor. Owen calls attention to the fact that Christ’s death, considered in abstraction from its covenantal context, has no meaning as a payment. The force of this is to focus attention on the will of God as teh determining factor in the economy of salvation. The positive relationship of Owen’s theology to voluntarist/Scotist trajectories of medieval thought is here evident.”

mark: so yes, Owen is “nominalist” in that Owen does affirm the sovereignty of God, and does make a distinction between Christ’s death and the imputation of Christ’s death chronologically. But Owen never appeals to “bare sovereignty” without any righteousness. Owen teaches that Christ’s death is not merely one possible way that God could in sovereignty save, but the only way, the necessary way, the just way. And, even though Owen makes a distinction between Christ’s death and the imputation of that death, Owen is clear that God must in justice impute (in time) Christ’s death to all for whom Christ died. The payment is not “refusable”. This is not a matter of arbitrary law-less sovereignty, because it’s a question of righteous sovereignty. Baxter thinks the only thing that can make justification of sinners just is intrinsic change (not perfect, not strict justice) in the sinner. Owen thinks the only thing that can make the justification of sinners just is Christ’s death and the imputation of that death.

Carl Trueman, p 96—“Owen claims that that the union of Christ with the elect in his atonement is not actual direct participation but that it must be understood in terms of federal representation. The imputation of sin to Christ is thus not strictly parallel to the imputation of Christ’s death to sinners. This is because it is not simply incarnation which is the foundation of salvation, but the covenant which lies behind the incarnation and which gives gives the incarnation meaning .”

mark: It it is not simply incarnation which is the foundation, but the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God which gives the incarnation meaning. God does not save simply by might and sovereignty. God also saves by God’s justice. Christ became incarnate under God’s law. Christ’s righteousness was Christ’s just payment to God’s law for the sins of the elect imputed. And justification in time is God’s just counting of this just payment by Christ.

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26 Comments on “A Separation Between Provision and Application?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Ten Ways to Teach a False Gospel by Arrogantly Rejecting any Doctrine Teaching that God Has Already Imputed the Sins of Only the Elect to Christ

    1. Naselli often denigrates any idea that general atonement or two wills atonement are heresies. He continually begs the question by insisting that those “evangelical options” are not heresies. He does not hesitate to use the “hyper” word to designate those who disagree.

    2. Naselli insists that we not only agree that those who hold the tow heresies are our brothers but that we describe the heresies in a way approved by the heretics. For example, even though the heretics deny that God has already imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ so that Christ has already made penal satisfaction for these sins, Naselli insists that we agree with the heretics that they still teach “penal substitution”.

    3. Naselli is dogmatic that universalism is heresy but that a general atonement which does not effectively atone is not heresy. Instead of actually pointing to any real person who now denies the need for evangelism, he assumes that the folks who deny any responsibility to believe the two-wills false gospel are also people who deny any responsibility to believe the true gospel (or obey God’s law.) Referencing Ian Murray and Peter Toon and Curt Daniel does not define “hyper”, but only shows it to be a relativist term which depends more on where “evangelicals are now” than it does in clarifying the nature of God’s external command to believe the true gospel.

    4. Naselli denigrates any notion of what they call a `commercial ” view of the atonement as if such descriptions fail to talk about God’s purpose or Christ’s priesthood, even though Naselli has just agreed that words like “infinite” and sufficient” and “efficient” can be used ambiguously (flexibly) –by those with the two heresies and by those who claim to believe in effective atonement. But read Tom Nettles for more on the importance of commercial language.

    5. Naselli teaches that the atonement is “unlimited in its sufficiency, its value, and offer” even though he calls universalism a heresy. But how can the death of Christ be enough if God never imputed the sins of the non-elect to Christ? And how can the death of Christ be enough for every sinner if in the end it is not enough to save every sinner from God’s wrath? How can the death of Christ be enough if it’s not enough to purchase and provide faith in the gospel for every sinner for whom Christ died?

    6. Naselli asserts that Packer overstated the importance of the extent of the atonement . Packer wrote in his introduction to Owen’s Death of Death that “universal atonement is destructive to the gospel.” But Naselli disagrees with Packer about the implications of universal atonement not logically be consistent with a substitutionary atonement. Naselli assures us, “this doctrine is not necessarily at the heart of the gospel.” He follows the liberal policy of Grudem’s Systematic Theology and claims that “other doctrines are much more significant.”

    7. Naselli denies that “only non-Calvinists can tell a non-Christian that God loves them”. Naselli knows that some Reformed folks don’t think we should say “Jesus died for you” to all sinners, but he insists that such a “statement is true and right”. At this point Naselli quotes his mentor DA Carson being condescending to other Reformed teachers who are “young”. Apparently it has never occurred to Carson that anybody who disagrees with him about the two heresies might be as mature and thoughtful and as well read as he is. They always think it’s the other fellows who are being “schismatic”

    8. It’s like Bill Clinton saying “it depends in what you think is means”. It depends on what you think sex means. Thus Naselli–A Calvinist can tell a non-Christian that “Jesus died for you” because non-Christians generally understand the “for” to mean that the benefits of the death of Jesus are “available IF THEY REPENT AND BELIEVE.’ But why should anybody actually believe the gospel want non-Christians to believe the false gospel that God loves them and that their salvation depends on the sinner? It seems that “the Calvinist” in question does not believe that the sins of the elect have already been imputed by God to Christ. A person who teaches that sinners impute their own sins to Christ is neither a Calvinist nor a Christian.

    9. Naselli gives us the impression that he now has a “complete understanding” of what it means to be flexible and to be “evangelical” and what is and is not “heresy”. He ends with the truth that not any of us understand anything perfectly, but does not apply this lesson to himself when he pontificates on what Calvinists can say or what “the more significant doctrines are” He seems to forget that he also has a finite mind when he separates himself from those who call the two heresies heresy. What looks like “tolerance” on closer look is one more “limited understanding” of the gospel, especially when it discounts the factor of God having already imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.

    10. those who accuse the other of being strident don’t seem to notice that they are using an ad hominem argument. They think that only the others use such arguments. For 45 years of my life, I was very proud of the good Reformed doctrine I learned in books and in how I had advanced in understanding over other Christians. But there came a day when God taught me to fear Him, and when I discovered that I had not yet been born again, and that the evidence of this was that I did not yet even know or believe the gospel.

    Options on What the Gospel is, Substitution “For” but in What Sense?,
    By Mark Mcculley

    This review is from: Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views (Paperback)

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement, John Hammet—by Christ dying for all sinners, God treats all sinners fairly. But for the sinners for whom God has a second purpose, God is more than fair. God is fair to all but does not give to all equally, because for some sinners Christ dies to give them the Holy Spirit, and this is more than fair but never less than fair.
    Hammet also lists four other possible “purposes for the atonement”
    Besides dying to forgive everybody (but not doing it) and buying extra faith for some, to whom God is more than fair, so they will exercise faith to ask and to receive the forgiving, which depends on them asking.
    the other four possible purposes, p 190
    1. to make a “sincere offer”
    2. to make condemnation just
    3. to provide ‘common grace”
    4. to reveal God’s gracious character
    mark: to me the most offensive “extra purpose” is that which claims to make judgment just!
    1. we are born condemned, and don’t need the gospel to do that to us
    2. most people, many people never hear the gospel—-so even if you say that Jesus died to forgive all these people if they accept, if they do not hear—-is judgment unjust? a lot of evangelicals, not only Billy Graham, seem to think so, and they fall back on ideas of ‘doing what you could with what you got”, prevenient grace and “natural light”, and use as their pretend proof texts John 1:9 and Titus 2:11
    3. This turns gospel into law, and faith into works, and contradicts Christ who said He came to save and not condemn, But many “reformed” folks also have turned gospel into law, in their own ways. This is why so many “Reformed” get along so well with Lutherans and Arminians because they make man’s morality decisive in salvation (if not in justification, they do in sanctification and assurance of justification)

  3. markmcculley Says:

    John MacArthur: “When God forgives, He cannot merely overlook sin. Full payment (atonement) must be made for our sin. Christ’s death made full atonement for those who trust Him. If we believe Him, His dying counts in our stead, paying for our sins in full.”
    This sounds like it’s saying that Christ died for some sinners because he foreknew they would believe . if you believe now , then that made Christ die for you 2000 years ago. In this case, you may have “definite atonement” in that the extent of the atonement is only for the elect and it is also taught that election is what causes some sinners to believe. But you do not have the gospel of the elect’s sins imputed by God to Christ, and you do not have God’s electing love having decided for whom Christ would make propitiation.
    Instead you have your faith making God decide to forgive you, It’s like teaching that faith is the reason for the atonement, even if at other times (when you are not doing evangelism?) you explain that election is the reason for your faith.
    in any case MacArthur is not teaching that faith is given because of the atonement, even when sometimes he agrees that faith is given because of election.
    In that case, faith becomes way more important than atonement. Your faith becomes a request for Christ to please die for you. . Adding in the idea that God now sovereignly determines who makes this request does not change the false gospel which knows nothing of God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. tianqi wu https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/…/election-causes-to-bel…

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Smeaton also uses the distinction between purchase (impetration, p 147) and legal imputation

    Revelation 5: 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
    “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
    for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed some people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
    10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

    Alec Motyer, p 251, From Heaven He Came—Isaiah’s “Behold, my servant shall succeed” matches the great cry, “It is finished (John 19:30) and forces us to ask what “finished” means in John and what “succeed” means in Isaiah. On any “open-ended” view of the atonement–that is, that the work of Christ only made salvation possible rather than actually secured salvation–“finished” only means “started” and “succeed” only means “maybe, contingent on God contributing something else “in” the sinner

  5. markmcculley Says:

    we do not deny that the distinction between impetration and application in order to affirm application by God’s imputation and to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone, so that this propitiation must in justice be applied to the elect so that the then justified elect are justified from these sins.

    Money You Can Return, but not Christ’s Death

    John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification, 5:217—” A man may lay down a great sum of money for the discharge of another, on such a condition as may never be fulfilled; for, on the absolute failure of the condition, his money may and ought to be restored unto him, whereon he has received no injury or damage. But in penal suffering for crimes and sins, there can be no righteous constitution that shall make the event and efficacy of it to depend on a condition absolutely uncertain, and which may not come to pass or be fulfilled; for if the condition fail, no recompense can be made unto him that has suffered. Wherefore, the way of the application of the satisfaction of Christ unto them for whom it was made, is sure and steadfast in the purpose of God


  6. markmcculley Says:

    If Christ’s active obedience is not accounted as our righteousness, then how can Christ be our righteousness? Piscator responds that when sins are forgiven, someone is counted not only as not having done any sins but also as having done all things required. “Man’s justification consists in remission of all sins: and therefore not only of sins of committing,but also of sins of omitting.” Piscator would not agree that if only Christ’s passive obedience is imputed to us, then we ourselves must supply positive righteousness. Rather, once Christ’s satisfaction is imputed to us, we are in a state of having done everything required because our sins of omission are forgiven. Thus, for Piscator, the source of our righteousness in justification is only Christ’s satisfaction imputed to us.

    Piscator emphasizes that faith itself is excluded as a part of our righteousness before God. The consequence is that all of our works are excluded from our justification. While Christ’s satisfaction imputed to us is the sole source of our righteousness, we are by nature unrighteous. Further, even the righteous acts that we do after grace and faith are excluded from our justification, which, according to Piscator, continues to rest solely in the satisfaction of Christ imputed to us. He argues against Bellarmine that all of our works are excluded from our justification before God. He argues from the fact that Paul “speaks of works in general, whether they be done by the strength of free will or by grace,because Romans 4 speaks of Abraham’s works, those which he had done of grace and faith” Even those works that flow out of faith are clearly excluded from our justification.

    The same pronunciation that gave us comfort in this life that we have a righteous standing before God will then be pronounced openly by the Lord Jesus Christ: “You are righteous on the basis of My satisfaction imputed to you.”

    What are the results of this justification? For Piscator, we are not only forgiven of our sins, but we also have a right to eternal life, for when someone is justified, God “receives them into favor, and adopts them for sons and heirs of eternal life.” The reason why this can occur, according to Pisactor, is because God has said, “Do this, and you will live” (Lev. 18:5, Mt. 19:17, Gal. 3:12). “It comes about that he to whom God forgives sins, is so accounted as if he had not only committed nothing which God has forbidden in his law, but also omitted nothing of that which he has commanded: and therefore, as if he had perfectly fulfilled the law of God.”

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Kennedy—-There are some who, Calvinists in their vows and Arminians in their tendencies, teach the doctrine of a double reference of the atonement; representing the atonement as offered in one sense for the elect, and in another sense for all. These maintain that there was a special atonement securing a certainty of salvation to some, and universal atonement securing a possibility of salvation to all.

    Those who advocate the double reference of the atonement, profess to believe that Christ died in a sense for the elect, in which He died for none besides—that He died because He was their surety—that their sins alone were imputed to Him—that it is His relation to the elect which accounts for His death—that for them alone redemption was purchased—and that to none besides shall redemption be applied.

    How can they then consistently hold that Christ died for all? It may be said that the call of the gospel must involve the salvability of those to whom it is addressed. This is traced to the death of Christ as an atonement of infinite value; and on that ground and to that effect it may be insisted that Christ died for all.

    But how can this consist with this other doctrine, which they profess to believe—that no one is salvable without atonement. No atonement can make my salvation possible if it did not satisfy divine justice for my sins. How can the possibility of my salvation be before the mind of God, unless He sees my sins atoned for in the death of Christ? How could they be atoned for unless they were imputed to Him? And how could they be imputed to Him unless He was my surety?

    If it be objected, that unless the salvation of all who are called is possible there is no hope for them, it is enough to reply, that just as surely as salvation is not possible without atonement, neither is it so without faith; and that instead of tracing the possibility of a universal salvation to a universal reference of the atonement, the wise and the right thing would be, to insist on the ability of Christ to save all who come to Him; on the certainty of salvation through faith; and on the impossibility of salvation without it.

    But there is no atonement that is not satisfaction to divine justice. There was no satisfaction of justice that did not avail to the purchase of redemption. To say that the atonement, being of infinite value, is sufficient for all, is beside the mark, for the question is as to the divine intention.

    Christ has power over all flesh but this was given to Him in order that He would give eternal life to as many as the Father gave Him. This power Christ has in reward of His death, but He has it for the salvation of His chosen. He died to procure all good for them.

    The doctrine of the double reference is an oil and water mixture. It is opposed to Scripture. Those who hold it are in a transition state, and occupy no fixed dogmatic ground. Sometimes they seem staunch Calvinists, and at other times utter Arminians. They try to move on the boundary line between the two systems, and would fain keep a foot on either side. But the fence is too high to admit of this. They therefore display their agility in leaps from side to side.

    To insist on a reference of the death of Christ to any who were not loved by God, whose sins were not imputed to, and atoned for by Christ, and who shall not be saved, is utterly opposed to Scripture. The way to conceal the manifest unscripturalness of this position is, to raise the dust of a double reference around it, by saying that it is not in the same sense Christ died for the elect, as for others. The special reference is not denied; it is so plainly taught in Scripture.

    But where in Scripture is the other universal sense taught? A reference to 1 John 2:2 has been given as an answer to this question. But if there is a passage more conclusive than any other against the doctrine of a double reference it is that very one. It teaches that in the self-same sense in which Christ is the propitiation for the sins of those whose cause He pleads as Advocate, He is so “for the sins of the whole world”—of all to whom His atonement refers.

    In all those passages which seem to some to teach the doctrine of a universal reference of the death of Christ, the death is seen connected either with love, or suretyship, or redemption.

    Some remain professing Calvinists, that they might keep hold of their creed, and become de facto Arminians that they might get hold of their hearers. And there are preachers not a few, who seem to think that, though their speculations must be conformed to the system of Calvinism, they must be Arminians when they deal with the consciences of sinners. The consequence is, that so far as a practical presentation of doctrine is concerned, they are Arminians if they are anything. To tell men that Christ died for all, and that this is the basis on which the call to all is founded, is to quit hold of all that is distinctive to the true gospel in order to command the sympathies of unrenewed hearts.

    By such a form of doctrine many teach more than they intend. Its phrases suggest to many minds the idea of universal grace, and encourage them in a Christless hope. Any protest against universal grace which are mingled with a double reference and to different purposes for the cross can be easily separated. The two elements are so incongruous that they will not combine; and in the hands of unconverted men it is not difficult to tell which shall be removed.

    It is impossible to account satisfactorily for the death of Christ, except by ascribing it to His bearing imputed sin, with a view to His making atonement for it. It is impossible to account for His being “made sin,” but by His substitution for a guilty people. But if men believe that Christ died for many whose sin He did not bear, whose surety He was not, and whose redemption he did not purchase, they are adrift on a current which will carry them down to Socinianism.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Was Christ Punished Before Sins Were Imputed to Him?

    1. if Christ is made sin before our sins are imputed to Him, then with what sin is Christ made sin?

    2. if Christ is already made sin before our sins are imputed to him,
    then what’s the point of God then later imputing to Christ the sins of the elect?

    John Piper (Taste and See) disagrees with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But John Piper does not disagree with Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment. “If you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins.”

    Piper’s gospel does not teach that Christ was already punished because of the imputed sins of the elect alone. It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

    Even though Piper does insist that Christ also died for the elect to
    give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect, he does not publicly tell lost unbelievers that Christ was
    punished specifically for the imputed sins of the elect.

    When Piper leaves that out (does he ever get to that truth even after with post-conversion folks in conferences they paid to get into?), his gospel will be heard as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished (with the second death).

    This both/and message makes the important taking away of
    sins to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people a new nature and then faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.

    The alternatives are to either claim that some of the people who have never heard the gospel are sovereignly saved anyway, or to claim as gospel the idea of punishment before any sins are imputed.

    If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even
    including their believing, without telling it straight about the
    punishment of Christ specifically for the specific sins of the elect,
    then we can easily tolerate a “gospel” which has no election or
    imputation in its news.

    If the death of Christ is not a result of God’s imputation of specific sins, then it is not the death of Christ which saves sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ is not ultimately what takes sins away.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    The Marrow view involved a view of predestination that was essentially Amyrauldian. The counsel of God with respect to predestination contained a determinative decree and a hypothetical decree. The former belonged to God’s secret will and the latter to God’s revealed will. The Marrow taught that the revealed will of God expressed God’s will as desiring the salvation of all who hear the gospel.

    The Marrow Men claimed that by making this salvation conditioned upon faith, they in fact made the work of salvation particular because only the elect actually came to faith. But salvation was made dependent upon man’s faith, because one had to explain how only some were saved when in fact God desired the salvation of all, earnestly urged all to come to Christ, and provided an atonement which was sufficient for all, intended for all and available to all.

    It is true that the Marrow Men taught that saving faith was worked in the hearts of the elect of God. And it was in this way that they hoped to escape the charge of Arminianism. But this will not work for two reasons. In the first place, how is it to be explained that God on the one hand desires to save all and expressed this desire in the preaching of the gospel; and on the other hand actually gives faith and saves only a select few? The Marrow Men, as the Amyrauldians before them, resorted to a distinction in the will of God but such a distinction sets God in opposition to Himself as being One Who on the one hand desires to save all, and on the other hand, desires to save only some.

    In the second place, by making faith the condition of salvation, faith is set outside the benefits of the atonement. if the atonement is for every sinner, but faith is not for every sinner, then faith cannot be a blessing given by means of the atonement. Then faith is not one of the blessings of Christ’s death, but becomes a condition for making Christ’s death effective. One cannot have it both ways. Faith is either part of salvation or a condition to salvation; but both it cannot be. Hanko

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Some have maintained that the Marrow Men were concerned with a conditional grace caused by hyper-Calvinism. Christ, so it was said, was being separated from His benefits in the preaching. The church could not offer the benefits of Christ to all because they were only for the elect, and the church had to know who were the elect before these benefits could be offered them. But those who were elect could be known as elect only by the manifestation of election in their lives. Thus Christ’s benefits hinged on this manifestation of election in a holy and sanctified life. The conclusion is, so the argument went, that the offer of the gospel was made conditional. One receives salvation only if he is elect, i.e., if he manifests election in his life and if he is assured of his election. Hence all the salvation was made conditional on the works of sanctification that prove election.

    This interpretation, found among the defenders of the well-meant gospel offer, is an attempt to turn the tables by charging those who repudiate the offer as teaching conditions, while those who maintain the offer are the ones holding to sovereign and free grace. This interpretation is, however, false. The General Assembly (against whom the Marrow party reacted) never taught a conditional salvation. The Assembly did maintain that the promises of the gospel were only for the elect — that is true. But it did believe that the gospel had to be publicly and indiscriminately proclaimed along with the command to repent and believe in Christ. Hanko

  11. markmcculley Says:

    The Marrow Men taught that everyone has a warrant of God that Christ is for him. This warrant from God is based on the cross, in which Christ became dead for everyone. Why are not all then saved? All are not saved because the condition for having Christ in possession is faith in Him, and all do not fulfill the condition. That is conditional salvation.

    The idea was that while all those to whom the gospel came did not have Christ in actual fact, they possessed the warrant to have Christ, and therefore the warrant to believe. The best way to explain their use of the word “warrant” is to substitute the word “right”: all who heard the gospel have the right to believe. They have this right to believe because God has expressed in the gospel that nothing can possibly stand in the way of their salvation. Those who hear the gospel have no excuse for not believing what the gospel proclaims.

    But this means that when the gospel proclaims that Christ died for sinners, those who hear have the right to say, Christ died for me; I have a right to believe that Christ died for me. It means, in fact, that when, more specifically, the gospel says that Christ died for His people, the individual hearer has the right to say, “I am one of God’s people, if I believe.” Hanko

  12. markmcculley Says:

    The twelve Marrow Men, among whom were Thomas Boston, James Hog, and Ebenezer Erskine, who opposed the decisions of the General Assembly that condemned Edward Fisher’s book, had to say something about the extent of the atonement of Christ. The Marrow Men insisted that by this condemnation the Assembly had made the preaching of the gospel to all men impossible. They claimed that the Assembly had made it impossible to fulfill the divine commission to preach salvation in Jesus Christ to all men without distinction.

    The Marrow Men denied that they taught universal atonement, but their denials rang false. These men distinguished between a giving of Christ in possession and a gift of Christ as warranted men to receive Him. Where did this warrant come from? It had to come from the atoning sacrifice that Christ completed on Calvary. The Marrow Men approved of Fisher’s book The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which taught that (and again we have a very strange distinction) while Christ did not die for all, He is dead for all. They solemnly assured the Assembly that they considered it heretical to teach that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was for all men; but they approved of the expression that Christ is dead for all men. The distinction is impossible to understand Hanko

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Lee Gatiss argues that Calvinistic hypothetical universalism is, in the end, still a variant of limited atonement: Christ died effectually for the elect and only conditionally for the non-elect. The conditional intent for the non-elect is not in place of particular redemption for the elect (as in Arminianism), but in addition to or prior to this effectual atonement for those who will believe (For Us and For Our Salvation, 99).
    It is hard to see what concrete advantage accrues to the non-elect by saying Christ died for them upon the condition that they believe, when God does not in fact grant the gift of faith to any of the non-elect. This is the same point made by Dabney, whom Crisp employs in making the case for hypothetical universalism, when he observes: “To say that God purposed, even conditionally, the reconciliation of that sinner by Christ’s sacrifice, while also distinctly proposing to do nothing effectual to bring about the fulfillment of that condition He knew the man would surely refuse, is contradictory. It is hard to see how, on this scheme, the sacrifice is related more beneficially to the non-elect sinner, than on the strict Calvinist’s plan” (Systematic Theology, 520).
    Hypothetical universalism appears to do more for the Calvinist’s psyche than for the state of the non-elect.

  14. markmcculley Says:

    An Arminian explains why he is not Semi-Pelagian—-I also believe in sovereign grace and in total depravity.God has not surrender the control to humans, because God has GIVEN the control to humans.
    The Holy Spirit has been gracious to every person who rejects the gospel, because God’s prevenient grace has eliminated total depravity for every person who rejects the gospel.
    Every person who rejects the gospel is no longer depraved, but has been given a faith-decision to make. Prevenient grace means that no sinners are now totally depraved, but that does not mean I don’t believe in total depravity.
    II Thessalonians 2: 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers BELOVED BY THE LORD because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, in order that you obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    p 122, Perspectives on the Extent

  15. markmcculley Says:

    Smeaton, Apostles Doctrine ,on Romans 4:25, p147—“The impetration
    of a righteousness which would be legally applied as the sole foundation of justification, was accepted on behalf of all to whom it WAS TO BE APPLIED, and this was the cause of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

    i take Smeaton to mean

    1. righteousness is one thing, and justification another
    2. righteousness is the cause of justification
    3. the righteousness was accepted/ approved by God, even though not
    imputed to all the elect, justice demands that it must be and will be
    4. on this basis, Christ was raised (because of our justification)
    5. doesn’t mean because we were justified when Jesus was raised
    6. doesn’t mean atonement and justification are the same thing
    7. Christ’s death is His own justification and His own resurrection is a result of that….I am not saying we have to say it that way, but that is one Bible way to say it, not only the vindication of I Tim 3:16 or the “because you see him no more” of John 16, but Romans 1:1-4, which is not talking about Christ’s two natures but Christ’s redemptive historical justification

  16. markmcculley Says:

    Many who call themselves Calvinists think of election as something that causes the elect to believe, but they will not teach an atonement only for the elect. But election in Christ is first! The death of Christ is not the cause of God’s election in love. God’s election in love is the cause of the death of Christ. Jesus Christ is first. Jesus, the incarnate, the eternal Son of God in the flesh, is the foundation of election by being Himself the object of election. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things.” https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/…/the-creation-is-for-t…/

  17. markmcculley Says:

    I have been died for, and so has everybody else, January 5, 2010
    By Mark Mcculley
    This review is from: God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom (New Studies in Biblical Theology) (Paperback)
    An Australian Amyraldian (p151), Cole tells us that God may have more than one design for the cross. Using the formula of Lombard (and Dordt), he explains how the death of Christ is sufficient for those for whom it will not be enough to save. At least he is honest enough not to claim to believe in particular atonement.
    At two places in the book (p 178 196), he rejoices in the idea that he “has been died for”, but he rejects any kind of “logical completeness” which would point out that his false gospel says that even those who perish have been died for. Cole makes the imputation of Christ’s death and resurrection a second blessing, subsequent to “union with Christ”. (p158) He assumes what almost everybody assumes, that a “real” union (with the Spirit) precedes any legal imputation of the benefits of Christ’s death.
    To this end, Cole twice (p 168, 158) uses the same Calvin quotation from 3:11:10 which is pushed on us by Torrance and Gaffin. “As long as Christ is outside us…” The priority of the Spirit in applying election and the atonement functions as an unexamined given. Nobody, except Bruce Mccormack in What’s at Stake in Justification (p104-116), seems to have considered the alternative that Christ is outside us as long as we are outside Christ forensically, ie, that God’s imputation of Christ’s death results in Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit, because Christ’s death has purchased that Spirit’s work in the elect.
    My concern is not simply that those who talk about “union with Christ” define it, instead of assuming that such a union is not legal but the “real” cause for the legal. My concern is a false gospel which, with Hans Boersma, regards “high Calvinism’s limited atonement theory as locating violence in the very heart of God.” (p 251). I reject the double-talk of Cole, who quotes Bernard of Clairvaux: “remove freewill and there will be nothing to save; remove grace, and there will be nothing to save with.” (p217). If the death of the Lord Jesus paid all the penalty for those who perish, then that death is not a sufficient substitution and we are in the miserable position of finding some other way to remove the guilt and penalty of sin.

  18. markmcculley Says:


    John Owen vs Davenant—Yea, through the patience and goodness of God, I undertake to demonstrate that the main foundation of Davenant’s whole dissertation about the death of Christ, with many inferences from thence, are neither found in, nor founded upon the word; but that the several parts thereof are mutually conflicting and destructive of each other, to the great prejudice to the truth therein contained. (X.432)

    Davenant writes ‘That death which brings some spiritual advantages even to those which are not saved, is not applicable to the elect alone: but the death of Christ brings advantages to some who will not be saved’. (352) He does not specify what these are, apart from the advantages of having the gospel preached to them. It is ‘a supernatural benefit granted even to those who abuse it’. (353)

    Paul Helm: the idea that this warrants the preacher in saying indiscriminately ‘Christ died for you’ as Davenant alleged, (349, 373) insofar as I understand it, is a rather Jesuitical point. For if Davenant’s view is as I have been describing it, the preacher, looking his congregation in the eye and informing them that Christ died for them if they have faith in him, and knowing full well that Christ’s death insofar as its saving benefits are concerned is governed in its application of the Father’s eternal election. A warrant to preach indiscriminately need not be grounded in a universal efficacy of Christ’s death. Nor does the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel require a universal scope to the death of Christ to legitimize it.

  19. markmcculley Says:

    I don;’t think most “Calvinists” do a good job talking about the connection between Christ’s death and the gift of faith to the elect. They think all they have to say is that regeneration is before faith, and that faith is a gift of God, and that Arminians “make faith a work”. But Arminians don’t think they make faith a work, and they say that faith is a gift of God, even when they put faith before regeneration. Most importantly, even most Calvinists don’t seem to get around to saying that Christ’s death purchase dfaith for all for whom Christ. Instead we have people like Piper saying that Christ died for everybody, but also died “extra” to give faith to the elect. One problem is that the idea of “merit” and “purchase” has dropped out of the equation.

    It’s not enough to say that faith is necessary. It’s not enough to say that regeneration before faith means that faith will be of a certain quality. We need to see that faith in the true gospel of the sins of the elect already imputed to Christ is necessary. To have the right object of faith, we need to see that faith is not only the result of regeneration but also to see that regeneration is a result and not a condition of Christ’s death.

    But Andrew Fuller (and Jonathan Edwards and the Marrow men before him) have moved God’s imputation of sins to Christ into the present and put all the focus on the Holy Spirit, so that the “application” of the death has become the “atonement”, so that it is denied that Christ’s death is the atonement.







  20. markmcculley Says:

    I disagree with Turretin—

    Francis Turretin. V. Third, if the covenant be viewed in relation to the first sanction in Christ, it has no previous condition, but rests upon the grace of God and the merit of Christ alone. But if it is considered in relation to ITS ACCEPTANCE AND APPLICATION TO THE BELIEVER, it has faith as a condition (uniting man to Christ and so bringing him into the fellowship of the covenant). If, however, in relation to its consummation with faith (obedience and the desire of holiness), it has the relation of condition and means because without them no one shall see God (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.5).

    Francis Turretin. VII. Nor can it be objected here that faith was required also in the first covenant and works are not excluded in the second . They stand in a far different relation. For in the first covenant. faith was required as a work and a part of the inherent righteousness to which life was promised. But in the second, faith is demanded-not as a work on account of which life is given, but as a mere instrument apprehending the righteousness of Christ (on account of which alone salvation is granted to us). In the one, faith was a theological virtue FROM THE STRENGTH OF NATURE, terminating on God, the Creator.

    in the second, the covenant of grace, faith is an evangelical condition after the manner of supernatural grace, terminating on God, the Redeemer. As to works, they were required in the first as an antecedent condition by way of a cause for acquiring life; but in the second, they are only the subsequent condition as the fruit and effect of the life already acquired. In the covenant of works, works ought to precede the act of justification. in the covenant of grace, works follow justification (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.4.7).


    Francis Turretin. XV. There is not the same opposition throughout between the Old and New Testaments as there is between the law and the gospel. The opposition of the law and the gospel (in as far as they are taken properly and strictly for the covenant of works and of grace and are considered in their absolute being) is contrary. They are opposed as the letter killing and the Spirit quickening; as Hagar gendering to bondage and Sarah gendering to freedom, although the law more broadly taken and in its relative being is subordinated to the gospel. But the opposition of the Old and New Testaments broadly viewed is relative, inasmuch as the Old contained the shadows of things to come (Heb. 10:1) and the New the very image (ten eikona) (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.8.15).

    Francis Turretin (1623-87). XI. Not without reason did the Holy Spirit wish to designate the covenant of grace under the name of “promise,” because it rests entirely upon the divine promise. In this it wonderfully differs, not only from all human covenants (which consist of a mutual obligation and stipulation of the parties), but from the covenant of works (which although it also had its own promise on the part of God to the doers and so was founded on the goodness of God, still it required obedience on the part of man that it might be put into execution). But here God wished the whole of this covenant to depend upon his promise, not only with regard to the reward promised by him, but also with regard to the duty demanded from us. Thus God performs here not only his own part, but also ours; and if the covenant is given for the happiness of only the one party, it is guarded and fulfilled by the fidelity of only one party. Hence not only God’s blessings fall under the promise, but also man’s duty; not only the end, but also the means and conditions leading us to it (as will be shown in the proper place) (Institutes of Elenctic Theology [Topic 12, Q. 1.11).

    Francis Turretin. II. ( 1 ) Condition is used either antecedently and a priori, for that which has the force of a meritorious and impulsive cause to obtain the benefits of the covenant (the performance of which gives man a right to the reward); or concomitantly and consequently a posterior), for that which has the relation of means and disposition in the subject, required in the covenanted. (2) A condition is either natural, flowing from the strength belonging to nature; or supernatural and divine, depending upon grace. (3) The federal promise is twofold: either concerning the end or the means, i.e., either concerning salvation or concerning faith and repentance (because each is the gift of God). (4) The covenant can be considered either in relation to its institution by God or in relation to its first application to the believer or in relation to its perfect consummation (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.2)

    Francis Turretin. III. These things being laid down, we say first, if the condition is taken antecedently and a priori for the meritorious and impulsive cause and for a natural condition, the covenant of grace is rightly denied to be conditioned. It is wholly gratuitous, depending upon the sole good will (eudokia) of God and upon no merit of man. Nor can the right to life be founded upon any action of ours, but on the righteousness of Christ alone. But if it is taken consequently and a posterior) for the instrumental cause, receptive of the promises of the covenant and for the disposition of the subject, admitted into the fellowship of the covenant (which flows from grace itself), Turretin, 3—It cannot be denied that the covenant of grace is conditional. …. Unless it was conditional, there would be no place for threatenings in the gospel– the neglect of faith and obedience cannot be culpable, if not required. Otherwise it would follow that God is bound in this covenant to man and not man to God (which is contrary to the nature of all covenants, in which there always is a mutual agreement and a reciprocal obligation because the contracting parties are bound on both sides-as between a husband and wife, I a king and his subjects, etc.) (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.3).

    Francis Turretin. XV. Thus we have demonstrated how faith is a condition in this covenant. Now we must see whether it performs this office alone or whether other virtues are with it, particularly repentance. Concerning this, the orthodox dispute among themselves-some denying and others affirming. We think the matter may be readily settled by a distinction, if we bear in mind the different senses to a condition. It may be taken either broadly and improperly (for all that man is bound to afford in the covenant of grace) or strictly and properly (for that which has some causality in reference to life and on which not only antecedently, but also causally, eternal life in its own manner depends). If in the latter sense, faith is the sole condition of the covenant because under this condition alone pardon of sins and salvation as well as eternal life are promised (]n. 3:16, 36; Rom. 10:9). There is no other which could perform that office because there is no other which is receptive of Christ and capable of applying his righteousness. But in the former, there is nothing to hinder repentance and the obedience of the new life from being called a condition because they are reckoned among the duties of the covenant (Jn. 13:17; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 8:13) (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.15).

    Francis Turretin. XVI. Second, the condition is either antecedent to the acceptance of the covenant (which holds the relation of the cause why we are received into it) or subsequent (holding relation of means and the way by which we go forward to its consummation). In the former sense, faith is the sole condition of the covenant because it alone embraces Christ with his benefits. But in the latter sense, holiness and obedience can have the relation of a condition because they are the mean and the way by which we arrive at the full possession of the blessings of the covenant. If they do not have causality either with respect to justification (or eternal life flowing from it), still in other respects they pertain to this covenant both as inseparable attendants of true and sincere faith because “faith ought to be effectual through love” (Gal. 5:6), as the qualities of those to be saved (Mt. 5:8; 25:35, 36, Heb. 12:14), as fruits of the Spirit in Christ (Rom. 8:2, 9,10) and marks of our conformity with Christ (Rom. 6:4, 5; Col. 3:1; Eph. 2:4, 5), as proofs of our gratitude towards God (Tit. 2:14), as testimonies of our sonship (I ~n. 3:3; Rom. 8:15) and as duties which the rational creature owes to God (Lk. 17:10) (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.16).

    Francis Turretin. XVII. There is not the same relation of justification and of the covenant through all things. To the former, faith alone concurs, but to the observance of the latter 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 the legal is prescribed for the meriting of life, the evangelical, however, only for the possession of it. The former precedes as the cause of life (“Do this and thou shalt live”)) the latter follows as its fruit, not that you may live but because you live. The former is not admitted unless it is perfect and absolute; the latter is admitted even if l imperfect provided it be sincere. That is only commanded as man’s duty; this is also promised and given as the gift of God (Institutes of Elenctic Theology; 12.3.17).

  21. markmcculley Says:


    We may say that He died as our representative, our surety and our substitute, but the only fact that can explain the substitution itself is that we and He were federally one. The Father gave us to Him; He (voluntarily and willingly) accepted us; and He kept us and saved us. In the mystery of eternal communion with the Father and the Spirit He took full responsibility for the sins of His/Their people; undertook to answer for them; and promised to do all that their remission required.

    In discussing the priesthood, Martin links the concept closely to the idea of intercession. The whole point of the sacrifice of Christ is to lay a foundation for the intercession. This immediately means that the primary movement of the atonement must be God-ward. If His intercession is God-ward (pros ton patera, 1 John 2:1) then the hilasmos on which it is based must be God-ward as well. This is fatal to all subjective theories of the atonement. The Intercessor seeks to influence God: to move Him (in accordance, of course, with the Father’s own eternal predisposition) to forgive the sins of which His people stand accused; to provide for their needs; and to receive their praise.

    None of this is compatible with the idea of an intercession or atonement of which the purpose is to change us; or, more precisely, to change our views of the divine character. In fact Martin holds that the Liberal argument is fatal to its own cause. If God is prepared to forgive us only on condition that we change our minds about His character, what kind of God is He? What kind of Judge is He: one whose final verdict and sentence depend on what the accused think of Himself? The orthodox doctrine was moral at its very core: forgiveness must be grounded in equity, and equity is secured by the vicarious obedience of Christ. But if the structures of the moral universe presented no impediment to remission – if it was simply a matter of the divine will – then it was unspeakably churlish of the Almighty to require any kind of atonement: particularly an atonement which had as its object changing men’s minds about Himself. Reduced to its essence, the Abelardian view and all its modern variants amount simply to this: `Love me: or else!’

    Underlying all of Martin’s thought is a keen sense of the sheer anomalousness of Calvary. It was an absurdity! an outrage! Why did the wrath of God alight here? here, on the Sinless One? here, on God’s only Son? Such an outpouring of God’s anger has momentous implications for morality and even for theism. `The universe were one vast hell of suspense and horror,’ writes Martin, ` if God’s wrath could alight elsewhere than where it is deserved.’

    Other points in Martin’s treatment deserve to be noted briefly. First, His unequivocal stress on the primacy of the divine love. He had no patience with the idea that Christ had to make the Father willing: `if God the Son could turn the mind of the Father, then God is not of one mind, neither are the Son and the Father one.’ Martin would have been totally sympathetic to the modern idea that the Father and the Son are characterised by homoagape: they are one-and-the-same-in-love. God in His triuneness loved His people from all eternity. Indeed, He never existed without loving them. The atonement is the result of that love, not its cause.

    Secondly, Martin drew a clear distinction between forgiveness and remission. Mere forgiveness, he argues, is not remission. Forgiveness is `letting the sinner off’. Remission is much more radical. It is the removal of guilt, criminality and blameworthiness: `a position and relation towards God in which His wrath would be undue, unrighteous, impossible.’ This is the position of the believer. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, he is not merely `let off’. In Christ, he is righteous with all the righteousness of God. The moral universe has no more right to strike him down that it has to topple the Almighty from His throne.

    Finally, Martin implicitly rejects the oft-quoted aphorism that `theories of the atonement are commonly correct in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny.’ Referring to subjective theories of the atonement, he writes: `there is not only no measure of truth in these theories, but they are wholly false and deadly, when presented, as they often are presented, as adequate expositions of the doctrine of the atonement, explanations of the reason and design of the death of Jesus.’

    Martin was, surely, correct. The Moral Influence Theory (that Christ died to impress upon us a sense of the divine love) and the Rectoral Theory (that Christ died to solemnise us with a sense of divine justice) are, both of them, false as explanations of the way that the death of Christ actually atones. It atones by its God-ward effect. The effect man-wards is entirely secondary.

    But even that is not all. Unless there is a primary effect God-wards (unless, indeed, there is a necessity that remission be grounded in equity) the secondary ideas lose all their force. The cross demonstrates neither the divine love nor the divine justice unless it was, first of all, necessary. In themselves, Martin argues, these theories are `airy nothings’. They derive all their truth, reality and power from just that old doctrine which they malign and subvert. When their advocates reject the doctrine that Christ died as an indispensable expiatory and propitiatory sacrifice they are rejecting the very foundation on which their own theories stand: `As if sunbeams should deride the sun!’

  22. markmcculley Says:

    Tom Nettles—the Arminian idea of free will is not demanded by the Bible at all, but only by the inference drawn from the no-grace-no-justice assumption….”Add the call for repentance and obedience throughout Scripture to Hebrews 10:12 to land on a paradoxical combination of grace and ability that is the basisof prevenient grace”. This piggy-backing of grace onto the command does not come from any element in the text….the whole idea of obligatory grace is contrary to the biblical presentation of grace as pure



  23. markmcculley Says:

    Amyraut—“Sin seems to have changed not only the whole face of the universe, but even the entire design of the first creation, and if one may speak this way, seems to have induced to adopt new councels”

    and thus God becomes the God who declares not the end from the beginning but the end from the fall

    the fall is conditioned on the sinner, and the creation is either plan a or no plan at all

    did God make the world, and then decide (after man decided) what to do with the world

    why must we deny that death is God’s work also?

    why must we deny that the fall of Adam is God’s work also?

    why must we keep talking about what Adam “could have done” or “might have done”?

    was God’s plan a to be glorified in a church of human Adams who never sinned? (Ephesians 3:20)

  24. markmcculley Says:

    Tianqi Wu- We should not identify Christ’s death on the cross with justification, because justification a spiritual blessing given by means of the cross. Once we realize this, it takes away the objection against “application”of (imputation of ) the righteousness in order to justification. – If the “new heart” is not immediately given at the cross (or even immediately given at the birth of each elect after the cross), then it is conceivable that “forgiveness of sins” is also not immediately given at the cross. “

  25. markmcculley Says:

    Nettles thinks Andrew Fuller is the way into the truth, i think Fuller is the way people stop short of the truth, and mistake his lies for truth


  26. markmcculley Says:

    Graham Shearer–If the new covenant does not simply demand but also provides a new heart for the covenant people, then is it a covenant that saves? If a faithful heart is a fruit of Christ’s covenantal priestly work then there cannot be ‘a separation between the provision of atonement and its application to the people.’37


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