Did Jesus save the elect by getting the blessing of the law or by getting the curse of the law?

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall LIVE by faith.” (Habbakuk 2:4)

12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall LIVE by them.” (Leviticus 18:5)

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— (Deuteronomy 21:23)

Even elect Gentiles (who were never under the Mosaic covenant) are saved because of Christ’s bearing the curse of the Mosaic law.  Some who reject the need for law-keeping imputed are Socinians who deny the need for any law satisfaction at all. If forgiveness is sovereign, they claim, there is no need to satisfy the law at all in any way, Thus the Socinians say, if there is any need to satisfy the law, then there cannot be any forgiveness. They play off God’s sovereignty against God’s righteousness.

I am not doing that. But I am contrasting Christ’s death as the satisfactory curse of the law over against the traditional idea that the law cannot be satisfied by death but only by “active obedience”, which is how the Reformed tradition often refers to the Mosaic law-keeping of Christ.  Christ’s death can keep you from death, we are told. But if you want life from the law, then Christ’s death won’t get you that, because for that, you need to be imputed with Christ’s Mosaic law-keeping.

But what is being kept from death if not life? The tradition seems to say that Christ’s death only gets us back to where Adam was, which was life on probation, which was life only because no sins were yet counted toward us. The tradition says that Adam could have gotten immortality if only he had kept the law (the tradition even tends to say that Adam was keeping the Sabbath, since it equates “moral law” with “Mosaic law”), and therefore the tradition says that Christ got immortality for us not by His death but by His law-keeping.

Calvin—“In His death and resurrection, all things are furnished to us, expiation of sins, freedom from condemnation, satisfaction, victory over death, the attainment of righteousness, and the hope of a blessed immortality.”

I am very glad when Reformed folks at least don’t reject the idea that the blood (the death of Christ) is no part of Christ’s righteousness. But we need to be very careful how we say that. Many folks are saying that the death is the new covenant remission, but that the Mosaic law-keeping is the righteousness

Let’s be clear about justification—while agreeing with Calvin and Romans 4 that we can equate forgiveness and justification, I do teach that justification entitles us to all the positive blessings of salvation, not only forgiveness of sins but access to God and etc

The non-imputation of sins IS imputation of righteousness. The pardon of sins IS justification of sinners This does not mean that we who teach that Christ’s death is our righteousness are saying that justification is only forgiveness. I am not teaching that. (Piscator did not teach that either.) While sins of omission are also remitted, that does not change the fact that God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect results in the new birth, faith in the gospel, glorification, all the positive things are earned by Christ’s death.

The greater problem comes with folks like Shepherd and Hornes when they say that only initial justification by the death, and future justification by “union with the Spirit of the risen Christ causing us to work”.

I reject Shepherd’s view. It’s easy to to assume that there are only two sides—if I don’t agree to union with the Mosaic law-keeping of Jesus (union with his circumcision, union with his water baptism, union with his praying, union with his believing, etc), it can be assumed that the only other choice is a future justification (access) by the Holy Spirit causing me to work, to “progress in sanctification”.

But there are more than two choices I reject union with the Mosaic law-keeping of Jesus . Union with Adam’s sin was not union with Adam’s entire life of sinning. But I also reject in any way the Shepherd/ Gaffin idea that the death is not enough righteousness, and that future blessings are conditioned on what i do in union with the resurrected Christ. Justification is forgiveness, but more than forgiveness

Mathew 5: 17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Mosaic Law or the Mosaic Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will be satisfied from the law until not only my death is accomplished but more importantly I have spent my entire life obeying to the Mosaic law. Therefore, whoever teaches people that Christ’s death alone will be enough justice for God to forgive all their future sis will have to teach them they will need to obey the Mosaic law because they forget that Christ’s life of obeying the Mosaic law is the justice that God uses to actually bless elect sinners positively….. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 24: 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ suffer these things and enter into His glory, but also that was not enough, since there would have been no hope for our entering glorying unless the Mosaic law keeping of the Christ be imputed to us

I Corinthians 15: I gave over to you as of first importance that which I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised the third day according to Scriptures, and so that gets us back to where Adam was, but according to the Reformed tradition, Christ kept the Mosaic law and this was what God imputed to us in order for us to have eternal life

the rich young ruler asking what must I do—
—keep the covenant of works for a significant period of time sell you stuff and give it to the poor, or you will die
—-or the other choice, for the rest of your life, attend the sacramental means of grace which will assure you that Christ has kept the covenant of works for you—in any case, don’t trust in my death alone, not enough, no hope without something more, some other plus factor—–i am keeping the law for those who accept the “sincere offer” ….

Romans 3:24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Him as a propitiation[ through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 but God also presented His entire life of vicarious Mosaic law keeping to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, because His death alone was not enough justice to pass over sins, and God needed the Mosaic law-keeping of Christ in order to declare righteous the one who has faith in Christ Jesus……Do we then cancel the law through faith? Absolutely not! If we only trusted in the death of Christ alone , of course, that would be ignoring the positive results which come from obeying the law. But on the contrary, because we know also that there is no hope (none) without Christ’s life of obeying the Mosaic law we uphold the Mosaic law and the Mosaic law was what Adam already knew all about and also the standard by which we define anything Jesus commanded or did by way of example….

Romans 8:3-4 What the law could not do since it was limited by our flesh, God DID by sending His son to keep the Mosaic law for us, 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who are legally united to his Mosaic law keeping

Hebrews 10: 10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified not only through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all time because that would merely leave us where Adam started but we have been sanctified through the offering of the Mosaic law keeping of Jesus Christ for 33 years (since he was not killed as a baby)

11 Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this great high priest did take away sins, but that was not enough to take away our sins of omission against the covenant of works, so this man, before offering one sacrifice for sins forever, day after day for 33 years kept the Mosaic law an there would be no hope only in the death if it were not for what Christ did to satisfy the law before then because not even His death would have been enough to perfect permanently those who are sanctified.

II Cor 5: 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, but that alone was not enough in order for us to become the righteousness of God in Him, so He also had the One to not only not sin, but to do positive acts and works to keep the Mosaic law, and it is that positive stuff He did (not the death) which is the righteousness which is imputed to us which causes us to legally become the righteousness of God in Christ

Romans 5:9 having been now justified by His keeping the Mosaic law, because His death only remitted sins but did not justify…..we shall be saved by his entire life of keeping the Mosaic law, because His resurrection from death is not what shall save us, because there is no hope without His entire life of keeping the Mosaic law….

Galatians 2:21 for if righteousness is through the Mosaic law keeping of Jesus, then Jesus DIED for no reason

Romans 10:4 is the law Christ’s goal or is Christ the law’s goal?

Christ’s end is to keep the Mosaic law? or is it the Mosaic law’s end to witness to Christ? (Or both?)

Philippians 3: 10 to know Him and the fellowship of His keeping the Mosaic law for us

My goal is to be conformed to His keeping of the Mosaic law

I Thessalonians 5 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who kept the Mosaic law for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him

Calvin on Romans 4:25 —When we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting the completion of perfect righteousness.

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27 Comments on “Did Jesus save the elect by getting the blessing of the law or by getting the curse of the law?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    The Fatal Flaw, by Jeffrey Johnson, Free Grace Press, 2010—-“The covenant of works that Christ was obligated to fulfill could not have been the covenant of creation. Why ?Because this covenant had already been broken and its death penalty issued upon Adam’s fallen race. Thus Christ had to be born outside the broken covenant of creation…He could not be born under the federal headship of Adam. As Wisius explains, ‘That the surety was not from Adam’s covenant, not born under the law of nature, and consequently not born under the imputation of Adam’s sin.’
    Johnson continues: “The law justifies but before the law men could not merit salvation by works, because there was no covenant….If all this is true, then the Mosaic covenant had to be a covenant of works; our salvation depended upon it. If not, there would be no covenant to reward the man Christ Jesus for His obedience.”

    I agree with Johnson’s larger point, which is that the Mosaic covenant cannot be seen as an “administration of the covenant of grace”. But I go further and question even the idea of any “the covenant of grace.” Which covenant is “the covenant of grace”? Is it the Abrahamic covenant? Is it the new covenant? Are both those covenants one and the same? Are both those covenants administrations of “the covenant of grace”? Johnson is good in showing that the Abrahamic covenant had both its unconditional and conditional aspects. .. Gal 3:16 explains that the promise was made to Abraham and his seed, and then explains that Christ is that one seed.

    On page 163, Johnson seems to give away his case for the Mosaic covenant being the “covenant of works”. In a footnote, he acknowledges that Gentiles were not under the Mosaic covenant, but then says “nevertheless they were still under the covenant of works” and then quotes Romans 2:14 (a law unto themselves). But doesn’t this show that you can be under a covenant of works and not be under Moses? And if so, doesn’t this show that Christ could have been under a “covenant of works” for His elect without that being the Mosaic covenant?

  2. markmcculley Says:

    . “The law, once satisfied by Christ, now demands the salvation of all the elect, for whom the law was satisfied.”

    1. The language is from Bill Parker, and ultimately from John Owen. 2. Before I was converted, I would have said, I want mercy not justice. 3. Now, I still know the difference between mercy and justice (God does not have to be merciful), but now that I know the gospel,I want justice, I want Christ to be satisfied for what He did by the salvation of all the elect. The end of Isaiah 53….

    4. The language of “now the elect are entitled to all the blessings” bothers some people because it’s used by some people who seem to have forgotten mercy. We need to make some kind of distinction so that we are saying both that a. justice FOR CHRIST demands salvation for us, but ALSO that the salvation for us is mercy FOR US.

    It’s not the either/or the Socinians make it out to be.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Grudem, p 570—“Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s ‘active obedience,’ while his suffering and dying for our sins is called his ‘passive obedience.’ Paul says his goal is that he may be found in Christ, ‘not having a righteousness of [his] own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith’ (Phil. 3:9). It is not just moral neutrality that Paul knows he needs from Christ (that is, a clean slate with sins forgiven), but a positive moral righteousness.”


    This is not a Reformed paedobaptist thing—no way I would call Grudem Reformed, not because of water but because he rejects the importance of definite atonement (Christ’s death satisfying the law). But many dispensationalists teach law-keeping imputed

    Grudem—.p 570— Jesus Christ succeeded in obeying God perfectly when He lived a sinless life under the Mosaic Law. In doing so, He earned righteousness for His people. If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of Adam and Eve before they had done anything good or bad and before they had passed a time of probation successfully. To be established in righteousness forever and to have their fellowship with God made sure forever, Adam and Eve had to obey God perfectly over a period of time. Then God would have looked on their faithful obedience with pleasure and delight, and they would have lived with him in fellowship forever. For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us.”

    Grudem, p516—“In this statement to Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall die’ (Gen. 2:16-17)] there is a promise of punishment for disobedience—death…In the promise of punishment for disobedience there is implicit a promise of blessing for obedience. This blessing would consist of not receiving death, and the implication is that the blessing would be the opposite of receiving “death.” It would involve physical life that would not end and spiritual life in terms of a relationship with God that would go on forever. The presence of the ‘tree of life…in the midst of the garden’ (Gen. 2:9) also signified the promise of eternal life with God if Adam and Eve had met the conditions of a covenant relationship by obeying God completely until he decided that their time of testing was finished. After the fall, God removed Adam and Eve from the garden, partly so that they would not be able to take from the tree of life ‘and eat, and live forever.’”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Engelsma–Highlighting the difference between Hoeksema and the men of the Federal Vision is the fact that, although they deny that Adam could have merited higher, eternal life, the advocates of the Federal Vision allow that Adam might, nevertheless, have obtained the higher life for himself and the race by “maturing” into that life through his obedience. Hoeksema would have condemned this notion as heartily as he did the notion of earning. The appeal to Hoeksema’s rejection of the covenant of works by the men of the Federal Vision is mistaken because Hoeksema’s fundamental objection against the covenant of works was different from that of the proponents of the Federal Vision. Hoeksema’s objection held against Adam’s obtaining higher life for himself and the human race in any manner whatever. Viewing the covenant with Adam in light of God’s eternal decree to glorify Himself by realizing His covenant in Jesus Christ, Hoeksema insisted that only the Son of God in human flesh could obtain the higher and better heavenly and eternal life for Himself and elect humanity, in the way of His cross and resurrection.



  5. markmcculley Says:

    Christ’s death was one act of “active obedience”. We could say, well it seems “arbitrary” to say the one act starts at this minute but not before this minute. But I don’t know anybody who teaches that Adam’s entire life of disobedience was imputed by God to us. Sure, Christ was circumcised and kept the Mosaic law, but nowhere does the Bible teach that we are legally united to Christ’s Mosaic law-keeping. We who have been joined to His death will be joined to His resurrection. Romans 6:5 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)

    the comparison between Adam and Christ is that the guilt of Adam’s one act of disobedience is imputed to the elect and that the righteousness of Christ’s one act of obedience is imputed to the elect. Adam and Christ were NOT born under the same law. Christ was born under the Mosaic law, but Adam was not. Christ came to die to win immortality for the elect. Adam was threatened with death for disobedience, but was never promised immortality no matter what he would ever do. https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/was-the-physical-circumcision-of-christ-part-of-christs-righteousness/

  6. markmcculley Says:


    Lee Irons—Exegetical study of Paul’s teaching on the Law has convinced me that it is impossible to separate the stipulations of the Law from the sanctions. The very fact that the stipulations are telling you to do something or warning you against disobedience implies that they are speaking to you apart from your union with Christ, as if you were not doing what the Law required or as if you might be tempted not to. The Law of Christ speaks to us from a totally different, new covenant ethical framework. It speaks to us in a voice which implies that the Law’s demands have already been completely satisfied.

    We have died to the Law; we have already suffered its curse. Since the Law’s demands have been fully satisfied by us in Christ, the Law has no more to say to us, no more to demand of us. “Or do you not know, brethren, … that the Law has jurisdiction over a person only as long as he lives?” (Rom. 7:1). “Through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God” (Gal. 2:19). …God’s moral will, however, must not be equated with the Decalogue, nor can it be defanged into a list of bare non-covenantal commands – “the moral law not as covenant of work ”

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 7: 2 For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband. 3 So then, if she gives herself to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law. Then, if she gives herself to another man, she is not an adulteress. 4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—that we may bear fruit for God.

    Since the Mosaic law is God’s timeless law, it is like a husband who never dies, so you are not going to ever get out of having to do what the husband says to do just because you die. But you can perhaps say that you are not under the husband “as a covenant of works”, but you won’t get to that position simply because Christ died or because you died in Christ, oh no that would not nearly be enough. You are not going to get out of needing to obey in order to live, not merely because you died, not on the basis of Christ’s death alone, but if you look past Christ’s death to his entire life of keeping the law, then that will be what gets you out from under the husband, not totally, but at least not under the husband ” as a covenant of works”

    if the husband dies, but the husband is not ever going to die, and so the wife is not ever going to be married to another, because all laws are one same law, and all covenants are one same covenant. So the wife can die, but the husband is not going to die, and so even the death of Christ for the wife will never be enough, unless added to His death is the Mosaic law keeping of Christ, because the relation to the law is not going to be terminated merely through the crucified body of Christ.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    We certainly mean not to dispute that the righteousness of the law consists in works, and not only so, but that justification consists in the dignity and merits of works. But this proves not that we are justified by works unless they can produce some one who has fulfilled the law. …” – Calvin, Institutes 3.17.13 Does this mean that Christ’s death is not His work? Does this mean that we are not justified by the blood?

    Since Christ’s death was most certainly both ACTIVE and OBEDIENCE, the scholastic distinction only becomes important only when it is denied that Christ’s death is any part of the righteousness for which the believer is justified, or when it is taught that Christ’s death in making satisfaction or expiation or bearing the penalty of the law only brings the elect person remission and back to where we were in Adam. This rejection of the death as the righteousness, so that we have no hope except in death AND some other righteousness (his keeping of the Mosaic law) is not taught in Scripture, and vitiates the doctrine of justification as presented in the Bible. Adam was never under the Mosaic law, and Adam was never promised immortality based on his law-keeping.

    It’s one thing to want to keep the “sabbath” in some form, it’s another to flatten out the covenants so that the Mosaic law is not only our rule of life but even the means of our salvation, so that it is taught there is no hope of justification in Christ’s blood alone but only in His obedience to the Mosaic covenant.

  9. markmcculley Says:


    Barcellos: In his book Tablets of Stone, Reisinger argues that the Old Covenant was for Israel alone and also, contradicting himself, that Christ fulfilled its terms for New Covenant Christians. Owen teaches that Christ fulfilled the terms of the Adamic covenant of works for Christians . Owen taught that obedience or disobedience to the Old Covenant in itself neither eternally saved
    nor eternally condemned anyone and that its promises were temporal and only for Israel while under it. According to Owen, what Christ kept for us was the original Adamic covenant of
    works, not the Mosaic covenant.

    Coxe deals with the covenants from the covenant of works
    through the Covenant of Circumcision. Owen deals with the Mosaic and New Covenants in his Hebrews commentary. Both may have held to the ‘each covenant has its own positive law’
    motif, though if so, they applied it differently when it came to the subjects of baptism. But neither used it to eliminate the Decalogue from the New Covenant.

    Radical antinomians eliminate the Decalogue because it is law. Doctrinal antinomians eliminate it because it is Moses’ Law and not Christ’s. This has detrimental implications for the identity of the Natural Law, the basis of the covenant of works, the perpetuity of the Moral Law, the Sabbath, and the imputation of the active obedience of Christ–indeed, the gospel itself

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Torrance argued for an “active obedience” in which Christ repented for us, believed for us, was born again for us, was converted for us, and worships for us. “We must think of him as taking our place even in our acts of repentance” (The Mediation of Christ, p 95)

    Donald Macleod responds—There is a great discontinuity between Christ and sinners. They were sinners and Christ was not. He could not trust in God’s forgiveness because he had no need of forgiveness. He could not be born again because he required no changed of heart. He could not be converted because His life demanded no change of direction.

    If we move from the idea of Jesus as a believer to the idea of Jesus as the one who is believed IN, does Jesus believe, vicariously, in Himself?….It is not his faith that covers the deficiencies of our faith (as it is given to us by God). It is Christ’s death that covers the deficiencies of our faith…Our faith is not in the Son of God who believed for us, but in the Son of God who gave Himself for us.

    p 214, Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified, IVP, 2014—-Christ never fell, had not guilt, and knew no sin. Human nature as individualized in Christ was not fallen. Christ did not suffer from the disease of sin. In what sense then did Christ heal human nature by becoming the patient and taking the disease? As Christ faced temptation and suffering, Christ did so with a mind unclouded by sin…

    Human nature after the cross remains as it was before the cross. If Christ healed our humanity by taking our humanity, then Christ was crucified by the very nature he had healed….

    According to Torrance, Christ condemned sin by saying no to the flesh and living a life of perfect faith, worship and obedience. But this would mean that the condemnation of sin did not take place on the cross, but in the daily life of Christ. But Romans 8:3 says that it not Jesus but God the Father who condemns sin in the flesh. While it was indeed in the flesh of his Son that God condemned sin but it was not only in his Son as incarnate, but in his Son as a sin-offering.. God condemned sin by passing judgement on his Son.

    Theosis (participation in the divine nature, II Peter 1:4) is NOT the reason for God being reconciled to us. We are justified as ungodly (Romans 4:5), not as partakers of a nature which has been united with the divine.

  11. the union with the resurrection folks (Gaffin) keep saying that you can’t get from His death (past) to life now and in the future.

    Scott F. Sanborn teaches that Christ’s death is not His righteousness, and that only Christ’s life of vicarious law-keeping life is His righteousness. In this thinking, the death of Christ is not imputed to us, but only the life of Christ is imputed to us. According to this “active/passive”distinction, we don’t receive His death by imputation, and His death is not part of His righteousness. “It is not death that is the ground of life in Christ. Rather, it is the righteous life of Christ that is the ground of our life.
    Sanborn — “God had an end for creating the world apart from the fall and redemption.Jonathan Edwards had this in mind when he wrote his work The End for Which God Created the World…… only the end of creation was revealed in creation, not the end of the fall and redemption. The end of redemption was not revealed in the person of Adam at that time .Adam was not a type of Christ at that time….The infralapsarian position suggests that we cannot assert that God intended to create Adam in such a way as to be a type of Christ later. ”

  12. markmcculley Says:

    AO advocates claim that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to take away sin, but the sacrifice is not enough to make one righteous. First, that idea is not present in this particular text and furthermore, the assertion that the Christ’s sacrifice is somehow insufficient really demonstrates the absurdity of the position held by AO advocates. The removal of sin results in righteousness!

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. – Romans 3:23-25
    Notice: there is no mention of a perfect life, only His blood which is just another way to speak of His death.

    But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. – Romans 5:9-10
    The phrase “justified by His blood” could not be clearer. Again, there is no mention of need to also be imputed with a perfect life in order to be justified.

    For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all…All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself … in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them… – 2 Corinthians 5:14-18


  13. markmcculley Says:

    False generalization by Phil Johnson–” All those who deny that Christ’s law-keeping is imputed are teaching that redemption is accomplished by the setting aside of the law’s absolute demands, not by Christ’s satisfying the law.”
    I don’t think that Christ was watered as our substitute
    But I do think there could be other motives for our being watered (don’t ask me which, I don’t care).
    I don’t think Christ’s law keeping is a substitute for our obeying the law.
    But I do think that Christ’s death is a substitute for our needing to (or being motivated to) keep the law as a means of obtaining blessings,.

    Because i do think Christ’s death means our not being under the law.

    But I do NOT think that our not being under the law means that we cannot sin by disobeying the law of Christ.

    There was no Jewish law that commanded Christ or anyone else to be baptized with water . Christ was not offering obedience to the Jewish law, His water baptism was necessary, but the question is: In what way was it necessary? The Bible does not teach that His water baptism merited part of the righteousness which is imputed to the elect. The Bible does not teach that his incarnation or his resurrection or his resurrection status or his physical circumcision is part of the righteousness which is imputed.

  14. markmcculley Says:

    I believe that Christ’s finished death as satisfaction to the law is Christ’s righteous obedience imputed to the saints, and I very much reject the idea that Christ’s death imputed would only make us “neutral” again. I am “biblicist” enough to ask for texts which teach (even by inference) that everything Christ did is imputed to the elect for our justification. Is Christ’s incarnation imputed to us? Is Christ’s resurrection imputed to us? But more importantly, I object to any scheme in which Christ’s righteousness is restricted to His life and does not include His finished act of obedience unto death. No, the law to Adam never commanded Adam’s death. But Christ’s righteousness is not Adam’s righteousness, and Christ’s righteousness very much includes His death.


  15. markmcculley Says:

    Reformed—you deny the covenant of works with a promise of eternal life for perfect obedience,

    mark: I deny that there is a covenant of works with Adam, but not that there is a covenant of works with Christ. I know one argument that says if we deny the one with Adam then we must deny merit and justice to Christ’s work, and I am as alarmed as you are when I see many folks making that conclusion. Much like you, I deny that Christ was under grace. I also insist that Christ was under law, because of the sins of the elect imputed.

    Reformed— You defy the covenant of grace

    mark: I teach that even the elect of the Old Testament are only saved by the death of the mediator of the new covenant. So I would teach that the new covenant is “THE covenant of grace” but your tradition has used that language to describe a covenant concept which is distinct from election. I deny that the Mosaic covenant is “an administration of the covenant of grace”. The Mosaic covenant is “the old covenant”, and I deny that the covenant older and before the Mosaic covenant ( Abrahamic covenant) is an “administration of the covenant of grace”. The children of the flesh are not elect to the life of the age to come.

    I reject separating “the covenant of redemption with Christ for the elect alone” from some “the covenant of grace which includes both the elect and the non-elect. ” I know there are several different arguments for that distinction, but I think the most basic motivation is paedobaptist ecclesiology.

  16. markmcculley Says:

    AA HODGE— the imputation of Christ’s righteous to us is the necessary precondition of the restoration to us of the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to our regeneration The notion that the necessary precondition of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness is our own faith, of which the necessary precondition is regeneration, is analogous to the rejected theory that the inherent personal moral corruption of each of Adam’s descendants is the necessary precondition of the imputation of his guilt to them. On the contrary, if the imputation of guilt is the causal antecedent of inherent depravity, in like manner the imputation of righteousness must be the causal antecedent of regeneration and faith.

  17. markmcculley Says:

    not many acts of law-keeping but by one sacrificial offering

    Hebrews 10: 12 But this man, after offering ONE sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.

    14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.

    the Mosaic law asked for animal sacrifices. The contrast in Hebrews 10 is between those old sacrifices and Christ’s death. The contrast is NOT between the law-keeping of Christ and the old animal sacrifices. Hebrews 10: 3 But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said:
    You did not want sacrifice and offering,
    but You prepared a body for Me.
    6 You did not delight
    in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings.
    7 Then I said, “See—
    it is written about Me
    in the volume of the scroll—
    I have come to do Your will, God!”
    8 After He says above, You did not want or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings (which are offered according to the law), 9 He then says, See, I have come to do Your will.He takes away the first to establish the second. 10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified THROUGH THE OFFERING OF THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST once and for all time

  18. markmcculley Says:

    Reformed people think that the cross without “active obedience imputed” is doing an end-run around the law

    Reformed person—Many people tend to think that when the Father sent the Son to die on the cross to forgive sins, he was in some sense “breaking the law.”Like, because of Jesus, God is letting our law-breaking somehow slide. The god preached in this kind of scenario can only forgive sins by in some way compromising his holiness. In other words, he sort of tips the scales towards his mercy and away from his righteousness. A lot of Christians tend to think of God’s work like that — bending the rules. He sacrifices one part of his self (holiness) in order that we might take advantage of another (love).

    Reformed person—God has declared that he will by no means clear the guilty So God instead makes guilty people righteous! But to do this in a way that is just, God must make a righteous person guilty. And he accomplishes this, the Bible reveals, by punishing our sin by punishing his son Jesus. In this way, all sin is accounted for. Whether by the wrath of hell or by the wrath of the cross, every single sin is accounted for. W hen you do a bit of “reverse engineering” on the atonement, you can see that it wouldn’t be very loving at all for God to have broken his own laws to save us. An atonement made by a law not perfectly satisfied is no atonement at all. If God broke his law to save me, I am not saved.

    Mark—sounds good, correct? It is good. But because the person is confessional Reformed, he can’t stop there, but goes on to add vicarious law-keeping into the mix. Sure, all wrath for the sins of the elect have been taken care of by Christ’s death. But then however, there are still the sins of omission, the sin of not doing what Adam was supposed to do to earn his own immortality. Despite all the talk of the cross, that additional merit is not added to the equation by the Reformed formula. Because, at the end of the day, the law given to Adam did not demand anybody’s death, and even if you die, or if somebody dies for you, the law still expects you to produce.

    Reformed person—The Christian God is both just and justifier, not only forgiving sinners but also by making them righteous not by their obedience (because they could never obey well enough) but by Christ’s obedience, which is perfect and thus perfectly fulfills the perfectly holy law of God. Christ’s perfect obedience to the law of God is considered as my own perfect obedience to the law of God.

  19. markmcculley Says:

    When people hear us say “imputed righteousness”, do they even know that we are talking about Christ’s death?

    Steele and Thomas, Romans: an interpretative outline: “In order to free believers from the guilt or condemnation of sinChrist gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, and thereby legally put sin away and thus freed His people from its guilt. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial work, the just requirement (demand) of the law has been fulfilled (fully met) in those who are joined to His death.”

    Charles Hodge—-“Romans 8:3 refers to the sacrificial death of Christ and to the condemnation of sin in Him as the sinners’ substitute, and Romans 8:4 refers to justification by Christ’s death in satisfaction of the law.”

    Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His glory—-The idea of an offer based on infinite sufficiency for all sinners involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as His 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 notion of sufficiency for the non-elect arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s death to what Christ actively accomplished

    Lee Irons—The active obedience of Christ cannot be reduced to the perfect life of Christ, as if it excluded his death. For Christ’s death, Paul teaches in Romans 5:18, was “the one act of righteousness” antithetically parallel to the one transgression of Adam. As he says in Philippians 2:8, Christ was “obedient unto death.”

    Hebrews. 10:1 puts it this way: “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near” (. Hebrews. 7:11, 19) In these contexts, it is crucial that we not think in terms of moral perfection. This is clear when we realize that the term is used of Christ. For example, Heb. 2:10 says that Christ was made perfect through sufferings. And it cannot be said of Christ that he ever was morally imperfect

    Lee Irons—Dispensationalism agrees that the legal ground of redemption is the same in both testaments, but it denies that the object of faith was the same. The object of faith of the Old Testament saints was not explicitly Christ himself, as covenant theology insists. So we must go on to say that the typological function of the sacrifices is not only for us to enjoy as we, from the vantage point of the new covenant, look back upon the old. It was also for the Israelites


  20. markmcculley Says:

    David Bishop—In the day you don’t eat all your vegetables you shall go to bed early.

    Ooh, daddy said I can stay up all night and watch TV if I eat my vegetables.

    Berkhof–. The great promise of the covenant of works was the promise of eternal life. They who deny the covenant of works generally base their denial in part on the fact that there is no record of such a promise in the Bible. And it is perfectly true that Scripture contains no EXPLICIT promise of eternal life to Adam.

    But the threatened penalty clearly implies such a promise. When the Lord says, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” his statement clearly implies that, if Adam refrains from eating, he will not die, but will be raised above the possibility of death. The implied promise certainly cannot mean that, in the case of obedience, Adam would be permitted to live on in the usual way, that is, to continue the ordinary natural life, for that life was his already in virtue of his creation, and therefore could not be held out as a reward for obedience.

    Mark—WHY NOT? Can’t God demand obedience without giving the reward you think God should give? Doesn’t God have the right to do with His own what God wills to do? Would it be unjust for God to simply continue to give more life on probation to a creature who has not yet sinned? Is it unjust for God to reveal that the wages of one sin is death?

    Berkhof–The IMPLIED promise EVIDENTLY was that of life raised to its highest development of perennial bliss and glory. Adam was indeed created in a state of positive holiness, and was also immortal in the sense that he was not subject to the law of death.

    MARK—-If Adam was created immortal, then God was foolish and untruthful to threaten Adam with death.

    But he was only at the beginning of his course and did not yet possess the highest privileges that were in store for man. He was not yet raised above the possibility of erring, sinning, and dying. He was not yet in possession of the highest degree of holiness, nor did he enjoy life in all its fullness.

    The image of God in man was still limited by the possibility of man’s sinning against God, changing from good to evil, and becoming subject to the power of death. The promise of life in the covenant of works was a promise of the removal of all the limitations of life to which Adam was still subject, and of the raising of his life to the highest degree of perfection.

    When Paul says in Rom. 7:10 that the commandment was unto life, he means life in the fullest sense of the word. The principle of the covenant of works was: the man that does these things shall live thereby; and this principle is reiterated time and again in Scripture, Lev. 18:5; Ezekial. 20:11, 13, 20; Luke 10:28; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12.

    —Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology 216.

  21. markmcculley Says:

    Adam had the tree of life
    if you have the tree, you have life
    Adam had life
    if you lose the tree, you lose life
    if you have Christ, you have life
    if you have Christ, you will never lose Christ
    if you have Christ, you will always have Christ
    if you have Christ, you will always have life … I John 5:12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life

  22. markmcculley Says:

    Liam Goligher—-“All future covenants will be variations of the covenant with Adam…. Adam was in a state of rectitude, perfectly capable of obeying this law, and this law is not a terribly restricting law…If Adam had obeyed, he would have presumably gone on to have children for many years and then presumably, at some point, Adam and his children would have been granted access to the tree of life and given transformed eternal glorious bodies….” God, Adam and You, Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, P and R, p 73-74

    ot the death alone, but also the suffering

    not the death alone, but also the active obedience to the law of Moses

    Joel Beeke, p 148, God Adam and You, P and R, 2015—–“The work of the second Adam was not merely to die but to obey in all things.

    Jonathan Edwards–“What Christ did brought life, not ONLY as a sacrifice but it had the nature of meriting….Christ’s active obedience was JUST AS NECESSARY to satisfy the honor of God’s law as was His death.”

    After you first tell me that the passive was also the active, and then you tell me that we must not divide or separate the passive from the active, and then after you separate the passive from the active by saying it was not enough alone…..

    Did what Christ did in His death alone have the nature of meriting?

    Is Christ’s death what Christ Did, or is the Death only what was done to Christ?

  23. markmcculley Says:

    f you only have Christ’s death but not his law=keeping—here the Gospel Coalition teaches active obedience not Christ crucified


    What these phrases miss is the doctrine of imputed righteousness—that Jesus takes the sins of believers and credits them with his perfect righteousness. A second-chance gospel often neglects (and sometimes even negates) this crucial teaching. It rightly declares Christ’s sacrifice erases the guilt of sin but tacitly teaches the gospel leaves behind an empty spiritual ledger and a morally neutral heart. It promises fresh hope by saying “God gives second chances,” but underneath carries the depressing message “God forgives; now the rest is up to you.”

    This thinking waters down the authentic gospel in two ways. First, it insinuates man isn’t helpless regarding righteousness—he only needs a clean slate and a second chance. Second, it teaches Christ’s sacrifice isn’t truly effective—mankind still needs to “get things right” via a vague number of reboots.

    Without the imputed righteousness of Christ, perfection would still be demanded of us. Thus the phrase “Today’s the first day of the rest of your life” might lead us to answer “Well, here we go again.”

  24. markmcculley Says:

    Spurgeon puts down the death of Christ in order to build up Christ’s law-keeping imputed.

    “The promises in the Word of God are not made to suffering; they are made to obedience. Consequently, Christ’s sufferings, though they may remove the penalty of sin, do not alone make me the inheritor of the promise. “If You will enter into life,” said Christ, “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). It is only Christ’s keeping the commandments that entitles me to enter life. “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable” (Isaiah 42:21). I do not enter into life by virtue of His sufferings – those deliver me from death, those purge me from filthiness;

  25. markmcculley Says:

    Christ and Him being water baptized as commanded by the Mosaic covenant?

    1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.

    1 Corinthians 2:2 For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Galatians 3 You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified?

    3: 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.

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