Impetration: The Death of Jesus Bought Satisfaction of Justice only for the elect, Not only Application

In a recent post on “hypothetical universalism”, Mark Jones does a question and answer, and tell us how good his questions are.

Jones—“As Richard Muller has often noted, there are clear versions of hypothetical universalism found in Musculus, Ursinus, Zanchi, Bullinger, et al. … the Lombardian Formula was routinely reinterpreted, revised, or downright denied by a whole host of Reformed theologians. The hypothetical universalists were typically quite accepting of the formula, while those who emphasized the particularity to the exclusion of the universality of Christ’s death were more uncomfortable with the formula as time progressed….the advocates of hypothetical universalism affirmed a special design in the death of Christ for the elect alone. … According to Calamy’s hypothetical universalism, however, Christ did purchase the efficacious APPLICATION OF Christ’s death (i.e., impetration) for the elect alone.”

For Andrew Fuller and many others, Christ’s death is specific only because of God’s sovereignty and NOT because of God’s justice, and not because of the nature of the atonement. Andrew Fuller denies that God imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ.

But unless we believe in eternal justification, don’t we all make a distinction between the atonement and its legal application? Yes, there is a time gap, but the question remains about the imputation of specific sins to Christ and the nature of the justice of Christ’s death at the cross.

This is a very common way of having a “Reformed reputation” of “affirming limited atonement” but at the same time teaching an “universal sufficient atonement”

DA Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 76—-“If one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, both sets of texts and concerns are accommodatated.”

Richard A. Muller—Note that the statement “Christ died for the elect only,” if understood as referencing the efficacy of his satisfaction, could be confessed equally by Calvin, Beza, Amyraut, and Arminius, while the meaning of statement that his “death was not intended to atone for the sins of all mankind” depends entirely on whether atonement is understood in terms of its objective accomplishment (expiatio, impetratio) or its application (applicatio) and whether the “intention” references an effective divine willing or a revealed, preceptive divine willing. [ Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 73n11.]

J. P. Boyce in his excellent Abstract of Systematic Theology calls Fuller’s ‘Universalism’.Because Fuller sees the atonement as a symbol indicating sufficiency for all, he presents salvation as being there as a free-for-all. The purpose of the gospel and the evidence of nature is merely to prepare the above-mentioned feast. The food on the table is more than sufficient for those who have the appetite (will) to enjoy it. Fuller,in his The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptance, believes that man is naturally capable of keeping the Law and that the Gospel is merely a kind of law to be obeyed. He therefore teaches that though Christ died symbolically for everybody’s sin, it is efficacious where man’s agency is involved in following law which points to Christ. In this way, Fuller dodges the issue of whether Christ actually died for His elect only or for all sinners

Imprecise “union” talk can be very dangerous. SOME 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.

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.

.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.

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13 Comments on “Impetration: The Death of Jesus Bought Satisfaction of Justice only for the elect, Not only Application”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    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’s various books and essays on John Owen). “Unionists” should not ignore Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement. Some unionists do, some don’t

  2. markmcculley Says:

    First, that there is a fear that God might be charged with injustice if an atonement is not somehow provided for all. Answer: Mercy extended to some but not all, is not to be perceived as injustice. As R. C. Sproul has suggested, all the potential acts of God may fall under two categories: justice and non-justice. Under non-justice, however, we have the sub categories of injustice and mercy. Mercy is not justice, but it is certainly not injustice. God cannot be charged with injustice. We seem to think that if God doesn’t treat everyone exactly the same, and provide mercy to all alike, then He is unjust. This is simply false reasoning and a good example of the effect of the Fall on man’s ability to think straight. It fails to stand up to either the Scriptures or logic.

    Secondly, that a universal aspect of the atonement is perceived as necessary for a bona fide offer of the gospel to all men. Answer: The truth of the gospel is to be proclaimed to all men. For example, “All men are under condemnation and hell bound because of their sin. There is no escape apart from faith in Christ. By the grace of God, all who believe in him are forgiven and shall be saved. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!” Now this truth is not dependent on a universal aspect or universal intent to the atonement. In fact, the extent of the atonement and its sufficiency or efficiency have no direct bearing on the message.

    According to J. I. Packer, “Preaching the gospel is not a matter of telling people that God has set His love on each of them and Christ has died to save each of them. The knowledge of being the object of God’s eternal love and Christ’s redeeming death belongs to the individual’s assurance . . . which is to be inferred from the fact that one has believed, not proposed as the reason one should believe,”2.

    Or, as John Owen has said,

    There are none called by the gospel even once to enquire after the purpose and intention of God concerning the particular object of the death of Christ, everyone being fully assured that His death shall be profitable to them that believe in him and obey him.”3.

    The preacher’s task is to explain man’s need of Christ, His sufficiency to save, and His offer of Himself as Savior to all who truly turn to Him. If you are proclaiming a gospel message that demands a universal provision in the atonement, you are not proclaiming the gospel of the Scriptures.

    Thirdly, that the atonement must somehow be designed for the non-elect in order to render them inexcusable for their unbelief. Answer: If Christ did not provide an atonement sufficient for all without exception, wouldn’t we still be to blame for our perishing?

  3. markmcculley Says:

    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 os 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.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones gives us another an either or—NOT the finished resurrection of Christ but “union with the present risen Christ”—–“A theological student should ideally know the difference between the means of procurement (medium impetrationis) and the means of application (medium applicationis). The application of justification depends on Christ’s intercession, not on his resurrection. This helps us to understand the importance of Christ’s intercession, which is regrettably overlooked a lot.

    Christ’s death was a work of impetration that could be understood either as a physical cause or a moral cause. According to John Owen: “physical causes produce their effects immediately,” and the subject must exist in order to be acted upon. Moral causes “never immediately actuate their own effects.” Christ’s death was a moral cause, not a physical cause. Thus, those for whom he died do not need to be alive at the time of his death in order to receive the benefits of his vicarious sacrifice. Physical causes do not require human acts, but moral causes do.

  5. John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith.”. 10:26

  6. markmcculley Says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. markmcculley Says:

    en though only ungodly sinners are justified
    or need to be justified
    this does not mean that God justifies all ungodly sinners

    you can be a sinner without being justified
    you can know you are a sinner without being justified
    God never will justify all sinners

    Jesus rejects many sinners as His guilty clients, because Jesus was never the mediator for many guilty sinners

    God’s election comes first before Christ’s atonement
    Atonement to satisfy justice is a result of God’s love for the elect
    God’s love for the elect is not a result of Atonement for the elect

    This means that election is not the same thing as the atonement
    This means that election is not the same thing as justification.

    God loved the elect before God made justice for the elect.
    God has already made justice for the elect
    God has already not made justice for the non-elect
    God has already not loved the non-elect

    God loved the elect in Christ before Christ made atonement for the elect alone
    but God does not justify God’s elect apart from the Atonement

    I find it interesting that these very same preachers who are teaching “eternal election is eternal justification” are the very same people who also like to say that “non-election is not condemnation”.

    When they say this, logically they should change their soundbites so that “election is not salvation but only unto salvation”. They quote CD Cole—“Election is not the cause of anybody going to hell, for election is unto salvation (2 Thessalonians 2: 13). Neither is non-election responsible for the damnation of sinners. Sin is the thing that sends men to hell, and all men are sinners by nature and practice. Sinners are sinners altogether apart from election or non-election. It does not follow that because election is unto salvation that non-election is unto damnation. Sin is the damning element in human life. Election harms nobody.”

    Those who refuse to give explanations like to have their cake and also eat it. On the hand, they like to reduce salvation to God’s sovereignty and equate election with justification ( and don’t talk about justification or Christ obtaining righteousness by being imputed with guilt). But on the other hand, when it comes to explaining the non-salvation of the non-elect, these same preachers don’t want to talk about God’s sovereignty but only about God’s justice.

    But guilt is not enough for destruction, because you also have to be non-elect. The elect are also born guilty in sin, under the wrath of God, but all the elect will pass from guilt to justification. But these preachers deny that the elect are ever guilty, and they minimize any idea that Christ was imputed with the guilt of the elect, and in that way obtained justification for the elect. And these same preachers deny that non-election is any factor in some sinners not being saved.

    Romans 9: 11 For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good OR BAD, so that God’s purpose according to election would stand— 12 not from works but from the One who calls

    Romans 1: 16 does NOT read—For I am not ashamed of the gospel, For in the gospel God’s free and sovereign grace is revealed

    Romans 1: 16 does NOT READ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, For in the gospel God’s love is revealed

    Romans 1: 16 reads For I am not ashamed of the gospel,because it is God’s power for salvation to as many as who believe, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is revealed

    Romans 1 :17 it is written: The righteous will live by faith

    Romans 1:17 does NOT teach that the elect are already justified apart from faith in God’s revealed righteousness

    Romans 1:17 does NOT teach that election is God’s righteousness

    Romans 1:17 does NOT teach that Christ already obtained justice for the elect before the ages

    Romans 1;17 does NOT teach that God’s purpose in Christ to obtain justice for the elect is the very same as Christ having already obtained justice for the elect

    God loved the elect before God made justice for the elect.
    God has already made justice for the elect

    God does demand justice
    But the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is not God’s demand for justice
    The Righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is Christ’s death for the Elect to Bring in Justice for the Elect
    God has not placed all the elect into Christ’s death
    God has not yet imputed this justice accomplished and obtained to all the Elect.

  8. markmcculley Says:

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

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

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

  9. Mark Mcculley Says:

    If Christ’s resurrection solves the problem of death, then God’s
    sovereignty and regeneration takes care of the problem.

    But if Christ’s death solves the problem of death , then God’s
    righteousness comes into it, and this means that God needs to
    transition the elect from under wrath to being justifeid before God

    Some deny two legal states for Christ, no legal difference they say
    between Christ’s humiliation and Christ’s exaltation.
    But there are two legal states for Chrst.
    Christ for a time in history was under the wrath of God because of the
    imputed sins of the elect.
    Christ is no longer under the wrath of God.
    Christ’s death took away the sins imputed.
    God in Christ took away the wrath of God

  10. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Tiaqi Wu –The application of Christ’s death is not up to God’s sovereignty. Though God has the freedom to choose when to apply, He does not have the freedom to choose whether to apply. That freedom was given up when Go legally arranged Christ’s death in the first place.

    If Christ’s death was truly a substitutionary death, then in the eye of Law it IS THE TRUE AND PROPER punishment for the sins of the elect. Law demands punishment for the sins of a person be (eventually) applied to the sinner.

    Since Christ’s death IS the punishment for sins of the elect, Law (not only Grace!) demands Christ’s death be (eventually) applied to the sinner.

    Sinners without Christ’s death for them will receive God’s wrath at the judgment

    Sinners for whom Christ died will receive in this life by imputation the wrath-bearing death of Christ

    When it is applied, it effects its power that it effected when Christ died. Christ’s death imputedd frees the sinner from condemnation, just as it freed Christ from condemnation.

    “For through Law I died to Law, that I might live to God.”

    “For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Had Christ not been raised, it would imply that Christ’s death did not fully satisfy God’s wrath. In that case, imputation . with Christ’s death would be futile, because even those identified would still be in their sins. Being legally baptized into an insufficient punishment means we still have to pay for our sins in our persons.
    On the cross, Christ’s death was God’s penal satisaction for the elect’s sins imputed to him. God was punishing Christ, not the elect. God was punishing Christ in substitution for the elect.

    This means when Christ died, only Christ was justified, not the elect.

    Because Christ’s death is the punishment for elect’s sins, the elect will in time receive this death by imputation. Then and only then, the legally die and are justified.

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