No One Time Justification? The Efficacy of Water

Alastair Roberts –For Baptists the grace signified in water baptism is typically understood to be grace already received: For Baptists, water baptism is predominantly retrospective, looking back to a salvation largely completed.

mark—So Roberts thinks that there is a “not yet aspect to justification” not only for infants but for all of us, because he agrees with the Lutherans that God’s justification happens again every day, and the “old man” has to pass from death to life over and over again, and that what causes this is the continuing “efficacy of water baptism”

Roberts—“The force of the grace of adoption summons thee adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is never only a completed event of the past, but is an enduring reality enjoyed by those who continue to receive it. Adoption is much less about its initial reception than it is about its lifelong reception. The faith water baptism calls for is not present faith so much as future faith.”

Roberts—-“The magisterial Reformers presented a higher and more efficacious doctrine of water baptism than their Roman Catholic interlocutors.”

Roberts–“The Canons of Trent reveal that, the grace of water baptism being easily forfeited by sinners who failed to persevere in it, it was necessary to supplement its grace with that of another sacrament–penance. The result was the diminishment of water baptismal grace within the sacramental economy. Beyond giving an initial impetus, water baptism was swiftly substituted for by other sources of grace.”

mark—Roberts is saying that the Reformed are not like that, not just looking for the water to wipe out original sin, but believing that the water will continue to have “efficacy”. But this “efficacy” of water will be conditioned on the sinner, not so much on the sinner not sinning, but on the sinner continuing to believe as a condition of remaining in the covenant.

Roberts—“The grace water baptism signifies is neither chiefly a grace already received nor merely a grace limited to the time immediately following the reception of the sacrament.”

Roberts—Tertullian argues that the delay of water baptism should be preferred, especially in the case of young children and the unmarried, who are particularly vulnerable to temptation and falling from water baptismal grace.

mark—But it is not yet quite politically correct in some Presbyterian denominations to talk about “being justified every day” or the “not yet aspect of justification” so often people who believe in that refer to “salvation” or “sanctification” as being the “not yet”. Roberts talks about “adoption”

Roberts—“Martin Luther’s resistance to the ‘linear model’ of the Christian life, with an one time conversion followed by progress beyond that point. Luther maintained that we never move beyond the point of water baptism. . Conversion is an ongoing reality in the Christian life, a continual act of going back to water baptism as the beginning. The efficacy of water baptism day after day makes death and resurrection a reality that has not yet been fully accomplished IN US.”

Roberts–“The magisterial Reformed were concerned to emphasize that the grace of water baptism is the grace of a promissory seal, with an efficacy that extends throughout our lives. ”

Roberts—“The force of the grace of adoption summons thee adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is never only a completed event of the past, but is an enduring reality enjoyed by those who continue to receive it. Adoption is much less about its initial reception than it is about its lifelong reception. The faith water baptism calls for is not present faith so much as future faith.”

mark—But the “efficacy” of the water continues to depend on the condition of faith. And this means that ‘effectual grace” can later turn into “:effectual curse”. No antinomian “eternal security” here.

Not only is the efficacy of the death of Christ distributed by means of the efficacy of water baptism but the efficacy of water baptism continues to be dependent on the object of your faith, but the object of your faith is your continuing faith, which you believe is not totally alone, which faith you believe continually exists in you along with your hating sin and loving God (enough).

Meredith Kline–The newness of the New Covenant does not consist in a reduction of the Covenant of Redemption to the principle of election and guaranteed blessing. Its law character is seen in this, too, that it continues to be a covenant with dual sanctions….There is no reason to regard Jeremiah’s description of the New Covenant as a comprehensive analysis or to exclude the curse sanction from a place in New Covenant administration.”

Mike Horton—”To be claimed by water baptism as part of God’s holy field comes with THREATS as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. HOW CAN THEY FALL UNDER THE CURSES OF A COVENANT TO WHICH THEY DID NOT BELONG? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet the instrumental A condition is that they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator.”

Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity THAT FAITH GIVES TO salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”

Mark asks– How could we possibly give thanks, when the future hangs in the balance and depends on our future acts of faith?

John Piper—”The Bible rarely, if ever, motivates Christian living with gratitude…Could it be that gratitude for bygone grace has been pressed to serve as the power for holiness, which only faith in future grace was designed to perform?… some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, conditional grace is nearly unintelligible to Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.”

mark—Piper’s Future Grace teaches works not only as evidence for us and other people but works as evidence for God

Piper—“How then can I say that the judgment of believers will not only be the public declaration of our differing rewards in the kingdom of God, according to our deeds, but will also be the public declaration of our salvation – our entering the kingdom – according to our deeds? The answer is that our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth in Christ’s courtroom to demonstrate that our faith is real. And our deeds will be the public evidence brought fourth to demonstrate the varying measures of our obedience of faith. In other words, salvation is by grace through faith, and rewards are by grace through faith, but the evidence of invisible faith in the judgment hall of Christ will be a transformed life.” (Future Grace, p 364)

Several times Paul listed certain kinds of deeds and said, “those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In other words, when these deeds are exposed at the judgment as a person’s way of life, they will be the evidence that their faith is dead and he will not be saved. As James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). That is what will be shown at the judgment. (Future Grace, p 366)

Meredith Kline—By circumcision, the sign of the consecratory oath of the Abrahamic Covenant, a man confessed himself to be under the juridical authority of Yahweb and consigned himself to the ordeal of his Lord’s judgment for the final verdict on his life. The sign of circumcision thus pointed to the eschatological judicial ordeal with its awful sanctions of eternal weal or woe. In the case of a covenant with the fallen sons of Adam, their nature as covenant breakers from their youth would seem to preclude any outcome for the divine ordeal other than condemnation. Yet the very fact that Cod makes a covenant with such subjects reveals that along with justice the principle of redemptive grace is operative here with its totally new and unpredictable possibilities. The covenant is a law covenant but it is a redemptive law covenant.

John Fesko —“Even though we can talk about a distinction between the visible and the invisible, or between the external and internal, why should we have to choose between water and the Spirit (Word, Water and Spirit, p 241, “Baptism as Covenant Judgment)

mark—Most people don’t say “water baptism”, because the Bible does not say “water baptism”, but then most people also add that “baptism” in the Bible is always water and many of the paedobaptists (and some of the “Reformed Baptists”)teach that there is a “sacramental union” between water as the sign and the “efficacy” as the thing signified.

And then almost all of them say that the water baptism of John was about the Holy Spirit, and therefore baptism by Jesus and by the church is about both the water and about the Spirit, but NOT about legal identity with Christ’s atoning death or about justification.

And then they explain there is one gospel only, there is only one church, and therefore the baptism by John is not water only and the baptism by Jesus is not with the Spirit only

And in this way they know that it’s not Jesus who baptized with the Holy Spirit, but rather that the Holy Spirit “baptizes us into Christ” and so we know that water baptism is not about Christ’s death or righteousness but about the Spirit uniting us to Christ’s righteousness .

John Fesko, 322— “It is unnecessary to choose between water baptism and Spirit baptism”

And then Fesko on the same page (322) finds it necessary to conclude (without arguments) that Spirit baptism is not God’s imputation. Fesko also explains that baptism (both water and by the Spirit) is NOT Christ’s giving the Spirit, because the Westminster Confession teaches us that Spirit baptism is the Spirit giving us Christ by uniting us to Christ by faith.

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18 Comments on “No One Time Justification? The Efficacy of Water”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones—Far from leading to a lazy form of “presumptive regeneration” (where children are not daily exhorted to repent), I believe that we must in fact hold our covenant children to higher standards by urging them to live a life of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, their Savior and Lord. Their baptism, whereby God speaks favor to his children (“You are my child. With you I am well pleased”), demands such a life.

    Do you agree? No grace, then no law? Not in the covenant, no imperative?

  2. markmcculley Says:

    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 answer cannot be that His water baptism merited righteousness for himself or anyone else – even though that is the claim of proponents of Christ’s law-keeping imputed.
    Vicarious in a representative or in his substitution (replacement, instead of) sense? If Christ was water baptized for us in that sense, why would believers need to be water baptized today?
    mark answers—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). My point is this—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 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.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Philip Cary—-“For Augustine and the whole Christian tradition prior to Calvin, it is perfectly possible to have a genuine faith and then lose it. Apostasy from the true faith. For Calvin, on the contrary, there is a kind of faith I can have now which I am sure not to lose, because it comes with the gift of perseverance. What is more, I can know that I have such faith rather than the temporary kind.”

    Cary–“if Augustine is right about predestination, it is logically impossible to know you are saved for eternity without knowing that you are predestined for such salvation. That is precisely why Augustine denies you can know you are predestined for salvation….To require faith that you are predestined for salvation before admission to the sacrament is… to make faith into a work

    Mark Mcculley–To me it looks like Cary (Anglican,but with a Lutheran theology) is saying that faith must have as its object present faith but not future faith AND not penal satisfaction . The idea of sins having already been paid for by Christ’s death has no place in his thinking. Cary is caught in a discussion about the nature of faith, in which he says that other people’s faith is a work, because he thinks the object of other peoples’ faith is not true.

    Philip Cary—”Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion. Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    sounds kinda like the Lutheran doctrine of Universal Justification.

    “In the discussions in the 50s between the old American Lutheran Church and the LCMS concerning justification, the ALC wanted to teach that God had secured and provided salvation for all people. This is objective or universal redemption, not objective justification. The LCMS along with the WELS insisted on the words, that God has not only secured and provided salvation for all, but that God has declared the whole world righteous in Christ Jesus. This they called objective Justification. (A term that is preferred over universal justification, which can cause some misunderstandings.) By only saying “secured and provided salvation” the door is open for some cooperation or contributions on the part on man. Good, God has provided it, how do I get it? But by insisting on the term God has DECLARED the whole world righteous, all works or cooperation on man’s part are removed. “

    It’s not only the liberal Lutherans who teach an “universal objective atonement”. It’s also conservative Lutherans, and these Lutherans often form alliances with a Marrow view of the “universal sufficiency” of the atonement. The result of is a new covenant which is not conditioned on Christ alone, but which is conditioned on what God does in the sinner.

    The Lutheran Jacob Preus (in Just Words: Understanding the Fullness of the Gospel (Concordia, 2000). writes: “Faith is necessary to appropriate the reconciliation of Christ. However, our faith does not make Christ’s work effective. It is effective even if no one approves it, even if no one is saved.” (p140).

    This book has a lot of talk about sacramental objectivity and it also teaches an “objective reconciliation” that often does not reconcile. Even if you say that grace has to overcome the bondage of your will to “take it”, there are two problems with this Protestant version of universalism.

    One, there is no good news here that Christ’s death purchased the work of the Spirit and faith for the elect. Even if God by grace gives the faith, that faith is not a certain result of Christ’s work, even though the Bible teaches that it is (I Peter 1:21;II Peter 1:1; Eph 4:7-8; Phil 1:29).

    Two, Lutherans miss the federalist truth of a penalty for specific sins imputed, and therefore they end up with a propitiation that does not propitiate. Preus himself limits the concept of reconciliation to the sinner’s enmity to God, and not to God’s enmity to unjustified sinners.

    But of course no Lutheran (or conditional Reformed person) who teaches an universal objective atonement can dare talk about the imputation of the guilt of the elect to Christ. Preus explains that the ransom “should NOT be understood to be only for some and not for others (p 84).

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Scaer: “These confessions think that God alone justifies, but that sanctification is a combined divine-human activity, which even though God begins, each believer is obligated to complete. In this system, the Gospel, which alone creates faith, is replaced by the Law which instructs in moral requirements and warns against immorality. Justification by grace is seen as a past event

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Sacramentalists want to say all times are one time.

    Hans Boersma’, Heavenly Participation— In sacramental time, past, present, and future can coincide. As a result, people from different historical eras can participate or share in the same event. Congar maintains that it was the Holy Spirit who effected this transcending of ordinary temporal limits….Modernity has made it difficult for us to acknowledge any kind of authoritative role for tradition. We look at history rather differently from the way people interpreted it throughout the millennium of the Platonist-Christian synthesis In nominalist fashion, we tend to look at time as a simple succession of distinct moments, unrelated to one another. We regard event X, which took place ten years ago, as no longer present, and thus in principle as unconnected to event Y, which is taking place today. This is not to say that we deny historical cause and effect. We realize quite well that, through a number of traceable historical causes, event X gives rise to event Y. The point, however, is that we regard the two events as separate. Going back to our discussion about analogy and univocity, we could say that we view the two events as univocal moments in time— they have the same kind of reality or being, and are not intertwined in any real sense.

    Boersma quotes Charles Taylor— “We have constructed an environment in which we live a uniform, univocal secular time, which we try to measure and control in order to get things done.” Univocal time gives us the control that we desire in the secularity of modernity.… Augustine’s conception of time was sacramental—time participates in the eternity of God’s life, and it is this participation that is able to gather past, present, and future together into one.

    Boersma: Evangelicals have largely abandoned a sacramental view of time (as have many Catholics), and this desacramentalizing has impacted the way we have decided on doctrinal issues. We tend to regard the time period of the biblical author and our own small moment under the sun as two distinct or separate moments, identical in kind. We believe that it is our job simply to find out what exactly the biblical author meant in any given biblical text in order then to proclaim it as authoritative. ..The widespread assumption that Christian beliefs and morals are to a significant degree malleable has its roots in a modern, desacralized view of time.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    rejects the idea that actual grace is conferred to the initiate; baptism typifies, offers the promise of the gospel and seals the individual, but “grace cannot be immediately conferred by water.”7 In Arminius’ view, then, a person is forgiven of sins, justified, sanctified (made or counted holy and righteous) and, hence, saved by grace through faith and not by baptism. Michael Green explains:
    To be sure, baptism [for most Anglicans, those in the Reformed tradition, including Arminius] is not invariably efficacious [as in other traditions]. It was not with Simon Magus (Acts 8:13, 21ff). It was not with many of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 10:1-6). It is not with many today if baptism has lost all relationship with actually beginning the Christian life and is treated as a charm or a social convenience. There are conditions to its efficacy, and these are repentance and faith on our side and the gift of the Holy Spirit on God’s side.

    Baptism is efficacious in bringing a person into the Christian church and into Christ, but it is not unconditionally efficacious. That is the clear teaching of the New Testament. And that is why it simply will not do either to invest with magical powers or to devalue this sacrament which Jesus left us to mark our initiation and assure us of our belonging. In moments when our faith sinks in the morasses of doubt, we can take heart. God has acted decisively (and physically) for us in Christ. We have been baptized into him, and we belong, however rotten we may feel at any given time.8
    The question credal baptists (those who adhere to believers-only baptism) have historically asked is, Since, in the Reformed tradition, baptism is not rendered an instrument of “washing away” original sin; and since pædobaptism does not instrumentally cause regeneration, but only initiates a person into the Church and, thus, into relationship with Christ, having His gospel-promise sealed to him or her by the Spirit of God; then why baptize infants? Why not baptize only converts? One of the most basic and simple answers given historically is: Because this was God’s design from the beginning of calling out a people for Himself: the children of believers were to receive a sign, a sacrament, granted to an infant prior to the infant’s understanding of the significance of the sign. That tradition was not abrogated in the New Covenant.

    Under the Old Covenant, God commanded His people grant their infants a sign of His covenant with them, that of circumcision. (That this sign was granted only to male infants in that patriarchal context is irrelevant under the New Covenant.) Therefore, when credal baptists complain that the infants being baptized under God’s New Covenant cannot understand the sacrament and, hence, should not be deemed as proper candidates for receiving the sacrament, we must agree with Michael Green, who writes: “No argument can be produced against infant baptism which does not equally hold good against infant circumcision … And the same God is the author of both Testaments. Had he changed his mind, would he not have told us?

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Larry Ball–The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the time of the administration of baptism, but it is tied to the administration of baptism itself. No Christian parent should expect that grace be “conferred” (Confessional language) on their children apart from their children being recipients of the sacrament of covenant baptism. The same can be said of adult baptisms. The grace promised in the ordinance of baptism is actually conferred in God’s appointed time “by the right use of this ordinance” (Confessional language). Grace is conferred because the ordinance is used.

    Larry Ball– I am certainly not denying the doctrine of election. HOWEVER, the doctrine of election was never given to negate the hope of the promises that are given to Christian parents. The doctrine of election taught in Romans 9 to explain why there was unbelief among the covenant people of God. It was intended to be an explanation — not a qualification to the promises of God.
    Some preachers are haunted by what I call the “if clause.” For example, it is often said to Christians that the promises of God are for you “if you are saved” or “if you are a true believer.” The very promises that give hope to Christians often die a slow death by a thousand qualifications.

    Larry Ball–Covenant Baptism is not merely a symbol. If anyone is dedicating himself in covenant baptism, it is God who is dedicating himself to keep the promises he has made to Christian parents This is a high view of the efficacy of covenant baptism. It is simply the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    The medieval Church taught that justification began in baptism and continued by the sacrament of penance.19 Original sin was removed by the water of baptism while actual sin by penance. Jerome’s description of penitence as a second plank after shipwreck was employed to convey this concept. Those who fall into sin do not return again to baptism, the first plank of the ship, but to penitence for the forgiveness of sins.20 By contrast, Luther says that justification begins and ends in baptism. As the sacrament of justification, baptism signifies “death and resurrection, i.e., the fulfilling and completion of justification.

    According to The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther believed that the medieval Church denigrated the sacrament of baptism by teaching that it did too little: it covered only original sin and was ineffective in certain persons. Contradistinctively, Luther asserted that baptism provided full and complete justification that was to be embraced throughout one’s life and could convert even the most hardened sinner. James Atkinson is therefore correct to point out that with respect to baptism Luther “was more of a sacramentalist than the Romanists themselves.”

    According to Luther, infant baptism is “the most certain form of baptism.” Adults can be hypocrites, feigning fidelity to Christ. A little child, however, is incapable of deception. Infant baptism is, therefore, efficacious.

    In other words, it is better to be safe than sorry. For if it is true that baptism saves yet it is not administered, then the church would be “responsible for all the children who were lost because they were unbaptized—a cruel and terrible thing.”

    Appended to The Small Catechism is The Baptismal Booklet. This booklet was originally published in 1523 and based on medieval baptismal rites. It was revised in 1526 and subsequently included in the second edition of The Small Catechism in 1529. Luther’s liturgy indicates that the infant prior to baptism is possessed by the devil and a child of sin and wrath, while baptism delivers him from the devil, making him a child of God.

    Luther notes that baptism is a work of God because we are baptized into God’s name. Although baptism is performed by a man, “it is nevertheless truly God’s own act. “Baptism is to be regarded as precious and important, for in it we obtain such an inexpressible treasure.”

    Faith is so necessary that it can save even apart from the sacrament.63 Baptism, therefore, justifies only in so far as what is promised is received by faith alone. It is a sacrament of justification simply because it is a sacrament of “a justificatory faith, and not of works.”64 “Thus, baptism justifies nobody, and gives advantage to nobody; rather, faith in the word of the promise to which baptism was conjoined, is what justifies, and so completes, that which the baptism signified.

    David Scaer notes that for Luther “baptism possesses such an objective reality, that it seems to take on an ex opere operato character.” The word and therefore God’s name is in the water. “And where God’s name is, there must also be life and salvation.

    Trigg —“How can Luther’s demand for a conscious, individual explicit faith be reconciled with the statement that the infant ‘becomes a saint in the hands of the priest?’”Luther’s definitive answer to this problem is that the infant himself has faith. Barth, however, is not convinced, taking issue with the idea of infant faith. But even if we grant the notion of infant faith it is still hard to see how Luther avoids the same charge he lays against the Thomists. Baptism is efficacious apart from faith.

    It is still the case, however, that God commands us to baptize and requires us to submit to baptism. Consequently, it is a rite performed and submitted to by man in obedience to God.

    Since people apostatize then either baptism does not save infants or complete justification is not given in baptism. Though both options are unacceptable to Luther, the fact that the work of baptism is not completed until death lends itself to the idea of justification as a process. In order to resolve this tension, later Lutheranism taught that what is given in baptism can be lost.

    Justification, therefore, is by faith in the gospel plus obedience to God’s command to be baptized with water. This is contrary to the Scriptures and akin to the Galatian heresy. John 5:24 states that he who hears the word and believes in Jesus has passed from death into life. One is justified at the moment one believes, and not later at baptism. The Galatians had their sins pardoned and received the Holy Spirit when they believed the gospel and not after they had obeyed the law of God

    Later Lutheranism teaches that baptism achieves something different in adults than in children. This “strange position,” as Karl Barth describes it, states that baptism works regeneration and faith in infants. But in adults, since they must believe before baptism, it only seals and confirms the grace of God, thereby, oddly enough, approximating the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. Limiting baptismal regeneration to infants, however, does not fully resolve the problem. If infants can truly believe then why is it still necessary for them to receive baptism

    McGrath– Although the theologians were aware that God was not bound by the sacraments, the tendency to emphasise the reliability of the established order of salvation can only have served to convey the impression that the sinner who wishes to be reconciled to God must, de facto, seek the assistance of a priest.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Lutheran Carl Braaten (Justification; the Article by which the Church Stands or Falls)
    begins with this quotation from McGrath:

    “One of the most significant developments in seventeenth-century dogmatics was the affirmation that faith was itself a cause of justification…it was stated that faith was logically prior to justification. This affirmation was interpreted to mean that justification was dependent on a change in man. Although justification is still defined forensically, it is understood to be predicated upon a prior alteration within man—namely, that he believes. Where Luther had understood justification to concern the unbelieving sinner, orthodoxy revised this view, referring justification to the believing sinner.” (2:48)

    The question whether they are in Christ because they are justified, or whether they are justified because they are in Christ, would have no meaning for Luther. Christ is our justification…We must not make a merit of one’s believing or a virtue of one’s faith… The gospel is the glad tidings of the divine love, not motivated from the outside, not caused by any human action, and certainly not characterized as a response of God contingent on human repenting and believing.

    A certain unclarity in Luther’s own manner of expressing himself could open the very door which Luther was trying to shut…A tension could arise between the role of God and the human role which then must be systematically “balanced”. Salvation would be conceived of as a synthesis of two factors, one divine and one human, with the priority always of course reserved for the divine, but the all-decisive finality conceded to the human.

    On the one hand, Luther could say that faith is a work which must be done by a human being, and on the other, that faith is not a human work at all, but a gift of the Holy Spirit. Both statements are true when seen from the right perspective. In any case, faith is an act. But how is it related to justification-as a means to an end, or as the effect of a cause? How is faith correlated to justification?

    The essential element in all false religion, Luther perceived is: “If I do this, God will be merciful to me.” It is misleading to say that, if I believe in Christ, God will be gracious to me, as if my believing is not already evidence of God’s grace, as if my faith is not itself created by the forgiving grace of God while I am still a sinner.

    The quid pro quo type of connection between faith and justification was certainly not what Luther meant to affirm by his assertion that faith justifies. But neither did Luther make it unmistakably clear that he did not mean that, unless one interprets his doctrines of predestination and the bondage of the will as the attempt to root out every possible misunderstanding about the correlation between justification and faith.

    John Calvin clearly saw that the Reformation could be betrayed by a secret agent working from within the article of justification to hand it back to the enemy. The publican may be the greatest Pharisee of them all by exchanging the humility of his faith for the justifying grace of God.

    Justification is not procured by faith as a human attitude or virtue (inner works) in lieu of justification by external works of piety. There is nothing at all that faith contributes in the way of completing a subjective process which culminates finally in justification. The relation between grace and faith is the other way around. Grace creates faith. It creates the means by which it shall be received. We need to become new creatures because we have no remaining capacity to trigger off the event which effects our justification.

    If faith is the prior condition of justification, how does a person get that necessary faith? The sinner’s will has inherently only the ability to resist, and is in fact converted while it is resisting.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    In Just Words: Understanding the Fullness of the Gospel (Concordia, 2000), Jacob Preus writes: “Faith is necessary to appropriate the reconciliation of Christ. However, our faith does not make Christ’s work effective. It is effective even if no one approves it, even if no one is saved.” (p140).

    Lutherans have an “objective reconciliation” that does not reconcile. That kind of objectivity is not gospel. It’s not good news to make salvation depend on “appropriation”.

    Even if you say that grace has to overcome the bondage of your will to “take it” , there are two problems with the false gospel of Lutherans like Preus.

    One, there is no idea that Christ’s death purchased the work of the Spirit and faith for the elect. Even if God by grace gives the faith, that faith is not a certain result of Christ’s work, even though the Bible teaches that it is (I Peter 1:21;II Peter 1:1; Eph 4:7-8; Phil 1:29).

    Two, there can be no notion of a penalty for specific sins imputed, and therefore Lutherans end up with a propitiation that does not propitiate, a ransom that does not redeem, and a reconciliation that does not reconcile.

    Part of the problem with the Preus chapter on reconciliation is that he seems to have no idea of God Himself being both the object and subject of His own reconciliation. Preus limits the concept to the sinner’s enmity to God, and not to God’s enmity to unjustified sinners.

    Even when writing about the Father and the Son (p142), Preus tells us that “Christ was at enmity with God”. This is not mystery: it is simply wrong. It is a result of not talking about the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    Instead of seeing that Christ was “made sin” legally because of imputation, Preus turns Christ into a sinner angry at God. Christ is and was human, but in no way a sinner except by imputation.

    But of course no Lutheran who teaches an universal objective atonement can dare talk about the imputation of the guilt of the elect to Christ. They cannot even talk about God’s imputation of the elect’s punishment for that guilt to Christ.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    infant water is the best because infants bring nothing to the table?
    do you bring to the table the fact that you bring nothing to the table?
    do you take pride in your water baptism?
    do you bring your infant water baptism with you to the table?
    do you take pride because at least the water is not you
    pride that the water is what God Himself gave you?
    at any rate, it’s too late for me, I never got the infant water
    and now I bring to the table my faith in the gospel and claim that God
    gave me that faith in the gospel through the power of the gospel
    so now that I already believe the gospel, it’s way too late for me and water
    too bad i didn’t get some water from the Mormons or the Roman Catolics
    and then you could have given me some gnostic adjustment
    and instruction about what God was doing when God baptised me into Christ
    now it’s too late
    despite your assurance that God imputed all our sins to Christ
    I’m not an infant anymore
    there’s no way now for God to get Christ’s death to me

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Sacramental integrity would have given us the courage to resist this Reformed intrusion and to insist that the font remain exactly where it was, peace or no peace. Luther defined the church by baptism.’

    David Scaer—“The solution that the grace given in baptism could be received by faith later in life was popular, because it kept the grace of baptism and faith as mature decision intact. Problematic is that logical priority of sola gratia over the sola jide becomes a temporal separation, which is NOT Luther’s teaching and endangers his sola jide principle.”

    Scaer—Schleierrnacher created a theological synthesis out of the Pietism of his parental home and the critical Rationalism of his university education. Pietism saw faith as self-reflection whose progress could be measured. Baptism’s regenerating grace were denied. Pietists were at odds with Luther, who held that the one who finds himself in despair has a greater faith than the one who thinks he believe.

    Scaer–Sponsors were replaced by parents who pledged to provide ethical upbringing for the child. It became more of a family rite than a churchly one. Our own liturgy contains pledges concerning the child’s upbringing which were not part of Luther’s rite..

    Scaer– Salvation is given in baptism, though not because of faith. Finding the certainty of salvation in faith is the devil’s work and is as useless as the medieval demand to rely on confession for forgiveness. Bifurcating Luther into green (Protestant) and ripe (Catholic) periods is attractive for those who want to give faith a secondary role in baptism or eliminate it by delay—: baptize now, believe later. ”

    “know-it-alls” and “leaders of the blind have taken the sola in Luther’s sola fide to develop a “monofideism,” which makes the sacraments unnecessary external^

    “Large Catechism IV, 28-29.

    LW 13:303: “You can see the water of baptism as you can see the dew . . . but you cannot see or hear or understand the Spirit, or what He accomplishes thereby: that a human being is cleansed in baptism and becomes a saint in the hands of the priest so that from a child of hell he is changed into a child of God. Nevertheless this is truly and actually accomplished. One has to say, in view of the power which attends it, that the Holy Spirit was present at the event and was making believers by means of water and the word.”

    Lutherans do not rebaptize those baptized as adults by baptists. Therefore it’s too late for Lutherans to give them their superior baptism. But make no mistake, baptism of infants is superior because it shows that salvation does not depend on the believing of the sinner.

    David Scaer–Faith finds God in baptism where He has bound Himself. To reject baptism is to repudiate Christ.
    Large Catechism IV,3l

    40LW 30:316: “In Baptism there is the blood and the Spirit. If you are baptized with water, the blood is sprinkled through the Word.”

    David Scaer–The word of God was attached to the tree, even if it was a threat. Luther equates Adam’s disobedience with the sectarian refusal to acknowledge the washing of regeneration in baptism (p258)

    . Baptism was not simply a ceremony, it initiated the Christian life and it established the church’s boundaries. It not only gave entrance into the covenant, it was itself the covenant. Being in baptism is equivalent to being in Christ (p 261).

    For Calvin, reality and symbol are joined by divine command, but with Luther there is an actual perichoresis, so that one is in and with the other in an organic unity. God is really in the water and no place else and without the sign there is no salvation (p262)

    264–in the church we must judge and teach, in accordance with God’s ordered power, that without that outward baptism no one is saved.” “‘LW3:274.

  14. markmcculley Says:

    The corporate stuff still belongs to Satan
    that’s why we have to give in and have two kingdoms
    and not try to withdraw and retreat from the
    kingdom in which evil overcomes (or at least restrains) evil

    devils fill all the world
    All eager to devour
    This world’s prince still with
    fierce Scowl

    The old evil Foe
    Now means deadly woe;
    Deep guile and great might
    Are his dread arms in fight;
    On Earth is not his equal.

    Mark 1:4 4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance FOR the forgiveness of sins.

    Does the “FOR ” the remission mean “in order to” or “because of” the remission? Who knows and who cares? The point is that the remission might not take place at the same time as the water. The point is (a second point) is that the remission might not ever take place, at least not if the infant does not die before the ” age in which the table is no longer fenced against those watered at birth”. The point is that in the meanwhile we should presume remission because who knows anything for certain?

    “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children without exception because all Israel was always all Israel, and even though some do come by faith alone, there is no need for your children to do so, since they are already called and already near and here, and all they need to do is not leave. Not to deny that some also who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call, also come by faith alone, without Christian magistrates and without Christian parents, but of course not without water by clergy at some point.

    Acts 15 Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved!” … 9 God made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith….11 we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.

    Acts 19 Paul came to Ephesus and found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” “No,” they told him, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 “Then what baptism were you baptized with?” Paul asked them. “With John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the Lord Jesus 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

    Nicodemus came a runnin’ hard
    Said “Has anybody here done seen the Lord?
    I want to buy some ‘ligion, but what will it cost
    To get myself to Heaven ‘fore my soul be lost?
    Then my God spoke, He spoke so sweet
    Sounded like the shuffle of angels feet
    He said “Marvel thou man, if you want to be wise
    You got to believe and be baptized”

    Nicodemus said “I don’t understand! I want to know
    How can be born when he’s old?”

  15. markmcculley Says:

    The Westminster Confession (28:6) ‘the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered’

    1. Since this is so, why not administer water to people after they believe the gospel?

    2. If the efficacy of God using water is not God giving faith in the gospel, why would water be needed before a person believes the gospel?

    3. if the elect are united with Christ before and without being imputed with Christ’s righteousness, is union with Christ not something obtained by Christ’s righteousness?

    4. if the elect are given the Holy Spirit before and without being imputed with Christ’s death, is the Holy Spirit not given by Christ and is regeneration not purchased by Christ’s death?

    Salter , ‘Without faith, of course, the subject of baptism is simply getting wet, nothing more’.

    Gibson—Note what is happening here: the definition of baptism is dependent on the position of its subjects. Without faith, baptism is not baptism. It is just getting wet. In this construction, one form of spirit-matter dualism is overcome by another. For the union of sign and thing signified has become so separate that without the thing signified the sign has actually ceased to exist.

    Calvin–“Augustine says: ‘And hence, he who remains not in Christ, and in whom Christ remains not, without doubt neither spiritually eats his flesh, nor drinks his blood, though with h is teeth he may carnally and visibly press the symbol of his body and blood.’

    Sheaer– We are told that the visible sign is opposed to spiritual eating. This refutes the error that the invisible body of Christ is sacramentally eaten in reality, although not spiritually. We are told, that nothing is given to the impure and profane beyond the visible taking of the sign

  16. markmcculley Says:

    Vos–. According to Davenant, all children baptized into the covenant are not only adopted and justified but also regenerated and sanctified. But Davenant distinguishes this justification, adoption, and regeneration from the benefits of salvation, incapable of being lost, that adults share in at their regeneration. For the children, he says, those gifts are sufficient to place them in a state of salvation. If they die in childhood, then on that basis they go to heaven. But for adults it is not sufficient. When a baptized child grows up, it may not be regarded as a living member of the church on the basis of the grace of baptism alone. Not that it has lost its initial grace, but it has lost its status as a child, and thereby its condition is changed. If no true conversion follows, then a baptized person who dies as an adult is lost.

    Vos—Baptism does not exist to effect regeneration, justification, and sanctification. In Davenant baptism becomes, in a Lutheran sense, the means ordained by God for begetting new life. Further, that there would be a partial forgiveness of sins and a partial justification is irreconcilable with Reformed principles. It will not do to say that original sin is taken away but the guilt of actual sin remains. Also, it cannot be that the merits of Christ would be applied to someone for regeneration, justification, and sanctification without the one to whom they are applied being included in election. There is no application (though certainly an offer) of the merits of the Mediator except for those who have been given to Him by the Father. Finally, with the subsequent loss of these gifts of grace one comes into the greatest difficulties. Christ has suffered for that forgiven guilt, for on that basis it is forgiven. But now that forgiveness is lost again, and the person in view is punished for it personally. There is then a double retribution, first borne by Christ and then by the person himself.

    Vos: As far as regeneration, justification, and sanctification are concerned, a child can do with nothing less than an adult. The true spiritual life that is given in regeneration is sufficient for an adult to live for God. It cannot be made insufficient by the development of natural life. One would then have to assume that regeneration was really lost again, and that would be equivalent to teaching an apostasy of the saints. Davenant’s view is not tenable for one who is Reformed.

    Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics

  17. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Brinsmea—Most evangelicals think of justification by faith as a final, once-in-a-lifetime act. In his masterful book on The Doctrine of Justification, James Buchanan says that justification by faith “is a complete, final, and irreversible act of divine grace . . . at once and forever.” p. 138. He even says that this is what “the Reformers held and taught.” That is not quite correct. The view he expresses does not represent Luther, Melancthon, and the whole Lutheran wing of the Reformation.

    Believe. The verb believe in Acts 13:39 is in the present tense. This is in keeping with the general pattern of the New Testament’s use of pisteuo. Most of our readers will know that the Greek present tense is present continuous. So Acts 13:39 means that “all that believe and keep on believing are justified,” or “all that believe and continue to believe are justified.” And no one else!

    The atonement of Christ on the cross was a once-for-all act. But our laying hold of it in faith is no once-for-all act. The redemptive act of Christ benefits only those who believe and keep on believing. Justification is by faith. Where there is no present, living faith, there is no justification.

    Justified. Acts 13:39 also puts justified in the present tense. This is not an isolated case in the New Testament. Other great Pauline passages set forth justification as present continuous. For example:

    . . . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . — Rom. 3:24.

    . . .justified by faith without the deeds of the law. — Rom. 3:28.

    But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. — Rom. 4:5.

    It is true that justified also appears in the aorist tense — meaning that it is done at once as a completed action. This underlines the important concept that God does not justify the believer piecemeal. There is no such thing as being more and more justified. There are no degrees of acceptance with God. To be justified is to be wholly justified. All this is implied in the aorist tense.

    But that is not all that needs to be said about being justified. There is a dimension other than aoristic. The use of the present continuous brings out another vital aspect. Justification is not static. It is dynamic and ongoing. Passages like Acts 13:39, Romans 3:24 and Romans 4:5 mean that as we constantly believe, God constantly justifies.

    From the human side this means that the Christian, always aware of his falling short yet always reminded of what Christ has done, continues to believe in Him who justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). As Luther said, “No saint regards and confesses himself to be righteous, but he always asks and waits to be justified.” — Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, p.113.

    From the divine side it means that God continues to justify those who continue to seek His mercy.

    For inasmuch as the saints are always aware of their sin and implore God for the merciful gift of His righteousness, they are for this very reason always reckoned righteous by God. — Ibid., p.125.

    Thus, we confess that we are sinners, and with our weeping, penitence, grieving, and tears we show that we are sinners also in our own eyes. As soon, namely, as such fear and uneasiness cease, the sense of security lays hold of us; and where security prevails, the divine decree of counting our sin to us is again in force, for God has decided that He will not impute sin to anyone who implores His mercy with fear and trembling. — Ibid., p.135.

    The present continuous nature of justification was the genius of Luther’s emphasis; and we submit that it is truly biblical and Pauline. To Luther, justification was no mere initiatory action in the soteriological process. It was no mere filling station along the way or no mere door to enter but once. Luther taught that to accept justification in faith is our whole work for. our whole Christian life. We never get beyond it. We never learn it too well. And thus, for Luther, justification by faith is always kept at the center. In “The Disputation Concerning Justification” in 1536, the Reformer gave voice to his view of the dynamic, ongoing nature of justification. Said he:

    . . . forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but comes from baptism which is of perpetual duration, until we arise from the dead. — Luther’s Works (American ed.; Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955-     ), Vol.34, p.163.

    . . . Forgiveness of sins is not a matter of a passing work or action, but of perpetual duration. For the forgiveness of sins begins in baptism and remains with us all the way to death, until we arise from the dead, and leads us into life eternal. So we live continually under the remission of sins. Christ is truly and constantly the liberator from our sins, is called our Savior, and saves us by taking away our sins. If, however, he saves us always and continually, then we are constantly sinners. — Ibid., p.164.

    On no condition is sin a passing phase, but we are justified daily by the unmerited forgiveness of sins and by the justification of God’s mercy. Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous. — Ibid., p.167.

    For the forgiveness of sins is a continuing divine work, until we die. Sin does not cease. Accordingly, Christ saves us perpetually. — Ibid., p.190.

    Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured. — Ibid.,p. 191.

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