Archive for April 2016

If You Talk about Election, then the Sinner will think He needs to Know he’s elect before he can believe

April 1, 2016

Tom Nettles on Andrew Fuller’s notion of “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 the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the idea of the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s death to what he accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

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

Dagg (Manual of Theology, p 330): “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him…”

Reformed—And why should the unbelievers believe that the good news applies to him if he can’t know that it applies to him unless he is among the elect, which is something he can’t know until he is first granted the grace of saving faith to begin with?

mark: And why do you presume that the gospel is good news for every sinner, unless you beg the question? Christ’s death does not apply to the non-elect. The non-elect will never be placed into Christ’s death. But since we don’t know (and can’t know) that any sinner is non-elect, why should that fact keep any sinner from believing the truth of the gospel? Must we change the gospel in order to make it more attractive to people who don’t like the gospel?

Reformed– If we are talking to an unbeliever about the gospel, what do we tell that person? Do we tell him that Christ died only for His elect, that faith in Christ is a gift of God given only to the elect, and that if he is elect he will believe? (All of this is, of course, biblically true, and in the course of a conversation with an unbeliever it may be appropriate to bring up such truths. But it is “good news” only to one who has already through sovereign grace come to believe).

mark— I am going to tell him the truth, and not keep secret what God has revealed, not only because I love the truth which gives glory to God in all God’s attributes, not only because I am “macho” or “confrontational” but because I do not believe that the Holy Spirit uses what is false to bring life to sinners dead in their sins. Knowledge of the truth is very important to the power of the gospel.

Reformed—But then would you go on and tell him that he has a duty to believe, while also telling them that he doesn’t actually have the ability to believe (which, of course, he doesn’t if he is currently unregenerate)?

mark: I am not Arminian, so I do not assume that duty depends on ability. Do you? I know only a couple of “hyper-Calvinists”, and both of them agree with the Arminians that responsibility depends on ability. It seems a very strange jump to get from your idea that “Christ’s death is enough for you” to get to a presumption of ability for all sinners. Are you advocating some idea of ‘common” prevenient “grace” that has been purchased for all sinners by Christ’s death? If not, why are you basing duty (to obey the law or to believe the gospel) on ability?

Reformed –If I were a perceptive unbeliever on the receiving end of such a “gospel” presentation, I would want to ask something like this: “You are telling me that I must believe in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. But on what basis should I believe in Him? After all, I may be a reprobate, in which case Christ did not die for the forgiveness of my sins, nor does He in any sense of the word offer me His forgiving grace.

mark: Unbelievers tend not to be epistemologically self-conscious as they could be, but I can see nothing but good in presenting the truth that our salvation is not in our hands. Christ’s death has NOT now declared God’s desire to save everybody or that Christ has done enough to save everybody. To teach those two ideas as gospel may very well be what sinners want to hear, but those two ideas are not the truth and they are not what any sinner needs to hear. And again, you beg the question about “the sense of the word offer”. I have already agreed not to use the word, but I do not agree that “universal objective sufficiency” is the meaning of the word offer.

Reformed– So you are telling me I must believe in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. But even if I wanted to how could I unless God were to first give me a special direct revelation of my election?

mark: How do you breathe without knowing when you will stop breathing and die? We agree that we don’t who is elect before they believe. I don’t know it. and you don’t know it. I guess you think you can solve the “problem” by not talking about election at all. But your telling sinners that “Christ’s death is enough for you” is not the truth and it also does not change the equation. Because at the end of the day, despite your assurances and your silence about election, it’s going to come out that Christ’s death which you say is enough is not enough and then it’s going to look like it all comes down to the sinner or what God does in the sinner.

The gospel is not a special revelation about who is elect. The gospel is what God effectually reveals to the elect in such a way that they believe the gospel about Christ’s death for the elect. The logic of “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” is not that Christ died for every sinner, and that every sinner had an “opportunity” to be saved, if they accepted “the offer”. No. The logic rather is that now and always there has been only sacrifice that really takes away sin, and that’s the sacrifice of Christ’s death.

Reformed— Election and limited atonement are vital doctrines that undergird the gospel and strengthen the faith of believers. But unbelievers need to hear the simple law and gospel.

mark: The Arminian gospel turns out to never be that simple. Hypothetical universalism is not simple either. “Christ died for everybody” is a complex falsehood, very commonly believed. It’s not like most people have not already heard that lie.

Reformed– Christ is the all-sufficient Savior of sinners just like you and me, who died to pay the penalty for sin and rose from the dead so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.

mark: It’s a shifty way of not talking about election. Romans 9:11— “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of ELECTION would continue, not because of works but because of His call.” Unlike some tricky Reformed clergy who say “His covenant people” (where the idea is covenant is not governed by election, and the word election is not used), you go for “sinners like you and me”. But Christ’s death does not save non-elect sinners nor was Christ’s death intended to save (or condemn) non-elect sinners. Christ did not simply bear “sin” in a collective general “more or less, depending on what sinners decide” sense that Arminians assume. Christ’s death was not simply “representative” but a substitution, and all for whom He died will be saved

It’s so weird that you, on one hand, want a detailed Reformed creed which teaches so many wonderful truths about who Christ is, but then, on the other hand, want a “least common denominator” any Jesus will do, when it comes to the gospel. At the end of the day, it sounds to me like you not only think “the enough for everybody” gospel is true and enough, but you DO NOT want to talk to us sinners about what God has revealed about election. it’s as if you think our talking about Christ actually one day saving all for whom He died will get in the way of God’s effectual call.

Herman Bavinck, Sin and Salvation, volume 3, Reformed Dogmatics, 2006, p 469—-”The center of gravity has been shifted from Christ and located in the Christian. Faith (not the atonement) has become the reconciliation with God.”

Jonathan Gibson, From Heaven, p 358—-“Election and the Atonement do not operate on separate theological tracks. What God has joined together, let no theologian separate. Affirming union with Christ before the moment of redemption accomplished counters any disjunction between the effect of Christ’s death and the effect of His resurrection. (Those who put union later) sound as if Christ’s death might lead to the death of some sinners, but not also to their resurrection. … if one, then the other. if death with, then resurrection with.”

The “problem” to which those who misuse the Lombard formula (sufficiency/efficiency appeal is in fact solved by the biblical proclamation that every one who believes on the Christ who saves by His death will be forgiven and pass from death to life. . This proclamation is not grounded in Christ’s having died sufficiently for all humans. This proclamation is based on Christ’s having died sufficiently and efficiently for all the elect, no matter how enormous their iniquity. And that sufficient and efficient death has purchased faith for all the Father gave the Son.

DGH—-Not everyone agreed with Edwards— Nathaniel Taylor’s psychology differed. For him, motives were distinct from choice or volition, and volition caused action. Taylor’s psychology was tripartite, consisting of the affections, will, and understanding; Edwards’s was dual, consisting of the affections (emotions/will) and understanding.

DGH—Is anyone willing to stake salvation on any of these puritan speculations? http://oldlife.org/2016/03/30/the-less-worthy-bits-of-puritanism

mark– Did you ever notice that the puritans who hate the “commercial metaphor” for Christ’s death, are the very same puritans who most insist on the speculation that Christ’s death is “infinite and sufficient” and therefore there’s no need to talk about election in the gospel. These puritans are also often the very same people who say that “sanctification increases” and God’s love and grace goes up the more we obey, The same people who never have a good word to say about Tobias Crisp never have a bad word about John Wesley or Andrew Fuller or puritans like Richard Baxter. .

Mark Jones—“Divine grace is not MERELY God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, and thus a characteristic of how he relates to FINITE creatures, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam; in the “wilderness,” the grace of God is upon his Son, the second Adam. God’s graciousness may be summarized simply as what he is in and of himself.”

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/can-humans-merit-before-god-2.php

According to the Marrow theology, in the preaching of the gospel God in Jesus Christ, “God moved with nothing but his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life” . As confusing as the language is, the phrase, “deed of gift and grant,” intends to teach God’s would-be love to all humans who hear the preaching on the condition that they believe.

Contrast this confusing statement concerning the extent of the atoning death of Christ with the clear language of the Canons of Dordt— For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father. (2.8).

Christ died once for time, back then, over there, not here, not now but in the past.. Christ is alive, having risen from the dead. In order to introduce into Reformed churches the doctrine of universal atonement, the Marrow men resorted to linguistic subterfuge: “Christ is dead for you.” The Canons of Dordt make plain that the “offer” does not mean a gracious effort on God’s part to save all who hear, in view of a love of God for all hearers and with the desire to save them all. Head one of the Canons confesses the non-election of some humans . Head two confesses that Christ died for the elect alone, according to God’s lasting love for them. Heads three and four confess that the saving call of the gospel, that which has its source in God’s election, is for some hearers of the gospel, not for all without exception.

Head two of the Canons teaches that Christ “purchased” for the elect, not only forgiveness and eternal life, but also faith itself (Canons 2.8). Faith in Jesus Christ is a privilege, a right earned for the elect by the death of Jesus. “ If God in the gospel lovingly offers salvation to all humans on the basis of Christ’s death for everyone, Christ is not the whole savior. The sinner himself, by his acceptance of the offered Christ, is instrumental in his own salvation. Christ is no longer the savior because what God the Holy Spirit does to make the sinner accept Christ is the more fundamental part of salvation.

According to the puritan Thomas Boston. the offer is not a gift to effectually save anybody, but merely a way to make Jesus available. Boston uses the example of the gift of money to a poor man: “Even as when one presents a piece of gold to a poor man saying, ‘Take it, it is yours’; the offer makes the piece REALLY HERE IN A SENSE nevertheless, while the poor man does not accept it, it is not HIS IN POSSESSION nor hath he the benefit of it; but, on the contrary, must starve for it all, and that so much the more miserably, that he hath slighted the offer and refused the gift”

And thus the gospel is converted into law, an instrument of condemnation under the pretense of glad tidings to sinners Christ never knew or died for.

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The Old Man which Died is NOT the Old Indwelling Nature

April 1, 2016

Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”. We tend to judge people (even ourselves) to be saved on the evidence of something in us which wants to be better. We even like to think that it’s God in us causing us to want to be better. So we talk about salvation as getting a “new nature” or we think about our old nature being born again (reformed and regenerated) But the true God will not accept us into His presence based on something in us, not even based on something God has put in us. If we have not yet been legally justified by God, we are still in our sins.

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. The “new man in Christ” (new creation) becomes so by God’s justification. Instead of “infusing” into us a new disposition , our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

The elect are transferred from a condemned state to a justified state by God’s legal imputation. These elect individuals are then no longer part of the “old man”. They become part of the “new man”. This happens not by impartation but by imputation. Is guilt transferred to Christ, or is corrupt “old nature” also transferred to Christ? Our guilt not our nature was given to Christ.

When I think of “new man”, why do I think of justification, and not only the regeneration which results from God’s imputation of Christ’s death to us? Well, I could ask you, why do you always draw the line between two natures? Where does the Bible talk about two natures? Why don’t you draw the line between the justified and the condemned?

I am not denying the new birth or the absolute necessity for it. I am only saying that the new birth is not “union with Christ” and that it does not result in something called “the new nature”. The “old man” has to do with our previous guilty legal state, and not first of all with a change of substance or nature.

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

“Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed legal reality. The category of “those who live” is also not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed reality, legal life because of justification.

The “new man” is about a legal change of identity, a legal before and after. It’s not gradual; it’s an either or—- this legal state or that legal state. The new is neither adding a “new nature” or “changing the old nature”. The new is by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

So how then are we in Christ? Only for those now in Christ legally has the old has passed. For some of the elect, God has already declared the legal verdict. One day, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict.

Although the Bible does teach that the sheep are always in Christ by election, Romans 16 teaches that some of the sheep are in Christ before other of the sheep. This change is not a first of all a change of regeneration or birth but legally a change of state before God. To be in Christ in this way is to be justified.

Union with Christ is legal solidarity with Christ and His work and His benefits. As a result of this legal change, the sheep are born again and believe the gospel, but “union” does not precede justification, except “union by election”.

God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of Christ’s indwelling (or the gift of faith). God does not justify because God knows that God is going to indwell and change the person. Christ indwells the person because God has imputed Christ’s death to that person. A change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of God’s imputation, but this change of belief is never the condition or the reason for God justifying. Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were called…”

Jesus was not under a curse for being a man, nevertheless as a man became a curse for the elect. The notion that Christ must have assumed a fallen human nature in order to be “made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb 2:17) subtly transforms sin into a constituent of human nature per se rather than an acquired status and condition by virtue of man’s failed ethical response to God and his covenant revelation. By contrast, those who maintain (against Barth; see CD, 4/1, pp. 478-513) a genuine transition from man’s original state of innocence to an estate of sin and misery through Adam’s historical fall hold that human nature as such is necessarily finite but not fallen. To put it differently, original sin is not a given of created humanity, but came upon humanity in the fall. It is, therefore, an ethical, not a metaphysical, aspect of the post-fall condition of man prior to his ethical resurrection in regeneration. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/08/carlton-wynnewas-jesus-morally.php#sthash.5Uu1qB0d.dpuf

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

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

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

If “life” in the Bible is ONLY about the ability to believe God’s testimony about the Son, then the good news is no longer what the Son did or did not do, but the good news instead becomes our believing, and being careful to give God all the praise for our believing.