More and More United to Christ? More and More Justified?

Heidelberg Caatechsim Q.76. What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?

A. It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become MORE AND MORE UNITED to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone” and that we live and are governed forever by one spirit.

Mike Horton, Justification, volume 2, (New Studies in Dogmatics , p449—Union with Christ is not actually an element in the order of salvation but an “umbrella term” for the order as a whole.

Horton, p450—“The Holy Spirit grants us faith to be united to Christ.”

Horton, p451—“Union is not a goal but the source”

Horton, p455–“There is no union with Christ which is not union with the visible church”

Horton, p467–Calvin goes beyond Luther by stressing the more and more
aspect of salvation

Horton, p471—” Logical priority does not determine basis”

Horton, p487—“the goal of union”

Horton—-“a person can become a member of the covenant of grace without truly embracing the word that is preached. All persons in the covenant are to be threatened with the consequences of apostasy. Some belong to the covenant community and experience thereby the work of the Spirit through the means of grace and yet are not regenerate.. Thus we have a category for a person who is in the covenant but not personally UNITED BY LIVING FAITH to Jesus Christ”

Nathan J. Langerak— “Cnsequent conditions” are new conditions of
salvation imposed on the saved person because the person is now saved.”

Does “living the gospel” equate to attending the true visible church in order to receive grace by means of the sacrament? Is it possible to be justified before God without being united to the true visible church? Is the Protestant Reformed Church (which denies that the gospel is an offer) the true visible church? Is the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (which insists that the gospel is an offer) the true visible church?

This essay is not mainly against the idolatry of “the church” or thinking you have to go to “the church” in order to get water, in order to have something to believe in, in order to receive and continue to receive grace. God has not predestined “the church” to be the “means of grace”, but that’s not my concern now.

My argument instead is that we are either in Christ or we are not. There is no such thing as being “more united” to Christ because of eating the “sacrament”. There is no such thing as being more and more united to Christ. We are either sanctified and set apart in Christ or not. We were elected in Christ or not. If we were not elected in Christ, then Christ never died for our sins and we will never be placed in Christ’s death and justified. If we were elected in Christ, then Christ died because of our sins (Romans 4:25), and when God gives the elect the reward of Christ’s death by means of legal imputation, these elect are justified and will be resurrected to life.

Romans 5:17 how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness REIGN IN LIFE through the one man,Jesus Christ…18 through one righteous act there is life-giving justification…21 as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, RESULTING IN LASTING LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The one who is justified now is not only legally free from some sins but from ALL SINS

John 5:24 As many as who hear My word and believe Him who sent Me has lasting life and will NOT COME UNDER JUDGMENT but HAS PASSED from death to life. 25 I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

I think that John 5: 24 shows that there is no process of justification. Justification is NOT something you have more or less. Being placed into Christ’s death is NOT something that increases or decreases. But if you confess that “union” comes before justification, and if you say thaat “union” increases, I think the likely result will something like a Lutheran “justified again every day” (or some days not justified, when you don’t attend the sacrament, or when you don’t have faith at the sacrament).

Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all time.

This is NOT a “two aspects” justification. This is NOT a “progressive justification”

If you have been placed into Christ’s death, then you will not need more grace when you sin than when you don’t sin. Being in Christ’s death does not give you the grace of sinning less so that you need less grace. You either have Christ’s death as your death or you do not have Christ’s death as your death.

Benjamin Keach, The Biblical Doctrine of Justification Without Works, Solid Ground Books, Birmingham, Alabama USA, 2007, p 80—“ “Once we are justified, we need not inquire how a man is justified after he is justified. By that righteousness of Christ which is out of us, though imputed to us, the Justice of God is satisfied; therefore all Works done by us, or inherent in us, are excluded in our Justification before God.”

Romanists say that justification includes progress in holiness. The Reformed say that nobody can be justified without “the double grace” of progress in holiness.
What’s the practical difference?

Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, p 516—My view is compatible
with Snodgrass (Justification by Grace–to the Doers:An Analysis of the
Place of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul) who holds that justification excludes ‘legalistic works’ done to earn justification but INCLUDE an evaluation of IMPERFECT works done by us through the Spirit…

I keep asking. Does being “united” to Christ mean that the distinction between promise and demand is removed in such a way that those justified today still need to be justified tomorrow by the “consequent” instrumentality of works done after one is justified? Now that we are “united” to Christ,is the promise of the gospel no longer any different from the demand of the law that we do what God says to do in order to stay “united” to Christ or to be “more united” to Christ?

Those who teach that “union with Christ” is an “umbrella term” which includes all the blessings in no particular order almost always end up saying that faith comes in order before “union with Christ” and that “union” comes in order before God does any imputing. Some of these “Reformed” folks are so Arminian that they make it sound like God only imputes your sins to Christ after you “execise your faith” and consent to the offer and then after that you are “united to Christ by working faith”. And most of them who say that “union” means all the blessings end up defining “union” as only the one blessing which they say is “the presence of the person of Christ in you” before God ever does any imputing.

They insist that it is “antinomian” to deny that faith comes first in the order of salvation before “union with Christ” and the presence of Christ indwelling internally in our eternal souls.

I agree that there are antinomians who deny that the gospel commands faith.

Romans 1:17 The righteous will live by faith

Antinomians teach that it is only Christ who lives by Christ’s faith and that Romans 1:17 is not about anybody else believing

But this real antinomianism is no excuse for NEONOMIANS who say that faith includes works, or who say that faith is righteousness.

Yes, antinomians are wrong to say that sinners are justified beforeand without faith. But it is not wrong to say that God imputes Christ’s death to the elect (those are the only ones whose sins were imputed to Christ) in order to the work of the Holy Spirit creating in the elect faith in the gospel.

Antinomians say that sinners are justified regardless of their faith in Christ.
Antinomians argue that saying that we can’t be justified without faith
in the gospel means a salvation not by grace

But Romans 4:16 This is why the promise is by faith, IN ORDER THAT IT

Antinomians teach that our faith should be in Christ’s faith

But Romans 6:17 teaches that not only is Christ the object of faith
but that Christ is present in power to create OUR FAITH IN CHRIST.

Romans 6:17 you obeyed from the heart that gospel doctrine to which
you were transferred

Galatians 2:16 no one is justified by the works of the law but by
faith in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 28:16 as many as who believe on Him will not be put to shame

Nobody who bothers to read this essay should say that I deny that faith in Christ is not necessary for justification before God. What I deny is that God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect sinner comes only after God has already come to indwell the elect sinner by Christ’s Spirit.

The Reformed Confessions teach (but do not prove) that regeneration must come before imputation. These confessions also incorrectly teach that what God imputes (after regeneration, they say) is not the death of Christ but instead
that the law-keeping of Christ is imputed. These Confessions teach that Christ’s death is not the righteousness to be imputed, but rather His incarnate law-keeping. No hope in Christ’s death alone, they say.

And the death of those who do not consent to the “Reformed free offer” (consent in order to be united to Christ) is not they say the punishment for sin because they say that you have to exist to be punished and therefore they say that those who do not consent to God’s law (which for them ultimately the same as God’s gospel) must continue to sin forever and never die.


The reward of Christ’s death is not grace for Christ but justice for Christ

The reward of Christ’s death (righteousness) will be given to all the elect

The reward of Christ’s death (righteousness) is grace for all for whom Christ died

I Peter 1:18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way
of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like
silver or gold, 19 but with the precious BLOOD of Christ, like that of
a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 CHRIST WAS CHOSEN before the ages
but was revealed at the end of the ages for you 21 who through Christ
are believers in God, who raised Christ from the dead and gave him
glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

II Peter 1:1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal preciousness
with our faith through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus

Many Reformed folks seem to think that if you don’t use certain words like “merit” or “earning” or “justification”, you can teach that there is MORE “sanctification” and MORE adoption and MORE assurance by means of your efforts and works. They teach that,after you are a watered Christian, then there is no more antithesis between faith and works, or between law and gospel

Richard Gaffin, by Faith not by Sight, p103–“The law-gospel antithesis enters not by virtue of creation but as the consequence of sin. The gospel is to the purpose of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer. With the gospel and in Christ, united to him, the law is now my friend.”

In reponse to Gaffin, there was no grace before Adam’s sin and no need for grace. The tree of life in the garden was not the church, nor was that tree an “offer” to be given lasting life by means of not sinning. The law commandment—if you sin, you surely die—was NOT the gospel. But God’s command was a real threat, NOT that sinners would live forever in torture in some place separated fro God. God’s ccommand to Adaam was a threat of DEATH

Second, again in response to Gaffin, law still accuses of sin after Adam’s sin. Even after we become Christians, even after we are in Christ’s death by God’s legal imputation, Christians still sin and their sin is still sin. This sin is against law, even though their sin no longer brings them into condemnation and death.

There are NOT two kinds of works, one of which kind of works gains you MORE AND MORE blessings. The blessings of salvation come to the justified elect, not because of ANY KIND OF works.

The blessings of salvaton only come to those for whom Christ died, after God places them into Christ’s death.

Gaffin and many others (including Mike Horton) teach that it’s not only Christ’s death (because of sins) which justifies. They teach that Christ’s resurrection enables us to have faith which enables us to have “union” which they desecribe as an internal energy indwelling inside us which changes our inner disposition. They deny that God imputes Christ’s death to the ungodly unregenerate.

They keep teaching that Christ’s rightousness is only imputed after “union” and that “union” is only after the faith.

I keep asking –how do you get faith to receive Christ inside you if this internal Christ (by His Spirit) is not already inside you?

If “union” whereby the Spirit gives us Christ is for all practical purposes some kind of “regeneration”, and if regeneration is an ongong process, how is it that any “justification” coming after this “union” could possibly be EITHER OR? Either you are now justified or you are not now justified!

The order that puts faith before union and union before imputation results in justification as a process. Not only do you have MORE AND MORE “union” and MORE AND MORE “sanctification”, but you have MORE AND MORE justification. You have justifciation of those who are already supposedly justified.

Moo, (“Justification in Galatians”, p 172, Understanding the Times)—”Nor is there any need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to one another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight, p 35-41). The problem of positing a AN UNION WITH CHIRST THAT PRECEDES THE ERASURE OF OUR LEGAL CONDEMNTION…….. CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and SECOND OUR ACTUAL JUSTIFICATIONn-stemming from our union with Christ.”

Bradley Green, Covenant and Commandment, IVP, 2014, p 63—-“ SOME think that Christ’s work must be kept totally and utterly sequestered from Abraham’s work and from our work. But it is not necessary to say that there are no conditions where grace reigns. Does it not make more sense to simply say that within a gracious covenantal relationship God moves his covenant people to obey him more and more?

Faith is NOT our “consent or assent to the offer”. God commands all sinners to obey the gospel. We must not change the gospel so that we falsely teach that Christ died in some way for all sinners. Christ never needed to die for anyone in order to command everyone to believe the gospel.

My first concern in this essay is to ask for definition of “union with christ”. Indeed, I think we need to stop using the expression and always be more specific. Those God loves are elected IN CHRIST from before the ages. This is the beginning and source of eveything. But the phrase “union with Christ” is often used to talk about “Christ in us”. Almost always the distinction between “us in Christ” and “Christ in us” is not spelled out, but the assumption is that the Spirit of Christ has to be in us before we can be legally placed into Christ’s death. Instead of teaching that Christ’s resurrection is because of the certain justification of all for whom Christ died, is is more often mistakenly taught from Romans 4:25 that Christ’s resurrection is in order to our justification and therefore the power that raised Christ from the dead needs to work to regenerate us inside beore God can impute Christ’s death to us.

It is mistakenly taught from Ephesians 2 that resurrection with Christ is regeneration. But Ephesians 2 teaches a legal identity with Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was not Christ’s regeneration. Christ’s death was a result Christ’s legal condemnation (for imputed sins). Christ’s resurrecton was a result of the certain legal justification of all for whom Christ died.

Marcus Peters gives us the false (normal) order: “We are not united to Christ because we have been justified. It is quite the other way around: we are justified because we have been united to Christ, who is himself our justification.”

EITHER you are dead or you are not, but the argument is that, yes you
are either married or not, but that married people get closer and
closer (or not). If these Reformed theologians don’t have Bible texts that say what their confessions say, they just repeat the confession. HC 76 BUT
ALSO BESIDES THAT that, to become MORE AND MORE UNITED to his sacred
body, by the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us.

This teaching about a process of justification, part of which depends on God-enabled grace-enabled working on our part is not something new. It goes all the way back to Augustine and the beginning of the false sacramental Roman “church”.

Augustine–There is a sense in which faith is rightly distinguished from works,
because there are two different kinds of works. There are works that “appear good” but do not refer to Christ, i.e. do not have love of Christ as their source and end or goal. But there are other works that are truly good, because they have love of Christ as their source and goal. Faith is of the latter sort of work, because faith works by love, and has Christ as its source and goal.

Machen, Notes on Galatians, p178–”You might conceivably be saved by works or you might be saved by faith, but you cannot be saved by both. It is ‘either or’ here not ‘both and’. The Scripture says it is by faith. Therefore it is NOT works.”

Machen– “According to modern liberalism, faith is essentially the same as ‘making Christ master’ of one’s life…But that simply means that salvation is thought to be obtained by our obedience to the commands of Christ. Such teaching is just a sublimated form of legalism.”

Machen– What good does it do to me to tell me that the type of religion presented in the Bible is a very fine type of religion and that the thing for me to do is just to start practicing that type of religion now?…I will tell you, my friend. It does me not one tiniest little bit of good…What I need FIRST of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but
knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the
question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me.

But as Horton suggested, the Reformed also have a “more and more”. Not only Calvin but Machen has a SECOND thought. “The works which Paul condemns are not the works which James condones. ”

Gaffin and Moo and Beale and Norman Shepherd now quote Machen’s second thought. Horton quotes Machen’s first thought without ever mentioning what Gaffin and Mooe and Beale teach.

I agree with Cunha (The Emperor’s New Clothes) that justification is NOT BY WORKS. Justification is not by works before justification, and not by works after justification I reject “process justification” . I reject “justified but continuing to be justified” I reject “justification not yet justification.”

Rick p—“Why would I put myself through the ordeal of discipline, sacrifice, and sweat, much less risk-taking business endeavors, if I can have a wonderful life without working for it?”

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16 Comments on “More and More United to Christ? More and More Justified?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    In Mike Horton’s new books on justification (new studiies in dogmatics), even when Horton is talking about the Forde (“radical Lutheran”, Steve Paulson) idea that “the death of Jesus was not punishment because ‘we killed Jesus”, Horton is so prejudiced that he calls this “the anabaptist logic”. (p 201 to 204, voulme 2) Even though Horton refers to Rene Girard and John Milbank, Horton uses “anabaptist” as his label for all those who reject penal substitution.

    Since Horton’s argument FOR penal substitution cites Hans Boermsa on the atonement, would it be fair for me to say that Horton “has the Richard Baxter view” (general atonement) about Christ’s death”? Maybe Horton does agree with Boersma and Baxter on the atonemeent, but that would NOT be “confessional”. In any case, if Horton can put all pacifists who reject any justified killing by himans in the same box with Danny Weaver and all “anabaptists” in the same box as Danny Weaver, would it not be fair for us to put Mike Horton in the same box with Baxter and Luther and all those who teach an universal atonement which dos not effectually or justly atone? How can Christ be any sinner’s penal substitute, and yet that sinner still perish?

    Brinsmead at the olld Verdict magazine arguing for a Lutheran style
    continuing justification

    In 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. Buchanan says that
    this is what “the Reformers held and taught.” The view he expresses
    does not represent Luther, Melancthon, and the whole Lutheran wing of the Reformation.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Paul Helm–Justification is not a mere threshold blessing; something
    which applies to people at their conversion and not subsequently. It
    is operative at all times, an, objective, perfect, judicial death of
    Christ, which is complete that is the ground of Christian assurance.
    So there is a sense in which the JUSTIFIED SINNER never leaves the law-court in which the judge declares them righteous for Christ’s
    sake. We need that declaration of forgiveness always to stand, and
    never to be relegated into something over and done with, or requiring
    to be supplemented by some other righteousness God now works in us. The one declaration of justification, grounded in Christ’s
    righteousness, must be enough to carry the believer to the finish

    It’s not faith and works (created by our new inner disposition) that
    cause the blood of Christ to justify elect sinners (once for all
    time). It’s the death of Christ which is the righteousness by which
    God justifies elecct sinners.

    Revelation 7:14 Ihese weaaring white robes .
    They washed their robes and made them white
    in the blood of the Lamb.

    Romans 3:25 God presented Christ as a propitiation through faith in His blood,

    Romans 5:9 we have now been declared righteous by His blood,

    Matthew 26:28 My blood that establishes the covenant. My blood is
    shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

    Galatians 6: 14 I will never boast about anything except the cross of
    our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Ephesians 1:7 We have redemption in Him through His blood, the
    forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

    I Peter 1:18 you were redeemed from your empty way of your fathers…. with the precious blood of Christ, the lamb without defect or blemish. Christ was chose before the ages but revealed at the end of the aages

    1 John 1:7 the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

    Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the lastingl Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?

    Hebrews 13:20 The God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the lasting covenant,

    Acts 20:28 God purchased them with His own blood.

    Revelation 1:5 Jesus Christ loves us and has set us free from our
    sins by His blood,

    Revelation 19:13 He wore a robe stained with blood

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Mike Horton—Even if it is granted that justification is an exclusively
    forensic declaration, the rest of the order of salvation has usually
    been treated in Reformed theology as the consequence of an entirely different event the implantation of new life in regeneration.”
    (Covenant and Salvation p 216

    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.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Mike Horton—“The New Testament lays before us a vast array of
    CONDITIONS for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith,
    but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor ” God of Promise, p 182

    Mike Horton—But God requires our obedience, just as any good father does. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “then you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). Imagine someone adopting a child into a great family full of love and grace. Then, after being written into the Father’s will, the young person says, “Glad to have the goods, but I don’t even know you. I’m gone.” Now, sometimes God’s children do actually go off to a far country into the depths of sin, like the prodigal son. They’re welcomed back, but as repentant children, just like the prodigal. The Father’s arms are wide open to receive prodigals back. But is obedience necessary? Of course, it is like in any good home.

    Mike Horton–True faith always bears the fruit of love and
    good works. You can’t be united to Christ for justification and not
    also for sanctification. We’re justified apart from our own obedience
    precisely to become obedient sons and daughters in God’s worldwide family. But all of it, including our obedience, is a gift.
    Are Christians under the Ten Commandments or are we only responsible to keep New Testament commands?

    Mike Horton: There are two ways of being “under” the 10 Commandments. The first is being under the moral law as the basis for our salvation. ….In the gospel, we’re told not only that Christ lived and died for us but that he rose again for us and that we are baptized into his victory over sin’s guilt and tyranny. He sent his Spirit to us to give us a new heart and to unite us to Christ through faith, which itself is his gift. So we’re not under the law as a way of being accounted righteous before God.

    Mike Horton— But there’s a second sense of being “under the law” and that’s being obligated to what the law requires. Jesus taught that we’re still obligated to the law: loving God and our neighbor is the summary of the Ten Commandments (Mat 22:40). But now this comes to us as those who are justified, free of the terrors of the law, who now spontaneously—from the heart—long to love God and our neighbor. The content of God’s moral will for our lives hasn’t changed. The Ten Commandments still summarize that moral will….
    How can we live in the power of the Holy Spirit regularly? All of us who are united to Christ seek to live more and more in the
    power of the Spirit.

    Mike Horton–We want to bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is
    love, gentleness, peace, kindness, patience, and self-control. But
    it’s a struggle, isn’t it? Anybody who thinks it’s easy doesn’t really
    recognize the power of indwelling sin….. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3 that there’s “one baptism.” Everyone enjoys the same benefits of belonging to Christ. But there are different degrees of “filling.” Just a chapter after saying that there’s one baptism Paul says in Eph 5:18,
    “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled
    with the Spirit.” We all are filled with the Spirit but in varying
    degrees. We all also “grieve the Spirit” by doing our own thing. So
    we’re called to be filled more and more with the Spirit by studying
    his Word, even singing it to each other, as he goes on to say.

    Mike Horton—So from the secure position of knowing that you are baptized )by the Spirit into Christ) as much as every other believer, press on to be filled with the Spirit by making use of his means of grace: the Word, especially as it’s preached, prayed and sung in the assembly of other\ believers on the Lord’s Day, but then throughout the day, every day, as we yield to the Spirit’s promptings rather than to our own selfish desires.

    Calvin — regeneration is a process. It “does not take place in one
    moment or one day or one year,” but occurs “through continual and
    sometimes even slow advances” (Institutes, III.3.9)

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Is the order of salvation important or not?- I think this explains why it is important:

    “The Puritans agree that Christ purchased the Spirit. they also agree that faith is not really the righteousness. But nevertheless, they think it’s acceptable for us (and the Bible) to say that God counts our faith experience as the righteousness, and acceptable to say that the Spirit gives Christ (at least when it comes to “union”, as opposed to Christ giving the Spirit). But the result of that is always going to be us talking about regeneration and indwelling and our hearts instead of about Christ’s guilt-bearing for those elected in Christ.

    I ask that we define “union”. It does no good to agree that “union” has various aspects (ie, it’s by-election and it’s legal also) if we then go on from that to use the word “union” to mean “experimental break with the pattern of sin”.

    Romans 6 is certainly a key text on the relationship of justification and the Christian life. Many read Romans 6 as if it were saying: don’t worry about that two legal heads stuff in Romans 5, because there is another answer besides justification as to why we don’t sin, and that is “union”. Or don’t worry about justification of the ungodly now, because God is not only looking to Christ’s death but also looking to what the Spirit is going to do in us in the future.

    Others (like Robert Haldane) read Romans to say that the answer to the question about the Christian life is not something else besides justification, legal identity with Christ’s death and resurrection. We read Romans 6:7 as saying that the answer continues to be “justified from sin”. We insist on that because Christ became dead to sin, was justified from sin, and that certainly was NOT “regeneration” or the work of the Spirit in Him. We insist on reading Romans 6 in terms of “sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law”.

    Others, of course, read Holy Spirit baptism into Romans 6. They don’t talk about Christ giving the Spirit (which also is not in Romans 6). They talk about the Spirit giving Christ (which is not in Romans 6). Others talk about the sacramental water of the church. But it is no way acceptable to these folks to think that Romans 6 is about justification and legal identification. They already have their minds made up that imputation is not a good enough answer to the question of Romans 6.

    If this topic is not practical, don’t waste your time on it. If you spend time on it, let’s agree that “order” questions are important even for you

  6. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, IVP, 1996

    p 95 Augustinian theology was committed to a process of justification. In the process grace moved the will to hate sin and to desire justification, providing the opportunity to return to the grace of
    baptism. Justification could never be complete.

    p 97 The way we present the gospel invariably expresses an implicit
    understanding of the order of salvation.

    p 102 It is only by the Holy Spirit that we are being united to
    Christ. The Spirit’s agency and priority is the architectonic principle, and for this reason there is always a not yet character to
    our present salvation.

    Mark:So we are back to Augustinian model, where justification is not
    yet complete…..

    p 102 There is always a not yet character to our present salvation. It
    is doubtful if the chain model of the order of salvation could ever
    express this fully. Its very form suggests that one link is complete
    in itself and thus distinct from the others; thus for example,
    regeneration is viewed as coming to an end were faith begins.

    Mark: So justification is not distinct from the Christian life?
    Justification is not distinct from regeneration? And most importantly,
    regeneration is not distinctly before faith? Regeneration is never
    complete? Regeneration and the Christian life are the same, and the
    Christian life is not complete yet? In this way, the idea of a
    complete present justification can be discarded, because it depends on future regeneration. Ferguson (and Gaffin) can have no justification complete and done right now.

    p 103 And while it requires a carefully guarded statement, it is also
    true that….justification awaits its consummation, in the same way in
    which adoption (like justification, a legal act in the New Testament,
    will enter a new stage…when we appear before the judgment seat of
    Christ to receive what is due to us (II Cor 5:10)

    mark: The dialectic requires guarded statement, because if you say it
    too plainly, Ferguson might get in the same political trouble as
    Norman Shepherd. But it’s still two-stage justification (despite his
    “have already been justified with irreversible finality), and it’s
    justification which depends on works the Holy Spirit has produced in
    us, after we are (provisionally) Christians. Ferguson reads the
    Westminster Catechism (openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment) as teaching a future justification. This comes from saying that justification is not isolated or distinct from “sanctification”.
    This comes from saying that no link is yet complete.

    p 104 Being raised with Christ took place in a representative fashion
    in Christ’s historical resurrection. BUT it is realized in the
    believer at regeneration, which is marked sacramentally by baptism.

    Mark: And so we are back to the Augustinian process, and to the
    efficacy of the grace of water baptism. Instead of being raised by
    legal imputation into Christ’s representative death, raised is thought
    of as regeneration. And this justification by representative death and
    regeneration are again confused, with the legal representative tending to drop out of the picture. Because Ferguson thinks “union” covers it all, and that regeneration cannot be an isolated link distinct from the rest of the Christian life.

  7. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, p 516—My view is compatible with Snodgrass (Justification by Grace–to the Doers:An Analysis of the Place of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul) who holds that justification excludes ‘legalistic works’ done to earn justification but inclues an evaluation of imperfect works done by us through the Spirit…

    Lane Tipton—“The transaction of imputation is situated within the broader REALITY of union by Christ by Spirit-wrought faith.

    Bradley Green, Covenant and Commandment, IVP, 2014, p 63—-“ Some think that Christ’s work must be kept totally and utterly sequestered from Abraham’s work and from our work. But it is not necessary to say that there are no conditions where grace reigns. Does it not make more sense to simply say that within a gracious covenantal relationship God moves his covenant people to obey him more and more?

    Rick Phillips —”I am a WTS union-with-Christ guy. Sanctification does not begin with justification or an appreciation of justification. Sanctification begins in the effectual call of Christ and its effect of regeneration within me….Union with Christ is by faith, so we must not put justification in the place of the real presence of Christ….just as it would be wrong to say that justification is the status gained from your sanctification, it is also wrong to say that sanctification is living out your justification…. Romans 2:6-7 is not hypothetical but actual. Paul means it when he writes, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The context in which this statement is made – Romans 8:13 – is one focused on sanctification. So in pointing out the necessity of good works we must pointedly SEPARATE IT from justification. Romans 8:13 is absolutely true, but it is not speaking of justification…..Sanctification is INSEPARABLY joined to justification, of course, through my union with Christ in faith, so that sanctification is never abstracted from justification

    Nathan J. Langerak— “Consequent conditions” are new conditions of salvation imposed on the saved person because the person is now saved..

    Now because of the effect of regeneration inside you, you are more and more able to keep the consequent conditions

  8. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Mike Horton, Justification, volume one, new studies in dogmatics, p 208–“we do not see divine and human agency in a competitive relation. We understand justification and regeneration to be unilateral divine actions, but sanctification is God’s work of effectively bringing about human obedience by cooperative grace.”

    Define “union”. Is”union” is both “regeneration in us” and “justification in Christ”

    But I am told that “union” is BOTH.
    Faitn inside you toward Christ is Christ in you

    If righteousness comes by regeneration also, then the righteousness
    which comes by God’s imputation is nothing.

    Is regeneration a process?

    Is God’s imputation of Christs’s death a process?

    Is God’s imputation of sins to Christ a process?

    if there is no hope in Christ’s death for us, without also some hope in the reality of progress in holiness in sude, then hope in Christ’s death for us is nothing.

    If there is no reality in Christ’s death being imputed to us, then
    there is no reality in the sins of the elect having been imputed by
    God to Christ

    all or nothing.
    if Christ died for all sins but nevetheless some sins will in the end
    still be imputed to sinners, then Christ died for nothing

    Romans 3:24 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the
    redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

    Galatians 2: 21–” I do not nullify the grace of God, for if
    righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

  9. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Calvin—“There is a two-fold grace in baptism, for therin both remission of sins and regeneration are offfered to us . We teach that full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life / Accordingly, sin remains in us and is not instantly in one day extinguished by baptism, but as the guilt is effaced it is null in regard to imputation

  10. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Unlike the Reformed, Luther did not believe in progfess in sanctification Maybe if the Reformed stopped teaching progress in “sanctification” (dying “more and more” to sin), then Kuyper and other Reformed would stop thinking that Ben Sasse is going to slow down abortion rates. or even keep Israel from killing more Muslims.

    Mark Seifrid-—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. …. The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. The Reformed regard the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.

    Seifrid—Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. T. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    Seifird—Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another

  11. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Gospel Reformation Network Affirmations and Denials

    Article IV – Union with Christ and Sanctification
    • We affirm that both justification and sanctification are distinct, necessary, inseparable and simultaneous graces of union with Christ though faith.
    • We deny that sanctification flows DIRECTLY from justification, or that the transformative elements of salvation are MERE consequences of the forensic elements.

    my questions

    1. Who is the Gospel Reformation Network? Is it a conference of friends who think alike, or does it agree to certain confessions, and does it have ecclesiastical and sacramental authority?

    2. Why is it a problem to deny that “sanctification” flows from justification, as long as “sanctification” result (flows)?

    3. Is the problem that “justification” is defined, but that “sanctification” and “union” are not?

    4. What does “sanctification” mean in Hebrews 10:10-14?

    5. What does “union” mean? Is “union” non-forensic? Is “union” both forensic and non-forensic?

    6. Once you have defined “union”, will you consistently use the word “union” in the way you defined it? Will you be thinking of “union” only as a result “flowing from” faith?

    7. If “faith-union” is a result of faith, and if faith is a result of regeneration, where do faith and regeneration come from?

    8. Is the problem with saying that “sanctification” results from “justification” the fact that we are either justified or we are not? Are we not also either “united to Christ” or not? (Please define “union”. Do you mean “in Christ”? Or do you mean “Christ in us”? Is there a difference in those two phrases? Why do you say “union” when you could be saying “in Christ” and “Christ in us”?)

    9.When you deny that “sanctification” is a “mere consequence” of the forensic, did you mean to deny that “sanctification” is a consequence of the “merely forensic”? What do you have against “merely” or any “sola” which points to Christ’s earned outside righteousness imputed to the elect?

    10. Is the point of the Gospel Reformation Network denial that “union” is not forensic or is the point that it is not “merely forensic”? Is this a question-begging point?

    11. If “sanctification” is “more than” than a “mere consequence”, does that mean that “sanctification” is also more than a result of “union”, so that “sanctification” is in someway identical to “union”, or at least a necessary “condition” for “union”?

    12. Does “union” flow from merely the transformative elements? If union is transformation, and union must come before justification, how is it that God is still justifying the ungodly?

    13. If becoming children of God only means being born again so that we are freed from the power of corruption, what is the need for those who are no longer ungodly to be justified or adopted?

    14. Is “union” a cause or a result of sacramental efficacy? It’s too late now to tell us that the order of application does not matter so much, since you insisted on denying that “justification” was a result of “sanctification”

  12. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Mike Horton—Through their covenant membership they have shared in God’s COMMON GRACE, and now, if they respond in unbelief, they will bear the CURSES OF THE NEW COVENANT. We must account for this category of common covenant beneficiaries of grace who spurn the objective COMMON GRACE delivered to them and fall away. If our theological system cannot account for this third group—not elect BUT NOT WITHOUT COVENANT GRACE EITHER–then we need a different theological paradigm. It’s covenant theology that accounts for this tertium quid between
    “foreigners to the covenant” and “elect members.” Some non-elect share the new covenant in common with the elect.

    Sam Storms —Horton contends that the blessings listed in Hebrews 6: 4-5 are experienced neither by the “saved” nor the “unsaved” but by those persons who belong to the covenant community but who have never come to saving faith in Christ. For Horton, a person can become a member of the new covenant without “truly embracing the word that is preached”. All persons in the new covenant are to be threatened with the consequences of apostasy. Some persons “belong to the covenant community and experiencesthereby the work of the Spirit through the means of grace, and yet are not regenerate” I find this entirely unpersuasive. There is no indication
    in the New Testament that anyone was regarded as a member of the New Covenant (as promised in Jeremiah 31 and instituted by Christ at the last supper) apart from faith in the redemptive work and resurrection life of Jesus Christ. …Horton attempt to connect the warnings with the supposed spiritual benefits of the means of grace (one of which he identifies as the “sealing” of the Spirit)

    • markmcculley Says:

      ufficient for all” is double talk

      quotations from Mike Horton’s essay in The Extent of the Atonement,
      edited by Adam Johnson, Zondervan, 2019

      p118—The term “limited atonement” distorts Dort’s teaching, which on the extent of the atonement repeats the traditional medivial refrain, sufficient for all

      p 129–To be in Christ is an ecclesiastical matter: it is to be be in
      the church. Although the reprobate are scattered among the elect in
      the church, there is no way of separating the sheep from the goats
      until the last judgment. Assurance of salvation THEREFORE is linkee to the PROPER use of the MEANS OF GRACE AND incorporation into the VISIBLE CHURCH. Certainty of salvation not by oneself BUT WITH HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE

      double talk–we can’t be certain who is chosen in the visible church ,
      but certainly of salvation is found with “his chosen people” (and by
      this Horton means “the” visible church)

      p 132–“We declare not only generally to all but particularly to each
      person that Christ’s death is sufficient to save him or her. Nobody
      can say, there was no redemption for me. There is sufficient
      redemption in Christ’s cross for every person in the world

      p 133–“God COULD HAVE justly coindemned us all. Because the death of Christ is sufficient for everyone, no one is left out except those who refuse this gift. God is not held responsible for our refusing this grace.

  13. Mark Mcculley Says:

    the justification taught by Augustine, by sovereign grace but not by Christ’s death but by water regeneration and then continuing “Christ formed in us” . It also seems to be the way most professing “sovereign grace” find assurance—by the struggle in us against sins and for works that bring glory to God

    Philip Cary–. 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.” For what the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” (a command we must choose to obey) but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe). It is sufficient to know that Christ’s body is given for me. IF I CLING TO THAT in faith, all will go well with me. And whenever the devil suggests otherwise, I keep returning to that sacramental Word, and to the “for us” in the creed, where the “us” includes me

  14. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Ephesians 4:30– “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

    future redemption does not equal not yet justification

    Gaffin confuses the justification of Christ with the continuing indwelling of Christ in not yet justified sinners (“mystical union” )

    Gaffin–On the one hand, Christ’s righteousness is perfect and
    complete, apart from anything done in the sinner. On the other hand,
    the expression of “alien righteousness” can leave the impression of an isolated imputative act, without a continuing relationship to Christ.

    Witness L ee–Spiritual Life is a Relationship with God through the
    presence of the life giving Spirit. The Old Man was Resurrected by the ADDITION TO IT OF GOD’S LIFE. On the one hand, the old man was crucified. On the other hand, a Christian now resurrected NOW LIVES AS ONE INTO WHOM DIVINE LIFE HAS BEEN IMPARTED. To live is Christ, because it is Christ who lives in us. Faitn in us is Christ in us, and we live by this FELLOWSHIP IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    Bruce McCormack—-“The work of the Holy Spirit does not complete a work of Jesus Christ which was incomplete without it. The work of the Holy
    Spirit does not make effective a work of Jesus Christ which is
    ineffective without it.”, p 229, “ Engaging the Doctrine of God“

    “I do not participate in the historical humanity of Christ ( a thought
    which would require an unity on the level of ‘substance’. Rather, I participate in the kind of humanity which Jesus embodies… Nowadays, we are suffering from ‘creeping perichoresis’, that is, the overly expansive use of terms which have their homes in purely spiritual relations between humans who do NOT participate in a common “substance’ and who therefore remain distinct individuals. This surely has to be the relation of the human believer to the human Jesus as well.

    “What has prevented us from seeing this is, I think, the degree of residual Catholic content in the Reformation understanding of
    eucharistic feeding. It is in the context of his treatment of
    eucharistic feeding that Calvin borrows rhetoric from the early church that brings him into conflict with his own doctrine of justification.

    “The image of vine and branches might easily be seen to connote an organic connectedness of Christ to the believer. The early church
    thought of an ontological union of a ‘person” in whom being is mixed with non-being (that’s us) with a ‘person’ in whom being is pure from
    non-being (Jesus). …The difference between the relation between a vine
    and a branch and the relation between Christ and the believer is that the first relation is impersonal and the second is personal. The flow
    of nutrients from the vine to the branches take place automatically.
    It does not require a legal act of the will. But in the case of Christ and the believer, we are dealing with a willed relation. ’

    “The term ‘engrafting’ is used in Romans 9-11 to speak of a share in gifts and privileges. That Paul would preface his use of the
    horticultural image with the affirmation that the adoption belonged to
    the Israelites before the Gentiles suggests that the image of ‘ingrafting’ is used as a synonym for adoption. The horticultural
    image is subordinated to the legal.. Since the gift of the Holy Spirit is itself a consequence of adoption (Romans 8:15) and not the cause and condition of adoption, a legal metaphor is used to describe the
    objective side of the act in which God turns toward the individual in
    his grace without respect for the subjective consequences of that turning IN US.

    McCormack—”The problem with such statements is that one of the ‘gifts’ he speaks of–regeneration–is very difficult to distinguish
    conceptually from that ‘union’ which is supposed to give rise to BOTH justification AND REGENERATION….Calvin’s break with Medieval Catholic views was not as clean and complete as he himself thought. For where regeneration is made— if only logically–to be the root of justification, then the work of God in us is once again made to be the ground of the divine forgiveness of sins.”

  15. Mark Mcculley Says:

    Brinsmead –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.

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