Archive for the ‘good works’ category

If You are Not Yet Justified, then You are Not Yet Sanctified

September 8, 2015

Proverbs 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”

Romans 6:20 ”For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those thing is death”

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we now bear FRUIT FOR GOD. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear FRUIT FOR DEATH.”

Luke 16:15 That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God.

Being set apart by God for God is not the same thing as being “moral”. Morality is not “sanctification” because those who are not yet justified before God by Christ’s death are not yet sanctified, not by the blood and not by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches a distinction between “dead works” (works done with unacceptable motives, like gaining assurance) and “fruit unto God” (works that are pleasing to God without being “necessary”)

Our justification is not by our works, not even by our works after faith and justification. If we are already justified, then it’s too late for us to be justified by works. If we think we will lose our justification if we don’t work, then we do not yet understand what God’s justification is.

If we do not yet understand what God’s justification is, then that is the result of God not having justified us yet. According to John 10, the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice and do not follow strangers. If we think that our works will give us the evidence that we are still justified, then we have not yet believed the gospel, which is the good news about being joined to Christ’s death and not about our morality and our works.

Even after we are justified saints, we are not yet glorified, not yet raised from the first death and given immortality. But neither is the rest of salvation conditioned on our morality and works. Our future resurrection from death is not about God enabling us to do what is required, but about God doing for us what we cannot and never will do.

Most professing Christians are legalists who condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. Even many Augustinians define grace as God doing in us what God requires in us, instead of defining the gospel by Christ’s death as satisfaction of God’s law.

Is Assurance Necessary for Us to Be Moral, or is morality necessary for Us to have Assurance, or do we have a Situationist Gospel in which the Answer Depends on Who’s Listening?

With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, II Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become become fruitful, but not in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ.

But many assume an assurance of calling based on our morality. To do that, they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context of II Peter 1, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their “works of faith” the assurance.

Their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in God causing them to be moral, not assurance in Christ’s death because of the sins of the elect imputed.

By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”?

Legalists warn against thinking you are justified if you are not “sanctified” (following moral rules) . But they are trying to follow Christ as Lord without first being justified by Christ’s death alone. They have not yet submitted to the gospel which teaches a righteousness not our own, a righteousness found in Christ’s death. Instead the legalists boast in giving God the glory for creating in them a righteousness of their own.

We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But many “Calvinists”, along with the Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them. Yes, they disagree (somewhat) about the source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in than they are in the object of faith.

We get “results”, they boast. We are seriously and sincerely moral. This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ, but on us—-if the Holy Spirit enables you do enough things right, then God promises not to break you off.

The true gospel explains that the justification of the ungodly does not happen apart from the imputation of Christ’s death and that faith is created by hearing the gospel. The true gospel tells us that it is the righteousness ALONE (Christ’s death bearing sins, apart from any works of faith created in us ) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)

The moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”

Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

The problem with using works “done after you are in the family” to get assurance is that works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as “dead works”. And “dead works” are sins.

John 3:19– “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Certainly God commands us all to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh, by people who are not yet justified. To doubt that you are justified or will be justified because of morality or immortality is to take the focus away from Christ’s one-time-done death for elect sinners.

If I am a little more sanctified than you, then I am a little more sure that I believe ???

July 2, 2015

when I am obeying him (however imperfectly) more than you are, my progress in sanctification is the fruit of free justification and my progress in sanctification does contribute to my assurance, but if your lack of progress in sanctification contributes to your lack of assurance, remember not to make your progress the first thing but only something second or third in your assurance, because even if you have a little less dirt (and more gas) in your tank than I do, you do have some dirt, and none of us have all gas (some dirt is mixed into all our progress) , and assurance is not all or nothing, which is why my progress in sanctification is not the first main thing but only one of the reasons that gives me assurance

Define “Sanctification”

March 19, 2015

“Sanctification is not achieved by a process, nor by our striving, or working to that end. It is achieved once for all by union with Christ” (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p 143). John Murray, however, also sees it as a “deflection from the pervasive New Testament witness to speak of sanctification as merely positional” . Murray sees the positional position as necessary but not as sufficient and teaches that sanctification is also “progressive”. Murray argues that if the believer has the Holy Spirit and is given commands to obey God after conversion, then the believer must still be obligated to live out the commandments of God.

But “progressive sanctification” does not logically result from a change of disposition in the believer. And “progressive sanctification” does not logically result from the imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Justified sinners remain sinners even after justification, and also after “sanctification”. Even our best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not create in us a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify us. “Sanctification” does not put us in possession of any personal holiness. “Sanctification” makes us saints, not better people who don’t sin so much.

When it comes to the word “sanctification”, first we need to define the word, because biblically it has more to do with binary status than it does with process or progress. I would recommend Peterson’s Possessed by God on this, but in brief we need to always remember the teaching of Hebrews 10;10-14 that those individuals being sanctified in time are individuals at different times being set apart by the blood of Christ. It is election that first sets us apart. Christ died only for the elect, and it is Christ’s death which sets the elect apart when God imputes the death of Christ to them.

So we need to define sanctification. Even when we say “definitive sanctification”, we need to make it clear if we are talking about the work of the Holy Spirit in initially causing us to understand and believe the gospel (II Thess 2:13) or if we are talking about a claim that Christians cannot sin as much or in the same ways as we did before conversion (John Murray)

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” as our new inability to not sin so much often assume that their own definition of sanctification is what we find taught in Romans 6. But a careful reading of Romans 6 shows that being united to Christ’s death sets the elect apart by means of legal identification with Christ. The reason sin shall not reign is not “we will not practice sin (so much) anymore”. The reason sin shall not reign over those sanctified by Christ’s death is that they are now no longer under the law.

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. 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, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law.

The death of the justified elect is the SAME legal death that Christ died. The “definitive resurrection” of the elect in Romans 6 is the result of being set apart with Christ (and His death) from being under law.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ. Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with His death, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. Romans 6:7: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s definitive transformation by the Holy Spirit so that the justified cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 does not talk about Christ or His people not habitually sinning. Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” in “not being under the law”

Christ was never under the power of habitual sin , and the definitive death of the justified elect is His death.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Holy Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. What’s definitive is being legally joined to Christ’s death.

Mystical Antinomians Think That Christ Replaces us

December 8, 2014

Some of those who assume that everybody to whom they talk is a Christian tend to also speak of “sanctification” as a second blessing you can get by doing things the right way. For the mystical antinomians, doing things the right way means not doing anything at all.

Even though these preachers assume that everybody is a legalist, they also assume that all these legalists are Christians, and they command these folks to be more “gospel awake” and promise that “doing not doing” will result in better sanctification and more of everything, including more works and more joy. But as Jacques Ellul like to say, after all has been said, nothing has been done. The various competing theories of sanctification don’t seem to have caused any of us to be more sanctified.

But the “exchanged life” antinomians put pressure on us (and our faith) to have a crisis experience ( at some conference perhaps) to claim God’s supposed promise that God will live our lives for us. The idea of the “exchanged life” is that we “let go and let God”. But the threat is always that, if there is a problem, the fault is ours for not “letting go” enough. Instead of trusting in Christ’s death as our consecration (Hebrews 10:10-14), we are supposed to trust in Christ’s “vicarious life” or in the “power of His resurrection life in us”.

I won’t say Osiander (I just did), but the solution to this problem is not simply to point to Christ’s humanity and to the fact that Christ died for the purpose of God’s forgiving our failure to positively do what the law tells us to do. We also need to remember human agency. God’s sovereignty does not mean that God believes the gospel for us. God causes us to believe the gospel.

God’s sovereignty does not mean that God is doing what we do. God is not sinning when we sin, and God is not obeying when we obey. God causes us to obey. and that is different from saying that God obeys for us.

The Bible does not command us to “empty yourselves” so that Christ can be in you. The presence of the person of Christ is in us, but not because of something we did.

Nor does the Holy Spirit make Christ present in the “sacrament”. The Holy Spirit does not “take us up” to heaven. The Holy Spirit does not “unite us to” Christ.

The Bible does not command us to empty ourselves so that Christ will then do the believing and obeying in us and for us. The Holy Spirit does not replace us, nor does the Holy Spirit unite us to Christ so that Christ can replace us. Do we have to be “united to” the Holy Spirit before we can be “united to Christ”? If it takes the Holy Spirit to unite us to Christ, who does it take to unite us to the Holy Spirit?

Even though Christ alone replaced us in the one and only Propitiation, Christ is not now replacing us, and we should never confuse what we do or don’t do with what Christ is doing or not doing.

One “mystical antinomian” named John Crowder writes “God didn’t save you so you could do good. God saved you so you could be dead and then God could work through you. God does not want to you try to work. God is only pleased with what Christ does, God does not help you. God does things for you”. (Mystical Union, Sons of Thunder Publishing, 2010)

if soundbites like that make you think the grace of God is being exalted, then you need to begin to ask some more questions. It is not some present work which is our Propitiation, and there is no need to confuse our present working with God’s present working.

Hebrews 13: 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God…. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. … 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good so that YOU DO HIS WILL , working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am not going to say “hyper-grace”, because I don’t like the word “hyper” and I don’t think we can ever say too much about grace, but we do need to beware of the “mystical antinomians” who teach that the Holy Spirit takes over the agency from Christians so that Christians have no duty to obey the law of Christ. Those who teach the “exchanged life” fall into this category, people like Joseph Prince, Steve McVey, Malcolm Smith, Andrew Farley and Paul Ellis.

J I Packer warns us : “With regard to sanctification, there have been mystical antinomians who have affirmed that the indwelling Christ is the personal subject who obeys the law in our identity once we invoke his help in obedience situations, and there have been pneumatic antinomians who have affirmed that the Holy Spirit within us directly prompts us to discern and do the will of God, without our needing to look to the law to either prescribe or monitor our performance.”

Packer: “The common ground is that those who live in Christ are wholly separated from every aspect of the pedagogy of the law. The freedom with which Christ has set us free, and the entire source of our ongoing peace and assurance, are based upon our knowledge that what Christ, as we say, enables us to do he actually does in us for himself. So now we live, not by being forgiven our constant shortcomings, but by being out of the law’s bailiwick altogether; not by imitating Christ, the archetypal practitioner of holy obedience to God’s law, but by … our knowledge that Christ himself actually does in us all that his and our Father wants us to do.”

Romans 6: 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin HAVE BECOME OBEDIENT FROM THE HEART to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now PRESENT YOUR MEMBERS AS SLAVES TO RIGHTEOUSNESS leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, lasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is lasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7: 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, in order to belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order to bear fruit for God.

Is Your justification Still a Work in Process, both In You and In Heaven? (Mark Jones and Gaffin)

June 14, 2014

In his preface to the new Presbyterian and Reformed edition of Gaffin’s By Faith Not by Sight, Mark Jones confuses John Cotton’s position oo faith and justification. Mark Jones falsely identifies Cotton teaching imputation before faith with Cotton teaching justification before faith.In A Faire and Easy to Heaven (1978, p43), William Stoever quotes Cott0n: “We must be good trees before we can bring forth good fruit. If then closing with Christ be a good fruit, we must be good trees before we can bring it forth. And how can we be good trees, before we be engrafted into Christ?”

Cotton was not teaching that anybody can be justified before or without faith. Cotton was denying that faith is something the elect have before or without God’s imputation of Christ’s death to these elect. The apriori assumption for Jones and Gaffin is that faith is a condition of what they they call “union”. What they call “union” is a condition for their view of “justification”, a view in which justification continues to have “not-yet” aspects, so that final justification is conditioned on continuing works of faith.

Gaffin and Jones insist on faith before “union”, but if their logic holds, then “union” also has “not-yet aspects”, which are conditioned on the “not yet” aspects of “faith after”. Thus they have an incomplete union and an incomplete justification.

It is a CONTRADICTION to say that all of God’s acts depend on “union”, and then to turn around and also say that “union” depends on faith. Does faith also depend on “union”? Or does “union” depend on faith” While Gaffin and Jones never clearly define “union”, it seems like they think that we receive the “personal presence” of Christ inside us BEFORE we receive the benefit of Christ’s finished work. In other words, since Jesus is now the Holy Spirit in redemptive history, for Gaffin and Jones (and for Sinclair Ferguson and many others), this is read to mean that we must obtain possession of Christ as a person not only before we are justified but also before God will impute Christ’s righteousness to us.

(Despite all their focus on the priority of redemptive history, Ferguson and Gaffin and Jones are not clear about how any of this changed between the old covenant economies and the incarnation of Christ.)

There are many unanswered questions about this “not yet” paradigm which are ignored in Gaffin’s little book. If there is some sense in which those who have been justified are not yet justified, is there also some sense in which God has not yet imputed all the sins of all the justified to Christ? Since the absence of “works of faith” is seen by Gaffin as not only a lack of evidence of final justification but also as the means by which many who have been “baptized” will instrumentally fail to be finally justified, how do the sins (or non-works) of the not-yet completely justified factor into their final justification? Is there a difference between good works and faith, or between sins and lack of faith and works?

If faith is a condition of “union”, and if faith is yet incomplete and uncertain (as far as one individual is concerned), does that not mean that “union” is also incomplete? How does a person get faith before they are united to Christ? If a person has to get faith before they can get the personal presence of Christ, how does a person get this faith? How can “calling” be a condition of the “union” but not a benefit of the “union”?

If the gift of faith is not given to us based on Christ’s righteousness (as taught in II Peter 1:1 –To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ), but instead the righteousness of Christ is given to us based on union, and that union is based on faith, and that faith is still always incomplete, how can anyone now think that their sins have already been imputed to Christ or that Christ’s righteousness has already been imputed to them? if our justification by God is in some sense future, does that not mean that our baptism into Christ’s death is still in some sense future?

Jones acts as if he all who disagree with Gaffin are antinomians who do not even know the difference between impetration” and ‘application”. Jones writes: “Faith marks the transition from being in a state of wrath to being in a state of grace”. “Marks” is an interesting word choice here, because Jones avoids the word “cause” while at the same time assuming that the “application” is created by faith. (Norman Shepherd and others use the same word when they say that water baptism “marks” the transition).

But my big question here concerns the main factor in the transition from wrath to favor, between the two states. While Gaffin and Jones claim that it’s faith which marks the transition, I agree with John Cotton (and Berkhof, and Bavinck and many others) that it’s God’s imputation of righteousness to the elect individual which marks (Causes!) the transition.

Sure, we  agree to a distinction between impetration and application. But is the application the gift of faith before and apart from God’s imputation? is the application (calling by the gospel to faith) before and apart from God legally placing the elect into Christ’s death? (Romans 6) Why must we agree that Gaffin and Jones that we receive the personal presence of Christ in us before we are legally planted in Christ’s death? I get that Gaffin and Jones are insisting on this priority, but I do not get where they have argued convincingly for the priority.

Why would they want to say that the person of Christ is more important than the work of Christ? is it because they want to say that the present work of Christ (now as resurrected and as the Spirit) is more important than the past work of Christ? (death by law as a satisfaction for the all future sins of all the elect) Is their priority on the present work because they don’t think justification is complete yet? Since they don’t seem to think faith and union are complete yet either, why are they so eager to say that Christ in us is “union” and thus “the cause of all other graces”, when they themselves are saying that our faith is the cause of “union”? Since our faith has not worked and persevered completely, how then could our “union” be complete? How then could Christ be personally present in us already completely?

It really is ironic when Jones claims that “the Lutheran view” ends up “attributing to justification a renovative /transformative element”. First, Jones still has not defined either union nor sanctification, but he seems to be equating “sanctification” with ethical renovation. Second, if we were to say that God’s imputation results in or causes ethical renovation, that is NOT saying that imputation is the renovation. It’s saying that renovation is a result, not the imputation. Imputation is one thing, the renovation is another thing.

I am seeing this accusation more and more, and it makes no sense. God’s legal declaration in imputation (based on Christ’s death) results in many blessings, including regeneration and the work of the Holy Spirit. But that does not confuse the Spirit’s work (or regeneration) with imputation. In fact, it makes the distinction plain. On the contrary, to start with undefined “union”, which consists of Christ’s personal presence but which is somehow before God’s imputation, is the ordering which opens the way for “union” as a renovation. If Christ can enter your heart before Christ’s righteousness is imputed to you and as the “condition” for that imputation then taking place, then what you have is something taking place in us before any legal transfer by God of the results of Christ’s past work. It seems like some kind of “renovation” is happening, merely by Christ’s presence, which is supposedly more important than Christ’s death or at least which does not depend on Christ’s death.

II Peter 1:1 –To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all believe in a distinction between what Christ did (impetration) and the application of that. But the application is by God’s imputation, and Jones and Gaffin want to put something else into the application first before God’s imputation. And I cannot help thinking that the reason they point to Christ’s present resurrection instead of to Christ’s past righteousness (either imputed already to a sinner, or not) is because they think of our justification as a process which still depends on our faith, with faith as defined as that which changes us, with faith defined even as that which unites us to Christ and that which keeps Christ united to us.

Gaffin follows his mentors John Murray and Norman Shepherd in taking Romans 2:13 to be describing Christians. Jones agrees, and continues to label John Calvin’s reading of Romans 2 as the “hypothetical” view.  I myself argue for the  “empty set” view (nobody will be justified by works),  What I see is that old covenant members Ishmael and Essau (along with many others) by their sin earned God’s wrath Romans 5:20 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass”

So, instead of Jones complaining about  those who introduce “hypothetical merits” into Romans 2. I will complain about him suggesting that some really are saved (by doing the law the right way) in Romans 2. Romans 2 is teaching that nobody is justified by doing the law, no matter which way they do the law. I quote Paul Helm: “On the Gentile Christians view, while Paul argues that all are under the just judgment of God, the section 2.1-16 is not a direct contribution to that argument, but…takes us forward to the last judgment, and …. to some people who are under grace and not under the law – Gentile Christians). But such a claim might simply be a begging of the question at issue….It is only a reasonable assumption if Paul has in mind Gentile Christians, which is precisely the issue we are considering.”

http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2011/07/romans-2-and-3-one-step-at-time-dear.html

Jones is caught in between saying that what Gaffin has written is nothing new but also saying that everybody in the Reformed tradition now needs to say it the way that Gaffin says it. But to say even this much is to agree that not all Reformed people say it or have said it the way Jones wants it to be said. But instead of leaving the diversity as it is, Jones wants to argue that we must not anymore like Luther said it, and that Calvin never did say it that way. First, Reformed folks never taught law-grace antithesis to that extreme. Second, and also, now is the time for Reformed folks to stop teaching law-gospel antithesis to that extreme.

For example, Jones writes “the idea that Christ’s resurrection and justification is also our resurrection and justification are also our resurrection and justification is not a recent invention. Of course, and the idea that Christ’s death is our death is not a recent idea either. It’s in Romans 6. and the idea that Christ’s death becomes our death by God’s imputation is not a recent idea either, but Jones now wants to say that union with Christ the person must come first before this imputation of Christ’s death to us. Does this mean that union with Christ the person must come first before our resurrection and our justification come to us? Do the resurrection and the justification come to us by imputation? Or do the resurrection and the justification come to us “by the union” and not by imputation? Does the resurrection come to us “by faith” and not by God’s imputation? Is God’s imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness only after faith? If this faith does not come from God’s imputation, and if this faith comes before “union”, how does this faith come to us?

I am having difficulty seeing why all Reformed folks have to agree to say it Gaffin’s way. But part of the problem is that Gaffin is still not giving arguments about why the link between redemptive history and the order of application must put faith in priority to imputation. Sure, we all know the difference between impetration and application, and we all know that Romans 6 (and Colossians 2, with the other texts) is not only talking about Christ’s new life but also about our new life, but all that being the case, why is it that we must put the focus on Christ as the personal life-giving Spirit now instead of talking about Christ’s completed righteousness. as some Reformed folks used to do?

Gaffin’s thesis is that there is a future aspect to the justification of an individual sinner. His assumption is that it is faith (not election nor imputation) which unites a sinner to Christ and thus to the benefits/power to do the works necessary for the not yet aspect of justification.

Since it is the same God who gives us the faith who gives us the works, therefore it seems right to Gaffin to condition our final justification on the faith and works of the sinner. Faith works yes, but also work believes. Gaffin does not tell us which gospel must be the object of the faith which unites to Christ. Does that gospel ever mention that God imputed only the sins of the elect to Christ? Nor does Gaffin tell us how imperfect works would have to be to miss out on the not-yet aspect of justification so that those once in (Christ and covenant) might still be condemned.

Gaffin: “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p 110

Gaffin wants both faith in Christ’s past work and also in Christ’s present work in us. He cannot place all his hope in what Christ already did to satisfy the law for the elect, because part of his hope is a “sanctification” defined as a power over against sin despite our “incomplete progress, flawed by our continued sinning”.

Gaffin does not deny but affirms many correct things about imputation. For example, on p 51, he lists 3 options for the ground of justification. A. Christ’s own righteousness, complete and finished in his obedience…B. the union itself, the fact of the relationship with Christ…c. the obedience being produced by the transforming Spirit in those in union. Gaffin rightly concludes that “the current readiness to dispense with imputation” results from taking the last two options as the ground of justification.

But Gaffin always has his not yet. That’s the way he keeps it all gray. Though we are justified now, Gaffin still teaches a justification by sight, ie by works. Instead of reading the “according to works” texts as having to do with the distinction between dead works (Hebrews 6:1,9:14) and “fruit for God” (Romans 7:4), Gaffin conditions assurance in future justification on imperfect but habitual working. Instead of saying that works motivated by fear of missing justification are unacceptable to God, Gaffin teaches a final justification which is contingent on faith and works.

Gaffin teaches an “unbreakable bond between justification and sanctification” in the matter of assurance and hope for future justification. (p 100) Yes, faith (in which gospel?) is the alone instrument, he agrees, yes Christ’s finished righteousness is the alone ground, he affirms, but at the same time and however, works factor in also. Just remember that these works which factor into your assurance come from God working in you and not from you.

I hope that critics of Gaffin will not make the mistake of identifying him with N.T. Wright who denies imputation. I also agree with Gaffin that the gospel is not only about what Christ did outside of the elect for the elect. The gospel is also about the effectual call which results from election in Christ and Christ’s work for those elect . One evidence of effectual calling is that the justified elect do not put their assurance in their “bearing fruit for God”. To work for assurance of future justification is to “bear fruit for death”.

Gaffin, By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38

From this perceptive, the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself. It is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer

Gaffin, lectures on Romans, on 2:13:

That judgement decides…the ultimate outcome for all believers and for all humanity, believers as well as unbelievers. It’s a life and death situation that’s in view here. Further, this ultimate judgement has as its criterion or standard, brought into view here, the criterion for that judgement is works, good works. The doing of the law, as that is the criterion for all human beings, again, believers as well as unbelievers. In fact, in the case of the believer a positive outcome is in view and that positive outcome is explicitly said to be justification. So, again the point on the one side of the passage is that eternal life… depends on and follows from a future justification according to works. Eternal life follows upon a future justification by doing the law.

Gaffin, By Faith, Not by Sight, p 106—IN book 3 of his Institutes (The Beginning of Justification and its Continual Progress), Calvin explains “We must have this justification not just once but must hold it it throughout life.” Justification is bound up with Christ’s present ongoing intercessory presence, in the sense that our remaining in the state of justification, depends on this unfailing intercession. His presence in that place of final judgment is the effective answer….Christ is the living embodiment of that righteousness…and as such he continues to work for the justification of God’s already justified elect….Because of this intercession they cannot and will not ever fall from the state of justification.”

Flesh is Self-righteousness, Because Being Embodied is Not the Problem

May 25, 2014

Self-sufficient and self-righteous people assume that they are going to live Somewhere, even if it’s without a physical body. These religious and “more moral” sinners think they are against the flesh, by assuming that they can continue to live even if they had no body and there were not earth. But Paul’s letter to the Philippians teaches the destruction of all who those who rely on their own righteousness instead of submitting to Christ’s outside righteousness.

1:28— not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their DESTRUCTION, but of your salvation, and that from God.

3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God[b] and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the FLESH—

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

3:19— Their end is DESTRUCTION their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

According to Phil 3:18-19, those who remain enemies of the cross will perish, will be destroyed. Only God can save anybody, and God has not promised to save anybody without teaching that person the gospel. The promise of God is not to those who have a connection in the flesh to somebody else who is a Christian. The promise is to “as many as God will call”. Acts 2:39. God calls by the gospel. Not all who are externally called by the gospel are effectively called by God. But all who are effectually called by God are called by the gospel. (Romans 10:14-17).

The only way we can tell if our works are good fruit (instead of fruit unto death) is to make our calling and election sure. (II Peter 1) By what gospel were you called? Did the gospel you claim be called by talk about election? Did the gospel who claim to be called by talk about Christ’s outside righteousness, as opposed to some righteousness of your own which you are enabled to do. All of your morality and all of your “righteousness” is an abomination to God, if you think it adds to the equation by which God is not angry with you today.

if you think God is at peace with you today, because you think you have not sinned so seriously today, then you are still dominated by the “flesh”, which is your self-righteousness, which sin God hates more than any other, because it sets itself up in competition with Christ’s righteousness. And make no mistake, if you today are adding your own not sinning into the mix along with Christ’s righteousness, what you think is an addition to Christ’s righteousness IS IN COMPETITION WITH CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Galatians 2:21 for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for NO purpose.

Galatians 5: 2…. if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of NO advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law

Romans 10: 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness

Phil 3:18-19 is in contrast to 3:21. Their end is destruction; but our citizenship is already from heaven. Their end is destruction, but our end is transformation and immortality. When it says that they mind earthly things, this does not necessarily mean immoral things; it may only mean non-gospel things. It may mean somebody who thinks he used to be in this legalistic cult but is now focused on being a healthy and happy and productive member of normal society.

Having a citizenship from heaven does not mean that we are in heaven or that we are ever going to be in heaven. It means that those who are justified get their hopes and commands from Jesus Christ, who is in Heaven, who is our King, and who one day is coming to us on earth from Heaven.

I Corinthians 15: 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is FROM heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are OF heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[f] also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Again, being from heaven does not mean that we are in heaven or that we will ever be going to heaven. Being “of heaven” means that King Jesus tells us what to do on earth, and that our hope is for the resurrection when Jesus will come to earth from heaven. Being a citizen of heaven means that we cannot also at the same time be a citizen of the demonic powers which oppose Christ’s kingdom and which have been ‘disarmed” by Christ’s death and resurrection (Colossians 2:15) Satan offered Christ these kingdoms, and now Satan and the powers offer us a place as a citizen in these kingdoms, but we reject that offer, because we are already citizens of heaven. This we reject what the world calls strength in order to be found “weak in Christ”.

“Earthly things” cause those in the “flesh” to remain ignorant and not submitted to the gospel. The “earthly things” which are sinful are not the fact that we live on earth in physical bodies. The “earthly things” include the distraction of morality and religion as they come into competition with Christ’s completed work at the cross. The glutton is not the only person who worships his belly. The preacher or the editor who will not preach the gospel and expose the false gospel in order to “keep my ministry and still have influence” is also serving his belly. His flesh may not look like the flesh of the preacher who openly teaches freewill and losing your salvation. But it’s still flesh.

Phil 3:16 Let us walk by the same rule. Let’s not practice the ungodly practice of judging only by outward appearance or by our own standard of saved and lost. Without the imputed righteousness revealed in the gospel, the person who commits less immorality is no better off than the person who commits more sin, if that person who is “more moral” using that difference to find assurance or to think he is more blessed by God or more pleasing to God.

It is FLESH to boast that we are converted because other people are less moral than we think we are.

II Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves by themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” Notice what the verse says: WE are NOT like THOSE people. THEY have an unrighteous standard of judgment.

Most commentators on Philippians 3:18-19 focus on the word “belly” and assume that it means greed, not only the desire for too much food but the lust for money and sinful pleasures. They do not connect “belly” to the desire to have one’s own righteousness from the law, even though that has been the topic of the entire chapter to that point. But the lust of the flesh is subtle.

The unlawful desires of the flesh are most subtle when it comes to self-righteousness. The law of God should not be blamed for the sin of self-righteousness, even though God has predestined the abuse of the law. When a person thinks that his not tasting and his not touching brings him blessing, that person is not only self-righteous but also an antinomian, because that person is thinking that God is satisfied with something less than perfect obedience to the law.

The only way that God can be (and IS) pleased with the good works of a Christian is that the Christian knows that these good works are blessings from Christ’s righteousness, not a supplement added to Christ’s righteousness. And this distinction is not only something that God knows, or only something that smart “Reformed theologians” know. Every Christian knows that Christ’s righteousness is the only reason for every love-gift from God.

The sin which deceives us all by nature is that WE DESIRE WHAT WE PRODUCE TO BE PART OF OUR SALVATION. We will give God’s “grace” the credit for helping us produce it. If asked about it, we would even say that “particular election” is the reason we produced it. But, like Cain, we want to take what we produced and offer it to God as some small part of what God will accept as our righteousness.

We don’t mind of God has to produce some righteousness also to “make up the difference”. But the one thing we want, the one thing which the people who killed Jesus wanted, is the one thing Cain wanted, and that is to have God accept what we have produced and what we sincerely (even if ignorantly) offered to God.

But God will NOT accept it. It’s either what we do in this life, or what God has already done in Christ. It’s either destruction or salvation.

Is the Sanctification of a Christian like the Justification of Christ?

April 2, 2014

Mark Jones (Antinomianism, P and R, 2013) makes many provocative and condescending statements, as if to say that those who disagree with him have not read the historical documents in question. The most irritating claim he makes is that he’s correct because of a better Christology.

Jones, p 21—“If Christ is our mediator, our union with him means not only that we must be holy (i.e., necessity), but also that we will be able to be like him (i.e., motive)…”

Jones, p 21— “Whatever grace we receive for our holiness first belonged to the Savior (John 1:16)”.

Jones, p 24–“There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence…Following this pattern, although man is completely passive at the moment of regeneration, he cooperates with God in sanctification.”

The Christology of Mark Jones consists of equating the justification of Christ with the sanctification of a sinner. Denying the idea of a “covenant of works” in which Christ obeyed law to earn merits, Jones also denies the idea of substitution so that our works are not necessary for salvation. Jones accepts substitution FOR JUSTIFICATION ONLY, but like the Galatian false teachers, Jones equates “living by faith’ with obeying the law, and argues along with Richard Gaffin and Norman Shepherd that our living by faith means our obeying the law.

On p 22-23, Jones argues from the fact that Christ obtained salvation “bestowed on conditions”, that we too must obtain “sanctification” in the same way, bestowed on conditions. Instead of talking about the merits of Christ, he speaks of Christ’s living by faith, which was obeying the law, to get to the idea of our also living by faith, which then comes to mean our obeying the law.

On p 24, Jones argues from the fact that Christ “was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit” to not only question the language of “covenant of works” but to say that we Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification. Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is no different from that of NT Wrights—don’t be so Christocentric, because the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also for our final justification.

I do NOT deny that the distinction between impetration and application. Rather, I affirm that distinction in order to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone AND to affirm LEGAL APPLICATION by God’s imputation (not by the agency or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit through Christ’s gift. It is not the Holy Spirit who gives us Christ. Christ’s propitiation must be legally applied by God to the elect so that the elect are justified from the sins for which impetration/ propitiation was made by Christ.

Accusations of antinomianism against those of who give priority to imputation do not prove the reality of our being against the law. To say that only Christ could or has satisfied the law is to properly fear God. Neonomians turn out to be antinomians. To think that one can produce “sanctification” synergsitically by something extra infused (then indwelling) into us in addition to what God has done in Christ is to not yet fear God as the Holy One who demands perfection.

Many experimental puritans put themselves on a superior level to the rest of us because of what they think they have been enabled to do and because of the righteousness they think they can and will now produce.