Posted tagged ‘active obedience’

Christ’s Works or Christ’s Faith or Christ’s Death?

May 11, 2017

Philippians 3: 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, in order that I gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is THROUGH FAITH in Christ—the righteousness FROM God

Among those of us who agree that there is a difference between the imputation of the righteousness and the righteousness, and who also agree that RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE JUDICIAL BASIS FOR JUSTIFICATION, is there agreement about the nature of the righteousness?

Does Christ have a righteousness of His own from His keeping the law?
Or does the righteousness of Christ come from His death as satisfaction of the law?

Or Both?

Does Christ’s death only gets us forgiveness?

Does Christ’s death only get us back to where Adam was before Adam was before Adam sinned?

Does Christ’s death only return us back to only sinless but not righteous?

But didn’t Adam before Adam’s sin have righteous fellowship with God?

Yes, God not only commanded Adam not to eat from the tree but also to “have dominion”, but did Adam need more than Adam already had to be righteous? Did Adam have to do something to stay righteous? Did Adam have to NOT DO something to stay righteous?

Genesis 2: 15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Genesis 1: 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.

Even though Christ’s death was successful , did Christ’s death only “accomplish” getting our old clothes off and getting us clean?
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Is it true that Christ’s death does not give us new clothes?

Is it only Christ’s acts of resisting Satan’s three temptations which give us the new clothes? Or was it the physical circumcision and water baptism of Christ which gives us the new clothes?

Christ’s death is not “obedience to the law”. Christ’s death is satisfaction of the law. The law requires obedience or death, the law does not say that death is obedience.

Genesis 3: 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Genesis 3: 21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and the Lord God clothed them.

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Did Jesus save the elect by getting the blessing of the law or by getting the curse of the law?

July 1, 2015

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall LIVE by faith.” (Habbakuk 2:4)

12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall LIVE by them.” (Leviticus 18:5)

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— (Deuteronomy 21:23)

Even elect Gentiles (who were never under the Mosaic covenant) are saved because of Christ’s bearing the curse of the Mosaic law.  Some who reject the need for law-keeping imputed are Socinians who deny the need for any law satisfaction at all. If forgiveness is sovereign, they claim, there is no need to satisfy the law at all in any way, Thus the Socinians say, if there is any need to satisfy the law, then there cannot be any forgiveness. They play off God’s sovereignty against God’s righteousness.

I am not doing that. But I am contrasting Christ’s death as the satisfactory curse of the law over against the traditional idea that the law cannot be satisfied by death but only by “active obedience”, which is how the Reformed tradition often refers to the Mosaic law-keeping of Christ.  Christ’s death can keep you from death, we are told. But if you want life from the law, then Christ’s death won’t get you that, because for that, you need to be imputed with Christ’s Mosaic law-keeping.

But what is being kept from death if not life? The tradition seems to say that Christ’s death only gets us back to where Adam was, which was life on probation, which was life only because no sins were yet counted toward us. The tradition says that Adam could have gotten immortality if only he had kept the law (the tradition even tends to say that Adam was keeping the Sabbath, since it equates “moral law” with “Mosaic law”), and therefore the tradition says that Christ got immortality for us not by His death but by His law-keeping.

Calvin—“In His death and resurrection, all things are furnished to us, expiation of sins, freedom from condemnation, satisfaction, victory over death, the attainment of righteousness, and the hope of a blessed immortality.”

I am very glad when Reformed folks at least don’t reject the idea that the blood (the death of Christ) is no part of Christ’s righteousness. But we need to be very careful how we say that. Many folks are saying that the death is the new covenant remission, but that the Mosaic law-keeping is the righteousness

Let’s be clear about justification—while agreeing with Calvin and Romans 4 that we can equate forgiveness and justification, I do teach that justification entitles us to all the positive blessings of salvation, not only forgiveness of sins but access to God and etc

The non-imputation of sins IS imputation of righteousness. The pardon of sins IS justification of sinners This does not mean that we who teach that Christ’s death is our righteousness are saying that justification is only forgiveness. I am not teaching that. (Piscator did not teach that either.) While sins of omission are also remitted, that does not change the fact that God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect results in the new birth, faith in the gospel, glorification, all the positive things are earned by Christ’s death.

The greater problem comes with folks like Shepherd and Hornes when they say that only initial justification by the death, and future justification by “union with the Spirit of the risen Christ causing us to work”.

I reject Shepherd’s view. It’s easy to to assume that there are only two sides—if I don’t agree to union with the Mosaic law-keeping of Jesus (union with his circumcision, union with his water baptism, union with his praying, union with his believing, etc), it can be assumed that the only other choice is a future justification (access) by the Holy Spirit causing me to work, to “progress in sanctification”.

But there are more than two choices I reject union with the Mosaic law-keeping of Jesus . Union with Adam’s sin was not union with Adam’s entire life of sinning. But I also reject in any way the Shepherd/ Gaffin idea that the death is not enough righteousness, and that future blessings are conditioned on what i do in union with the resurrected Christ. Justification is forgiveness, but more than forgiveness

Mathew 5: 17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Mosaic Law or the Mosaic Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will be satisfied from the law until not only my death is accomplished but more importantly I have spent my entire life obeying to the Mosaic law. Therefore, whoever teaches people that Christ’s death alone will be enough justice for God to forgive all their future sis will have to teach them they will need to obey the Mosaic law because they forget that Christ’s life of obeying the Mosaic law is the justice that God uses to actually bless elect sinners positively….. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 24: 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ suffer these things and enter into His glory, but also that was not enough, since there would have been no hope for our entering glorying unless the Mosaic law keeping of the Christ be imputed to us

I Corinthians 15: I gave over to you as of first importance that which I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised the third day according to Scriptures, and so that gets us back to where Adam was, but according to the Reformed tradition, Christ kept the Mosaic law and this was what God imputed to us in order for us to have eternal life

the rich young ruler asking what must I do—
—keep the covenant of works for a significant period of time sell you stuff and give it to the poor, or you will die
—-or the other choice, for the rest of your life, attend the sacramental means of grace which will assure you that Christ has kept the covenant of works for you—in any case, don’t trust in my death alone, not enough, no hope without something more, some other plus factor—–i am keeping the law for those who accept the “sincere offer” ….

Romans 3:24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Him as a propitiation[ through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 but God also presented His entire life of vicarious Mosaic law keeping to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, because His death alone was not enough justice to pass over sins, and God needed the Mosaic law-keeping of Christ in order to declare righteous the one who has faith in Christ Jesus……Do we then cancel the law through faith? Absolutely not! If we only trusted in the death of Christ alone , of course, that would be ignoring the positive results which come from obeying the law. But on the contrary, because we know also that there is no hope (none) without Christ’s life of obeying the Mosaic law we uphold the Mosaic law and the Mosaic law was what Adam already knew all about and also the standard by which we define anything Jesus commanded or did by way of example….

Romans 8:3-4 What the law could not do since it was limited by our flesh, God DID by sending His son to keep the Mosaic law for us, 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who are legally united to his Mosaic law keeping

Hebrews 10: 10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified not only through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all time because that would merely leave us where Adam started but we have been sanctified through the offering of the Mosaic law keeping of Jesus Christ for 33 years (since he was not killed as a baby)

11 Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this great high priest did take away sins, but that was not enough to take away our sins of omission against the covenant of works, so this man, before offering one sacrifice for sins forever, day after day for 33 years kept the Mosaic law an there would be no hope only in the death if it were not for what Christ did to satisfy the law before then because not even His death would have been enough to perfect permanently those who are sanctified.

II Cor 5: 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, but that alone was not enough in order for us to become the righteousness of God in Him, so He also had the One to not only not sin, but to do positive acts and works to keep the Mosaic law, and it is that positive stuff He did (not the death) which is the righteousness which is imputed to us which causes us to legally become the righteousness of God in Christ

Romans 5:9 having been now justified by His keeping the Mosaic law, because His death only remitted sins but did not justify…..we shall be saved by his entire life of keeping the Mosaic law, because His resurrection from death is not what shall save us, because there is no hope without His entire life of keeping the Mosaic law….

Galatians 2:21 for if righteousness is through the Mosaic law keeping of Jesus, then Jesus DIED for no reason

Romans 10:4 is the law Christ’s goal or is Christ the law’s goal?

Christ’s end is to keep the Mosaic law? or is it the Mosaic law’s end to witness to Christ? (Or both?)

Philippians 3: 10 to know Him and the fellowship of His keeping the Mosaic law for us

My goal is to be conformed to His keeping of the Mosaic law

I Thessalonians 5 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who kept the Mosaic law for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him

Calvin on Romans 4:25 —When we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting the completion of perfect righteousness.

God’s Active Imputation of the Sins of the Elect to Christ

December 1, 2014

I am not yet bored with the idea of Christ bearing the sins of the elect by imputation.

II Corinthians 5:21 21 For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, in order that in Christ we would become the righteousness of God.

Leon Morris: “The verb is active and the subject is God. In this imputation both the Father and the Son are exceedingly active.” The Cross in the New Testament, p 220

As God legally constituted Christ not only to be the sin offering for the elect but also (and first) guilty of the guilt of the elect, even so God legally constitutes the elect not only to be justified before God but also (and first) makes that righteous relationship to be real by crediting the legal merit of Christ’s death to the elect.

Instead of counting the sins of the elect against them (see II Cor 5:19) God counted the sins of the elect against Christ. The identification by God of Christ with the sins of the elect was not a fiction but so real that it resulted in Christ’s death.

John Owen–“but it will be said that if our sins, as to the guilt of them, were imputed to Christ, then God must HATE Christ. But it is only inherent sin, not imputed sin which makes a person hateful to God. Christ being perfectly sinless and holy in Himself was glorious and lovely in the sight of God. Indeed Christ’s active taking upon Himself the guilt of the elect was high ACT OF OBEDIENCE to God.” The Doctrine of Justification, volume 5, p 203

Psalm 40:6-8
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

John 10: 17 For this reason the Father loves me,because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

God’s active imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ is the only way that Christ took away those sins. if Christ never bore those sins Christ never took them away, but Christ did bear those sins, because the Son actively took those sins to Himself and God the Father made Him to be sin.

Isaiah 53:12
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Hebrews 9: 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to BEAR THE SINS of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, in order that we would die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

If Christ has not already taken away your sins, Christ will never bear your sins . If Christ ever bore your sins then those sins are already taken away. The elect sinners who do not know this about Christ’s sin-bearing are not yet justified, because God has not yet imputed to them Christ’s sin-bearing and taking away death

Was the Physical Circumcision of Christ Part of Christ’s Righteousness?

June 17, 2012

The Fatal Flaw, by Jeffrey Johnson, Free Grace Press, 2010

I very much recommend this new book. It is an excellent study of various covenant theologies and also an argument against infant baptism. But I still want to quibble . I quote Johnson:

“The covenant of works that Christ was obligated to fulfill could not have been the covenant of creation. Why ?Because this covenant had already been broken and its death penalty issued upon Adam’s fallen race. Thus Christ had to be born outside the broken covenant of creation…He could not be born under the federal headship of Adam. As Wisius explains, ‘That the surety was not from Adam’s covenant, not born under the law of nature, and consequently not born under the imputation of Adam’s sin.’

Johnson continues: “The law justifies but before the law men could not merit salvation by works, because there was no covenant….If all this is true, then the Mosaic covenant had to be a covenant of works; our salvation depended upon it. If not, there would be no covenant to reward the man Christ Jesus for His obedience.”

I have of course not quoted the entire argument. I encourage you to buy the book and read the discussion beginning on p 146 an ending on p162. What do I disagree with in the above argument? I agree that Christ was not born under the federal headship of Adam. I agree that the Mosaic covenant was a legal conditional covenant.

I even agree with Johnson’s larger point, which is that the Mosaic covenant cannot be seen as an “administration of the covenant of grace”. But I go further and question even the idea of any “the covenant of grace.” Which covenant is “the covenant of grace”? Is it the Abrahamic covenant? Is it the new covenant? Are both those covenants one and the same? Are both those covenants administrations of “the covenant of grace”?

Johnson is very good in showing that the Abrahamic covenant had both its unconditional and conditional aspects. At one point (p215), he even refers to Bunyan’s idea that Christ kept the conditional aspect of the Abrahamic covenant, that had NOT been kept by anybody else. When Gal 3:16 explains that the promise was made to Abraham and his seed, and then explains that Christ is that one seed, why not see Christ alone as obeying the Abrahamic requirement for blood?

Why does Johnson think he needs to see the Mosaic covenant (instead of the Abrahamic legal aspect) as the covenant of works Christ kept? Isn’t circumcision a requirement of not only the Mosaic but also of the Abrahamic covenant? Does not physical circumcision point to the need for the blood not of animals but of Christ?

Make no mistake. I believe and rejoice in the federal headship of Christ. My objection is to the idea that the Mosaic covenant is the condition of the agreement of God the Father, Son and Spirit to redeem the elect. Why must the “covenant with Christ” be conflated with either the covenant with Adam or the covenant with Moses?

I am not disagreeing that there is legal covenantal arrangement with Adam. Even though as a supralapsarian, I do question language about what Adam “could have earned if he had passed probation”, I do not at all question the federal imputation of Adam’s sins to the human race, including to the elect. And I also agree that the Mosaic covenant is conditional.

I am only questioning why Johnson must locate the legal conditions of Christ the covenantal surety in the terms of the Mosaic covenant. His answer is that Christ was not under Adam. But why not say that Christ was under the Abrahamic conditions? Why not agree with Bunyan in saying that Christ kept the Abrahamic requirements so that the promise would be unconditional to all those promised salvation by the Abrahamic covenant?

Johnson does not really answer this question, and I would love to have a talk with him about it. Were the Gentiles (for example, those addressed by some of the prophets) ever under the curse of the Mosaic law? I am only asking a question here. Please don’t call me a dispensationalist for asking the question! My hope in the gospel has everything to do with Christ legally paying off (satisfying) the curses of God’s law against the elect. But my hope in the gospel does not depend on me identifying God’s law with the Mosaic law.

On page 163, Johnson seems to give away his case for the Mosaic covenant being the “covenant of works”. In a footnote, he acknowledges that Gentiles were not under the Mosaic covenant, but then says “nevertheless they were still under the covenant of works” and then quotes Romans 2:14 (a law unto themselves). But doesn’t this show that you can be under a covenant of works and not be under Moses? And if so, doesn’t this show that Christ could have been under a “covenant of works” for His elect without that being the Mosaic covenant?

To say that Christ died “for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant” in Hebrews 9:15 does mean some of the elect were under the Mosaic covenant. But it does not prove that the gentile elect were under the Mosaic covenant.

As James Haldane suggests in his commentary on Hebrews (p245, Newport Commentary Series, Particular Baptist Press), the solution to the problem of the first covenant is not to find a better mediator for that first covenant. If a former covenant is infringed by one of the parties, satisfaction is given by making a second covenant.

If we are going to make distinctions within the Mosaic law-economy, why not be consistent in thinking about these distinctions when we think of Christ legally satisfying the Mosaic law? Was Christ keeping the ceremonial laws of Moses when He shed His blood? Were we Gentiles under the curse of the Mosaic law for our failure to keep the ceremonial law?

I am not denying that Christ was cursed by God’s law for the sins of the elect. I am only questioning the idea of pointing to the Mosaic covenant as that law or as that “covenant of works” for Christ. If you want to use the language of a covenant of works for Christ our federal Head, why not go to the Abrahamic covenant for that? Or even better, why not refer to a “covenant of redemption” which is neither the Mosaic nor the Abrahamic (especially in its conditional aspects, like the duty of the physical children of Abraham to be physically circumcised)?

Hebrews 13:20—“the God of peace brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant.”

I am not denying that Christ was physically circumcised, but I am questioning if that circumcision was a vicarious law-keeping for the elect. Since we Gentile elect were never commanded to be physically circumcised, how then we can be blessed because Christ was physically circumcised?

Is Doing the Precept the Righteousness, and the Death Only Paying the Penalty?

March 23, 2012

A focus on “the active obedience” of Christ can become a distraction from the death of Christ as that which frees the elect from sin and law and death. I have no big problem saying that Christ’s life of obedience also is imputed. But I am looking for texts, not only for what tradition says.

This question makes me uncomfortable. because Norman Shepherd and federal vision and NT Wright deny the active obedience. But I think the debate about the active obedience being imputed CAN BE a distraction from three big facts. It doesn’t have to be.

1. It CAN BE a distraction from Adam’s sin imputed to humans. Wright does not have any place in his theology for original sin as Adam’s original guilt. Who does? We should be talking about that more.

2. It’s a distraction from the sins of the elect being imputed to Christ. This is the main thing. This is more important even that saying that Christ’s death is only for the elect or saying the Christ’s death is effective to save all for whom He died. This is about justice, about the justifying of God not only the justifying of sinners.

This also makes us think about the difference between the atonement itself and the justification which happens in time when the atonement is imputed to the elect. The atonement and justification are not the same thing.

Of course it’s true that, if God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, then Christ only died for the elect. But we need to think not only about Christ’s successful death but also about the justice of Christ’s death.

Focusing on “active obedience” CAN sometimes distract from this. Because lots of folks who are all currently heated up about the “active obedience” almost never talk about Christ’s just death for the elect only. I think of Piper and Sproul and many in the PCA.

To be distracted from the truth that the atonement was only for the elect is also to be distracted from the truth that justification is not conditioned on faith as its preliminary cause. Many of the same folks who fight with NT Wright about faith not being the “active obedience” then turn around and say that God counts faith as the righteousness, and teach that the righteousness is “appropriated” by the condition of faith.

On the one hand, I don’t want to be a distraction by debating “active obedience as vicarious law-keeping” (or by debating if there was a “covenant of works” with Adam.) I want to take sides with these folks against the new perspective.

But on the other hand, most folks on both sides of that debate don’t even believe in Christ’s just death only for the elect. If they did, they would teach it.

3. A focus on doing as the righteousness CAN imply that the death of Christ is not the righteousness. I don’t think active and positive should be split up, not only because the death was active and the obedience passive, but because I want to get away from any idea that the remission of sins is because of the death and that the positive blessing is because of the life.

I see two serious problems with the tradition. 1. The supposed proof texts don’t show vicarious law obedience. They show law obedience. As for ”saved by his life” in Romans 5:10 that’s “saved by his resurrection”.

Problem 2. Which law is being obeyed, which we were supposed to obey? Christ kept the Mosaic law, which none of us were ever under. And more than that, Christ was under unique (only for Him) requirements from God when He became incarnate.

The “new perspective” only wants justification to be about our status and not about the legal record of Christ’s obedience to death (His merits, the righteousness). I don’t think the texts in question (Romans 4, Philippians 3) say that we share only in Christ’s verdict. We share in the obedience that lead to that verdict. Not only the verdict, but the righteousness (the legal value of Christ’s death) was for the elect.

If you don’t want to say that the death of Christ was imputed, since that’s not the exact wording of Scripture, use Romans 6 language and say “placed into the death”. God the Father putting the elect into Christ’s death results in the verdict—–justified, dead to sin, and dead to the law.

Some Non-Essential Differences Between Those who Do Trust Christ’s Righteousness, by John Owen

July 24, 2011

That which is of real difference among persons who agree in the
substance of the doctrine, may be reduced unto a very few heads; as, —

(1.) There is something of this kind about the nature of faith whereby we are justified, with its proper object in justifying, and its use in justification. And an instance we have herein, not only of the weakness of our intellects in the apprehension of spiritual things, but also of the remainders of confusion and disorder in our minds; at least, how  true it is that we know only in part, and prophesy only in part, whilst we are in this life.

For whereas this faith is an act of our minds, put forth in the way of duty to God, yet many by whom it is sincerely exercised, and that continually, are not agreed either in the nature or proper object of it. Yet is there no doubt but that some of them who differ amongst themselves about these things, have delivered their minds free from the prepossession of prejudices and notions derived from other artificial reasonings imposed on them, and do really express their own conceptions as to the best and utmost of their experience.

And notwithstanding this difference, they do yet all of them please God
in the exercise of faith, as it is their duty, and have that respect unto its proper object as secures both their justification and salvation. And if we cannot, on this consideration, bear with, and forbear, one another in our different conceptions and expressions of those conceptions about these things, it is a sign we have a great mind to be contentious, and that our confidences are built on very weak foundations.

For my part, I had much rather my lot should be found among them who do really believe with the heart unto righteousness, though they are not able to give a tolerable definition of faith unto others, than among them who can endlessly dispute about it with seeming accuracy and skill, but are negligent in the exercise of it as their own duty.

(2.) There has been a controversy more directly stated among some
learned divines of the Reformed churches , about the righteousness of Christ that is said to be imputed unto us. For some would have this to be only his
suffering of death, and the satisfaction which he made for sin thereby,
and others include therein the obedience of his life also. The occasion, original, and progress of this controversy, the persons by whom it has been managed, with the writings wherein it is so, and the various ways that have been endeavoured for its reconciliation, are sufficiently known unto all who have inquired into these things.

(3.) Some difference there has been, also, whether the righteousness of
Christ imputed unto us, or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, may be said to be the formal cause of our justification before God; wherein there appears some variety of expression among learned men, who have handled this subject in the way of controversy with the Papists.

The true occasion of the differences about this expression has been this, and no other: Those of the Roman church do constantly assert, that the righteousness whereby we are righteous before God is the formal cause of our justification; and this righteousness, they say, is our own inherent, personal righteousness, and not the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us: wherefore they treat of this whole controversy — namely, what is the righteousness on the account
whereof we are accepted with God, or justified — under the name of the
formal cause of justification.

In opposition unto them, some Protestants, contending that the righteousness wherewith we are esteemed righteous before God, and accepted with him, is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, and not our own inherent,
imperfect, personal righteousness, have done it under this inquiry, –namely, What is the formal cause of our justification? Which some have said to be the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, — some, the righteousness of Christ imputed.

But what they designed herein was, not to resolve this controversy into a philosophical inquiry about the nature of a formal cause, but only to prove that that truly belonged unto the righteousness of Christ in our justification which the Papists ascribed unto our own. ..They all deny  that in the
justification of a sinner there either is, or can be, any inherent formal cause of it.

Wherefore, notwithstanding the differences that have been among some in
the various expression of their conceptions, the substance of the doctrine of the reformed churches is by them agreed upon and retained entire. For they all agree that God justifies no sinner, — absolves him not from guilt, nor declares him righteous, so as to have a title unto the heavenly inheritance, — but with respect unto a true and perfect righteousness; as also, that this righteousness is truly the righteousness of him that is so justified; that this righteousness
becomes ours by God’s free grace and donation; and that this is the perfect obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed unto us.

Death And Righteousness

December 29, 2009

1. I am not convinced that there is an “active obedience” defined as vicarious law-keeping. There is satisfaction to law by means of death.

2.. Even if we disagree about vicarious law-keeping (and I would not fight about “active obedience”), it is a great mistake to not include Christ’s death in Christ’s righteousness.

3. Saying that Christ’s death is included in the righteousness does not demand saying that His death is all the righteousness. Romans 5:9–since we have now been justified by His blood. Romans 5:18 so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life.

4. When we say Christ’s death, we must refer also to Christ’s resurrection. Texts often used to prove vicarious law-keeping mean resurrection. Rom 5:10 “We were reconciled to God by the death of His son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Romans 1:4 “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”

5. Our future resurrections will themselves be declarations, visible verdicts. We must not be preterists.

6. But none of this, neither my questioning of vicarious law-keeping or the future resurrection, is meant in any way to deny that present justification is not ultimate. We are not on probation, we are not pardoned only, and our justification is not temporary or provisional. Why not? Because the death of Christ has already been imputed to us. And it is enough.