Posted tagged ‘Ella’

Union is Not the Indwelling Nature, and “Made Sin” Was Never the Inward Nature

April 22, 2011

In Christ, there is true transfer, and this transfer is not by infusion or impartation. The elect transfer from a condemned state to a justified state by the legal transfer of imputation. They are no longer part of the “old man”; they are now part of the “new man”.

To get to the real question in the debate about impartation v imputation, we need to ask: what is transferred? Is guilt transferred to Christ, or is a corrupt “old nature” also transferred to Christ? (and if so, which comes first, and why does the second follow?)

I have answered this question in this blog many times. Our hope is not ultimately a “new nature” which still leaves us sinners, along with an “old nature”. Our hope as sinners is that we be counted righteous on the basis of imputation, and thus legally constituted (declared) as righteous, in a new legal state.

But we need to ask: what is transferred? The strict baptists (along with Ella and Fortner) who define “union” as the indwelling, need to be asked if the merit of Christ’s death is legally transferred to the elect. If so, what does that mean, and why does it matter, if the more basic question is not the transfer of guilt or merit? If Christ is “made sin” by “more than” guilt-transfer, then is it the indwelling and the new nature, and not the merits of Christ’s death, which finally matter?

We need get away from the idea that “union with Christ” is about regeneration. As long as our categories for judging saved and lost are “regenerate” and “unregenerate”, we will be assuming (even if we don’t define it at all) that “union” means regeneration and that union/regeneration precedes justification.

God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect justifies them. There is union by election from before the ages, but in our lifetimes, nothing is more fundamental than justification by God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

1. We need to define what we mean by “regeneration”. Since the Bible word is “new birth”, we need to think about this new birth in terms of “effectual calling” by the power of the Holy Spirit with the word of the gospel. We need to get away from the idea that “regeneration” is a “change in substance or nature” and then a time gap between that and the hearing of the gospel.

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

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

3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of Christ’s indwelling (or the gift of faith). God does not justify because God knows that God is going to indwell and change the person. Christ indwells the person because God has justified the person.

A change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of God’s imputation, but it is never the condition or the reason for God justifying.
Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were called…”

Roman 6:20 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?”

As long we define union as indwelling and judge saved and lost by regeneration, we will be tempted to ignore the gospel of justification and judge by morality and immorality.

Romans 6 describes two legal states, one of which is “free from righteousness”. We tend to judge people (even ourselves) to be saved on the evidence of morality. But God sees that morality as something to be ashamed of, when those moral people are still in their sins, still not yet justified.

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of legally being placed into the death of Christ. Instead of a “sacrament” which makes you a participant in Christ ( understood by some as “participating” even in the deity of God!), our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

I am not denying Christ’s indwelling or the absolute necessity for it. I am only saying that this indwelling is not “union with Christ”. This indwelling is not the “new man”. The “new creation” has to do with a change in legal state, and not first with a change of substance or nature so that Christ can indwell our hearts.

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

“Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about inwardness but about an imputed legal reality. So also the category of “those who live” is not about an inward change but about an imputed reality, legal life because of justification.

Christ is here indwelling, yes, but also, Christ is not here, not yet, and we believe and obey and hope, waiting for the day when Christ will be here. He is not now coming down from heaven as He will someday, and we are not now going to heaven.

So how then are we in Christ? We are in Christ legally. The old has passed. The legal verdict has already been declared. One day, our resurrection, will be the visible evidence of that verdict.