Posted tagged ‘Mike Horton’

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

December 14, 2018

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?”

Must Grace Have Been Bestowed on your Children before you can teach them God’s law?

October 4, 2017

Was Esau born in the covenant of grace, but then later lost his justification in Christ and therefore failed to “enter heaven”?

Hebrews 12: 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. 15 Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many. 16 And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal.

God’s wrath is not an expression of God’s love. God’s wrath is not a response to human bad response to God’s grace. Those who are justified are no longer under God’s wrath. And those still under God’s wrath were born condemned, already under God’s wrath. God’s wrath for the non-elect is not subject to change

For the promise is for you in spite of yourself, as many Jews as the Lord our God will call, in spite of them being Jews, for the elect alone and not for the non-elect. The promise is for your children, as many children as the Lord our God will call, in spite of parents, for the elect alone and not for the non-elect. The promise is for all who are far off, as many non Jews as the Lord our God will call, in spite of them being born outside any covenant, for the elect alone and not for the non-elect

Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if it’s understood to say that Christians now CAN obey the law at least enough to make it “congruent” or “fitting” (Jonathan Edwards) for God to bless us. The Augustinian soundbite is also wrong if it is used to imply that God in neo-nomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do IMPERFECTLY.

The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to “enter heaven” Those who are already saints are commanded to obey God’s law but not as a condition of covenant blessing.
Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.

Freedom from the law by Christ’s death imputed is necessary before we do any good works or worship acceptable to God

Those who reduce all post-fall covenants to one covenant of grace tend to say that their children need to have been born in grace in order to be taught the law. Like the Arminians who assume that the duty to believe the gospel implies the ability to believe the gospel, these like John Murray work their way from assumptions about the new capacity of regenerate disposition to denial of antithesis between law and grace for those born “in the covenant”

Mark Jones–When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics?

There is one divine standard, in this new covenant age, according to which both believers and non-believers are accountable. There are not two different standards. The commandment for children to obey their parents shows no distinction of believers and non-believers, and neither does the commandment to parents to raise their children according to God’s Word.

Do Christians and Their Unbaptized Children Pray to the Same God?

Mark Jones—“Divine grace is not MERELY God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam.”

John Murray, The Covenant of Grace— “The continued enjoyment of this grace and of the relation established is contingent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. Grace bestowed implies a subject and reception on the part of that subject. The relation established implies mutuality. The conditions in view are not conditions of bestowal. They are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant relation is inconceivable….the breaking of the covenant is unfaithfulness to a relation constituted and to grace dispensed. By breaking the covenant what is broken is not the condition of bestowal but the condition of consummated fruition.”

Richard Gaffin, by Faith not by Sight, p 103–”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…”

Gaffin— Having been called effectively involves having been regenerated, but the two are not identical. The exercise of the Spirit’s energies in calling produces an enduring change… marked anthropologically by a new and lasting disposition inherent in them, what Scripture calls a new “heart.” That is, at the core of my being, I am no longer against God and disposed to rebel against his will but, now and forever, for him and disposed in the deepest recesses of whom I am to delight in doing his will….The Holy Spirit’s work in the justified ungodly does not MERELY consist of an ongoing countering activity within those otherwise only disposed to be thoroughly resistant and recalcitrant. The definitive change MAINTAINED in believers by the Spirit provides a stable basis WITHIN THEM for renewing and maturing them according to their inner selves (2 Cor. 4:16). The Reformed use of “habitual” to describe this irreversible change, seems appropriate and useful. ”

Leithart–“God can and does reward appropriate (albeit imperfect) human response. God’s unmerited love, then, does not nullify reciprocity. . . . God’s love is bestowed prior to conditions and is undeserved, yet there are conditions for its continuance”

Leithart: The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor TO ME . Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts MY NAME on the package. Like the gospel, BAPTISM REQUIRES a response of ENDURING faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says ABOUT YOU…The self-imputation of “righteous” is based on the baptismal declaration that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to rescue me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism…..

Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

John Piper–How then can I say that the judgment of believers will not only be the public declaration of our differing rewards in the kingdom of God, according to our deeds, but will also be the public declaration of our salvation – our entering the kingdom – according to our deeds? When some deeds are exposed at the judgment as a person’s way of life, they will be the evidence that their faith was not transforming and they will not be saved.” (Future Grace, p 366)

Mike Horton: To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? If faith is the only way into membership, then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to exercise faith and persevere in faith to the end? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator. The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ.”

Here are several good responses to the related ideas that duty implies ability, or that ability eliminates distinctions between teaching children law and assuming that grace bestowed is necessary to teach children law.

Engelsma: Mike Horton affirms that God promises saving grace in Christ to every baptized baby. This is the same as to affirm that God promised saving grace to Esau in his circumcision. This affirmation implies that God failed to keep His promise. God’s promise failed. Grace is resisted. Grace is ineffectual. The reason, they will say, is the unbelief of Esau. Whatever the reason, grace does not realize itself in one to whom God is gracious. Regardless of the reason for grace’s impotence, the teaching is heretical. If God promises saving grace to both Esau and Jacob, as Horton affirms, but the promise fails because of Esau’s unbelief, then the conclusion necessarily follows that grace succeeded in the case of Jacob, only because of grace causing Jacob to accept grace.”

Tom Nettles—”The idea of universal atonement is not demanded by the Bible at all, but is often assumed as an inference drawn from a no-grace-no-justice assumption…. The piggy-backing of grace onto the command to believe the gospel does not come from the Bible.”

Mark Seifrid— “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….But according to the puritan 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 puritans regards the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.

Click to access sbjt_102_sum06-seifrid1.pdf

Paul Helm—“One thing that the Amyraldian proposal does is to weaken connection between the plight of the race in the fall of Adam. For the Amyraldians the responsibility of each of the non-elect comes simply from hearing and not receiving the message of grace.”

Lee irons—”Their principle (that all types must typify grace and cannot typify the works principle) would rule out Adam from being a type of Christ. And what about the types prefiguring the day of judgment throughout the OT? For example, Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, the conquest of the Canaanites, the expulsion of Israel from the land in the exile. These are not symbols of grace but of wrath.”

Steve Yang– Murray argues that those who crucified their old self with Christ are no longer under the dominion of sin (Romans 6). He says that “it is wrong to use these texts to support any other view of the victory entailed than that which the Scripture teaches it to be, namely, the radical breach with the power and love of sin which is necessarily the possession of every one who has been united to Christ. Union with Christ is union with him in the efficacy of his death and in virtue of his resurrection – he who thus died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion” (143). Murray further writes, “the Christian] must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ his Lord. It is the faith of this fact that provides the basis for, and the incentive to the fulfillment of, the exhortation, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…’” (146).

Murray’s usage of Scripture, however, has failed to prove that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit necessarily changes a person in a progressive sense. His usage of Romans, for instance, is unwarranted for the reason that he assumes that by “the dominion of sin” Paul has an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote “so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the verb he chose to use was logi,zesqe, which means to “consider”, to “count”, to “credit” or to “reckon”. Such a verb is not used in an ontological sense, but in a positional sense. Paul also uses this very verb to describe the manner in which Abraham was counted righteous by God God accounted, or declared, Abraham righteous even though Abraham ontologically wasn’t. Murray’s usage of this passage undermines his own assumptions by reaffirming the positional aspect of God’s blessings.

The freedom from the dominion of sin, which Paul speaks of, is the freedom from the condemnation of sin and from the guilt of falling short of the law’s demands. Whereas Murray would seem to suggest that sanctification is conforming to the law (by the Spirit’s help), Paul’s claim is that “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, IN ORDER TO serve. Whereas Murray would suggest that being freed from the dominion of sin means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law, Paul, on the contrary, suggests that such freedom means Christians are absolved from the law’s demands. All the law could do is condemn, kill, and destroy. And it is for this very reason that in Rom. 7:7 Paul anticipates the objection that “doesn’t such a view suggest that the law is sin?” the view that the freedom from the dominion of sin only means that the Spirit aids us in obeying the law would never draw one to raise the objection that the law is sin (in fact, quite the contrary). If one were in line with Pauline theology, one would have to expect answer to similar objections in which Paul faced. The fact that John Murray does not seems to attract such objections only suggests that John Murray is not reading the Apostle Paul correctly.

Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way, p 64 – Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a condition in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not to trust in the work. If a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he would at least be tempted to trust in the right of it to the promise, and he probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work.

Faith is Not a Work but only An Instrument, therefore we can say that Faith is a Condition? No!, by Tianqi Wu

November 8, 2015

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—To be claimed by water baptism as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. HOW CAN THEY FALL UNDER THE CURSES OF A COVENANT TO WHICH THEY DID NOT BELONG? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet the instrumental CONDITION is that they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator….”

Mike Horton–As Packer explains it, “love is not the whole story” . We are faced with mystery — and the two guardrails that keep us from careening off the cliff in speculation. God loves the world and calls everyone in the world to Christ outwardly through the Gospel, and yet God loves the elect with a saving purpose and calls them by His Spirit inwardly through the same Gospel (John 6:63–64; 10:3–5, 11, 14–18, 25–30; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28–30; 2 Tim. 1:9). Both Arminians and hyper-Calvinists ignore crucial passages of Scripture, resolving the mystery in favor of the either-or. Either election or the free offer of the Gospel, conditioned on God giving faith to the sinner.

Mike Horton–While it is among the sweetest consolations for believers, election is not the whole story of God’s dealing with this world. Does God love everybody, or is His kindness simply a cloak for His wrath — fattening the wicked for the slaughter, as some hyper-Calvinists have argued? Scripture is full of examples of God’s providential goodness, particularly in the Psalms: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made …. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm. 145:9, 16) The doctrine we are talking about has come to be called “common grace,” in distinction from “saving grace.” Some have objected to this term (some even to the concept), insisting that there is nothing common about grace: there is only one kind of grace, which is sovereign, electing grace. However, it must be said that whatever kindness God shows to anyone for any reason after the fall, can ONLY be regarded as gracious. Once again, we face two guardrails that we dare not transgress: God acts graciously to save the elect and also to sustain the non-elect and cause them to flourish in this mortal life. .

David Engelsma—Mike Horton affirms that God promises saving grace in Christ to every baptized baby. For a Reformed theologian, it is the same as to affirm that God promised saving grace to Esau in his circumcision. This affirmation implies that God failed to keep His promise. His promise failed. Grace is resistible and ineffectual. The reason, they will say, is the unbelief of Esau. Whatever the reason, grace does not realize itself in one to whom God is gracious. Regardless of the reason for grace’s impotence, the teaching is heretical. If God promises saving grace to both Esau and Jacob, as Horton affirms, but the promise fails because of Esau’s unbelief, then the conclusion necessarily follows that grace succeeded in the case of Jacob, not because of the Christ’s death for Jacob but rather in the sovereign power of grace enabling Jacob to accept the grace and thereby meet the “conditions of the covenant”.

Tianqi Wu— Unbelief of the gospel is sin. If God justifies us on the condition we don’t sin the sin of unbelief, then Christ’s death is not what saves us.. But a common obfuscation is to say “faith is not a work” and thus argue that it does not violate “grace alone” to make faith part of the reason God justifies us. Many people think Romans 4 is teaching that God counts our believing as righteousness. Some variations of this I’ve seen:

1, they think our believing satisfies the law, because our believing is obeying
2, they think our believing doesn’t satisfy the law, but God graciously counts it as satisfied the law
3, they think our believing doesn’t satisfy the law, but God counts it as righteousness, because believing is what God considers real righteousness

In all these views, faith works as a work that forms our righteousness.

But the main reason that “faith is not a work” is that we are not justified because of our faith. Faith is not part of our righteousness. God does not count our believing as righteousness, God counts what he announces in the gospel (Christ’s death provided by God for those elected in Christ and appointed to eternal life) to the recipients . The gospel announces Christ’s death as the righteousness of the elect who will believe this gospel. Faith in the true gospel is itself a benefit given by God along with the imputation of righteousness. (Faith in the gospel is a gift obtained by Christ for those he redeemed by his blood. II Peter 1;1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ)

We should not identify Christ’s death on the cross with justification, because justification (like faith) is a spiritual blessing given by means of the righteousness of the cross. Once we realize this, it takes away the objection against “application”of (imputation of ) the reconciliation accomplished at the cross as the basis for (in order to) justification. If the “new heart” is not immediately given at the cross (or even immediately given at the birth of each elect after the cross), then it is conceivable that “forgiveness of sins” is also not immediately given at the cross. ”

Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way, explains that “John Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a CONDITION in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not trust in the work. Even if a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he still probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work…”

“Grace and works (not only in the case of justification) but in the whole course of our salvation, are not subordinate to each other but opposite:as that whatsoever is of grace is not of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace.

Mark McCulley—Faith is a work. No, it’s not a work. The debate won’t take you very far. Even if the debate is about if faith comes from fallen man’s freewill contribution, the Calvinist accusation that says “well then it’s a work” does not do much because the Arminians will quickly explain that they never say it’s a work and that they know it’s not a work.

Saying Babies are Christians Is Just as Much Against the Gospel as Dispensationalism

October 2, 2015

Instead of different dispensations, paedobaptists are committed to an erroneous “one covenant of grace” that includes more than just the elect.
Along with this error about covenants, paedobaptists teach false notions about about “common grace in the covenant” and about “sacramental grace” (even for the non-elect).

John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them. ”

Mike Horton: “To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? If faith is the only way into membership , then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to persevere in faith to the end? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator. ”

The Horton quotation suggests that only people presumed to be in the church (or in the covenant) can be addressed with the gospel. Is Horton saying that we need to think of our babies as Christians before we can command them to believe the gospel? If not, what is he saying? Is Horton saying that people who don’t go to church and don’t profess to be Christians can’t be warned about the need to believe  the gospel? Or is Horton saying that the only people who need to be warned to believe the gospel are those put in the covenant without first believing the gospel?

Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on ‘the continuity of the covenants’ may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.”

The Abrahamic covenant came before the old covenant (the Mosaic covenant), and therefore the Abrahamic covenant is NOT the new covenant. Abraham had two sons.

If circumcision was for Abraham a seal of the promise to Abraham that Abraham would have children and own a lot of land, then we cannot say that circumcision is nothing but a seal of righteousness that he had by faith. The circumcision is a sign of other things also. Circumicision was a sign of more than one thing.

Paedobaptists tend to read the Old Testament as if the Arahamic covenant and the new covenant were the same, and thus reduce the Abrahamic covenant to being only about the righteousness earned by Christ.

Romans 4:11 teaches that circumcision was a sign to Abraham that he Abraham had the righteousness. The circumcision is a sign that Christ will bring in the righteousness, but not a sign to anybody else but Abraham that they have or are promised the righteousness. The righteousness is promised only to as many as believe the gospel.

Israel is a type fulfilled by Christ, not by a mixed body of justified and non-justified folks we call “the church”. Circumcision is a type of the forensic “cutting off” from legal identity in Adam by means of Christ’s death.

Christ’s death is the legal death of the justified elect, and that death is not water, not regeneration, not “covenant membership” in a conditional covenant.

It’s not water that fulfills the type of circumcision. Christ’s death to the law imputed to the elect is the ultimate thing signified by circumcision. Christ did not become cleansed or regenerated, but His blood was shed to satisfy justice, and that’s the central truth to which circumcision speaks.

Paedobaptists tend to minimize or ignore the other preliminary things signified by circumcision. Deyoung writes “And if this spiritual sign—a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith—was administered to Abraham and his infant sons, then we cannot say that the thing signified must always be present before the sign is administered.”,

For the sake of the gospel, we need to see that 1. in the case of Abraham, the righteousness signified had already been imputed to Abraham before circumcision. and 2. there is more than one thing signified but Deyoung has ignored that and now only focuses on the righteousness. 3. and even in regard to the righteousness which is signified, there is an ambiguity in which paedobaptists have their cake and eat it also.

On the one hand, they tell us we can’t know who is justified, and so the sign is not about an infallible knowledge that this infant will be justified. But agreeing with that, why not then give the sign to everybody? But then, on the other hand, their confessions teach that there is a promise to the children of those who are Christians.

Here there is more ambiguity, since first we can’t infallibly know which parents are justified, and second, there is no promise to Christians that they will even have children, and third, What exactly is this promise to the children of those who are Christians?

There is no promise that specific children will be justified. So at the most, what you have is some idea that they are “in the covenant” and thus perhaps more liable to “covenant curses”. But again, how are these infants different from any other infants, since all infants are born guilty in Adam and all need that righteousness, and none of them is promised that righteousness, and they can only know they have it if God gives them faith in the gospel?

Dispensationalists can’t really see the newness of the new covenant, because they can’t let go of the idea that the Abrahamic covenant promised land unconditionally to ethnic Israel. And paedobaptists can’t really see the newness of the new covenant, because they can’t let go of the genealogical principle of the Abrahamic covenant in which they presume that their babies are born Christians.

Despite Christ’s death as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, paedobaptists still think there is a genealogical principle at work in the new covenant. They think the Abrahamic covenant is no different from the new covenant, and that the new covenant is no different from the Abrahamic covenant. This is why they read Colossians 2:11-13 and assume that water baptism is the fulfillment of the sign of circumcision.

Renihan— The new covenant is distinct from the biblical covenants that preceded it in history, particularly the Abrahamic covenant. Simply put, the Abrahamic covenant promised (not only Christ the seed to come but also) earthly blessings to Abraham and his offspring. This covenantal relationship was expanded and developed in the Mosaic covenant and the Davidic covenant (the Mosaic covenant added laws for life in Canaan, and the Davidic covenant provided kings over the people). These three covenants established and governed the kingdom of Israel, comprised of Abraham’s people. The … new covenant is established on better promises, different promises. The new covenant alone is the covenant of grace, distinct from the Israelite covenants.

Throughout Israel’s history, many understood the messianic promises and looked to Jesus in faith prior to his advent (Hebrews 4:2-3; 11:13-16). The people of God, considered according to the federal headship and benefits of Christ, did not begin with the incarnation. The Israelite kingdom and its covenants were typological. Typology sustains two truths: on the one hand a type had significance in its own context while on the other hand a type pointed away from itself to a greater meaning in Christ. The author to the Hebrews states quite plainly that the blood of the Israelite sacrifices could not forgive sins. Why? Because although those sacrifices had meaning in the Israelite context, i.e., purification of the flesh, they were not Christ’s sacrifice and could not purify the conscience (Hebrews 10:1-4, 12-14).

Paul treats God’s dealings with Abraham the same way by calling believers the children of Abraham and finding a greater meaning in the word “offspring” as relating to Christ rather than simply Abraham’s posterity (Galatians 3:7, 9, 16, 27-29). It is not ONE OR THE OTHER, as though promises were made only to Abraham and his natural children or to Christ and his offspring (Abraham included). It is both, each with its particular but related meaning in a typical or antitypical context. And thus the kingdom and covenants of Israel were not the kingdom and covenant of Christ though they were driving towards his birth and revealing truths about him all along the way. Old Testament saints were saved by the promise of one who was to come, and the covenant that he would establish. Consequently we should not use the kingdom of Israel and its covenants as the pattern for churches.

Looking to the parent-child relationship is a misdirected attempt to understand covenantal membership. Redirecting our attention to federal headship brings clarity …. We blame Adam, not our parents, for the curse. The Israelites looked to Abraham, not their parents, for a claim to Canaan and its blessings, and to the conduct of the king, not their parents, for tenure in the land. So also, children must look to Christ, not their parents, for a claim to his covenant….We are born under Adam’s federal headship, and no one escapes the domain of darkness until God transfers them “to the kingdom of the beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14).

The “Personal Presence” Priority of Marcus Johnson

September 29, 2013

One With Christ (Crossway, 2013) by Moody Bible Institute professor Marcus Johnson, is a very question-begging book. It starts with an attack on “the merely forensic” and continually assumes that the forensic is based on the “reality of union.”. The phrase “more than merely” is repeated many many times.

Johnson has no place for the justification of the UNGODLY. He has a “the person priority”. He’s a Lutheran who teaches that “faith unites” because “faith is the presence of Christ”.

But there are no new exegetical arguments, simply “union priority” asserted over and over again. It’s interesting for me to take these statements and simply reverse them, flip them, without me doing any less (or more) exegetical homework than Johnson has done.

Johnson: Many have assumed that justification is a synthetic declaration that takes into account no prior relationship of the believer to the person of Christ. p 92

mark: The “unionists” assume that justification is a legal fiction (as if) unless it’s an analytic declaration that takes into account an already existing personal relationship to Christ. They don’t talk about justification of the ungodly, but only about a justification of those united to Christ.

Johnson: It is because of this union that the believer is justified.

mark: it is because of God’s imputation that the believer is united to Christ. A bride is not legally married because another person is already “really” in her. Rather, a bride becomes really married because she is legally married.

I need to review to see how many times Johnson uses the Calvin quotation (as long as he remains outside of us) but the entire book is meant to lead to a Lutheran sacramental view (unless you eat my flesh taken in a literal fashion) with almost not mention of election, and no mention of some human individuals not being elect.

Johnson: The benefits of Christ’s saving work are received only insofar as Christ Himself is received. p 93

mark: Christ Himself is received by the ungodly elect only insofar as these ungodly elect are imputed with Christ’s righteousness.

Johnson: Justification is a legal benefit of a personal reality.

mark: The personal indwelling of Christ is a benefit of the legal reality of God’s imputation.

Johnson: God justifies us because we are joined to Christ.

mark: God joins us to Christ when God imputes to us (while we are ungodly) the righteousness of Christ. God joins us to Christ because God imputes to us the death of Christ.

Johnson: In Philippians 3, we are only imputed with righteousness because we are found in Christ. p 95

mark: In Philippians 3, we are only found in Christ because of the righteousness imputed.

Johnson: Berkhof thinks that justification cannot be the result of any existing condition in the sinner, not even an intimate, vital, spiritual, person union with Christ. This strikes me as enormously confusing. p 97

mark: Johnson thinks that both the atonement and justification are fictions unless the incarnation means that all sinners are already in some kind of union with Christ before legal imputation. This strikes me as an universalism which removes the reality of God’s justice in giving Christ as a propitiation for sins legally imputed.

Johnson: What exactly is this union which can be REDUCED to either justification or the results of justification? p 98

mark: What is the reality of God’s imputation of righteousness to the ungodly elect if it’s not real apart from some other previous (and more than merely legal) connection?

Johnson: William Evans argues that Berkhof’s soteriology is the logical conclusion of a federal theological trajectory, epitomized by Charles Hodge, in which union ceases to function as an umbrella category unifying all of salvation.

mark: Johnson rejects “imputation priority” because he has already rejected the federal imputation of Adam’s guilt (see his chapter 2 on incarnation) and because he has already rejected what he calls a “mechanical transfer” of sins to Christ. I would say “the sins of the elect” but Johnson does not consider the doctrine of election in his discussion of imputation and justification. Election for him seems to be only an “apologetic doctrine” which he does not deny but which plays no part in his soteriology. (This is his accusation against those of us with “justification priority”, that the incarnation and the Trinity are no part of our gospel., p 41)

Johnson: Both Horton and Fesko subordinate union with Christ to justification, indicating that they see union with Christ as reducible to sanctification.

mark: Johnson denies the reality of legal imputation, and subordinates imputation as merely one benefit of “union”, and then he defines “union” as the personal presence of Christ in us because of our faith (given to us by the Holy Spirit). So Johnson subordinates the work of Christ to the person of Christ, and then accuses those who disagree with him of dividing person and work. And then Johnson subordinates the imputation of Christ’s work to the work of the Holy Spirit, who he thinks is the one who unites us to Christ’s person by creating faith in us.

Johnson does not deny “union with Christ in election” (p 35) but he never ever says that any human is not elect and his doctrine of “union with Christ in the incarnation” (p 36) ignores election and focuses on the human nature of Christ as the human nature of every sinner. Having ignored any notion of Christ having died for the elect alone, Johnson announces that “the normal referent of the phrase union with Christ in this book is to subjectively realized EXPERIENTIAL union by the power of the Holy Spirit.” p 39

Not denying the eternal election in Christ, Johnson insists that there is only one :union” (not two, as he describes the position of Horton, Fesko, and Berkhof), but then he takes his “one union” and agrees that it has different “aspects” of which election is one, and then he takes the “application of the union” as being his working definition of “the union”. This of course fits with the Barth/Torrance notion of actualist election and of the atonement as that which the Holy Spirit does in creating faith (and thus creating a real union, so that imputation won’t be “merely” “synthetic”).

But let’s get back to the fun of copying Johnson’s assertions and then reversing them.

Johnson: A truncated reading of John 14-17 where the sending of the Holy Spirit is interpreted as something other than Christ’s presence by the Spirit. This is reinforced by notions of Spirit baptism that fail to stress that the Spirit baptizes believers into Christ,” p 44

mark: give me one Bible text that says that the Spirit is the baptizer. Romans 6 does not teach that. I Cor 12:13 does not teach that. Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Christ is the baptizer (not with water but with the Spirit). In Romans 6, there is no Holy Spirit, and the one who baptizes the elect into Christ’s death is God (not the Holy Spirit apart from the Father or the Son).

Johnson: Faith justifies only because faith unites us. p 99

mark: faith is a gift given to the elect because of Christ’s purchase of faith by His work. Therefore, faith is not a condition for God’s imputation but a result of God’s imputation. Therefore, no elect person is ever justified apart from faith in the gospel, but no elect person has this faith before regeneration and no elect person has this regeneration before God’s imputation of Christ’s merits earned by Christ’s death.

Johnson: Saving faith engrafts us to Christ

mark: Since faith is a benefit of Christ’s work, how can we have this faith unless we are first engrafted into Christ by God’s legal imputation? II Peter 1:1— “a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”

Johnson: Faith is nearly synonymous with life in Christ. p 100

mark: Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. The righteousness of Christ is not imputed because of the personal presence of Christ mediated by the Holy Spirit. Life in Christ and the Spirit is because of God’s imputation of the righteousness.

Johnson: Christ died FOR US, in our place, but he also crucified US WITH HIM. There is a convergance of the “for us” with the “with us”. Believers participate in Christ’s death. p 102.

mark: Although I don’t know anything about Johnson except what I have read in his book, my guess is that his presuppositions about the nature of the atonement are the biggest reasons for the moves he makes in this book about “union”. Without denying the forensic nature of Christ’s death, he wants to continue to use the words “penal substitution” but without that meaning that Christ really (actually) bore the specific sins of the elect. It’s not “merely” semantics . The Torrance view of the nature and intent of Christ’s death is an intentionally deceptive account of legal representation. Volf, for example, calls it “inclusive substitution”, but what it really means is that legal imputation is not allowed to explain the “died with”.

The idea of “in our place, instead of us. so we don’t die, because Christ’s death is our legal death” is dismissed as a fiction, and something supposedly more just (and more “real) and more mysterious (ineffable) is put in the place of “federalist” accounts of substitution for the elect alone.

“Union with Christ” does not matter if we miss out on what Christ’s death does.In his book, Free of Charge (Zondervan, 2005, p 147), Volf writes: “Since Christ is our substitute, after reading ‘one has died for all,’ we’d expect him to continue, ‘therefore none of them needs to die.’ Had he written that, he would have expressed the idea that theologians call EXCLUSIVE SUBSTITUTION. According to this view, Christ’s death makes ours unnecessary. As a third party, he is our substitute, and his death is his alone and no one else’s. But that’s not how the Apostle thought. Christ’s death does not replace our death. It enacts it. That’s what theologians call INCLUSIVE SUBSTITUTION.”

What does Johnson (or Torrance, or Volf) mean by substitution? The problem here cannot be fixed by simply noticing that Christ died only for the elect. Torrance is not an Arminian who conditions the salvation of a sinner on the sinner. Torrance is an universalist who say that God (not wants to, which would be bad enough, but has already) saved everybody because Christ was united by incarnation to all humanity.

We need to think about the nature of substitution.If Christ’s death replaces people’s death, why does II Corinthinas 5:14 teach that the all died? My answer is that “all died” is how the text tells us that the death of Christ replaces the death of the all. Since the death of Christ comes to count as the death of the elect, once the elect have been legally joined to that death, this tells us that another death is not necessary.

If Christ’s death gets counted as the death of the elect, the death of the elect is a death like Christ’s death because it IS Christ’s death. It is not some other death. Romans 6 teaches that it is one death, counted as the death of all the elect.

II Corinthians 5:14 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.”

Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if 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.”

Johnson: The way we conceive of justification is predicated on how we think of the nature of our union with Christ.

mark: The way we conceive of being “in Christ” is predicated on how we think of God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Why was Christ’s death necessary? Why do the ungodly elect need to be credited with Christ’s death? Why do the ungodly elect need to be placed into Christ’s death? Is that “legal placement” merely one benefit based on some more important and real personal indwelling of Christ (in an ungodly person?)

Johnson: If we conceive of union in merely or primarily legal terms, we face the ever present danger of reducing the penal substitutionary vicarious humanity of Christ to a merely mechanical forensic transaction. p 103

mark: If Johnson denies the reality of legal sharing of sins or the merits of Christ’s death without some kind of synthetic basis in an already existing personal presence, then Johnson gives evidence that he has already decided that it would be unjust for God to say that all humans are guilty by mere imputation. It’s also evidence (again, see his chapter two) that Johnson has already decided that it would be unjust for God to impute righteousness to a person unless that person first already has Christ personally present in them.

Johnson: We risk reading the Romans 6 assertions (we died with Christ) as mere “as ifs”. p 103

mark: Having already decided that the legal is not real unless it’s based on actual corruption or on the actual presence of Christ in the person, Johnson follows Augustine and Osiander into a misreading of Romans 6 that ignores the redemptive-historical reality that Christ Himself was under the law (by the imputation of the sins of the elect) and that Christ Himself was justified (not under law anymore) not by grace but by His death as real legal satisfaction of the law.

Johnson: A great deal rests on how we conceive of the word substitution. If we understand this to mean that Christ acts outside of us in a merely representative way, so that our sin is somehow mechanically transferred from us to us, then we have a doctrine of penal substitution that flounders in unreality. p 84

mark: Johnson wants us to say first –“because he assumed our human nature”, but I don’t know anybody who is denying that Christ assumed our human nature. The problem for Johnson is that he thinks the incarnation means that Christ is in someway already “united” to all sinners. Therefore he has all sinners dying with Christ. But where does Johnson locate the ‘reality” of “union”? He locates it in the work of the Spirit creating faith in us, which faith then “unites” us by experience to the humanity of Christ in heaven.

What does this say about the “reality” of federal election in Christ? If the atonement is nothing but “mechanical” and not yet real until “personal union” becomes real, then it seems that the reality of salvation comes to depend not on what Christ did but on what the Spirit will do in us, or WITH us…

Johnson quoting Torrance: It will not do to think of what Christ has done for us only in terms of representation. If Jesus is a substitute in detachment from us, who simply acts in our stead in an external, formal or forensic way, then his response has no ontological bearing upon us but is an empty transaction above our heads. p 84

mark: Don’t you love that imperial “it will not do”? It’s good for assertions, based on personal authority. In other words, I know what “union” means, and I am telling you, without argument or exegesis. I am telling you that Fesko and Horton are wrong, and Torrance is correct. And Torrance says the ontological is more important than your mere imputation or Christ’s death apart from Christ’s personal indwelling in us. But who has decided that God’s legal imputation alone is an “empty transaction”? Johnson already decided that before he wrote the book.

Indeed, if Christ died with some vicarious intention, but without God legally imputing the sins of the elect to Christ, the efficacy of that death would have been empty and made to depend on something more “real”, something brought about or created by the Holy Spirit.

But because those for whom Christ died were in Christ by election before the ages, then the death of Christ was legally significant. \ That death really causes Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Father to live in those to whom that death is imputed. Nothing is more basic that the atonement or the effect of that atonement when the elect receive it by God’s imputation (Romans 5;11, 17, receive in these two verses is not by faith but by imputation)

Johnson: The righteousness of Christ is alien to us in the sense that it is not an achievement of ours. But Christ Himself is not alien to us. p 110

mark. This is merely more priority question begging. If we are all elect (Johnson never says), then when was Christ ever alien to anybody? Since Christ was incarnated with the same humanity, has Christ since His incarnation ever been alien to anybody? Johnson is simply reasserting his beginning assumption that God cannot impute righteousness to us unless we first have Christ within us. So let me counter-assert. Christ cannot and does not indwell the ungodly until God has imputed them with Christ’s righteousness. I have no more proven that proposition (in this short essay) than has Johnson proven His assertion (in his long book)

Johnson quotes Packer: God reckons righteousness to them, not because God accounts them to have kept the law, but because God account them to be united to the one who kept the law representatively…

mark: God reckons righteousness to the elect, not because Christ is already personally present in them, not because they are personally included in Christ by experience or by regeneration, but because God has elected them in Christ and they need a legal share in Christ’s work before they can be joined personally to Christ, the righteous one.

Johnson: Salvation in its essence is Christ, not one of his benefits.

mark: Sounds very pious, doesn’t it? But do you know who Christ is apart from doctrines about who He is and what He Did? Is not “faith-union” one of the benefits of Christ’s work? Is not “union” one of the benefits of Christ, or is “union” something that exists prior to and apart from the redemptive work of Christ? Is not ‘faith” one of the benefits of Christ, a gift given by the Holy Spirit, who is Himself a gift given by Christ based on Christ’s death under the law (see Galatians 3:12-13, 4:4-6).

So what is Johnson saying with his “person priority”? He is not merely saying Christ is other than, and more important to glory in, than the benefits we receive from Christ. Johnson is saying that “union with Christ” (the personal presence of Christ with us) is salvation. To be consistent, then, Johnson would have to say that this “union with” (personal presence) is not a benefit, or at the very least not a benefit of Christ’s presence. But if we ungodly sinners can have Christ the person with us apart from God’s imputation of the merits of Christ’s work, then why do we ever really need the “benefit” of imputation? I mean, if Christ himself is “salvation”, then what He did and its imputation to us is not salvation.

Of course that is a silly distinction, and not what Johnson “really” meant. But if my caricature is not what he meant, then why all this fuss against Hodge and Berkhof and their “reductionistic” (mechanical) forensic priority? Why is it that Johnson’s emphasis on the “ontological” presence of Christ is not also “reductionistic”. Well, he doesn’t deny imputation, and some folks (NT Wright, Seifrid, Garlington) do. But then again, people like Hodge and Berkhof (and Horton and Fesko) don’t deny the personal presence of Christ either. But they get called confusing and reductionistic because they don’t agree with the priority being emphasized by Johnson, Torrance, Gaffin, and Evans.

Is the Holy Spirit the Source of Our Justification and Sanctification?

May 26, 2012

I will begin with the part with which I very much agree, in which Mike Horton warns against calling “sanctification” a cooperation.

Horton: “It is inappropriate to import the monergism-synergism
antithesis (typically belonging to the debate over the new birth and
justification) into sanctification. It is better simply to say that we are working out that salvation that has Christ has already won for us and given to us by his Spirit through the gospel. Though in
sanctification (unlike justification) faith is active in good works,
the gospel is always the ground and the Spirit is always the source of our sanctification as well as our justification.”

Mark McCulley: The Holy Spirit does give us what Christ has already won. But we also need to say that the Son gives us the Holy Spirt, and that the Son is given to us by legal imputation. Galatians 4:6– because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit into your hearts.”

Of course this raises many questions about order and the word “union” and Horton has done a good job of borrowing from Bruce McCormack on the priority of imputation as a performative act. (See both his book on Covenant Union and his essay in Tributes to Calvin).

I know the Westminster Confession uses “applied by the Spirit”
language but we need to account for the order in Galatians 3:13-14.
Redemption/ justification is the basis for the promise of the Spirit,
the blessing of Abraham. As Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68: “when he
ascended on high, he gave gifts to men.” Every reference to “baptism
with the Spirit” (including I Cor 12:13) has Christ as the one who
gives the Spirit, not the Spirit as the one who gives us Christ.
Effectual calling by God the Father does not assume that it’s the Spirit who includes us into Christ.

It’s a reduction (not the entire truth) to say tha the Holy Spirit gives us the salvation which Christ won. Even though I agree that there is no imputation and calling apart from the Spirit, I worry about the leaving out forensic imputation or making the legal only one of the results of some “more basic” union.

The thing I would most fundamentally question in Horton’s paragraph
above is the conclusion—“the Spirit is always the the source of our
sanctification as well as our justification.” One, the Father is
forgotten. Two, in what sense is the Spirit the source of our
justification? In the sense that Christ did His work by the Spirit? In the sense that the Spirit gives us the faith which has as its object what Christ won for the elect?

We need to make sure that we keep saying that Christ’s righteousness is not what the Spirit does in us. This is why I don’t think we should even talk about a “twofold righteousness” or an “imparted righteousness”. In any case, we need to make a distinction (not identify) the work of Christ outside us and the work of the Spirit in us.

Three, we need to define “sanctification” and make a distinction
between our traditional use of the word and the Bible use of the word. The Bible has different senses of “sanctification”, both by the Spirit (II Thess 2:13) and “set apart and perfected by the blood” (Hebrews 10). David Petersen’s book Possessed by God is a good place to start to think about this.

Of course, in our common language, when we say ‘sanctification”, we tend not to be talking about Christ’s death or about the Spirit causing us to hear the gospel. We tend to think of the new birth as creating in us a new disposition which causes us to gradually get better.

Horton in his good book on covenant union has a very good discussion
of the problems with traditional accounts of “regeneration”, and I
know that none of us can talk about everything at one time. But my
specific point is to ask how the Spirit is the source of
“sanctification”. If we are talking about “sanctification by the
blood” (Hebrews 10) then it is very right to notice the parallel to
Christ’s death as the source of justification.

But if we are talking about the Spirit causing us to understand and believe the gospel, then we cannot identify the source of justification as the Holy Spirit.

The gospel is about the law, because the gospel tells us how Christ
satisfied the law for the elect. The gospel demands a faith that
repents from the old life of trusting ourselves (even with grace and help) to satisfy the law. To hear the gospel is to turn from the sin of trusting ourselves (with grace and help) to ever become acceptable to God. We learn to take sides against ourselves. It is Christ’s death which not only justifies us but also sanctifies us.

We believe and we repent, and the Holy Spirit causes us to do
both, but these things that the Spirit works in us are not our righteousness. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is not the source of either our justification nor our sanctification.

While we are still sinners, we are already sanctified.

Horton’s remarks can be found at:

Roger Olson’s Christ’s Death as a Risk God Takes

October 23, 2011

Against Calvinism, Zondervan, 2011, Roger Olson

I am glad to have read this volume. It shows how contradictory the compromised Calvinism of Piper, Sproul and Boettner is. Olson does a good job of exposing the problems with modern Calvinism’s traditions like “the free offer’ and “sufficient but not efficient” and “non-arbitrary infralapsarian”. But Olson ignores consistent Calvinists like John Gill and Paul Jewett. Instead of attending to AW Pink or Tom Nettles, he pushes the ideas of “Reformed” people like Berkouwer, James Daane, and Richard Mouw. He spends no time on the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession (first or second).

I have not yet read Mike Horton’s For Calvinism, though I doubt that Horton can fairly present a “mere Calvinism” without the distortions of his sacramental “covenant theology”. I can only hope for the day when Horton writes “Against Lutheranism” and for the day when some big name Calvinist writes “Against Any Idea that Jesus Bore and Propitiated the Sins of Every Sinner”.

We live in a day when not many Calvinists think of Arminianism as the greatest heresy we face. Most Calvinists are far more concerned to warn against eternal security and antinomianism. They worry less about neo-nomianism and the denial of the imputation of Adam’s guilt than they do about “open theism” or the role of men and women in society.

But let me make this “against Roger Olson personally”. Let me quote his conclusions. “If it were revealed to you in a way that you couldn’t question or deny that the true God is actually as Calvinism says, would you still worship him?…I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster.” (P85) Or as he explains on p 159, “Satan wants all damned to hell and God only wants certain number damned to hell.” Olson has cut through all the sophistry of analogy to human judges who reluctantly condemn criminals. If God has already forgiven some who have committed the same sins but does not “try to” forgive the next person who committed the sins, then Olson is just not going to worship that God.

We are talking about different gods, and it is personal. Either there are many or no gods, or there is one God and all other gods are idols we should not worship. We cannot simply excuse each other with the idea that the other person is not as smart and consistent as I am.

Olson rejects any “necessary connection” between the accomplishment of redemption and the application of redemption. (p150).

He wants to insist that if the redemption by Christ makes the redemption of the elect certain, then this must mean that the elect are born already redeemed and there is no need for faith or the legal application (imputation) of the redemption.

Even though most modern Calvinists have been less than clear about the problems of “eternal justification”, this does not change the fact that Olson‘s need for faith Is an “application” which he thinks has no “necessary connection” to what Christ accomplished. Where Piper double talks about Christ dying in some sense (not propitiation, therefore governmental?) for all sinners, Olson simply denies that Christ purchased faith in the gospel for the elect.

To glory in the cross alone, let us read what Olson writes about the idea “that the same sin cannot be punished twice. That’s false. Imagine a person who is fined by a court $1000 and someone else steps into pay the fine. What if the fined person declines to accept that payment and insists on paying the fine herself? Will the court automatically refund the first $1000? Probably not. It’s the risk the first person takes in paying his friend’s fine.” (P149).

That notion of Christ’s death as a risk God takes is a false gospel. This is what we need to talk about. This is more important than Olson’s defense of prevenient grace (what he calls “partial regeneration”). It is even more important than Olson’s false either-or about Romans 9. (Either redemptive history or individuals, think NT Wright, but see Piper’s best book The Justification of God.)

We can debate the philosophy. When Olson generalizes that “what is necessary cannot be gracious” (p75), we can ask him what makes events certain for God to foresee, if God does not make those events certain? Why even watch the tape, if your reputation as the god that Olson can agree to worship depends on your not changing anything to make events certain? But I think we need to focus on the Cross. Unlike other Arminians who know they cannot believe in penal substitution, Olson wants to hold on to that idea, or at least to the “form of words” about that idea.

If Christ’s death for a sinner does not save a sinner (when legally applied to that sinner in time), and if there is no refund to Christ and yet that sinner fails to believe the gospel and dies in his sin, then the gospel of Isaiah 53 is simply not true.

Isaiah 53:10—When His blood makes an offering for sin, He shall see His seed….

Justification: Five Views, IVP, 2011

October 11, 2011

The rejection of the biblical view of God’s justification of the ungodly is one result of the rejection of the imputation of the guilt of Adam to sinners. Michael Bird, in his “progressive Reformed view”, writes: “For some commentators, Adam’s disobedience is imputed to sinners and then believers have Jesus’ obedience imputed to them for justification…No matter how much people may try, kathistemi does not mean logizomai. The word kathistemi refers to an actual state of affairs and not to transactions. To say that believers will be made righteous is to posit a rectification in both their legal status and in their moral status.” p113

My point is not simply for you to see that justification has been defined to include transformation. My point is that this argument is based on the rejection of the legal transfer of guilt from Adam to sinners. This debate is not only about the “new perspective” (NT Wright) saying that only the status and not the legal record of Christ’s obedience is transferred to the justified elect. The debate is also about penal substitution. The debate is about a denial that the guilt of the elect was transferred to Christ. Representative “union” will be allowed, but legal substitution is rejected.

The “new perspective” wants to say that it’s not denying anything but trying to include more metaphors. Thus it defines justification as both forensic and transformative. But the new perspective does indeed have its own antithesis. The forensic can be included but it CANNOT be “hegemonic”. This is the new antithesis: legal categories cannot be controlling. It cannot be grace vs works, but grace and works. It cannot be faith in Christ vs works, but Christ’s faith which we share in also. It cannot be justification now vs justification by works then, or we will end up being “couch potatoes” (p155).

But look at the two central denials. Status can be transferred, but “righteousness” is not a property which can be imputed. Thus the antithesis—we are not allowed to say anymore that the legal record of Christ’s obedience to death is a property which can be transferred. That would make Christ to be the “first Pelagian” racking up frequent flyer miles (merits, p145).

And why are we not allowed to say that the righteousness is Christ’s righteousness? We are not allowed to say that Adam’s guilt is a legal property that can be transferred to sinners. Bird argues that the “made sin” is not corruption or guilt, and that this proves that the “become the righteousness” is not allowed to mean that the justified status is a result of Christ’s obedience to the death because of the imputed guilt of the elect.

The Roman Catholic view in this book agrees with Michael Bird. “Original sin does not refer personal guilt but to the sinful condition in which and into which human beings are born.” (p128) This first denial goes along with an even worse second denial, that there is no penal substitution in Isaiah 53. “But what about ‘the Lord has handed him over to our sins…Through the discipline of such punishment, they can be turned from their evil ways and healed…In the sixth century bc, no distinction had yet been drawn between the absolute will of God and the permissive will of God. Such a distinction allows us to understand how God may allow even his totally innocent Son to be handed over to sufferings and to be punished by human beings…The meaning of this vivid poem should not be pushed beyond what it actually says or misread as if it were a precise theological treatise about the transfer of personal guilt.”

Notice that for all the claims of wanting to include everything and not be precise, these folks are always finally very precise in EXCLUDING PENAL SUBSTITUTION. We want more, they say, but they also always want less. They are motivated not only by a desire to say that Jews are saved apart from the obedience of Jesus Christ but also motivated by a hatred for the just God who cannot and will not justify the ungodly apart from the legal record of God having punished God for sins that God legally transferred to God. Don’t be so mechanical and precise, they say, but they routinely and specifically deny any legal solidarity with guilt or with Christ’s death as a legal satisfaction. Some will allow “punishment”, but none will talk about individual guilt being borne by Christ and then taken away.

In the process, the penal substitution view is caricatured. On p 175, the Roman Catholic view explains II Cor 5:21: “supporters of the penal substitution view understand Paul to state that Christ really became a sinner. Our transgressions were counted against him …How could God transform an innocent person into a sinner? What about the possibility of saying, without doing that, God associated Jesus with all sinful men and women and charged him with their sins? …Paul does not use a judicial vocabulary here. God is not said to accuse, charge, judge, or punish.”

Why am I not talking about the difference between Mike Horton and Richard Gaffin on union and justification? I have in other places, but the most important debate about justification is the idea of including transformation into the definition of justification. We cannot say that justification is both forensic and transforming, or we will end up saying that the final forensic verdict is based on works (or “according to works”, and there is no real difference between based on and according to, since condemnation is both based on and according to sins.)

Notice that the quotation above assumes that “really become a sinner” cannot mean “legally charged as a sinner because of imputed sins”. That idea is unthinkable. In the end, according to the new perspective, the verdict is NOT based on a “both-and”, because the verdict is NOT based on the “judicial” but on us not being couch-potatoes. As Michael Bird explains (and Tom Schreiner agrees), Romans 2 is not an empty set (Horton, to his credit, defends empty set, 158).

The idea is that we can share the verdict Christ got when Christ was justified, but not the righteousness Christ got. The idea is that the Holy Spirit will enable us to live so that we will get the same verdict Christ got. Never in view is the problem that we are born as guilty sinners. To quote from one of the five views I have not yet cited, hear Jimmy Dunn: (p119)

“Horton wrote—‘The sin of Adam was imputed to the human race as a covenantal entity in solidarity because it was imputed to each member.’ Not only do we seem to be back into the most offensive (and unfounded) ‘original sin” interpretations of Romans 5:12, but an important element in Paul’s argument is being ignored. Paul makes a point of restricting guilt to the conscious act of breaking the law: sin is not imputed where there is no active disobedience.”

I think it’s Dunn who is ignoring the context. Paul is explaining why those without the law between Adam and Moses died. Why did they die when there was no law they were disobeying? Paul’s answer is that Adam disobeyed the law to Adam. But Dunn simply assumes that Adam’s guilt cannot be justly transferred by God to those after Adam.

Dunn also rejects any idea that Christ’s death can be credited to the elect (Romans 6, placed in the death, before that free from righteousness). At best, Dunn thinks of Christ’s death as a gift to be kept or lost, and so he warns us to take the warnings against apostasy in the way he takes them or not “be serious”.

To Dunn, one of the added advantages of the “new perspective” is that it “undermines the law-gospel antithesis”. (p198) Though nobody in this volume points to Daniel Fuller’s work, they all (except for Horton) seem to think that we are the ones who fulfill the requirement of the law in us. What matters to them is not so much the demand of the commandments of Christ, but the idea that we begin to claim that are keeping those commands. And since what Christ did is not going to help us get that done, we need to get off our couch…and start talking about justice and…keeping the commands or else…

The Gospel Is Outside You

April 11, 2011

Your antithesis (not by works in us) will do no good if you do not confess particular atonement. If Jesus Christ died for everybody but only “enabled God” to save those who meet further conditions, then people will certainly look to themselves for the difference between lost and saved.

The only way you can tell people that the gospel is “outside of you” is to tell them that the gospel they must believe to be saved excludes this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect.

No debated language about outside “covenants” or “sacraments” should be allowed to obscure this gospel truth. Unless you preach that Christ died only for the elect, you encourage people to make faith into that little something that makes the difference between life and death!

I am not looking for another discussion about Calvin and Luther on the extent of the atonement. I am not even looking for something “classical” enough that you can influence people to sign. I am asking you if you believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved.

Or is that too “rationalistic” for you? Would that perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who give the sacrament and reserve it for the Father who has reserved a people for himself and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6)

The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel must not become a victim of an “evangelical” alliance which in the name of universal atonement conditions salvation on the sinner.

Maybe a token in the direction of a proper repentance would be for you to stop quoting a pagan like C S Lewis. Talk about taking away with one hand what one gives away with the other! You quote Lewis: “The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing. He is there if you wish for him, like a book on a shelf. He will not pursue you.”

If you really want a reformation, you would quote Lewis on how he conceives of this pursuit continuing into purgatory.

How is the god of Lewis different from the pantheist’s god? In the Screwtape Letters, Lewis confessed that ‘the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of God’s scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will…would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish, He can only woo…”

Do you and C. S. Lewis have different gods or only different doctrines? Lewis not only made an idol of human ability but lowered the demand of the law (and the gospel, which tells how Christ satisified the law).

God will not save those whom God does not teach to trust only in the Righteousness established for the elect at the cross. Romans 10:3 “Those who are ignorant of God’s righteousness seek to establish their own righteousness, and do not submit to the righteousness of God.”

The Ritual Christendom Captivity of the Churches

October 29, 2010

Those who would defend Constantine and slavery must also always defend the rituals of Christendom. I refer not only to the attempt to eliminate heresy by means of the heresy of violence. I refer to infant baptism, and to the “federal vision” deconstruction of any difference between water and union with Christ.

Those who warn against the “anabaptist captivity” of “the church” are also willing to reject any difference between a ritual Lord’s Supper and God’s “real or legal” means of union and communion. They will defend anything (slavery, the confederacy) old just so long as it is anti-liberal.

Instead of visible congregations, they write books of theory against theory. Unwilling as individuals to return to the Roman Catholic Church, despite a common faith in justification by works, as optimists they write essays against not only individualism but even against counter-cultures. The most consistent Reformed idealogues (theonomic postmillenialists) plan an end of exile by means of ordained violence.

The next time they are Constantine they promise to do it better. But as inductive theologians, they remind us that even what Constantine did in the past was a result of God’s sovereign providence. And so they hope for a liberal-free future in which cross-bearing will no longer be necessary.

To get at the error of ritual Chrsitendom, we need to do more than talk about associations with Romanism. That’s like criticizing Billy Graham for his associations instead of his false gospel. He runs with those with false gospel because he has false gospel.

Those who cannot tell the difference between the gospel and “the nonvoluntary church” are trying to sell us a narrative in which the visibility of the kingdom of Jesus has to do with the traditional rituals inherited from Augustine and others who used violence in the name of God.

“Reformed” people like J I Packer and Timothy George associate with Romanist ritualists because they themselves are ritualists (George, who calls himself a “baptist sacramentalist”, has much more in common with JI Packer than he doe with predestinarians like Roger Williams or Obadiah Holmes.

If we are going to escape the ritual Christendom captivity of the churches, we need to talk about the sacramental errors of John Calvin, Martin Luther and all “mystical catholic” people who define the Lord’s Supper as something God does instead of as the human obedience of Christians.

We need to oppose ecclesiastical anti-nomianism which equates ecumenical ritualism with spiritual revival and reformation. The fight about sacramentalism is a fight about politics, because it’s a fight about judging saved and lost.

Sacramentalists want to hand out grace without judging saved and lost. They want to include you in their “church” and tell you it’s God’s will and not your decision. Sacramentalists don’t trust anabaptists because they see that suspicion of the state might also mean suspicion of their big broad “the church”.

The majority culture of the state and the powerful (and the would be powerful!) always opposes any attempt for “sects” to judge who is saved. This is why the Reformers kept on killing the Anabaptists the Romanists also killed.

Ecclesiastical antinomians want to say that “sacrament” is a secondary issue and not a gospel issue. But when you refuse the political responsibility of judging saved and lost in terms of knowing and believing the gospel, then you have opened the way for assuming that everyone handed out the sacrament (or listening to the “minister’s” sermon) is a Christian. To not judge by the gospel is to compromise the gospel.

What we believe about who’s in the church has everything to do with the politics of evangelism. Do we see everyone with whom we talk as already Christians who simply need to know more (of what we know)? Or do we see that even Christ’s sheep are not yet all justified yet?

Do we think of church as one universal church which includes saints now living in heaven (to whom we pray or not, is not the only issue) or do we think of local fellowship around a table which is closed to those who do not yet obey the gospel?

In these days, to be more ecumenical means not only to be more romantic about ritual Christendom but also to be more open to “deification”. The “federal vision” way down this path usually begins with II Peter 1:4 (become partakers of the divine nature) and ends up replacing justification by Christ’s death with “union with Christ”.

Just as the word “sacrament” is left undefined or given multiple definitions, so also the idea of “union with Christ” is left undefined or given various (unbiblical) definitions in ecumenical discussions.

What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? This is the kind of question we need to begin asking. Does this indwelling in Christ have anything to do with being handed the sacrament? Certainly Calvin thought so.

We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not believe. Calvin, for example, only believed in an union with the humanity of Christ, and did not teach an union with God defined as creatures indwelling the Creator, even though that is left an open possibility in undefined ecumenical discussion. But Calvin’s anti-rational streak, which cannot explain and refuses to explain, becomes very mystical when it comes to “sacrament”. (See Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

Does the Bible teach that God effects “union with Christ” by means of water, or with bread and wine? NO. My opinion is that we baptists will never get away from that sacramental idea until we get away from the idea that “union with Christ” is only 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.

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 justification, legal union with Christ and His work and His benefits. Immediately after this legal change, the sheep are born again and believe the gospel, but “union” does not precede justification, because union IS justification.

3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of faith. God does not justify because God knows that God is going to regenerate and change the person. God changes the person because God has justified the person. The change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of justification, but it is never 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 regeneration 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. Union with Christ is justification. Instead of an “ritual done by an ordained minister” which makes you a participant in Christ ( understood in many places as indwelling even the deity of God!), our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

Is this unbalanced? Why do I pit regeneration against justification? Well, I could ask you, why do you always draw the line between the regenerate and the unregenerate? Why don’t you draw the line between the justified and the condemned? Why don’t you judge by if a person knows and believes the gospel?

I am not denying the new birth or the absolute necessity for it. I am only saying that the new birth and faith are not all there is to “union with Christ”. I am only say that the “new creation” has to do with a change in legal state, and not first of all with a change of substance or nature.

II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their 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 a change of substance or nature but about an imputed legal reality. So also the category of “those who live” is also not about a change of substance or nature but about an imputed reality, legal life because of justification.

The “new creation” (or “new man”) is not first of all about regeneration or birth but about a legal change of identity, a legal before and after. It’s not gradual; it’s an either or. The new is not effected by a “sacramental feeding on Christ” but by God’s imputation of what God did in Christ in His death and resurrection.

Christ is here, yes, but not in some different way because of water or bread and wine. And 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, no matter what the “minister of the sacrament” might say. The church is not Christ, and the church is not the gospel.

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, at the resurrection, there will be visible evidence of that verdict. No ritual is a sign from God that we in particular have been justified or united to Christ.

Even if our children were to eat the “sacrament” with us, still that’s no seal that either we or our children have been justified or that God is our God. What is the gospel? Judge justified and lost by the gospel.