Posted tagged ‘penal substitution’

Romans 1:17 God’s righteousness is not an offer, God’s gospel is power to salvation

November 6, 2016

Romans 1: The gospel is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes… For in the gospel God’s righteousness is revealed

Modern universalists dismiss any need for sinners to believe the gospel so they tell us that “the faith of Christ” is what Christ did before Christ died. These universalists teach us that Christ’s incarnation and resurrection and indwelling are the righteousness revealed and have nothing to do with any satisfaction of God’s law for selected elect sinners. These “grace, no law” antinomians sound much like Agricola.

But, on the other hand, most professing Calvinists respond to this law-less universalism by teaching that God’s righteousness is only an OFFER which depends on God giving us faith to “access it”. just like the Arminians, these professing Reformed don’t teach that only the sins of the elect were imputed by God to Christ. Instead, like the Arminians, they teach that Christ’s death doesn’t work for you unless you believe in it. These “faith is the condition of union and union is the condition of justification folks” tend to define faith after conversion in terms of fidelity and good but imperfect works

Even though these professing Calvinists agree that your believing in the gospel is the result of Christ’s death, they also explain Christ’s death as something which makes it possible for anybody to be saved. Like the Arminians, these professing Calvinists deny that faith is a work, but have no problem saying that the Holy Spirit gives faith in a false gospel teaching that Christ died for every sinner.

Don’t believe in anything that depends on your believing in it. If you believe the true gospel, your believing is only a result of Christ’s death for those God has elected in Christ. There is no “tension” or “dialectic” here between God’s sovereignty and your need and duty to believe the gospel. The gospel you need to believe does not assure you in particular that you will believe or that your sins were imputed to Christ. The gospel you need to believe instead assures you that each and every sinner God elected and for whom Christ died will believe the gospel which has election as good news. The power of the gospel teaches us to not leave election out of the gospel. We learn to repent of any thought of assurance in the gospel for those who deny or remain ignorant of God’s election of sinners in Christ. God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, and Christ only died for those sins.

You don’t necessarily need to hear law before you hear gospel. Your own natural idea of what sin is does not come close to being the reality of what it means to be a sinner. The gospel itself can and does teach sinners about the sin of self-righteousness. When we learn what it takes to satisfy God’s law, then we learn that our own attempts to satisfy the law with our faith or our works is nothing but self-righteousness. Our own attempts to thank God for enabling us to believe God in order to enable God to save us are then revealed as the very worst kind of rebellion against God.

Psalm 98: The Lord has made His victory known;
He has revealed His righteousness
in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered His love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth
have seen our God’s victory.
4 Shout to the Lord, all the earth;
be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.
5 Sing to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.
6 With trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn
shout triumphantly
in the presence of the Lord, our King.
7 Let the sea and all that fills it,
the world and those who live in it, resound.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the mountains shout together for joy
9 before the Lord,
for He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world righteously
and the peoples fairly.

Psalm 143: Do not bring Your servant into judgment,
for no one ALIVE is RIGHTEOUS in Your sight.
4 My spirit is weak within me;
my heart is overcome with dismay…
I am like parched land before You.
my spirit fails.
Don’t hide Your face from me,
or I will be like those
going down to DEATH
Because of Your name, Yahweh,
let me LIVE.
In Your RIGHTEOUSNESS deliver me from trouble

Smeaton—We Died When He Died—Don’t Reduce Substitution Into Participation

May 1, 2016

Smeaton, The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement : To understand what is meant by dying with Christ, we need to see the connection between the previous chapter and Romans 6. In Romans 5:12-19 Paul described our standing in Christ, and then he added “where sin abounded, grace much more abounded.” Anticipating the objection that would be made to such a view of God’s grace, Paul says, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” and then he rejects that thought with total abhorrence of the idea.

But not content with his mere “God forbid” rejection of the thought, he then goes on to prove that this type of perversion of grace could not logically follow for a reason which touches the deep elements of God’s moral government, and makes it totally impossible. Paul argues from a fact-the great objective change of relation that comes from dying with Christ.

We need to ask, then, what Paul means by these expressions that he uses, on which he makes his point so strongly (verse 12): “dying with Christ”, “dying to sin”, “buried with Christ”, “crucified with Christ”. One particular verse of Scripture will give us a key to the meaning of the above phrases: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14

In this passage, Paul uses two expressions interchangeably; that is, “He died for all”, and “all died in Him.” He is describing the same thing from two different points of view. The first of these expressions describes the vicarious death of Christ as an objective fact. The second phrase speaks of the same great transaction, in terms that indicate that we too have done it. So then, we may either say, “Christ died for us”, or “we died in Him.” Both are true. We can equally affirm that He was crucified for us, or we were co-crucified with Him.

We are not referring here to two acts-one on Christ’s side and another on ours. Rather,we have but one public representative, corporate act performed by the Son of God, in which we share as truly as if we had accomplished the atonement ourselves.
It is a mistake to not carry Romans 5 into Romans 6. If we carry the thought of the representative character of the two Adams from the one chapter into the other, then the difficulty vanishes.

All men sinned in the first man’s act of sin; for that public act was representative, and all Adam’s offspring were included in it. From God’s perspective, there have been but two men in the world, with the two families of which they are the heads; there have been just two public representatives. The idea of Christ being our Surety and the representation of His atonement as the act of “one for many”, run through this entire section of Romans. But the passage we are studying (Romans 6:1-8) contains one difference as compared with other passages, and that is that here we are described as doing what our representative did.

Let us notice the expressions used in Romans 6:1-8: It is said that “we died to sin (verse 2). As this phrase is misunderstood quite requently, we must discover what it really means. It frequently occurs in the writings of Paul in different forms, and it always alludes, not to an inward deliverance from sin, but to the Christian’s objective relation. It means that we are legally dead to sin in Jesus Christ.

This is made very clear by two other expressions occurring in the section. The first of these passages applies the same language to the Lord Himself; for He is said to have died to sin once (verse 10). Now the only sense in which the Sinless One can be regarded as dying to sin, is that of dying to its guilt, or to the condemning power which goes along with sin, and which must run its course wherever sin has been committed. He died to the guilt or criminality of sin when it was laid on Him. He certainly did not die to sins indwelling power.

The second of these phrases shows that this dying was the meritorious cause of our justification. “He that is dead has been justified from sin” (verse 7). The justification of the Christian is thus based on his co-dying with Christ; that is, we are said to have died when Christ died, and to have done what Christ did. The words undoubtedly mean a co-dying with Christ in that one corporate representative deed; that is, they mean that we were one with Christ in His obedience unto death, just like we were one with Adam in his disobedience.

Christ’s death to sin belongs to us, and is as much ours as if we had born the penalty ourselves. And the justification by which we are forgiven and accepted has no other foundation. It is noteworthy that Romans 5 describes all this in the third person, whereas Romans 6 describes it in the first person, and from our own share in it.

Paul also says in this section that our old man is crucified, or co-crucified with Him. The entire section of which this is a part is to be regarded not as an exhortation, but as the simple statement of fact; this passage does not set forth anything done by us, but something done on our account, or for our sake, by a Surety, in whose performance we participate.

It might be asked, “can’t we understand that these statements designate two separate actions, one done by Christ, and a similar or parallel one by us?” NO. The acts are not two, but one, described from two different points of view. There is not one crucifixion on the part of Christ, and a second, parallel and similar but different, crucifixion on the part of His people. There is but one corporate act—the act of “one for many.”

But what is the old man that is said to be co-crucified with the Lord? Does not this refer to our inward corruption? NO it does not. Such an explanation is untenable, as it would make the expression synonymous with the next clause which is not only bad theology but also inept reasoning. Instead, the first clause is made the condition of the second.

The old man is crucified in order that the body of sin (sin within us, or the flesh) be destroyed. Now there must be a difference between the two clauses, as the former is in order to attain the latter. The old man said to be crucified with Christ, is therefore our standing “in Adam”, which is terminated so that we have a new relationship to God in the crucified Surety.

To summarize, Romans 6:1-5 says we have been crucified with Christ, which tells us that our standing has changed from being “in Adam” (with its curse and condemnation) to being “in Christ” (with all of its blessings and benefits). The first five verses of Romans 6 are statements of fact, then verse 6 is an exhortation, so a one-sentence summary is, “because we were crucified with Christ, we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

But to bring even more clarity to the mind of his readers Paul says we were baptized into His death (verse 3). Christ is presented to us as laden with sin, and satisfying divine justice; and baptism, as a symbolical representation, shows our connection with Him, or rather our participation in that great corporate act which Jesus did on the cross, in the place of all His people.

We are seen as having done what He did, and to have done what He did, and to have undergone what He underwent, to satisfy divine justice. The symbol of baptism teaches this, and Paul tells us the fact that it was a baptism into His death, an emblem of oneness with Christ, or fellowship with Him in His death to sin (verse 10).

The death was the price of the life. The one was the cause, the other was the unfailing reward or consequence. The apostle declares that not only was the death of Christ a substitution in our place, but that the consequences of it being a substitution are that we may be said to have done what He did. And, because of our oneness with Him, we are discharged from sin as a master.

The Glory of the Atonement

Looking Back at Repentance of a False Gospel, by Tianqi Wu

March 1, 2015

Tianqi Wu —While I was unconverted, I began to realize that penal substitution logically implies limited-by-God and effectual-in-itself atonement. But rather than submitting to the truth glorifying the righteous God and Savior, I refused to believe it, and considered it a “theology of glory” because it attributed “cold and calculated” success to God .

Instead, I started looking for alternative views of atonement in which God “takes the risk” so that all sinners get the opportunity to “embrace God’s loving arms”, with any legal requirement hidden in the background as a formal necessity, so that “what really matters” is what is happening now in the God-man relationship.

I was not in neutral. I loved an idol, a false god whose glory was in trying his best to save everybody in spite of foreknowing failure.

There were two main assumptions behind my faith in this false gospel.

1 I understood “grace” as God in his sovereignty choosing to see the best in us, so that even though we are sinful and profane, god still sees some broken reflection of his image in us, and therefore is moved to save us – unless we harden ourselves to even destroy that broken likeness. In other words, I made God’s grace crowd out his justice and holiness, turning grace into a tribute to what’s in the sinner.

2 My boast was that (unlike others who spurned the love of god) I was one of those prodigal sons who had come to their senses and found their way home and made father happy. I wanted my salvation to be about my faith journey, to have my seeking in it, to have my commitment in it, to have my perseverance in it. I was usurping the glory of Christ by conditioning salvation on my faith.

I wanted to be the one who was finally decisive in my relationship with god, and I wanted to make sure that god’s grace on me was not wasted and I did not let god down in his risk-taking, I wanted to make a name for myself as a “grace receiver” rather than a “grace rejecter”. I had no fear of God and his Law, but proudly rejected any god who would condemn sinners for their sins “without giving them a opportunity to be saved”. I had no clue of the righteousness of God that answered his demand in the Law, but covertly tried to establish my own righteousness under the mask of “receiving grace”.

I was hostile to (unconditional) grace for the elect alone but found beauty in a conditional “grace” for everybody. The true God has now caused me to submit to and love the only true and good news…unconditional election deciding for whom Christ would die, this atoning death securing its own application, justification by imputation, sovereign regeneration & revelation of gospel, and God’s permanent security & preservation

Romans 6: 20 For when you WERE slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the THINGS OF WHICH YOU ARE NOW ASHAMED? For the end of those things is death.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is lasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Popular Arminian Versions of Penal Substitution Deny a “Perfect Balance”

May 11, 2013

from a review of Raised With Christ, by Adrian Warnock (Crossway, 2010)

The Arminian “evangelical middle-camp” (p205) assumptions of Warnock’s theology come into clear view in his chapter on Romans 4:24–raised because of our justification or raised in order to and for the purpose of our justification? Warnock asserts  that “Jesus’ resurrection was not a result of our justification” (p 121) because our sin was not a result of His death. But this misses the parallel. His death is a result of our (the elect’) sin, therefore His resurrection IS a result of the future justification of elect sinners.

On p 124, Warnock writes: “The answer is that God was displeased with the sin  that Christ was bearing but remained pleased with Jesus’ infinite goodness, which was greater than the sin.” This is NOT how the apostle Paul explains the requirements of justice. Sins do not demand some philosophical (and non-biblical) idea of some “infinity” or “equivalent balance”. The sins demand death. The wages of sin is death.

On p 126, Warnock writes: “The resurrection was necessary to allow the credit of Jesus’ righteousness to be shared with us, for it demonstrated that the credit was greater than the debt.” But to glory in the cross is to see that the death of Christ cancels the debt for all the elect when they are placed into that death. Romans 6:9-10 are great resurrection verses: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has any dominion over him. For the death he died , he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. “

The reason that the debt of the sins of elect cannot hold Christ is not some “greater credit”. The reason that the debt of the sins of the elect cannot hold Christ is Christ’s death. Christ died to sin. This does not mean that Christ was born again. And Romans 6 is not talking about our being born again either.

This means (1) that Christ is no longer imputed with those sins, because He has died once for them and will not die again. It means (2) that it is not sinners (nor their faith nor their apology nor their discipleship) who give their sins to Christ. God gave the sins ofthe elect to Christ already, and God already did not give the sins of the non-elect to Christ.

Think of a parallel text to Romans 6:9-10. Think of II Corinthians 5:15: “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 sake died and was raised.”

II Corinthians 5:15 is about Christ’s death being the death of those who will be justified.  This is the thing that the popular view of penal atonemn does not say, and cannot say. The popular view of penal atonement is not penal atonement, because it denies any “perfect numerical commercial balance” and makes the ” on the plus side of the credit” depend on ‘accepting it” and “showing that they accept it” by the way they live. Thus Warnock writes on p 124,  “so that our guilt COULD now be taken away, and we COULD be counted righteous.”  This “might or might not be” continues in the chapter on “union with Christ”.  On p141, Warnock explains: “Jesus suffered the penalty due our sins so that we do not have to.”

But see Romans 8:3—“What the law could not do, God already DID by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin-he condemned sin in the flesh.”

The popular view of penal atonement says that what Jesus did (in death and resurrection) sets up a plan which makes it possible for you to give him your sins and then for Him to save you.  And this is still the view of people like Warnock  even though he thinksof  himself as  being on the cutting edge of the young, restless and reformed.

II Corinthians 5:15 does not teach that Christ died for our sins so that we don’t have to; it says that those for whom Christ died also died with him.  That is substitution, and you cannot teach substitution without confusion unless you either teach that Christ’s death saves all sinners or you teach that Christ was a substitute only for the elect. If Christ died for every sinner but some of these sinners will perish,  then that may be a substitution but it not a saving substitution.

I think most popular advocates of penal substitution would rather live as practical de facto universalists then  dare talk about election in connection with II Corinthians 5.   They fear as antinomian any good news which teaches that the elect have already died to judgment when Christ died for them. (See John Fesko’s wonderful book on Justification).

Another advantage for these popular evangelicals in not talking about election in II Cor 5 is that they can take the phrase “live for Him who died for them” and use it to lay duties on every sinner they meet.  Warnock tells us (p141) that “we are saved not only by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen Savour.”  But it is NOT a fact of the gospel tells any particular sinner that Christ died for their sins.  The gospel  does not tell sinners who the elect are; the gospel tells sinners about election.

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….