Posted tagged ‘Richard Gaffin’

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?”

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.

Lane Tipton: Is It the Work of the Holy Spirit which Gives Reality to Imputation?

September 11, 2013

Lane Tipton, Biblical Theology and the Westminster standards, is one more attempt at talking about the “location of justification relative to union with Christ” (p 5, Westminster Theological Journal, 2013)

Tipon wants to put faith before God’s imputation of righteousness. Tipton also wants to put faith before “union with Christ”. Using confessional language( 11:4—“the Holy Spirit doth in due time apply Christ to them”), Tipton reasons that the Holy Spirit has priority over Christ in the event of imputation, since it’s faith that precedes both justification and “union”, and since the Holy Spirit is the one who gives faith.

On the way to his conclusuon, Lane Tipton uses the phrase “faith-union” which of course is NOT confessional. Instead of exploring any definition or distinction between Christ being in us or us being in Christ, Tipton simply stipulates that “union” is preceded by faith. First, this eliminates the alternative that God’s imputation precedes “union”. Second, it decides in advance what “union” is. For Tipton, “union” is assumed to be “union conditioned on faith” and this means there can be no union by imputation (even though he does not deny that Christ’s work is the basis for effectual calling). Thus Tipton begins with his conclusion, which is that effectual calling is not an immediate result of imputation but instead an immediate condition for God’s imputation.

Tipton then goes on to discuss Berkhof’s idea that something called ” active justification” precedes effectual calling and faith. I do not agree with either “eternal justification” or even the idea of some objective “active justification”. I don’t think we should equivocate with the word “justify”, so that sometimes we read it as “before our conscience” and other times we read it as “legally real before the tribunal of God”. When God imputed Christ’s righteousness to Abraham before Abraham was circumcised, that thought/imputation of God was not a “fiction” but a legal sharing at that time which immediately resulted in effectual calling, believing the gospel, and justification.

I anticipate my conclusion. Tipton does not completely think though the distinction between imputation and justification.

Tipton rightly criticizes the idea of justification before and without faith, but he doesn’t seem to have even heard the idea of an imputation that results in faith and justification. Tipton does not even consider the idea of an imputation before faith, despite what Mike Horton and Bruce McCormack have written about this issue.

But, remember the Westminster Confession! It doesn’t say “imputation before faith”. The Confession says “the Holy Spirit does in due time apply Christ to them”. Of course we should still think about what this ” apply Christ” means. If it means that the Holy Spirit gives the effectual calling and faith, without which there is no justification, then I agree. But Tipton seems to think the “Spirit applies Christ” rules out any idea of God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness before this work of the Spirit. It does not.

Tipton does know about a difference between imputation and justification. Tipton correctly speaks of justification as “God’s legal declaration”, and knows this is something different from God’s “constitutive act” which is the basis for the declaration. But even so, Tipton argues that if the declaration “did not bring into view faith, by which alone righteousness is imputed, we would be left with a legal fiction.” (p 9)

I disagree that faith is that which imputes righteousness. We are not the one who make the imputation (the constitutive act). Our faith is not that which imputes. And Tipton does not say either of these things. He writes—“faith, by which righteousness is imputed”. I understand this to mean that God waits to impute, until the Holy Spirit gives faith. If that’s not what Tipton means, I would like to be shown what he did mean. But how can God be justifying the ungodly, if God only imputes righteousness to persons who are already effectually called and who are now believing the gospel?

Yes, the effectual call is not the same as “justification”, and we should not use the word “salvation” in an undefined way so as to confuse calling and justification. But Tipton has not shown that calling must precede imputation. Tipton has not shown that God’s imputation can’t be the real cause of calling.

But how could any of this “order stuff” be so important? First, it must be important to Tipton, because his entire essay is an exercise in talking about the Holy Spirit and faith being first, even to the extent that he assumes that “union” is “faith-union”. Second, it must be important because Tipton says that other readings of the Confession would result in a “legal fiction”. In other words, if I were to say that “union” is caused by God’s imputation, that would be “legal fiction” to Tipton. If I were to say that imputation is first, and not conditioned on effectual calling, that too would be “legal fiction” to Tipton. He insists that it’s work of the Spirit which is the conditional location of the real (non-fiction) and which must precede God’s imputation.

But to pay attention to Tipton’s notice of the difference between imputation and declaration, I quote from p 11—“The declaration of righteousness is not prior to the imputation of righteousness. either logically or temporally, because the declaration takes into account the constitutive act of imputation….” exactly so. You can make a declaration about God being just without any prior constitutive act, because analytically God is just. But you cannot make a declaration about an ungodly sinner being just without the prior act of God’s imputation of righteousness to that sinner.

But then Tipton continues to insist that effectual calling must precede the imputation: “and the transaction of imputation is situated within the broader reality of union by Christ by Spirit-wrought faith.” Notice the use of the word “reality”. Would God’s imputation not be real if it came before and resulted in the Spirit’s work? Is the Spirit’s work more real than Christ’s work? Is the Spirit’s work more real than God’s imputation of the merits of Christ’s work? Tipton is simply begging the question all over again, by assuming that there can be no “imputation-union” but only a ‘faith-union”.

Notice the language—“situated within the broader reality of union”. This is the old cake and eat it also. On the one hand, if you keep the notion “broad” (and undefined) enough, then you can say the order of application doesn’t matter so much (Barth, Anthony Hoekema, Sinclair Ferguson). But then on the other hand, it turns our that the order is important, because “union” has to come after faith and before imputation. It also turns out that “union” needs to be ‘concrete” and that turns out to mean that “union” is by the Holy Spirit, and according to Tipton, dogmatically not “union by imputation”.

And then we come to the inevitable conclusion, which began with John Murray’s idea about divine righteousness and which continued into Gaffin’s dogma about Christ being justified by His resurrection and us being justified also by Christ’s resurrection. As you read the quotation from Tipton, ask yourself two questions about his grand conclusion. First, is this Confessional language? Is this the way the Confession says it? We have moved well past the reference to “the Spirit applies Christ”. Second, is saying it this way the best way to say it, the only way to say it? Is it so important to say it this way that we need to be dogmatic in the way Tipton has been about faith being before “union” or ‘faith-union” being the meaning of “union”

Tipton, p 11—“If we want to locate the judicial ground for the believer’s union with Christ, we do not need to look to the forensic benefit of the believer’s justification.”

mark: Of course not, but we do need to look at Christ’s righteousness as the “judicial ground” . We do need to look to God’s imputation of that righteousness as the basis for “union”, indeed as that which is the real legal cause for calling and faith. Tipton knows the difference between imputation and declaration, knows the difference between the righteousness of Christ and justification as the benefit of that righteousness. But here he ignores the distinction. But there’s NO need to make the benefit of justification be the cause of the imputation of the righteousness. There IS every reason to say that God’s imputation is the “judicial ground” by which the elect are identified with Christ and by which Christ comes to indwell the elect.

Tipton, p 11—“It is not MERELY in the atoning death of Christ that we find the judicial ground for the believer’s justification (by faith alone in union with Christ). It is ALSO FOUND IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AS JUSTIFIED. IT IS THE GOD-APPROVED RESURRECTION RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE, imputed to me by faith alone, that stands at the tribunal of God.”

I must repeat. The righteousness is NOT imputed by faith. My faith does not impute the righteousness. Nor does God wait for my faith before God can impute Christ’s righteousness. But to the main question. What is imputed? The answer of Gaffin and Tipton ( I leave aside for now the question of John Murray) is that it’s not “merely’ the finished work (Christ’s death) which is imputed. According to them, the justified status of Christ is imputed.

But they have kept “within the bounds of the confession”. They have not denied the imputation of Christ’s finished work. When they say “not merely that”, they are saying “that’s included also”. Unlike the federal visionists (or Michael Bird or N T Wright) who do deny imputation, the “unionists” are catholic enough not to deny it, but also catholic enough to include other “concrete realities” like the work of the Spirit transforming and renovating (“definitively”!) us so that we can one day be justified the same way Christ was, which also was by the reality of the Holy Spirit’s work

I ask again, is this the way Confession says it? If so, perhaps there’s nothing new or important to learn from the Gaffin/Tipton way of saying it. But IS IT the way the Confession says it?

Corruption Not the Condition of Guilt, The New Birth Not the Condition of Justification, by AA Hodge

January 10, 2012

The question is one as to order, not of time, but of cause and effect. All agree (1) That the satisfaction and merit of Christ
are the necessary precondition of regeneration and faith as directly as of justification; (2) That regeneration and justification are both
gracious acts of God; (3) That they take place at the same moment of time. The only question is, What is the true order of causation?

Is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that we may believe, or is it imputed to us because we believe? Is justification an analytic
judgment, to the effect that this man, though a sinner, yet being a believer, is justified? Or is it a synthetic judgment, to the effect
that this sinner is justified for Christ’s sake.

“By consequence, the imputation of Christ’s righteous to us is the necessary precondition of the restoration to us of the influences of
the Holy Spirit, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to our regeneration and sanctification.

“The notion that the necessary precondition of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness is our own faith, of which the necessary
precondition is regeneration, is analogous to the rejected theory that the inherent personal moral corruption of each of Adam’s descendants is the necessary precondition of the imputation of his guilt to them.

“On the contrary, if the imputation of guilt is the causal antecedent of inherent depravity, in like manner the imputation of righteousness
must be the causal antecedent of regeneration and faith.”

From The Princeton Review —A. A. Hodge, “The Ordo Salutis”

Judgment According to Works, Or on the Basis of Work

November 22, 2010

John Fesko in a footnote:

“Richard Gaffin tries to argue, on the basis of the grammar involved in a similar Pauline statement, that works are not the ground of judgment: “It is not for nothing, I take it, and not to be dismissed as an overly fine exegesis to observe, that in Romans 2:6 Paul writes, ‘according (kata) to works,’ not ‘on account of (dia),’ expressing the ground, nor ‘by (ek) works,’ expressing the instrument” (By Faith, Not By Sight [Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006], 98-99; similarly, Venema, Gospel, 266). Though Gaffin’s comment concerns Paul’s statement in Romans 2:6, at the same time we find the same prepositional combination with the accusative in John’s statement in Revelation 20:12e, the only difference being in the use of the singular and plural pronouns (cf. Rom 2:6). Gaffin argues this point because he wants to preserve sola fide in the judgment of the works of the believer. Relying upon the analysis of Ridderbos and Murray, Gaffin’s finer point is that the judgment kata works is “in accordance with” the works, and such works are synecdochical for faith in Christ (see Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard de Witt [1975; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], 178-81; Murray, Romans, 78-79).

Yet can such a fine distinction be supported by the grammar alone? The use of “dia” with the accusative means “because of, on account of,” and the use of “kata” with the accusative means “in accordance with, corresponding to” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 368-69, 376-77). One must ask, what difference exists between the two? In fact, when we delve more deeply into the significance of “kata” with the accusative, we find that “often the noun that follows kata specifies the criterion, standard, or norm in the light of which a statement is made or is true, an action is performed, or a judgment is passed. The prep. will mean ‘according to’, ‘in conformity with’, ‘corresponding to.’ This use is common in reference to the precise and impartial standard of judgment that will be applied at the great Assize (Matt. 16:27; Rom 2:6; 1 Cor 3:8; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev 2:23)” (Murray J. Harris, “Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament,” in NIDNTT, 3:1200). Pace Gaffin and Venema, their argument apparently fails to account for judgment kata works for the wicked. This point seems to be borne out by Paul’s own use of kata, as he says, “He will render each one according to [kata] his works” (Rom. 2:6), but this rendering kata works is for both the righteous (v. 7) and the wicked (v. 8). According to Gaffin’s interpretation, are the wicked judged according to their works, but are they not the ground of their condemnation (see 2 Cor. 11:15)? Again, note how Paul uses kata: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due [to de ergazomeno ho misthos ou logizetai kata charin alla kata opheilema]” (Rom 4:4; see also Brian Vickers, Jesus Blood and Righteousness [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006] 95; Yinger, Paul, 21-26, 89-90, 135-136, 175, 182, 186). Judgment therefore is indeed kata (in accordance with, or on the basis of) works – the evil works of the unbeliever and the good works, or righteousness, of Christ.

“Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine” p. 315