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The Cross was not to Condemn you

April 1, 2010

Many religious songs have those who sing them confess themselves as having killed Christ on the cross. But I question this sentimentality. First, if we all put Christ on the cross, then Christ died for all sinners, and that is the false gospel.

Second, nobody but God has the ultimate power to put Christ on the cross. If we all are supposed to feel bad about crucifying Christ, then is the Tri-une God also to apologise? May it never be! Acts 2:23-24, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

The Bible teaches that God’s sovereignty does not eliminate the accountability of sinners. Certain specific lawless men killed Christ. But also, God gave Christ up to die for the sins of the elect alone. God and not man determined for whom Christ would die.

Christ purposed that He would die. The Tri-une God purposed that Christ would die.

This does not eliminate the accountability of “the lawless men”, even if they were soldiers, or of the “you” Peter is addressing in Acts 2. Troops should not be supported, when they refuse God’s standards.

Specific humans 2000 years ago purposed that Christ would die. This means that not all humans purposed that Christ would die. His mother Mary, for example, did not kill or intend to kill Christ.

We did not ourselves put Christ on the cross, because we are not the imputers. We do not get to decide when and if we put our sins on Christ. We do not get the opportunity to contribute our sins so that then Christ contributes His righteousness. Neither election nor non-election is conditioned on our sins.

Although believers are commanded to reckon what God has already reckoned, we can never be the original reckoners.

The cross is not what condemns. Good news for the elect, the gospel is not what condemns the non-elect. Rejecting the cross is not what condemns the non-elect, because we are all already condemned in Adam . The false gospel which says that Jesus Christ died for every sinner is not gospel. The false gospel turns a supposedly universal death into guilt for those who don’t meet conditions which supposedly make that death effective.

Do you need to know you have been regenerated before you can believe?

March 23, 2010

Glad Tidings, by Abraham Booth

“It is objected, ‘Though it be not necessary for a sinner to know that he is born again, before he believe in Jesus Christ, yet regeneration must precede faith. For the heart of a sinner being naturally in a state of enmity to the Divine Character, he will never turn to God, while in that situation, for pardon and acceptance.’ In answer to which, the following particulars are proposed for consideration.

Before this objection can be justly considered as valid, it must be
evinced, not only, that regeneration precedes faith; but also, that it is
necessary to authorise a sinner’s reliance on Jesus Christ: than which, few sentiments are more foreign from the genuine gospel.

[Theory:] Regeneration must precede faith. This, though assumed as a
certain fact, may be justly doubted: for the page of inspiration does not warrant our supposing, that any one is born of God, before he believe in Jesus Christ; or, that regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit, without the word of grace. For we are taught, by the sacred writers, to consider the word of truth, with regard to adults, as the means of regeneration, and of many other happy effects. They teach, for instance,

That it is the instrument of enlightening the mind, of awakening the
conscience, and of softening the heart.

“The entrance of thy word giveth light” — Psalm 119:130.

“The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” — Ephesians 6:17.

“Is not my word like as fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer, that
breaketh the rock in pieces?” — Jeremiah 23:29.

Compare 2 Corinthians 1:4, 5; Revelation 1:16, 2:12, l16; 19:15, 21. That it is the seed of regeneration.

“The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live” — John 5:25.

“The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” —
John 6:63.

“In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the
word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” — 1 Peter 1:23.

That they only, who believe in Christ, are the children of God.

“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” — John 1:12.

“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” — Galatians
3:26.

That it is the mean, in the hand of the Spirit, of conversion, of
sanctification, and of salvation.

Of Conversion:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” — Psalm 19:7.

“He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord
Jesus Christ” — 2 Thesssalonians 2:14.

Of Sanctification:

“He that received seed into the good ground, is he that heareth the Word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit” — Matthew 13:23.

“Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” — John 15:3.

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” — John 17:17.

“That they also might be sanctified through the truth” — John 17:19.

“God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

“The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” — Ephesians 4:24.

“The gospel, which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and
bringeth forth fruit” — Colossians 1:5, 6.

“The word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe” — 1
Thessalonians 2:13.

“You have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit” –
1 Peter 1:22

Of Salvation:

“The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth” — Romans 1:16.

“The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved” — 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

“The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

“The engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” — James 1:17.”

page 122:

“Such is the language of inspiration, relative to the high importance of
revealed truth, in the great plan of salvation by Jesus Christ! Hence, it
appears, that few things are more evidently contained, or more strongly asserted, in sacred scripture, than the INSTRUMENTALITY OF DIVINE TRUTH IN RENEWING THE HEARTS OF SINNERS.

For it is there described as the honoured mean, as the seed of God ((1
Peter 1:23-25), by which the Holy Spirit effects regeneration, the
sanctification, and the consolation, of those that are saved.

But it is impossible for us to conceive of the mind being enlightened, of
the conscience being relieved, of the will being regulated, and of the
affections being purified by the word of truth, any further than it is
believed. It may therefore be concluded, that regeneration is not, in order of time, prior to faith in Christ, and justification by him. To contend, indeed, that regeneration must be prior to faith, and to justification, is like maintaining that the eldest son of a nobleman must partake of human nature, before he can have the filial relation to his father which constitutes him an heir to the paternal estate, and entitles him to those honours which are hereitary in the family. For the human nature, derived from his parents, and the relation of a son, being completely of the same date; there is no such thing as priority, respecting them, either as to the order of time, or the order of nature. THEY ARE INSEPARABLE, NOR CAN ONE EXIST WITHOUT THE OTHER.

Thus it is, I conceive, with regard to regeneration, faith in Christ, and
justification before God. For, to consider any man as born of God, but not as a child of God; as a child of God, but not as believing in Jesus Christ; as believing in Jesus Christ, but not as justified; or as justified, but not as an heir of immortal felicity; is, either to the last degree absurd, or manifestly contrary to the apostolic doctrine.

Consequently, as they are the ungodly whom the Spirit regenerates by the truth, so persons of that character are warranted to believe in Jesus.”

“This [regeneration] is wrought by the word. We are born again, not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. Wherein, not
only the thing itself, of our regeneration by the word, but the manner of it also, is declared. It is by the collation of a new spiritual life upon
us, whereof the word is the seed.

As every life proceeds from some seed, that hath in itself virtually the
whole life to be deduced from it, by natural ways and means; so the word in the hearts of men is turned into a vital principle, that, cherished by suitable means, puts forth vital acts and operations. BY THIS MEANS WE ARE BORN OF GOD, and quickened, who, by nature, are children of wrath; dead in trespasses and sins. So Paul tells the Corinthians, that he had begotten them, in Jesus Christ, by the gospel. It is the INSTRUMENT OF GOD for this end; and mighty and powerful, through God, it is for the accomplishment of it. (Owen on Hebrews 2:2, 3, 4, Vol. I, page 178).

But what will Happen when you Relax in Grace

March 9, 2010

But do not some abuse the grace of the gospel and turn it into wantonness? Answer: Yes, some do, ever did, and still will do so. Let us see how Paul, that blessed herald of this grace (as he was an eminent instance of it) deals with this objection (Rom. 6:1, etc.). How does he prevent this abuse? Is it by extenuating what he said (Rom. 5:20), that grace abounded much more where sin had abounded? Is it by mincing grace smaller so that men may not choke upon it or have too much of it? Is it by mixing something of the law with it, to make it more wholesome? No.

[Robert Traill, Justification Vindicated (Puritan Paperbacks, Banner of Truth, 2002; originally published 1692), p. 41.]

Abrahamic Covenants Now Terminated

February 8, 2010

Collateral Covenants Fulfilled and Terminated

By R.B.C. Howell

In Genesis 12, we have the original promise made to Abraham: “In you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” In this simple narrative, we have the pledge that the Messiah shall come of his family.  Abraham was seventy-five and received the promise with faith, and promptly complied with the command which the promise was associated. “Into the land of Canaan they came. And Abraham passed through the land to the plain of Moreh” and built an altar unto the Lord, who there again appeared to him, and said, “To you will I give this land.”  Paul explains in Galatians 3:8-9; “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to your seed, which is Christ.”

Promises of the land of Canaan were indeed (so important was the separate national existence of Israel regarded) included also  in the Genesis 15 covenant and also, as we shall see, in the subsequent “covenant of circumcision”. The land covenant was inaugurated. The family of Abraham was separated from all others, and made a distinct nation. A specified territory was prescribed, where they were to remain under the divine government and protection. In that land they were to reside, a peculiar people and an isolated people, until Christ would come and establish His claims, and by one offering perfect forever all them that are sanctified.

The second collateral covenant was also made with Abraham, and is known as “the covenant of circumcision”. The first covenant separated Israel as a nation from every other people. This second covenant distinguished them as individuals. The covenant of circumcision was made with Abraham when he was ninety-nine years old;   eighteen  years after the covenant of the land, and twenty four years after the “the covenant of promise in Christ.”

Genesis 17. “This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and your seed after you; every man child shall be circumcised.” “And my covenant shall be in your flesh, for an everlasting covenant”. “And the uncircumcised man shall be cut off from his people.”

This covenant excludes from that family everyone who shall be found uncircumcised. Its general bearing is explained by Paul, who says: “I testify again, to every man who is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. “ This rite was observed by his descendents until the object which is proposed, had been effectually secured. Christ came; its design was accomplished; the covenant, as all the others of like temporary character, ceased to exist.  The gospel now reigns, under which “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God.”

The third and last of the collateral covenants is known as the covenant of Sinai. This covenant gave to the people of Israel their peculiar national government. It was not made with Abraham, but “with the fathers, when God took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.”

John Murray’s Mono-Covenantalism

February 2, 2010

John Murray’s Mono-Covenantalism, by David Gordon, in By Faith Alone, edited by Gary Johnson and Guy Waters (Crossway,2006, p121

I am perfectly happy with retaining the covenant of works, by any label, because it was a historic covenant; what I am less happy with is the language of the covenant of grace, because this is a genuinely unbiblical use of biblical language; biblically, covenant is always a historic arrangement, inaugurated in space and time.

Once covenant refers to an over-arching divine decree or purpose to redeem the elect in Christ, confusion Is sure to follow.  In my opinion, Murray kept what ought to be discarded and discarded what ought to be kept.

John Murray despised dispensationalism. We all disagree with it, but few of us with the passion of John Murray. Indeed, some of the historic premillenialists who left Westminster Seminary complained that Murray’s attack on dispensationalism made them feel  attacked also.

What Murray jettisoned was the notion of distinctions of kind between the covenants. He wrote that was not “any reason for construing the Mosaic covenant in terms different from those of the Abrahamic.” Murray believed that the only relation God sustains to people is that of Redeemer.  I would argue, by contrast, that God was just as surely Israel’s God when He cursed the nation as when He blessed it.

The first generation of the magisterial Reformers would have emphasized discontinuity; they believed that Rome retained too much continuity with the levitical aspects of the Sinai administration. But the Auburn theology cannot describe covenant theology without reference to dispensationalism, despite the historical reality that covenant theology was here for several centuries before dispensationalism appeared.

My own way of discerning whether a person really has an understanding of covenant theology is to see whether he can describe it without reference to dispensationalism.

When Paul and the other NT writers use the word covenant, there is almost always an immediate contextual clue to which biblical covenant is being referred to, such as “the covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8)  The New Testament writers were not mono-covenantal regarding the Old Testament (see Rom 9:4, Eph 2:12; Gal 4:24).

Ignorance or Belief In Jesus

January 29, 2010

Curtis Hutson, Salvation Plain and Simple, p13—“Jesus Christ took all my sins, past, present, and future, and bore them in his own body.”  P21—“The worst sin in the world is not trusting Jesus Christ as Savour, and that is the only sin for which a man will die the second death.”

One irony here is that, If Curtis Hutson died believing this, then he will die the second death. If you die while ignorant of the true gospel, you will die believing a false gospel, and you will die in your sins.  When he says that “Jesus took all my sins”, that is the outside of the tomb. The words sound beautiful. But the words are contradicted by his idea that you will die for the sin of not trusting (and that you will live if you don’t sin that sin).  This false gospel is not only trusting in a different Jesus, but also is trusting in trusting.

Hutson denies the aloneness of Christ’s work for the elect alone. He not only denies election, but also says that the death of Jesus becomes insufficient if you sin by not trusting in it.   In his false gospel, the death of Jesus is not enough, is inadequate for the purpose of saving the ungodly from the sin of not trusting.

But I know many “grace” folks who think that Hutson’s problem is only ignorance, and that it does not rise to the level of unbelief and rebellion.  They explain the irony.  When I say that Hutson does not believe the true gospel, and that he will die because of his unbelief, they think I am agreeing with Hutson that the sin for which a man will die is unbelief.

Two quick responses. One, according to John 3:17 and Romans 5:21, we are born already condemned in Adam. According to Romans 8:7-7, we are born unable to please God, unable to trust God.  So we don’t have to wait to be guilty until we hear the gospel and then sin against it.  Two,  the Bible teaches that God gives the elect knowledge and trust in Christ “for the sake of Christ” (Phil 1:29) and “through the righteousness of God and of Jesus our Lord” (II Peter 1:1).

Jesus never died for anybody’s sin of dying in unbelief.  Jesus never died for all sins. Jesus died only for the sins of the elect. The elect do not die in unbelief. Jesus did not die to take away the guilt of final unbelief by the elect but Jesus did die in order to give the Spirit to the elect so they will (not might have an opportunity to) believe and therefore not die in unbelief.

Hutson contradicts himself. First, he says that Jesus died for all sins. Second, he says that final unbelief is a sin which will kill you.

Unlike most “grace” folks, I agree with the second statement. Final unbelief will kill you. Remember what I wrote already. First, we are born guilty, even if we never heard the gospel and never disbelief the gospel. Second, non-election is not God’s response to sins, because  the elect are ordained to be sinners also.   But, having said that (twice), I do agree that dying unbelief is a sin  and that those who commit  it will die the second death.

Romans 10:3–.”for they being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their won righteousness, were not subject to the righteousness of God.”   Most of the Jews were not in the unconditional new covenant, and most of them were not saved. You cannot be ignorant of the gospel and still be saved.  Neither can you at the same time believe in your own righteousness and also in God’s righteousness for salvation.  It is an ignorant contradiction. This “doctrinal flaw” is not merely something God will scrape off you during your sanctification or at the judgment on resurrection day.

II Corinthians 6:15—“What part has a believer with an unbeliever?” But “grace” folks tell me that sovereign grace will save people no matter what they believe or don’t believe.  (These same folks often have a problem saying that grace will save people no matter what they do, because they are self-righteousness enough about their continuing efforts in the local church, and in Arminian evangelism, and in being more moral than their pagan neighbors).  These folks have made “grace” a soundbite which eliminates boundaries between belief and unbelief.  Some of the “new covenant” folks are so “gracious” that they seem to assume that almost everybody ( even fundamentalists who they thank God they aren’t)  will be imputed with righteousness.

Almost everybody. And who knows where the line is!  If you just say that Jesus is Lord.  But you have to really mean it.  But Ephesians 4:18 warns us of those who are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of their heart.”  But “grace” folks say to “cut them some slack”. It’s not hardness of heart but inconsistency; it’s not rebellion but not being able to read difficult Banner of Truth books.

“Alienated from God” is a very harsh thing to say, isn’t it? It does not merely describe a sincere believer who will need to be adjusted and have some doctrinal mistakes scraped off someday.  The alienated person has no knowledge of the true God and does not believe the gospel. Paul knew about being alienated because Paul did not ‘grow into” better doctrine.  Paul used to be lost. Paul used to be not saved.  I Timothy 1:13—“I acted ignorantly in unbelief.”  The idea is not that we all still act ignorantly in unbelief, and that God will be gracious to us all anyway.

Colossians 1—“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus…Of this you heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you…it is bearing fruit and growing, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant…

Does God Count the Apology as the Cleaning?

January 28, 2010

From Facebook’s Preaching Christ Crucified discussion:

Is a symptom of Piper’s error the way he speaks of the atonement and/or who it’s for  – making faith the righteousness? Seems you told me in times past that this is what Piper does in his book on imputed righteousness.

It’s confused, like John Murray’s commentary on Romans. First, he does a good job of showing why faith cannot be the righteousness. Second, he assumes that Gen 3:15 and Romans 4 are teaching that God counts the faith as if it were the righteousness, it being an “instrumental condition”.

I am serious. Murray’s reasons why faith is not the righteousness are excellent.  But then he takes it all away: my theology say but the text says. He needed to ask himself again if he was right about what the text said. The object of faith is what is imputed, not the message but the righteousness that the message talks about.

The worst part of Piper is his illustration. Son fails to clean the room. Dad cleans the room for the son. Thenthe  son apologises. Therefore, Piper says, dad’s cleaning is the righteousness and not the apology, therefore I will count the apology as the righteousness. Makes no sense…

Scott Price wrote on January 20, 2010 at 6:42am

Wow, Piper blows it on the example. That’s just plain and simple conditionalism, like Arminians do. So much for him being a ‘7 pointer’. That’s what I can’t figure. You mentioned his work on Romans 9 was great and he claims to believe in double predestination but yet has this 2 wills of God thing goin on.

Though people hold a mix sometimes of good and error, BUT it seems the shift is from the  cross to preaching it to shave off the offense of it.

There seems to be a big concern in the minds of some to want to psychologically condition the mind of the hearer to feel more comfortable about the cross instead of offended by it. There is no doubt that the Spirit of God uses the offense of the cross in true preaching.

The Amyraldian gives lips service to sovereign grace and widens the door of the Atonement more than God Himself does and he thinks he is actually helping the sinner.  They think if Christ only died for the elect how can the hearer know he is elect and thus they adjust their message and it does not become about the cross and Christ anymore, it becomes  what is available on conditions.

Mark Karlberg Against Infant Salvation Conditioned on the Sinner

January 20, 2010

Reviewing Anthony Hoekema (Created in God’s Image) in his Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective, p328, Karlberg quotes Hoekema:

“To be sure, all infants are under the condemnation of Adam’s sin as soon as they are born. But the Bible clearly teaches that God will judge everyone according to his or her works. And those who die in infancy are incapable of doing any works, whether good or bad.” p165

Karlberg comments, “this view appears to be something less than consistent Calvinism. Is not the basis of salvation the sovereign, electing purpose of God in Christ, rather than any consideration of human performance either in the case of adults or infants?”

If we can Resist the Spirit, We can Allow the Spirit

January 3, 2010

“It is a biblical fact that believers can resist the Holy Spirit, as they are commanded not to do so, and it is a biblical fact that believers can fall into sin. If we can choose to resist the Spirit, and God is not the author of, nor is he responsible for, our sin, then we can also choose not to resist the Holy Spirit.

“Is not such a choice, truly our choice? Is God to be blamed when we resist the Holy Spirit? No. The reason is that God cannot resist himself. We are the ones who resist God.

If I choose not to resist the Holy Spirit, but to “keep in step with the Holy Spirit” as it says in Galatians 5, then is it not every bit as much the same exercise of my will choosing to do this, and does not such “choosing” belong to the realm of human responsibility for which I am genuinely accountable ?

“I freely acknowledge I could do no good thing without God’s provision in Christ. Jesus himself said, ‘without me, you can do nothing.’ At the same time, I am genuinely responsible to exercise my renewed will and utilize this provision, and it is my choice to do this, as God does not do it for me.”

At the foundation of this view is the false assumption that freedom equals autonomy, and that the fact that God is not the author or approver of sin makes our “free will” to sin autonomous.

This view falsely assumes that because we resist the grace of God and grieve the Holy Spirit, that God does not control us without blame to his holy character in our resisting and our grieving him, but we rather control ourselves and that our autonomous, self-determining choice is the reason we are blameworthy of sin, and God is innocent of sin.

While God is not in the least to blame for sin and he is not the Author or approver of sin, he nevertheless controls even the sinful actions of men with his almighty sovereign power.There is no such thing as autonomy in the exercise of the “free will” to grieve the Holy Spirit.

There is no discretionary autonomy to resist the grace of God, but rather such resistance, while completely the fault of the sinner, is under God’s sovereign control, and should lead those who think such “freedom” is theirs to fear that they are being fattened as cattle for the slaughter when they countenance sin.

If I reason that because I am able to resist the Holy Spirit through my autonomous free will, I am also able to choose not to resist and to instead “co-operate” with the grace of God in my life (as though it were up to me to make use of the “raw materials” of God’s gracious provision), I then see myself as making the potential obedience secured for me by my standing in Christ actual, true obedience by the exercise of my  will.

I thus assume that just as autonomous freedom is the basis of the sinful acts I commit as a Christian, so also autonomous freedom is the basis of the good works I perform as a Christian. I therefore sinfully suppose that autonomy is the basis of my Christian obedience, rather than the work of God which is a gift secured by the death of Jesus and applied to my life by the power of the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:23, 24).

Autonomy which gives God all the credit is still autonomy. It still sees itself, where the issue of sanctification is concerned, as a separate and distinct entity without which the work would not occur, and thus the one on whom it depends. To say that you could never do it without God is still to confess that you believe that you are the one doing it, even with God as your indispensable helper.

Such a confession is not biblical sanctification, but religious pride on the order of the Pharisee who prayed in the temple, giving God all the credit by thanking God he was not like other men (Luke 18:11).

As Calvin correctly points out above in his statement on Ezekiel 11, God does not merely restore us to the position of the first Adam in our sanctification. He gives us more than mere ability to do good, leaving it up to our “free will” to then choose the good as an act of autonomous discretion. God, says Calvin, is “the author of the upright will, and he works in us to accomplish his purpose.”

Merit? Spiritual Capitalism?

December 29, 2009

“Merit is a measured value”. Even though merit is not a biblical word, and it’s hard to remove the traces of Roman penitential “spiritual capitalism”, I do agree with folks who talk about Christ’s merits. I wouldn’t say merit, but I would say “obtained by a work”, with that work being the work of the cross.

1. I say this to show that salvation is not only by grace but also by justice. Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift by as his due. The salvation of the elect (with all its blessings) is due to Christ because of His death. It is not grace from the Triune God to give Christ the salvation of His people.

This does not mean we can say without qualification that the elect are entitled to salvation. Salvation is by grace to the elect. But this salvation is by justice, not only to the Son, but also to the nature and character of the triune God. This is important, and it is something which I did not know when I was a lost five point Calvinist for 20 years. We need to avoid a nominalism in which God is only sovereign and not to be measured by justice, as to His character or actions. God is both just and justifier of the ungodly.

So the death of Jesus was not merely one way (among many) God could have saved the elect. Calvin seemed to think that God could have saved by grace apart from the death but only sovereignly chose to do so. John Owen agreed at first , but then changed his mind. See also Abraham Booth, Justice Essential to the Divine Character. Now you can say that Owen and Booth denied God’s sovereignty to have the option of saving apart from Christ’s death. But God cannot lie. And God cannot save sinners apart from the death of Son.

When Christ died, after Christ died, God cannot in justice not save all those for whom Christ died. This is not about the infinity of Christ’s person (both divine and human). This is not only about paying for imputed sins by Christ’s death. This is also about obtaining something by Christ’s death. This is what  “merits” is getting to. Not only to get off from God’s wrath, but also that Christ has earned righteousness by the accomplishment of His death. And the result of this righteousness imputed will be all future blessings for the elect (access, adoption, resurrection!!!!).

I don’t call this “merit”. I don’t make “the ground” (I just say “the reason” ) the vicarious law-keeping. I think Christ’s death pays for sins and pre-pays for sins and earns all the other blessings. If this is “spiritual capitalism”, so be it!

But it is justice and counting is involved. 1. The death was offered only for the elect and will count only for the elect. 2. But the death did not count for the elect all at one time. The value of the death is the righteousness and this righteousness is imputed by God (not by the sinner, not by the church) to individuals one at a time, both before and after the death. This kind of “impetration” (see John Owen in Death of Death) best fits the evidence which says that the elect are both loved and also born under the wrath of God. It fits the evidence that Abraham was not simply overlooked but really justified years before the death of Christ.

The soundbite that “Abraham was saved 2000 years ago when I was” is more misleading than helpful. Christ obtained by His work of death the righteousness God imputed to Abraham years before He died. Christ by measure by justice by the obedience of His death obtained for each and every ungodly elect sinner who will ever be justified the righteousness that will be legally shared with that sinner and this justifies God in giving a justifying verdict to those sinners.

The righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is not God’s demand for justice. But the righteousness of Christ obtained by His death would not be necessary unless God demanded this specific death in history as justice.

I like to focus on the nature of the connection between Christ’s death and justification. One thing I learned at conversion is that God is justified in justifying. Not only that God is sovereign in grace but also that God is right, and we are wrong. God is right in saying that we deserve to die. God is right in the way that Christ dies to satisfy justice. We learn to take sides against ourselves in agreeing with God about this.