Posted tagged ‘union with Christ’

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?”

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

Is the law- Gospel Antithesis Boring? The Jones Book on Antinomianism

January 29, 2014

Instead of throwing together all accusations of antinomianism into one convenient “package”, so that “one idea leads to the other” . we need to look at the identifying descriptions one by one, to see which are accurate and which are not.

For example, we do not deny that the distinction between impetration and application in order to affirm application by God’s imputation and to affirm impetration for the specific sins of the elect alone, so that this propitiation must in justice be applied to the elect so that the then justified elect are justified from these sins. In short, the antithesis between law and gospel is NOT “antinomian”, because the Bible itself tells us that “law is not of faith”.

Jones (Antinomianism, 2013, P and R) does not mention the Westminster Seminary California volume “The Law Is Not of Faith”, but I think they are the ultimate target of his fury.. Jones even links John Cotton with “antinomianism” because Cotton understood God’s imputation to be before faith, and a cause of faith. (But see II Peter 1:1, Galatians 3-4, given the Spirit because of being sons, Romans 8:10, life because of righteousness.) Along the way, Jones provocatively accuses those in the “Sonship” faction as giving “boring…messages each week when they have a sort of systematic theology that they need to declare every Lord’s day”. (p 118).

Let me say that I am at least equally bored with those who make everything to be about “union with” the resurrected Christ so that we Christians “can and will” now do what Christ did. These folks who keep repeating “threefold union” always take almost no time to forget union by election or by imputation, so that they can run back to “union by faith” or “union by the Spirit” or to “Christ in us” instead of “us in Christ”, which they did not deny but which they never stop to talk about.
It’s very much like those who speak of “threefold sanctification”, in which they do not deny that, in biblicist terms, sanctification is an either or and based on being in Christ’s death or not (Hebrews 1o, sanctified by the blood), and in which they do not deny that “sanctification is by the effectual call and hearing of the gospel by the Holy Spirit in believing the gospel about what Christ did (II Thess 2:13), but then from on, nothing but a “conditional sanctification” which depends on our cooperation and effort. To believe the gospel is the same as obeying the gospel. To live by faith is to do what Jesus says to do. Some of us are doing it. You are not doing it. Yes, I am bored with moralist preaching. It doesn’t seem to me very different from Arminian preaching.

On p 6, Jones writes that “Melanchthon changed his mind and agreed that the gospel alone was able to produce evangelical repentance…He came to a ‘Reformed’ view of the gospel, which included the whole doctrine of Christ, including repentance…” For Jones, the “full gospel” is not about a distinction between law and gospel “defined narrowly as pure promise”, but instead has conditions and sanctions

Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law (or if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do).

It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

Martin Luther’s cautions in the Heidelberg Disputations need to be heard!

The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really for good and God’s glory.

The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they are not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does WHAT IT IS ABLE TO DO, it commits a mortal sin

Accusations of antinomianism against those of who give priority to imputation do not prove the reality of our being against the law. To say that only Christ could or has satisfied the law is to properly fear God. Neonomians turn out to be antinomians. To think that one can produce “sanctification” and other blessings by something extra infused into us in addition to what God has done in Christ is to not yet fear God as the Holy One who demands perfection. Many experimental puritans put themselves on another level because of what they thought they have been enabled to do, and thanked their god that they are not like other sinners.

Jones makes many provocative and condescending statements, as if to say that those who disagree with him have not read the historical documents in question. The most irritating claim he makes is that he’s correct because of a better Christology.

His Christology consists of equating the justification of Christ with the sanctification of a sinner. Denying the idea of a “covenant of works” in which Christ obeyed law to earn merits, Jones also denies the idea of substitution so that our works are not necessary for salvation. Jones accepts substitution FOR JUSTIFICATION ONLY, but on the other hand, like the Galatian false teachers, Jones equates “living by faith’ with obeying the law, and argues along with Richard Gaffin and Norman Shepherd that our living by faith means our works and our obeying the law.

On p 22-23, Jones argues from the fact that Christ obtained salvation “bestowed on conditions”, that we too must obtain “sanctification” in the same way, bestowed on conditions. Instead of talking about the merits of Christ, he speaks of Christ’s living by faith, which was obeying the law, to get to the idea of our also living by faith, which then comes to mean our obeying the law.

On p 24, Jones argues from the fact that Christ “was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit” to not only question the language of “covenant of works” but to say that we Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification. Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is no different from that of NT Wrights—don’t be so Christocentric, because the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also for our final justification.

Jones wants to throw all he calls “antinomian” into one package. So if you deny that the sanctification of the Christian is progressively increased by works and obeying the law, Jones then equates that with the antinomians who deny the agency of the Christian, who say that Christ believes in us for us, or obeys in us for us. You will find that kind of language in the Arminians of the “exchanged life” view, and also occasionally in some of Tullian’s (or Steve Brown’s) language, but it is simply wrong to equate the position of what Jones calls the “imputative” view with the “mystical union” view.

Jones, even though he points out the distinction between the imputative and the mystical, still tends to collapse a distinction between law and gospel into the idea that Christians are not agents who are commanded to obey the law. The distinction between law and gospel does not deny the function of law to command, but as antithesis it also does not confuse the justification of Christ (by obeying the law, whether you say “covenant of works” or not) with the assurance of justification of Christians. The distinction between law and gospel agrees that Christians are agents commanded to obey, but it refuses the idea of “cooperation” in which we have the Spirit’s agency in us enabling our agency. Gaffin and Schreiner can call this 100% God and 100% man all they want but the math still adds up to synergism.

Jones argues those who don’t agree with him haven’t read and understood the puritans and the antinomians. But he also argues that he has a better “more robust” Christology. “Good works were necessary for Jesus if he was to be justified…. good works are likewise necessary for our salvation–though, unlike the case with Jesus, not for our justification.” (p 76) Jones claims that those of us with a “justification priority” have reduced the gospel to justification, but he has reduced substitution only to Christ’s impetration (ignoring the imputation of the substitution) and has introduced synergism and our obeying the law into the application and assurance of final salvation.

Dismissing the law-gospel antithesis for a “large commanding gospel” hermeneutic does not answer all Christological questions. The distinction between impetration and application is important, but that distinction is only as good as the definition of the two terms. In the matter of “application”, Jones puts all the focus on the agency of the Spirit (with our conditional cooperation) and none on God’s imputation of what Christ did in propitiation. In the matter of “impetration”, Jones puts all the focus on Christ’s active obedience (living by faith) but none on the idea of “sanctification by the blood”, so that holiness is a function of Christ bearing the guilt of the elect.

This is a very provocative book. When Jones reports that Gill rejects Rutherford’s claim that God loves Christians more if they obey more, Jones does not attend to the arguments of Gill, but simply rehearses Rutherford’s conclusions and calls into questions if Gill even understands what Rutherford was saying. p 84)

Jones argues from the fact that Christ learned obedience and “increased in favor with God” even as Christ was perfectly obeying the law to the idea that sinful Christians will also begin to sin less and thus be more loved by God. From this, Jones goes on to the puritan idea of sanctification by punishment in this life, purgatory now instead of after death. . Jones call this “evangelical punishment” (p 93)

Jones even argues from the propitiation (the Trinity’s wrath on the Son for imputed sins) to the idea that God loving us means that God will be angry with us. From the conclusion that “God was never happier with the Son than when God was angry with the Son” (p 95), Jones reasons that God loves us less when we obey the law less. But using Christ’s life of atonement as the analogy for the Christian life ( something Norman Shepherd and Richard Gaffin like to do) misses out on the gospel news of the Christians being legally united to Christ’s death. Romans 6:16, not under the law but under grace. Romans 7:6, you died to the law.

Jones even claims that the answer to Romans 6 proves that the antinomian question should never come up. Instead of seeing that the teaching of Romans 3-5 (the two imputations, the two headships) leads to the question of Romans 6, Jones claims that “Paul’s teaching of definitive and progressive sanctification” prove that “Paul could hardly be accused of antinomianism.” (p 121) I certainly agree that Paul was not antinomian. In Romans 3:2-8, Paul even responds to the accusation by affirming the condemnation of antinomians. But for Jones to claim that Paul had a “large commanding gospel” in which the question should not be asked is to ignore not only the context but the content of Romans 6, which teaches that Christ was ‘alive to sin” (because of imputed sins) and that Christians are justified from sin (6:7) because the power of sin is the power of the law over a person “alive to sin” (guilty before God, as Christ was by imputed sin).

Those who speak of “definitive sanctification” often assume that their own definition of sanctification is what we find taught in Romans 6. But Romans 6 shows that being united to Christ’s death sets the elect apart by means of legal identification with Christ. The reason sin shall not reign is NOT that “we will practice less and less sin”. The reason sin shall not reign over those sanctified by Christ’s death is that they are now no longer under the law.

Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. 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, but the life he lives he lives to God.

We need to believe and trust on Christ, instead of merely copying “the faith of Christ” . CHRIST WAS NEVER UNDER GRACE AND IS STILL NOT UNDER GRACE. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law.

The death of the justified elect is the SAME legal death that Christ died. The “definitive resurrection” of the elect in Romans 6 is the result of being set apart with Christ (and His death) from being under law.

Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ. Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with His death, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. Romans 6:7: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s definitive transformation by the Holy Spirit so that the justified cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) or so that they sin less over time. They tell us that justification was in Romans chapter five but that chapter six is not about justification but about sanctification and union and final salvation.

Without questioning each other. more and more people seem to agree that Romans 6 must be about something “more than imputation and justification” if it’s to be a real answer to the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 does not talk about Christ or His people not habitually sinning. Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” in “not being under the law”. Christ was never under the power of habitual sin , and the definitive death of the justified elect is His death.

Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Holy Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. What’s definitive is being legally joined to Christ’s death. (Also, Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into….)

Bavinck—” The gospel, which really makes no demands and lays down no conditions, nevertheless comes to us in the form of a commandment, admonishing us to faith and repentance. The gospel covenant is pure grace, and nothing else, and EXCLUDES ALL WORKS. It gives what it demands, and fulfills what it prescribes. The Gospel is sheer good tidings, not demand but promise, not duty but gift.”

Jones is Augustinian in the sense that he has not much time for a distinction between what God does in us and what God already finished outside us in Christ. Even when it comes to Christ’s priestly work, the emphasis is on Christ’s present intercession and not his “death to sin” and the federal imputation of that death to those under Christ’s headship.

Augustine–“give what you command, and command what you will.” Jones—“Christians CAN answer to the demands of the law in their justificaton …AND ALSO THE GOSPEL DEMANDS OF THE LAW in their sanctification by the Spirit. (p 53) Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine is wrong if it’s understand to say that Christians now CAN obey the law ( or if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do) . It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

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?

Andrew Fuller: Begging the Question About “Covenantal Union” and The Nature of Atonement Imputation

August 23, 2013

Nathan Finn–“Chun agrees with scholars who emphasize greater continuity than discontinuity between Edwards’s understanding of the atonement and the moral government view of the New Divinity theologians. Fuller embraced governmental language and was actually much closer to Edwards, who also allowed for a governmental aspect . Both men combined a universal sufficiency with a particular efficacy, the limitation being in God’s covenantal design rather than in the nature of propitiation itself.”

Romans 3:25–”Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith…”
Andrew Fuller (Reply to Philanthropos, Complete Works,II, p499) comments: “There would be no propriety in saying of Christ that He is set forth to be an expiatory sacrifice THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, because He was a sacrifice for sin prior to the consideration of our believing in Him. The text does not express what Christ WAS as laying down His life , but what He IS in consequence of it.”

Andrew Fuller makes a distinction between “covenantal intent” and “the nature of the atonement itself”. While Abraham Booth is today often accused of saying that Christ “became literally a sinner”, that is a distraction from the important debate about the nature of God’s imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ.

Abraham Booth did not use the careless language of Tobias Crisp (or of Luther) about Christ becoming a sinner. Booth rejected any idea of Christ having a fallen human nature. But Booth did teach that “imputation” has two aspects. First, and always, God counts and declares the truth about a person. But second, and sometimes, God puts into effect a legal solidarity between persons. Thus God counted the sins of the elect to Christ, and then counts the death of Christ to the elect.

Using the word “literal” here is not helpful, because it begs the question of what is “actual”. The righteousness of Christ is His death and that death is real, so why would it be a fiction for God to count that death as the death of the elect? Thus the two senses of “imputation”. First, a legal “transfer” (although I prefer sharing, since it’s still Christ’s death). Second, on the basis of that REAL TRUTH, God then declares the justified elect sinner to be righteous, to be justified.

But of course many like Fuller (and Edwards) dismiss this account, and say it doesn’t matter because in the end it’s all based on “union” anyway. But this only begs the question by moving their assumptions about the legal not being “real” enough into the “union question”. Their assumption is always that “union” is not legal. The not yet argued presupposition is that “union” is something (they can’t exactly say what) which is “more than legal”. This is why we need to examine Fuller’s controversy with Abraham Booth, and take sides with Abraham Booth.

This is NOT a question about the duty of the non-elect to have faith in the gospel, and the related question of “two kinds of ability” (as argued by Edwards and Fuller). That is another distraction from the greater question about the nature of the atonement. While I don’t see much in the Bible about the “duty” of unbelievers to believe the gospel, I don’t deny that all sinners are commanded to believe the gospel. And (unlike Edwards) I don’t need to connect that command to some philosophical account of “ability”.

This is not even a question about the optimism of the post-millennial fantasies of Edwards and Andrew Fuller. It’s a question about the justice of God, and about the justice of God in Christ dying for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ by God. If the sins of the elect are not “really” justly imputed to Christ, then the death of Christ itself is not that which “really” makes God both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Instead we would have to look away from the cross itself, and look to what God is now doing in terms of some kind of “covenantal intent”.

Though Andrew Fuller affirmed a particular atonement in a certain sense– in that the atonement will procure faith for only the elect–he is not willing to say that Christ was only the propitiation for the elect alone. Instead of telling that plain truth, that Christ either already died for a sinner or already did not, Andrew Fuller wanted to say that Christ died for all sinners in some sense. This universal sense advocated by Andrew Fuller has to do with the nature of propitiation. He denies that Christ in the past propitiated the Trinity for the sins of any specific person. Rather, Andrew Fuller teaches that Christ died to make an offer of propitiation to every sinner.

According to Andrew Fuller, what’s important is the “covenantal design and intent” of what Christ did, that there could be propitiation now if the Holy Spirit were to cause a sinner to accept the offer of propitiation and thus join themselves to Christ through faith .

Fuller asserted an universal conditional sufficiency in Christ’s death for all sinners. It is an old and subtle doctrine, but Andrew Fuller was a very subtle man, much like John Wesley, using words like “imputation” in ways meant to mislead those who had a different meaning for the words.

What does Andrew Fuller accomplish by shifting from what Christ DID back then over there to who Christ Is and what He “Can” do here and now if the Spirit helps a sinner to take up the “offer”?

Andrew Fuller changes the meaning of the propitiatory death of Christ. With the Arminians, he makes the propitiation to be dependent on the sinner having faith. The subtle “hybrid” part though is that (with the Calvinists) Andrew Fuller also makes the having faith be dependent on what God obtained by means of Christ’s death.

Andrew Fuller ends up putting the emphasis on grace as opposed to justice. God is sovereign now to give faith to elect sinners because of Christ’s death. The idea that God has already been JUSTLY propitiated for a sinner (or not) is no longer in the picture. Andrew Fuller’s notion of “sovereign grace” is opposing the gospel of God being justified in justifying the ungodly. He is opposing justice in the name of grace.

Two comments. First, even though Fullerites want to say that the only way to be consistent in teaching a definite propitiation (what Christ WAS as laying down his life) is to teach an eternal justification, where the elect only subjectively find out that they were always justified, I do not (and Abraham Booth did not) teach that any unbeliever is justified.

All the justified elect are people who believe the gospel. Belief in the gospel is an immediate consequence (not a condition) of God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect (not of God’s imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ).

“Through faith” in Romans 3:25 does not mean “conditioned on faith”. Faith for the elect is what justice demands AFTER righteousness is imputed to them. I do not say it “their right” but it is Christ’s right because of what Christ WAS AND DID. Once sins were imputed to Christ, then Christ died by the law because of these sins, and now Christ is free and justified before the law.

So I can and do say to any unbeliever, unless you believe the gospel, you are not yet justified. But I also say to those unbelievers: your believing is not something you can or will do unless Christ died for you, and you will never know if Christ did until you believe the gospel.

Second comment. Look at what Andrew Fuller is saying with his distinction between what Christ is as opposed to what Christ was. Fuller is teaching that God is governmentally sovereign and therefore God can do whatever God wants to do now with what Christ did then.

If so, why did Christ die? To make it possible? So that propitiation “might” happen? To ask such questions leads to another question. If God is so sovereignly superior to justice in His government, why did Christ need to die at all? If the meaning and effectiveness of the propitiation was only to be assigned later, is that meaning a matter of justice or only arbitrary?

Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

Galatians 4:5-6 –”to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Edwards and Andrew Fuller use the concept of “covenantal union” to say that the atonement which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. They deny that the “union” is legal. They insist that the legal is “based on the union”. The logic leads to the “atonement” not being what Christ did to satisfy the law, but instead the application of “the covenantal intent”.

It’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.

Although the gospel teaches that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, the gospel does not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Romans 6 explains how the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are “placed into” that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But folks like Andrew Fuller use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse the rest with thinking there is no need for faith. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it.

There is no justification apart from faith. Faith in the gospel is NOT a mere recognition that we were already justified. But those who follow Andrew Fuller tend to deny any distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

At the end of the day, these folks locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to “covenantally unite” people with that propitiation. Though they may formally agree to some “legal aspect” to “union”, for all practical purposes they ignore or deny the reality that God already imputed the sins of only the elect to Christ.

In this way, the followers of Andrew Fuller make way for the idea of some “universal sufficiency” in Christ’s propitiation. And when it turns out that this ‘sufficiency” is not enough to save the non-elect, they answer: “well, you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”

The followers of Andrew Fuller teach universal sufficiency and an offer (to everybody I guess who is not already dead) . They claim that we can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to Andrew Fuller, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. God did not really impute specific sins, according to Fuller, Edwards and the New England Theology.

Righteousness is Not An Objective Thing Out There?

August 4, 2012

new perspective: “Christ Himself is our righteousness. There is no objective thing out there called the righteousness of Christ, but it is Christ Himself who earned it as the Federal Head for His people. ”

The denial sounds like Osiander’s. I commend to every reader Calvin’s responses to Osiander in the Institutes. If there is no objective merit to Christ’s work of obedience, then Christ presumably could have skipped the cross and entered directly and personally into our hearts. NP says Christ earned “it”, but if it’s not an objective thing, then what is “it”?

Romans 1:16– “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

the NP gloss. For in the gospel, there is this person and that person has this history but that history does not result in an objective thing called “the righteousness” because you see it’s the person who is revealed….

Romans 3: 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

the NP gloss. But now Christ Himself has been revealed, and He Himself is the priority, so this means that there is no objective thing called “the righteousness of God”. I mean, first you get faith to get it, but the it you then get it is not an objective thing which itself could be the real difference between life and death before God….

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

the NP gloss. I don’t deny that God counted righteousness to David, or that this meant “not counting David’s sins against him”, but let’s not think that this “righteousness” and the not counting are “objective things”, The righteousness which God counts is only a means to an end, and really not even that, “it” is only a result of a real relationship that David had with Christ in his heart, because we need to remember not to give the priority to the benefits, even when we have fallen into sin big time, the pious thing to do is to focus on Christ Himself and not on something objectively done in time and space, obtained in the past, and then “transferred” (like a thing) to us as if it were merit points, without which we would have no hope. I don’t deny that Christ earned something of course but I do deny that this something is an objective “out there” commodity which has legal value….

Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

NP gloss. Of course it’s important to have knowledge, but we have to know that knowing a person is not like knowing an objective thing like the value of something a person did. And in the case of “the righteousness of God”, it’s not an objective thing we know from hearing the gospel, so we need to know Christ before we can know about it, and indeed if we know Christ, then we won’t be trying to establish our own righteousness. And you don’t need to know anything positively objective about the righteousness of God in order to stop trying to build your own righteousness. I mean, if you know that righteousness is not a thing that really counts as the legal gatekeeper between you and Christ, you will stop worrying about righteousness all together, yours or God’s!

II Peter 1:1 –Peter, 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:

NP gloss: This needs to be reversed. We get righteousness by faith. And our faith is not in the righteousness of Christ, as if the object of faith were some objective commodity that belonged to Christ instead of Christ Himself If we are spiritual, we don’t want what Christ has,but instead we want Christ personally. Some say that the righteousness of Christ is the means we get Christ, but they have it backwards since the truth is we must get Christ before we get the righteousness. And having Christ in your soul is the important reality. Because then Christ in you is no longer out there as merely some object of faith. He Himself is the righteousness, and He is not an objective thing, so Jeremiah 23 means that His righteousness is not an objective thing….

NP: the only way one obtains the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is to be one with Christ.

mark: which being translated means—- being imputed with the righteousness, obtaining the righteousness that Christ obtained is NOT THE WAY TO BE ONE WITH CHRIST. This is NP begging the question NP thinks “union with Christ” is not legal but real and personal. He sometimes agree that there is a “legal aspect” but only to then disagree that “union” has anything to do with legal placement into Christ’s death.

The NP is not the only one to want an “union with Christ” apart from Christ’s righteousness which then permits those thus united to then be imputed with such righteousness. Some give the priority to sacramental “union”. Some give the priority to “experience” which is not about an “objective thing”.

Do Baptism and Faith Hook Us Up With Christ’s Death?

June 26, 2012

“In real time, through baptism and faith, we were united with Christ in His effectual penalty bearing death.”

Let me begin by saying that there is something good in this statement. Christ’s death is effectual. God’s justice demands that Christ’s death take away the guilt of all for whom Christ died and give them all the blessings of salvation. So, the statement is correct that Christ’s death is effectual and also with the idea that Christ’s death was not sufficient to save everybody but only effectual for some.

At least the statement is talking about getting hooked up with what Christ did in the past, and not hooking up with Christ to get us to do now what needs to be done. And that’s a big thing.

But having said that, as you have come to expect, I disagree with the rest of the statement I not only disapprove of the idea that water baptism by something which calls itself “the church” (and claims that God is objectively doing something and promising something) is what causes the imputation. I also disapprove with the idea that faith is what unites us to the imputation.

I know that some Reformed confessions point to such ideas, but the Bible does not say that water baptism and faith unite us to Christ’s death. The Bible says justification is by faith, through faith, but this means that imputation creates the faith in the gospel in us. There is no justification without faith, but logically there is imputation before faith.

So I dislike the statement. I think the statement aids conditionalism and sacerdotalism. What does “baptism” mean? I am rational enough to want some definitions. Is the idea that “baptism” won’t work without faith, but also that the faith won’t work without the “baptism”? So what exactly is the “baptism”? Is it water? Is it God’s imputation? Is it regeneration? Is it both, or all three?

If you make imputation rely on water baptism rather than God baptizing us into Christ, then the consistent implication would be a man-centered false gospel. Humans calling themselves the church are claiming to be one of the two (or three) factors in uniting us to Christ’s death.

Another weird thing that I notice is that, you could say make this statement, ie that it’s water and faith that hooks you up, and still say that what you are hooked up is what Christ did, not what you are doing. God caused you to hook up with the death, and then after you are hooked up, it’s not your faith or your hooking up that saves, because after that, it’s only Christ’s death saving you.

That order of salvation application would still be wrong, but logically you could read it that way, and the tradition does read it that way for “justification” but not for “sanctification”. Because some Reformed confessions tell folks that “sanctification” is a process, and they read that into the Bible.

Even more seriously, once you have “front-loaded” the gospel (or at least the order of application) with regeneration before imputation, then you don’t really have justification of the ungodly anymore. You have justification of the regenerate.

And with many folks it seems to be a very quick step from that statement to saying that the same regeneration which makes you godly enough to have the faith which is the condition of justification, that this same regeneration is going to make you godly enough and believe enough so you will keep getting better.

And most Calvinists think that, if you don’t agree with them about that, then you must be an Arminian who simply denies that we need to be regenerate before we can believe the gospel. So the Arminian idea of faith without needing a new birth first is seen as the only other alternative to the idea of sanctification as “getting better.

Saying you can have faith and be justified, all before you are
regenerate, that’s what Arminians say, and then some of these Arminians also deny (as I do) that “sanctification” is “regeneration causing you to be better”. The third alternative, the correct view, that imputation causes regeneration, is not much considered.

Of course it doesn’t divide up this neat, with Arminians and Calvinists on each side, because many of the Arminians (like Tozer) agree that “sanctification” means getting better and that if you don’t get better that means you weren’t justified. And many of the “Calvinists” don’t really talk about imputation at all, much
less imputation before faith. No, most Calvinists are only talking about regeneration being first, and not about the atonement, or election the atonement, imputation.

Most Calvinists doesn’t talk about election when they talk about legal identification with Christ’s death.They talk about “baptism” and faith and regeneration, not about election.

Even though there is a sense in which we “count ourselves dead to sin” (Romans 6), we sinners are never the primary imputers. Our counting only true if it’s based on God’s counting. We don’t do something to “make the exchange”. We don’t even “contribute our sins”. God already did or did not count our sins to Christ.

Also, in the application of Christ’s death to sinner, in our uniting to Christ’s death, again it’s not our counting which is first but God’s counting. We don’t believe so that God will impute. God imputes so that we believe.

Remember that “impute” sometimes has two sense, always  declare, but sometimes also “legally share We don’t ever cause the “legal sharing.  God both declares  and does legal sharing. We do declare, but only after God has declared, and we count (agree, say amen, reckon) based on God’s declaration.

But what good is this “declaration”, since it’s not audible words we hear from God, telling us “you are justified”? And no, when we hear a sacerdotalist or a clergyman’s absolution, that’s not God’s declaration, no matter if the guy is from Rome (I forgive you) or from Geneva (God forgives you).

So what good is a legal thought in God’s mind, a declarative transaction we can neither hear nor see? To me, it’s my only hope, because I know that a. this is the gospel which I believe and that b. I only believe it as a result of God’s imputation, and my believing it was not a condition to make it happen, to get me hooked up or in union with Christ.

I simply don’t care even if you were getting as better as you think, because if you are still a sinner (and have been, always been one) then your only hope is if God imputes Christ’s death to you. God won’t do that, if God has not already elected you and has not already imputed your sins to Christ when Christ already died.

Notice I did not say that “God won’t do that, if you don’t believe.” Rather, if you end up not believing the gospel about God’s imputation, then that will be evidence that God never imputed Christ’s death to you and that Christ never died for you.

And if you say that this is not fair and gives you nothing to do, then that shows you that your religion is still man-centered and that as of yet you have not been regenerated so that you believe the gospel.

There is of course a sense in which God hasn’t forgiven justified Christians yet for the sins they haven’t committed yet. But I would not say that dailty forgiveness depends on daily confession as its condition. What do we confess? Do we confess in order to be forgiven? Or we do confess the evil or our sins and also the grace of God already forgiving our sins?

There is an one time justification, a before and after, so that we have passed from death to life. We are not being re-justified every day, nor are we passing from death to life every day, even though some Lutheran rhetoric sounds that way. But that’s what you expect from people who think Christ died for and justified everybody, but that somehow in the end not all these folks are justified.

Sufficient for All, Efficient for Believers?

March 24, 2012

I certainly agree that the death of Jesus Christ is the only and entirely complete judicial satisfaction for the sins of anyone. But this satisfaction was never intended to be enough for the sins of the non-elect. It’s not enough to talk about the guaranteed success of the atonement for the elect, because we need to talk about the justice of the atonement and to do that we need to talk about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

It might sound rhetorically neat to say that Christ’s death is enough for the non-elect, but until somebody can tell me what Christ’s death did for the non-elect, all you have is deceptive language.

I Peter 1:18–“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

The Bible uses “commercial” language to talk about the blood of Christ being precious. One death once for all time is the only death Christ had to die for those whose sins were imputed to Him. God’s justice demanded the death of Christ because certain specific sins had been charged to Him by God the Trinity. This is not to say that Christ would have had to die twice if there had been more elect.

The old formula from Lombard was used in the political compromise of the Synod of Dordt, “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect”. In our day many who think themselves more prudent than God don’t want to talk about the word “elect” so instead they say— sufficient for all, efficient for the believer.

What we really need to see is not only the extent of the atonement but its nature. You can’t understand the nature of the atonement without knowing about its extent. But you can know about the extent and still not know about the justice of the atonement. What do people mean by “sufficient for the elect”?

If we don’t understand how Christ’s death is enough for the elect, denying that Christ’s death works for the non-elect will not explain the gospel. Why did Christ need to die for the elect?

The regeneration of the elect does not satisfy God’s justice. Nor is it the Holy Spirit’s application of benefits from Christ’s death which appeases God’s wrath. God’s wrath has already been appeased or not, and justification is what happens when the elect are legally joined to that death. There is no “union” which is more “real” than this legal counting. The legal counting is based on the elect being eternally united to Christ by election and by Christ’s real death for their sins alone.

We need to talk about Christ being “made sin” (II Cor 5:21) by the imputation of all the sins of the elect, and not only about Christ being made a “sin-offering”. The atonement has commercial and legal merit, not only because Christ can and does do things by measure (healing some but not others) but also because the Bible speaks about being bought by blood from the accusations of the law..

One good discussion in print on this is by Tom Nettles in By His Grace and For His glory and his chapter on “Christ Died for our Sins, According to the Scriptures.” Nettles questions the formula (sufficient/ efficient) used by Dordt while at the same time being honest about the history of its use.

Nettles quotes Andrew Fuller: “We could say that a certain number of Christ’s acts of obedience becomes ours as that certain number of sins becomes his. In the former case his one undivided obedience affords a ground of justification to any number of believers; in the latter, his one atonement is sufficient for the pardon of any number of sins or sinners.

Nettles explains that Fuller “misconceives the biblical relation of imputation. Justification should not be considered as analogous to atonement but rather to the imputation of Adam’s sin”.

I encourage you to read more of Nettles. Error one: the tradition leading from Edwards to Andrew Fuller tends to identify regeneration and effectual calling as the “real union” and then it tends to identify this “application” with the atonement itself. What many Calvinists mean by definite atonement is that the “real union” makes the atonement definite. Thus they make the Spirit’s work to be the real difference instead of Christ’s death. These same folks tend to question the traditional tulip. See for example the new book by Todd Billings on “union”

Nettles: “A second error is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as passive obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s passive obedience to what he actively accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

Nettles quotes John Dagg and Abraham Booth against the “sufficient” general view of the atonement. Booth’s Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60

“While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

And from Dagg’s Manual of Theology, p330: “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him.”

Nobody’s Born In Christ, Everybody’s Born in Adam

December 22, 2011

Romans 5:12 Therefore,just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 5 does not directly say that “all sinned in Adam”. Nor does this chapter ever use the word “imputation”. But the sin of verse 12 is not the result of death. The death is the result of “because all sinned”.

We look to the context in chapter 5 to see how it is that the all sinned. We all sinned because of the representative sin of Adam.
Adam was our substitute. We don’t need to sin ourselves to be condemned to death.

We are condemned to death because Adam sinned for us, as our representative. We are not guilty based on our corruption. Corruption is mediated to us because we are guilty. We do sin of course but before we did we were already constituted sinners. We were all born legally guilty in Adam.

Romans 5:13 “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”

It’s not only infants who died who did NOT sin like Adam. Everybody who died after Adam’s first sin but before the Mosaic law was given did NOT sin like Adam. Yet because of Adam’s sin, all these people died.

But didn’t these people live a while and then die? Why did they get to live even a little if they were born guilty? Genesis: in the day you eat, you will surely die. The death is sure, but not yet executed upon all those represented by Adam.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” ”Truly I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 Jesus did not wait until after He died to promise the justified thief that He would remember him. The promise to be with Jesus in paradise is sure, even on this day when Jesus died.

“David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up.” Acts 2:31

Romans 5:16 “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

Imputation is not first of all about the punishment of sins. Imputation is about the bearing of guilt. Infants who die have been imputed with Adam’s sin, and that doesn’t mean they only bear the punishment of Adam’s sin. Legally they sinned when Adam sinned.

So how did the elect die when Christ died? Again, the logical inference is by the imputation (legal transfer) of what their representative accomplished. What did Christ get done? What did Christ finish? Christ died for the sins of the elect imputed to Him.

Not only did God impute the sins of the elect to Christ, but God also imputes the death of Christ (this good and just death, because of sins) to the elect, in time and individually, one by one as God justifies these elect. This is talked about in the next chapter of Romans. Chapter 6 of Romans, like chapter 5, does not use the word “imputation”. But that is the basic meaning of “being placed into” or “planted into” Christ’s death.