Monday, September 4, 2017

Michael Horton on Union with Christ...

"Union with Christ is not to be understood as a “moment” in the application of salvation to believers. Rather, it is a way of speaking about the way in which believers share in Christ in eternity (by election), in past history (by redemption), in the present (by effectual calling, justification, and sanctification), and in the future (by glorification). Nevertheless, our subjective inclusion in Christ occurs when the Spirit calls us effectually to Christ and gives us the faith to cling to him for all of his riches...
"The motif of mystical union has often been presented as an alternative to the forensic (legal) motifs of redemption, especially vicarious substitution and justification. Since Albert Schweitzer, the thesis has repeatedly been advanced, refuted, and then advanced again that justification is a “subsidiary crater” in Paul, while the real central dogma is mystical union. Reginald Fuller notes, “Attempts have been made to pinpoint some other center or focus for Pauline theology, such as ‘being in Christ’ (Schweitzer) or salvation history (Johannes Munck).” However, “Romans, the most systematic exposition of Paul’s thought, clearly makes justification the center.” Not only in Paul but in the pre-Pauline creedal hymns we find this affirmation (2Ti 1: 9 and Tit 3: 4– 5)...
"Like Schweitzer, a variety of contemporary trends in Pauline studies as well as Reformation scholarship are driven by the presupposition that mystical participation in Christ stands over against a forensic emphasis on Christ’s alien righteousness imputed to believers. 3 Through the interpretive lens of union with Christ we can move beyond the false choice of a legal, judicial, and passive salvation on one hand and a relational, mystical, and transformative participation in Christ on the other. Nevertheless, as I argued in relation to Christ’s atoning work, the integral unity of these motifs is possible only because the latter is grounded in the former. As Geerhardus Vos expressed it,
In our opinion Paul consciously and consistently subordinated the mystical aspect of the relation to Christ to the forensic one. Paul’s mind was to such an extent forensically oriented that he regarded the entire complex of subjective spiritual changes that take place in the believer and of subjective spiritual blessings enjoyed by the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification. The mystical is based on the forensic, not the forensic on the mystical.
"In Romans 5, the covenantal union of humanity in Adam is contrasted with Christ’s covenantal headship, and then in chapter 6 we encounter his most explicit description of union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Ro 6: 1– 23; cf. 1: 3– 4; 4: 25; 1Co 15: 35– 58). Though they have been “in Christ” in God’s electing grace from all eternity (Eph 1: 4, 11; 2Ti 1: 9), their actual union with Christ occurs in time through the work of the Spirit. Throughout the Pauline corpus we encounter this emphasis on union with Christ."
[bold emphasis added]

Horton, Michael S. (2011-01-04). The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Kindle Locations 14544-14565). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thoughts on Sanctification continued...

WSC Q. 35. What is sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
WCF 13.1 Of Sanctification They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Random thoughts on the above: 
By the indwelling of the Word and Holy Spirit, through the virtue of the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection, believer's are really and personally further sanctified, i.e. renewed to the image of Christ and set apart unto righteousness; the result of regeneration which has created in us a new heart and new spirit (or as the English reformer Thomas Cranmer wrote - a new heart and "new right-will"). The dominion of sin is broken because the body of sin (all our guilt and sins) that stood against us has been nullified by Christ's payment for sin on our behalf. Condemnation and Death because of Sin no longer have any claim on those who are Christ's. By His Word and Spirit we are then enabled to grow in this free saving grace (the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection) and, yes, the domininion of sin is overthrown and its power weakened by Christ's death and resurrection through faith alone in him, his mediation. The "more and more" of WCF 13.1 is qualified by the second and third article of WCF 13:
This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh... In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail.
Christ's death on our behalf, paying our penalty due to our sin, is completely and eternally effectual for us. We died in his death to sin. Therefore we paid the penalty for our sin through Christ, our Surety's death for us. 
Rom. 6:6 - knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin.
The legal body of condemning evidence against the elect is done away! Sin can no longer be held up by the Law before God to condemn us. The Law's charge of guilty rightly due to our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west through our "death" in Christ on the cross. 
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:13-14).  
When condemnation does creep into my conscience the only safe harbor, then, is not in perfecting my works, but in the Gospel of Christ, the good news encapsulated in Jesus's last words on the cross, "It is finished."

We never (in this life or the next) cease to be the recipients of a fully gracious, God initiated and fully enacted salvation.  

The Bottom Line: Our Father in heaven is not looking for a remedy for the sins of the elect, the impurity of their fallen nature, or the remnant of sin which remains in their every thought, word, and deed other than that wrought by Christ. Hello... Good News... without qualification! 

If God's loving, gracious, and merciful salvation of sinners completed in Christ Jesus needs to be fortified by a purity born of our efforts against sin or pursuing godly works then this Good News of God will soon be replaced by either Despair or Self-Righteousness.

And to aid us in rightly responding to this abundant grace of God we find given to us by the Holy Spirit a new inward and godly desire, born of above, to present ourselves no longer as slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. And this is why our remaining sin so continues to vex us (Rom. 7 and Gal. 5}! 

So, having then been saved in order that we might be conformed to Christ's image, we're admonished and encouraged by the apostle Paul:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6:12-14)
Then, as the apostle Paul wrote, let us yield ourselves to the rule of Christ with faith and gratefulness and walk in the path of his righteousness, doing that which is good and acceptable in his sight, not angsting over the weight of our sins nor measuring the merit of our  good works.  Our overbearing load of debt is paid... The righteousness required before God is secured... By Christ alone!

We remain and always will remain the recipients of a fully gracious, God-initiated sanctification and salvation (Eph. 2:8-10)!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Thomas Boston: "Behold Him... Who Has Repaired the Breach..."

"Lastly, Here is a demonstration of the absolute necessity of being united to the Second Adam, who kept the second covenant, and thereby fulfilled the demands of the first covenant. See your absolute need of him; prize him, and flee to him by faith. Behold him with an eye of faith, who has repaired the breach. 

"The first Adam broke the first covenant, by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree; Christ has repaired the breach, by hanging on a tree, and bearing the curse, for his people. Adam's preposterous love to his wife made him sin: * Christ's love to his spouse made him suffer and satisfy. In a gadrden Adam sinned, and therefore in a garden Christ was buried. Eating ruined man, and by eating he is saved again. By eating the forbidden fruit all died; and by eating Christ's flesh and drinking his blood by faith, the soul gets life again, John vi. 57. 

"O then have recourse to Christ; and thus shall you be saved from the ruins of the fall, and have an interest in the covenant made with Christ, the condition of which being already fulfilled by him, can never be broken, or they who are once in it ever fall out of it again."
Whether Adam sinned out of love to his wife, is a question that has been agitated  among divines. A satisfactory solution of it may be seen in Witsius*s Economy, 8cc. book i. chap. viii. - 9.
Thomas Boston. A View of the Covenant of Works, p. 88 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Believer's Obedience Resides Under the Mercy Seat...

Were one to have stood in the Holy of Holies and looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, one would have seen that the Mercy seat sits above, covering the Ark in which sit the Ten Commandments of the Law. This divine design is a type (Lev. 16:14) that points to several New Covenant realities of Christ's finished work. One of which is that the good works of those justified by Christ's blood, though still stained with the remnant of sin as measured by God's holy requirement of the Law, are yet accepted fully and mercifully by God for the alone sake of Jesus Christ's perfect obedience and atonement imputed to them.

Regarding our works of obedience to God and Christ the Mercy Seat, Westminster Confession of Faith 16.6 explains the anti-type...
Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Calvin: To Admit Sinner into Union with God is to Justify Him...

"Hence the Apostle shows that man is at enmity with God until he is restored to favor by Christ, (Romans 5:8- l 0.) When the Lord, therefore, admits him to union, he is said to justify him, because he can neither receive him into favor, nor unite him to himself, without changing his condition from that of a sinner into that of a righteous man. He adds that this is done by remission of sins. For if those whom the Lord has reconciled to himself are estimated by works, they will still prove to be in reality sinners, while they ought to be pure and free from sin. It is evident therefore, that the only way in which those whom God embraces are made righteous, is by having their pollutions wiped away by the remission of sins, so that this justification may be termed in one word the remission of sins." [emphasis added]
Calvin, John. Institutes: Christian Religion Book 3.9.22

Calvin: Gift of Adoption by which God Admits Us into a Union with Christ...

"though we may be pressed down by adversity, yet we are not excluded from the number of God's children, since we see him going before us who was by nature his only Son; for that we are counted his children is owing only to the gift of adoption by which he admits us into a union with him, who alone lays claim to this honor in his own right." [emphasis added]
Calvin, John. Complete Commentaries, Hebrews 5:7

Calvin: Until Imputation of Righteouseness "Union with God Cannot Be Hoped For"

"We yesterday compared this passage of Habakkuk with the interpretation of Paul, who draws this inference, that we are justified by faith without the works of the law, because the Prophet teaches us that we are to live by faith, for the way of life and of righteousness is the same, inasmuch as life is not to be otherwise sought by us than through the paternal favor of God. This then is our life--to be united to God; but this union with God cannot be hoped for by us while he imputes sins to us; for as he is just and cannot deny himself, iniquity must be ever hated by him. Then as long as he regards us as sinners, he must necessarily hold us as hateful to him. Where the hatred of God is, there is death and ruin. It then follows, that we can have no hope of life until we be reconciled to God, and there is no other way by which God can restore us to favor, but by regarding and counting us as just. It hence follows, that Paul reasons correctly, when he leads us from life to righteousness; for they are two things which are connected and inseparable." [emphasis added]
Calvin, John. Complete Commentaries - Habakkuk.

Calvin: Justified, Believer Becomes One with Christ...

"To sum up the whole, this passage, first, teaches us to behold Christ with the eyes of faith; and, secondly, it informs us, that every one who is regenerated by the Spirit, and gives himself up entirely to God for true justification, is thus admitted to the closest union with Christ, and becomes one with him."
Calvin, John. Complete Commentaries - Matthew 12:48

Monday, July 31, 2017

Two Points Essential to Your Salvation

"The most effectual knowledge for your salvation is to understand these two points: the desperate sinfulness and misery of your own natural condition, and the alone sufficiency of the grace of God in Christ for your salvation, that you may be abased as to the flesh and exalted in Christ alone. And, for the better understanding these two main points, you should learn how the first Adam was the figure of the second (Rom. 5: 14); how sin and death came upon all the natural seed of the first Adam by his disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit, and how righteousness and everlasting life come upon all the spiritual seed of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, by His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. You also should learn the true difference between the two covenants, the old and the new, or the law and the gospel: that the former shuts us up under the guilt and power of sin, and the wrath of God and His curse, by its rigorous terms: 'Do all the commandments, and live; and, cursed are you if you do not do them, and fail in the least point'; the latter opens the gates of righteousness and life to all believers (i.e. the new covenant) by its gracious terms: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live,' that is, all your sins shall be forgiven, and holiness and glory shall be given to you freely by His merit and Spirit.

"Furthermore, you should learn the gospel principles that you are to walk by for the attainment of holiness in Christ. And here I shall mind you particularly that you would be a good proficient in Christian learning, if you get a good understanding of the sixth and seventh chapters of the apostle Paul to the Romans, where the powerful principles of sanctification are purposely treated of, and differenced from those weak and ineffectual principles, which we are most naturally prone to walk by.

"I need not particularly commend any other points of religion to your learning, for if you get the knowledge of these principal points, which I have mentioned, and improve it to a right end, which is, to live and walk by faith in Christ, your own renewed mind will cover the knowledge of all other things that appertain to life and godliness, and if in anything you be otherwise minded than is according to saving truth, God shall reveal even this to you (Phil. 3: 15).

"Yet let me caution you lest, instead of gaining Christ by your knowledge, you rather lose Him by putting your knowledge in the place of Christ, and trusting on it for your salvation.
Walter Marshall. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, pp 200-201 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sinai Covenant Added, Driving Israelites to Trust in the Promise/Covenant of Grace

"Hence we may conclude that the end which God aimed at in giving the law to Moses was not that any should ever attain to holiness or salvation by the condition of perfect or sincere obedience to it, though, if there had been any such way of salvation at that time, it must have consisted in the performance of that law, which was then given to the church to be a rule of life, as well as a covenant. There was another covenant made before that time with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a covenant of grace, promising all blessings freely through Christ, the promised seed, by which only they were to be saved. And the covenant of the law was added that they might see their sinfulness and subjection to death and wrath, and the impossibility of attaining to life or holiness by their works, and be forced to trust on the free promise only for all their salvation, and that sin might be restrained by the spirit of bondage until the coming of that promised seed Jesus Christ, and the more plentiful pouring out of the sanctifying Spirit, by Him. This the apostle Paul shows largely (Gal. 3: 15 -24; Rom. 5: 20, 21; 10: 3, 4). None of the Israelites under the Old Testament were ever saved by the Sinai covenant; neither did any of them ever attain to holiness by the terms of it. Some of them did indeed perform the commandments of it sincerely, though imperfectly, but those were first justified, and made partakers of life and holiness, by virtue of that better covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which was the same in substance with the new covenant or testament established by the blood of Christ. Had it not been for that better covenant, the Sinai covenant would have proved to them an occasion of no happiness, but only of sin, despair and destruction. Of itself it was only a killing letter, the ministration of death and condemnation, and therefore it is now abolished (2 Cor. 3: 6, 8, 9, 11). 
"We have cause to praise God for delivering His church, by the blood of Christ, from this yoke of bondage; and we have cause to abhor the device of those that would lay upon us a more grievous and terrible yoke, by turning our very new covenant into a covenant of sincere works, and leaving us no such better covenant, as the Israelites had under their yoke, to relieve us in our extremity."
Walter Marshall. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, pp 100-101 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Old Covenant, the Decalogue, and the Rule of Life...

"The covenant made with Israel on Mount Sinai is abolished by Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 8: 8, 9, 13). And the Ten Commandments do not bind us as they were words of that covenant (Exod. 34: 28). I mean, they do not bind us as conditions of that covenant, except we seek to be justified by works. For the law, as a covenant, still stands in force enough to curse those that seek salvation by their own works (Gal. 3: 10) and, if abolished, it is only to those that are in Christ by faith (Gal. 2: 16, 20; Acts 3: 22-25; 15: 10, 11). But the Ten Commandments bind us still, as they were then given to a people that were at that time under the covenant of grace made with Abraham, to show them what duties are holy, just and good, well-pleasing to God, and to be a rule for their conversation. The result of all is that we must still practice moral duties as commanded by Moses, but we must not seek to be justified by our practice. If we use them as a rule of life, not as conditions of justification, they can be no ministration of death, or killing letter to us. Their perfection indeed makes them to be harder terms to procure life by, but a better rule to discover all imperfections, and to guide us to that perfection which we should aim at. And it will be our wisdom not to part with the authority of the decalogue of Moses..."
Walter Marshall. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p 85

Friday, July 21, 2017

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places or - Are We Getting Any Better?

“Even though our outward man is wasting away, the inner man is being renewed day by day”

The yoke of the cross

Do we get better as Christians? Well, yes and no. Scripture does speak of being transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2) and of the inner man being renewed day by day. By grace Christians are more and more sanctified in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit set apart unto godly living in thought, word, and deed.  Yet all too often we seem less than victorious in that sanctification.  Real sin still remains in every part of of our being so that as the apostle Paul writes,  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. A warfare in which it often doesn't seem to ourselves that we are getting all that much better inasmuch as we are eye-witnesses against ourselves. We see our very real role in our very real failings. 

Could part of the disconnect be that we are still looking for evidence in our own works which can somehow stand the scrutiny of God's holy law apart from the free grace of justification in Christ? - for he who has died is justified from sin (Rom 6:7)! 

So, are we looking for love in all the wrong places?

From Calvin's Institutes, book 3:
This cause, then, appears to be threefold. First, God turning his eye away from the works of his servants which merit reproach more than praise, embraces them in Christ, and by the intervention of faith alone reconciles them to himself without the aid of works. Secondly the works not being estimated by their own worth, he, by his fatherly kindness and indulgence, honors so far as to give them some degree of value. Thirdly, he extends his pardon to them [i.e. our works as Christians], not imputing the imperfection by which they are all polluted, and would deserve to be regarded as vices rather than virtues... 
But, meanwhile, they observed not how far the works which they insisted on regarding as meritorious must be from fulfilling the condition of the promises, were they not preceded by a justification founded on faith alone, and on forgiveness of sins — a forgiveness necessary to cleanse even good works from their stains...
In this way we can admit not only that there is a partial righteousness in works (as our adversaries maintain), but that they are approved by God as if they were absolutely perfect. If we remember on what foundation this is rested, every difficulty will be solved. The first time when a work begins to be acceptable is when it is received with pardon. And whence pardon, but just because God looks upon us and all that belongs to us as in Christ? Therefore, as we ourselves when engrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed... 
Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone.
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Believers: Dead to the Guilt of Sin - Alive unto Righteousness...

 Even so we also should walk in newness of life., Romans 6:4b
It is the purpose of our rising with Christ, that we also, by the glory or power of the Father, 2 Corinthians 13:4, should walk in newness of life. The resurrection of Christ was the effect of the power of God, not in the ordinary way of nature, but of a supernatural exertion of power. In the same manner, believers are raised to walk in newness of life. It is thus that, when Paul, Ephesians 1:20, exalts the supernatural virtue of grace by which we are converted, he compares it to the exceeding greatness of that power by which Christ was raised from the dead. This shows the force of the Apostle’s answer to the objection he is combating. Believers are dead to the guilt of sin, and if so, the ground of their separation from God being removed His almighty power is engaged and asserted to cause them to walk with their risen Lord in that new life which they derive from Him. It was, then, the purpose of Christ’s death that His people should become dead to sin, and alive unto righteousness. ‘Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness,’1 Peter 2:24. On this same ground, when viewing it simply as a motive, Paul reminds believers that since they are dead with Christ, they should set their affections on things above, and not on things on the earth, assuring them that when He who is their life shall appear, then shall they also appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:4. And again he declares, ‘If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him,’ 2 Timothy 2:11.
Robert Haldane, Romans Commentary

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Prayer of John Calvin...

... and a prayer for all Christians...

"Grant, Almighty God, that since we are too secure and torpid in our sins, thy dread majesty may come to our minds, to humble us, and to remove our fear, that we may learn anxiously to seek reconciliation through Christ, and so abhor ourselves for our sins, that thou mayest then be prepared to receive us: and that unbelief may not shut the door against us, enable us to regard thee to be such as thou hast revealed thyself, and to acknowledge that thou art not like us, but the fountain of all mercy, that we may thus be led to entertain a firm hope of salvation, and that, relying on the Mediator, thy only-begotten Son, we may know him as the throne of grace, full of compassion and mercy. O grant, that we may thus come to thee, that through him we may certainly know that thou art our Father, so that the covenant thou hast made with us may never fail through our fault, even this, that we are thy people, because thou hast once adopted us in thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

Prayers of John Calvin from his Commentary on Hosea

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Salvation from Sin (4): "O Wretched Man That I Am!" And yet in a little while...


In the last place under this head, Jesus saves his people from the very being of sin.  
Though the true Christian is an heir of complete salvation, yet he is never completely saved from sin while he is in this world. Though he is transformed into the Divine image, by the renewing of his mind, 
there is, notwithstanding, a law in his members which wars against the law of his mind, and often brings him into captivity to the law of sin, so as to make him sometimes exclaim as the holy apostle Paul did, "Oh wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" who shall deliver me from this cruel, this deceitful enemy, which often wounds my soul, disturbs my peace, retards my progress in the spiritual life, darkens my evidences for heaven, and prevents my complete happiness? 
How long shall I go mourning, because of the oppression of this enemy! The Christian shall have reason thus to complain of indwelling sin, while he is in this valley of tears; and the higher the degree of holiness is to which he attains, the more sensibly he will feel it, and the more bitterly will he complain of it. 
The triumphing of this enemy, however, is but short; its destruction is fast approaching. Yet a little while, and Jesus will call the oppressed believer, not only to put off the tabernacle of flesh and blood, but to put off the body of sin and death, so as never to be troubled with it any more forever. 
Then sinning and suffering, sorrowing and sighing, shall cease at once. When spiritual death is entirely swallowed up in victory, "the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people will he take away." — Thus Jesus saves his people from the guilt, the dominion, the defilement, and the very being of sin: He saves them from the guilt of sin, in justification; from the dominion of sin, in conversion; from the defilement of sin, in sanctification; and from the very being of it, in glorification.
 - John Colquhoun. Sermon XIV, Salvation from Sin.  ( emphasis added)