Friday, March 28, 2014

Penal Consequences of Sin Removed - No More Condemnation to Them Who Are in Christ Jesus

Hodge comments on the judicial nature of our justification in Christ.  Before the Law our sin has charged to Christ's account and his law-penalty payment and perfect obedience being credited to our account. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XI - Of Justification
As to its nature, this justification is a purely judicial act of God as judge, whereby he pardons all the sins of a believer, and accounts, accepts, and treats him as a person righteous in the eye of the divine law.
From the universal meaning of the English word to justify, and of the equivalent Greek word in the New Testament. They both are alike always used to express an act declaring a man to be square with the demands of law, never to express an act makinghim holy. (Gal. 2:16; 3:11.) (b) In Scripture, justification is always set forth as the opposite of condemnation. The opposite of "to sanctify" is "to pollute" but the opposite of "to justify" is "to condemn." (Rom. 8:30-34; John 3:18.) (c) The true sense of the phrase "to justify" is clearly proved by the terms used in Scripture as equivalent to it. For example: "To impute righteousness without works"; "To forgive iniquities"; "To cover sins." (Rom. 4:6-8.) "Not to impute transgression unto them." (2 Cor. 5:19.) "Not to bring into condemnation." (John 5:24.)...
Because the Scriptures affirm that this righteousness is imputed to the believer in the act of justification. The phrase "to impute sin" or "righteousness," in its scriptural usage, signifies simply to set to one's account, to lay to one's charge or credit as the ground of judicial process. Our sins are said to have been laid upon Christ (Isa. 53:6,12; Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24), because their guilt was so charged to his account that they were justly punished in him. In like manner Christ's righteousness is imputed, or its rewardableness is so credited to the believer that all the covenanted honors and rewards of a perfect righteousness henceforth rightly belong to him. (Rom. 4:4-8; 2 Cor. 5:19-21.) For the usage of the Hebrew and Greek equivalents of "imputation" (see Gen. 31:15; Lev. 7:18; Num. 18:27-30; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37; Rom. 2:26; 4:3-9; 2 Cor. 5:19). This doctrine of our Standards is that of the whole Protestant body of the Reformed and Lutheran Churches...
The first truth asserted in this section is, that Christ, by his obedience and death, has fully paid the debt of those who are Justified; and that he made for them a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice. In connection with the above, the second truth that is taught here is, that this justification is, as it respects the persons justified, from beginning to end a stupendous manifestation of the free grace of God.
The fact that Christ's righteousness is the ground of justification, and that his righteousness in strict rigor fully satisfies all the demands of the divine law, instead of being inconsistent with the perfect freedom and graciousness of justification, vastly enhances its grace. It is evident that God must either sacrifice his law, his elect, or his Son (Gal. 2:21; 3:21). It is no less plain that it is a far greater expression of love and free grace to save the elect at the expense of such a sacrifice than it would be to save them either at the sacrifice of principle or in case no sacrifice of any kind was needed.
The cross of Christ is the focus in which the most intense rays alike of divine grace and justice meet together, in which they are perfectly reconciled. This is the highest reach of justice, and at the same time and for the same reason the highest reach of grace the universe can ever see. The self-assumption of the penalty upon the part of the eternal Son of God is the highest conceivable vindication of the absolute inviolability of justice, and at the same time the highest conceivable expression of infinite love. Justice is vindicated in the vicarious suffering of the very penalty in strict rigor. Free grace is manifested-(1) In the admittance of a vicarious sufferer. (2) In the gift of God's beloved Son for that service. (3) In the sovereign election of the persons to be represented by him. (4) In the glorious rewards which accrue to them on condition of that representation...
Christ paid the penal, not the money debt of his people. It is a matter of free grace that his substitution was admitted. The satisfaction, therefore, does not liberate ipso facto , like the payment of a money debt, but sets the real criminal free only on such conditions and at such times as had been previously agreed upon between God, the gracious sovereign, on the one hand, and Christ, their representative and substitute, on the other hand. Christ died for his people in execution of a covenant between himself and his Father, entered into in eternity. The effects of his death, therefore, eventuate precisely as and when it is provided in the covenant that it should do so...
In justification the believer's relation to the law is permanently changed. It is no more the basis of his salvation...
If his sins are forgiven, the penal consequences of them must be removed. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Rom. viii.
A.A. Hodge, Commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Charged With the Elect's Guilt, Christ Suffered - the Just for the Unjust...

"That the sins of his people were imputed to him, is plainly affirmed: 'The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.'-- Isa. liii. 6. It is declared, that Christ suffered, for sins, for the unjust, for the transgressions of his people; which necessarily supposes that he was charged with their guilt."

WCF 8.4 - Robert Shaw's commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, The Reformed Faith 1845:  
Christ willingly undertook the office, not only of a mediator, but also of a surety. A surety is one who engages to pay a debt, or to suffer a penalty, incurred by another. Such a surety is our Lord Jesus Christ. He undertook, in the everlasting covenant, to be responsible to the law and justice of God for that boundless debt which his elect were bound to pay. And having become their surety, by his Father’s appointment and his own voluntary engagement, their guilt was legally transferred to him, and all his obedience and sufferings in their nature were vicarious, or in the room of those whom he represented before God. "Our Lord’s suretyship is denied by the Socinians, who maintain, that he did not suffer and die in our stead, but only for our good; or to confirm his doctrine, and to leave us an example of patience and resignation to the will of God under our suffering. His proper suretyship is also denied by the Neonomians, who maintain, that ‘he only satisfied divine justice for sinners, in so far as it was necessary to render it consistent with God’s honour to enter into lower terms of salvation with them.’ And it is likewise denied by all those who are opposed to the doctrine of the imputation of our sins to Christ, and are the advocates of a general and indefinite atonement." They may speak of Christ as the substitute of sinners, and of his sufferings as vicarious, but the doctrine of his proper suretyship, which necessarily involves the imputation to him of the guilt of his people, and his endurance of the punishment which they had incurred, can have no place in their system. In Scripture, however, the term surety is expressly applied to Christ.—Heb. vii. 22. And he is not, as Socinians allege, a surety for God, to secure the performance of his promises to us, but a surety to God for elect sinners; and, as such, engaged to pay the debt of obedience which they owed to the law, as a covenant of works, and the debt of punishment which they had contracted by sin. That the sins of his people were imputed to him, is plainly affirmed: "The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all."—Isa. liii. 6. It is declared, that Christ suffered, for sins, for the unjust, for the transgressions of his people; which necessarily supposes that he was charged with their guilt.—1 Pet. iii. 18; Isa. liii.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Imputation of Sin to Christ - Excerpts...

John Owen
Pardon of sin is in God, with respect unto the sinner, a free, gratuitous act: "Forgiveness of sin through the riches of his grace." But with respect unto the satisfaction of Christ, it is an act in judgment. For on the consideration thereof, as imputed unto him, does God absolve and acquit the sinner upon his trial. But pardon on a juridical trial, on what consideration soever it be granted, gives no right nor title unto any favour, benefit, or privilege, but only mere deliverance. It is one thing to be acquitted before the throne of a king of crimes laid unto the charge of any man, which may be done by clemency, or on other considerations; another to be made his son by adoption, and heir unto his kingdom.

And these things are represented unto us in the Scripture as distinct, and depending on distinct causes: so are they in the vision concerning Joshua the high priest, Zech.3:4,5, "And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair metre upon his head. So they set a fair metre upon his head, and clothed him with garments." It has been generally granted that we have here a representation of the justification of a sinner before God. And the taking away of filthy garments is expounded by the passing away of iniquity. When a man's filthy garments are taken away, he is no more defiled with them; but he is not thereby clothed. This is an additional grace and favour thereunto,--namely, to be clothed with change of garments. And what this raiment is, is declared, Isa.61:10, "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness;" which the apostle alludes unto, Phil.3:9. Wherefore these things are distinct,-- namely, the taking away of the filthy garments, and the clothing of us with change of raiment; or, the pardon of sin, and the robe of righteousness. By the one are we freed from condemnation; by the other have we right unto salvation. And the same is in like manner represented, Ezek.16:6-12.

by J. V. Fesko
Generally speaking, Calvin understood that man “is said
to be justified in God’s sight who is both reckoned righteous in
God’s judgment and has been accepted on account of his
righteousness.” This means for Calvin that there are two constituent
elements of justification: the remission of sins and the need for
righteousness. This is evident in his definition of justification: “The
acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous
men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the
imputation of Christ’s righteousness...”

How are they justified? Calvin explains that men are
returned to God’s favor “by being regarded as righteous, by
obtaining the remission of their sins. As long as God imputes our
sins to us, He cannot but regard us with abhorrence, for He cannot
look with friendship or favor upon sinners.”27 Here we see, then,
Calvin’s emphasis upon the remission of sins, but what about the
imputation of Christ’s righteousness?...

Calvin explains that the believer’s remission of sin comes
through Christ’s sacrifice: “As a man’s curse used to be cast upon
the sacrificial victim, so Christ’s condemnation was our absolution
and with His stripes we are healed.”28 So, at least at this point, one
should take note how justification is intertwined with Christ’s
atonement. The first element of justification, the remission of sins,
is inextricably linked with Christ’s sacrifice. We find emphasis upon
the second element, the imputation of righteousness, when Calvin
comments upon 2 Corinthians 5:21:

"How can we become righteous before God? In the same way as
Christ became a sinner. For He took, as it were, our person, that He
might be the offender in our name and thus might be reckoned a
sinner, not because of His own offences but because of those of
others, since He Himself was pure and free from every fault and
bore the penalty that was our due and not His own. Now in the
same way we are righteous in Him, not because we have satisfied
God’s judgment by our own works, but because we are judged in
relation to Christ’s righteousness which we have put on by faith,
that it may become our own."

While Calvin does not say so in the most specific terms, his
interpretation is one that hinges upon imputation: the imputation of
the sins of the ungodly to Christ, which is the remission of sins, and
the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Where
the emphasis upon imputation is the strongest comes in Calvin’s
appeal to Romans 5:19.
Commenting on Romans 5:19 Calvin makes the connection
between the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the
believer when he writes that Paul

"states that we are made righteous by the obedience of Christ, we
deduce from this that Christ, in satisfying the Father, has procured
righteousness for us. It follows from this that righteousness exists
in Christ as a property, but that that which belongs properly to
Christ is imputed to us. At the same time he explains the character
of the righteousness of Christ by referring to it as obedience."30

Here the connections between the obedience, or righteousness, of
Christ and imputation emerge quite clearly. Moreover, from this
triad of scriptural passages one can see the inextricable links
between the remission of sin, the imputation, of sin to Christ, and
righteousness, or obedience, to the believer. It is based upon
Calvin’s analysis of Romans 4:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, and
Romans 5:19, then, that Calvin is able to conclude that justification
involves the remission of sin and the imputation of the
righteousness of Christ.

Covenant Theology Illustrated:
Romans 5 on the Federal Headship of Adam and Christ.
by Stephen M. Baugh, Ph.D.

We have seen that Adam in Romans 5:12-21 was the federal representative of his race under the covenant of works. Some theologians reject this understanding of Paul's teaching outright, because it "violates all sense of justice."20 But if we are to use our "sense of justice" as an ultimate criterion for judging the truths of Scripture, then shouldn't we deny all covenant imputation as well? If sin cannot be imputed from one to many, conversely it cannot be imputed from many to one. Under this method, how can we maintain that "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" "the righteous for the unrighteous" (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; cf. Isa. 53)? Shouldn't this violate our sense of justice, too? And if our sins were not imputed to Christ, neither can his righteousness become ours (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). Then we would all be cut off from Christ and personally obligated (as was Adam), to keep all of God's holy law ourselves (Gal. 5:2-3 again).

A.A. Hodge on the Imputation of Sin to Christ:
2. The phrase to “impute sin,” or “righteousness,” in its scriptural usage signifies simply to set to one’s account, to lay. to one’s charge or credit as a ground of legal process. The thing imputed may belong to the person to whom it is imputed originally. In that case it is imputed in the sense of being simply charged to him, made the ground of a legal indictment preparatory to judicial process. Or the thing imputed may not be originally his, but may be made his by the imputation, because of the legal connection subsisting between the person to whom the thing originally belonged and him to whom it is imputed. Thus, not to impute sin to the doer of it is of course not to charge the guilt of his own sin upon him as a ground of punishment. To impute righteousness without works can only mean to credit a believer with the rewardableness of a righteousness which did not originate with himself. Rom. iv. 4-8. God in Christ not imputing their trespasses unto his people, is, of course, God for Christ s sake not charging their trespasses to them as a ground of punishment. 2 Cor. v. 19. Christ must be made sin for us in precisely the same sense that we are made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor. v. 21. But, as will be shown below, we are justified or pronounced righteous in Christ forensically, as a matter of legal relation, not made inherently righteous by the infusion of grace. The macula or pollution of sin might possibly be transmitted by generation. Otherwise it must ever remain the inalienable personal quality of the individual sinner. It is an absurdity, for which no class of Reformed theologians have ever been responsible, to represent personal character, either good or bad, as transferable from one person to another by imputation. All that can be imputed from person to person is the guilt or legal obligation to punishment of any sin, and that only in those cases in which the person to whom it is imputed has become in some way or other justly responsible for the action of the person the guilt of whose sin is imputed.

This usage of the word “impute”; is not a creation of “artificial theology” as is asserted by Dr. Young and by all those who maintain either the “Moral” or the “Governmental” theory of the Atonement. This is evident, because–

(1) this sense is embraced in the classical usage of the word logizomai. Its primary sense is to count, reckon. Then, when construed with a person in the dative and a thing in the accusative, it signifies to set down that thing to the account of that person, and is thus equivalent to the Latin term impurare.1 Ainsworth defines imputare– “to ascribe, to charge; to lay the blame or fault on any one.” Suidas Lexicon–“logizo, reputo; et logisomai, computabo; et logioumai, numerabo, computabo; et logo, existimo, ut illud: et imputatem est ipsi in justitiam.”

(2.) The same is true of the usage of the Hebrew chashab in the Old Testament. The daughters of Laban complained (Gen. xxxi. 15) that their father “counted” them strangers–that is, regarded and treated them as strangers:

If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offers it; it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eats of it shall bear his iniquity. Lev. vii. 18.

The sacrifice was offered as a matter of fact, but was not set to the credit of the offerer as acceptable or effective. The heave-offering of the Levites was to be “reckoned as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor, and as the fullness of the wine-press.” Numb, xviii. 27, 30. That Phineas slew the offending Israelite at Shittim a was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.” Ps. cvi. 31.

(3.) The same is true with regard to the New Testament usage of the word logizomai. Christ, referring to Isa. liii. 12, said: “For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors.” Luke xxii. 37. “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” Rom. ii. 26. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Gal. iii. 6. “To him that works, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” “To him that works not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” David speaks of the blessedness of the man “to whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works–to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” & “Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.” Rom. iv. 3-9.”God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Cor. v. 19. “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge,” 2 Tim. iv. 16. “He was numbered with the transgressors.” Mark xv. 28. “But also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be counted for naught,”2 Acts xix. 27.
The Scriptures plainly teach, therefore, that all the guilt or obligation to punishment incurred by the sins of his people was imputed or charged to the account of Christ, as the legal ground of the execution upon him of the penalty involved in the case. Yet, notwithstanding that the guilt of all our sins is thus charged to Christ, and expiated in him, all their blame, shame, pollution and power, as inherent personal habits or principles, remain all the while inalienably ours. These sins are none the less ours, after their imputation to him, than they were before, (a.) The very force of the imputation is to make him alienee culpce reus; that is, penally responsible for another s sin. They must remain ours in order that they may be to him the sins of an other.
(6.) Because personal moral qualities, and the pollution inherent in sinful ones, are inalienable and cannot be transferred by imputation, (c.) Because, as Owen pointed out long ago, to be alienee culpce reus makes no man a sinner, subjectively considered, unless he did unwisely or irregularly undertake the responsibility, (d.) Because our blessed Lord was a divine Person, and therefore absolutely incapable of personal sin in any sense or degree. While, therefore, he bore our sins, and consequently suffered the penalty involved, and hence was both regarded and treated by the Father, during the time and for the purpose of expiation, as vicariously guilty and worthy of wrath, he was all the while not one iota the less personally immaculate and glorious in holiness, and all the more the well-beloved Son of the Father, in whom he was well pleased.

All this the orthodox have always held and carefully expressed. We regard it, then, as an evident sign of weakness, and as an offense against honorable argument, when the advocates of the Governmental Theory (as for instance, Jenkyns, Fiske, and others), by studiously confounding the imputation of guilt with the transference of personal inherent sinful character, and by habitually setting forth the coarse and indiscriminating language of Luther on this subject as a fair representation of the Satisfaction Theory, disingenuously insinuate that at least the more self-consistent of the orthodox have held the blasphemy that Christ was made personally a sinner when he bore our sins upon the tree.
A. A. Hodge, The Atonement (London: T. Nelson And Sons, 1868), 158-162.
[Note: The point is, Christ is treated as though he were a sinner thereby answering the demands of justice due to our sins, but all the while we remain sinners, subject to the wrath of God. Neither actual sin-pollution or sinful acts are transferred to Christ.]

Imputation of Sin to Christ: George Smeaton

Were the sins of the elect imputed to Christ? The following is a section of George Smeaton's on the atonement of Christ.
We have only further to add, in connection with this interpretation, that when these words are put together, it will be found that the Son of God took sin upon Him, and bore it simultaneously with the taking of the flesh, nay, in a sense even prior to the actual fact of the incarnation. The peculiar character of the Lord's humanity, which was, on the one hand, pure and holy, and yet, on the other, a curse-bearing humanity, plainly shows that in some sense He was the sin-bearer from the moment of His sending, and, therefore, even prior to His actual incarnation. And when it is said that God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh, we have the very same thing. Whether, therefore, We affirm or not that the phrase, "to bear sin," in its application to God, treats of God the Son, it may suffice to say that it refers to the God of redemption. There is, I think, ground to hold that the same constant and uniform rendering should be retained even in this connection. This will intimate that sin was borne by God, not alone in the sense of forbearance, but in such a sense that it was laid on the sin-bearer, to be expiated by a divine fact in the true and proper sense. We assert, then, the constant and uniform sense of this phraseology in all its four fold application ; and when challenged to go through with our interpretation, we reply that we do go through with it. And certainly this last usage furnishes no loophole through which its proper force can be evaded as has been so often. attempted by Socinianizing writers, in former as well as in more recent times. 
Thus the Lamb of God appeared without inherent sin or taint of any kind, but never without the sin of others. The sin of man was not first imputed to Him or borne by Him when He hung on the cross, but in and with the assumption of man's nature, or, more precisely, in and with His mission. The very form of a servant, and His putting on the likeness of sinful flesh, was an argument that sin was already transferred to Him and borne by Him; and not a single moment of the Lord's earthly life can be conceived of in which He did not feel the harden of the divine wrath which must otherwise have pressed on us for ever. Hence, "to hear sin" is the phrase of God's word for freeing us from its punishment.
Because He bore sin, and was never seen without it, it may be affirmed that the mortality which was comprehended in the words, "Thou shalt surely die"—that is, all that was summed up in the wrath and curse of God,—was never really separated from Him, though it had its hours of culmination and its abatements. Hence, without referring further at present to the character of the suffering, it evidently appears that, as the sin-bearer, He all through life discerned and felt the penal character of sin, the sense of guilt, not personal, but as the surety could realize it, and the obligation to divine punishment for sins not His own, but made His own by an official action; and they who evacuate of their true significance these deep words, "that beareth the sins of the world," allowing Christ to have no connection with sin, and only dwelling on His purity and spotless innocence as our example—they who will not have Him as a sin-bearer, who took sin to Himself, and wrapped Himself in it—are the most sacrilegious of robbers and obscurers of His grace. This deep abasement is the glory of His incarnation.
If, then, we put together the elements of this testimony to the Lord's atonement, they are these: (1) It was of God's gracious appointment—"the Lamb of God;" (2) it essentially lay in the vicarious element of the transaction,—it was the bearing of the sin of others, or of the world; (3) it was a bearing or a penal endurance; (4) it was sacrificial, being the truth of the shadows in the previous economy; (5) it was without distinction of nationality.
It follows, that if Christ bore sin, His people do not need to bear it. It follows, also, that since God has appointed this way of deliverance, there is no other way.
Smeaton, George, 1814-1889. The Doctrine of the Atonement : as taught by Christ himself, or The sayings of Jesus on the atonement, exegetically expounded and classified

Monday, March 24, 2014

Justification & Union with Christ: Clearing up the Confusion

From J. V. Fesko's article A More Perfect Union: Justification and Union With Christ:
Bishop and Pauline scholar N. T. Wright is well-known for his rejection of the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. He argues that everything that one would receive through imputation, one receives through union with Christ. Union with Christ makes imputation a redundancy. While Wright does not specifically state it in these terms, his rejection of imputation seems to rely upon the older tendency pointed out above, to subsume the order of salvation (ordo salutis) to union with Christ. Wright, for example, argues that the Reformed understanding of the order of salvation, while perhaps reflective of the Reformed tradition, is not necessarily reflective of Paul's theology. Rich Lusk, a former Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and current Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) pastor, has a similar understanding of the relationship between justification and union with Christ.
Lusk also sees a conflicting tension between the legal and relational categories in traditional Reformed theology: "The covenant of works construction strikes at the filial nature of covenant sonship. Adam was God's son, not his employee." Given the supposed incompatibility of the legal and relational, it should be no surprise that Lusk allows the believer's union with Christ to swallow legal aspects of the believer's justification:
"This justification requires no transfer or imputation of anything. It does not force us to reify "righteousness" into something that can be shuffled around in heavenly accounting books. Rather because I am in the Righteous One and the Vindicated One, I am righteous and vindicated. My in-Christ-ness makes imputation redundant. I do not need the moral content of his life of righteousness transferred to me; what I need is a share in the forensic verdict passed over him at the resurrection. Union with Christ is therefore key."
Here Lusk argues that union with Christ makes legal elements of the believer's justification redundant and unnecessary, specifically that of the imputed active obedience of Christ....
... The Reformed tradition bases the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ, even his active obedience, on such passages as Romans 5:12-21 (WCF 6.3, 11.1; cf. Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 60). Why, for example, does Paul contrast the disobedience of Adam with the obedience of Christ? Paul writes, "For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19). As John Murray explains, "The parallel to the imputation of Adam's sin is the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Or to use Paul's own terms, being 'constituted sinners' through the disobedience of Adam is parallel to being 'constituted righteous' through the obedience of Christ." Clearly, Romans 5:19 restates what Paul has stated in the previous verse: "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all" (Rom. 5:18).
There is no mistaking the parallel between Christ's obedience, which is righteousness, and the imputation of this righteousness to the believer. Commenting on the abiding significance of Genesis 15:6 and the imputation of righteousness, Paul writes: "That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness.' But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 4:22-24). Note here the English Standard Version translates the Greek word logizomai as "counted," which the King James Version translates as "imputed." Here Paul taps into the ancient stream of the special revelation of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, to argue for the imputed righteousness of Christ, and arguably also has other passages such as Isaiah 53 in mind when writing these things: "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19-21).
We should also note, however, that in all of Paul's argumentation for his doctrine of justification and especially the imputed active obedience of Christ, he can write everything that we have surveyed, and at the same time also write without qualification or wincing: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). If condemnation is the antonym for justification, then we can also reword Romans 8:1 to say, "There is therefore now justification for those who are in Christ Jesus" (emphasis added). In other words, a robust doctrine of justification that includes the imputed active and passive obedience of Christ is not antithetical to our union with Christ, nor is it superfluous. Rather, it is the legal aspect of our union with Christ. As A. A. Hodge explains, our union with Christ has a federal and representative character. Once again, what God has joined together, let man not separate. This brings us to one last element to consider, namely that justification is the ground of our sanctification...
...In terms of union with Christ and justification, Berkhof therefore explains that "justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing condition, but on that of a gracious imputation-a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the special grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us." What we must realize, then, is that the ground of our redemption is the work of Christ; correlatively, we should also recognize that the ground of our sanctification is our justification. In other words, apart from the legal-forensic work of Christ, received by imputation through faith, there is no transformative work of the Holy Spirit. Or, using the title of John Murray's famous book, apart from redemption accomplished, there can be no redemption applied (see WCF 11.3; Larger Catechism, Q/A 70).
The entire essay can be read at Modern Reformation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Some Thoughts on Union, Gospel, Faith...

The phrase – union with the resurrected Christ by faith is the central motif of Paul’s applied soteriology (Gaffin, OPC, Resurrection and Redemption, p 132) – is a debatable notion and one that arguably can lead in a subjective direction depending on its use and emphasis. Why? Because the phrase union with Christ as it is often used tends to point towards accessing something within me rather than appropriating by faith something without me and done for me. ‘Union with Christ’ as a central motif for the believer tilts one toward the experiential/positional as the focus for Christian living as opposed to the legal or forensic (election/federal) in which the elect are identified as ‘in Christ’ their Surety (Eph 1:3; Rom 6:3-5). My concern is that the focus on union unwittingly causes the eye to turn to one's inward experience of sanctity rather than to the finished work of Christ, the object of our faith - something outside of us and our experience - the good news of Jesus Christ which is the message that
to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works (Rom 4:5-6)
The power of salvation is in that message – the gospel. And it is that message of justification received through faith,  looking to Jesus Christ and not our experience, that communicates Christ and all his benefits. Justified through faith we are united to Christ by that same faith. But the focus of our faith isn’t our union with Christ. We are united to Christ through faith in him. Faith, enlivened in us by the Spirit's effectual call, looks to Christ. Imputed with Christ's righteousness we are justified through faith and united to him.

Walter Marshall (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification):
“Therefore, saving faith must necessarily contain two acts, believing the truth of the gospel, and believing on Christ, as promised freely to us in the gospel, for all salvation. By the one, it receives the means in which Christ is conveyed to us; by the other, it receives Christ Himself, and His salvation in the means, as it is one act to receive the breast or cup in which milk or wine are conveyed, and another act to suck the milk in the breast and to drink the wine in the cup… Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6). The former of these acts does immediately unite us to Christ, because it is terminated only on the means of conveyance, the gospel; yet it is a saving act, if it be rightly performed, because it inclines and disposes the soul to the latter act, whereby Christ Himself is immediately received into the heart. He that believes the gospel with hearty love and liking, as the most excellent truth, will certainly with the like heartiness believe on Christ for salvation.”
The means of communicating salvation to dead sinners and nourishing God's people is the gospel which is news of a divine historical event having nothing directly to do with our subjective experience. And the gospel message is not the message of our union with Christ, which faith cannot properly have as its object. The object of faith is Christ Jesus alone and what he did to save the elect. He is the good news of God's redemptive act of  grace for sinners accomplished on the cross. And he is received by the gift of faith as God effectually calls each one. Through believing the good news that Christ died for sinners, one believes not only the good news of forgiveness and righteousness imputed through faith alone but at the same time receives Christ himself. Trusting in Christ as he is presented in the gospel, by the working of the Holy Spirit, believers are united to Christ. Look away with the eyes of faith to Jesus alone, the author and perfecter of faith.

WSC Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Justification: Basis is Imputation not Union...

Louis Berkhof:
“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner.” (systematic, p 452)

Monday, March 17, 2014

From whence our confidence?

Michael Horton -
Thus it is not only through the doctrine of justification that we are able to assure disquieted consciences that God is gracious to them, but on the wider basis of the Abrahamic covenant of grace. "The covenant is neither a hypothetical relationship, nor a conditional position; rather it is the fresh, living fellowship in which the power of grace is operative." Not only at one point (justification), but from beginning to end, the relationship in which we stand before our God is founded on God's own oath, fulfilled in the work of his Son, made effective through the work of his Spirit. For Christ, by his personal fulfillment of the covenant of creation [works], has won for us the right to eat from the Tree of Life. The inheritance that he attained according to a covenant of law is now ours according to a covenant of promise. There simply is no better foundation for confidence and no richer source of daily comfort in life and in death.
 -( p. 110, Introducing Covenant Theology)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Whole Work of Salvation is Called 'Mercy'

"Those attributes which God accounts his greatest riches and greatest glory, Rom. 9:23, even his mercy and free grace, which he intends most to exalt, never saw light till now; the doctrine of salvation by Christ being the stage, wherein only it is represented, and elsewhere it is not to be seen, and upon it acts the greatest part, for all passages in it tend to this, to shew, as Eph. 2:5, that 'by grace we are saved;' and therefore, 1 Peter 2:10, the whole work of salvation is called 'mercy,' all God's ways to his people are mercy, Ps. 25:10, the whole plot and frame of it is made of mercy, and therefore the doctrine of the gospel is called grace, Titus 2:10, 11. Mercy manageth the plot, gives all other attributes, as it were, their parts to act; mercy enters in at the beginning, acts the prologue in election; and, giving Christ, continues every part of it, sets all a-work, ends the whole in glory…"
Thomas Goodwin: The Glory of the Gospel, Sermon 1

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grateful Obedience Honors and Delights God...

"True assurance of salvation can be found only in placing our faith in Christ alone, who has been raised for our justification (Rom 4:25; 1 Cor 15:20-23). Furthermore, true God-honoring holiness flows out of a gospel of free grace that does not measure our standing before God based upon any degree of moral performance. In fact, the gospel declares that Christ alone fulfilled all the obligations of the covenant on our behalf. Out of gratitude and not fear, then, the Christian, forgiven of sin and declared righteous by faith alone in Christ alone, pursues the kind of holiness that honors and delights God."
Julius J. Kim: p. 396, "The Rise of Moralism in Seventeenth Century Anglican Preaching" - Covenant, Justification, Pastoral Ministry

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gospel Threatenings...

Some reflections...

A reader asked me if my recent posts on sanctification were a response to a particular blogger's essay
posted in response to what Tullian Tchividjian had recently written. The blogger uses a quote from John Owen's commentary on Hebrews. Answer - no, my recent essays aren't a response to those particular links. I hadn't read either until today. 

Starting about 3-4 years ago I began posting on sanctification looking closely at the notion of whether our efforts or works were ingredients of that which sanctifies us, i.e. a necessary contribution to intrinsic righteous. Part us, part God so to speak. In my own struggles with sin this had seemed a sure road to failure and despair. And, this synergistic approach to sanctification didn't jive with what I was reading from Calvin, Owen, many current reformed theologians, the Reformed standards, and Scripture. 

A few of my most recent posts, though, have indeed been offered with a view to the charge of antinomianism being leveled at some Reformed who teach a classical distinction between law and gospel. As is the case, terms are often not well defined when we argue from a set conviction in order to prove someone wrong. In his commentary on Hebrews Owen, as did most reformed theologians of the orthodox period, uses the term gospel in both a broad sense - all the teachings of Christ and the apostles including law passages - and in a narrow or proper sense - promise fulfilled in Christ - "It is finished." He also uses law in a broad sense (the old Mosaic covenant or entire Old Testament) as well as in a narrow sense (the law's demand for perfect obedience, its threatenings, and also as the rule or guide for godly living). 

The law and its threatenngs as taught in Scripture are to accompany the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for the salvation of sinners. Why? As Owen writes in Hebrews commentary, "Because they become the gospel." That is, the law and its threatenings are suitable or proper to accompany the good news.  The orthodox Reformed theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries called this preaching law and gospel. Together they make up the message of the gospel in its broad sense. In that sense the gospel contains law and threatenings. But that doesn't mean that the gospel, the power of God unto salvation, is part demand of law for works of sanctification and part good news of forgiveness in Christ for justification. No, sinners are completely saved only by grace through faith in Christ alone and it is not of ourselves in whole or in part - it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). 

Unless one defines how Owen is using the term gospel when quoting him the term can become confusing and even misleading, especially when accusations are being lodged. Given how Owen uses law and gospel it seems pretty clear that in the larger context of Hebrews he employs both the broad sense of the gospel and the narrow. The point Owen seems to be making regarding the threatenings of the "gospel" (broad) is that we believers should not neglect so great a salvation, not that our law-works are used to fight sin - so don't neglect doing them! Rather, the law humbles us, increases both repentance for our sin and our dependence upon Christ and all he has secured for us in his finished work. In his commentary, Owen reinforces what is taught in 
WCF 19.6. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.
In the blog post being questioned, Tullian presents the law in a broad gospel sense and culminates the essay with the proclamation of the gospel in its narrow-promise-fulfilled sense (no law), for the salvation of those that believe in Christ.