Friday, December 4, 2015

Let Christ's Doing and His Dying Be Your Only Boast...

"We may see what must be the only ground of our confidence before God. 
"It is not our own works of righteousness, nothing wrought in us, or done by us. Neither faith, repentance, nor new obedience. It is Christ's surety-righteousness, nothing without, nothing beside it, It and it only. What he did in satisfaction of law and justice, that only can be a poor sinner's confidence, when standing at the divine tribunal: nothing else can be sustained there. Every other thing, however fair, firm or bulky in the carnal eye, is but unstable water, or yielding air, and shall leave the unhappy man who leans upon it, under an eternal disappointment. Being originally under a covenant of works, a broken covenant, nothing but what was done by Christ to fulfil its precept, and to satisfy its penalty, can be sustained as the ground of our confidence before God. To think any less sufficient, would be saying that sinners can be justified to the prejudice of the covenant of works; that divine justice has abated its demands, and can be pleased without an adequate satisfaction. Be wise, therefore, sinners, be instructed, as ye value your salvation. Trust not in yourselves, in your own hearts, or your own works. Turn away your eyes from everything, in point of confidence, but Christ, and his surety-righteousness." 
Thomas Bell. A Treatise on the Covenants of Works and Grace, 225


  1. Mike Horton—“The New Testament lays before us a vast array of CONDITIONS for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor ” God of Promise, p 182

    Mike Horton—"To be claimed by water baptism as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. HOW CAN THEY FALL UNDER THE CURSES OF A COVENANT TO WHICH THEY DID NOT BELONG? "

    Mike Horton-- Jewish branches that didn't yield faith were broken off to make room for living Gentile branches that share the faith of Abraham in Christ. And yet he adds, "They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but FEAR. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you"

    MIKE Horton--"God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet the instrumental condition is that they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the COVENANT CURSE."

    1. Mark,
      I should have responded sooner. Your selective quotes and chosen emphasis misrepresent Horton. Horton is NOT claiming, as you suggest, that one can be an elect branch in the covenant of grace and yet later be broken off. His rhetorical question (isolated from his larger point) that you put into all caps is directed to the Baptist and is part of a larger argument that he is making of how the Baptist view doesn't adequately account for warnings to some members of the church community given how Baptists equate the visible church with the elect. So the quotes have to do with the visible/invisible distinction and are not suggesting that elect members of the covenant of grace are somehow still at risk of coming under covenant curses.

      Those in the visible church (covenant community) who do not apprehend Christ through faith are indeed subject to the curse because as unjustified sinners they are still under the covenant of works. Historically the Reformers referred to these church members as hypocrites who indeed should FEAR and needed to repent and believe. That said, all true believers, still being sinners, should cultivate an holy fear of the Lord and not take lightly God's abundant grace poured out on them in Christ.

  2. These 2 comments are what throw people off.

    1. Jack you say "Neither faith, repentance, nor new obedience."
    2. Mark you say by Mike Horton "The New Testament lays before us a vast array of CONDITIONS for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor ”

    These are out workings of the Xtian life - not justifying.
    We are not justified by what Jacks says.
    So we are justified as long as we do these things till the day
    we die? says Mark.
    So I have to do or perish.

    There is not a John Piper issue here: saved by grace...
    but just a little more to get in: is there?
    Its no wonder people are not sure what to believe when
    there continues to be confusion and not clarity.

    Is it Jesus and me or just Jesus PERIOD?

    I say this because I have a son who is getting frustrated bigtime
    with faith because of reading these kinds of comments.

    TOO many books. They all have their own agenda or not.

    For sake of a weak mind. clarify here. Thanks!

  3. Mike, I should have responded to Mark's comment. He confuses things by bringing in quotes of Horton, taken out of context, that don't have direct bearing on the Bell passage. Bell is addressing the question of what is the believer's sole ground upom which his salvation stands. It is only Christ's righteousness and that alone. Neither our faith, repentance, or new obedience are part of that ground which alone assures us of eternal life (Eph. 2:8-10). Dr. Horton agrees fully with that and doesn't contradict it in the book cited above.

    The word 'condition' is used in different senses in theology. Scott Clark addresses this a number of times at his blog. Here are two:

    I plan on pulling out Horton' book to put his quotes in context in a subsequent comment or post. I hope this somewhat helps.

    1. The larger passage from which Mark quotes - Horton, p. 182 God of Promise:

      "Anchored in the covenant of redemption--that eternal pact between the persons of the Trinity--the promise identified with Abraham, David, and the new covenant is in its essence unchangeable, inviolable, and without reference to the obedience or disobedience of human agents apart from that obedience of our Mediator, Jesus Christ. In this eternal covenant, we are beneficiaries but not partners. God will save his elect, overcoming every obstacle in his way, including us. Nevertheless, the covenant of grace in its administration [i.e. visible church] involves conditions. It is a covenant made with believers and their children. Not everyone in the covenant of grace [i.e. visible church] is elect: the Israel below is a larger class than the Israel above. Some Israelites heard the gospel in the wilderness and responded in faith, while others did not--and the writer to the Hebrews uses this as a warning also to the New Testament heirs of the same covenant of grace (Heb. 4:1-11).

      "The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor, are part of that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Such holiness is not simply definitive--that is, it belongs not only to our justification, which is an imputed rather than imparted righteousness, but to our sanctification, that inner renewal by the Spirit."


      Horton is simply saying that to be identified as a Christian in the visible church one must profess Christ (faith) and show the consequent evidences [condition] of that faith (repentance, love to God and neighbor) no matter how small or inconsistent.

    2. Westminster Shorter Catechism
      Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
      A. Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

      Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
      A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

      Q. 33. What is justification?
      A. Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

      Q. 34. What is adoption?
      A. Adoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of, the sons of God.

      Q. 35. What is sanctification?
      A. 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.

      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.

      Q. 87. What is repentance unto life?
      A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

      Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
      A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

      Q. 79. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?
      A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

      Heidelberg Catechism
      114. Can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

      No, but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.

    3. Jack wrote: "Horton is simply saying that to be identified as a Christian in the visible church one must profess Christ (faith) and show the consequent evidences [condition] of that faith (repentance, love to God and neighbor) no matter how small or inconsistent."

      In other words, the believer in Christ will show forth a true faith that has the above evidences. True faith is always accompanied by these evidences or conditions because they are given to the believer by God's free grace (as taught in the catechism Q&A above). So in that respect they are conditions of final salvation. They must and will be there because Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. Not conditions in order to earn or warrant salvation. That condition as Horton states earlier is solely earned by "the obedience of our Mediator, Jesus Christ."