Union with Christ for Experimental Calvinists

According to a pseudonymous author, 1978 was the year Reformed theology changed:

Reformed theology has changed. And there seems to be no going back. It was in the year 1978 that a tectonic shift in the underlying structure of Reformed theology began with the publication of a small book. The changes were not only systematic, but also systemic—affecting all aspects of it. Yet, interestingly, the changes were initially imperceptible until several years later.

Dr. Richard Gaffin, of Westminster Theological Seminary published his first book, The Centrality of the Resurrection, which would later be renamed and mass published under the title Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology. It was in this fine exegetical work that Dr. Gaffin unpacked the meaning of the Apostle Paul’s salvation vocabulary. Words like justification, sanctification, adoption, etc. would be understood differently in light his research. Dr. Gaffin was building upon historical Reformed theology as well as critiquing it. To do this he was deeply influenced by the work of various theologians across denominational distinctions, and in particular he was shaped by Reformed thinkers such as Herman Ridderbos and John Murray. But in the end, Dr. Gaffin would put together the exegetical conclusions in a way that had never been done before.

A recovery of union with Christ could have led to a higher view of the sacraments, the way it did for John Williamson Nevin, who also stressed union with Christ:

Most people are taught in Reformed churches and seminaries, to think linearly about salvation (e.g. Justification leads to Sanctification which leads to Glorification). A person is first justified (i.e. saved, forgiven) and then comes sanctification (i.e. growth, maturity), and then comes glorification (i.e. dying and rising from the dead at the resurrection). Other words may be added to this order of salvation (e.g. regeneration, adoption, etc.) but the historical way of looking at these words fits them in an unbreakable, linear, “golden” chain. This is called the ordo salutis (Latin term: “order of salvation”). It’s the Reformed way of explaining the application of salvation to a person from beginning to end. Once a person is justified, the other benefits follow in due course. If a person is “truly” justified, the rest will follow.

This is one reason why Reformed theology has always struggled to “fit” the sacraments into any meaningful place in its systematic theology. If the golden chain of salvation can’t break, then it’s difficult to see how baptism is really all that important or why the Lord’s Supper is necessary. While Reformed theology held to the Lord’s Supper as a “means of grace” it was rare to find a Reformed church practice weekly communion or place it on par with preaching. The sacraments were aids to faith–crutches if you will–but not really necessary in the life and practice of Reformed churches considering the logical consequences of the “golden chain.” If you focus on the linear progression of the ordo salutis, the unbreakable chain of salvation, starting with predestination and ending with glorification then, the sacraments have little need in such a theological system, logically and practically speaking.

But that isn’t where Dr. Gaffin wanted union to go:

But if soteriology is eschatology, then doesn’t soteriology also include the restoration and renewal of personal relationships in a new community? If that’s the case, then isn’t soteriology also ecclesiology? This conclusion, in particular, the “New Gaffin” in his By Faith would attempt to avoid in order distance himself from the sacramental and ecclesiological implications. While many scholars and theologians were coming to this particular conclusion, Dr. Gaffin was distancing himself away from the conclusion that soteriology is ecclesiology.

But despite his attempts to ward off the conclusions, there were clear biblical arguments that couldn’t be avoided by many. Baptism engrafts into Jesus Christ. As Dr. Gaffin had originally said, “…if ‘washing’ on which ‘regeneration’ is directly dependent in Titus 3:5, refers to baptism, then what Romans 6:3ff…teaches concerning baptism as a sign and seal of incorporation with the resurrected Christ, and so the implications of that incorporation, will have to be brought to bear here.” The implications were clear to many: All the benefits of salvation are given in baptism because baptism engrafts into Christ. Soteriology didn’t simply have “implications” on ecclesiology; it is ecclesiology. To be baptized into the Christian church is to be baptized into Jesus Christ.

In which case, how revolutionary was the recovery of union with Christ? Did its advocates simply tinker with the ordo salutis or did they seek to apply union to ecclesiology, liturgy and the sacraments? From this seat, it looks like union had a narrow application, chiefly to a discussion of the application of redemption that comes up in questions 29 through 38 in the Shorter Catechism. For union to apply to questions 88 through 97, unionists would need the Federal Visionaries.

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129 thoughts on “Union with Christ for Experimental Calvinists

  1. ” This is one reason why Reformed theology has always struggled to “fit” the sacraments into any meaningful place in its systematic theology. If the golden chain of salvation can’t break, then it’s difficult to see how baptism is really all that important or why the Lord’s Supper is necessary.”

    I don’t buy this. The reformed had(s) no problem insisting on other “means of grace” such as bible reading, prayer, and pot lucks. If the fatalism induced by belief in a golden chain made the Lord’s Supper superfluous, why wouldn’t it make prayer, worship, bible reading superfluous?

    More likely, skepticism about the efficacy of the sacraments was rooted in anti-RC polemics. Weekly communion will lead us to popishness. Probably why corporate fasting is also not emphasized.

    “Reformed churches have historically not included children at the Lord’s Supper because they couldn’t say for certain if the children were justified in Christ.”

    Is that true? My understanding is that the hold up is that in fencing the table we are told to examine ourselves. But if you can’t understand what that entails, then you shouldn’t take communion. A minimalist constraint would be to be able to articulate a profession of faith. This has nothing to do with judging whether one is *truly* justified, but instead whether one is competent to know what is going on.

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  2. But don’t forget that, even though what Gaffin and Mark Jones are reminding us is very important, they learned it from Calvin and (ironically) Luther , and not from Norman Shepherd. Mark Jones, for example, has not even read Norman Shepherd, even though Jones did write the foreward to the second edition of Gaffin’s By Faith not by Sight. So the new “many perspectives but union is the best perspective” theology is not new, but right there in the mainline tradition before Hodge and others lost it.

    Luther did not consider all of his congregation to be “Christians” or truly converted believers. He expects that the liturgy will itself be a vehicle for conversion, and thus much of his liturgical expression has evangelism as a goal. Luther writes– “we institute this Order not for the sake of those who are Christians already. For they have need of none of these things (they are for the sake of us who are not yet Christians, that they may make us Christians). But it is necessary to have such an Order for the sake of those who are to become Christians; just as a Christian has need of baptism, the word and the sacrament not as a Christian (for, as such, he has them already), but as a sinner.”

    https://calvinistinternational.com/2013/09/04/martin-luthers-3-services/

    Scott Clark–Sometimes it is said that one is admitted to the covenant through baptism. This is the doctrine of the Federal Visionists. Lutheran orthodoxy also teaches that God confers salvation through baptism. Article 9 of the Augsburg Confession (1530) teaches of baptism “it is necessary to salvation,” and that the baptized “are received into God’s favor.” More pointedly, Martin Luther (1483–1546) argued at length in his Large Catechism (1529) that though it is true that we are justified by faith alone, the water of baptism, having been joined with the Word of the gospel, becomes a sacrament and so “faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life.” He reiterated that “without faith baptism profits nothing.” For Luther, baptism, as a gospel sacrament, has the same power of the Gospel to effect new life. It God’s work, not ours. Whatever ambiguity there might have been in Luther’s doctrine of baptism, was largely removed by the orthodox Lutherans who interpreted Luther (and the Augsburg Confession) to teach that baptism is a “means of justification.” Further, it “works forgiveness of sins…washes away sin…sanctifies and cleanses…regenerates and saves.”

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them.

    Do the first two marks of the church need a third puritan mark, if sacraments with right preachers solves everything? Puritan– If children are sincerely regenerate–and just not mature enough to examine themselves–they may think that we are telling them that they are not regenerate. But the pastor can directly address the children at the administration of the Supper. After reading the words of institution from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and then giving the warnings in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, I will sometimes address the children, saying something like, “Children, maybe you haven’t yet made a profession of faith and cannot yet partake of the elements. Still, you can feed on Christ by faith as he has been presented to you in the preaching of the Gospel that you have heard this morning.”

    Sam Logan–The Half-way Covenant, championed by Edwards’ influential grandfather minimized the importance of a holy life as necessary evidence of conversion by allowing unregenerate persons to partake of the Lord’s Supper. When Edwards took over for his grandfather in 1729, he began moving back to a more Puritan practice of stressing the need for visible sanctification

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  3. Mark Karlberg—According to Sinclair Ferguson, it is union with Christ that is “the dominant motif and architectonic principle of the order of salvation” (p. 100). What is new in the present discussion is the inordinate stress given to the eschatological tension between the “already” and “not yet” of the Christian’s life in the Spirit. According to this school of thought, the older dogmatic model (which posits a “chain” linking various benefits in logical, if not temporal sequence) obscures the already/not yet tension– how “each blessing is capable of its own distinctive consummation” (p. 102, union now but also more and more, justification now but also more and more, etc). Ferguson’s model, which is by no means original with him, relativises the definitive aspect of soteric justification, the once for-all act of God reckoning sinners righteous in his sight by means of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    Mark Karlberg: In precisely what sense does justification (as one of many benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection) await future consummation? The crux of the new theology lies in its repudiation of the classic Protestant law/ gospel distinction. There is no place in Ferguson’s theology of the covenants for this antithetical contrast with reference to the history of God’s covenant dealings with humankind. … Law becomes a dead letter only when it is divorced from the indicatives of grace… What we find here is an attempt to place side by side two disparate and irreconcilable theologies.

    Gaffin—What saves me is NOT an isolated imputative act…. What saves me is that God by His Spirit unites me to Christ… Calvin is saying – if I can put it this way to try to focus the balance of his remarks – faith with its works justifies without works. In that sense – faith and works justify. Faith plus works justify. I say that only to make a point. I do not commend that formulation, nor does Mr. Kinnaird use that, or teach that. But you see I point that up just to show the basic ambiguity.

    https://thescripturesays.org/2016/10/25/book-review-sandlin-p-a-a-faith-that-is-never-alone-a-response-to-westminster-seminary-in-california/

    Godfrey–Would anyone ever read the federal-vision writers or Norman Shepherd or the new perspective on Paul or Thomas Aquinas or the Council of Trent and come with the question to them: Should we sin that grace may abound?’

    Norman Shepherd—Godfrey preaches justification by faith alone, and he really means a faith that is alone. It is not a living and active faith that justifies as Shepherd says, but a faith that is all alone. When Godfrey preaches the gospel he does not tell sinners to repent of their sins, nor does he tell them to obey all that Jesus has commanded. In other words, he does not preach the gospel the way Jesus commands us to preach the gospel in the Great Commission. If we do what the Great Commission tells us to do then we mix what David Van Drunen calls a “cocktail” of faith and works (CJPM, 49). And it is a toxic cocktail because if we tell sinners to repent and obey our Lord, Godfrey and Van Drunen think we are teaching them to justify themselves by their own good works. They find this to be contrary to Paul’

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  4. Gaffin–“Paul has little or no interest in issues of ordo salutis”. But Gaffin does—union by the Spirit with the person of Christ has priority over the benefit of God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Is “union” by baptism? Or is “baptism” by union? Is baptism “faith-union?

    (“Justification and Eschatology” in Justified in Christ (ed Oliphant, 2007)

    Gaffin– In light of clear New Testament teaching on justification as realized and a present reality for believers, I want here to focus on the question of justification as future…. What about justification and the “not yet” of our salvation? Should we, according to Paul, think of our justification as in some sense still future? Should we, in other words, see his teaching on justification in terms of his already-not yet outlook on salvation as a whole and within what I take to be the controlling anthropological grid provided by the “inner self”-“outer self” distinction explicit in 2 Corinthians 4:16?

    Gaffin—It might seem, at least as an initial reaction, that our answer should be in the negative, and an emphatic “no” at that. The reason for such a reaction is not only understandable but bound to be appreciated. To speak of justification as in any sense future or “not yet” appears to take away from its “already,” definitive character. To view it as in some sense still future seems to threaten its present absolute finality and so to undermine its settled certainty in the life of the Christian….

    Gaffin–If believers appear at the final judgment as already resurrected bodily, then they will appear there as already openly justified…. This means, further, we may say, that, for believers, the final judgment, as it is to be according to works, will have for them a reality that is reflective of and further attests their justification already openly manifested in their bodily resurrection. It would be perverse to an extreme, then, to read Paul’s teaching on the final judgment, as well as my discussion of it here, as leaving Christians in this life, in the face of death, uncertain of the future—unable to know for sure the outcome for them at the final judgment and wondering whether they have produced enough “good works” in this life for a favorable verdict entitling them to eternal life….

    Gaffin–At the same time, Paul’s teaching on the final judgment and the role it will have for believers does put in ultimate perspective the integral, unbreakable bond he sees between justification and sanctification, and on the truth that faith as “the alone instrument of justification . . . is . . . not alone in the person justified” (Westminster Confession of Faith, II:2).

    http://files.wts.edu/uploads/images/files/Lillback%20on%20Gaffin.pdf

    Gaffin “…if ‘washing’ on which ‘regeneration’ is directly dependent in Titus 3:5, refers to baptism, then what Romans 6:3ff…teaches concerning baptism as a sign and seal of incorporation with the resurrected Christ, and so the implications of that incorporation, will have to be brought to bear…”

    Silva—” For Habakkuk there was no such dichotomy between faith and faithfulness as we often assume (similarly, the Epistle to the Hebrews emphasizes their connection, cf. Hebrews. 3-4). That the apostle Paul did not view justifying faith as excluding obedience to God’s commandments is suggested in Galatians itself (see especially. Gal. 5:13-26), but the organic link between these two concepts is extensively developed in Romans.”
    (Interpreting Galatians: Explorations in Exegetical Method ,167)

    What could be more “experimental” than being “baptized into union with him” ? (Silva, Philippians 164)

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  5. Peter Lillback—-“One last matter of importance for Calvin’s understanding of the relationship of the Old and New Covenants …. If these two are really one and the same covenant that are different only in externals, then does the mass defection of Israel also imply that there can be a mass defection of the New Covenant era saints? … ” Christianity and Civilization #1

    https://books.google.com/books?id=bPhiAAAAcAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Dr. Peter A. Lillback, I Corinthians 11 and Its Implications for Paedocommunion
    1. The argument of paedocommunionists concerning I Cor. 11 is that it does not have any reference to children. But the passage is addressed to the whole church. How can children be excluded?
    2. Further, the passage addresses “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup.” Certainly, if paedocommunion is correct, these children who eat must be considered as among those who “eat the bread.”
    3. But it is argued that they eat, but they do not eat unworthily since they are unable to discern the Lord’s body. Hence, they are not liable for this judgment. But did not the children of the Old Covenant perish with their parents’ sins as mentioned in I Cor. 10:1ff.? (Cf. Num. 16:23–35) Does not the Lord teach that ignorance is culpable and is no excuse for not doing his will? (Luke 12:48). If children were liable for judgment in the Old Covenant, and the New has even more severe judgments for the violation of the covenant, it must not be lightly assumed that our children are not able to be recipients of God’s judgment.
    4. It is objected that “discerning his body” has reference to the church and hence has to do with the sin of schism, which is a sin that a child cannot commit. But it must be noted, that the “body” of the church is inseparable from the “body of Christ,” as seen in I Cor. 12…
    5. One can readily understand then why Calvin spoke of giving “poison” to our undiscerning children when we bring them to the Lord’s table, in light of God’s warnings for partaking without discerning….

    .

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  6. sdb – great comment, and excellent point about the anti-RC thrust behind our undervaluing of the sacraments – especially the Lord’s Supper – in the modern Reformed community. Calvin was a strong proponent of weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and believed that it – not preaching – should be the centerpiece of corporate worship as it was in the apostolic era. How many of even the best Reformed churches today have such a high view of the sacraments? My guess is very, very few, which leads me to believe it is virtually insignificant in the average evangelical American church.

    The early Reformers did much good for the Kingdom, but their desire to distance themselves from the RCC at all costs led to errors that include iffy theology in some cases and poor practice in others. The devaluing of the Lord’s Supper is probably the most significant and glaring example of both kinds of errors.

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  7. VV, provide mulitipe quotes (with dates and citations) that prove Calvin thought the supper was to be the “centerpiece”/placed above preaching. Weekly communion, sure — he wanted that. But how many times a week did he preach? I think you’re off here.

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  8. CW – Calvin had an appropriately high view of preaching, but in his view Christ was the center of worship and nothing corporately celebrates Christ as much as the Lord’s Supper. I don’t have a specific quote in mind where Calvin says the Lord’s Supper is more central to worship than preaching, but the idea is implicit in his lengthy treatment of the Lord’s Supper in the Institutes.

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  9. Significant and important contrast between Godfrey and Shepherd. I’ll side with Godfrey, thank you very much!!- theology can get oh so subtle.

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  10. As long as Horton, Clark, et. al, stay ‘good’, I think they own the argument; preaching grace alone without (our) works does lead to a Godly life through gratitude. However, I sincerely hope there is no infidelity, no embezzlement of seminary funds, etc. waiting to be exposed….that would sink the boat. Of course, our savior seems to have a knack for raising things, so even that would perhaps only heap more shame on our own filthy backs. But wouldn’t the opponent rejoice to see that day?
    Also, re: Shepard vs Godfrey. If a pastor never had to deal with the ‘then why can’t I sin that grace may abound?’ question after a ‘gospel’ presentation, I would have to wonder if they ever did actually preach the pure gospel. Either that, or Paul was just a sloppy argumentalist.

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  11. -Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: Calvin was a strong proponent of weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and believed that it – not preaching – should be the centerpiece of corporate worship as it was in the apostolic era.
    -cw l’unificateur says: VV, provide mulitipe quotes (with dates and citations) that prove Calvin thought the supper was to be the “centerpiece”/placed above preaching. Weekly communion, sure — he wanted that. But how many times a week did he preach? I think you’re off here.
    -Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: CW – Calvin had an appropriately high view of preaching, but in his view Christ was the center of worship and nothing corporately celebrates Christ as much as the Lord’s Supper. I don’t have a specific quote in mind where Calvin says the Lord’s Supper is more central to worship than preaching, but the idea is implicit in his lengthy treatment of the Lord’s Supper in the Institutes.

    -Don’t think so VV. I also would like to see Calvin’s quotes, which I’m sure agree with Jesus.

    -With unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

    -Paul preached daily- the churches strengthened in the faith, increasing in number daily- Thessalonians examined the Scriptures daily – believers together continually, day by day, with one mind -standing firm in one spirit and one mind – spirtual thoughts combined with spiritual words -continued with one mind -in the temple, from house to house, devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, taking meals together, praising God, and the Lord added to their number day by day.

    -The Lord did also say “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

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  12. “I don’t have a specific quote in mind where Calvin says the Lord’s Supper is more central to worship than preaching”

    That would be easy to find if it were true. I’m afraid it is not. In Calvin’s commentary on Rom. 14, he writes,

    “God, while giving to the Church the written Word to be the source of its life and wisdom, gives also to the Church a ministry through whose act of interpreting and expounding the Scripture, the Word of God, finds its true place at the heart of the Church and exercises its true function of ruling the thought and life of the Church.” (The preaching of the Word) is “the normal mode which the Lord has appointed for imparting His Word.”

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  13. I doubt Calvin ever conceived of celebrating the Supper apart from the the preaching of the Word preceding it:

    “Akin to the preaching of the gospel, we have another help to our faith in the sacraments…

    “From the definition which we have given, we perceive that there never is a sacrament without an antecedent promise, the sacrament being added as a kind of appendix, with the view of confirming and sealing the promise, and giving a better attestation, or rather, in a manner, confirming it… [Institutes]

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  14. Here is a treatise by Calvin on the Lord’s Supper. You can see where the Belgic Confession drew their source material #plagiarists

    I think it is fair to say that the Lord’s supper is underemphasized in most churches and is an essential element of worship. We would benefit from regular administration of the sacrament and more emphasis put in its efficacy as a means of grace. Not sure that any of this reuires or entails that the Lord’s Supper be more central than preaching.

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  15. Quoting from SDB’s link:

    The principal thing recommended by our Lord is to celebrate the ordinance with true understanding. From this it follows that the essential part lies in the doctrine. This being taken away, it is only a frigid unavailing ceremony. This is not only shown by Scripture, but attested by the canons of the Pope, (Can. Detrahe. i. 4,1,) in a passage quoted from St. Augustine, (Tract 80, in Joan.) in which he asks— “What is the water of baptism without the word but just a corruptible element? The word (he immediately adds) not as pronounced, but as understood.” By this he means, that the sacraments derive their virtue from the word when it is preached intelligibly. Without this they deserve not the name of sacraments.

    — Calv “Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper”

    From this we may conclude that the virtue of the sacrament derives from the Word, and that the sacrament has no virtue without the preached Word.

    It’s hard to square that with “the sacrament is more central than the Word.”

    @ SDB: If you’re accumulating a reading list, I profited greatly from Mathison’s “Given for You.”

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  16. Thanks Jeff. I will add that to the list. The section you quote is the what I understood for restricting the Lord’s Supper to those who can articulate a profession of faith. It isn’t that we believe we can discern who is ‘really’ justified (contra the critic above. Rather a covenant child who hasn’t made a profession yet likely doesn’t understand the word sufficiently to properly examine himself.

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  17. sdb, Todd, Jeff, and Ali – I’ll back off from claiming that Calvin viewed the Lord’s Supper as MORE central to worship than preaching – that is probably a bit of an overstatement, but not by much. Calvin certainly viewed the Lord’s Supper as EQUALLY central to worship as preaching. In the Institutes 4.17.44, Calvin says (after quoting Acts 2:42):

    “Thus we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the word, prayer, and and the dispensation of the Supper, and alms. We may gather from Paul that this was the order observed by the Corinthians, and it is certain that this was the practice many ages after.”

    He goes on to say that those who listen to the sermon only and do not participate in the Supper were “to be admonished, and if they still abstained after admonition, were to be excluded.” And in 4.17.45, approvingly quoting John Chrysostom: “Whoever partakes not of the sacred rites is wicked and impudent in being present…”

    In other words, Calvin believed that the Lord’s Supper was absolutely integral to any worship service, which he explains at length in that chapter of the Institutes. Perhaps it was not more central than preaching, but it was at least as central – he would never advocate one without the other.

    Even so, the main point remains: the Reformed church today greatly undervalues the Lord’s Supper compared to the Apostolic era, the early church fathers, and the early Reformed fathers.

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  18. VV,

    I appreciate the retraction. You still need to prove your point though. Calvin lived with monthly communion, though he preferred weekly. If he believed the Supper was “absolutely essential” as you put it, to any worship service, it is doubtful he would minister in a situation where he could not supply what he believed was essential. Can you imagine what he would do if he was told he could not preach the Word in every service? And I do not believe the Lord’s Supper was administered in the evening services in Geneva, so essential for “every” worship service might be a stretch also. He believed alms and prayer were to be a regular part of worship services also, yet from this alone we could not assume alms were just as central as preaching to Calvin. The reformed have almost all uniformly held preaching as the primary means of grace. I see no evidence Calvin deviated from this basic belief, though I grant you he held a very high view of the importance of the Supper, and strongly advocated for weekly communion. When he writes of the other sacrament, baptism, he is also clear that teaching takes precedence, as from his comments on I Cor. 1: 17…

    “He anticipates an objection that might, perhaps, be brought against him — that he had not discharged his duty, inasmuch as Christ commands his Apostles to baptize as well as teach. Accordingly he replies, that this was not the principal department of his office, for the duty of teaching had been principally enjoined upon him as that to which he should apply himself. For when Christ says to the Apostles, (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15,) Go, preach and baptize, he connects baptism with teaching simply as an addition or appendage, so that teaching always holds the first place.”

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  19. Mani Marprelate ( pen name of a Reformed clergyman)—-“In Leithart’s view, Jesus isn’t present in baptism to simply give a general promise that has already been given to everyone else in the unconverted world. Jesus is there with baptism for a reason. Leithart’s sympathies lie with Luther’s concern … he goes back to Augustine in order to correct Calvin. In Leithart’s view, all baptisms—adult and infant—are efficacious in uniting the person to Jesus Christ. ”

    https://theopolisinstitute.com/baptism-impasse-baptists-vs-presbyterians-part-ii/

    “Calvin believed the passages that speak of baptism saving a person did just that—baptism saves. But Calvin also stressed that the saving work of Christ in baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) was for the elect only in light of his views on predestination. In other words, did baptism save the child in Calvin’s view? Absolutely, Yes! If the child is elect.”

    question–You keep saying that ‘sign and seal’ statement but does baptism save in your understanding of the sacrament since Jesus is made present in the action of baptism?… What’s the point of Jesus being present in the sacrament if Jesus doesn’t save?”

    “Jesus gives the child a covenant promise.”

    “What is the promise?”

    “The promise to the child is that if the child believes in Jesus, he will be saved.”

    “So, Jesus is made present in baptism, to give the child a promise—a promise already given to him and every other unbeliever throughout the world?

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  20. Lane Tipton, Biblical Theology and the Westminster standards ( Westminster Theological Journal, 2013, 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 insists 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 of righteousness not be real if that imputation came before and resulted in the Holy Spirit’s work? Is the Holy Spirit’s work in us more real than Christ’s work outside of us? Is the Holy Spirit’s work in us more real than God’s imputation of the merits of Christ’s work?

    “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 ( Anthony Hoekema, Gaffin, 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 God’s imputation of righteousness. 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–since Christ was justified by His resurrection we also must be justified by resurrection. Ask yourself two questions about Tipton’s conclusion. First, is this Confessional language? Is this the way the Confession says it? Tipton has moved well past the Confessional reference to “the Spirit applies Christ”. Second, is saying it Tipton’s 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 is about ‘faith-union” being the meaning of “in Christ”?

    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.”

    Of course not, but we do need to look at Christ’s righteousness as the “judicial BASIS” . In this essay, 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 Tipton ignores the distinction. 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 God places the elect into Christ.

    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.”

    But our God- given faith does not impute to us the righteousness of Christ. Nor does God wait for faith before God can impute Christ’s righteousness to us. . When God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, God effectually calls us and then justifies us.

    Tipton insists that It’s not “merely” the merits of Christ’s finished obedience which is imputed to us. So is the justified status of Christ which is imputed? That what’s Darby taught. Is that what Tipton is teaching? Darby -Being held to be risen with Him, our position before God is not legal righteousness, but His present acceptance, as risen…, and we are accounted righteous according to the value of His resurrection [ Collected Writings, vol.14, p. 250].

    Tipton has not denied the imputation of Christ’s finished work. The “not merely that” says “that’s included also”. Unlike the federal visionists (or Michael Bird or N T Wright) who do deny imputation, Tipton is adept enough in ecclesial politics not to deny imputation, but also catholic enough to include other “concrete realities” like definite sanctification and transformation and perseverance in works us —- we are being justified and one day we will be justified the same way Christ was–by the reality of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.

    Is that the way the Westminster Confession says it?

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  21. Todd – Calvin argued for weekly Lord’s Supper, but the elders in the church at Geneva denied him because they were concerned about appearing too Catholic. Which only underscores the point sdb and I are trying to make. My case is pretty clear in the comment above: Calvin admonished and then excommunicated those who listened to the sermon only and then did not take the Lord’s Supper. In his view taking the Lord’s Supper was every bit as vital as hearing the Word preached.

    Calvin does not equate Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and never argues for Baptism with every worship service. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

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  22. sdb says: I think it is fair to say that the Lord’s supper is underemphasized in most churches and is an essential element of worship. We would benefit from regular administration of the sacrament and more emphasis put in its efficacy as a means of grace.

    Amen. And including believing and agreeing with the Lord about this aspect::
    My bible note: (1 Cor 11;24-32) v. 27 ie, ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude. To come to the Lord’s table clinging to one’s sin does not only dishonor the ceremony, but it also dishonors his body and blood, treating lightly the gracious sacrifice of Christ for us. It is necessary to set all sin before the Lord (v28), then partake so as not to mock the sacrifice for sin by holding on to it.

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  23. Calvin argued for weekly Lord’s Supper, but the elders in the church at Geneva denied him because they were concerned about appearing too Catholic.

    VV, how could that be when the Roman church at the time observed yearly?

    But I’m also not sure your earlier point about the modern undermining of the sacrament owes to anti-RCism. Perhaps, it’s one of the most common lame reasons for infrequency (this is where “it’s too Catholic” is heard). But it arguably also owes to pro-revivalism in its elevation of experience over ritual–if Jesus is down, down, down, down in the depths of one’s heart then what need of him regularly in one’s mouth and stomach?

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  24. But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Zrim – your response to Ali is right on. You are correct that RCC congregants typically only took the Lord’s Supper yearly in Calvin’s day – at least that’s all they were required to do. But the Church itself still celebrated the Eucharist daily. In other words, RCC members had the opportunity to partake daily, but only did so yearly. The Geneva church did not want to offer the Lord’s Supper daily or even weekly because it seemed too Catholic. Calvin opposed both the Geneva practice of infrequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper and the RCC congregant practice of only taking it annually.

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  26. Zrim says: But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.
    Vae victis says Zrim – your response to Ali is right on.

    Predictable Zrim. Just bible quoting. Take it up with the Lord, specifically v28. The sum of God’s word is truth. Pull out your bible and :
    1)believe none of God’s word contradicts any other of God’s word,
    2)saying ‘but’ and opposing anything the Lord has said is unbelief
    3)the whole of Christian life is one of surrender and repentance because we agree with what the Lord has said that we will continue to have to fight sin until eternity.
    4) speaking of 3 above – please counsel ‘agreeing- with- you- vv’, that extramarital sexual activity is not pleasing to the Lord (per the Lord that is) (if you love him that is)

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  27. VV,

    Let me try one more time. When the elders of the church denied him the right to weekly communion, Calvin complied and administered the Supper monthly. If they had denied him the right to preach the Word in every worship service, but only once a month, what would he have done? In that answer you have your answer to the question of the primary means of grace in Calvin’s mind.

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  28. Q. 171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
    A. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

    Q. 174. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in the time of the administration of it?
    A. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fullness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.

    Q. 175. What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
    A. The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.

    Sheesh Jeff,can you believe the above!! “The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion?”

    the continuing saga – puzzlement of you 🙂

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  29. @ Ali: The word “all” as in “It is necessary to set all sin before the Lord …” is the key difference between WLC 170’s and your Bible note.

    It’s one thing to say that it is proper to come to the table in a spirit of repentance. We would agree there.

    It’s quite another tell someone that a necessary precondition for communion is to set all of their sin before the Lord. People are like icebergs — most of their sin is unknown, even to them: “the heart is desperately wicked; who can know it?”

    Telling someone that they must set all their sin before the Lord before they can have communion invites one of two responses — relativising the word “all” to mean “all I’m aware of”, or else deceiving oneself into thinking that one really has set all one’s sin before the Lord. Both of those are Pharisaical responses.

    Am I being picky? Yes. Is it necessary pickiness? From bitter experience — yes. You can’t tell people that they must do “all” of X unless you really mean “all” of X.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Oh, you would pray something like “ forgive me my sins that I know about, but the ones I don’t about, please don’t forgive those”

    Psalm 19:12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

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  31. So if you agree with David that we don’t know all our errors, why would you also agree with your Bible note that says we must first lay all of our sin before God before we can take communion? Wouldn’t you have to first know all your sin before you can then repent of all your sin?

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  32. Luther—“a Christian has need of baptism, the word and the sacrament not as a Christian but as a sinner.”

    Luther’s Large Catechism-“Faith must have something to believe—something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism, in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through the water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of his name to it. When I believe this, what is it but believing in God as the one who has bestowed and implanted his Word in baptism and has offered us this external thing within which we can grasp this treasure.”

    The Half-Way Covenant, adopted by synods of 1657 and 1662, had made water baptism alone the condition to the civil privileges of church membership, but not of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Solomon Stoddard, even more liberal, taught that the Supper was a converting ordinance and that baptism was a sufficient title to all the privileges of the church.

    Doug Wilson–Let me say something in conclusion that my Baptist friends won’t get at all. I do believe the Roman Catholic church is a church in some sense — we are not sectarian— if a Roman Catholic visited our church and wanted to partake with us in communion, he would be violating the teaching of his own church . . . but not of ours. As far as we are concerned, he would be welcome. In addition to all this, I have received great profit by reading books by Roman Catholic thinkers, and I feel like Augustine getting edified by some of the Donatists

    https://theopolisinstitute.com/outgrowing-protestant-adolescence/

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  33. Carl Truman, Perspectives on the Extent, p 58–“Listeners might ask, what does it mean to say that Christ died for all, if not all are saved.” p 59—“I have no problem telling somebody, ‘Christ died for your sins’, if I have made it clear how the statement connects to the overall teaching on salvation….But what does it mean to say to someone, Christ died for you, if that fact in and of itself, makes no difference? ….Surely the answer is John 3:16, not ‘Christ did and did not die for you, depending on what you mean.”

    Luther, works, 22:169—-“Christ bears all the sins of the world from its beginning. This means that Christ also bears your sins, and offers you grace.”

    Gerhard–If the non-elect are condemned because they do not believe on Christ, it follows that to the non-elect also the death of Christ pertains”

    Cary–the Reformed tradition generates pastoral problems that cannot be helped by the sacrament, because neither word nor sacrament can assure me that I have true saving faith. The logic of the matter, it seems to me, makes it impossible to split the difference between these two positions and get the best of both. On the one hand, if you want a concept of saving faith and the assurance of eternal salvation, then the sacraments cannot help you in the way that matters most.

    Cary–Samuel Hopkins gives an explanation that parallels the Augustinian point about how unbelief separates signum from res. The means of grace, Hopkins argues, do no good except to the regenerate, and when those who do not have saving faith make use of the sacraments, they succeed only in offending God by their inexcusable unbelief and misuse of his holy ordinances. Note that all the objectivity in the sacraments thus only makes this offense worse: if Christ is truly presented and offered in the sacrament, as Calvin insists, then all the more inexcusable is the unbelief of those who partake of the sacrament unworthily. How might the Reformed resist such reasoning? I do not see how they can do so consistently without abandoning the requirement of reflective faith, and I do not see how they can do that without abandoning the fundamental Calvinist conviction that we can know we are eternally saved.

    Cary–Reformed and Lutheran will heartily agree that the sacramental means of grace can only do me good only because of the Word that gives them their form and power. There is no sacrament of Christ’s body without the Word of institution: “This is my body, given for you.” The question is, if I am weak in faith, how can I trust that this sacrament and its Word will do me good? Luther points here to the words “for you,” and insists that they include me. When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for you,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for me.

    Cary–The Gospel and its sacraments are signs that effectively give us the gift of faith. I do not have to ask whether I truly believe; I need merely ask whether it is true, just as the Word says, that Christ’s body is given for me. And if the answer is yes, then my faith is strengthened

    https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/clinging-to-externals-weak-faith-and-the-power-of-the-sacraments/

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  34. Jeff Cagle says: So if you agree with David that we don’t know all our errors, why would you also agree with your Bible note that says we must first lay all of our sin before God before we can take communion? Wouldn’t you have to first know all your sin before you can then repent of all your sin?

    With all due respect, Jeff, it seems you are being ridiculous so that you can be right.(imo). You don’t agree with the desired disposition of laying all sin before Him?
    Again, you say something like this then: “I lay only the sins I know before you; but not those I don’t know, though I know about them and that they are there. Those I hold on to, it’s only fair”

    David: Acquit me of hidden faults.

    Book of Common Prayer: Most Merciful God, We confess we have sinned against you In thought, word, deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ Have mercy on us and forgive us that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen

    Jesus: “Pray, then, in this way:…. forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

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  35. And anyway, where ‘s John Yz (and zrim’s) mocking – they hate words like these

    It is REQUIRED of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with
    ALL holy reverence and attention
    DILIGENTLY observe
    HEEDFULLY DISCERN
    AFFECTIONATELY meditate
    STIR UP themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin
    EARNEST hungering and thirsting after Christ
    attend upon it afterwards with MORE care and diligence.

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  36. DGH – no, giving alms is not a sacrament, and Calvin never recommends excommunication for those who do not give alms every Sunday, so it is obviously quite different. For Calvin it was necessary for the church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly and for the church members to participate. He also believed alms-giving should be a part of every worship service, but the individual members were not required to give weekly the way they were required to take the Lord’s Supper weekly.

    Todd – that’s speculative. My take is Calvin was simply “walking the walk” of presbyterian polity and submitting to the ruling elders in Geneva.

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  37. Great article from OPC “Ordained Servant” on the topic of The Lord’s Supper.

    http://www.opc.org/OS/html/V6/4l.html

    Weekly communion should be practiced and the fact that it typically is not in Reformed circles is due to “experimental Calvinists”, Hyper Presbyterianism and an exalting of all manner of programs that are less clear from scripture than is The Lord’s Supper. But you see, a “must have” second service, the pot luck and many other items are often held in higher regard. We need to own this in the Reformed world.

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  38. Ali,

    I don’t think anyone is denying that we should approach the Lord’s Table with a desire to lay all our sin before him. The question is whether this desire can ever be fulfilled perfectly. In other words, if we are sinful as the Bible describes, then we do not recognize all of our sin, at least not the first time we sin in many cases. We also simply forget all of the bad things that we have done. We can ask God to bring them to mind and to reveal our sin to us, but there is no promise that he will do so in such a way that there is no sin we have forgotten to mention. An attitude of repentance and a desire to confess all sin that we know about and even unknown sin is essential, but there’s always going to be something we forget or don’t notice.

    This is very important. If our worthiness depends on our confessing every single sin we’ve ever committed, then we have no assurance. We’re back to Roman Catholicism, where you can never know if you’ve confessed every mortal sin or that your repentance is adequate to secure God’s pardon and take those years off of purgatory.

    In fact, we have to repent over how inadequate our repentance is.

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  39. Speaking of Calvin advocating for weekly communion…

    I heard someone once say that Calvin also advocated for that in the context where he was preaching almost daily and that people were attending to that preaching almost daily. I don’t know what he would have advocated if he preached only on Sundays, but it is worth noting the frequency of preaching. I heard one preacher say that he’d be all for weekly communion if his people were as eager to attend to the Word of God as frequently they did in Calvin’s day.

    It’s something to think about, at least.

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  40. Robert,

    Good points and please don’t hear what I am about to say as a total discounted of the points you make.

    However, the Hyper preparatory aspects that so often endure from Presbyterian Traditionalism often smacks more of asceticism and a kind of monks life ( or at least asceticism light ) than it does of a clear Biblical mandate.
    Come and receive this celebration from our Lord in His supper……but first make sure you are really really (read deep camp fire/ revivival earnestness) prepared. Way more hoops to jump through than that which Scripture clearly gives it seems to me. I don’t see daily sitting Sunday- Monday under the preached word as a necessity to celebrate the given gift of communion weekly.

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  41. E. Burns – great comments, and great article by DGH in the link you provided.

    Robert – I agree with your comment to Ali in principle, but quibble with the Catholic fears over “forgetting” certain sins. From the Roman Catholic Catechism:

    “When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”‘

    In other words, they believe that if a Christian approaches confession with a sincerely penitent heart they are forgiven for all sins, even if they don’t consciously remember them all. On the other hand, the Christian who intentionally withholds known sins at confession receives forgiveness for none. Aside from their insistence on a human priestly mediator, their emphasis on a sincere heart rather than a conscious memory of every sin is completely in line with Scripture (e.g. Psalm 51).

    That said, I fundamentally agree with your comment: the point is not somehow making ourselves worthy of the Lord’s Supper, but realizing we are wholly unworthy and relying completely on the grace and mercy of Christ. That is THE purpose of the sacrament. I’m not sure Ali understands the distinction.

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  42. Robert says: Ali, The question is whether this desire can ever be fulfilled perfectly.

    who said that? Robert , my bible note did not indicate anything different than what you have said above, nor is it different that WCF, nor is it different than my statement that true believers desired disposition is the laying all sin before Him. Please help stop unnecessary division and uncharitable /divisive/mocking comments like zrims (and Jeff by virtue of his liking of it). It’s time.

    Robert says In fact, we have to repent over how inadequate our repentance is.

    I don’t feel that necessity – I just don’t hear the Spirit telling me that. It’s a given.

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  43. VV,

    Thanks for that. I think the problem is that the quote you give is one of Rome’s many examples of taking back with one hand what they give with the other. If this is really Rome’s position, it doesn’t explain Luther or the fact that Rome says assurance is the greatest Protestant heresy.

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  44. EBurns,

    I agree it isn’t necessary. I just thought it was an interesting observation. I don’t want to lay any extra burdens on people. On the other hand, given the poor theological understanding in the American church, I’m not sure weekly communion is something we should pursue unless we’re lengthening the sermon and paying closer attention to catechesis as well.

    And I say that as an advocate of weekly communion.

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  45. @ Ali:

    I didn’t take Zrim’s comment as mocking, and I wouldn’t have “liked” it if I had. I have no desire to mock. I *was* trying to offer a correction.

    From both Scripture and experience, I have found that telling people they must “confess all their sins” (in this case, “lay all their sins before the Lord”) as a precondition for communion is at best, confusing, and at worst, absolutely crushing.

    If you don’t want to hear that correction, then I don’t mind dropping it.

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  46. Here’s Luther mocking, but he seemed to be an habitual mocker; that got him in lots of trouble with lots of people:

    A defense against those who continuously refer to the imperatives (commands) of Scripture and mistake the ought of the command with the ability to actually do the command:

    In their exegesis of this passage and several others,…. violate one of the laws of logic repeatedly by making inferences from imperative sentences. Luther condemned such elementary blunders with these words: “By the words of the law man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but what he ought to do. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning… ?”

    John Y: Is there an imperative in the New Covenant that tells the Christian not to mock? I know that God cannot be mocked.

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  47. Ali, are you mocking me when you call me John Yz? DGH mocks me all the time when he calls me JohnnY. I just can’t get no respect!!

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  48. Some more defense against Lordship salvation:

    Scott Price:

    Every believer without exception sins every single day. If we base our assurance on not sinning anymore there will be ZERO assurance. The believer has never “kept the Law”. Only Christ did that. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned (even after regeneration) we deceive ourselves and make Him a liar.
    Think of just sinning one sin per day (which is way low) and if you just sinned that one (if you want to use the 10 Commandments for example or even the 2 the 10 hang on) and the next day, the next day after, the next week, the next month and year and 10 years, etc. still sinning, – so are you starting to see a PATTERN here or a habitual practice of sin?

    Some Lordship Salvation advocates are out of their mind with their substandard views of what they think will cause obedience. God accepts ONLY the perfection of Christ alone. The doctrine of Lordship Salvation, in some cases, ends up basing Justification on how well you have progressed in “personal holiness”, without which, THEY say – “no one shall see the Lord”. Some of them talk a conditional “final salvation” based on these kinds of works.

    Some even look at the “righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matt 5) as THEIR better righteousness, a personal, imparted righteousness rather than Christ’s imputed. I could write a book here on the silly crap that some of them say when they shift focus off Christ alone to the performance of the sinner.

    The absolute standard for the believer is to “SIN NOT”. That is the standard. When the sinner fails every hour to meet that standard they are, by the Spirit, caused BY FAITH (the just shall live by faith) to look to Christ ALONE. This is being under the dominion of grace, sovereign grace. This is God’s design in walking in the Spirit and not the flesh. This is not rocket science. It’s the war we are in. Thank God that Christ already won the war that secured the salvation of all the elect when He victoriously declared “IT IS FINISHED!”

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  49. Then again there is this too- it all has not clarified in my mind yet; maybe some of you at oldlife can make it all clearer for me:

    Who determines the type of discipline, and when does the discipline stop? If we’re Scripturalists (or Scriptural Dogmatists), then the answer is rather obvious. Scripture determines the type of discipline and when the discipline stops.

    1 Peter 2:12-17 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    Titus 3:8-11 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

    2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

    1 Timothy 5:20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

    Titus 1:10-14 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

    Notice, these examples all relate to believers only. When it comes to unbelievers, our attitude towards them is to be one of “suffering for His names sake”. That is, not suffering for being a criminal, but rather suffering for the preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, suffering for being kind and generous, suffering for loving our enemies, etc.

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  50. John Y: Is there an imperative in the New Covenant that tells the Christian not to mock?.

    That’s a revealing inquiry John.
    ..Now the deeds of the flesh are evident….. but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:19-24

    btw, you didn’t quote the entire Galatians 6:7-8 thought- Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

    btw2, it is interesting that after being away for a while, the thing zrim chooses to jump back in about is (dis)encouragement for us all to approach the Lord’s Supper very somberly as per the Lord.(1 Cor 11:28-29)
    It reminds me of a former PCA pastor who used to mock, from the pulpit, approaching the table somberly, saying it ought to be happy (a false dilemma). Of course, this was when he was partaking with his flock of the Lord’s supper in unrepentant adultery.
    Here’s how serious the Lord is …1 Cor 11:30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

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  51. Ali, To quote someone else:

    “It is the Spirit who convicts us that God requires a righteousness that we cannot produce. John 16:8-13. It is the Spirit who takes away our confidence in the flesh so that we have NO confidence that we ever did or ever will do anything (even with God’s help) to make ourselves better than anybody else. Phil 3:3. The only reason we are different from others before God is that Christ died for us and not for others.”

    Ali again, your testimony about me is somewhat true but hate is probably too strong a word. I do dislike the words you used in regards to what you think sanctification is, i.e., words like DILIGENTLY observe
    HEEDFULLY DISCERN
    AFFECTIONATELY meditate
    STIR UP themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin
    EARNEST hungering and thirsting after Christ
    attend upon it afterwards with MORE care and diligence.

    You are better than me.

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  52. @ali
    Just getting back to this thread. You responded to me with a quote from your bible notes, “It is necessary to set all sin before the Lord (v28), then partake so as not to mock the sacrifice for sin by holding on to it.”

    This is obviously a metaphor that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It looks like several here have tried to offer you helpful correction on one way this note can be interpreted. You’ve responded with attacks and accusations. Remember who the accuser is, perhaps you might want to reconsider who you model yourself after there? I’ll try again and see if we can make some progress here.

    The problem with your Bible note is that a fair reading of it is that one must refrain from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper unless one is sure that all of one’s sins are laid before the Lord. There is a stream of reformed thought (particularly popular among certain Puritans and often associated with Jonathan Edwards) that one must be rigorously examined in order to be sure that there isn’t any hiding sin. I’ve known several people who have effectively excommunicated themselves from this crucial means of grace that is participation in the body and blood of our Savior (1 Cor 10:14-21). To lay extra scriptural burdens on God’s beloved children is an awful thing, and one would be foolish to think that the legalism Paul warns the early church about so extensively didn’t still apply to us today.

    Now you quoted a few selections from the WLC above. To be sure, we should not approach the Lord’s table flippantly. I don’t read anyone to be suggesting as much here. But I can’t help but notice that you skipped over Q172

    Q. 172. May one who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord’s supper?
    A. One who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account has it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.

    This comment is already too long, so I won’t cut and paste the scripture proofs they include, but I think you may find them helpful to understand where several here are coming from. You access them here.

    The bottom line, the assertion,”It is necessary to set all sin before the Lord…”before taking the Lord’s supper is at the very least in tension with WLC172 and all that scripture teaches about the poor in spirit. Do you see how your quote could be problematic?

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  53. False dilemma sdb. The weak and strong can ‘lay all sin before Him’ (*see below) because of Him.

    unless they don’t want to, that is, and then often in that case, company in that is desired, and so in the vein of John comparison-loving – there can be a group of ‘I’m better that you’ in weakness and humility

    *
    David: Acquit me of hidden faults.

    Book of Common Prayer: Most Merciful God, We confess we have sinned against you In thought, word, deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ Have mercy on us and forgive us that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen

    Jesus: “Pray, then, in this way:. forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

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  54. @Ali Perhaps this strikes you as semantics, but there is a long standing controversy on this issue. Statements like “lay all sin before Him” is not the same as approaching the Lord’s Supper with a penitent disposition. Here is a good description of some of the history of these two streams (namely the friction in Congregationalism and new side/old side). Here’s a sample:

    …the common usage of communion tokens debarred the profane and scandalous from coming to the Table. As Westerkamp points out, even “those who were given tokens were reminded through preparatory sermons that while they appeared worthy, in fact they probably were not.”…all Christians who can examine themselves are commanded to come to the Lord’s Table. “The grossly ignorant and the scandalous or prophane” must be excluded, but no others. One who has been baptized and has not been excluded by the minister, should examine himself and come. Lest some scrupulous person fears that his examination has been incomplete, Thomson asserts: “Let him but truly and sincerely comply with the Gospel Proposals, and immediately he is prepared in the Main, and may safely come and seal that Covenant which he hath consented unto.”

    Alternatively, those following Edwards, Whitfield, Tennent et al. (generally the new siders) wanted a more rigorous examination of the congregant so that they had evidence of grace before being admitted to the Table. Say making sure that they laid all their sins before the Lord.

    Since the sacrament is a means of grace (i.e., it is a means used by God to build the believer’s faith in a unique way), we should not discourage believers from taking the sacrament by placing heavy burdens on them. Now that may not be how you read that bible note. Perhaps you took it to simply mean that one should have a penitent disposition and be willing to repent of any sins one becomes aware of. That is not an obvious interpretation of your Bible note given the history of this debate.


    As an aside, given the ongoing debate between sacramental Christians and experiential Christians (a debate to which this website is devoted…) rather than assuming that folks like Zrim, Robert, JY, VV, and Jeff are just being recalcitrant, you might want to ask a few questions and try to understand a bit better rather than offering sarcastic retorts such as Oh, you would pray something like “ forgive me my sins that I know about, but the ones I don’t about, please don’t forgive those”. They aren’t amusing, constructive, or convincing. Your response to Zrim was particularly disappointing. What Zrim stated is fully consonant with the WLC. We won’t take (or need) the Lord’s supper upon our glorification. Our salvation will be complete then. Until then, our repentance is always incomplete and imperfect – we don’t merit salvation on the basis of our repentance. Rather we are given the gift of faith and repentance as a fruit of our regeneration. We merit *nothing*. It is impossible for us to lay all our sins before God, because we don’t fully know even our own heart. A general cry to forgive even the sins we don’t know is great, but even then our cry would change when certain treasured items are revealed to be idols unless our heart is changed. But I digress. Rather than responding with sarcasm, accusations, and non-sequiturs you might find that you have more fruitful interactions here. After all, “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” and “restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” I know whereof I speak – I’m prone to biting comments too when I get frustrated with someone. I hope you don’t read this message that way. I understand that comment boxes are very limited venues for communication – we know basically nothing about one another: what we are going through, what our personality quirks are, what our background is, etc… So it is really easy for us to misread one another and I could certainly be doing so here. If so, I apologize in advance and hope you still find something here worthwhile.

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  55. On the other hand, given the poor theological understanding in the American church, I’m not sure weekly communion is something we should pursue unless we’re lengthening the sermon and paying closer attention to catechesis as well.

    Robert, are you referring to P&R churches in America? If so, I can’t say that “poor theological understanding” characterizes them. Whatever their problems, most members are much better theologically versed than many others. But even if this wasn’t the case, how does “poor theological understanding” bear on frequency? After all, most P&R fence their tables, meaning nobody communes who doesn’t also show a credible faith. So why demand more of sermons/catechesis when communicants have satisfied the requirements? If the pietists want us virtually sin free before communing, do the intellectualists want our understanding tip-top before getting what we need? In both cases, where’s the room for being a sinner who needs the grace the sacrament provides in all his parts and faculties?

    ps And is longer necessarily better? If simplicity really is a Reformed virtue, a case could actually be made in the opposite direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  56. @z Yep. Even a lot of P&R seem to get cause and effect mixed up here. Perhaps more frequent communion would build the faith of congregants and have the effect of spiritual growth that includes characteristics such has increased theological understanding, deeper insight into the sinfulness of one’s sin, and inadequacy of one’s repentance among various congregants. This might even lead to a deeper appreciation of our dependence on Christ’s righteousness.

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  57. sdb, ding. It’s almost as if there is an abiding fear on the sacrament that comes out in different ways, I daresay superstitious of doing something wrong and getting hexed.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. a little piety

    sometimes failing
    friends may fail me
    what a friend for sinners

    https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=61707152552

    even in temptation,
    not hiding from God
    and still not being condemned

    not withdrawing from God, not talking to God,
    secretly not liking God,
    even hating God

    Jesus took ALL the condemnation
    without needing anything more added by us
    to get our ticket punched this week

    but some warn us
    Jesus did not pay everything
    and that’s why you must avoid sin as we do

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  59. Zrim,

    Since this blog is regularly lamenting the Kellerification of the P&R, the neglect of the Sabbath, and other issues, I’m not sure I agree on the good state of theological understanding. Perhaps it’s better than most of the rest of the church, but I’m not sure that’s a ringing endorsement.

    But even if this wasn’t the case, how does “poor theological understanding” bear on frequency? After all, most P&R fence their tables, meaning nobody communes who doesn’t also show a credible faith. So why demand more of sermons/catechesis when communicants have satisfied the requirements?

    I guess it hangs on what “discerning the body” means. I would wager that most American Protestants are effective Zwinglian memorialists, which in itself shouldn’t argue for less frequency but I think should caution us. Heck, even in a good P&R church with lectio continua preaching, how often are you going to hear teaching on what the Lord’s Supper is? Maybe if you happen to be there on the day they cover 1 Cor. 11, Ex. 12 or the Gospel Narratives.

    If the pietists want us virtually sin free before communing, do the intellectualists want our understanding tip-top before getting what we need?

    Not tip-top, just better than “here’s a cracker and some juice that somehow means I’m remembering what Jesus did.”

    In both cases, where’s the room for being a sinner who needs the grace the sacrament provides in all his parts and faculties?

    But of course, the grace we get in the sacrament isn’t better or different than the grace we get through preaching. So does celebrating it more frequently mean we get more grace?

    And I’m not saying there’s no room for being a sinner. I’m saying that if you’re going to move it to more frequent observance, you better be darn sure you’re paying attention to the teaching. Otherwise, we finally end up like the RCs and Episcopalians with a little ditty of a homily. That’s turned out well for them, hasn’t it.

    It’s almost as if there is an abiding fear on the sacrament that comes out in different ways, I daresay superstitious of doing something wrong and getting hexed.

    That’s just silly. Paul says that people die when the sacrament is not taken properly. Seems to be a good reason to want to get it “just right.”

    But again, I’m actually an advocate for weekly communion. Though my church doesn’t practice it (you can receive it bimonthly if you wish, once in the morning service, once in the evening), I would feel very comfortable with it at my church because the Word of God is taught frequently and well both inside and outside of worship. Frankly, most of the people I’ve seen advocating the loudest for weekly communion are Romanist sympathizers and FV’ers, so maybe that is coloring my opinion.

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  60. If the sacrament was merely Zwinglian human doing, then God couldn’t kill you for it. But since it’s God giving the sacramental promise, that grace can kill you?

    I Corinthians 10.1-4 “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ.
    http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/rite-reasons/no-51-response-to-richard-bacon-part-1/

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  61. Zrim,
    Solid points. “If the pietists want us virtually sin free before communing….” “It’s almost as if there is an abiding fear on the sacrament that comes out in different ways, I daresay superstitious of doing something wrong and getting hexed.”

    Indeed pietism coupled with a very similar view that Piper has on justification (in by faith stay in by works) I am afraid is a big factor in why P & R are lame about Communion. Yes, fence the table, but let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit.
    Again I say, Hyper-Presbyterianism does exist.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. @robert
    I’m not following your reasoning:

    ‘Perhaps it’s better than most of the rest of the church, but I’m not sure that’s a ringing endorsement.“
    Seems to me that more regular administration might help this case. God gave us this sacrament to nourish His people. Even in churches focused with sermon series on “What the Bible has to,say about budgeting” and so forth generally approach the Lord’s Supper somberly and reflect on the gospel in the process. Doing this weekly would seem to be a gain.

    “Maybe if they happen to be there [on the right Sunday]…”
    Again the fencing is a benefit even if the sermon isn’t great…

    “The grace we get isn’t different…”
    In the most general sense, the grace we get by reading the scripture, praying, worshipping, etc… wouldn’t be different, so why not drop one or more of these things? First, I’m not sure that it is helpful to describe the recipient of grace as getting it by doing something. Rather our faith is fed by feasting on Christ in the Lord’s Supper such that we participate in His body and blood in a way that we don’t any other way. Similarly, Baptism accomplishes something that nothing else does. Same could be said of worship, prayer, etc… Now communion is different from prayer and bible reflection in that it is intrinsically communal, so it isn’t proper to do it privately…ordinarily the only way to properly take the sacrament is in public gatherings. Offering as often as we gather seems at least as important as praying every time we gather.

    If people are dying because folks take the sacrament incorrectly why is twice a month better than monthly? Why not annually during the evening service on SuperBowl Sunday?

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  63. “If the sacrament was merely Zwinglian human doing, then God couldn’t kill you for it. But since it’s God giving the sacramental promise, that grace can kill you?”

    Pretty sure that it would be just for God to strike anyone of down any time.

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  64. Robert,

    Are you a stricter Sabbtarian? Is the tradition you are a part of on the stricter side of Sabbath observance?

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  65. “But if soteriology is eschatology, then doesn’t soteriology also include the restoration and renewal of personal relationships in a new community?”

    Um, yes, which is why those converted then go to church. The end.
    Broader implications are pretty much bunk, Kupyer and Schaeffer notwithstanding. If you want to reach people for Christ, be a missionary. If you want to change the world, go build a bridge. You’ll look in vain for NT teaching on how to impact the Roman Empire.

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  66. sdb says: A general cry to forgive even the sins we don’t know is great, but even then our cry would change when certain treasured items are revealed to be idols unless our heart is changed. But I digress.

    Digress? Isn’t that the essence. We don’t examine ourselves to tell God stuff He doesn’t know, but to let GOD, who examines and knows every heart, do His work in us. (unless of course we don’t want Him too)

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  67. sdb says: “If the sacrament was merely Zwinglian human doing, then God couldn’t kill you for it. But since it’s God giving the sacramental promise, that grace can kill you?”
    Pretty sure that it would be just for God to strike anyone of down any time.

    Mark , you did read the full passage, right?
    32 But when we (believers) are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

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  68. joe m – I agree and disagree with your comment. On the one hand, you are correct that the Romans were never told to stop murder in the arena or put an end to infanticide, and a secular government is not required to enact an exact set of laws the way the Israelites were under the theocracy. On the other hand, building a bridge IS helping the Roman Empire for good. Kuyper didn’t advocate a change of the society’s morals by governmental fiat – that’s the fundamentalist way of thinking. Instead Kuyper advocated living a life of active obedience to God in all areas of life rather than simply showing up for church on Sunday morning.

    The Roman Empire actually makes Kuyper’s case. How did a persecuted handful of largely poor Jews change the pagan Roman Empire such that 300 years after the Resurrection Christianity would be become a sanctioned state religion? It wasn’t through conquest (contrary to Islam) or government influence. Rather, it was through each Christian living out their faith in every aspect of their lives as well as evangelizing the lost, and gradually changing the entire Roman world. The Roman Empire of 330 AD was vastly different from 30 AD, and that is in large part due to the transforming effect of Christianity.

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  69. @Ali “Digress? Isn’t that the essence.”
    Of my comment above? No.

    “We don’t examine ourselves to tell God stuff He doesn’t know, but to let GOD, who examines and knows every heart, do His work in us. (unless of course we don’t want Him too)”
    This is false. Our self-examination is not an act that merits God’s action in our life. If we want Him bad enough, then he “do His work in us (unless we don’t want Him to)”. In point of fact, there is much we don’t want to lay before him, but he works in us to *will* and to do anyway. This is grace, and our gratitude for that grace he has lavished upon us is what motivates our good works (which are always impure and whose acceptance is a matter of grace as well). The good works (including self examination) does not merit anything. They are the fruit. I suspect that you agree with this, but it is very easy to fall into the trap of the legalists who think that we merit something (or that God’s work in our life depends on us in some way).

    One of the means he has appointed to do this work is the Lord’s Supper. By feasting on him we participate in his body and blood. Our faith is thereby strengthened, our conscience stirred, and affections transformed. If we wait until we have laid all of our sins before him, we will never come. In effect, we have ex communicated ourselves. Rather we should come understanding that we cannot even will to do the right thing (much less actually do it) apart from his work. The WLC warns against turning away those with a tender conscience. I wish the author of Bible note had ben more sensitive to that.

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  70. DGH – I am highly skeptical of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity based on the rottenness of the fruit post-conversion, but his dream before the Battle of Milvian Bridge probably really happened; whether it was from the Spirit or not is a different question. And Christianity was a major – if not THE major – religion in the Roman Empire by the time Constantine came to power. In other words, Constantine officially sanctioned what was already taking place.

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  71. “More and more United to the Risen Christ….”

    DVD—-“In the Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, O’Donovan emphasizes that, in Christ’s resurrection, the earthly powers have been subdued and made subject to divine sovereignty. Though the powers are given a secular space and authority to exercise their judicial function, they ought to serve the church’s
    mission (chapter 4) After Christ’s ascension, therefore the terms on which political authorities function are not the same as they were (The Ways of Judgment). Society is to be transformed and its rulers are to disappear.”

    p 431, Natural Law and the Two kingdoms-

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/2015/10/would-n-t-wright-be-popular-if-people-knew-his-politics/

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  72. Zrim says: But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.
    -The Lord’s Supper is for ALL believers – there is only one kind

    sdb says I wish the author of Bible note had been more sensitive to that.
    -sdb, John MacArthur is one of the best, if not the best expositor, imo His sermons (all are available on line for free). He has several on the Lord’s Supper. You should read them – .a few excerpts from 2 of them:

    “As you accepted the deity of Christ and His substitutionary sacrificial death for you spiritually at your salvation, you are declaring that in the bread and the cup. And so, Communion then becomes a symbol of our salvation act. It becomes a reconfirmation. It becomes a restatement. If you will, it becomes a rededication to our salvation act of believing and receiving Christ. And so, it’s a vital thing that we share in.

    Further, it is a memorial to the one who lived and died for them. Thirdly, as a communion, as a living vital communing with Him. And we saw that in 1 Corinthians 10:16 to 18 that when we partake of the table of the Lord we literally commune with Him. He is present. He is here. We fellowship with Him. And the Lord’s Table is a proclamation. We do show forth the Lord’s death. And so, it is a declaration to the world that we believe Jesus was God in human flesh, who died a substitutionary atoning death for us. And fifthly, the celebration of the Communion is eschatological; it is a great hope. Jesus said, “Do this until we do it together again in the Kingdom.” And we are doing it in anticipation of His soon return.

    So, this is a sacred, special, serious, and I think worshipful experience in the life of a believer. It behooves us to treat it with that sense of dignity and honor as well as celebration that it deserves.
    So, it isn’t a simple thing to come to the table. We remember what Christ has done. And then, we call Him into conscious presence, and we refresh our covenant and commitment with Him. We commune with the living Lord. We proclaim the gospel and we hope for His anticipated return all at this table. This is a special place. And when we come to it, Paul says we better come with special attitudes.

    How you treat this table, beloved, is how you are treating Jesus. That’s what he’s saying. And that tells me that it’s a very real encounter with Christ here. In fact, it’s so real that failure to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of it brings about judgment.

    So, what do you do? Verse 28, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Demands self-examination, look at your heart, is there anything there that shouldn’t be there? The word here in the Greek means a rigorous self-examination: your life, your motives, your attitude toward the Lord, your attitude toward the Lord’s Supper, your attitude toward other Christians. Be certain you’re not careless, flippant, indifferent, entertaining sin, unrepentant, mocking, all of that. And when you’ve examined yourself, then let him eat of the bread and drink the cup. Examination first.

    And we’ll look quickly at this. The preparation for the Lord’s Supper, verse 27, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord,” anaxiōs or unworthily, “shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” He says, “Look, it’s serious, it’s important. If you treat this uncommon thing commonly, you become,” literally, “liable,” that’s the word guilty, “for the body and blood of the Lord.” If you come to this table wrongly, you’re guilty of it.

    What does that worthy manner mean? I don’t have any sin? No, I’ve confessed it all. I understand how sinful I am. I’m holding nothing back. I come to really worship, to really be thankful for the cross, and the Christ who gave his life there.

    What do you mean unworthily, John? Well, I’ll tell how you can come unworthily. The Corinthians did it. Here’s the way you can treat the table of the Lord unworthily. Number one, by ignoring it rather than obeying it, by just not doing it. You’re saying it’s irrelevant, it doesn’t matter, it’s unimportant. Is that right? No, it’s wrong. That’s unworthy of you, and unworthy of Him. Second, you can treat the table unworthily by making it a performance rather than something meaningful, by just doing it rather than understanding it. I’ll tell you another way you can pervert the table and come unworthily is by making it into a saving thing rather than a communing thing, by thinking that it saves you to do it rather than understanding that it only causes you to make a fresh commitment and a fresh communion with Christ. Another way that you can come unworthily is by treating it as a ceremony rather than as a personal experience. And another way you that you can come unworthily is by treating it lightly rather than treating it seriously. If you come to this table with any bitterness toward another Christian in any way, shape or form, with any unconfessed sin, living in any kind of sin that you will not repent of and turn from; if you come with any less than the loftiest thought about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Word of God; if you come with anything less than total love for the brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, you come to this table unworthily.

    If you don’t see the seriousness and the sacredness of the Lord’s Supper, communing with the body and blood of the very person of Jesus Christ, and you treat it with sinfulness, then you are literally guilty of dishonoring Him, you become liable for chastening, and you will be chastened because you have not thought seriously about what you’re doing. You’ve not discerned the meaning and significance of the Lord’s body.

    But somebody by now is going to say, “Oh, man, this is too much, brother. I can’t handle this, I’m going to come to the table and if anything’s wrong, then zappo. I mean, I may wind up in hell, you know, what’s the deal?” I love this, “But when we are judged,” he says, “we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be katakrima with the world.” We are chastened by the Lord that we might not be damned with the world. You want to hear something? No Christian, no time, under no circumstance will ever be damned with the world. The worst thing that could ever happen to a Christian would be the ultimate chastening. And what’s that? Take you to heaven. You say, “That’s not too bad.” The point of the verse, a tremendous verse, the point of the verse is: look, we are being chastened by the Lord in order that we would not be damned with the world. You say, “But maybe the Lord won’t chasten me?” “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens and every son He scourges.” Every Christian is under the chastening hand of the Lord, which prevents him from ever being condemned with the world. Is that a great truth? So, we have not that ultimate fear. I don’t know about you, I’d just as soon be healthy, happy and alive for a little while, so I want to check myself when I come to the Lord’s Table.

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  73. sdb says I wish the author of Bible note had been more sensitive to that.

    ps. sdb – and reminded from some reading this am, we ought also be ‘more sensitive’ to the fact that ‘the whole counsel of God’ is not ‘codeword’ for anything but is just that – the whole counsel of God – and in His love He always present us with it perfectly (though we do so always imperfectly)

    eg from today (gty):
    DAY 7: What are the central warnings for believers in the Book of Hebrews?
    Beyond its value as a doctrinal treatise, this book is intensely practical in its application to everyday living. The writer himself even refers to his letter as a “word of exhortation” (13:22). Exhortations designed to stir the readers into action are found throughout the text. Those exhortations are given in the form of 6 warnings:
    1. Warning against drifting from “the things we have heard” (2:1–4)
    2. Warning against disbelieving the “voice” of God (3:7–14)
    3. Warning against degenerating from “the elementary principles of Christ” (5:11–6:20)
    4. Warning against despising “the knowledge of the truth” (10:26–39)
    5. Warning against devaluing “the grace of God” (12:15–17)
    6. Warning against departing from Him “who speaks” (12:25–29)
    For example, when the writer warns of the danger of drifting (2:1), he uses some vivid nautical terms. The phrase “earnest heed” refers to mooring a ship by securing it to a dock. The second phrase “drift away” was often used of a ship that had been allowed to drift past the harbor. The warning is to secure oneself to the truth of the gospel in such a way as to not pass by the only harbor of salvation. The alternate tendency toward apathy points to those who make a shipwreck of their lives.

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  74. Ali – MacArthur is good on many things, and his soteriology is very strong. But he is a baptist, and his baptist colors show when it comes to the sacraments, including the Lord’s Supper sermon you copied and pasted. The Westminster Standards are clear that the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace and confers real spiritual benefits. MacArthur never says that. He says it is a “reconfirmation,” “rededication,” “proclamation,” “memorial,” and “communing” with Christ – all of those are true, but ultimately it is a means of real spiritual grace and blessing, and MacArthur never says that. WLC 170 says we “truly and really” feed on the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner – I doubt MacArthur would agree.

    To be fair, I suspect most Reformed folk share MacArthur’s view, and that’s a major problem in Reformed churches. We treat the Lord’s Supper as a quaint little ritual and time for self-reflection after the occasional worship service rather than a vital means of grace.

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  75. “As to the time of using it, no certain rule can be prescribed for all. For there are sometimes special circumstances which excuse a man for abstaining; and, moreover, we have no express command to constrain all Christians to use a specified day. However, if we duly consider the end which our Lord has in view, we shall perceive that the use should be more frequent than many make it: for the more infirmity presses, the more necessary is it frequently to have recourse to what may and will serve to confirm our faith, and advance us in purity of life; and, therefore, the practice of all well ordered churches should be to celebrate the Supper frequently, so far as the capacity of the people will admit. And each individual in his own place should prepare himself to receive whenever it is administered in the holy assembly, provided there is not some great impediment which constrains him to abstain. Although we have no express commandment specifying the time and the day, it should suffice us to know the intention of our Lord to be, that we should use it often, if we would fully experience the benefit which accrues from it.” –John Calvin

    Clearly more frequent was the desire.

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  76. “”Now it is certain that Jesus Christ did not prescribe his sacraments for us in vain, since he works in us all he represents by these holy signs, although the manner in which he does it goes beyond our understanding and is incomprehensible to us just as the operation of God spirit is hidden and incomprehensible.” “therefore we reject the desecrations of the sacraments, all the muddied ideas and damnable inventions that men have added and mixed with them. And we say that we should be content with the procedure that Christ and the apostles have taught us and speak of these things as they have spoken of them””—-the Belgic Confession 1561

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  77. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: Ali – MacArthur is good on many things, and his soteriology is very strong. But he is a baptist, and his baptist colors show when it comes to the sacraments, including the Lord’s Supper sermon you copied and pasted. The Westminster Standards are clear that the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace and confers real spiritual benefits. MacArthur never says that. He says it is “reconfirmation,” “rededication,” “proclamation,” “memorial,” and “communing” with Christ – all of those are true, but ultimately it is a means of real spiritual grace and blessing, and MacArthur never says that. WLC 170 says we “truly and really” feed on the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner – I doubt MacArthur would agree. To be fair, I suspect most Reformed folk share MacArthur’s view, and that’s a major problem in Reformed churches. We treat the Lord’s Supper as a quaint little ritual and time for self-reflection after the occasional worship service rather than a vital means of grace.

    And? -you don’t agree with what was included by MacArthur above, vv?. ,Also, don’t know if MacArthur’s is a ‘baptist’ or not. Also don’t think the above indicates in any way that he treats ‘the Lord’s Supper as a quaint little ritual and time for self-reflection after the occasional worship service rather than a vital means of grace’. Also, what does the bible say about all this? Also, you are pretty strong in promoting that you think the Lord is pleased with premarital and extramarital sex, but don’t your Standards don’t, so what do we make of that…
    all that to say, what is your point, from a biblical standpoint, about zrim’s initial unclear, unhelpful, uninstructive, unbiblical premise:
    Zrim says: But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.

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  78. @ Ali: From the Wiki

    In Christian theology, the Christian Church is traditionally divided into:

    the Church Militant (Latin: Ecclesia militans), which consists of Christians on earth who struggle as soldiers of Christ against sin, the devil, and “the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” …

    and the Church Triumphant (Latin: Ecclesia triumphans), which consists of those who have the beatific vision [Catholics] and are in Heaven [Cats and Prots]

    … In systems of theology which reject the doctrine of Purgatory, such as Low-Church Lutheranism,[3] the Churches Militant and Triumphant are together known as the two states of the Church. These divisions are often discussed in the context of the doctrine of the communion of saints;

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  79. @Ali
    I have MacArthur’s study bible (NKJV), and have looked at a few of his commentaries. I agree with VV that his soteriology is not bad (setting side the humdinger he seems to have corrected). His ecclesiology is problematic as the single elder/independent church model he endorses is at odds with what scripture teaches about church governance. His eschatology is dispensationalist (pre-mill).

    Looking at what he has to say about the Lord’s Supper, we see where he is at odds with the expository teaching of the reformers as described in the Westminster confession and Belgic confession. I find his description of the Lord’s supper problematic (and understanding of ordinances as he teaches in his study bible). For example, he writes, “And so, Communion then becomes a symbol of our salvation act.” No. A thousand times no. It is not a symbol…or better yet. The sacraments are not *merely* symbols. They are “signs and seals”. See the WCF on this. He goes on to say that one can come unworthily to the Table, “by making it into a saving thing rather than a communing thing, by thinking that it saves you to do it rather than understanding that it only causes you to make a fresh commitment and a fresh communion with Christ.” The “only” here is doing a lot of work. Consider what the reformers said about the sacraments,

    We believe that our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our faith. God has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to our external senses both what God enables us to understand by the Word and what he does inwardly in our hearts, confirming in us the salvation he imparts to us. For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. So they are not empty and hollow signs to fool and deceive us, for their truth is Jesus Christ, without whom they would be nothing.

    …Jesus Christ has ordained [the Lord’s Supper] to nourish and sustain those who are [in] his church. Now those who are born again have two lives in them. The one is physical and temporal— they have it from the moment of their first birth, and it is common to all. The other is spiritual and heavenly, and is given them in their second birth— it comes through the Word of the gospel in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is common to God’s elect only.

    Thus, to support the physical and earthly life God has prescribed for us an appropriate earthly and material bread, which is as common to all people as life itself. But to maintain the spiritual and heavenly life that belongs to believers,
    God has sent a living bread that came down from heaven: namely Jesus Christ, who nourishes and maintains the spiritual life of believers when eaten— that is, when appropriated and received spiritually by faith.

    To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood. He did this to testify to us that just as truly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior.

    We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls. Now it is certain that Jesus Christ did not prescribe his sacraments for us in vain, since he works in us all he represents *by* these holy signs, although the manner in which he does it goes beyond our understanding and is incomprehensible to us, just as the operation of God’s Spirit is hidden and incomprehensible.

    Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood— but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith. In that way Jesus Christ remains always seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven—but he never refrains on that account to communicate himself to us through faith.

    This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ communicates himself to us with all his benefits. At that table he makes us enjoy himself as much as the merits of his suffering and death, as he nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the eating of his flesh, and relieves and renews them by the drinking of his blood…

    You added the following postscript,

    ps. sdb – and reminded from some reading this am, we ought also be ‘more sensitive’ to the fact that ‘the whole counsel of God’ is not ‘codeword’ for anything but is just that – the whole counsel of God – and in His love He always present us with it perfectly (though we do so always imperfectly)

    Really? Because that’s not what a lot of people seem to mean when they throw that phrase around. Surely you can think of other allusions to scripture people use that butcher the original meaning of scripture. For example, perhaps you have heard somebody say something about the “straight and narrow”. Now when I hear that, most of the time the person saying it has in mind the idea that one must do good works in order to merit God’s favor. I think we agree that isn’t what Jesus was teaching. Other allusions to phrases in scripture unmoored from their biblical context include “Thus saith the Lord” and “Bless his heart”. Now perhaps you didn’t mean it that way. Perhaps by clarifying what you meant rather than assuming the worst of others, you might find that you get your point across more effectively.

    And? -you don’t agree with what was included by MacArthur above, vv?. ,Also, don’t know if MacArthur’s is a ‘baptist’ or not.

    Those who adhere to the reformed expositors of scripture as expressed in the WCF and Belgic Confession would disagree with MacArthur’s comments above. Yes, MacArthur is a baptist as becomes clear in his summary of theology at the end of his study bible. You could also go to his church website and see what they say.

    Also don’t think the above indicates in any way that he treats ‘the Lord’s Supper as a quaint little ritual and time for self-reflection after the occasional worship service rather than a vital means of grace’.

    If you re-read VV’s comment more closely, he is describing how the Lord’s Supper is treated in his own church. Yes the Zwinglian memorialist view of the sacraments has led to a devaluing of the Lord’s Supper. This was the concern of the reformers among those who opposed Zwingli’s approach.

    Also, what does the bible say about all this?

    The prooftexts in the confessions are a great place to start if you are not aware of the exegetical grounding in scripture for the reformer’s understanding of the sacraments.

    Also, you are pretty strong in promoting that you think the Lord is pleased with premarital and extramarital sex, but don’t your Standards don’t, so what do we make of that…

    He makes of that that the reformers erred and that the Bible does not teach that pre-marital sex between consenting adults is sinful. I think he is misreading scripture and that the weight of tradition puts the onus on him to demonstrate that the church has been wrong. I don’t think he has done that. Perhaps you can explain to him why his understanding of what porneia entails is incorrect and why fornication is not explicitly condemned in Leviticus. I suggest that you consider Paul’s command to Timothy that “opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”. Perhaps you consider these asides as gentleness?

    all that to say, what is your point, from a biblical standpoint, about zrim’s initial unclear, unhelpful, uninstructive, unbiblical premise:
    Zrim says: But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.

    Zrim’s statement is absolutely correct:
    1. sin still clings: “…sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” See for example, Romans 7 and Phil 3. No matter how much you repent and grow in righteousness you have sin clinging to you. You haven’t (nor will you ever in this life) repented of all your sins.

    2. reassured that they are still welcome anyway: As the great hymn puts it, “Come, ye weary, heavy laden, Lost and ruined by the fall; If you tarry till you’re better, You will never come at all.”

    3. “The pietist…” The Lord’s supper is a means of grace by which our faith is strengthened. It is not a reward for the holiest who have achieved a certain level of faithfulness. As the reformers put it in the Belgic, “Being reminded of our weakness…”

    4. “After all, do triumphant saints take communion?” Of course not. Once we are glorified we will have neither faith nor hope… we will see and commune in person.

    5. “No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.” Exactly. Those of us still being sanctified, awaiting that day when we will be taken home and freed from the presence of sin, continue to labor under the curse. Our sanctification is imperfect and remnants of corruption infect every part of us. Thus we make use of the means our Lord appointed to strengthen us spiritually – namely the Lord’s Supper.

    What do you disagree with in all of this?

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  80. sdb says What do you disagree with in all of this?

    Zrim says: But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.

    1)As I already said, -The Lord’s supper is for ALL believers, of which there is only one kind (living on the earth) (per Jesus, that is)
    -I (Jesus) have overcome the world. John 16:33b
    -You are from God, little children, and have overcome them because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
    -by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 2 Pet 2:19b
    – now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. Rom 6:22
    -whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4
    -He who overcomes will inherit these things and I will be his God and he will be My son. Rev 21:7

    2) As I said, zrim needs to study 1 Cor 11:27-29, and take up any of his ‘buts’ up with the Lord

    3)zrim needs to stop with the false ‘pietist’ accusations at every turn, which I am sure you, sdb, are glad to exhort him about, showing no partiality in your love (exhorting)

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  81. Ali – I just don’t think you’re understanding the point Zrim and sdb are making. I realize you believe (correctly) that the Lord’s Supper is for all believers, but you seem to think its benefits are conditioned on confession/repentance/self-examination. This is not the case. The Supper is efficacious for all believers who place their faith in Christ, even when that faith is weak and they are living a life of sin and foolishness, which describes all of us to some degree. The “buts” in 1 Corinthians 11 are directed at those who on the one hand proclaim Christ’s death at the Lord’s Supper, but on the other hand blatantly and willfully disregard His sacrifice in the way they treat other Christians during the very celebration of the Supper. In other words, the way the Corinthians took the Lord’s Supper was contrary to its purpose. This is different from failing to sufficiently examine oneself or confess all sins.

    And regarding my belief on extramarital sex, I realize I am in the minority in the Church today and the Christian community (including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) since the Reformation. I may very well be wrong. But that has no bearing on this discussion or any other. Trying to disqualify my points in this discussion (which you’ve tried to do twice in this thread) because you disagree with my position on an entirely different topic is a poor way to make your case. I’m pretty sure it’s a logical fallacy of some sort.

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  82. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: And regarding my belief on extramarital sex,…has no bearing on this discussion or any other….

    vv, imo, and I’m sure you don’t mind me saying, it’s such a serious misunderstanding of God, reflection of darkened understanding, foolishness, that it affects credibility, imo, of any other of your ‘opinions’

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  83. Ali – that’s a classic fundamentalist way of thinking: certain external moral behaviors define what it means to be a Christian, or in this case my views of biblical sexuality invalidate all of my other beliefs. Whatever our disagreements on the Lord’s Supper, that’s is a poor way of thinking and a poor way of making an argument.

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  84. @Ali
    You have clearly misunderstood what Zrim wrote.

    Zrim says: But, Ali, the sacrament is for those who know that sin still clings but are being reassured that they are still welcome anyway. The pietist bent to being functionally perfect before partaking would seem to defeat the purpose in the first place, wouldn’t it? After all, do triumphant saints take communion? No, only militant ones, the ones still fighting sin, the flesh, and the devil.

    In response you write”

    1)As I already said, -The Lord’s supper is for ALL believers, of which there is only one kind (living on the earth) (per Jesus, that is)
    -I (Jesus) have overcome the world. John 16:33b
    -You are from God, little children, and have overcome them because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
    -by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 2 Pet 2:19b
    – now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. Rom 6:22
    -whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4
    -He who overcomes will inherit these things and I will be his God and he will be My son. Rev 21:7

    “Miltant saints” are Christians still living on earth undergoing sanctification. “Triumphant saints” are those who have been glorified and freed from the very presence of sin. In this life, sin still clings to everything we do (including our very repentance). This is why not even our faith and repentance *merits* salvation. Even our “good works” are filthy rags. There is a tradition within Christianity that rejects this view (largely within the Wesleyan tradition), and it has influenced much of evangelicalism. None of the portions of the Bible verses you have cited here address the distinction between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. Triumphant saints will not take communion.

    2) As I said, zrim needs to study 1 Cor 11:27-29, and take up any of his ‘buts’ up with the Lord

    I suppose we all need to study all of scripture and take up all of it with the Lord. However, I don’t see any error in what he has written. We should examine ourselves (this happens in the fencing of every reformed church I am aware of) and conduct our selves in a manner worthy of the participation in the body and blood of our savior we anticipate. That is very different from the extrabiblical call to lay all of one’s sins before the Lord in order to make oneself sufficiently worthy to partake of a means of grace. Praying for God’s forgiveness for sins one is aware of and praying for the grace of repentance upon learning of sins one wasn’t aware of is a posture all Christians should adopt. Unfortunately some with very tender consciences cut themselves off from the Lord’s Table because of doubts they have that they have sufficiently repented. This is tragic and comments like the one in your Bible note exacerbate this problem. The context of 1 Cor 11 was people people cutting in line, getting drunk on communion wine, and generally being jerks. This context is very important to keep in mind when thinking about the fencing of the Table.

    3)zrim needs to stop with the false ‘pietist’ accusations at every turn, which I am sure you, sdb, are glad to exhort him about, showing no partiality in your love (exhorting)

    Your premise is incorrect. His characterization of pietism (a movement that has influences evangelical churches) is correct and pietism is problematic. The focus on subjectivism rather than the objective work of Christ (and concomitant introspection) drives a legalism that is destructive to the gospel, has weakened the church (read about the burned over districts), and undermines the objective authority of scripture (“I feel the Lord is telling me” replaces “scripture teaches”). There is a reason that the NT spends so much more time on battling legalism than battling antinomianism. It is because at heart – no one is really antinomian. True believers have the law written on their hearts and the Holy Spirit makes the regenerate “willing and ready to live for him”. False believers want rules and want to save themselves. Pietism easily slides into a new form of works righteousness and should be guarded against. In short, I don’t see any problem with what Zrim wrote, and nothing you’ve written in response points to an error in what he wrote. Your response does indicate that you do not know what is meant by Triumphant and Militant and that you do not know the history of the various holiness movements in protestant christianity. Rather than attack and resort to accusations, perhaps you should ask for clarification, try to understand, and then offer gentle correction if you still think something here is off.

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  85. sdb,

    and the Lord says “Triumphant saints”, or ‘overcomers’, are all believers, now; and for a guy like you who agrees with JohnY that we aren’t in war, it is curious you agree with the word ‘militant’

    and btw, sdb, ‘functionally perfect’ would not be having a disposition of repentance of all sin – that’s ridiculous to think that -and is a very low view of God’s perfection. Perfection would actually being without sin and never sinning like only Jesus accomplished.

    Repentance- an about face to the path we were on; in our thinking that opposes the Lord’s – upon our conversion and ongoing – such an indescribable and gracious gift of God to us!

    vv – I am so very thankful – that we, the one bride – are betrothed to a faithful husband.

    gotta go, have a good day.

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  86. As long as you don’t talk about Christ having died only for the sins of the elect, Sinclair Ferguson is against any abstract argument about the order of application. Ferguson’s own order of application to individual sinners is that the Holy Spirit must give us Christ the person before God will impute Christ’s righteousness to us is not an “abstract argument”. His condition for not turning inward is that the object of faith be God’s water baptism which promises every sinner salvation if they use the instrumental tool of faith..

    Ferguson—“If this mode of thinking permeates our approach to gospel preaching, the focus inevitably shifts to abstracted and discrete blessings, and then to the question of how we receive them, and thus ultimately to the issue: “Under or through what conditions can these blessings become mine?” The tendency is to turn me inward. But the warrant for justifying faith in Christ does not lie within. To think this was precisely the mistake of the young Luther. For this reason Staupitz’s famous instruction to seek his predestination “in the wounds of Christ” was a telling exhortation that would lead him to discover that the warrant for the gospel is without, not within.”

    https://www.challies.com/visual-theology/sinclair-ferguson-evaluates-two-pieces-of-visual-theology/

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  87. @ Mark: Do you realize that the point of the linked article is that Perkin’s ordo is superior to Bunyan’s because it links benefits of salvation to Christ instead of each other?

    No mention of baptism.

    And if you’re hoping to prevent the believer from relying on the quality of his faith as the ground of his salvation, then you want Perkins and not Bunyan.

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  88. Isn’t Ferguson’s assumptions about union with Christ coloring or determining all his theological interpretations? What is the difference between relying on, resting on, and trusting in Christ the person rather than believing the Scriptural propositions and testimony about what Christ accomplished for His elect people? IOW, can the person of Christ be separated from what Christ accomplished? And why would the latter cause one to try to meet conditions or go inward more than the former would? There must be some type of fallacy in Ferguson’s thinking in this regard. I’m not well trained in the art of argument like some others are on this site. So, help me see the errors in my or Ferguson’s thinking.

    I guess this goes back again to what is the cause of faith and what the proper object of faith. And back again to how Horton thinks regarding union with Christ and how Tipton does,i.e., does the differences between them matter and then what are the implications for living out the Christian life?

    Ali claims that I don’t think the Christian is in a war. That is not true- my claim was I fight in a different way than Ali does. Ali and I interpret walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh in totally different ways too. That will probably go in Ali’s ear, get interpreted according to her assumptions and then come back out with a response that tells me again that she has no clue why I am thinking the way I am.

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  89. Isn’t Perkins chart revealing his belief in an infralapsarian doctrine of election? IOW, the decree for the atonement of Christ comes after the fall of man.

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  90. Notice where the imputation of righteousness is placed in Perkins chart too. It certainly is not shown to be a cause of faith.

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  91. @Ali
    “and the Lord says “Triumphant saints”, or ‘overcomers’, are all believers, now; and for a guy like you who agrees with JohnY that we aren’t in war, it is curious you agree with the word ‘militant’ ”

    Ali this is ridiculous. Why are you arguing over the distinction between the church militant and church triumphant? The latin from which these labels apply is a bit different than common usage, but as I noted the distinction is between believer who have been glorified and those who haven’t. Secondly, don’t read JY to be saying aren’t in a spiritual war. You have misconstrued a lot here. Perhaps instead of adopting an adversarial pose and accusing people here of awful things, you might try asking for clarification and extending charity.

    “and btw, sdb, ‘functionally perfect’ would not be having a disposition of repentance of all sin – that’s ridiculous to think that -and is a very low view of God’s perfection. Perfection would actually being without sin and never sinning like only Jesus accomplished.”

    Yet it is a common error in charismatic, Wesleyan,Nazarene, and related circles. An error that causes much damage to many believers and why language such as “lay all your sins…” is unhelpful.

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  92. Chapter XV Of Repentance unto Life
    II. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

    You probably don’t have a problem with the ‘all’ in the above, sdb?

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  93. Jeff—it links benefits of salvation to Christ instead of each other…

    mcmark—“Union with Christ priority” is all about denying that the order of application matters, except for saying that the order which begins with Christ the person in us is “better than” the “Chain link” order. But why is it better? Because it doesn’t have to talk about law as distinct from “covenant”? Or is better because it doesn’t have to talk about election or Christ having only died for the sins of the elect?

    In the claim that the less better order avoids looking within (preparation before, the practical syllogism after), the supposedly better order assumes grace for everybody who is commanded to believe the gospel—-the presumption is that we can talk about Christ first without talking about the nature and extent of the atonement. Jeff, i don’t think the two models are the only choices—-while all sinners are commanded to believe the gospel, the law is not the gospel and God does not need to assure anybody of grace before commanding all sinners to obey the law or believe the gospel.
    It is axiomatic with some “union folks” that there must be grace before there can be law. Does this mean that grace is law and that law is grace? Is Baptism grace? Does Baptism succeed?

    Carl Truman explains how everybody can agree with Carl Truman that baptism is what God does and that baptism is grace–“Baptism is all about God’s grace… there is room for those who disagree on the subject of baptism to agree on baptism’s meaning…..Pastors should should point people back to the fact that they were baptized as the basis for pressing home their new identity in Christ and the great imperatives of the Christian life.”

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-marks-of-grace-alone-church/

    Sinclair Ferguson—“Baptism summons us to (rather than signifies) repentance and faith….Baptism’s efficacy in our lives is related to (life-long!) faith and repentance.”

    Karlberg review of The Holy Spirit. By Sinclair B. Ferguson. Contours of Christian Theology. Gerald Bray, general editor
    – ” According to Ferguson, it is union with Christ that is “the dominant motif and architectonic principle of the order of salvation” (p. 100). What is new in the present discussion is the inordinate stress given to the eschatological tension between the “already” and “not yet” of the Christian’s life in the Spirit. According to this school of thought, the older dogmatic model (which posits a “chain” linking various benefits in logical, if not temporal sequence) obscures the already/not yet tension– how “each blessing is capable of its own distinctive consummation” (p. 102). Ferguson’s model, which is by no means original with him, relativises the definitive aspect of soteric justification, the once for-all act of God reckoning sinners righteous in his sight by means of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    Karlberg–“In precisely what sense does justification (as one of many benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection) await future consummation? Clearly, Ferguson is saying something different from traditional Reformed theology. The crux of the new theology lies in its repudiation of the classic Protestant law/ gospel distinction. There is no place in Ferguson’s theology of the covenants for this antithetical contrast with reference to the history of God’s covenant dealings with humankind…. What we find here is an attempt to place side by side two disparate and irreconcilable theologies.”

    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. The judicial ground for all the grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”

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  94. Do you realize? The people with the “links” in their old orders (Perkins or Bunyan) are not “in the know” about the new order, which as Gaffin and Garica and Evans and Torrance explain, is not new but really what Calvin himself was saying all along. So other people have a “system”. But we don’t.

    https://mereorthodoxy.com/calvin-no-salvation-without-sanctification/
    “Some make their sanctification a superfluous response to their justification. They persuade us of our free acceptance before God, but struggles to convince us that holiness is a necessary pursuit. As Sinclair Ferguson points out, Perkin’s model possesses a certain pastoral brilliance. HOWEVER, the metaphor also unwittingly obscures the relation of salvation’s benefits to Jesus Christ (The Holy Spirit, 98). By focusing on “the cause-and-effect sequence” of the benefits, we displace Jesus from his central place within salvation .Inevitably, certain benefits receive priority, leading to endless speculation about the causal relationship between the links of the chain.

    mcmark—But now the speculation and debate has ended, and all who are not still unwitting agree that impartation comes before imputation, and in that sense impartation causes imputation, and the “causal relationship” between Christ’s indwelling us “more and more” means that there is a “not yet aspect to all the benefits, including justification.” Sarcasm alert.

    It is explained to us again—“This dynamic is especially apparent in recent Reformed discussions about justification’s role in motivating sanctification. In this SYSTEM, the good news of our justification fuels our sanctification by bringing us back, over and over, to our undeserved acceptance before God through Christ. Liberated from the prison of attempting to gain God’s approval, we are set free to serve God because we have his approval already in Christ. Our pursuit of holiness derives its energy from this undeserved gift. Therefore, justification and sanctification are distinct, but yet indivisible. Sanctification is the fruit and consequence of justification while justification is the root and stimulant of sanctification. Here, the shadow of the chain model is readily discernible.”

    “While God’s justification of the ungodly certainly compels our obedience (2 Cor. 5. 14-15), this paradigm obscures the relationship between our sanctification and the living Jesus. By prioritizing justification in the cause-and-effect chain and making sanctification a secondary link contingent upon justification, three things subtly happen: (1) grace becomes synonymous with justification… (2) grace becomes a motivational resource that encourages sanctification, not the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit that enables it, and (3) sanctification …becomes a step in a formula distantly related to Christ. This unnecessarily shackles God’s grace to forensic categories, and fails to capture all that Jesus shares with his members

    mcmark–Would it be “pastoral” to talk about law without assuming grace for those who are commanded by law?

    It is explained– “This pastoral practice UNWITTINGLY reduces the menu of salvation’s indicatives to justification, forcing a diet that the New Testament does not restrict us to…By orienting salvation’s benefits directly to the living Christ, not within a LOGICAL SEQUENCE of cause-and-effect, we avoid displacing Jesus from his central role within salvation. Following Calvin, Ferguson writes, “The blessings of redemption OUGHT NOT to be viewed as merely having Christ as their ultimate causal source but as being ours only by direct participation in Christ, in union with him through the Spirit” Grace is not a gift received in justification that trickles down creating the remainder of salvation’s benefits. Rather, one with Jesus through the Spirit, God’s grace floods our lives, granting us all of salvation’s benefits.”

    Calvin (3:2:10)–”Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with Him in the gifts with which he has been endowed.”

    Bruce McCormack—”The problem with such statements is that one of the gifts Calvin speaks of–regeneration–is very difficult to distinguish conceptually from that union which is supposed to give rise to both justification and regeneration.”

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  95. @Ali
    Is your question rhetorical or are you asking sincerely? I’ve posed several questions to you (not rhetorically) in order to get clarification. I’m not assuming you are well versed in church history. Namely the history of the relationship between various holiness movements, arminian/calvinist controversy, new life/old life split, pietism vs. confessionalism, and other controversies in protestantism that cause certain phrases and emphases to be quite loaded. Perhaps you know all this, perhaps you don’t. My sense is that you haven’t previously heard of the distinction between church militant and church triumphant, that you don’t know much about holiness movements, and so forth. That’s OK – some of the details can be arcane and one can be a fine Christian without being up on all this.

    However, not knowing this history should give one pause about how you interact with others – realizing that certain idioms and metaphors you take for granted are possibly loaded. Perhaps, being quick to accuse isn’t so wise?

    So I’ll ask again. Do you disagree with the distinction between the church militant and the church triumphant? You might consider the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation”:

    4 Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed: [Church Militant]
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song! [Church Victorious]
    5 ’Mid toil and tribulation,
    And tumult of her war,
    She waits the consummation
    Of peace forevermore;[Church Militant]
    Till, with the vision glorious,
    Her longing eyes are blest,
    And the great Church victorious
    Shall be the Church at rest. [Church Victorious]
    6 Yet she on earth hath union
    With God the Three in One,
    And mystic sweet communion
    With those whose rest is won, [Church Militant]
    With all her sons and daughters
    Who, by the Master’s Hand
    Led through the deathly waters,
    Repose in Eden land. [Church Victorious]

    The distinction is between the already (imperfect sanctification wherein sin clings to all we do WCFXIII) and the not yet (perfect glorification wherein we will finally be freed from even the presence of sin). Part of our sanctification is the endeavoring to repent of all our sins (not generally but particularly) but realizing that we do not rest in our repentance, but rather show gratitude for the repentance we have been blessed with (WCFXV). Indeed, even the purest churches are a mixture of truth and error (WCF XXV). To aid us in our sanctification (and in this repentance), God has ordained certain means of grace – prayer, hearing of his Word, and the sacraments. In particular, the by the Lord’s Supper they “by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.” (WLC170). Who should take it? Those who examine themselves by serious meditation and fervent prayer (WLC171). What about those who doubt their salvation or the quality of their preparation?

    One who doubts of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof; and in God’s account has it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s supper, that he may be further strengthened.

    So I guess my questions to you are:
    1. Do you disagree that sin clings to all we do?
    2. Do you disagree with the distinction between the church militant and the church triumphant?
    3. Do you disagree that one who doubts whether they have really laid all their sins before God should come to the Table to be strengthened?
    4. Do you disagree with the sacramental nature of the Lord’s Supper?

    If we agree on these points, then I think we can lay this conversation to rest. If you disagree, we can either agree to disagree or we can discuss further and see if we might learn something (iron sharpening iron and all that).

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  96. sdb says: @Ali Is your question rhetorical or are you asking sincerely?
    -Asking sincerely, so would you answer it?

    sdb says: iron sharpening iron and all that.
    -Amen. I’m pretty sure if we met in person, we would talk about the weather and how about those Seahawks, or something like that, so appreciate the dialogue.

    I see your questions at the bottom -I’m thinking about #3 and how one would respond to that person.

    btw, one thing we haven’t talked about specifically is: “Why do we need to confess our sins if they have already been forgiven ?”

    The difference between Ephesians 1:6-8 and 1 John 1:9 is that John is dealing with what we call “relational,” or “familial,” forgiveness—like that of a father and a son. For example, if a son does something wrong to his father—falling short of his expectations or rules—the son has hindered his fellowship with his father. He remains the son of his father, but the relationship suffers. Their fellowship will be hindered until the son admits to his father that he has done wrong. It works the same way with God; our fellowship with Him is hindered until we confess our sin. When we confess our sin to God, the fellowship is restored. This is relational forgiveness.

    “Positional” forgiveness, or judicial forgiveness, is that which is obtained by every believer in Christ. In our position as members of the body of Christ, we have been forgiven of every sin we have ever committed or ever will commit. The price paid by Christ on the cross has satisfied God’s wrath against sin, and no further sacrifice or payment is necessary. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. Our positional forgiveness was obtained then and there.

    Confession of sin will help to keep us from the discipline of the Lord. If we fail to confess sin, the discipline of the Lord is sure to come until we do confess it. As stated previously, our sins are forgiven at salvation (positional forgiveness), but our daily fellowship with God needs to stay in good standing (relational forgiveness). Proper fellowship with God cannot happen with unconfessed sin in our lives. Therefore, we need to confess our sins to God as soon as we are aware that we have sinned, in order to maintain close fellowship with God. (‘got questions’ excerpt )

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  97. Mark:

    Your argument here has way too many loose ends. First, you link to a piece that praises Perkins over Bunyan because Perkins links all benefits to Christ.

    Then you quote someone who criticizes Perkins for not linking all benefits to Christ.

    Then you want Perkins as a Reformed example of ordo because he refutes Gaffin et al. But you disagree with Perkins about where imputation fits in the ordo, and the moment of imputation has been the sub-theme of your posts of late.

    So then we finally get back to your main thesis: McCormack is right and Calvin is wrong, and infant baptism somehow causes all of the ills in Reformed theology.

    I think you need to decide whether you want Perkins as expert witness or not. And then make your own argument using your own words. Quoting 15k people, sometimes with sarcasm and sometimes not, is both confusing and also a cop-out — it inflates your word-count without requiring heavy lifting on your own part.

    With affection,

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  98. Ali – doesn’t the Lord’s Supper enhance our practical relationship with God? Confession is vital, as James and John both tell us, but isn’t the Supper also vital in restoring/maintaining a right relationship with God? And again, where – outside of the RCC – does taking the Lord’s Supper depend on confession?

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  99. “You probably don’t have a problem with the ‘all’ in the above, sdb?”
    I don’t. We should endeavor to repent of all of our sins, but we never will do so (or even will to do so) perfectly on this side of glory. Hence the puritan line about repenting of our repentance and washing our tears. Placing conditions on the quality of one’s repentance in order to partake of a means of grace is an error.

    #3 is taken from the WLC. You might think about what it has to say as it articulates what I’m getting at there better than I.

    I’m not so sure about the relational and familial forgiveness discussion from “Got Questions”. I’ll need to think about it more. That being said, I really like what the Heidelberg Catechism has to say here. The theme running through it is “gratitude”. Our response to the saving work of God in our lives is gratitude. We are grateful for what he has done and promises to do while recognizing that his work in us will not be completed on this side of glory. Asking for forgiveness is the natural outgrowth of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life and our sanctification. It needs no rationale…

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  100. Maybe Jeff you need to begin lifting some by looking at Hart’s original question and his reference to the Theopolis Institute argument that Gaffin (Ferguson, Silva) backed away from questions about ecclesiology and sacrament.

    DGH–“How revolutionary was the recovery of union with Christ? Did its advocates simply tinker with the ordo salutis or did they seek to apply union to ecclesiology, liturgy and the sacraments?…. For union to apply to questions 88 through 97, unionists would need the Federal Visionaries.”.

    Gaffin — “Paul does not view the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the believer as separate, distinct acts but as different facets or aspects of the one act of incorporation with the resurrected Christ….
    https://theopolisinstitute.com/the-changing-face-of-reformed-theology/

    “A person is engrafted into union with the resurrected Christ. As a result of this union, one is justified, adopted, sanctified, glorified–and all the other benefits of this union—at the moment one has faith in Christ. But Dr. Gaffin also saw that there are future aspects to the benefits of salvation as well, “…for Paul the justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification of the believer are future as well as present.”

    Theopolis Institute–If union with Christ is primary in Paul’s thought, then where does the word “imputation” fit into this view? After all, to be in union means that all of the benefits are given to us by virtue of our union with Christ. Righteousness is not a substance that is transferred between two separate persons. The two persons become one in union. A PERSON is transferred—from the first Adam to the last Adam—NOT a storehouse of righteousness. A person is reckoned as righteous (i.e. imputed) BECAUSE he is now in union with Christ.

    Theopolis Institute—Most people are taught in Reformed churches and seminaries, to think linearly about salvation (e.g. Justification leads to Sanctificationwhich leads to Glorification). As Dr. Gaffin had originally said, “…if ‘washing’ on which ‘regeneration’ is directly dependent in Titus 3:5, refers to BAPTISM, then what Romans 6:3ff…teaches concerning BAPTISM as a sign and seal of incorporation with the resurrected Christ, and so the implications of that incorporation, will have to be brought to bear here.

    Theoloplis Institute—Soteriology didn’t simply have “implications” on ecclesiology; it isecclesiology. To be BAPTIZED into the Christian church is to be BAPTIZED into Jesus Christ.Historically, Reformed theology had a significant amount of ambiguity over what BAPTISM accomplished. If BAPTISM justified the child then, the child would be in the “golden CHAIN” and couldn’t fall away. Yet, the fact remained that many who are baptized did (and still do) fall away.

    Theopolis Institute-.Now that baptism was understood to bring one into union with Christ, it meant the person baptized had all the benefits of Christ as long as he abided and remained in that union.

    Jeff, my first and my important point is that nobody gets away from “causal relationships” between links. One side can say the other side has “links” and their own side is “organic” (no causes, no links) but then they assume that “union” means “Christ in us” has priority to us “in Christ” and then they have to answer the question about what “causes” union.
    Does the Spirit’s gift of faith cause the union, or is the Spirit’s gift of faith the result of union? If the Spirit baptises us into Christ, is that “Baptism” that which is administrated by church clergy?

    Jeff—Your argument here has way too many loose ends. First, you link to a piece that praises Perkins over Bunyan because Perkins links all benefits to Christ.

    mcmark—if you want to lift with me, Jeff, then you would read the comments and not simply the link. My argument is not only with puritans but with any “unionist” who uses Christ the person imparted categories to avoid discussion about election and the atonement. My “main thesis” is NOT about getting to how Mccormack reads Calvin, but you focus attention to that instead of my sustained argument about definite atonement. One side can accuse the other side—you look within, we look outside, but if neither side is pointing to Christ’s finished atonement outside us but instead pointing to “more and more indwelling”, they are both looking at the Christian life, even though they are using different language to do so.

    The question is, Jeff, looking outside us to what? It doesn’t seem to be looking to Christ’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. And I am quoting folks like Truman and Ferguson and Gaffin telling us to look to our baptism.

    .Ferguson—““Under or through what conditions can these blessings become mine?” The tendency is to turn me inward. But the warrant for justifying faith in Christ does not lie within.”

    Jeff—Then you quote someone who criticizes Perkins for not linking all benefits to Christ. Then you want Perkins as a Reformed example of ordo because he refutes Gaffin et al. But you disagree with Perkins about where imputation fits in the ordo, and the moment of imputation has been the sub-theme of your posts of late.

    mcmark—There is no reason you (or anyone) is required to do the lifting to follow my argument. But your summary of my argument is not close to what I have written. Do you really think that linking or quoting somebody means that I am agreeing with them, or that since they disagree with somebody, then this means I should agree with them about the “causal relationship” between God’s imputation and God’s regeneration. I agree with Berkhof and Cotton about the sequence of imputation before “in Christ and Christ in us”, but they (and I) are very much in the minority.

    Jeff–So then we finally get back to your main thesis… infant baptism somehow causes all of the ills in Reformed theology.

    mcmark—No, not at all. It’s not there. As Truman wrote, it’s not about the subjects of baptism but about the meaning of baptism. Truman thinks people can disagree about the subjects and still agree about the definition of baptism. And I am sure he’s right about that. But what he ( and many others) assume is a trajectory by which you begin by thinking baptism into Christ’s death is about God’s imputation and effectual call and that this baptism is not with water . And then the trajectory (which all but the unwitting follow) is that you come to agree that the baptism which puts you into Christ IS WITH WATER and is administered by the true church incorporating you into Christ’s body . In other words, Jeff, I agree with the Leithart–catholics (theopolis Institute) that this is about the nature of sacramental efficiacy. But I disagree with them (and most Reformed) that “baptism is grace”. Is baptism “common grace”? Does the grace of baptism sometimes fail? When baptism fails, does this mean that grace was not grace? Does this mean that the person “in the covenant” was not really in the covenant? These questions are not about infants, Jeff. These questions about the nature of the Christian life and the necessity of keeping covenant for the “not yet aspect of justification”. They cannot be dismissed as merely about infants or the subjects of baptis,.

    Jeff—I think you need to decide whether you want Perkins as expert witness or not.

    mcmark—If you do the lifting to read in context above, it’s clear that I was not taking sides with Perkins or Bunyan but taking sides against the solution proposed by Ferguson that we can look outside, while at the same time not talking about election or definite atonement or even about the question he begs—-what comes before we are united to Christ’s person?

    mcmark asked above—Why is the order which begins with Christ the person in us is “better than” the “Chain link” order. Is it better because it doesn’t talk about law as distinct from “covenant”? Is it better because it doesn’t talk about Christ having only died for the sins of the elect? One order avoids preparation before, the practical syllogism after. The order assumes grace for everybody who is commanded to believe the gospel—-the presumption is that we can talk about Christ first without talking about the nature and extent of the atonement. Jeff, i don’t think the two models are the only choices—-while all sinners are commanded to believe the gospel, the law is not the gospel and God does not need to assure anybody of grace before commanding all sinners to obey the law or believe the gospel.

    Sinclair Ferguson—“Baptism summons us to (rather than signifies) repentance and faith….Baptism’s efficacy in our lives is related to (life-long!) faith and repentance.”

    Karlberg — Ferguson’s model relativises the definitive aspect of soteric justification, the once for-all act of God reckoning sinners righteous in his sight by means of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness….In what sense does justification await future consummation?

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  101. You liked your own comment. Tee-hee.

    But seriously, I don’t mind lifting a little with you. We share a commitment to preserving JFBA and to pushing back against various efforts to smuggle works in through the back door.

    My contribution to lifting at this stage is to push you to sharpen your argumentation. For contrary to your belief, I did actually read DGH’s linked article when posted. What I observed about it is that it was written by a Federal Visionary writing under an assumed name, and that the thesis of the argument is that Gaffin launched a revolution, after which Reformed theology was never the same: it is now on a trajectory that will ultimately lead to the Federal Vision. Hello, James Jordan.

    Now stop and think about the article in terms of its bias. The author, who finds himself so far in the hinterlands as to need an assumed name, wants — really badly wants — the reader to see Federal Vision as the natural outgrowth of respected strands of thought in Reformed theology. So *of course* he claims Gaffin. And of course he strives to claim continuity of FV theology with Gaffin.

    And so now comes you, already primed to see Gaffin – union as Osianderism, and you uncritically accept the author’s claims at face value.

    But before you do, you must first ask the question: Why did Gaffin pull back? Why did he retrench and back off from the ecclesial claims made by the FV? To claim that he simply is being shrewd is a cop-out.

    You — anyone — must first answer that question before trying to make associations. Why did Gaffin reject the FV road?

    And I say that as one who does not particularly defend Gaffin’s comprehensive theological program of union or of subsuming the personal under the eschatological.

    Likewise, you must first understand what the phrase “look to your baptism” means, before assuming that it means that the act of baptism causes union with Christ. Just because Leithart or Wilkins speaks that way does not mean that they speak for Reformed theology in general.

    McMark: If you do the lifting to read in context above, it’s clear that I was not taking sides with Perkins or Bunyan but taking sides against the solution proposed by Ferguson that we can look outside

    I did read it in context, and it was far from clear. Sorry.

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  102. I agree that my off and on (mostly on) sarcasm and Talmud-like layer of commentary on top of commentary does not help, Jeff

    To keep it short, this is not about “infant baptism” as you assumed. It is about what “baptism” means. And saying “federal visionists” will not make that question go away. Romans 6 teaches us that being baptised into Christ’s death is being placed into Christ’s death. What does this mean?

    You may want to draw a line between Gaffin and James Jordan (or Leithart or Doug Wilson etc), but that is not my concern. Unlike Karlberg, my interest is not in an examination of Gaffin’s motives and ecclesial politics. I don’t care if Gaffin is on the same side as Shepherd or Piper or Dan Fuller. I don’t care what Gaffin “actually thinks about” the OPC reports which have ended any need for discussion on justification or republication (there’s the sarcasm again).

    What I care about is God imputing elect sinners with Christ’s death. To me, this is not only about “justification priority”. It’s about “atonement priority”.

    Yes, I am against “ecclesiology” becoming the gospel (whether it’s NT Wright or Carl Truman dismissing the “Zwinglians”) But my basic concern is that Christ’s atoning death is outside us sinners. Atonement is not what happens in us experimentally. Even God’s imputation of Christ’s atonement is not the atonement. Whatever it is that joins us to Christ’s atonement (be it imputation as Berkhof says, or regeneration or indwelling or “personal participation” as the unionists say), what joins is not the object of faith. The gospel is about Christ’s death for the sins of the elect imputed. I object to any idea that we believe in Christ “as a person” without knowing something about the nature of Christ’s atonement. I object to the “experimental” focus on “more and more heartfelt trust” because that “in me” displaces the good news about the justice and the success of Christ’s death.

    I am not interested in any “common grace” or “prevenient grace” in which “baptism” fails to save those joined to Christ’s death.

    “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” 2 Corinthians 5:14

    Smeaton—Paul uses two expressions interchangeably; that is, “He died for all”, and “all died in Him.” Paul 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.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=GawCAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA301&dq=Smeaton+apostles+doctrine+of+the+atonement+colossians&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4tfb69rLXAhWHWCYKHffCAloQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q=Smeaton%20apostles%20doctrine%20of%20the%20atonement%20colossians&f=false

    Theopolis Institute– “Baptism didn’t fit nicely in an order of salvation chain in Reformed theology.Now that baptism was understood to bring one into union with Christ, it meant the person baptized had all the benefits of Christ as long as he abided and remained in that union.”

    mcmark—children of Abraham know the indicative
    of what Christ got done once for all time by His death
    Abraham knew what the seed had to do
    Abraham knew that he himself was not going
    to bring in the righteousness

    God’s love is not because of the atonement
    but the atonement is because of God’s electing love
    Christ made atonement for all whom God loves
    one result of God’s election
    is submission to the doctrine of Christ’s death as the righteousness
    obtained by Christ for the elect alone
    and then imputed by God to elect sinners

    the test of the exodus out of the false gospel
    is not “adding on being Reformed”

    like a cherry on top of your sundae

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  103. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: Ali – doesn’t the Lord’s Supper enhance our practical relationship with God? Confession is vital, as James and John both tell us, but isn’t the Supper also vital in restoring/maintaining a right relationship with God? And again, where – outside of the RCC – does taking the Lord’s Supper depend on confession?

    Vv,
    1) see this, to which we all say amen
    sbd says :The theme running through it is “gratitude”. Our response to the saving work of God in our lives is gratitude. We are grateful for what he has done and promises to do while recognizing that his work in us will not be completed on this side of glory. Asking for forgiveness is the natural outgrowth of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life and our sanctification. It needs no rationale…

    2) speaking of the Spirit’s work: this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, And they shall be My people; I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” Heb 8, 10;Jer 31:33

    3)speaking of the Spirit’s work – what other outcome could there be to obeying ‘examination’, than repentance.
    1 Cor 11: 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

    4) speaking of the Spirit’s work in everything:.
    Ephesians 4:1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
    Philippians 1:27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
    Colossians 1:10so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
    1 Thessalonians 2:12so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

    5)speaking of the Spirit’s work – since your brothers aren’t exhorting you about this – you really ought to check in with the Lord please, and see if pornography(eg and etc) is really acceptable as is your claim.

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  104. So, do you Reformed confessionalist types really believe that your particular theological views are like a cherry on top of a sundae of the true biblical Gospel; or, is that just a fig newton of McMark’s imagination?

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  105. @ JY: Fig Newton. Sorry, Mark.

    The history of Reformed theology is one of attempting to recover the gospel and Biblical teaching; almost every sentence in the Confession reflects some kind of debate or conflict over gospel-related issues.

    That’s not to say that every controversy in Reformed theology has been fruitfully gospel-related. But in general, the Confessional material to which officers must subscribe is substance, not fluff.

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  106. McMark: To keep it short, this is not about “infant baptism” as you assumed. It is about what “baptism” means.

    Thanks. That is helpful for putting your comments in their proper frame.

    McM: And saying “federal visionists” will not make that question go away. Romans 6 teaches us that being baptised into Christ’s death is being placed into Christ’s death. What does this mean?

    I would argue that in context, Paul is arguing that we have been united to Him in His death (Rom 6.5-6). And he chooses the word “baptism” because baptism is a fitting metaphor for that uniting.

    That answer does not answer every question, but I think it does hit the two points that are directly derived from the text on which everyone should be able to agree.

    <aside>

    McM: You may want to draw a line between Gaffin and … but that is not my concern … my interest is not in an examination of Gaffin’s motives … I don’t care if Gaffin is on the same side… I don’t care what Gaffin “actually thinks about” the OPC reports…

    What I care about is God imputing elect sinners with Christ’s death. To me, this is not only about “justification priority”. It’s about “atonement priority”.

    You have an odd way of showing that your concern is about atonement and not about Gaffin. By my count, you mention and quote Gaffin over 20 times in this thread, but the atonement only 5-ish, and only late in the discussion. If your focus is on atonement priority and not Gaffin, then perhaps you could give Gaffin less priority?

    </aside>

    Let’s talk about atonement priority. What does that phrase mean to you (i.e., define “priority over what”)? I will assume that we share a view of the atonement: That Christ’s death satisfied the wrath of God as an atoning sacrifice, specifically for His people. But what is the priority of the atonement over other things, in your view?

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  107. Jeff–the Confessional material to which officers must subscribe is substance, not fluff.

    mcmark— if it’s gospel, then why only for officers? Is it the idea that God saves without the gospel? Or is there some patronizing sectarian idea that “others are not as well read and well taught ” as we are? Do we need to know the nature of the atonement to know the gospel? Do we need to know the extent of the atonement to know the nature of the atonement? If we think that the nature of the atonement is what God does by grace “in us”, does knowing the extent of such an “atonement” teach us the gospel?

    Christ’s atoning death is outside us sinners. God’s imputation of Christ’s atonement is not the atonement. Whatever it is that joins us to Christ’s atonement (even if it’s regeneration or indwelling or “personal participation” as the unionists say), is not the atonement , and not the object of faith. The gospel is about Christ’s death for the sins of the elect imputed. I object to Gaffin/ Beale objection to “different links” because their “in me” displaces the good news about the justice and the success of Christ’s death.

    Beale—“initial justification and consummative justification (twofold justification) are grounded in believers’ union with Christ, the former coming by faith, and the latter through the threefold demonstration of the bodily resurrection, evaluation of works, and public announcement to the cosmos.” (525 NTBT)

    Westminster Confession, Chapter 3: VI. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
    Chapter 8, V. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up to God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.

    There has always been a view among some Reformed that they can teach “the indicative of what Christ has accomplished” without addressing the question of the extent of the atonement. But the nature of Christ’s righteousness cannot be clearly taught without saying that only the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ. If Christ in some sense bore the sins of every individual, but not every sinner is eventually justified, then Christ’s death cannot be taught as that which actually satisfies the demands of God’s law in a “complete” atonement” . If Christ’s righteousness is not yet complete, then there will be a “gospel” which brings into the picture the works enabled in us by the Holy Spirit.

    Without the clear teaching (of the WCF) about redemption for the elect only, the propitiatory offering (Ephesians 5: 25) will continue to be seen (as it is by “evangelicals”) as something conditioned on what God does in the sinner. God has offered to God a righteousness in Christ so that God’s justice requires each person for whom Christ died be given all the blessings of “salvation”, including the effectual call and faith in the true gospel.

    Machen: From the cold universalism of the Arminian creed we turn ever again with a new thankfulness to the warm and tender individualism of …the gospel. Thank God we can say, as we contemplate Christ upon the Cross, not just: “He died for the mass of humanity, and how glad I am that I am amid that mass,” but: “He loved me and gave Himself for me; my name was written from all eternity upon His heart, and when He hung and suffered there on the Cross He thought of me, even me, as one for whom in His grace He was willing to die.

    Now that we are doing a count on names, let me go back behind NT Wright and Gaffin (meeting with Federal Visionists, Faith not Sight) or even Daniel Fuller and Cranfield (only the law misunderstood) to Norman Shepherd ( dismissed not for anything to do with the gospel, but only fund-raising reasons)

    Shepherd—“The prophets and apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant of grace, whereas Reformed theologians of a later day have tended to view the covenant of grace from the perspective of election. The result of this, is that the reformed preacher no longer says “Christ died for you” – but, when these words are construed, not from the point of view of election, but of the covenant, then The Reformed evangelist can and must say on the basis of John 3:16,”Christ died for you.”

    http://basketoffigs.org/NewPerspectives/Jones.htm

    Liked by 1 person

  108. @ Mark: Sarcasm duly noted. Would you mind answering the question?

    What do you mean by “atonement priority”? What does the atonement have priority over? In what sense priority?

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  109. The atonement has to be defined.—propitiatory offering, satisfaction of God’s law
    “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, ONCE OFFERED UP up to God, hath fully SATISFIED the justice of His Father; and PURCHASED, not only reconciliation, but everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all THOSE WHOM THE FATHER HAS GIVEN UNTO HIM. ”

    Whatever it is that joins us to Christ’s atonement (even if it’s “personal presence” as the unionists say), is not the atonement , and not the object of faith. Christ’s righteousness was obtained once for all time, and is not being accomplished by the Holy Spirit regenerating us or indwelling us. In that sense Christ’s “finished work” has priority over the present intercession or the coming Resurrection Day. God’s present work is based on God’s finished work in Christ. This is not do deny the necessity or importance of the Holy Spirit but to say that Christ gives the Holy Spirit. It is not the Holy Spirit who gives Christ.

    The law-gospel antithesis is not about saying the law is not necessary. The law-gospel antithesis is about saying that the gospel is not the law. The gospel is not about the sinner’s unfinished and incomplete obedience to the law. The “unionists” oppose this as “false polarization”. But to include the works of Christians into the final declared justification is to include the works of Christians into the “atonement”.

    If Christ in some sense bore the sins of sinners who are eventually not justified, then Christ’s death cannot be taught as that which totally satisfies the demands of God’s law in a “complete” atonement” . Not talking about Christ’s death in terms of election (but only in terms of “covenant”) results in a very GRAY “now but not yet ” gospel which brings into the mix ( in our conscience and before God) books of the works of sinners (enabled somewhat by the Holy Spirit) .

    Calvin — “When in scripture death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection.” (Institutes 2:16:13)

    Fesko—“The resurrection does more than prepare its object for undergoing the judgment. The resurrection of the church is not the anticipation of the issue of judgment, but is de jure the final judgment.”

    1 Timothy 3:16 “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”

    If you are going to put your hope in two kinds of righteousness, it certainly would make sense to have two aspects of justification. But there is only one justification, and it is based on Christ’s death (and resurrection).

    How was Christ justified? Not by becoming born again by the Holy Spirit. .Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Christ was justified by His death. Christ needed to be justified because Christ legally took the guilt of His elect, and this guilt demanded His death. Christ was not justified because of His resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was God’s declaration because of Christ’s death.

    Romans 6:9–“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.”

    Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person, but by what Christ had done in satisfaction to the law. No righteousness was shared to Christ from others, because Christ earned His own justification by His own death. Romans 4:24-25 –Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was handed over because of our sins and raised because of our justification.

    The legal value and merit of Christ’s death is shared by God with the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are placed into that death. So there’s only the one righteousness. In the case of the justified elect, that Christ’s one death is legally shared with them by God, and this one death is enough, because counted to them that one death completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)

    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.

    The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when people begin to think that since Christ was justified by what Christ did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do. But there are NOT two justifications, one now by imputation, and another in the future, where we will be justified like Christ was. We are ONLY justified by what Christ did, and NOT by what Christ is now doing in us. Christ is not to be justified by what Christ will do, because Christ has already been justified by His obedience to law (even to death)

    Hebrews 9: 26 now Christ has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (27 as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, the judgment) 28 so also the Messiah, HAVING BEEN offered ONCE to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

    When Hebrews 9:28 tells us that Christ “appears a second time not to deal with sin,” this is not a denial of a future judgment after death for the non-elect. The triune God will deal with the sin of the non-elect.

    The point of Hebrews 9:28 is that the sins of the elect have already been dealt with once at the cross. This was not a provisional dealing with, the efficacy of which is yet to be determined by what God does in some of the sinners for whom Christ died.. Even the elect sinner’s faith in the gospel is a result and not a condition of Christ’s past dealing with sin and God having placed that sinner into Christ’s death.

    Hebrews 9:26-28 depends on this one time dealing with sins in the past. The point is eliminated by those who teach that Christ was given for everybody and that sins now are dealt with by the Holy Spirit’s giving to some what was done for all. https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=111514231124

    Our faith does not impute Christ’s righteousness to us. Nor does God wait for our faith before God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us.

    What is imputed to us? Christ’s atonement is imputed to us. It’s not the present status and work of Christ which is imputed to us. It’s the merit of Christ’s finished work of law satisfaction which is imputed to us. “Merely” Christ’s atonement. “Only” Christ’s righteousness.

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  110. Mark, that helps, thanks.

    A few more questions:

    (1) Typically, we distinguish Christ’s life from the atonement, or suffering on the cross. Hence the distinction between “active” and “passive” obedience, and the imputation of active obedience to the believer (IOAX).

    In reading the sum of the last post, I would think that you might affirm IAOX; yet by placing such a stark emphasis on Christ’s death alone, it seems that you might not.

    Is Christ’s life also a part of the obedience imputed to believers, or (in your view) is that limited to His death only?

    (2) Paul is very definite that we are justified by faith. Yet you seem very definite that imputation occurs before faith. How, in your view, does imputation differ from justification? Or do you disagree with Paul? (/sarc)

    (3) I can’t tell whether you are disagreeing or disagreeing with Calvin and Fesko in the two quotes in the middle of your post.

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  111. Not sure how we got into the “I answer, you ask more questions” mode. I guess I like to type.

    I very much agree with the Calvin and Fesko quotations.

    Revelation 20: 12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.ANOTHER BOOK was opened, which is the book of LIFE. And the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the BOOKS.

    Luke 10: 20 but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

    John 5: 24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has the life of the age to come and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.

    II Corinthians 5: 10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each will be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless. 11 Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.

    in context I think this last text is about, evangelism to those who have not passed from death to life–since there is already condemnation for those outside of Christ, those who know the gospel need to tell other sinners the gospel, commanding and persuading….

    Fesko–Resurrection is coterminous with glorification for some whereas judgment is coeval with resurrection for others.
    Not only have the blessings of the age to come been revealed but so have the curses. Paul echoes the teaching of Christ when he notes that the propagation of the gospel has a twofold effect: salvation and judgment (2 Cor. 2:16-17). “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned ALREADY…
    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18).

    Fesko—The resurrection is not the penultimate step before the final judgment but instead is the final judgment in that it visibly reveals what has come with the first advent of Christ– the righteous are instantaneously clothed in immortality, and the wicked are raised but are naked, they are not glorified.

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=65

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  112. God’s imputation of Christ’s death is logically (not temporally, no time-lag) prior to the elect sinner’s faith in the gospel. The atonement of Christ is NOT imputed by God to us on the basis of the Spirit’s work of giving us faith. Christ gives us the Spirit on the legal basis of the imputation. But there is no justification apart from regeneration and hearing (understanding and believing) the gospel.

    No sinner is born justified.
    No person is justified who does not believe the gospel.
    Every person who believes the gospel is also justified.

    The Righteousness is not the same as Justification.
    God’s imputation of the righteousness results in justification.
    The Righteousness is not the same as the Imputation of the Righteousness.
    The Transfer of Righteousness is not the same as the Declaration of Justification.

    Jack Miller gives some quotations, if you want to look, Jeff

    https://theworldsruined.blogspot.com/2015/07/imputation-precedes-faith.html

    “Regeneration and consequently faith are wrought in us for Christ’s sake and as the result conditioned on a previous imputation of his righteousness to that end” (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, 518).

    We can only impute what God has already imputed.
    The first command in Romans 6: 11 ” consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

    Either God has put the “credit card” (legal solidarity in Christ’s death, transfer of that merit/ righteousness) before effectual calling, or God has not. If effectual calling is given on the basis of the “credit card”, why would God give effectual calling before the “credit card”?

    Did Christ die for some who will not be given the effectual calling?
    Is effectual calling God’s gift for Christ’s sake?
    Will all for whom Christ died be effectually called?

    Romans 8:10–the Spirit is life because of righteousness

    Galatians 4:– And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    2 Peter 1: 1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ

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  113. Why am I asking questions?

    * Because I want to understand
    * Because I want to provide you with a focused opportunity to speak for yourself instead of speaking through quotations
    * Because our dialog needed a little disruption from its rut.

    Nice touch, citing Ursinus via Jack M.

    So would you then agree with Ursinus that “to be justified by faith” means “to believe God’s verdict of righteousness imputed”?

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  114. Carl Trueman, p 96 (Justified in Christ)–“Owen claims that that the union of Christ with the elect in his atonement is not actual direct participation but that it must be understood in terms of federal representation. The imputation of sin to Christ is thus not strictly parallel to the imputation of Christ’s death to sinners.”

    Truman–The Protestant doctrine of justification by imputation was always going to be criticized as tending toward eternal justification. Late medieval theologians (nominalists, occasionalists) had used the distinction between God’s absolute power and God’s ordained power to break the necessary connection between the priority of actual righteousness and God’s declaration that a particular person is justified.

    Truman—In placing the declaration in God’s will, not in the intrinsic qualities of the one justified, it would be argued that any necessary connection between justification and any chronological factors had been decisively abolished…Baxter claims that if Christ has paid the actual price for our sins, as John Owen argues in The Death of Death (1647), then this payment is not refusable by God, nor is it possible that there could be a chronological delay between payment of the debt and the dissolution of the debt, since it is either paid or not paid, thus all the elect are already justified in Christ, and thus faith can only fulfill a mere epistemological function whereby the elect come to acknowledge that which they are already, namely, justified.”

    mcmark: But notice that this is NOT what Baxter himself advocates. It’s what Baxter is accusing Owen of believing, or needing to believe, if Owen were consistent.

    This is really rich (ironic) because Baxter is arguing that Owen would not be following strict justice if Owen allows a time lag between Christ’s death as payment for sins and the actual forgiveness of sins (justification) , but Baxter himself has rejected any notion of strict justice, substituting a”new law” (which is a new gospel ) whereby God accepts something less than strict justice, namely, imperfect changes of moral improvement in the life of the one to be justified.

    It’s as if Baxter is saying, let me show you that not even John Owen is being strictly just, so strict justice is not the issue–it’s too abstract, too impersonal, too much like a contract. Baxter accuses Owen of not being just, while at the same time Baxter makes no claim that his own view is strict justice.

    Jeff, why is any of this important? My argument is that the very same people today who claim “any order will do” are using that to bring into (final) justification the not strictly perfect (“experimental”) works of those in whom God dwells.

    Mark Jones– “The position that faith followed imputation was not typical of Reformed thought in his day but rather was associated with antinomianism….Any view that posits faith as a consequence of imputation (John Cotton) is not the typical Reformed position. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/02/god-accepts-imperfection.php

    Marcus Johnson (Union with Christ) : “in salvation God has included us in Jesus Christ, and with this in mind, we are free to discuss his benefits in any order we want…”

    mcmark: This is slippery. The basic concern between those who want to still keep talking about atonement in terms of election (not only me) and those who want only to talk “organic union” is not the order in which we DISCUSS the benefits. They may say— if you get the personal (perhaps sacramental) presence of Christ in there, use any order you want. But they don’t mean it. Because if you don’t agree with them about what comes first, then you will be accused of putting Christ’s person “in the background”.

    What this comes to is them forbidding anybody from putting God’s legal imputation in front of “union”. “Any order you like” turns out to mean put ‘faith” (and the Holy Spirit) before “union”. Also, put “in us” before “in Christ”

    Marcus Johnson won’t even allow (timeless) election to be a cause or condition or source of the “union” (not timeless) Johnson writes of election as the “benefit” of “union”. But this is confusion, added to his earlier suggestion that election is one aspect of “union”, and an announcement that his book is not about THAT sense of “union”, but instead about “the application of union”. Johnson then proceeds to call the application of union —“the union”.

    Repeat what I wrote above.
    Righteousness is not the imputation of righteousness
    Imputation is not the justification through faith.
    God imputes before we impute…

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  115. @ Mark: Thanks.

    Further questions:

    (1) What are the best arguments in favor of an “imputation — effectual calling — faith — belief in imputation” ordo?

    (2) Do you see any flaws in the arguments that same ordo? For example, why would Calvin and Turretin not have held that view, although they were both concerned to avoid the very thing you wish to avoid, a final justification based upon works?

    (3) Do you admit distinctions between the views of various “unionists”, or are you throwing them all into the same pot?

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