The interview with Brad Gregory about his latest book on Martin Luther revealed a fundamental difference between Roman Catholics and magisterial Protestants. Around the twenty-minute mark, Gregory starts to challenge Luther’s quest for certainty of salvation in ways that would make you think the Notre Dame professor had been reading Scott Clark’s, Recovering the Reformed Confession. According to Gregory, Luther was on an illegitimate quest for certainty or freedom from doubt, especially considering all the ways (acts of devotion) the church had for helping Christians along the path of salvation.
But here’s the thing, Luther wanted to know that he could stand before the judgment seat of God as a righteous man. The best Rome could do was get Luther to purgatory. He had no assurance he would go to heaven (this was a time when all Roman Catholics worried about sin and damnation). And so, the idea that a sinner could be righteous through faith, having Christ’s righteousness imputed to them, was not part of some illegitimate quest for certainty. It was what every single person should want who knows God is holy and humans are sinful. Who will stand on that great day? Not how do I get through this life so that I can endure millennia of purging my remaining sin?
Which leaves us with two rival certainties. On the one hand, Roman Catholics have the certainty that comes through trust in the church:
the Catholic Church enjoys some Divine guarantees, but they are not numerous. Christ promised to be with the Church to the end of time, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. This means essentially that the Holy Spirit will not permit the Church’s Divine constitution to be lost (such as the disappearance of the Catholic hierarchy), that the fullness of all the means of salvation will always be available in the Church, that the Church’s sacraments will always be powerful sources of grace, that the Church’s Magisterial teachings will be completely free from error, and that the Church will remain the mystical body of Christ under the headship of Our Lord Himself, as represented here on earth by His Vicar, the successor of Peter.
A Roman Catholic knows that the institutional church won’t fail even if he or she doesn’t have assurance about the eternal destiny of their body and soul.
On the other hand, Protestants who affirm justification by faith, have certainty that their sins are and will be forgiven thanks to the work of Christ. Here is how Luther put it in his commentary on Galatians (excerpted here):
This I say, to confute that pernicious doctrine of the sophisters and monks, which taught that no man can certainly know (although his life be never so upright and blameless) whether he be in the favor of God or no. And this sentence, commonly received, was a special principle and article of faith in the whole Papacy, whereby they utterly defaced the doctrine of faith, tormented men’s consciences, banished Christ out of the Church, darkened and denied all the benefits and gifts of the Holy Ghost, abolished the true worship of God, set up idolatry, contempt of God, and blasphemy against God in men’s hearts. For he that doubteth of the will of God towards him, and hath no assurance that he is in grace, cannot believe that he hath remission of sins, that God careth for him, and that he can be saved.
Augustine saith very well and godly, that every man seeth most certainly his own faith, if he have faith. This do they deny. God forbid (say they) that I should assure myself that I am under grace, that I am holy, and that I have the Holy Ghost, yea, although I live godly, and do all works. Ye which are young, and are not infected with this pernicious opinion (whereupon the whole kingdom of the Pope is grounded), take heed and fly from it, as from a most horrible plague. We that are old men have been trained up in this error even from our youth, and have been so nusled therein, that it hath taken deep root in our hearts. Therefore it is to us no less labor to unlearn and forget the same, than to learn and lay hold upon true faith. But we must be assured and out of doubt that we are under grace, that we please God for Christ’s sake, and that we have the Holy Ghost. ‘For if any man have not the spirit of Christ, the same is none of his’ (Romans 8:9).
I don’t know why anyone would choose to lose Luther’s version of certainty to gain Gregory’s confidence in an institution that has not always been so worthy of trust.
45 thoughts on “Fussy Certainty”
Though the sacraments are not something we do but something God does outside us and then in us, even the sacraments do not promise that all true children of God will attain full certainty of their salvation. Instead those in the covenant are commanded to seek certainty So if you have doubts this does not mean you are not a true child of God.
Lutherans believe that faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one’s self (to one’s own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one’s self (to God’s Word and promises in Christ). Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God’s Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one’s own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance). Anxiety regarding doubts, strength of faith and certainty of salvation are signs of faith (however weak it may be), not signs of unbelief, since the unbeliever has no concern or anxiety about doubts, faith or salvation.
QUESTION: One of your FAQ answers states that it is possible for one to lose his salvation. However, in your Theses on Justification (1983) on this website says plainly that believers have eternal assurance (paragraph 58). Which is it?
ANSWER: Lutherans believe both are true and Scriptural: It is possible for a believer to fall from faith and lose salvation, and it is possible for a believer to have complete assurance of eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
If this seems paradoxical to human reason, then (Lutherans say) this is only because the teaching of Scripture itself on this issue (as on many other issues) appears paradoxical to human reason. Warnings against falling from faith are the strongest form of God’s Law, intended to warn against “carnal security” or the attitude that “since I’m saved, I can do anything I want to do.” Assurances of God’s constant and eternal love in Christ are the sweetest and purest form of Gospel, intended to comfort THOSE WHO ARE PLAGUED BY THEIR SINS…
More certainty from Calvin:
“experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption… Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate…. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”
“Let no one think that those fall away who were of the predestined, called according to the purpose and truly sons of the promise. For those who appear to live piously may be called sons of God; but since they will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety, God does not call them sons in His foreknowledge. There are sons of God who do not yet appear so to us, but now do so to God; and there are those who, on account of some arrogated or temporal grace, are called so by us, but are not so to God.”
“those are deleted from the book of life who, considered for a time to be children of God, afterwards depart to their own place … For even the reprobate take root in appearance, and yet they are not planted by the hand of God.”
Are you certain you’re not being hoodwinked?
What’s the point? There are problems with Luther, Calvin and the Roman Catholic Church? Who is getting hoodwinked?
Not sure what your point is. If you are trying to say that people cannot look within and say “I can infallibly see that I have saving faith”, then yes: Calvin and the Confession both agree there.
The point is Darryl’s certainty he likes to contrast with RCism every so often has qualifiers Calvin lays out that take the teeth out of his criticism of RC assurance; he could simply be deceived due to a “temporary faith” “instilled into his mind” by the Lord and an “inferior operation of the Spirit” that is giving him a “sense of His goodness”, “present manifestion of His mercy”, “taste of heavenly gifts”, and “enlightening” him with a sense of grace that feels like the genuine article but will ultimately “prove evanescent” in not enduring. He even may “appear to live piously” to himself and others “on account of some arrogated or temporal grace” but “will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety”.
Now, if he’d like to say he has confidence and a firm hope he’ll be saved and persevere, yet without presuming such or abandoning humility, that would align with RCism, but apparently that is insufficient.
If you “do what lies within you,” Rome teaches: “God will not withhold his grace.” It’s a works-condition. Got to do your part. Hope in self, hope in the church; but whatever else, “Do your best,” and hope it’s good enough. There’s always purgatory, I guess. What a lovely horror.
What a world of difference, when salvation’s sole condition is faith–faith in Christ. There just isn’t any question about his goodness, sufficiency, and righteousness. So, if my faith is weak, and my assurance falters, that really has no effect on how firmly he has hold of me.
The difference between Rome’s confidence, and Christian confidence, is the difference between trust in Self and trust in Christ. CVD is here on OL to work to shave off some of his post-mortem painful dues, and ultimately get himself to heaven.
I think you might be misunderstanding. The point of being Protestant is not to upgrade one’s certainty in oneself.
Rather, it is to locate one’s certainty in Christ and not one’s state of grace. Assurance is prinarily objective, not subjective.
I imagine that the best of Catholicism probably agrees with that Christocentric impulse, but the doctrine of free will creates a significant counterweight.
I am pretty sure – certain – that God wants us to have full assurance that we are saved. He is our Father after all, and His word says so, and He weaves exquisite reasoning, inquiry, questioning about it all. How much more does a perfect Father who is in heaven give what is good; give the Holy Spirit, those who ask Him.
Rather, who can say, I have not been hoodwinked? So, the object of faith and assurance has to lie outside of us.
Leithart—“Reformed theologians differed on the related issues of temporary faith and temporary enjoyment of the benefits of salvation. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, some in the Protestant church of England held to what they described as the Augustinian view that some reprobates could temporarily enjoy soteriological benefits. The English delegation to the Synod of Dort submitted a request that the Synod remove its condemnation of the view that some reprobates may be regenerated and justified for a time. The Synod of Dort accepted the petition and removed the condemnation.”
Rod Dreher–“you must strive to enter the Church without illusions. Flannery O’Connor’s wisdom here applies to all potential converts to one of the ancient churches: “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life, and this is a softness that ends in bitterness” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/moscow-idaho-protestantism-sumpter/
Who needs biblicism if you have a consensus Confession or an “evangelical experience”?
@ McMark: You might want to check the fifth head, of the Perseverance of the Saints, before taking Leithart’s say-so.
Rejections 3, 4, 7 are fairly clear.
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Peter Lillback–“Does the New Covenant allow for such covenant-breaking as the Old Covenant experienced in light of the old covenant’s being only of the letter and the new covenant’s being of the Spirit? How can Calvin’s claim that the only difference between the two is with respect to the extent and power of the Spirit’s work explain this dilemma? If these two covenants 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?
Paul Gottfried—The unending tirade against Protestants that some Catholic paleos now engage in is both silly and counterproductive. We are living in a predominantly Protestant country whose institutions (before they became corrupted) were tied to a recognizably Calvinist society. Rhapsodizing about the glories of the Catholic Middle Ages played well in early 19th-century France and the Rhineland, but by now such lyrical outbursts (together with expressed revulsion for the Reformation) are a bit out of place. What American traditionalists need to defend is a badly denatured liberal Protestant polity that is going quickly to seed. I’ve no idea how appeals to Mary Queen of Scots and Pius IX will save our political society
Can’t find the Lilback quote. What is he referring to?
The issue that everyone must face, whether anabaptist, presbyterian, or sui McCulley, is that according to Jesus, there are some who fancy themselves saved, yet are not. There are those who have “partaken of the Spirit”, yet fall away. There are those who are teachers in God’s church, yet are not believers. And there are those who “believe for a while, yet fall away.” Scripture directly teaches those things. Apostasy is real.
There are two primary solutions to this: Either those had been genuinely saved in the sight of God, and now are not; or else they were saved in the eyes of man, and now are not.
The first solution is Catholo-Arminian; the second leads directly to a distinction between visible and invisible churches.
Ali – I’m not sure that Christ necessarily desires for us to have “full assurance that we are saved.” We accept the surety of our salvation through faith, but we cannot be CERTAIN of our salvation the way we are certain that the sun will rise in the east. And that’s a good thing. If you were absolutely 100% certain of your salvation would you never cling to Christ, you wouldn’t repent, and your attitude toward life would be careless and blase. Hebrews 11:1 comes into play here: because I cannot see the Last Judgment, I can only accept the truth of it and the outcome of it through faith based on what God has revealed to us through Scripture. That may lead me to full confidence and hope in my salvation, but never 100% certainty.
But the WCF says infallible assurance. Maybe we need to parse the difference between 100% certainty and assurance—assurance isn’t logical certainty, but you’re making what seems to be a RC/Arminian argument to say that 100% certainty would mean that we wouldn’t repent and that we would be careless. The Reformed confessions would say that true, infallible assurance means otherwise.
Robert – yes, I should have parsed it better. I was speaking of not having absolute logical certainty, which I contend would lead to a frivolous lifestyle in many of us. WCF XVIII does speak of “infallible assurance of faith,” and also notes that such assurance comes from “the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promised are made.” It also says that it is “the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure.” In addition to the internal work of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of a transformed life also provides the basis for our assurance.
Having thought a great deal about the “infallible assurance” clause, I’m not sure that the word “infallible” is intended epistemically. I suspect that ot refers to the work of the Spirit in causing perseverance.
I’m not sure about that!
Here’s what we do know:
* God wants us to be assured (1 John, John)
* There are also unsaved who have pseudoassurance.
* If assurance were “infallible” in the sense of being 100% certain, then there could be no pseudoassurance.
I don’t know anybody who denies a distinction between visible and invisible church, even though I hear people accuse John Murray of denying the distinction. But even the so-called “federal visionists” agree to that distinction. And all the credobaptists i know accept the reality of apostasy from visible congregations.
Without getting into the sticky question of who should be considered in the visible covenant/ visible church in the first place, one question we must face is the status of apostates before their apostasy, and the other question we must face is what this means for present assurance.
The answer which teaches that (some of) the apostates had been genuinely justified in the sight of God is not simply Arminian but also Lutheran and Augustinian. Jeff, are the Reformed Confessions a boundary that excludes Lutherans and Augustians (Romanist or otherwise)? Or do you use the Reformed Confession one way when you are trying to say that credobaptists are too dumb to know the difference between visible and invisible, and a different way when you are trying to include Augustinians who look for assurance in their hearts no longer desiring to sin, and increasing ability to sin less than they once did.?
These “Augustinians” believe in “sovereign grace” but they do not locate that grace in some “once and done” federal connection or assent to Christ’s death’s outside us as our one and only hope. These Augustinians teach that those who have been genuinely born again in the means of grace cannot be promised full assurance of future salvation, because they also teach that what has been genuinely given can also be genuinely lost or taken away.
Philip Cary–“if Augustine is right about predestination, it is logically impossible to know you are saved for eternity without knowing that you are predestined for such salvation. That is precisely why Augustine denies you can know you are predestined for salvation . What the sacramental word tells me is not: “You must believe” but “Christ died for you” (good news that causes us to believe). Mere belief in the truth of the creed and trust in my baptism—is all the faith I have. If Luther is right, it is all the faith I can ever have, and all the faith I need.
Philip Cary—-“For Augustine and the whole Christian tradition prior to Calvin, it is perfectly possible to have a genuine faith and then lose it. Apostasy from the true faith. For Calvin, on the contrary, there is a kind of faith I can have now which I am sure not to lose, because it comes with the gift of perseverance. What is more, I can know that I have such persevering faith.”
John Wesley—“The righteousness of Christ is doubtless necessary for any person that enters into glory. But so is personal holiness, too, for every child of man. The righteousness is necessary to entitle us to heaven, but the personal holiness is necessary to qualify us for heaven. “On the Wedding Garment, works 4:144
Jonathan Edwards—“Man’s salvation is not only indissolubly connected with obedience, and damnation with the lack of obedience….Even in accepting us as entitled to life in our justification, God has respect to our obedience, as that on which the fitness of justification depends, so that our salvation does truly depend on it.” p 236, Justification by Faith
Richard Gaffin, This expression obedience of faith is best taken as intentionally multivalent…In other words, faith itself is an obedience, as well as other acts of obedience that stem from faith.” p 102, By Faith Not by Sight,
Calvin’s Covenantal Response to the Anabaptist View of Baptism
by Peter A. Lillback
How can your children “break the covenant” unless first God has bestowed on your children the grace to first be in the covenant? Would it be a genuine “covenant sanction” if you made up some distinction which teaches later that they “were never really internally in the covenant”? How can God command or curse those not in the covenant?
Mike Horton—Through their covenant membership they have shared in God’s COMMON GRACE, and now, if they respond in unbelief, they will bear the CURSES OF THE NEW COVENANT. We must account for this category of common covenant beneficiaries of grace who spurn the objective COMMON GRACE delivered to them and fall away. If our theological system cannot account for this third group—not elect BUT NOT WITHOUT COVENANT GRACE EITHER–then we need a different theological paradigm. It’s covenant theology that accounts for this tertium quid between “foreigners to the covenant” and “elect members.” Some non-elect share the new covenant in common with the elect.
Sam Storms —Horton contends that the blessings listed in Hebrews 6: 4-5 are experienced neither by the “saved” nor the “unsaved” but by those persons who belong to the covenant community but who have never come to saving faith in Christ. For Horton, a person can become a member of the new covenant without “truly embracing the word that is preached”. All persons in the new covenant are to be threatened with the consequences of apostasy. Some persons “belong to the covenant community and experiencesthereby the work of the Spirit through the means of grace, and yet are not regenerate” . Horton faults other views for failing to recognize “a category for a person who is in the covenant but not personally united by living faith to Jesus Christ”
Sam Storms– I find this entirely unpersuasive. There is no indication in the New Testament that anyone was regarded as a member of the New Covenant (as promised in Jeremiah 31 and instituted by Christ at the last supper) apart from faith in the redemptive work and resurrection life of Jesus Christ. …Horton attempt to connect the warnings with the supposed spiritual benefits of the means of grace (one of which he identifies as the “sealing” of the Spirit)
If there aren’t attendant, non-salvific benefits to church membership, ie, being in the new covenant, then the only real alternative for Hebrews 6 is that salvation can be lost, which wouldn’t be Reformed and would contradict Romans 8.
Covenant theology is the only option to be true to all of Scripture.
Well, you could show me where the warnings in Hebrews teach that apostates were in the new covenant. Do you say something different about this when you are talking to credbaptists than you do when you are talking to “federal visonists” (like, in the new covenant in one aspect, or in the new covenant externally, etc) ?
I think Augustine’s definition of justification is a false gospel in that it places assurance in what God’s sovereign grace does in us. My assurance is in Christ’s death imputed to me by God. I don’t think salvation can be lost. But that’s what the “federal vision” thinks, because it follows through on a distinction between “covenant election” and “decretl election”.
Leithart—“Not-blackballing was the Reformed way. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, some in the Protestant church of England held to what they described as the Augustinian view that some reprobates could temporarily enjoy soteriological benefits. The English delegation to the Synod of Dort submitted a request that the Synod remove its condemnation of the view that some reprobates may be regenerated and justified for a time. The Synod of Dort removed the condemnation.
Samuel Ward—We ourselves think that this doctrine is contrary to Holy Scriptures, but whether it is expedient to condemn it in these our canons needs great deliberation. On the contrary, it would appear
1. That Augustine and other Fathers who opposed the Pelagians, seem to have conceded that certain of those who are not predestinated can attain the state of regeneration 2. That we ought not without grave cause to give offence to the LUTHERAN churches, who in this matter, it is clear, think differently. 3. Many learned and saintly men who are at one with us in defending absolute predestination, nevertheless think that certain of those who are truly regenerated are able to fall from that state
Hebrews 10: 8 If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
John Owen—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect. The Sinai covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants
So which covenant is it in “profaned the blood of the covenant”?
How can there really be a new covenant if there is but one covenant of grace?
The particular sin being warned against in Hebrews is the sin of going back to the Mosaic law and the Levitical economy for salvation. I am not denying that some people living during the Mosaic economy were justified by grace through hearing and believing the gospel of Christ, the seed of Abraham. The Levitical ceremonies pointed to Jesus, and to the way Jesus opened for the elect through His flesh. In context, Hebrews seems to talk to some people who have professed to have believed in the gospel, to trust in Christ, and yet some of them have, or are tempted to, go back to that Judiasm which has rejected the blood of Jesus.
There is nothing “hypothetical” about these warnings. The logic of “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” is not that “covenant is larger than election” or that “new covenant is not governed by election”. Christ did not die for every one of Abraham’s children. The logic rather is that now and always there has been only sacrifice that really takes away sin, and that’s the sacrifice of Christ. The old economies had their place because their ceremonies pointed to this one sacrifice of Christ. Now that Christ has come, now that the new covenant has been fulfilled in Christ, not only in promise, still there remains one (and only one) sacrifice for sins.
Put it this way— for every sinner, for any sinner, there is only one sacrifice that can take away sins, and it’s Christ’s propitiatory death. This does not at all mean that Christ has died for every sinner in Israel. It means every sinner in Israel needs Christ’s death. But the Father has imputed to the Son only the sins of the elect, and the Son has only made a propitiation for those sins
John Owen makes sense to me on it being Christ who is sanctified by the blood of the covenant in Hebrews 10. . I know that category exists in John 17. But even if Owen is not correct in that exegesis, I don’t need to say that only one view is the ONLY OPTION to understand “unconditional security” or “assurance of perseverance/ preservation” . Even if it turns out that “the covenant by which he was sanctified” is in reference to those who professed and left, it does NOT prove that they ever ” belonged in the new covenant” That’s your assumption.
Do you want to talk about the olive tree or abiding in the vine? or do you want to repeat –“only option”.?
Gregory says Luther was insecure and looking for subjective certainty.
This was also Paul Hacker’s whole point in “The Ego of Faith” (An old book, first plugged by Ratzinger and now winkingly-reprinted by a fly-by-night Catholic Press with the title, “Faith in Luther.” Get it?!). But Jared Wicks, a Jesuit, says all that’s a misreading and Luther had quite a lot of wisdom to convey. Along with a style that shames the likes of Scott Hahn. I won’t pretend to understand why it’s wishful thinking to want to have assurance of salvation, but somehow it’s reasonable to place my faith in a doctrine of papal infallibility and all that comes with it.
McMark: Jeff, are the Reformed Confessions a boundary that excludes Lutherans and Augustians (Romanist or otherwise)?
Yes. Augustine was proto-Reformed in some ways, but not Reformed for sure. He believed in the power of relics…
McMark: Or do you use the Reformed Confession one way when you are trying to say that credobaptists are too dumb to know the difference between visible and invisible…
No, sarcasm is pretty much your domain. I just occasionally bounce it back. 😛
McMark: …and a different way when you are trying to include Augustinians who look for assurance in their hearts no longer desiring to sin, and increasing ability to sin less than they once did?
Include them in what? Augustinians are a minority Catholic group, so I’m not sure they wish to be included in whatever it is you have in mind.
McMark: These “Augustinians” believe in “sovereign grace” but they do not locate that grace in some “once and done” federal connection or assent to Christ’s death’s outside us as our one and only hope. These Augustinians teach that those who have been genuinely born again in the means of grace cannot be promised full assurance of future salvation, because they also teach that what has been genuinely given can also be genuinely lost or taken away.
It’s actually more complicated than that. Augustine also believed that there was a separate gift of perseverance, given to the elect, distinct from the grace of justification. Further, some could, by special revelation, know that they had such a gift.
Calvin’s insight (and Luther’s, but not Melanchthon’s) was that the gift of perseverance was given to all those justified; and his second insight, contra Osiander and Augustine, was that justification was grounded in forensics.
But you know all this. Why are we wandering in these particular woods?
McMark: How can your children “break the covenant” unless first God has bestowed on your children the grace to first be in the covenant? Would it be a genuine “covenant sanction” if you made up some distinction which teaches later that they “were never really internally in the covenant”? How can God command or curse those not in the covenant?
And what did Jesus mean when He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard tree in whose branches the birds rest? Or when He said that branches in Him could be broken off? Or when He said that some who believe would fall away?
What does Paul mean when he calls the Corinthians “saints” and tells them that they are “sanctified in Jesus”, then later tells them to “purge the evil person from among you”, or warns them to “take heed lest you fall”, or that those who eat unworthily “are guilty of the body and the blood of Jesus”?
The answer to your question is that the boundaries of those who are in the covenant are known only to God, and man sees those boundaries imperfectly. In His goodness, God blesses the church not only as a collection of individuals, but corporately. And the penumbra of the corporate blessings — such as the sacraments — spills over onto those who are visibly tied to the church. Yet for individuals who are “in but not in” — that is, in according to man, but not God — the blessings are in fact curses.
You seem to have a problem with fuzzy boundaries, but that’s the reality of life this side of the eschaton. You and Storms want everyone to be either “in” or “out” — which makes some sense, since there are only two spiritual kingdoms after all, that of God and that of darkness. But the fallacy consists in believing that we can sort people according to God’s Book of Life. We cannot see that book, and so we must rest on the boundaries that God has set for His people of faith: we give the sign to and admit those who profess faith, and their children; and we excommunicate those who deny the faith.
Sam Storms via McMark: There is no indication in the New Testament that anyone was regarded as a member of the New Covenant (as promised in Jeremiah 31 and instituted by Christ at the last supper) apart from faith in the redemptive work and resurrection life of Jesus Christ.
Was regarded by whom? Would he seriously state that no one lacking faith was ever in 2000 years regarded as a member of the church by man?
What are those branches broken off from the vine? Or the tree in Romans 11?
James Young, I’m certain you’re going to purgatory — at best. Jesus didn’t pay it all for you, according to your church’s theology. You still need to “burn” it off.
Jeff, or James Young and Brad Gregory might be guilty of looking down on Luther’s hope for a savior who could take away all his sins and allow him to go to heaven — escape purgatory for free.
Joe M., ding ding ding.
If everybody gets baptism and if everybody has a heart, which has a certainty which is less subjective?
Augustine and Luther did not use “the covenant” theology to argue for infant baptism.
Augustine –The happy persons, who even in that early age were by the grace of God taught to understand the distinction now set forth, were thereby made the children of promise, and were accounted in the secret purpose of God as heirs of the New Testament, although they continued with perfect fitness to administer the Old Testament to the ancient people of God, because it was divinely appropriated to that people in God’s distribution of the times and seasons.
Luther–The old testament given through Moses was not a promise of forgiveness of sins or of eternal things, but of temporal things, namely, of the land of Canaan, by which no man was renewed in spirit to lay hold on the heavenly inheritance. Wherefore also it was necessary that, as a figure of Christ, a dumb beast should be slain, in whose blood that testament was confirmed. But Christ says ‘the new testament in my blood’
Bullinger and Calvin turned to “the covenant” theology.
Calvin–Let us then lay it down confidently as a truth which no engines of the devil can destroy – that the Old Covenant which the Lord made with the people of Israel was not confined to earthly objects, but contained a promise of spiritual and eternal life, the expectation of which behaved to be impressed on the minds of all who truly consented to the covenant.
Thus Calvin’s assumption–if there only one gospel, then all post-fall covenants are the same covenant.
Which covenant theology?
Not Leithart’s covenant theology? What about the “covenant theology” of the early Meredith Kline?
Why keep talking about “attendant, non-salvific benefits” when you could be talking “dual sanctions”?
Have the people who argue that their children need to be first promised grace before they can be commanded with law considered the possibility that their children will end up the opposite of “benefit” if they first receive “covenant grace” but then do not meet the conditions to keep that “grace? Is one of the blessings of being in the visible church a possibility of greater curse?
Kline– ‘the proper purpose of the covenant, the salvation of the elect, but we are not to reduce the redemptive covenant to that proper purpose. We must resent the bent toward such a reduction of covenant to election. To do so is to substitute a logical abstraction for the historical reality…Jeremiah speaks, to be sure, only of a consummation of grace. Jeremiah does not mention a consummation of curses in the new Covenant… The emphasis is on eschatological blessing but curse is not denied… The theologian of today ought not to impose on himself the visionary limitations of an Old Testament prophet.”
Jeff–Calvin’s insight (and Luther’s, but not Melanchthon’s) was that the gift of perseverance was given to all those justified
mcmark—So you are claiming that Luther taught that the justification once given in baptism cannot be lost? Remember, nobody is denying that Luther (or Augustine) is teaching that God predestines the loss of justification. But are you denying that Luther taught that Christ died for all sinners, even those who won’t be justified?
Luther– To fall from grace means to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection. To lose the grace of God means to gain the wrath and judgment of God, death, the bondage of the devil, and everlasting condemnation.” ( Commentary on Galatians)
Luther—For no sin can condemn the sinner save unbelief alone. All other sins, so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because God cannot deny himself if you confess him and faithfully cling to him in his promise. (36: 60).
Jeff–The boundaries of those who are in the covenant are known only to God, and man sees those boundaries imperfectly.
mcmark—“Those in the covenant” begs the question. The warnings of Hebrews are set in the context of a distinction between old and new covenants. The new covenant is not the Mosaic covenant. And the circumcision commanded of Abraham is older than the Mosaic covenant. You dismiss and Leithart’s question about apostasy in the new covenant vs apostasy in other covenants. But you can’t reasonably do that while claiming that “covenant theology” answers questions not answered by Augustine and Luther.
Sure, we don’t know who the elect are. But meanwhile you claim to KNOW who’s in “the covenant”. At the very least you claim to KNOW that some of the non-elect are “in the covenant”. It’s all good and well for you to claim a “common grace” spillover for the non-elect who belong “in the covenant”, but for all your talk of “blessing” for the church corporate, do you agree or disagree that there are “in the covenant” curses for the non-elect?
Being “in the covenant” can only (possibly) help you? Or is “knowing that you are at the least in the covenant” sometimes “effectual” for greater curse for the non-elect who find themselves there? Am I being fussy for asking that? Was it “subjective” for Reformed Confessions to draw boundaries that exclude Lutherans?
Click to access wellum_baptindd.pdf
The position on the new covenant that you are espousing requires all of the new covenant and its blessings to be here in their fullness. Jeremiah 31 looks forward to the day when the law is written on our hearts such that we do not fail to obey. Clearly, that has not happened, and the NT makes it pretty clear that the eschatological blessings of the new covenant are coming in stages and not all at once. What the prophets thought was going to be instantaneous has actually been stretched out over a long period of time.
In short, the new covenant has not been consummated in all its fullness, and that is something on which we all must agree because there is no new heavens and earth yet.
That has ramifications for how we consider covenant membership. If the fullness of the new covenant were here, then we would expect that all covenant members are regenerate. But as it is not yet here, there is a substantial continuity between the old covenant and our present situation regarding the external administration of the covenant.
And the fact is, practically speaking, even those who believe in regenerate-only covenant membership actually treat people without saving faith as part of the covenant. The best you can have is a profession of faith, because none of us can read the heart. And once someone professes faith and is baptized, those who affirm regenerate-only covenant membership treat that person as if he is a covenant member even though they, not being God, can never be 100 percent sure of that. And the telling question is this: Is it really tenable to affirm that the baptized person who spends years in the church, knows the Bible and so forth, is in reality in no different position than the pagan in India who never hears the gospel? It’s not tenable, and we all agree that the church member is more accountable because he knows more. It’s hard to hold that position and to then say that he was never in any way a part of the covenant if he falls away.
Where the federal vision goes astray is in affirming an essential ex opere operato view of the sacraments and speaking as if the benefits of salvation are equally enjoyed by all the baptized. But that is not what we are saying when we say that it is possible to be a new covenant member outwardly but not inwardly. And it’s hard to deny that there are covenant benefits for those who are church members but never come to faith. They get to hear the Word preached. They get to see prayers answered. They are part of a separated community and are perhaps less prone to fall into the most deadly snares of the world. None of this means salvation inherently, but they are real and tangible benefits and blessings.
Oh, and Hebrews 8 says that the old order is passing away and not that it has fully passed away. That has ramifications for how we view covenant membership and the signs and seals.
Do you agree or disagree that there are “in the covenant” curses for the non-elect?
Oh there are most definitely curses for the non-elect. That’s kind of the point of the whole book of Hebrews. Join the covenant community but don’t keep going to the end, and it’s going to be worse for you than if you never joined the church.
Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: In addition to the internal work of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of a transformed life also provides the basis for our assurance.
beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation
Having thought a great deal about the “infallible assurance” clause, I’m not sure that the word “infallible” is intended epistemically. I suspect that ot refers to the work of the Spirit in causing perseverance.
I’m not sure about that!
I really have to look into this more. Maybe the minutes of the assembly offer some helpful commentary. Just off the top of my head, I would question your suspicion, mainly because if infallible assurance means that the Spirit will certainly cause perseverance, what are we offering that Roman Catholicism does not? Everybody agrees that the gift of perseverance is given to the elect. But maybe I’m misunderstanding you?
Here’s what we do know:
* God wants us to be assured (1 John, John)
* There are also unsaved who have pseudoassurance.
* If assurance were “infallible” in the sense of being 100% certain, then there could be no pseudoassurance.
It is a difficult thing. We also know that assurance strengthens over time, and that would seem to me that assurance cannot entail logical certainty. But what does that say for epistemic certainty?
1 John is helpful because it gives 3 marks of the true Christian:
1. Right belief—that Jesus is God incarnate
2. Right ethics—true Christians do not continue in the practice of sin but live lives of repentance
3. Right love—true Christians love other Christians.
That’s a combination of objective (doctrine, practice) and subjective (love) factors. Certainly there are people with pseudoassurance, but do we know such people who have such assurance and whose lives are marked by all three? I’m not sure I’ve ever known someone like that, but maybe my circles are too limited.
McMark: but for all your talk of “blessing” for the church corporate, do you agree or disagree that there are “in the covenant” curses for the non-elect?
I agree that there are. Paul teaches exactly that in Romans 11.
BTW, Luther is more complicated than you give credit for.
— Luther, Bondage of the Will, Sec 164.
Not a lot of room there for losing one’s justification. But we must admit at the same time that he does speak in that way elsewhere.
It seems reasonable to think that Luther is in the process of discovering the hole in Augustine’s soteriology and wrestling with it. I don’t have a problem with cutting him some slack on that account.
McMark – aren’t your concerns easily resolved by realizing that God’s perspective on who is included in the New Covenant and man’s perspective on who is in the New Covenant don’t necessarily align? From God’s perspective the elect are part of the NC, and are justified, sanctified, adopted, etc and will persevere to the end. There is no “wait and see” with God. With man, on the other hand, it is impossible to really and truly tell who is part of the NC other than an outward profession of faith and perseverance in that faith. So from a human perspective someone may apostasize or “lose” their justification, but from God’s perspective they were never elect to begin with. Those who make an outward profession but who are unregenerate still reap the blessing of being among God’s people temporally, the way the unregenerate Israelites reaped the benefits of the Exodus. I know Jeff and Robert have both made this point earlier, but you haven’t addressed it that I can tell.
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Vic – aren’t your concerns easily resolved by realizing that God’s perspective on who is included in the New Covenant and man’s perspective on who is in the New Covenant don’t necessarily align?
mark: I don’t expect that you have read everything I have written above, much less that you agree with it. But I have agreed that there is a distinction between a visible congregation and the elect (“invisible” for one reason because the elect have not yet all been called and gathered)—not all in the congregation are necessarily elect, and some elect are perhaps not members of the visible congregation. So this is not the concern.
The concerns are that 1. people are presenting “covenant theology” as the only alternative, without acknowledging the differences between John Murray and Meredith Kline, or between Mike Horton and Herman Hoeksema. The concern is that 2. people are flattening the covenants into one “the covenant”. Many do this by mixing “grace” ( condescension ) into the covenant with Adam before the fall. But other “the covenant” theologians are flattening only all the post-fall covenants into one covenant in order to argue their case for infant baptism. This is not something Lutherans or Augustine did. This flattening of covenants may in some cases (Kline) cherry-pick out certain features of “the covenant” as being legal or Mosaic intrusions, but the flattening almost never acknowledges that circumcision was a legal condition of the Abrahamic covenant. It reads circumcision as a promise of grace, not only to Abraham but to an uncertain number of his slaves and his ethnic children, but almost never as a possible curse (greater jeopardy). And then by inference we get a conditional promise of grace in baptism, which is supposedly the fulfillment of circumcision. (even though Galatians and Colossians 2 could have “easily resolved” everything by teaching this but they don’t).
3. To cut tp the chief concern (at least on this thread). My concern is the certainly that some non-elect belong in the covenant with Abraham means that some non- elect belong (for a time) in the new covenant. Most “covenant theology” folks say that belonging to the new covenant includes a larger number of persons than those who are elect to justification before God. But some of us argue that the new covenant is only for those who are effectually called and justified. And this argument is not “easily resolved” by ignoring what some credobaptists have been arguing since (at least) the 1642 London Baptist Confession. Nor is the argument “easily resolved” by ignoring the vast diversity between one “the covenant theology” and another.
4. And then you could ask–why bother with this discussion? What does it matter? We all agree that we do not know with certainty who are effectually called and justified. But what we do not agree about is if the new covenant has more persons than those who are justified (notice that I am not using the “regenerate” category here, as most credobaptists would, but I am saying that “all who are justified are effectually called” and I am agreeing that we do not know with certainty who is effectually called), So what’s the practical difference?
Well, you guys tell me. Why do you insist that some of the non-elect are “in the covenant”? Why is it important to you say that the “only reading” of Hebrews is that some apostates were “in the covenant”? Why not say instead–well we thought that they were “in the covenant”? And why are you still saying “the covenant” without saying which covenant you are talking about?
I am not thinking that my merely asking these questions will make you either agree with me or come to the point that you no longer care one way or the other. But if you want to understand my concerns (and those of the 1689 Baptist confession), then maybe you ask yourselves about why you draw a line against waiting for a confession before the Lord’s Supper but not before baptism. Is this simply the best reading of all the data in Hebrews (or John 15 or Romans 11), or is this about what your confessions teach (and since they are right about so many other matters, who are you to hold out about this topic?) Why read what the credobaptists say, since they don’t all agree with each other, but you yourself can speak for all “mainstream” covenant theology (Leithart and Hoeksema to the margins please)
Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are those today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.”
Peter Lillback–“ How can Calvin’s claim that the only difference between the two covenants is with respect to the extent and power of the Spirit’s work explain covenant-breaking?”
John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect….The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants
Hey, we were not talking about differences between those who subscribe to the Reformed Confessions. . We were only talking about Romanists being uncertain about God’s objective promise of grace. Plus, about biblicists being inconsistent when they pray to God with children they don’t even think have been promised grace yet.
Lee Irons—“Mark Jones fails to mention this, but the treatise by Flavel wasn’t on justification but was part of a debate over paedobaptism. The credobaptist,had argued that the new covenant or the gospel covenant is absolute or unconditional—a position that was even held by some paedobaptists, most notably John Owen…. I happen to agree with the paedobaptist (Flavel) against the credobaptist in this particular debate.
Lee Irons—“Flavel’s entire discussion of the various meanings of the word “condition” has to do with paedo- vs. credo-baptist debates over covenant theology, e.g., questions like whether the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision was the same in substance with the new or gospel covenant, and whether the new covenant is conditional. The precise question of the role of faith in justification is not directly in view
Norman Shepherd—“John 15 is often taught by distinguishing two kinds of branches. Some branches are not really in Christ in a saving way. Some are only in Him externally…The words outward and inward are often used in the Reformed community…to account for the fact that the covenant community includes both elect and non-elect. But when Paul uses the terms Romans 2:28-29 , he is not referring to the elect and non-elect. The terms define the difference between covenantally loyal Jews and disobedient transgressors of the law.”
Scott Clark –”The term covenant of grace can be used broadly and narrowly. When used broadly, it refers to everyone who is baptized into the Christ confessing covenant community. When used narrowly, it refers to those who have received the double benefit of Christ: justification and sanctification. Used in the broader sense, the covenant of grace is not synonymous with election so that all the elect are in the covenant of grace, but not all in the covenant of grace are elect. Used in the narrow sense, the covenant of grace refers only to the elect.The internal/external distinction is a corollary of the distinction between the church considered visibly and invisibly.”
Mike Horton—“God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. .To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse.”
In a thread about certainty, Robert gives me the old Gaffin gray
the now but not yet
on the one hand, Robert thinks it “hard to not hold it”
on the other hand, Robert thinks it “hard to deny it”
How can Robert ask a question in such a way that I could disagree?
“The position on the new covenant that you are espousing requires all of the new covenant and its blessings to be here in their fullness. ”
“Is it really tenable to affirm that the baptized person who spends years in the church, knows the Bible and so forth, is in reality in no different position than the pagan in India who never hears the gospel? ”
my answer– non-elect is still non-elect, and condemned is still condemned. One justified person is in no better position than another justified person. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Romans 6—-those who sin more get no more grace, and those who sin less get no less grace. Those not yet placed in Christ’s death are not in the new covenant.
John 3: 17 For God did not send His Son into the world in order to condemn the world, but that the world be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is ALREADY CONDEMNED, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.
John 3: 36 the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God REMAINS on them.
The diversity between different “covenant theologies” is fully in view in the two different essays on the newness of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews) in Strawbridge’s Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism.
In contrast to Niell’s essay, consider Richard L. Pratt Jr’s “Infant Baptism in the New Covenant
Pratt–“To know God as Jeremiah spoke of it would be to receive eternal salvation. In the covenant of which Jeremiah spoke, salvation would come to each participant”
Pratt–“In the consummation of Christ’s kingdom, this prediction will be completely fulfilled. Once Christ returns, it will not be possible to break the new covenant and thereby to enter into another exile.”
Pratt– The fulfillment of the new covenant depended on the fulfillment of the other predictions of chapter 31.Specifically, three sections—Future planting of God’s people in the land (vv. 27-30)
Future new covenant with God’s people (vv. 31-37)
Future rebuilding and permanence of the holy city (vv. 38-40)
Pratt– Often interpreters approach this text as if the new covenant was realized in its fullness when Christ first came to earth, but this is a serious error.
James White–“While acknowledging the indefectibility of New Covenant membership, Pratt does not believe that the new covenant is yet a reality for Christ’s people in the church. Evidently, until then, the New Covenant, while inaugurated, is not fully established.”
James White—Is there warrant to insist that a particular theory of fulfillment of prophetic material surrounding the Jeremiah passage must be obtained before the New Covenant it promises can be fully realized? What are the ramifications of creating a dichotomy between “partial fulfillment” and “final fulfillment” with reference to the use of the passage by the writer to the Hebrews? With reference to fulfillment themes in the New Testament, there are numerous passages that its writers saw as fulfilled completely in the ministry of Christ that are plainly part of a larger narrative that has not yet been fulfilled in a particular fashion. One can think of Psalm 22 and the fact that its entire thrust leads us from the suffering Messiah (1-18) through to the resurrected and conquering King (27-31). Can one section be fulfilled without the other?
James White–When Hebrews 8:6 says that this covenant “has been enacted” there is nothing in the verb used, or in the tense form, to indicate a progressive action that has been “inaugurated” but is still in process and will not come into full force until far in the future. The covenant “has been enacted” (perfect tense) as a completed action. This establishment of a second covenant (in contrast with the “first,” Heb. 8:7) is related to the passing away of the first (8:13). But if the first passes away, and the second is not fully established, are we left with some form of “partial covenantalism” that is to fill the description of the “better” covenant to which the people should cling rather than returning to the old ways? Is this really how we are to read the writer to the Hebrews? Are all the promises of the New Covenant yet future in their final fulfillment, so that the partial covenant that Hebrews is offering to them continues to have the very same faults in it that Jeremiah had addressed ?
Hebrews 10:17 I will never again remember
their sins and their lawless acts.
18 Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
mcmark: Do we really want to agree Robert Rayburn Jr that “new covenant” is not really a different covenant but only a better attitude and understanding of the same covenant?
McMark: One justified person is in no better position than another justified person.
But Paul: What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
MMk:1. people are presenting “covenant theology” as the only alternative, without acknowledging the differences between John Murray and Meredith Kline, or between Mike Horton and Herman Hoeksema.
2. people are flattening the covenants into one “the covenant”. Many do this by mixing “grace” ( condescension ) into the covenant with Adam before the fall. But other “the covenant” theologians are flattening only all the post-fall covenants into one covenant in order to argue their case for infant baptism.
3. To cut to the chief concern (at least on this thread). My concern is the certainty that some non-elect belong in the covenant with Abraham means that some non- elect belong (for a time) in the new covenant.
OK, so your first concern is that some (me? Robert? “they”?) are assuming that there are no alternatives other than covenant theology or losable justification.
Your second, that covenant theologians are flattening the post-fall covenants into one covenant of grace “in order” to make a case for infant baptism.
Your third, that some are drawing the implication
since some non-elect belonged in the covenant with Abraham, therefore some non-elect belong in the new covenant.
Jeff Cagle says therefore some non-elect belong in the new covenant.
God will be merciful to the nonelect’s iniquities and will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more?
Hebrews 8:10 “FOR 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.11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD, ’FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME,FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”
Hebrews 10:16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM, “He then says,17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
McMark – I’m not sure how the visible/invisible distinction doesn’t resolve your chief concern (#3). Perhaps this is where NT Wright (in spite of his errors) is helpful in terms of emphasizing justification as an eschatological phenomenon. We humans won’t know for certain who is or is not justified (i.e. elect, part of the covenant, etc.) until the Last Judgment, but God knows that now.
By way of example, suppose a family from Vancouver moves to Seattle and completely buys into an American way of life. They put an American flag on their front porch, they celebrate Independence Day, they cheer for the US hockey team in the Olympics, pay their taxes, and generally enjoy all the legal benefits of being American. Yet on election day they find themselves unable to vote because they have never actually gone through the process of becoming American citizens. So while they participate as if they were American citizens and outwardly appear to be American citizens, in reality they are still Canadian. So it is with God’s Kingdom: there are those who certainly appear to be in from a human standpoint and may even participate in the Kingdom community as if they were citizens of it, but at the Last Judgment they will be exposed and judged accordingly (Matt 7:21-23).
I dunno, maybe I’m oversimplifying it and/or you’re over-complicating it, but the Mosaic Covenant really illustrates this concept perfectly, IMO. God called the Israelites out of Egypt, so all benefited temporally from this covenant, but not all were elect, so for some the benefits were ONLY temporal. For the elect the benefits of the covenant were temporal AND eternal, for the non-elect the benefits were only temporal.
Bringing it back to the original post, that is why Roman Catholic assurance based on the Church is so tenuous: it focuses only on the temporal (institutional Church) rather than the eternal (Christ and His faithfulness from Adam to the end times).
No church is Christ. No church died for sinners. Old Israel is not type for a new covenant congregation.
Romans 9 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises. 5 The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent came the Messiah,..
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s children.
Romans 9: 31 But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law…. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
Romans 2: 25 For circumcision BENEFITS you FU observe the law, but FU are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
Romans 3— So what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the BENEFIT of circumcision? 2 Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the spoken words of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? 4 Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar, as it is written:
That You may be justified in Your words
and triumph when You judge.
5 But if our unrighteousness highlights God’s righteousness…Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? 6 Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if by my lie God’s truth is amplified to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, just as some people slander us that we say, “Let us do what is evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!
Romans 6: Are we to increase in sin in order that grace increase? By no means. … For sin will not have dominion over you, BECAUSE you are not under law but under grace.
mcmark—Either we are under grace or we are not under grace. This doesn’t look very fair . All the justified sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. This tempts some to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and they tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions. But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible justifies God.
The Bible does not teach that all sins are the same, but the Bible does teach that all sinners need God’s justification by means of Christ’s death. Grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace. To be chosen to be in the genealogical line of Christ is not grace for a sinner for whom Christ did not die, because that sinners begins and ends under law. They will never receive the benefit of justification before God. . If you have grace in Christ, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner not in Christ “free from righteousness” (Romans 6:20).
John Fesko—The final judgment is not a separate event on the last day but is part of the single organic event of parousia-resurrection-final judgment. The final judgment of the church is not the anticipation of the judgment, but is de jure the final judgment. The resurrection is not the penultimate event prior to the final judgment; the resurrection is the final judgment.
John Fesko–Those who place their faith in Christ have already been raised and seated with him in the heavenly places (Romans. 6:4). Were a person guilty of sin, that person would neither be raised with Christ nor seated with him in the heavenly places….. The resurrection of believers, then, is the visible manifestation of those who are already raised with Christ. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). The revelation of the sons of God occurs, not after the final judgment, but at the resurrection (Rom. 8:23).
The resurrection transformation of believers is something that occurs in an instant: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, andthe dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). Those who are in Christ are immediately transformed and receive their glorified bodies.
“But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to lasting life, and some to shame and lasting contempt” (Daniel 12) As the earth yields up the dead there is already a known separation between the righteous and the condemned. It is not, resurrection → judgment → glorification but rather even before the resurrection the status of those who rise from the dead is already known.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Jesus already says: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out”(John 12:31). “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 does not seem to agree with Edwards (and others) that some of the elect get extras.
Douglas Sweeney, “Justification by Faith Alone?, in Jonathan Edwardsand Justification, ed Josh Moody, 2012, Crossway, p148—-“God requires all His people to cooperate with Him to INCREASE in sanctification. They accomplish this, however, as they abide in the Lord, LETTING GOD govern their hearts and bear divine fruit in their lives. For Edwards, there are levels of grace and laurels for the godly.”
Romans 8: 32 God did not even spare His own Son
but handed Him over for us all;
how will God not also with the Son grant us everything?
33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Romans 9: 31 But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law…. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over
and a rock to trip over,
yet as many as who believe on Him
will not be put to shame.
Ali: Jeff Cagle says therefore some non-elect belong in the new covenant.
No I didn’t. I was asking McMark if he were saying that that is his concern.
McMark – I’m not sure if you’re responding to me or someone else, and I’m also uncertain what your main point is in your most recent comment. I will address a few things though:
1. I quibble with the idea that there is only “level” of grace. Though the Greek uses slightly different terms, Mary and Stephen are said to be “full of grace” – the only sinners in the NT described that way. Paul also indicates there are different measures of grace given to different individual believers in Ephesians 4:7 and Romans 12:3. There is also the “common grace” of Matthew 5:45, which would be different for each individual based on life’s circumstances.
2. John Fesko’s theology of the resurrection and the last judgment is borderline contra-Confessional. The WCF clearly speaks of the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment as distinct events, and Revelation 20:11-15 gives a temporal and logical sequence of resurrection followed by the Last Judgment, where all the dead – elect and non-elect – will be judged. Fesko wants to blend resurrection and judgment together, but this does not square with Scripture or Confession. He leans heavily on 1 Corinthians 15:52-53, but here Paul is simply making the case for the resurrection of the dead in general, not a precise sequence of events of the end times. Paul’s point is that our bodies are changed instantly, not over a span of time (“blink of an eye”). Paul never mentions the Last Judgment in 1 Corinthians 15, because that’s not the point of the passage.
Now, I do not agree with NT Wright that there is some sort of justification based on works at the Last Judgment. Justification is based on Christ’s work alone, but believers will be rewarded based on the degree of their righteousness (1 Corinthians 3), just as it seems the reprobate will be punished based on the degree of their wickedness. I think it’s possible we will know who is justified and who isn’t before the Last Judgment since our souls will go immediately to be with Christ after we die, but I’m not sure of this – Scripture never says definitively one way or the other.
The point of all this is that we cannot know who is justified (with certainty) in this life. Thus we rely on profession of faith and “fruitfulness,” imperfect as that methodology is, in our temporal administration of the Kingdom. We understand that some among us who participate in the temporal aspect of the covenant will not be with us in eternity.
Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: The point of all this is that we cannot know who is justified (with certainty) in this life. Thus we rely on profession of faith and “fruitfulness,”
And thus too- we follow the Lord, just as He asks, as particularly He sets out in the book of Hebrews,-
encouraging one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, for we have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end,the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. Just as the Holy Spirit says,“ Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts for we see that those wilderness wanderers were not able to enter because of unbelief.
-Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of FAITH
-Let us hold fast the confession of our HOPE without wavering for He who promised is faithful
-Let us consider how to stimulate one another to LOVE and good deeds, encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near
My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.