Sanctification Signaling

Big Green Letters is piling on with niceness. Not only has Jared Wilson repeated the charge that Calvinists are mean, but Ray Ortlund re-quotes John Newton’s oft-cited comments about how to pursue controversy with love. (Justin Taylor may be the first Green Letter to appeal to Newton.)

But here’s the thing that Big Green Letters don’t seem to consider — that the pursuit of nice often ignores both sides of a disagreement. It opts for the third way without really sorting out what’s right and wrong in the controverted issues. Which means, that love or nice is its own sort of polemical meanness because in taking no side and offering no alternative except to say “love” or “be nice,” it ignores the people and principles in view. Imagine doing that in a dispute between a wife and a teenage son over mowing the grass. The dad says, “love each other.”

Sure.

This side of Big Green Letters, this religious affectionism, is what makes evangelicals (even those who think they are Calvinist) so unreliable either in ecclesiastical or civil matters. Liel Liebovitz picked up on this in the spat between Sohrab Ahmari and David French over virtue and the current POTUS:

To put it briefly, the Never Trump argument is that they should be greatly approved of, while Donald Trump should rightly be scorned, because—while they agree with Trump on most things, politically—they are devoted to virtue, while Trump is uniquely despicable. The proofs of Trump’s singular loathsomeness are many, but if you strip him of all the vices he shares with others who had recently held positions of power—a deeply problematic attitude towards women (see under: Clinton, William Jefferson), shady business dealings (see under: Clinton, Hillary Rodham), a problematic attitude towards the free press (see under: Obama, Barack)—you remain with one ur-narrative, the terrifying folk tale that casts Trump as a nefarious troll dispatched by his paymasters in the Kremlin to set American democracy ablaze.

By analogy, The Big Green Letters supposedly agree with “mean” Calvinists about Christianity and church ministry (actually they don’t but go along, please), but want to hold themselves up as the party of sanctification because they don’t fight the way “mean” Calvinists do. But what if Big Green Letters had had a little more fight or agreed more with “mean” Calvinists when deliberating about whether to grant a Big Letter to Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, and James MacDonald?

It gets worse (thanks to Liebovitz) and points to the follow-the-money argument that Carl Trueman has made:

French and the other self-appointed guardians of civility, then, should do us all a favor and drop the civic virtue act. They’re not disinterested guardians of our public institutions; they are actors, working in an industry that rewards them for dressing up in Roman Republican drag and reciting Cicero for the yokels. This is why Bill Kristol, another of the Never Trumpers, could raise money for his vanity website, The Bulwark, and why he could expect his new creation be lauded on CNN as “a conservative site unafraid to take on Trump,” even as the site was staffed by leftist millennials and dutifully followed progressive propaganda lines. Like anyone whose living depends on keeping on the right side of a leftist industry, they understood that there’s only so much you can say if you care about cashing a paycheck—especially when the president and leader of your own party won’t take your phone calls.

The Never Trumpers, of course, aren’t the first Americans to hide cold careerism behind a wall of virtue-signaling. It’s why so many in the professional punditry went the way of Never Trump: More than anything else, the decision to align oneself with a movement that, ontologically, vows to reject the president a priori, no matter what he might say or do, regardless of your own supposed political beliefs, is a way of affirming one’s professional class loyalties, thus ensuring that your progeny will still be accepted and acceptable at Yale.

A YUGE part of Big Green Letters’ brand is nice. It increases hits at the website, registrations at conferences, sales of books, size of celebrity. In which case, if the New Calvinists really want to follow John Newton’s example and practice their niceness within the boundaries of a Christian communion like the Church of England rather than turning nice Calvinism into a movement.

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275 thoughts on “Sanctification Signaling

  1. Either you are sanctified or not. But of course that’s not what the Reformed Conessions teach.

    What is sanctification? Having the seeds put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.”

    What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ? A. It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, BESIDES THAT, , to become MORE AND MORE UNITED to his sacred body

    “At least I am honest” is another kind of self-righteousness. Granted that Pilate and Trump and Falwell are merely doing the Lord’s work, and granted also that they are not clergy, so they don’t have to set an example (or follow Christ’s) , who gets to say that a third side is not a real choice, and therefore you have no “realistic” choice but to choose between two sides (as chosen by those like Carl Truman defining “evangelical” vs “Reformed” (where “evangelical” was first “Arminian” but also at the same time “what used to be Reformed”.)

    William Smith—–“Once it is acknowledged that there is much more to Calvinism than the five points, and that one can affirm the Five Points and not be Reformed, the question has to be asked: Can one who does not agree with the substance of the five points (if not the terminology) be regarded as holding the truly Reformed faith? Dr. Stewart wants us to understand that Calvinism is much more open to revivals renewal than we might think. Now, as one of a small minority who have some criticisms of “experimental Calvinism” and revivalism, but who could hold of convention of likeminded folks in a phone booth (if he could find one), I ask why Dr. Stewart thinks that….“Calvinists take a dim view of revival and awakening.”…. one wonders why this book was written. It seems it will serve to cause those who favor a broader, softer Calvinism to say, “Amen.” Meanwhile, this book will not cause those who hold a more defined and robust Calvinism to change their minds. The book … is not an academic book which would provide a better understanding of varieties of Calvinism. It rather is an advocacy book. And what it advocates is going to a place no one bound by vows accepting the Westminster Standards as teaching the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture may go.”

    http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2011/07/kinder-gentler-calvinism.html

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  2. I would change what I said in this post back in 2010. I was attending a Lutheran Church at the time. I would not be so affirming of the confessional Reformed or the confessional Lutherans as I was in my comments in this post. I was still learning what the true and accurate biblical Gospel was. You do have to be taught what the Gospel is, what it accomplished, and exactly who Jesus died for before you can assent to it. And you won’t assent to it until God justifies you by the imputation into Christ’s death at the hearing of the Gospel. Trying to establish your own righteousness is an abomination to Gods redemptive plan in Christ and that is the sin we are most blind too.

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  3. I posted this comment at the wrong post and you can’t delete your comments after you post them.

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  4. Sdb, I think that’s supposed to be obvious, at least according to the Never Hilaryers (therefore Trump because binary fundamentalism).

    But if Trump is to statecraft what Sunday is to religion then shouldn’t Presbyterians be more critical of Trump than his imperfect critics? Or is Sunday not really a problem? Or is it not nice to suggest that Trump may be an exception to the fair-and-balanced rule?

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  5. “ Either you are sanctified or not. But of course that’s not what the Reformed Conessions teach.“
    This is sophomoric nonsense. The fact that one is right or not right does not entail that there are not degrees of rightness. Secondly scripture teaches that salvation is a process. When Paul summarizes the gospel for the corinthians (a gospel you add to and create a form of intellectual works righteousness), he tells them that they are “being” saved. This is equivalent to saying that they are getting more and more saved. Thus the reformed confessions are correct and you are just another in a long line of false teachers puffed up by your belief in your own idiosyncratic insight. A hefty dose of humility would do you good.

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  6. “ You do have to be taught what the Gospel is, what it accomplished, and exactly who Jesus died for before you can assent to it.“
    The apostle Paul disagrees.

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  7. @z
    I think criticism of Trump is mostly overblown. He is crude, rude, and obnoxious, but he is governing like a conservative republican. One place he has been better than the Bush2, McCains, and Grahams of the GOP, has been his reticence at getting us into new conflicts, support for criminal justice reform, and willingness to take on regulations. Not too shabby a run.

    I think criticism of Hillary was overblown as well. Yes she is a political opportunist and careerist, but she would have maintained the status quo which for all the fear inferring was actually pretty good for most people. She would have expanded the affordable care act, increased domestic spending, and probably supported some kind of bailout for college loans. She might also have gotten us more involved with Syria. She would also have appointed a Supreme Court justice who favored rvw so that these states with heartbeat bills would not have overplayed their hand. Ironically, I think we would have seen more long term success for the prolife movement.

    Anyway, a mixed bag for both. God is still on his throne and chooses our leaders and the directions they choose.

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  8. 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

    It seems impossible, still with our corruption, to even really, fully, truly contemplate the perfection of Jesus – never doing wrong even in thought, motive, judgement. No improper condemnation, ridicule, belittling, mocking, reviling, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc ; no wrong motive; no self exaltation, no wrong judgement, etc, etc. Only doing and thinking right.

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  9. @Ali
    Yep! While “being” sanctified is a life long process, we remain far from perfected this side of glory. Thus we “work out our salvation” and “strive” like an athlete preparing for the games. Not to earn righteousness, but to express gratitude for all Christ accomplished. I must be missing something in these sanctification debates because it doesn’t seem all that complicated to me. I just don’t see where the standards fall afoul of scripture.

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  10. Sbbdd, the gospel is drawn from inferences, logical deductions and syllogisms drawn from the Scriptures but many Reformed types have disregarded that type of thinking in favor of their idiosyncrasies drawn from Van Til.

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  11. Sbbbddd, better, some of the Gospel… There are idiosyncrasies in Reformed Covenant Theology, Reformed Sacramental Theology, and in the Reformed idea of the free offer of the Gospel.

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  12. Sbbbddd, so the gospel is limited to 1 Cor. chapter 15? Who told you that? How do you judge someone by the Gospel or is what matters to you the amount of athletic striving towards what you think sanctification is? Is it possible for someone to be misguided about sanctification by the Westminster confession of faith? Who is allowed to question what they say?

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  13. “Sbbbddd, so the gospel is limited to 1 Cor. chapter 15?”
    Let’t break down what Paul says here:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    So Paul is going to remind the brothers what they need to believe to be saved. What is the content of the gospel they must believe?

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

    So what is the gospel?
    1. Christ died for our sins
    2. He was buried
    3. He rose again
    4. He appeared

    Paul repeats this more or less to Timothy,

    Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…
    </blockquote

    That's the good news. Your theories about the scope of the salvific effect of Christ's death, how sanctification works, the details of his second coming, details about baptism, the Lord's supper, how to pray, etc… are all important. But they are not the good news.

    "Who told you that?"
    The Apostle Paul

    "How do you judge someone by the Gospel"

    Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?

    “is what matters to you the amount of athletic striving towards what you think sanctification is?
    What does the author of Hebrews say?

    let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus

    Here’s Paul again

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    And again,

    anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules

    I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

    That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

    The NT is awfully clear that striving is part of our Christian walk.

    Is it possible for someone to be misguided about sanctification by the Westminster confession of faith?

    Of course. But I don’t see that they were mistaken. The burden of proof is on you to show that the divines were incorrect. Given that this has stood the test of time by scores of godly expositors, I’m going to need more than your mockery or the incoherent bleatings from some internet gadfly who thinks he has overturned the reformed standards. Perhaps you can point out how these passages should be understood and why Paul repeated described an incomplete gospel to the churches to which he wrote.

    Who is allowed to question what they say?

    It’s a free country, so I suppose anyone can question anything. But that doesn’t mean they are right or shouldn’t be corrected.

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  14. “many Reformed types have disregarded that type of thinking in favor of their idiosyncrasies drawn from Van Til”
    van til was by all accounts a wonderful guy, but everything novel he had to say about philosophy is wrong. I doubt that he has had the influence you suggest. The number of people who have actually read van Til could probably fit on a school bus.

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  15. sdb, gratitude is a primarily motive, but not the only one-there are several. Another one is coming more and more to see sin as God does:
    A.W.Pink: “ The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character on which we need to meditate frequently. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to makes excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness.”

    Jz and sdb, I have seen some good articles recently on the scope of our good news (the Gospel) that speaks to forgiveness, redemption, restoration. It would not be good news to be forgiven yet be forever a corrupt miserable sinner.

    The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.”

    “Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.”– Tim Keller

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  16. @Ali – agree that there are other motives.
    Disagree with this though:
    The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.”

    Christ isn’t renewing the whole world. He is going to burn vast swaths of it and make a new one. The grass withers and the flowers fade…even after Christ’s saving work. The world will someday melt like snow and be replaced with a new creation. But I’m not sure that this should properly be understood as part of the gospel. The gospel is what one must believed to be saved. Paul describes the gospel similarly in many places through the NT. Am I overlooking biblical warrant for a more expansive understanding of the gospel? I’m riffing off the top of my head, so I’m sure I could be forgetting something.

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  17. Am I overlooking biblical warrant for a more expansive understanding of the gospel?

    Yes, I think so-
    Matthew 4:23a Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom
    Matthew 24:14This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

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  18. How does that passage suggest that all of creation will be renewed? I don’t doubt that all nations will eventually hear the gospel. But image bearers aren’t “all” of creation.

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  19. Sdb, I guess I’m not completely sure what you were saying when you said “Am I overlooking biblical warrant for a more expansive understanding of the gospel?”. I thought you were talking about what you said previously:.” So what is the gospel?1. Christ died for our sins 2. He was buried 3. He rose again 4. He appeared”

    As far as creation, we know -Romans 8 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now…. Revelation 22:3 aThere will no longer be any curse;

    As far as ‘new’ creation, since we ourselves are new creations (2 Cor 5:17), exactly how God goes about ‘new’ is His prerogative

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  20. @Ali
    Thanks. Sorry I wasn’t clear. What do the texts in Matthew tell us about the content of the gospel?

    As far as what new means, doesn’t scripture tell us that this world will be destroyed with fire?

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  21. Sdb, your breakdown of 1 Cor. 15 is loaded with your assumptions. So, the content of the Gospel is:

    1. Christ died for our sins
    2. He was buried
    3. He rose again
    4. He appeared

    Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses believe that. Does that save them? I really don’t believe that you actually believe that is the full content of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul was addressing a particular problem in the Corinthian Church in chapter 15. Some people were saying that Christ did not rise from the dead and Paul was dealing with that issue. He was not giving a complete explanation of the full content of the Gospel ãnd explaining its meaning. You have to consider the complete writings of the New Covenant in order to do that.

    My friend Giovanni explains the Gospel as follows- it takes into consideration the full New Covenant revelation.

    The gospel is that Jesus Christ, the eternal Holy Son of God was imputed with the sins of His people by God, He paid the debt owing to God the Father for that sin of the elect alone, and God now proves He is righteous in forgiving sinners because of what He did through Christ dying on the cross. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the elect believer, and there is now no condemnation for that saint.

    I often hear this rebuttal concerning election as if it might scare away the sheep of Christ who have not yet come to Him. That is an impossibility. Jesus tells us in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and they only follow Him, that they will not follow another. Jesus also tells us in John 6 that it is HIS mission to save all that the Father has given to Him, so the salvation of the elect is the surest thing in this universe because Christ cannot fail-He is God. So it is NOT true that speaking about election will cause a sheep of Christ’s fold to be scared off. Quite the contrary! The discussion about election and limited atonement informs the elect believer that his salvation is ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED and SURE because of the EFFECTIVENESS of the atonement for the elect. This is the good news that the elect believer MUST hear-that the atonement of Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God against His people-the elect. That is good news. That is the gospel. Christ died, and so we died, and now we have the living hope of resurrection to eternal life in the age to come. Limited atonement and election are an inseparable pair-one cannot be rightly understood without the other.

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  22. sdb says: What do the texts in Matthew tell us about the content of the gospel?

    From Got Questions (which I know you don’t like, but I do, finding them a trusted source)
    “The gospel of the kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal kingdom (John 1:12) . Those who choose to remain in their sin cannot be a part of this kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21). Although grace makes this offer available to anyone who will receive it, Jesus warned that it would be very difficult to enter His kingdom and few would do so (Matt 7:14.)

    The gospel of the kingdom is the news that there is freedom from our slavery to sin if we will repent and turn to God (Romans 6:18-19). Our Redeemer has come, but it is difficult to enter God’s kingdom, not because God requires impossible standards for us, but because we do not want to repent and change. We tend to love the darkness more than the Light (John 3:19). Many would rather cling to their old sinful identities than allow Jesus to create them anew (2 Cor 5:17).

    Those who receive the gospel of the kingdom become citizens of heaven and are freed from bondage to this world (Gal 4:3-9). Second Cor 5:20 refers to God’s children as “ambassadors” for our heavenly Father. Just as an earthly foreign ambassador retains his national identity when representing his country in another, the spiritual ambassadors of God’s kingdom owe their allegiance to God even as they reside in this world. We must follow our heavenly Father’s code of conduct while sojourners on earth. We need not conform to this world’s habits, values, and lifestyle, because this is not our home (Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).

    Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). So, although we must live here until God calls us home, we are not to live for ourselves or according to this world’s value system. Those who have been bought by the blood of Jesus have been given the right to live according to God’s value system. Citizens of the kingdom of God live here on assignment from our Father the King. Living with a kingdom mindset empowers us to make wiser decisions as we invest our lives in furthering the gospel of the kingdom.”

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  23. Sdb says: As far as what new means, doesn’t scripture tell us that this world will be destroyed with fire?
    Yes. The same ‘destroyed’ as it was by water?? What do you think? I don’t know.

    2 Peter 3: 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

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  24. @jy
    “Sdb, your breakdown of 1 Cor. 15 is loaded with your assumptions.”
    OK. Break down what what Paul is saying there using your assumptions.

    “Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses believe that.”
    You sure about that? I’m pretty sure that the mormons believe Jesus was the brother of satan. I think that JWs are wrong about a lot of things, but I’m not sure they are all lost.

    “I really don’t believe that you actually believe that is the full content of the Gospel. ”
    I don’t believe that it is the full content of theology, but I’m not going to argue with Paul.

    “Paul was addressing a particular problem in the Corinthian Church in chapter 15. Some people were saying that Christ did not rise from the dead and Paul was dealing with that issue. He was not giving a complete explanation of the full content of the Gospel ãnd explaining its meaning. You have to consider the complete writings of the New Covenant in order to do that.”
    Why does he give the same summary to Timothy?

    “My friend Giovanni explains the Gospel as follows- it takes into consideration the full New Covenant revelation.”
    Why should I care what Giovanni says?

    “The gospel is that Jesus Christ, the eternal Holy Son of God was imputed with the sins of His people by God, He paid the debt owing to God the Father for that sin of the elect alone, and God now proves He is righteous in forgiving sinners because of what He did through Christ dying on the cross. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the elect believer, and there is now no condemnation for that saint.”
    While I think all of these statements are true, I don’t see any evidence in scripture that they are part of the gospel proper.

    “I often hear this rebuttal concerning election as if it might scare away the sheep of Christ who have not yet come to Him.”
    You haven’t heard that from me or anyone here. You certainly can’t find that in the TFU or WSs.

    “That is an impossibility. Jesus tells us in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and they only follow Him, that they will not follow another. Jesus also tells us in John 6 that it is HIS mission to save all that the Father has given to Him, so the salvation of the elect is the surest thing in this universe because Christ cannot fail-He is God. So it is NOT true that speaking about election will cause a sheep of Christ’s fold to be scared off. Quite the contrary! The discussion about election and limited atonement informs the elect believer that his salvation is ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED and SURE because of the EFFECTIVENESS of the atonement for the elect.”
    So far so good.

    “This is the good news that the elect believer MUST hear-that the atonement of Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God against His people-the elect. That is good news. That is the gospel. Christ died, and so we died, and now we have the living hope of resurrection to eternal life in the age to come. Limited atonement and election are an inseparable pair-one cannot be rightly understood without the other.”
    Perhaps. That doesn’t make them part of the gospel. One can be made right with God without knowing anything about the limited atonement or election. Consider the thief on the cross. THat doesn’t mean that these truths don’t matter. But in even summary fo the gospel I can recall in the NT, none of them include these items. Curious, no?

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  25. “sdb says: What do the texts in Matthew tell us about the content of the gospel?”
    While your source is fine as far as it goes, it does not tell us what the content of the gospel in Matthew is. Paul tells us in at least two places what the content of the gospel is:
    1. Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures
    2. He was bruied
    3. He rose again
    3. He appeared

    That is not the entire scope of all that matters in theology, but it is the content of the good news. Jesus died for our sins. Our theories deduced from scripture about how this is applied, the effect of this good news, and the scope of this good news are all important inferences to make from scripture. But they aren’t the gospel.

    I need no other argument,
    I need no other plea;
    It is enough that Jesus died,
    And that He died for me.

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  26. “Yes. The same ‘destroyed’ as it was by water?? What do you think? I don’t know.”

    But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

    It is this text and others in scripture along the same lines that make me very skeptical of claims along the lines of,
    “through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world.”

    he isn’t going to renew the whole world. he is going to destroy it. The beautiful works of art, architecture, scientific insight, etc… are all going to burn. None of these things has eternal significance. We don’t grow Christ’s kingdom by implementing better politics, creating great works of art, or doing excellent work whatever our job. These things are fine as far as they go, but they are only a means to an end. I think the old fundamentalists were much more correct than we want to give them credit for.

    Only one life, “twill soon be past,
    Only what’s done for Christ will last.

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  27. sdb says Only one life, “twill soon be past,Only what’s done for Christ will last.

    and speaking of fire-
    1 Corinthians 3:13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

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  28. @Ali
    Purgatory? Ha! Just kidding. Yes, our works will be tested by the refiners fire as they say. Thank God for the active obedience of Christ! No hope with out it.

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  29. amen sdb.
    and how can we forget to mention the most incredible offer of the hope of the gospel good news – adoption. By God, who has become our Father

    you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal 4:7)

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  30. Zrim, isn’t it sort of obvious to be critical of Trump? Why should Presbyterians jump on the bandwagon? To show that we are virtuous and not like those hypocrites?

    It’s not like Trump is any different from Meryl Streep on gay marriage or sex outside marriage. And yet we now live at a time when Hollywood celebs’ get to criticize Trump the way Falwell criticized Bill Clinton.

    But you want to stand with the Trump critics? Be sure you know when to duck.

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  31. Dgh, I did not say all that you said, I said they believe:

    1. Christ died for our sins
    2. He was buried
    3. He rose again
    4. He appeared

    That says nothing about Christ being God or God being manifested in human flesh. The point I was trying to communicate is that those four propositions about the gospel can become a different false Jesus without further revelation, clarity, and definition from the whole of the New Covenant. The same can be said about limiting the Gospel to those 4 propositions from 1 Cor.

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  32. ” The point I was trying to communicate is that those four propositions about the gospel can become a different false Jesus without further revelation, clarity, and definition from the whole of the New Covenant.”
    The gospel is not all the true stuff about God.

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  33. Sdb,

    I’m not clear on what you mean by, “Salvation is a process.” What part of salvation are you talking about? Are you understanding salvation as an umbrella term like some confessional Reformed understand union with Christ? We have had this argument many times at old life. I take it that one of the texts you get this from is this:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    John Y: Is the key phrase here, “being saved?” Many believe that one of the idiosyncrasies of the WCF is its understanding of sanctification. McMark quoted those views from the confession in his comment above. Luther, many other Lutherans, Barth, Seifred, the Zahl’s (to name a few) did not agree with the WCF so the issue was hardly non-controversial and easily agreed upon in the past. The following are a few quotes that challenge Calvin’s and by implication the WCF’s understanding of progress and process in salvation or sanctification:

    Mark Seifrid-—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. …. The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. The Reformed regard the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.

    Seifrid—Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    Seifried—Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self-seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another.

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  34. Sdb says: The gospel is not all the true stuff about God.

    John Y: Sure, but you can come to wrong conclusions about what the gospel is from those 4 propositions without further explanation and understanding.

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  35. @JY You are correct. You have to have a proper understanding of what those words mean. But again, that background information is not the gospel. Paul gives us the content of the gospel. Yes, you have to properly define the words. You don’t have to have the proper theory of election worked out exactly right to believe the gospel.

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  36. @JY

    Is the key phrase here, “being saved?”

    Yes. You see the same idea in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all…are being transformed…”

    Many believe that one of the idiosyncrasies of the WCF is its understanding of sanctification. McMark quoted those views from the confession in his comment above. Luther, many other Lutherans, Barth, Seifred, the Zahl’s (to name a few) did not agree with the WCF so the issue was hardly non-controversial and easily agreed upon in the past. The following are a few quotes that challenge Calvin’s and by implication the WCF’s understanding of progress and process in salvation or sanctification:

    Right. Lutherans are not Calvinists. Lots of people disagree with the reformed standards.

    I take it you do not believe that “we work out our salvation”. That believing THE GOSPEL without any mistakes (lest one be believing a false gospel) saves you and there is nothing ongoing regarding one’s salvation. We aren’t being saved. We were saved (if we got our beliefs exactly right) and will never be more saved. Is that a fair construal of your understanding? If so, then what do you understand Paul to be on about when he talks about “working out one’s salvation”, “being saved”, “being transformed”, “running the race with endurance”, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord”, “grow up in your salvation”, “make every effort to add to your faith…”, and so on? Sure sounds like progress to me. That would make Seifried wrong.

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  37. Darryl, like the way Sunday (or Finney, Whitefield, Edwards, Piper, Graham) is obvious? Some might say a consistent criticism of all these is bandwagoning and virtue signaling but so what? We’re right to hold out on imposters to the historic faith that influence should be resisted. Why does it all of a sudden become bandwagoning and signaling when it’s Trump? Are all critics bandwagoning signalers? That might sound like a clever way to zig when others are zagging, but plenty of critics are more sober than the SJWs.

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  38. sdb, that’s too fair-and-balanced. A broken clock is right twice a day and Trump might accidentally do some ok things but the flouting of received institutions and collective wisdom under the bootleg Baptist cover of “being his own man” and “calling it like it is” has been an unmitigated disaster in ways that HRC is only annoying (boo hoo). His is a classic charlatan’s way of hoodwinking a gullible set eager to be merely entertained and wound up. How do conservative Calvinists who should have better sensibilities about all this miss it so often? Perhaps too influenced by the Sundays and his ranks of eeeevangelicals. God may well be on his throne but not sure that means we dispense with prudence and judgement have the guts to say some people are worse than others.

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  39. Sdb says:

    I take it you do not believe that “we work out our salvation”. That believing THE GOSPEL without any mistakes (lest one be believing a false gospel) saves you and there is nothing ongoing regarding one’s salvation. We aren’t being saved. We were saved (if we got our beliefs exactly right) and will never be more saved. Is that a fair construal of your understanding? If so, then what do you understand Paul to be on about when he talks about “working out one’s salvation”, “being saved”, “being transformed”, “running the race with endurance”, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord”, “grow up in your salvation”, “make every effort to add to your faith…”, and so on? Sure sounds like progress to me. That would make Seifried wrong.

    John Y: No, you are not understanding what I am saying. All I’m saying is that if you don’t include election and definitive atonement in the Gospel than you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people. You won’t boast only in the cross of Christ. You will also boast about the Spirits work inside you; feathers and all. The important and critical work in salvation shifts from outside the sinner to inside the sinner. This becomes apparent in people’s comments when they continually want to focus on the imperatives and move past the gospel. You cant move past the gospel. I think that is the point Seifrid was making.

    To quote McMark: Christ’s righteousness is the cause of the elect’s believing. This means that we cannot say that election without the righteousness is the gospel. It also means that we cannot say that the righteousness without election is the gospel.

    Those who deny that election is in the gospel think they can talk about the righteousness of Christ without saying that this righteousness was only obtained for the elect. The effect of this cover-up is that they end up teaching that the work of the Spirit in the sinner causing the sinner to believe is not a result but the cause of Christ’s work working.

    These folks may say: let’s just talk about the cross before we get into the whole election thing. But ironically, they end up not glorying in the cross but putting the Spirit’s work in the sinner in the determinative place. This is the great danger of saying that “election is not the gospel” but only that which makes sinners believe the gospel. I know some people only say that because they have heard other people say it, and it sounds good. But you need to think before you begin repeating what I say!

    The texts I have quoted from Ephesians will not support leaving election out of the gospel and salvation. But folks want to leave out election because they don’t want to talk about non-election.

    It is wrong to say that non-election is only conditioned on sin and the sinner. Both those elected and those not elected are sinners. If sin were the cause of non-elect, then all sinners would not be elect. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

    If we try to take God’s sovereignty out of God’s justice, then there would be no reason for either election or non-election. If we attempt to leave God’s election out of God’s gospel, then there would be no good reason for why some sinners are saved and others are not.

    God’s glory is also revealed in His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

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  40. @jy
    I believe that God ordained some to be vessels of Grace and others vessels of wrath. I see no evidence that this is part of the gospel.

    ” you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people. ”
    Why is this a problem?

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  41. Zrim,

    “Trump might accidentally do some ok things but the flouting of received institutions and collective wisdom”

    Which “received institutions and collective wisdom” is he flouting, and why if it is happening is it ever worse than the way the Clintons and Obama flouted received institutions and collective wisdom?

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  42. Zrim,

    Why does it all of a sudden become bandwagoning and signaling when it’s Trump?

    Because Trump’s flaws are obvious to anyone who pays attention. The flaws of Sunday, Whitfield, etc. not so much. Nobody has to tell an evangelical that adultery and crude talk are bad. They have to be told that altar calls are.

    At the very least, Trump has been no better or worse than any other president of my lifetime. He’s just loud and obnoxious. Yeah, we get it. And Obama was polite while lighting up the White House in the LGBTQEIEIO rainbow, trying to rule by executive order, sending the IRS after CPACs, entering into bad deals with Iran and weaponizing the FBI and CIA against the president-elect. Pardon me if I don’t think that’s better.

    I’m no Trump fan, but at this point the Trump hate is, well, pointless.

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  43. Zrim, Edwards, Whitefield, and Piper are not obvious. Think Big Green Letters. And then consider how clever and unusual it is to link Finney and Sunday to Whitefield and Edwards.

    Just say no to all obvious criticisms.

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  44. His is a classic charlatan’s way of hoodwinking a gullible set eager to be merely entertained and wound up. How do conservative Calvinists who should have better sensibilities about all this miss it so often?

    Zrim,

    What if you’re just a moralizer? What if you’re like those church ladies who scold teenagers for holding hands and kissing in public? What if Trump is just a politician like any other and voters had to make choices between one politician or another? Maybe you’re seeing too sharp a moral contrast between politicians. I’ve been guilty of this myself. Gaining altitude will help. I’m here for you, bro.

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  45. John Y: All I’m saying is that if you don’t include election and definitive atonement in the Gospel than you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people.

    You have a point. After all, the Synod of Dort rejected a large number of errors concerning election and atonement, Both the notion that election is grounded in foreseen faith and the notion that Christ died for some indefinite number were declared outside of orthodoxy.

    The force of that rejection is that anyone holding to the aforementioned errors cannot be a minister of the Gospel for the simple reason that he does not understand the Gospel.

    So far we agree.

    But now, SDB has a point also. Namely, it is not necessary to understand the Gospel perfectly in order to savingly believe in it. The chief example is Peter, who was certainly saved by the time Matt 16 occurs. Yet he also carried around a works-based corruption of the Gospel as late as the Antioch incident mentioned in Gal 2.

    Immediately, Clarkians pounce: How can one believe imperfectly in propositions, which are either true or false? Either Peter believed the Gospel, or else he didn’t.

    And this reveals the weakness of Clark’s understanding of human cognition. For it is obvious in Matt 16 that Peter was saved. One cannot be “blessed” and “the rock” and “given the keys of the kingdom” without being saved. One cannot receive the Spirit (John 20.22) or be commissioned by Christ as an apostle (Matt 28) or perform the ministry that Peter did in Acts 1 – 10 without being saved. There is no question that Peter was saved by the time of the events in the first part of Acts.

    And yet, sometime after all this, Peter shows a defect in his understanding of the Gospel that Paul anathematizes in Galatians.

    What do we conclude then? Is believing the Gospel not necessary for salvation? Me genoito. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already”

    Rather, we conclude that people are inconsistent and defective in their beliefs. Unlike the Clarkian model of cognition, where belief is simply assent to propositions and believers are treated as fully rational agents, we find in the real world that people are not fully rational agents. They simultaneously assent to propositions AND to other propositions contrary to the first ones. Contradictory? Yes. Is it what we do? Also yes. Is it what we should do? No. Can we fix that that? Not completely.

    So: You, McMark, and Clark (along with many others) have correctly seen that “unlimited atonement” implies that people have some quality in themselves that determines their salvation. As such, belief in “unlimited atonement” is incompatible with belief in salvation through Christ alone.

    Yet *millions* of people affirm “Jesus saved me” and also “Christ died for all.” Are they inconsistent? Absolutely. Are they thereby unsaved? Not necessarily. If Peter can be saved while believing something so antiGospel as “circumcision is necessary for salvation”, so can others.

    Believing an inconsistent set of propositions is what people do.

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  46. Robert, hate may be pointless (sometimes) but not maintaining scrutiny on an elected office or branch of government. Is maintaining protest against Rome and evangelicalism hate or just what’s warranted in the realm of Reformed religion? So where’s the critical chutzpah when it comes to the political realm?

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  47. Walt, right because that’s my pattern around here, a moralizer. But maybe you’re being a tad dainty and overly-worried about being a moralizer simply because one is a critic? Maybe all moralizers are critics but not all critics are moralizers? Maybe some criticism is more about his gross incompetence for the task and less his moral failings? Maybe Trump is a self-promoting entertainer who has bamboozled many into thinking he’s a politician (who’s just being like any other politician and “no better or worse than any other president of my lifetime”)? Maybe the term “bro” is the greasy familiarity of dude culture and PDA is just unbecoming of people of any age?

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  48. Zrim,

    The difference is that there’s no evidence that Trump is any worse than any president before him. Or maybe you can explain to me the ways he’s destroying our public institutions the way Obama or Bush didn’t.

    Or, as SDB noted, everything looks to be running as fine as it always did before.

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  49. Zrim,

    Or, did you ever think that the possibility is that Trump is a self-promoting entertainer who has bamboozled people like you into thinking he’s not like every politician before him?

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  50. @ Zrim: PDA is a form of rebellion against the tyranny of youth, who yell “Ewwww” when they see anyone over 40 kiss.

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  51. Maybe some criticism is more about his gross incompetence for the task and less his moral failings?

    Your past criticism has centered around his moral failings. You must’ve been asleep for the past 40 years and have failed to observe previous administrations.

    Maybe Trump is a self-promoting entertainer who has bamboozled many into thinking he’s a politician (who’s just being like any other politician and “no better or worse than any other president of my lifetime”)?

    “Self promoting entertainer” describes most presidents since Kennedy and television. Reagan was literally an actor. Clinton was elected by Baby Boomers who thought he was cool because he played the saxophone with sunglasses on. Kennedy was elected partially by women who thought he was good looking. He loved the ladies as much as Trump. The voters vote for this. Read “Closing of the American Mind.” I’m sorry, but these people reflect the electorate.

    Maybe the term “bro” is the greasy familiarity of dude culture and PDA is just unbecoming of people of any age?

    Hey, who are you calling “Greasy,” dude? Is that some sort of racial epithet against Italians?

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  52. First, to be more clear about Sdb’s question:

    John Y: ” you are going to have to condition salvation somehow on the sinner or the Spirits work in the sinner and not the outside righteousness Christ obtained at the cross for His elect people. ”

    Sdb: Why is this a problem?

    John Y: I think Mc Mark answers that question in a convincing way:

    “God’s work in the sinner does not make us “not sinners” and does not erase our past sins, our present sins or our future sins—-faith in the true gospel leads to despair about how much God is going to do in us in this age, and despair from “mouths shut before the law” leads to our only hope being the alien external righteousness (Christ’s death outside us)”

    John Y: So where is the righteousness found and of necessity what is the cause and object of faith? What is the wedding garment that allows someone into the wedding feast in the new covenant parable? What makes Christ’s death effectual to the elect sinner who is born already condemned in Adam? How can election not be part of the gospel when election is really the definition of God’s love. Without election there is no Gospel.

    Second, to further inquire about Jeff’s comment about an inconsistent gospel. Am I understanding correctly that the Reformed Confessions teach that someone can be justified and converted by an inconsistent Gospel? Does that include lies and distortions of the Gospel too? How about the possibility of being effectually called and converted by no gospel at all?

    We really don’t know what Peter or the thief on the cross knew or did not know about the Gospel in any full way from the information given regarding their stories in the Scriptures. So, I’m unconvinced about whether your comment has validity. It seems absurd that God would use inconsistencies, distortions, or lies about the gospel when effectually calling someone by the Gospel.

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  53. ” Without election there is no Gospel.”
    Could be, but that doesn’t make election part of the Gospel. Without the existence of the triune God of scripture, there is no Gospel. The doctrine of the Trinity is not part of the gospel. How perfectly must one be able to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity to be judged by you as believing the true gospel?

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  54. “God’s work in the sinner does not make us “not sinners” and does not erase our past sins, our present sins or our future sins”
    So our sins aren’t blotted out? Not taken away as far as the East is from the West?

    “faith in the true gospel leads to despair”
    That doesn’t seem to be the reaction of people in the NT who believe the gospel.

    “about how much God is going to do in us in this age, and despair from “mouths shut before the law” leads to our only hope being the alien external righteousness (Christ’s death outside us”
    To be sure, it is the alien righteousness of Christ that justifies. I don’t see why this is inconsistent with salvation being contingent on the Spirit’s work in the sinner (regeneration) or the Father’s work in electing the sinner. MM quote, as usual, clarifies nothing.

    “So where is the righteousness found and of necessity what is the cause and object of faith?”
    Righteousness is found in Christ alone.
    The cause of faith is the regeneration of the believer creating belief in the Gospel.
    The object of faith is that Christ died for our sins, was raised again, and appeared to many.

    “What is the wedding garment that allows someone into the wedding feast in the new covenant parable?”
    Christ’s imputed righteousness…even if you don’t know all the theological definitions.

    “What makes Christ’s death effectual to the elect sinner who is born already condemned in Adam?”
    Regeneration->Faith->Adoption->Sanctification…

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  55. John Y: Am I understanding correctly that the Reformed Confessions teach that someone can be justified and converted by an inconsistent Gospel? Does that include lies and distortions of the Gospel too? How about the possibility of being effectually called and converted by no gospel at all?

    No, you are not understanding correctly (sorry). I am not saying that God uses error. He uses truth. But, I am also saying that God is not prevented by error that lies side-by-side with truth in the mind.

    Taking your questions in reverse order:

    Can we be converted by no gospel at all?

    The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; — WCF 14

    Much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever,be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is very pernicious, and to be detested. — WCF 10

    So, No (leaving aside children dying in infancy and others not able to be ordinarily called).

    Can we be converted by lies and distortions of the Gospel?

    Lies and distortions of the Gospel are not the Word. Nevertheless, to the extent that the truth is told, God can certainly use what truth is understood to convert.

    So no: We cannot be converted by lies and distortions of the Gospel. But we can be converted by the truth, which is sometimes accompanied by lies and frequently by distortions.

    Finally: can we be converted and justified by an inconsistent Gospel?

    The true Gospel is not inconsistent. Nevertheless, two things can happen

    (1) The evangelist may preach an inconsistent message that contains truth alongside distortions. This is the case discussed above.

    (2) The evangelist may preach the gospel but the hearer understand inconsistently OR believe a consistent Gospel that conflicts with other beliefs.

    In case (2), can such a one be saved? Again we look at Peter. You are unconvinced:

    John Y: We really don’t know what Peter or the thief on the cross knew or did not know about the Gospel in any full way from the information given regarding their stories in the Scriptures. So, I’m unconvinced about whether your comment has validity.

    But this is mistaken. We know two things. First, that Peter was most definitely saved by the time of Acts 2. It would be absurdly obtuse to deny this. Second, we know that sometime after Acts 10, Peter was mostly definitely acting in a manner inconsistent with the truth of the Gospel, per Gal 2

    For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles … When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? — Gal 2

    So it is clear that Peter was saved; it is clear that his behavior, which came from the heart, revealed that he believed that Gentiles needed to follow Jewish customs — which is inconsistent with the Gospel.

    John Y: It seems absurd that God would use inconsistencies, distortions, or lies about the gospel when effectually calling someone by the Gospel.

    Yes, that would be absurd. It would also be absurd that God’s effectual calling would be conditioned upon absolute consistency and perfection of both speech and understanding. It would be absurd that God can be hindered in His effectual calling by defects of understanding in the one called.

    No, it is rather the case that truth and error lie side-by-side in the mind; God uses truth, but is not prevented by error. This is why Peter could be saved, yet act inconsistently with the Gospel. This is also why churches are more or less pure.

    The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children;b and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ…

    This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible.a And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them. — WCF 25

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  56. Sdb, We debated the how, when, and why of union with Christ here for many years. MM continually pointed out that the priority in union with Christ was the legal declaration and transfer of the death of Christ to His elect people. This is the cause of the work of the Spirit in the effectual call. This was dismissed by the confessional Reformed here as an idiosyncratic view. The spiritual union is the vital union according to the confessional Reformed. These two differing views have differing implications for how the Christian life is lived out and they have different theological implications when thought through. The atoning work of Christ is the priority in the legal union while the work of the Spirit is the priority in the spiritual union. The vital question then becomes are these different views the same Gospel?

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  57. John Y,

    The history of union discussions needs some clarification. Interested readers should check out the tags Union with Christ and Forensics. (Aside: DGH, what happened to the posts pre-2010?)

    In that series, which included a recurring “Where’s Waldo” motiv, DGH persistently argued for the priority of forensics over mystical union. He was joined in this by Zrim, RL, David R, Jed Paschall, Jack Miller, and many other commentators. And eventually, I came to agree with the language that forensic has priority in salvation.

    So the first and most important correction that needs to be made is that your sentence “the spiritual union is the vital union according to the Reformed” is incorrect. In fact, the Union posts were created in order to *push back* against exactly that idea.

    As discussion progressed, it became clear that there was an intramural difference concerning ordo salutis in re: imputation and effectual calling. Some Reformed writers, including Ursinus and AA Hodge, hold that imputation precedes effectual calling. Others, including Calvin, hold that imputation is received by faith.

    The first view I called “idiosyncratic”, but I had to admit that it is definitely attested in Reformed soteriology. When you say MM continually pointed out that the priority in union with Christ was the legal declaration and transfer of the death of Christ to His elect people. … This was dismissed by the confessional Reformed here as an idiosyncratic view. , this is incorrect. Many Reformed folk here (RL, David R, and Zrim come to mind) agreed with him. And even though I disagreed, I allowed that it was within the realm of orthodoxy.

    So the second correction is that it is NOT true that “imputation as the cause of effectual calling” was dismissed by the confessional Reformed as an idiosyncratic view. That term is mine, and I don’t speak for everyone.

    Finally, you (following Mark) create a false dichotomy by suggesting that the two views discussed above are equivalent to a legal-priority view over against a work-of-the-Spirit priority view.

    As DGH has amply documented in the “Forensic Friday” series, both Ursinus’ view and Calvin’s are legal-priority views. There are no regular commentators here who hold that the work of the Spirit has a priority over the forensic — including me.

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  58. ” We debated the how, when, and why of union with Christ here for many years.”
    I ignored most of those threads. I find MM impossible to read. Reading Jeff’s recap re minds me why. I frankly still do not understand the importance of the distinction between what he refers to as Urinus and Calvin’s view.

    “MM continually pointed out that the priority in union with Christ was the legal declaration and transfer of the death of Christ to His elect people. This is the cause of the work of the Spirit in the effectual call. This was dismissed by the confessional Reformed here as an idiosyncratic view.”
    Priority is carrying a lot of weight here. I always took union with Christ to more or less be a metaphor equivalent to adoption.

    “The spiritual union is the vital union according to the confessional Reformed. ”
    So vital = priority? That doesn’t make any sense.

    “These two differing views have differing implications for how the Christian life is lived out”
    You’ll need to spell out for me how these different views make one iota of difference to how the partisans actually live.

    ” they have different theological implications when thought through. The atoning work of Christ is the priority in the legal union while the work of the Spirit is the priority in the spiritual union. The vital question then becomes are these different views the same Gospel?”
    I consider myself a reasonably well read and thoughtful layman. I have no seminary training, I’m not a church officer, and I’ve never taken a course in an ancient language. But I have read institutes, a fair bit of theology, numerous commentaries, and have a decent working knowledge of the reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, and Anglican standards. In short, I have a better than average knowledge of theology as a layman. Yet I still cannot make heads or tails of the difference between what priority means in regards to forensic and mystical union. The distinction is esoteric and therefore irrelevant to the Gospel. You would need to convince me that scripture is sufficiently plain on this point that getting it right is a necessary article of faith one must hold in order to be saved. In other words it should be blindingly obvious from scripture. You have not convinced me that any of this stuff is part of the Gospel rather than theoretical speculation about how the gospel works. It may be worthy of discussion and there may be a definitive correct conclusion, but it is not the Gospel.

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  59. SDB: Reading Jeff’s recap re minds me why. I frankly still do not understand the importance of the distinction between what he refers to as Urinus and Calvin’s view.

    Pretty obscure at times. Sorry.

    Briefly, the Catholic understanding of justification is that we are made righteous by grace, then declared righteous because we actually are.

    Early in the reformation, Osiander tried to bring that view into the Reformed fold, and was rejected by Calvin (Inst 3.11) and Lutherans (here).

    DGH has suggested, in so many words, that Gaffin’s view of justification and union brings uncomfortable elements of Osiander into the Reformed camp: If we are saved through an *undifferentiated* union with Christ that gives us forensic and vital elements together (ie justification and sanctification), then in what sense are we not justified by being made righteous?

    McMark goes further, echoing Hermann Hoeksema, and suggests that if we are justified by faith created by the Spirit, then are we not first *made* righteous, then declared righteous? He wants to fix that by having God first impute righteousness to the elect, who then are legally eligible for the work of the Spirit. This view actually has some Reformed pedigree, but it’s hard to tease out.

    Where Mark loses me is when he tries to make this issue one of “true Gospel v false Gospel.”

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  60. Thanks Jeff. That does clarify things. I wouldn’t say that these distinctions are utterly unimportant, but they are very subtle and really getting into the weeds for the typical layman. What I don’t get is where the act of regeneration fits into all of this. In other words, the Spirit gives us a new heart capable of responding to the gospel, which necessarily leads one to believing the gospel (making one justified and declared righteous), which necessarily leads to adoption (union?) and thus the further work of the spirit making one more righteous (sanctification). This fairly simple chain always seemed to make sense of scripture. Am I missing some logical contradiction in here or some conflict with scripture?

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  61. Sdb and Jeff,

    I have not commented back because I spilled lemon water on my laptop keyboard so I am forced to use my computer generated keyboard to type comments. That makes making comments very slow and time-consuming.

    First of all, the union with Christ issue. Calvin did not teach a strictly legal view of union with Christ. In other words, it was pointed out by McMark in numerous quotations by Calvin that he was very confusing to read regarding this issue. Bruce McCormack, the Barthian theologian, pointed this out in some essays he wrote too. He blamed Calvin’s lack of clarity regarding the application of union with Christ on his mystical sacramental beliefs and Calvin’s doctrine of sanctification. The more and more of sanctification and the sacramental union is problematic for how Paul taught how a sinner is justified in the book of Romans. Union with Christ occurs when God justifies the ungodly sinner by placing that sinner into the death of Christ legally at the hearing of the gospel (the effectual call-Romans chapter 4). The effectual call is regeneration. The guilt and condemnation of all the elects sins were imputed to Christ at the cross in time but God imputes that death to each individual elect sinner when he legally justifies that sinner. God does the legal imputing, not the sinner. All the benefits of this redemption are reckoned to the elect sinners account (faith for this justification, repentance from dead works, i.e. giving up trying to establish your own righteousness, complete sanctification by the blood of Christ, and immortality in the new creation not yet fulfilled).

    Second, the issue of the Spirit’s work in the effectual call and the content of the gospel also needs to be clarified. I don’t agree regarding Jeff’s comment about the truth of the Gospel being mixed with lies or distortions about the Gospel in the elect sinners mind. And I want to address this common objection about perfect consistency and understanding that Jeff made in the following comment:

    John Y: It seems absurd that God would use inconsistencies, distortions, or lies about the gospel when effectually calling someone by the Gospel.

    Jeff C: Yes, that would be absurd. It would also be absurd that God’s effectual calling would be conditioned upon absolute consistency and perfection of both speech and understanding. It would be absurd that God can be hindered in His effectual calling by defects of understanding in the one called.

    I have to wait for another time to comment further.

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  62. “complete sanctification by the blood of Christ”
    You assert this, but you haven’t explained why scripture repeatedly refers to salvation as an ongoing process. I would be interested in your understanding of those passages.

    “I don’t agree regarding Jeff’s comment about the truth of the Gospel being mixed with lies or distortions about the Gospel in the elect sinners mind.”
    You are confusing facts about how the gospel works, how it is applied, etc… with the Gospel itself. Is the trinity part of the gospel? Is Christology? Are only those with an inerrant understanding of homostatic union really saved? Yet Paul talks to believers of having the milk and needing to move onto the meat. As if, one starts with an imperfect understanding of the gospel that grows in time.

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  63. Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures.

    John Y: Who is the our that Paul is addressing? Is Jesus death an offer to everyone who accepts it? When the Reformed say they believe in forensic justification are they saying that Jesus death has the legal potential to save everyone but only the elect will be given the gift of faith and repentance? Is that what forensic justification is?

    Is it faith and repentance that justifies? What is it that propitiates God’s wrath for the elect sinners sin? What takes away the elect sinners guilt and condemnation? Is it faith and repentance that unites the elect to Christ or something else?

    Does the order, timing and logical priority of that union matter? Can a different order, timing and priority of union with Christ be a false Gospel? Could it be that the gifts God gives to his elect as a result of this union to Christ’s death be given when Christ sees fit to give them to the individual?

    Is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ the same thing as sanctification? I dont think it is and probably others can prove that from Scripture better than I can. Besides, that probably is better done in a book format rather than a website comment box. If you dont include election and definite atonement you open the way for goats to enter through a different door and scatter the sheep. The Peter issue takes a lot more explaining that I’m not willing to do right now.

    One last thing I want to mention is the athletic striving and running the race so as to win tbe imperishable prize and not to be disqualified illustration from one of Paul’s epistles. I take that section of Scripture as Paul echoing what he said in Romans chapter 2. However, the comment by Paul that his striving was a result of an abundance of God’s grace in his life makes me question the echoing of the Romans chapter 2 interpretation. Regardless, the striving has nothing to do with how God justifies an elect sinner and has more to do with the gifting as a result of Christ’s death applied to the particular sinner. Justification and sanctification are not a process but direct results of union with Christ’s death. How the gifts are distributed to those God places into the death of Christ probably determine how quickly or slowly one grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ. In other words, salvation is union with Christ but growth in grace and knowledge may look more like a process.

    I still want to comment about the content of the gospel and whether God uses truth mixed with error in the sinners mind to justify someone at the hearing of the Gospel. The point of contention being whether it is necessary for election and definite atonement to be part of the Gospel content. I think how the above questions are answered make the content of the gospel obvious.

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  64. Do all cofessional Reformed agree with what Horton says in the following quotes?

    quotations from Mike Horton’s essay in The Exxtent of the Atonement, edited by Adam Johnson, Zondervan, 2019

    p118—The term “limited atonement” distorts Dort’s teaching, which on the extent of the atonement repeats the traditional medivial refrain, sufficient for all

    p 129–To be in Christ is an ecclesiastical matter: it is to be be in
    the church. Although the reprobate are scattered among the elect in
    the church, there is no way of separating the sheep from the goats
    until the last judgment. Assurance of salvation THEREFORE is linked to the PROPER use of the MEANS OF GRACE AND incorporation into the VISIBLE CHURCH. Certainty of salvation is not by oneself BUT WITH HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE

    double talk–we can’t be certain who is chosen in the visible church ,
    but certainly of salvation is found with “his chosen people” (and by
    this Horton means “the” visible church)

    132–“We declare not only generally to all but particularly to each
    person that Christ’s death is sufficient to save him or her. Nobody
    can say, there was no redemption for me. There is sufficient
    redemption in Christ’s cross for every person in the world

    p 133–“God COULD HAVE justly coindemned us all. Because the death of Christ is sufficient for everyone, no one is left out except those who refuse this gift. God is not held responsible for our refusing this grace.

    Mike Horton, Justification, volume 2, (New Studies in Dogmatics ) 2019

    p455–“There is no union with Christ which is not union with the visible church

    Horton—-“a person can become a member of the covenant of grace without truly embracing the word . All persons in the covenant are to be threatened with the consequences of apostasy. Some belong to the covenant community and experience thereby the work of the Spirit through the means of grace and yet are not regenerate.. Thus we have a category for a person who is in the covenant but not personally united to Jesus Christ”

    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. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/kingdom-covenant-

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  65. JY
    You are asking lots of questions and not providing any answers or clarification. I think all those questions have answers, and I suspect that we would agree on them. But they aren’t the gospel. The gospel is not the logical outworking of how it plays out in the believer’s life. I gather you disagree. What I’d like to know is where the boundaries are for you. What can somebody be wrong about in your mind and still be saved. Must one have an inerrant understanding of the homeostatic union?

    “Is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ the same thing as sanctification? I dont think it is and probably others can prove that from Scripture better than I can. Besides, that probably is better done in a book format rather than a website comment box.”
    This is the crux of the matter. Growth in grace and knowledge of Christ is a major part of sanctification. It’s what happens after someone is justified. Now, perhaps you don’t like calling that sanctification – fair enough. Perhaps you can provide a definition of sanctification that distinguishes it from justification and growth in grace. I’m not convinced that we need this category, but maybe I’m missing something.

    “If you don’t include election and definite atonement you open the way for goats to enter through a different door and scatter the sheep.”
    Do you mean, that if you do not demand that one adhere to election and definite atonement, then it opens the way to false teaching? I’d buy that. I think these are crucial doctrines that believers should hold to. I don’t think that they are part of the gospel or that somebody who has not been properly taught this doctrine is necessarily lost.

    “The Peter issue takes a lot more explaining that I’m not willing to do right now.”
    Fair enough.

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  66. Do all cofessional Reformed agree with what Horton says in the following quotes?

    I think you would have a hard time getting all reformed people to agree that the sky is blue!

    double talk–we can’t be certain who is chosen in the visible church ,but certainly of salvation is found with “his chosen people” (and by this Horton means “the” visible church)

    Not at all. I can’t be sure of any other specific person, but in the gathering of worshipers who rightly practice the sacraments and proclaim the word, I can be assured that some (most?) are in fact believers. By availing myself of the means of grace in the visible church, I can grow in the assurance of my own salvation. Of course, I could be a goat who is simply lying and you would never know. But that is the exceptional case, not the norm. I don’t see why this is a problem.

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  67. John, the answers to most of your questions are found in full in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, and in the Canons of Dordt. I don’t mind giving short summaries below, but I wonder why you are asking me?

    John Y: When the Reformed say they believe in forensic justification are they saying that Jesus death has the legal potential to save everyone but only the elect will be given the gift of faith and repentance? Is that what forensic justification is?

    No. That is actually much closer to the view of Arminius.

    John Y: Is it faith and repentance that justifies? What is it that propitiates God’s wrath for the elect sinners sin? What takes away the elect sinners guilt and condemnation?

    No. Christ’s righteousness justifies; faith receives Christ’s righteousness; repentance always accompanies saving faith but forms no part of it.

    JY: Is it faith and repentance that unites the elect to Christ or something else?

    Union is multifaceted. Probably the best way to think of it is that our union begins (or is anticipated) before all time when God chooses His people. Our union is ratified at our justification. It is realized at our conversion. And it is completed at our glorification.

    God does those things; our faith is at most instrumental. As before, repentance plays no role in accomplishing union.

    Berkhof distinguished between forensic and vital union, and I think he’s probably right to do so.

    JY: Does the order, timing and logical priority of that union matter? Can a different order, timing and priority of union with Christ be a false Gospel?

    Possibly, and possibly. However, ordo salutis is a better tool for diagnosing salvific issues than union, which again is multifaceted. The terminology is not completely uniform, so it is entirely possible for people to talk about “union” without meaning the same thing by it.

    JY: Could it be that the gifts God gives to his elect as a result of this union to Christ’s death be given when Christ sees fit to give them to the individual?

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand this question.

    JY: Is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ the same thing as sanctification? I dont think it is and probably others can prove that from Scripture better than I can.

    Well, two questions back at you: (1) How do the Reformed standards define sanctification? (2) What roles do God and the believer play in sanctification, according to the standards?

    JY: If you dont include election and definite atonement you open the way for goats to enter through a different door and scatter the sheep.

    Do you mean “include as necessary beliefs for salvation” or “include as necessary doctrine to avoid heresy”? Do you want election and definite atonement to be included in our Confessions, or do you want Christ to perform an election-and-definite-atonement check in the eschaton?

    JY: Do all [confessional] Reformed agree with what Horton says in the following quotes?

    To know what confessional Reformed agree to, read their confessions. Individual theologians are a secondary source.

    But a question for you: Have you read Horton’s essay in “The Extent of the Atonement”?

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  68. Sdb and Jeff,

    I’m asking the questions to try to bring more clarity and focus into where the disagreements are. As you have stated, Jeff, we can be using the same terms and words but attach different meanings to those same terms and words. To continue the discussion maybe it is best if I answer the questions that I asked and then compare and contrast those answers with yours.

    I have read through the WCF and some commentaries on it but I can’t say I refer to it often like you Reformed confessionalists do. So you guys have a much better working understanding of the WCF. I could say the same thing about the canons of Dordt. I have also read Scott Clark’s book defending the Reformed confessional faith. So I do have some working knowledge to draw from. Most of the disagreements I have with the WCF are in the doctrine of sanctification section, the sacraments, and the lack of clarity regarding the union with Christ issue and the ordo salutis.

    My main problem with the canons of Dordt lie in the sufficient/efficient understanding of the atonement. I have read Horton’s debate with Roger Olson in book format where Horton defends the Dordt understanding of the atonement. I don’t think someone can agree with the Dordt formula and understand forensic justification and union with Christ the same way tbat I have come to understand it. Hopefully, I can make that more clear in this comment.

    Here is how I would answer the questions I asked:

    1) When the Reformed say they believe in forensic justification are they saying that Jesus death has the legal potential to save everyone but only the elect will be given the gift of faith and repentance? Is that what forensic justification is?

    John Y: I understand forensic justification to be God the Father placing or baptizing (without water) an ungodly elect sinner into the death of of Christ at the cross. In other words, God imputes Christ’s death into the ungodly elect sinners account. God declares the person legally justified with this tranfer into Christ’s atoning work after the gift of faith and repentance by the Spirit has occurred. That is the legal basis and the work of the the Spirit happens simultaneously at the effectual call of the Gospel. Without the forensic the Spirit wont work the effectual call. That is the logical priority of union with Christ. The elect have always been in union with Christ by God’s decree to their salvation by Christ’s death but the elect have to be justified and sanctified in time because all the elect have been born in time guilty and condemned in Adam. This eliminates the objection of eternal justification.The elect have to be justified in time. This satisfies God’s attribute of justice and retains God’s sovereignty in salvation. The sovereign God justifies in a just manner. That just way of redemption is the only way someone can gain any kind of assurance of salvation.

    I went on much linger than intended and I have to get ready for work. I will answer the remaing questions when I can.

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  69. John,

    Thanks. Your answers are very helpful for advancing the conversation.

    I would say that the Reformed understanding of forensic justification is very close to what you have expressed. I’d put it like this:

    The atonement is the act of God the Father placing the sins of the elect, and only the elect, on Christ at the cross. This is the first act of imputation (WCF 8.5; WLC 59). That is to say, the atonement is particular — Christ died to pay for specific sins, not for the sins of mankind in general.

    Justification is forensic in that it is a legal verdict of “righteous” spoken over the sinner. It is accomplished when God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the individual, which is the second act of imputation (WCF 11.1; WLC 70).

    So the difference between us, and it may just be word choice, is that the Reformed understand justification to mean a declaration of “righteous” because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, while as you expressed it, justification means that God imputes the death of Christ to us.

    We agree, I think, that the atonement is definite.

    I think it’s important to defend and properly understand the phrase “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect.”

    Sufficiency does NOT mean that the atonement is indefinite in extent. Sufficiency does not refer to extent at all, but to value. It means that IF, hypothetically, God had elected one more person, then Christ would not have had to suffer any more. That is, His suffering was of infinite value. To deny this actually implicitly denies the divinity of Christ.

    Efficiency refers to the extent. Christ’s death of infinite value was spent on the particular sins of the elect, alone.

    Some would distort that phrase to imply that Christ’s death could extend beyond the elect under the right set of circumstances; this is an error.

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  70. Jeff,

    I do agree that there are two imputations to the elect. The imputation of all the elect sins to Christ at the cross. I also think Christ was imputed with the guilt of Adams sin during his whole incarnation in human flesh even though he remained without sin in his human nature. The guilt did not pollute or corrupt Christ’s human nature while carrying that imputed guilt.

    I disagree with Calvin that the punishment for the elect was born by Christ when Christ supposedly descended into hell between his death and resurrection. That is getting off the subject though.

    The second imputation to each individual elect person occurs when the individual elect person is baptized into Christ’s death by God the Father. I think it is important to see death of Christ as the righteousness imputed because that is the way Romans chapters 5 and 6 explain it. Adams one act of disobedience is contrasted to Christ’s one act of obedience. That one act of Christ’s obedience has to be Christ’s atoning death on the cross. That is the righteousness and that is what each elect individual is baptized into in Romans chapter 6.

    I think McMark has the defended the argument at oldlife that Christ’s active obedience to the Law of God is not the righteousness imputed to the elect. The righteousness imputed to each elect person is the death of Christ at the cross.

    I think you do disagree with that, Jeff. Can you explain to me why you do disagree with that? That is enough for today.

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  71. Hi John,

    I see several reasons to believe that the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us is not only the passive righteousness of His work bearing sin, but also the active righteousness that inhered to his fulfillment of the Law.

    First, we need to clear up terms. By “passive righteousness” is meant Christ’s work in bearing sin. That is most obvious in His death on the cross, but it is also evident in his bearing shame at his trial and in his various sufferings throughout life which qualified him to be a sacrifice. When Christ’s passive righteousness is imputed to us, we are made dead to the law and our sins are forgiven.

    By “active righteousness” is meant Christ’s righteousness as second Adam, the one who kept the Law where the first Adam failed. When Christ’s active righteousness is imputed to us, we are reckoned as having fully met the righteous requirements of the Law.

    I am arguing that both are imputed to us, and that it is necessary for this to be so.

    Thesis: The important question is not whether Christ’s righteousness consists only of His death; it is rather whether we are counted righteous before God because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us.

    Hold on to that thesis as you read the Scripture and other things below.

    (1) The active righteousness is suggested by the OT symbols.

    In Zechariah 3, the dirty clothes are removed from Joshua, but more is done: a clean turban is placed on his head.

    Then, God gives this charge:

    “The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.”

    And then follows up with

    ““‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.”

    We see that God not only cleanses the sinner (the function of passive righteousness, making the believer dead to the Law per Rom 7), but also clothes him in righteousness. And the righteousness with which he is clothed is walking in obedience and keeping the requirements — and it is not that Joshua does so, but that the Branch does so. In the vision, the clean turban from the outside is placed upon Joshua’s head; he does not clean his own turban.

    (2) The imputation of active righteousness is taught in the NT.

    Colossians: “…giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

    Being qualified requires something more than being forgiven of sins or being dead to the Law; it requires an actual qualification, requiring that the individual be righteous. Is that a righteousness of his own making? Me genoito. It is a righteousness that comes through faith — imputed to the believer.

    2 Cor 5: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    Note here that both passive and active righteousness are in view, in that order. First, the reconciliation by not counting sins; then, in Christ we become the righteousness of God.

    Rom 8: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    Here again we see both passive and active righteousness together. First, God’s Son was a sin offering. In Jesus’ act, God condemned sin in the flesh, which is the outcome of Christ’s passive righteousness. But then, that act had a purpose — so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us.

    We are viewed as having fully met the righteous requirement of the Law. Yet we have not done so; it is imputed to us. Whence? The only one who actually fully met the righteous requirement of the Law was Christ. So we must conclude that NOT ONLY is Christ’s passive righteousness imputed (causing us to die to the law) BUT ALSO His active righteousness (causing us to be viewed as meeting the righteous requirements of the law).

    So that is the Scriptural reason that it is necessary to believe that we are not only forgiven of sins, but actually reckoned as righteous by virtue of being justified. (That’s what the term dikaiosune literally means: “to righteousify”)

    Now one might argue that Christ’s one act of death on the cross accomplishes BOTH of those things. And if that’s your position, then our disagreement is minor: We only disagree as to what acts of Christ “count” as the obedience imputed to us, but we agree on the effects in the believer.

    But most people who object to the imputation of the active of obedience of Christ are actually objecting to the idea that we are seen as righteous in Christ. They want our righteousness to be our own and not Christ’s imputed to us. They view imputation of active obedience as a threat to their neonomian scheme to make the obedience of the believer a ground for final justification. This is a typical objection, very similar to the kinds of “Federal Vision dark” arguments we dealt with last decade, but taken from a supposedly “Reformed” independent church:

    Now, Phil does make an important statement: obedience is essential to righteousness, but then he cites a host of passages on obedience, but then makes them to be referring to Christ’s obedience! Does he even consider that these commands might be directed toward believers themselves?

    This reveals a major problem with IAO doctrine because it teaches or implies that the believer is not obligated or commanded to obey and some go so far as to say even that the believer cannot obey. As a result, IAO teaches that it is Christ who obeys for us. Phil might not go this far in his theology, but some of the more consistent IAO advocates certainly imply that there is no need for the believer to persevere in obedience…

    In the Old Testament, God promised life to those who would faithfully obey. In the New Testament, God promises life through His Son to those who are faithful to do all that God has commanded within the bond of covenant. Both “testaments” are in agreement: God expects and demands obedience from those who are His and individuals who do not render that full obedience will not be given life.

    We must emphasize a critical distinction: Righteousness is not earned by our law-keeping. We are given the gift of righteousness on the basis of faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Once we are made righteous through the imputation of His death on the Cross, we are then called to persevere in walking in His ways. If we do not, we will forfeit that righteous standing that we gained by grace and through faith. There is no hint in the text that the biblical call to obey is actually the recognition of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience. The obedience to which the believer is obligated is not an obedience that was vicariously performed by Jesus Christ during His life; rather this obedience is to literally join the covenant community, to literally love the brethren, to literally keep from immorality, to expand the kingdom and to do all that God has commanded. Because if you are not faithful to carry out the entirety of what God has commanded, you run a great risk of falling away.

    The issue of obedience is where things get a bit dicey for those who subscribe to IAO. Their position forces them to view the commands of Scripture almost as word games on the part of God. They read that God commands obedience, but then bend over backwards to avoid teaching that God has placed any actual demand for obedience on the believer.

    http://www.christcovenantcolorado.com/6-arguments-for-the-imputation-of-the-active-obedience-of-christ-examined-and-refuted/

    You can see the objection. They want to create the possibility for the believer to “forfeit the righteous standing gained by grace.” To do this, they must deny that the believer is seen as righteous in Christ; hence, it is necessary for them to deny the imputation of active obedience.

    Back to the thesis: he important question is not whether Christ’s righteousness consists only of His death; it is rather whether we are counted righteous before God because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us.

    I hope I have shown that the importance of the thesis lies in resisting neonomians.

    Later, I will explain how this thesis relates to our sanctification and to the “good works that God has prepared beforehand, that we may walk in them.”

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  72. Jeff,

    That’s some crazy stuff there from that church. Specifically this:

    They read that God commands obedience, but then bend over backwards to avoid teaching that God has placed any actual demand for obedience on the believer.

    Where in the world is that pastor getting this from? The radical dispys? I’ve never heard any Reformed pastor or theologian say that God hasn’t placed any actual demand for obedience on the believer. Has the guy even read the WCF?

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  73. @ Robert:

    I see this kind of bad reasoning in students all the time. They assume

    A
    A => B

    So if I say ~A, they jump to “so you mean ~B?!”

    In this case, the assumptions are

    Christ’s passive righteousness only is imputed
    If Christ’s passive righteousness only is imputed, we must be diligent to obey God’s commands.

    So you argue with the premise, and they *hear* you arguing with the conclusion.

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  74. Jeff,

    The main reason why McMark argues against the active obedience, or as some call it, the active righteousness, is because when you argue for the necessity of the active righteousness there is only God’s sovereighty in salvation and not God’s justice. In other words, if Christ’s death was not the righteousness that fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law than God’s justice was not fulfilled by Christ’s death. Only Christ’s atoning death at the cross justifies the elect in a just way. Therefore the two imputations are in regards to Christ’s death. All the elects sins were imputed to Christ at Calvary and each individual elect person is baptized into Christ’s death when that individual is justified in time. That is the way the book of Romans describes it.

    When you separate the righteousness from Christ’s death alone you open the door for people like Andrew Fuller and John Piper to come up with the idea that Christ died for everyone (or, God loves everyone in some sense) but only the elect are given the gift of faith. Faith, and the work of the Holy Spirit is what unites someone to Christ. The death imputed to the elect individual is not the priority in that scheme and Christ’s glory becomes the Spirits glory. It is the Spirit that justifies according to Gods Sovereignty and not God’s justice. That might seem like a minor point but it is very critical in how the Christian life is lived out. Is the object of your faith Christ’s righteous and just atoning death on the cross or is the object of your faith the internal Spirit making you a better you and a more and more progressively sanctified and righteous you?

    One other point, this idea of a final justification by works stems from splitting off Gods Sovereignty from Gods Justice in the atoning work of Christ. If Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s death than the elect sinner is in some subtle way going to have to supplement the work of Christ in order to make it through the final judgment day. Perseverance becomes a added work to the work of Christ instead of persevering in faith in the atoning work of Christ. The warnings in the book of Hebrews are warning against going back to the law and works as your means of perseverance.

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  75. John, I’m just going to jump in quickly for a second to interject that it is God – Father, Son Spirit who saves and it is clear in His word that without God – Father, Son, Spirit, no one is saved.

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  76. Hi John,

    It seems like we have a fair amount in common. If I’m understanding you, we agree that

    (1) The believer is reckoned righteous in Christ, and not merely forgiven.

    (2) It is erroneous (and pernicious) to say that “Christ died for all, but election means that only some are given the gift of faith.”

    (3) It is erroneous (and pernicious) to say that there is a final justification by works.

    There are some things that you wrote that I don’t understand.

    JY: “When you separate the righteousness from Christ’s death alone you open the door for people like Andrew Fuller and John Piper to come up with the idea that Christ died for everyone…”

    Two things don’t make sense here. First, in the standard Reformed view, the active and passive righteousness are distinguished, but NOT separated. The imputation of both occur in justification. But in the view you put forward, the two ARE separated — imputation of passive righteousness occurs without the imputation of active. In your view, it seems that active and passive righteousness are explicitly separated.

    So I’m a little confused by that sentence. It seems as if you are criticizing what you are arguing for?

    Second, I don’t understand how the Reformed view “opens the door for Andrew Fuller and John Piper.” Both men are not Reformed in the historic sense. More importantly, it is entirely possible to construct an account of justification that (a) gives priority to the forensic, (2) involves imputation of active and passive righteousness, and (3) preserves limited atonement.

    Here is such an account.

    * At the cross, the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ.
    * In effectual calling, because the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ, the Spirit creates faith in the believer.
    * Faith as an instrument receives imputed righteousness (of both kinds), so that
    * The individual is justified.

    In this account, there is no room for the Fullerian view you describe. And, there is also no room to say that “It is the Spirit that justifies according to Gods Sovereignty and not God’s justice” or that our justification depends on “the internal Spirit making you a better you and a more and more progressively sanctified and righteous you”

    Can you explain what you mean?

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  77. @ Ali, John:

    I want to second Ali’s point — each person of the Trinity plays a role in salvation. It somewhat seems like you (and McMark) are eager to remove the Spirit entirely from salvation.

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  78. @JY Was just reading 1 Thessalonians and came across the following,

    We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus…to please God…more and more…for this is the will of God, your sanctification.

    How does what Paul writes to the Thessalonians mesh with your understanding of sanctification?

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  79. The Trinity all do take an active role in the justification of the elect sinner. God the Father baptizes into Christ’s death (imputes and transfers Christ death to the elect sinners account; then declares the sinner justified when the Spirit enlightens the mind to the truth of the Gospel). It is God the Father who unites to Christ’s death. The Spirit irresistibly persuades to believw and keep believing the Gospel. It is the atoning work of Christ (outside the sinner where the righteousness is found) that does the saving from the wrath of God and expiates the guilt and condemnation from the elect sinners breaking of the law of God. The important point being that it is God the Father who unites to Christ’s death. Thw Spirit does not unite to Christ’s death. The confessions and Calvin vorh teach that the Spirit unites the sinner to Christ’s death. This is the cause of the problems I am trying to explain in regards to Fuller, Piper, Calvin, Edwards, and the WCF. Part of the problem with the WCF is that it compromises the theological thought of many different Reformed theologians.

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  80. The Trinity all do take an active role in the justification of the elect sinner. God the Father baptizes into Christ’s death (imputes and transfers Christ death to the elect sinners account; then declares the sinner justified when the Spirit enlightens the mind to the truth of the Gospel). It is God the Father who unites to Christ’s death. The Spirit irresistibly persuades to believ and keep believing the Gospel. It is the atoning work of Christ (outside the sinner where the righteousness is found) that does the saving from the wrath of God and expiates the guilt and condemnation from the elect sinners breaking of the law of God.

    The important point being that it is God the Father who unites to Christ’s death. The Spirit does not unite to Christ’s death. The confessions and Calvin vorh teach that the Spirit unites the sinner to Christ’s death. This is the cause of the problems I am trying to explain in regards to Fuller, Piper, Calvin, Edwards, and the WCF. Part of the problem with the WCF is that it compromises the theological thought of many different Reformed theologians.

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  81. I cant text from my cell phone as fast as I can type from my laptop. I avoid having to text comments.

    Synthesize is probably a better word than compromise in my previous comment that somehow got double posted before I made some corrections to the text errors.

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  82. Sdb, Sanctification simply means set apart. The blood sanctifies, the word sanctifies. I know there are scripture passages that say that. The Spirit sanctifies when enlightening the mind to the truth of the gospel. Im not sure what Paul means by the more and more in that passage. Why not quote the whole confext of that verse?

    Again, someone is either sanctified or not sanctified; justified or not justified. Sanctification is certainly not by the law the way the theonomists taught sanctification. Justification and sanctification are not processes. When you say justification and sanctification are processes you conflate the law and gospel, i.e., you lose the antithesis.

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  83. I had a link that had a review of the new book that attempts to explain the historical context of the WCF and the theological controversies that the Wesrminster Assembly were trying to resolve. I can’t find the link now. It is much more difficult to find links on my cell phone than it is on my laptop. I’m sure most of you regular commenters at oldlife know about this book. My takeaway from that review was that the assembly tried to synthesize the thought of the major Reformed theologians of the Reformation period and those up to the point in history when the assembly took place. As a result of this and the theological controversies going on at the time some compromises wirh those who disagreed with each other took place in the WCF. The guy reviewing the book seemed to think that was a good thing rather than a point that might cause some concern about the final outcome of the writing the WCF. The review was an interesting read about the WCF and if anyone can link that here I woud appreciate it.

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  84. Sdb, Sanctification simply means set apart. “The blood sanctifies, the word sanctifies. I know there are scripture passages that say that. The Spirit sanctifies when enlightening the mind to the truth of the gospel. Im not sure what Paul means by the more and more in that passage. Why not quote the whole confext of that verse?”
    It is 1T4. I’m too lazy to peck it all out on my phone, but I think I caught the relevant bits.

    “Again, someone is either sanctified or not sanctified”
    By the blood, word, or spirit. One is either tall or not tall. But I can be tall and still be shorter than Shaq. I can be set apart from the bondage of sin or not set apart. But being set apart, can’t I still get further away? Your repeating MM, but the sentence has no logical meaning.

    “Sanctification is certainly not by the law the way the theonomists taught sanctification. Justification and sanctification are not processes. When you say justification and sanctification are processes you conflate the law and gospel, i.e., you lose the antithesis”
    No one here is saying justification AND sanctification are processes. The focus is on sanctification. The claim is that it is distinct from justification and a process. You see contrary to your assertions, I have Paul urging us to please God more and more because our sanctification is his will for us. The system you are advocating seems to me to be on very shaky exegetical ground. Perhaps I misunderstand what Paul is saying?

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  85. Sdb, you said salvation was a process. You got that from the opening paragraph in 1 Cor. 15, i.e., being saved. You are misinterpreting what Paul means when he says being saved and being sanctified. Paul is not talking about a process he is talking about the means. The cross both saves and sanctifies. You, the collective elect are being saved and sanctified by the cross. The sentence you either are sanctified or not sanctified does make logical sense and is not sophomoric like you condescendingly stated to MM. Justification and sanctification are what God does when baptizing th elect sinner into Christ’s death (Romans chapter 6).

    You also revealed that you think sanctification is what gives someone power over the bondage of sin. Being baptized into Christ’s death means you are no longer under law but under grace. You are in a new legal state. The power of sin is in the power of the law to condemn. God justly dealt with that problem by transferring Christ’s death to the elect sinners account. God does not change the sinners ontological being that gives it a new power to overcome sin. God changes the heart to believe the Gospel and repent of all false gospels.

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  86. there are many faithful summaries, in a number of places including below from Got ?s:

    Sanctification is a three-stage process – past, present, and future. The first stage occurs at the beginning of our Christian lives. It is an initial moral change, a break from the power and love of sin. It is the point at which believers can count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God” (Romans 6:11). Once sanctification has begun, we are no longer under sin’s dominion (Romans 6:14). There is a reorientation of desires, and we develop a love of righteousness. Paul calls it “slavery to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

    The second stage of sanctification requires a lifetime to complete. As we grow in grace, we are gradually – but steadily – changing to be more like Jesus (2 Cor 3:18). This occurs in a process of daily spiritual renewal (Col 3:10). The apostle Paul himself was being sanctified even as he ministered to others. Paul claimed that he had not reached perfection, but that he “pressed on” to attain everything Christ desired for him (Phil 3:12).

    The third and final stage of sanctification occurs in the future. When believers die, their spirits go to be with Christ (2 Cor 5:6-8). Since nothing unclean can enter heaven (Rev 21:27), we must be made perfect at that point. The sanctification of the whole person—body, soul, and spirit—will finally be complete when the Lord Jesus returns and we receive glorified bodies (Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:35-49).

    God’s work in sanctification involves all three members of the Trinity. God the Father is constantly at work in His children “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). He changes our desires, making us want to please Him, and He empowers us to do so. Jesus earned our sanctification on the cross and, in essence, has become our sanctification (1 Cor 1:30) and the “perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). The Holy Spirit is the primary agent of our sanctification (1 Cor 6:11; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), and He is the one who produces in us the fruit of sanctification (Gal 5:22-23).

    Our role in sanctification is both passive and active. Passively, we are to trust God to sanctify us, presenting our bodies to God (Romans 6:13; 12:1) and yielding to the Holy Spirit. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” 1 Thess 4:3), and God will have His way.

    Actively, we are responsible to choose to do what is right. “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thess 4:4). This involves putting to death the “misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), striving for holiness (Hebrews 12:14), fleeing immorality (1 Cor 6:18), cleansing ourselves from every defilement (2 Cor 7:1), and making every effort to supplement our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11).

    Both the passive role and the active role are necessary for a healthy Christian life. To emphasize the passive role tends to lead to spiritual laziness and a neglect of spiritual discipline. The end result of this course of action is a lack of maturity. To emphasize the active role can lead to legalism, pride, and self-righteousness. The end result of this is a joyless Christian life. We must remember that we pursue holiness, but only as God empowers us to do so. The end result is a consistent, mature Christian life that faithfully reflects the nature of our holy God.

    John makes it clear that we will never be totally free from sin in this life (1 John 1:8-10). Thankfully, the work God has begun in us He will finish (Phil 1:6).

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  87. Sdb, you said salvation was a process. You got that from the opening paragraph in 1 Cor. 15, i.e., being saved.

    Well, as I noted, above, it isn’t just 1 Cor 15. This theme of salvation as a process is woven throughout the New Testament (including Romans 6):
    “so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification”
    “the fruit you get leads to sanctification”
    “working out one’s salvation”
    “being saved”
    “being transformed”
    “running the race with endurance”
    “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord”
    “grow up in your salvation”
    “make every effort to add to your faith”

    You, the collective elect are being saved and sanctified by the cross

    Here is the sentence: “gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you” I would buy your interpretation if the verse read “by which you were saved”. Or perhaps if the text read, ” which you are receiving, in which you are standing, and by which you are being saved” But it doesn’t read that way. Perhaps it is a problem with translation and Jeff can help us out, but it looks to me that the parallelism is broken here because received was something definitive in the past and salvation is something that is an ongoing process. This certain jives with the selection of passages referring to salvation generally and sanctification in particular as a process.

    The sentence you either are sanctified or not sanctified does make logical sense and is not sophomoric like you condescendingly stated to MM.

    Perhaps we would make more progress if you didn’t try to judge my motives. I wasn’t being condescending – I was pointing out an elementary error in his logic (and yours). The statement you are either A or not A is a tautology. I can’t think of any statement A that would make that sentence untrue. Perhaps you can provide an example? You are either old or you are not old. You are either fat or you are not fat. The ice cream is either tasty or it is not tasty. You either stopped beating your wife or you did not stop beating your wife (perhaps because you never started in the first place or you don’t have a wife to begin with). But the fact that you are either A or ~A does not entail that A cannot possess degrees. I am either old or I am not old. I may be old, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get older. The fact that I can get older does not falsify the statement that I am either old or I am not old. It is like saying I may or I may not agree with you. That tells you absolutely nothing. The statement is necessarily always true and utterly meaningless. It communicates no information.

    You also revealed that you think sanctification is what gives someone power over the bondage of sin.

    No. Sanctification is the name of the process by which the power of sin is weakened.

    Being baptized into Christ’s death means you are no longer under law but under grace. You are in a new legal state.

    That is true.

    The power of sin is in the power of the law to condemn. God justly dealt with that problem by transferring Christ’s death to the elect sinners account. God does not change the sinners ontological being that gives it a new power to overcome sin. God changes the heart to believe the Gospel and repent of all false gospels.

    And hear you go off the rails. Paul goes on to say in Romans 7 that “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

    You see we still have the flesh to battle. While we are justified and declared righteous, we still battle sin in our flesh. A battle that will not end until we are glorified. The idea that if I just assent to certain facts, my appetites will be subdued is false to lived human experience and more importantly inconsistent with the overall flow of the NT (James & Hebrews are particularly explicit here). We grow in grace. We subdue the flesh. We are being saved. Sanctification (unlike Justification) is a process.

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  88. @Ali Thanks for your summary. I wouldn’t call all those things sanctification – it seems to confuse things. While Justification, sanctification, and glorification are inseparable – I think they are distinct. I really like the text from Philippians you mentioned. It makes it clear that the work he began will continue and be brought to completion. That is a great source of comfort as we battle with sin.

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  89. Sdb, you are so assured you are right and I am off the rails. Your list proves nothing in regards to salvation or sanctification being a process. I’ve never stated that there is no such thing as growth in the Christian life but that is your assumption from my comments. You also have no clue why Gordon Clark had a problem with those who claimed that saving faith was something more than assent to biblical propositions about the saving work of Christ. I, by the way, am not in agreement with all that Gordon Clark believed but I am in agreement with what he wrote in his book, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH?

    I’m also not implying that sanctification is an easy biblical doctrine to come to terms with and understand. I am saying that I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what sanctification is. I don’t think sanctification is a process but you do. I think that if you say that sanctification and salvation are processes than that implies that what Christ did on the cross is not enough to justify, sanctify, glorify and save his elect people. Many theologians have challenged the understanding that Romans 6 is about sanctification and breaching the power os sin. What I was saying is that Romans 6 is still about justification and that the power of sin is broken because the elect sinner has been baptized into Christ’s death. Sins power is the law and its ability to condemn sinners who break the law due to their corrupt natures as a result of being imputed with Adams guilt. The old Adam has been put to death with Christ legally along with all the guilt and condemnation. The breach with the power of sin is not by sanctification but by being baptized into Christ’s death. You dont struggle with sin by sanctifying power you struggle with sin by reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive because of your righteous standing before God. And that righteous standing before God is Christ’s alien righteousness imputed (his death onthe cross).

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  90. “you are so assured you are right and I am off the rails.”
    No. I am unconvinced by your claims. The fact that you are making what looks to be a pretty basic logic error is a big red flag. I’m not asking for a counter example rhetorically. Simply asserting that the error I point out isn’t an error doesn’t advance the conversation. The reason I continue this conversation is because I think I have something to learn.

    “Your list proves nothing in regards to salvation or sanctification being a process.”
    It was not intended to prove anything. It was illustrative.

    “I’ve never stated that there is no such thing as growth in the Christian life but that is your assumption from my comments.”
    We’ll straighten me out because growth in the Christian life is what just about everyone one has in mind when they say Sanctification. You are the one diverging from the standard, so it is up to you to clearly define what you mean viz-a-viz the way these terms are normally used.

    “You also have no clue why Gordon Clark had a problem with those who claimed that saving faith was something more than assent to biblical propositions about the saving work of Christ.”
    That is true. I have not read a single word written by that guy.

    “I, by the way, am not in agreement with all that Gordon Clark believed but I am in agreement with what he wrote in his book, WHAT IS SAVING FAITH?”
    Ok.

    “I’m also not implying that sanctification is an easy biblical doctrine to come to terms with and understand.”
    No. What you have asserted is that if one doesn’t understand the doctrine of sanctification as you describe it, then one is not saved. If one doesn’t share your idiosyncratic views (that you evidently believe you hold inerrantly), then one believes a false gospel. That is an incredibly strong claim, and it is one that is so far riddled with logical errors and errant exegesis.

    “I am saying that I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what sanctification is. I don’t think sanctification is a process but you do. ”
    Correct. It is described that way in scripture.

    “I think that if you say that sanctification and salvation are processes than that implies that what Christ did on the cross is not enough to justify, sanctify, glorify and save his elect people.”
    This logically incorrect. It is possible that Christ accomplished everything on the cross and applied the benefits of that sacrifice progressively in time. Whether he did so is an exegetical question. The theme in the NT is growth in Grace and that is referred to as sanctification several places (e.g. 1Th4).

    “Many theologians have challenged the understanding that Romans 6 is about sanctification and breaching the power os sin. What I was saying is that Romans 6 is still about justification and that the power of sin is broken because the elect sinner has been baptized into Christ’s death. Sins power is the law and its ability to condemn sinners who break the law due to their corrupt natures as a result of being imputed with Adams guilt. The old Adam has been put to death with Christ legally along with all the guilt and condemnation. The breach with the power of sin is not by sanctification but by being baptized into Christ’s death. You dont struggle with sin by sanctifying power you struggle with sin by reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive because of your righteous standing before God. And that righteous standing before God is Christ’s alien righteousness imputed (his death onthe cross).”
    Well Rom 6 references sanctification. And the text continues and ties that to subduing sin in our members even while it is defeated in our hearts. The call to obedience and striving is clear in the NT. It is not just about a change of mental assent to facts.

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  91. @ John:

    Thanks for laying out your views. Couple of questions:

    (1) To be clear, you aren’t denying that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, or that we are to add to our faith various virtues, or that the Spirit wars against the flesh, right? You just want to call those things by a name other than “sanctification.” What would you call them?

    (2) What is your objection to the idea that salvation is a process? I mean, you seem to agree that salvation consists of different components — election, atonement, calling, justification, sanctification, glorification at least.

    And those components are ordered both logically and in time, yes? Election in eternity past, atonement at the cross, calling at some point in the life of the believer, whence follow justification then sanctification, and glorification when Christ returns. I’m pretty confident you agree to that, perhaps with additional components in there.

    Well … components occurring over time is a process.

    So it would seem that you agree to the substance of “salvation is a process.” What then is your objection to the word “process”?

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  92. The following quotes give reasons for the main objections to the WCF:

    1) Union with Christ is by legal imputation and this is before and the cause of the effectual call and faith. Union with Christ is not by the Spirit; the Spirit is given because of the legal imputation.

    2) Sanctification is definitive at justification. What God does in the sinner after justification is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The battle between flesh and Spirit does not result in some kind persevering process that determines whether someone is among the elect or not.

    Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified, IVP, 2014—Human nature after the cross remains as it was before the cross. If Christ healed our humanity by taking our humanity, then Christ was crucified by the very nature he had healed…. According to Torrance, Christ condemned sin by saying no to the flesh and living a life of perfect faith, worship and obedience. But this would mean that the condemnation of sin did not take place on the cross, but in the daily life of Christ. But Romans 8:3 says that it was not Jesus but God the Father who condemns sin in the flesh. While it was indeed in the flesh of his Son that God condemned sin but it was not only in his Son as incarnate, but in his Son as a sin-offering.. God condemned sin by passing judgement on his Son. We are justified as ungodly (Romans 4:5), not as partakers of a nature which has been united with the divine.

    John Y: I’ll have to copy and paste the other quotes in another comment box.

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  93. Thessalonians 4 Finally then, we ask and encourage you in the Lord
    Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please
    God—as you are doing—do so even more. 2 For you know what commands we
    gave you through the Lord Jesus.

    3 For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from
    sexual immorality, 4 so that each of you knows how to control his own
    body in sanctification and honor, 5 not with lustful desires, like
    those who don’t know God. 6 This means one must not transgress against
    and defraud his brother because the Lord is an avenger of all these
    offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. 7 For God has not
    called us to impurity but to sanctification

    John Y: I see no evidence that Paul is speaking about a progressive sanctification in this passage of scripture. It sounds more like now that you are fully sanctified act like it knowing full well that you will fail and fall along the way.

    Does confessing that you are becoming more and more sanctified put you in
    the immanentize-the-eschaton school

    Either Christ died for you, or Christ did not die for you.
    Either God’s imputation has now placed you into Christ’s death or not.
    In the new covenant, all Christians are addressed as saints.

    Hebrews 10 :10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified through
    the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once ….. this man, after
    offering one sacrifice for sins for all time , sat down at the right
    hand of God. 13 He is now waiting until His enemies are made His
    footstool. 14 For by one offering He has permanently perfected those
    who are sanctified.

    John Y: The sin offering of Christ fully sanctified his elect people.

    Heidelberg Catechsim Q.76. What is it then to eat the crucified body,
    and drink the shed blood of Christ?
    A. It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings
    and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life
    eternal; but also, besides that, to become MORE AND MORE UNITED to his
    sacred body

    Westminster Catechism: “Sanctification is a work of God’s grace,
    whereby, they whom God hath before the foundation of the world chosen
    to be holy, are in time through the powerful operation of His Spirit,
    applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in
    their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance
    unto life and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and
    those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they
    MORE AND MORE die unto sin and rise unto newness of life.”

    A W Pink– “The description of sanctification of the Westminster
    divines is altogether inadequate, for it entirely omits the most
    important aspect and fundamental element in the believer’s
    sanctification: it says nothing about our sanctification by Christ
    (Heb. 10:10; 13:12), but confines itself to the work of the Spirit,
    which is founded upon that of the Son. This is truly a serious loss,
    and affords another illustration that God has not granted light on all
    His Word to any one body of men. A fuller and better answer to the
    question of, “What is sanctification?” would be, “Sanctification is,
    first, that act of God whereby He set the elect apart in Christ before
    the foundation of the world that they should be holy. Second, it is
    that perfect holiness which the Church has in Christ and that
    excellent purity which she has before God by virtue of Christ’s
    cleansing blood. Third, it is that work of God’s Spirit which, by His
    quickening operation, sets them apart from those who are dead in sins,
    conveying to them a holy life or nature, etc.”

    A W Pink–“Thus we cannot but regard this particular definition of the
    Larger Catechism as being defective, for it commences at the middle,
    instead of starting at the beginning. Instead of placing before the
    believer that complete and perfect sanctification which God has made
    Christ to be unto him, it occupies him with the incomplete and
    progressive work of the Spirit. Instead of moving the Christian to
    look away from himself with all his sinful failures, unto Christ in
    whom he is “complete” (Col. 2:10), it encourages him to look within,
    where he will often search in vain for the fine gold of the new
    creation amid all the dross and mire of the old creation. This is to
    leave him without the joyous assurance of knowing that he has been
    “perfected forever” by the one offering of Christ (Heb. 10:14).

    A W Pink: Let the young believer be credibly assured that he will
    “more and more die unto sin and rise unto newness of life,” and what
    will be the inevitable outcome? As he proceeds on his way, the Devil
    assaulting him more and more fiercely, the inward conflict between the
    flesh and the Spirit becoming more and more distressing, increasing
    light from God’s Word more and more exposing his sinful failures,
    until the cry is forced from him, “I am vile; 0 wretched man that I
    am,” what conclusion must he draw? Why this: if the
    Catechism-definition be correct then I was sadly mistaken, I have
    never been sanctified at all. So far from the “more and more die unto
    sin” agreeing with his experience, he discovers that sin is more
    active within and that he is more alive to sin now, than he was ten
    years ago!

    Many (not all) Reformed folks seem to think that if you don’t use
    certain words like “merit” or “earning” or “justification”, you can
    teach that there is MORE (or less?) “sanctification” and MORE “union”
    and MORE assurance by means other than Christ’s death.

    Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, p 516—”Justification excludes
    ‘legalistic works’ done to earn justification but includes an
    evaluation of imperfect works done by us through the Spirit…”

    Gaffin—The exercise of the Spirit’s energies in regeneration are
    marked anpologically by a new and lasting disposition inherent in
    them, That is, at the core of my being, I am no longer against God and
    disposed to rebel against his will but, now and forever, for him and
    disposed in the deepest recesses of whom I am to delight in doing his
    will.

    2 Thessalonians 2:1 3 But we must always thank God for you, loved by
    the Lord, because from the beginning] God has chosen you for salvation
    through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

    Being set apart in order to believe the gospel does not mean assurance
    by means of some “definitive” change in our disposition so that we are
    “more and more” less sinful.

    Nathan J. Langerak— “Cnsequent conditions” are new conditions of

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  94. John Y: The following has been covered in past posts here but it bears repeating. Tipton is defending what the WCF states regarding union with Christ,i.e., that the Spirit unites with Christ. The critical question to answer is does all this really matter? And if it does, why does it matter? Why was the WCF assembly so adamant in defending union to Christ by the Spirit when there really is no biblical evidence that this is the case?

    Lane Tipton, Biblical Theology and the Westminster standards, is one more attempt at talking about the “location of justification relative to union with Christ” (p 5, Westminster Theological Journal, 2013)

    Tipon wants to put faith before God’s imputation of righteousness. Tipton also wants to put faith before “union with Christ”. Using confessional language( 11:4—“the Holy Spirit doth in due time apply Christ to them”), Tipton reasons that the Holy Spirit has priority over Christ in the event of imputation, since it’s faith that precedes both justification and “union”, and since the Holy Spirit is the one who gives faith.

    On the way to his conclusuon, Lane Tipton uses the phrase “faith-union” which of course is NOT confessional. Instead of exploring any definition or distinction between Christ being in us or us being in Christ, Tipton simply stipulates that “union” is preceded by faith. First, this eliminates the alternative that God’s imputation precedes “union”. Second, it decides in advance what “union” is. For Tipton, “union” is assumed to be “union conditioned on faith” and this means there can be no union by imputation (even though he does not deny that Christ’s work is the basis for effectual calling). Thus Tipton begins with his conclusion, which is that effectual calling is not an immediate result of imputation but instead an immediate condition for God’s imputation.

    Tipton then goes on to discuss Berkhof’s idea that something called ” active justification” precedes effectual calling and faith. I do not agree with either “eternal justification” or even the idea of some objective “active justification”. I don’t think we should equivocate with the word “justify”, so that sometimes we read it as “before our conscience” and other times we read it as “legally real before the tribunal of God”. When God imputed Christ’s righteousness to Abraham before Abraham was circumcised, that thought/imputation of God was not a “fiction” but a legal sharing at that time which immediately resulted in effectual calling, believing the gospel, and justification.

    I anticipate my conclusion. Tipton does not completely think though the distinction between imputation and justification.

    Tipton rightly criticizes the idea of justification before and without faith, but he doesn’t seem to have even heard the idea of an imputation that results in faith and justification. Tipton does not even consider the idea of an imputation before faith, despite what Mike Horton and Bruce McCormack have written about this issue.

    But, remember the Westminster Confession! It doesn’t say “imputation before faith”. The Confession says “the Holy Spirit does in due time apply Christ to them”. Of course we should still think about what this ” apply Christ” means. If it means that the Holy Spirit gives the effectual calling and faith, without which there is no justification, then I agree. But Tipton seems to think the “Spirit applies Christ” rules out any idea of God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness before this work of the Spirit. It does not.

    Tipton does know about a difference between imputation and justification. Tipton correctly speaks of justification as “God’s legal declaration”, and knows this is something different from God’s “constitutive act” which is the basis for the declaration. But even so, Tipton argues that if the declaration “did not bring into view faith, by which alone righteousness is imputed, we would be left with a legal fiction.” (p 9)

    I disagree that faith is that which imputes righteousness. We are not the one who make the imputation (the constitutive act). Our faith is not that which imputes. And Tipton does not say either of these things. He writes—“faith, by which righteousness is imputed”. I understand this to mean that God waits to impute, until the Holy Spirit gives faith. If that’s not what Tipton means, I would like to be shown what he did mean. But how can God be justifying the ungodly, if God only imputes righteousness to persons who are already effectually called and who are now believing the gospel?

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  95. “I see no evidence that Paul is speaking about a progressive sanctification in this passage of scripture. It sounds more like now that you are fully sanctified act like it knowing full well that you will fail and fall along the way.”

    Really? You don’t see *any* evidence for progressive sanctification here? We are enjoined to please God more and more because his will for us is our sanctification. The correct inference from Paul here is that our sanctification is connected to pleasing God more and more. How am I misreading this text?

    “Does confessing that you are becoming more and more sanctified put you in the immanentize-the-eschaton school”
    No more so than Paul’s telling us to please God more and more puts him in the immanentize-the-eschaton school.

    “Either Christ died for you, or Christ did not die for you.”
    Right, but that does not entail that the benefits of Christ’s death are not applied progressively by means that include human activity.

    “For by one offering He has permanently perfected those who are sanctified.”
    That’s a curious translation. It is not consistent with some of the others that I checked which render the text, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
    Sounds like a progressive component to sanctification to me.

    “Many (not all) Reformed folks seem to think that if you don’t use certain words like “merit” or “earning” or “justification”, you can teach that there is MORE (or less?) “sanctification” and MORE “union” and MORE assurance by means other than Christ’s death.”
    Are you always equally assured of your salvation? I’m not. I am assured, but sometimes more and sometimes less. So yes, sanctification and justification are different, so it is appropriate to talk about them differently. The ultimate cause is Christ’s death, but the means by which the benefits of Christ’s death are applied include other agents. As Paul notes in Romans, the preaching of the gospel is part of the means. Further, in the verse you presented, “God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”, we see that two other means by which the benefits of Christ’s death are applied are the Sanctification by the Spirit *and* belief in the truth.

    “Being set apart in order to believe the gospel does not mean assurance by means of some “definitive” change in our disposition so that we are “more and more” less sinful.”
    But we are not just set apart to believe the gospel. We are also “set apart” for good works. Further, he “begins a good work” in us and is faithful to “carry it onto completion”.

    I don’t see what all that business about union and imputation has to do with whether or not the growth in grace we experience as Christians is rightly called sanctification.

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  96. Sdb says: “I don’t see what all that business about union and imputation has to do with whether or not the growth in grace we experience as Christians is rightly called sanctification.”

    John. Y: All that business about union and imputation has to do with how the elect are justified, sanctified and finally glorified before a Holy God. Is this all accomplished by being baptized into the death of Christ by God the Father or is this accomplished by the work of the Spirit that energizes human effort? The
    working paradigm of the Christian life that results from these varying focal points can be described in the following two examples- Me’s thinks they are two different Gospels

    1) Union with Christ by the Spirit- I’ll use Lane Tipton as the whipping boy in this example:

    Was it “grace” to Cain that Cain lived one more minute after Cain
    killed his brother? I say no.

    Is our obedience to Christ (after we are united to Christ) any part of
    the reason for our future resurrection, or is “the hope of
    righteousness” ALL TOGETHER ONLY because of Christ’s finished
    righteousness obtained outside us by Christ’s obedience outside of us?
    I say that our obedience is no part of the mix!

    God was not gracious to accept Christ’s obedience. Christ’s obedience
    was sinless and meritorious.

    God does not accept the obedience of those in union with Christ as any
    part of the reason those in union with Christ will be raised on the
    last day. When Tipton brings in the idea of forfeiting blessing by our
    disobedience, he continues to miss the difference between Adam before
    the fall and those who have already passed from death to life because
    of being justified in Christ.

    Tipton wants us to look to the “imperfect active obedience” of Abraham
    as also part of the mix. so that we can be threatened and encouraged
    about our own “imperfectly hearing the voice of God” as one factor in
    our receiving blessings in Christ. Because Abraham was united to
    Christ when Abraham imperfectly obeyed, Tipton— without denying the
    finished character of Christ’s death as satisfaction— shifts the
    attention to our own imperfect obedience is “wrought by the Spirit” in
    union with Christ,

    Those who want to give priority to “union” instead of “justification”
    also want to give priority to the doctrine of effectual calling (the
    application of atonement) instead of to the finished atonement
    itself.. In this trajectory the idea of “definite atonement” comes to
    be identified not with the finished death of Christ for the elect
    alone but instead with the idea that the Holy Spirit will only apply
    Christ’s “active obedience” by calling a definite number of elect to
    “believe unto union”.

    : and in the case of Tipton, the shift involves to what those united
    to Christ accomplish by the Spirit in them…..

    Tipton—”The problem lies in the fact that Israel re-enacts the sin and
    fall and exile of Adam by apostasy from the covenant of grace.”

    Tipton—”The problem was not that Israel was under a national covenant
    devoid of grace.”

    Tipton—”Some of the offspring of Israel do not walk as the offspring of Israel.”

    mcmark: Why does Tipton want to get grace into the “national covenant”?

    I think the answer is not that difficult. Tipton wants to say that
    “some of the offspring of Israel DO walk as the offspring of Israel.”.
    I myself would say that only one seed of Israel HAS WALKED as the seed
    of Israel. Our walking is no part of our hope, because we walk by
    faith in the gospel of what Christ HAS DONE.

    Romans 6: For one who HAS DIED has been set justified from sin. 8 Now
    if we HAVE DIED with Christ, we believe that we will also live with
    him. 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
    TO SIN , once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So
    you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in
    Christ Jesus.

    Romans 7: 4 you also HAVE DIED to the law through the body of Christ,
    so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the
    dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

    2) Union with Christ by being baptized into the death of Christ by God the Father- I’ll compare and contrast John Murrays understanding of progressive sanctification to make the point. The reader will be required to connect the dots in order to see and understand the two differing paradigms that I am trying to communicate. I guess I am not doing a very good job of what I am trying to make clear

    Was it “grace” to Cain that Cain lived one more minute after Cain
    killed his brother? I say no.

    Is our obedience to Christ (after we are united to Christ) any part of
    the reason for our future resurrection, or is “the hope of
    righteousness” ALL TOGETHER ONLY because of Christ’s finished
    righteousness obtained outside us by Christ’s obedience outside of us?
    I say that our obedience is no part of the mix!

    God was not gracious to accept Christ’s obedience. Christ’s obedience
    was sinless and meritorious.

    God does not accept the obedience of those in union with Christ as any
    part of the reason those in union with Christ will be raised on the
    last day. When Tipton brings in the idea of forfeiting blessing by our
    disobedience, he continues to miss the difference between Adam before
    the fall and those who have already passed from death to life because
    of being justified in Christ.

    Tipton wants us to look to the “imperfect active obedience” of Abraham
    as also part of the mix. so that we can be threatened and encouraged
    about our own “imperfectly hearing the voice of God” as one factor in
    our receiving blessings in Christ. Because Abraham was united to
    Christ when Abraham imperfectly obeyed, Tipton— without denying the
    finished character of Christ’s death as satisfaction— shifts the
    attention to our own imperfect obedience is “wrought by the Spirit” in
    union with Christ,

    Those who want to give priority to “union” instead of “justification”
    also want to give priority to the doctrine of effectual calling (the
    application of atonement) instead of to the finished atonement
    itself.. In this trajectory the idea of “definite atonement” comes to
    be identified not with the finished death of Christ for the elect
    alone but instead with the idea that the Holy Spirit will only apply
    Christ’s “active obedience” by calling a definite number of elect to
    “believe unto union”.

    : and in the case of Tipton, the shift involves to what those united
    to Christ accomplish by the Spirit in them…..

    Tipton—”The problem lies in the fact that Israel re-enacts the sin and
    fall and exile of Adam by apostasy from the covenant of grace.”

    Tipton—”The problem was not that Israel was under a national covenant
    devoid of grace.”

    Tipton—”Some of the offspring of Israel do not walk as the offspring of Israel.”

    mcmark: Why does Tipton want to get grace into the “national covenant”?

    I think the answer is not that difficult. Tipton wants to say that
    “some of the offspring of Israel DO walk as the offspring of Israel.”.
    I myself would say that only one seed of Israel HAS WALKED as the seed
    of Israel. Our walking is no part of our hope, because we walk by
    faith in the gospel of what Christ HAS DONE.

    Romans 6: For one who HAS DIED has been set justified from sin. 8 Now
    if we HAVE DIED with Christ, we believe that we will also live with
    him. 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
    TO SIN , once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So
    you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in
    Christ Jesus.

    Romans 7: 4 you also HAVE DIED to the law through the body of Christ,

    dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

    2) Union with Christ by being baptized into the death of Christ by God the Father. I’ll use John Murray’s understanding of progrssive sanctification to make the point of the contrating views. The reader will have to connect the dots in order to see and understand what I have been trying to communicate:

    The progressive nature of sanctification does not follow from a change
    of disposition in the believer. Murray argues that those who crucified
    their old self with Christ are no longer under the dominion of sin
    (Romans 6). He says that “it is wrong to use these texts to support
    any other view of the victory entailed than that which the Scripture
    teaches it to be, namely, the radical breach with the power and love
    of sin which is necessarily the possession of every one who has been
    united to Christ. Union with Christ is union with him in the efficacy
    of his death and in virtue of his resurrection – he who thus died and
    rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise
    the dominion” (Murray, 143). Murray further writes, “the Christian]
    must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God
    through Jesus Christ his Lord. It is the faith of this fact that
    provides the basis for, and the incentive to the fulfillment of, the
    exhortation, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…’”
    (Murray, 146).
    Murray’s usage of Scripture, however, has failed to prove that the
    indwelling of the Holy Spirit necessarily sanctifies a man in a
    progressive and ontological sense. His usage of Romans, for instance,
    is unwarranted for the reason that he assumes that by “the dominion of
    sin” Paul has an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote
    “so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in
    Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the verb he chose to use was logi,zesqe.
    This verb [logi,zomai] means to “consider”, to “count”, to “credit” or
    to “reckon”. Such a verb is not used in an ontological sense, but in a
    positional sense. Paul also uses this very verb to describe the manner
    in which Abraham was counted righteous by God – by faith (Rom. 4:6,
    8-11, 22-24). God accounted, or declared, Abraham righteous even
    though Abraham ontologically wasn’t. Hence, by his usage of this
    passage all Murray has done is undermine his own assumptions by
    reaffirming the positional aspect of God’s blessings.

    The freedom from the dominion of sin, which Paul speaks of, is not the
    ontological change in holiness, as Murray would suggest. Rather, it is
    the freedom from the condemnation of sin and from the guilt of falling
    short of the law’s demands. Whereas Murray would seem to suggest that
    sanctification is conforming to the law (by the Spirit’s help), Paul’s
    claim is that “we are released from the law, having died to that which
    held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but
    in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6, ESV, emphasis mine). Paul’s
    claim is that believers are released from the condemnation of the
    law’s demand. It is freedom from this captivity that Paul has in mind
    when he says that Christians are free from the dominion of sin.

    Whereas Murray would suggest that being freed from the dominion of sin
    means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law,
    Paul, on the contrary, suggests that such freedom means Christians are
    absolved from the law’s demands. All the law could do is condemn,
    kill, and destroy. And it is for this very reason that in Rom. 7:7
    Paul anticipates the objection that “doesn’t such a view suggest that
    the law is sin?” However, the view that the freedom from the dominion
    of sin only means that the Spirit aids us in obeying the law would
    never draw one to raise the objection that the law is sin (in fact,
    quite the contrary). If one were in line with Pauline theology, one
    would have to expect answer to similar objections in which Paul faced.
    The fact that Murray does not seems to attract such objections only
    suggests that he is not reading the Apostle Paul correctly.

    It s not the case that progressivesanctification follows from the
    imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Murray writes:
    “the sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing
    shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: ‘Work out
    your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you
    both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13)
    (Murray, 148). Murray wishes to acknowledge that the commands in
    Scripture demand human responsibility – not least Paul’s exhortation
    to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
    However, one must ask what relevance the imperatives have in proving
    the progressive nature of sanctification?

    Unless one is ready to make the Pelagian presupposition that God would
    not give us a command unless we were able to keep it, one cannot
    assume that just because believers are given a command that the
    believer has the ability to keep them. Murray would agree with Berkhof
    that uncoverted man is commanded to be perfect, to do good, to not
    sin, to believe and be saved, but simultaneously “cannot do any act,
    however insignificant, which fundamentally meets with God’s approval
    and answers to the demands of God’s holy law…In a word, he is unable
    to do any spiritual good” (Berkhof, 247, emphasis mine).

    If responsibility does not entail ability in the pre-converted state,
    then it is the burden of proof of Murray to demonstrate that
    responsibility entails ability in the post-converted state. Murray
    clearly fails to demonstrate this by his exegesis of Romans 6. One
    cannot simply assume that God gave the believer commandments and thus
    man is able – or guaranteed – to keep them.

    Murray would probably indicate that the difference between
    post-conversion and pre-conversion is the presence of the Spirit in
    the regenerate man (which is clearly absent in the unregenerate man).
    Murray would then state that the Spirit then “enables” the believer to
    perform the requirements of the Law. However, he must demonstrate how
    regeneration or the presence of the Holy Spirit grants the believer an
    ability which the unbeliever does not have. One cannot assume, as
    Murray does, that the Holy Spirit’s presence grants this ability.

    If one cannot assume that the Holy Spirit grants the believer the
    ability to keep God’s commandments, then Murray might then object by
    asking me for an explanation on what purpose God gives someone a
    commandment if one isn’t able to keep it. To this objection, the
    Apostle Paul responds, “if it had not been for the law, I would not
    have known sin. I would nothave known what it is to covet if the law
    had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Rom.7:7,). Again, Paul says
    elsewhere, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions,
    until the offspring should come…so then, the law was our guardian
    until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal.
    3:19, 24,).

    Paul tells us that the law was given so that it would demonstrate that
    we can’t keep it and, thereby, lead us to Christ as our righteousness.
    Nowhere does Paul say that commandments are given so that we could
    keep them. In no way do the commandments of Paul demonstrate ability
    to God’s covenantal people in the New Testament any more than the
    commandments of Moses demonstrated ability to God’s covenantal people
    in the Old Testament. And neither Berkhof nor Murray would be willing
    to move in the direction of the dispensationalist.

    If the law’s only intent was to lead us to Christ, then, Murray may
    wonder, whether such a view of sanctification leads to antinomianism.
    After all, the denial of progressive sanctification only seems to
    point to the road of self-complacency and moral laxity. John Murray
    wrote, “truly biblical sanctification has no affinity with the
    self-complacency which ignores or fails to take into account the
    sinfulness of every lack of conformity to the image of him who was
    holy, harmless, and undefiled” (Murray, 145) He quotes the Apostle
    Paul: “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24), the prophet Isaiah: “Woe
    is me…” (Is. 6:5), the blameless and upright Job: “Wherefore I abhor
    myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job. 42:5, 6).

    To further the point he could even have quoted Paul’s confession that
    he was the worst of sinners (1 Ti. 1:15) or Peter’s cry, “depart from
    me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8). Anyone’s best work still
    falls short of what God requires. He says, “Do not think that I have
    come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish
    them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and
    earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until
    all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18,).

    Someone might read that and think that Jesus is asking his hearers to
    obey more, to sin less, to become more sanctified. However, that would
    only be relaxing God’s command of perfection and thereby be guilty of
    what Jesus is warning against: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the
    least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be
    called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and
    teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.
    5:19, Jesus is not asking his hearers to put in more effort, to try
    harder, to sin less, or to be more sanctified – inasmuch as He is
    setting up the perfect standard of God and thereby demonstrating that
    they need a greater righteousness than His hearers could ever perform.

    When Jesus says, “For unless your righteousness exceeds that of the
    scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”
    (Matt. 5:20),To argue for ability from this passage seems contrary to
    Jesus’ antithetical position of relaxing a commandment. Furthermore,
    by Murray’s understanding of complacency, it would seem as though the
    non-complacent man that is able to perform the law (to greater
    degrees) is not lead to cursing oneself, but rather to the encouraging
    of oneself in order to perform tasks better and more frequently .
    Murray does not disprove the positional view ofsanctification by
    claiming that the regenerate man should not be morally-lax.

    “if the law’s condemnation is removed, then what reason is there to
    obey God? What, then, keeps believers from moral laxity?” However,
    such an objector fails to realize his question presupposes that the
    only reason to obey God is fear of the law’s condemnation. But if the
    only reason to obey God is fear of condemnation, obedience is only
    done for one’s own sake and thus fails to be “in relation to God, for
    God’s sake, and with a view to the service of God” (Berkhof, 532),
    which Berkhof says Biblical sanctification requires.

    The Holy Spirit illumines his mind to see the truth in Christ,
    reminding him of who Christ is, of what Christ has done for him,
    reassuring him that he belongs in the family (Rom. 8:15-17), Murray
    would counter Pelagians and semi-Pelagians in matters of the
    pre-converted man. Semi-Pelagians believe “God imparts His common
    grace to all men, which enables them to turn to God and believe”
    (Berkhof, 247).

    Murray goes unwarranted in thinking that the converted man is given a
    new faculty/ability to do good works. For Murray, “nothing shows this
    more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: ‘Work out your
    salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both
    to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13) ( 148).

    Murray writes, “in the last analysis we do not sanctify ourselves. It
    is God who sanctifies (1 Thess. 5:23). Specifically it is the Holy
    Spirit who is the agent of sanctification” ( 146). , “it is imperative
    that we realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit” (Murray,
    147). He understands that “if we are not keenly sensitive to our own
    helplessness, then we can make the use of the means of sanctification
    the minister of self-righteousness and pride and thus defeat the end
    of sanctification” 147).

    “You’ve got to try, damn it!” To think another is worse for not trying
    implies that oneself is better for trying. However, this puts credit
    to the flesh and is thus diagnostic of a functional synergism.

    What relevance does the imperative have in proving the progressiveness
    ofsanctification, if it’s the Holy Spirit alone who does the work?
    Murray writes, “what the apostle is urging is the necessity of working
    out our own salvation, and the encouragement he supplies is the
    assurance that it is God himself who works in us” ( 149). The means of
    the imperative would not be used to prove the progressiveness of
    sanctification, unless Murray was functionally holding a synergistic
    view of sanctification. The command is irrelevant in respect to the
    ability of the regenerate

    Murray would respond by saying that “sanctification is the
    sanctification of persons, and persons are not machines” ( 150).
    But God does sanctify non-sentient entities (e.g., the ark of the
    covenant, the tabernacle, the temple, etc.).

    “God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working
    suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of
    co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the
    conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required result” (
    149). .

    If conforming into the image of Christ is truly the work of the Holy
    Spirit alone, then it is difficult to claim a new ability, in the
    regenerate man. In other words, the regenerate man is not given an
    improved ability from the Holy Spirit to obey God. This position doesl
    not deny that the regenerate man bears fruit. Nor does it deny that
    the Holy Spirit sometimes enables the believer to overcome sin.
    However, it not the case that this is an ability found within man. If
    the Holy Spirit did not grant the grace to perform the good, even the
    regenerate man can only sin. This is what it ought to mean to “realize
    our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit”.

    :

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  97. copying and pasting with a cell phone is prone to error. In other words, it did not copy and paste the way I intended it to. If someone is really interested I think they can figure out where the duplicate occured. I doubt if any will be that interested.

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  98. McCulley:

    I blame the use of “conditionality” into Reformed thinking on several factors, one being a practice of infant water baptism which promises “objectively but conditionally” salvation to those who receive it, Another factor, I think, is the confusion of all covenants into one covenant, so that the conditions of previous covenants are carried over. But I think the single biggest factor in letting “conditionality” into the Reformed tent is the failure to talk about election controlling the new covenant, and about Christ having only died for the elect.

    Faith in the gospel is not a knowledge that a person has been justified all along, or assurance that a person has been justified from the time of the cross or before a person was born. Faith in the gospel, which includes understanding of the gospel, is the immediate result of being born again, which is the immediate result of being imputed by God with the merits of Christ’s death.

    In the false gospel which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, faith is misunderstood as being the condition of being justified. Even in cases where the fine print tells you that this making-the- difference faith is a result of predestination and regeneration, the credit for salvation does not go to Christ. The credit may go to the Holy Spirit or to predestination, but it cannot go to Christ, if Christ died for all sinners but only some sinners are saved.

    We need to put a stop to the “evangelical” double talk which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, but then explains (not to everybody but only to some who have already professed Christ) later that Christ died for some people to get them something different and more for them than He did for everybody else.

    This kind of double talk implicitly says that Christ propitiated the wrath of God for all sinners but that Christ also died extra for the elect to give them the faith to meet the condition to get the benefit of Christ’s propitiation.

    Reformed people can try to put confessional boundaries around that, and say that the object of faith is important. They can even say that open theists are not evangelicals, and maybe not even justified. But they are still agreeing, sermon after sermon, every time that they do NOT say “ died for the elect alone”, that it is faith alone is the condition which makes the difference.

    In the fine confessional print, the glory may go to God for predestinating the Spirit to enable us to meet the condition. But it is no longer Christ’s death which saves, if Christ died for all sinners, and some of these sinners are lost. And though we may talk of Scripture alone, we end up with a canon within a canon, where what the Scripture says about the elect in Christ and being elect in His death for their sins becomes segregated out from the gospel and thus unspoken and even denied.

    Instead of saying that Christ died only for the elect and not for the non-elect, they leave out the e word and say that Christ died for believers, which then means that faith alone is the decisive condition and not Christ. If they want to keep the “thoroughly reformed” happy, they might say sometimes that Christ died for his covenant people, but then later they will make it clear that the covenant is “objectively conditional” , so that everything comes back not to Christ but to our faith

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  99. John,

    I think you missed a crucial paragraph up there.

    The atonement is the act of God the Father placing the sins of the elect, and only the elect, on Christ at the cross. This is the first act of imputation (WCF 8.5; WLC 59). That is to say, the atonement is particular — Christ died to pay for specific sins, not for the sins of mankind in general.

    It is pointless for you (or McMark) to continue on about “In the false gospel which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, faith is misunderstood as being the condition of being justified.”

    That doesn’t represent the Reformed view, and it does not apply to anyone here.

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  100. @JY – It would help if you just addressed specific questions (particularly the exegetical ones) rather than create the wall of quotes. I’ll try to engage here as best I can:

    >Was it “grace” to Cain that Cain lived one more minute after Cain killed his brother? I say no.
    Um… OK. What does that have to do with anything? Are you saying that God was obligated to allow Cain to continue to live? Or are you claiming that Cain somehow merited the right to continue to live? If not, I don’t see how you can avoid inferring that not striking Cain down was anything other than unmerited favor (i.e., grace).

    >Is our obedience to Christ (after we are united to Christ) any part of the reason for our future resurrection,
    No. Let’s put this to rest as you seem to come back to things we agree on.

    > Is “the hope of righteousness” ALL TOGETHER ONLY because of Christ’s finished righteousness obtained outside us by Christ’s obedience outside of us? I say that our obedience is no part of the mix!
    Why do you insist that the reason for our hope (i.e., your subjective state) is the same reason as your future resurrection (i.e., an objective state). For example, one may be set for retirement because he has $1M in his 401. But he may feel confident about his readiness for retirement because he really likes his financial consultant. Liking his financial consultant does cause him to be set for retirement. He would be set regardless of how he feels about it.

    >God was not gracious to accept Christ’s obedience. Christ’s obedience was sinless and meritorious.
    OK. What does that have to do with anything?

    >God does not accept the obedience of those in union with Christ as any part of the reason those in union with Christ will be raised on the last day.
    That is true. Who here would say otherwise?

    >When Tipton brings in the idea of forfeiting blessing by our disobedience, he continues to miss the difference between Adam before the fall and those who have already passed from death to life because of being justified in Christ.
    I don’t know who Tipton is or why what he thinks matters. But I will say that believers receive temporal blessings that we can forfeit by “grieving the Holy Spirit”.

    >Tipton wants us to look to the “imperfect active obedience” of Abraham as also part of the mix. so that we can be threatened and encouraged about our own “imperfectly hearing the voice of God” as one factor in our receiving blessings in Christ. Because Abraham was united to Christ when Abraham imperfectly obeyed, Tipton— without denying the finished character of Christ’s death as satisfaction— shifts the attention to our own imperfect obedience is “wrought by the Spirit” in union with Christ,
    So what?

    >Those who want to give priority to “union” instead of “justification” also want to give priority to the doctrine of effectual calling (the application of atonement) instead of to the finished atonement itself.
    “Priority” is carrying a lot of weight here. Why not put them all on equal footing? And how do you know what anyone wants?

    >In this trajectory the idea of “definite atonement” comes to be identified not with the finished death of Christ for the elect alone but instead with the idea that the Holy Spirit will only apply Christ’s “active obedience” by calling a definite number of elect to “believe unto union”.
    Pretty sure that definite atonement means to most reformed that Christ died for specific people. However, that limit was not because of some limitation intrinsic to his sacrifice (he was only good enough to save X people – let’s see who the luck ones will be).

    2) Union with Christ by being baptized into the death of Christ by God the Father. I’ll use John Murray’s understanding of progrssive sanctification to make the point of the contrating views. The reader will have to connect the dots in order to see and understand what I have been trying to communicate…

    Sorry JY. This was utterly unconvincing. It boils down to Murray didn’t prove his stance because it doesn’t cohere with the assumptions I am bringing to the text. The difference between the “positional” status versus “ontological” status is very, very weak – one’s position is an ontological status. The idea that one should “consider one’s self X” means that you aren’t ontologically X requires a lot of unpacking.

    As far as the bit about election…what Jeff said.

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  101. John and McMark: So what is the actual Reformed position regarding election?

    WCF: Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.

    Belgic Confession: God is merciful in withdrawing and saving from this perdition those who, in the eternal and unchangeable divine counsel, have been elected and chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord by his pure goodness, without any consideration of their works.

    God is just in leaving the others in their ruin and fall into which they plunged themselves.

    Dordt: Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, God chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. God did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation.

    And so God decreed to give to Christ those chosen for salvation, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through the Word and Spirit. In other words, God decreed to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of the Son, to glorify them.

    God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of God’s glorious grace.

    There is no wiggle room to falsely say, as does McMark, that the Reformed position is that Christ died for all, or that faith is a condition upon which one’s election depends. Those two claims are basic factual errors that are obvious to anyone who has spent any amount of time learning Reformed theology.

    Mark, I would suggest that there are three roots of your errors. The first is that you, Mark, have not sufficiently thought about the word “condition.” There is a rich history of discussion about that word in the Reformed tradition, as well as in the discipline of logic. Your condemnation of “conditions” without distinguishing kinds of conditions shows that you are ignorant of that area of thought.

    For example, you have not considered that in John 3, Jesus explicitly makes faith a condition for salvation: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” In the parlance of logic, “belief in Him” is the condition and “not condemned” is the conclusion.

    Jesus clearly makes faith a condition for justification. How then is He not teaching a false gospel? Because not all “conditions” are the same kind of “condition.” You would know this if you had studied the issue.

    No one can know or study everything, so I don’t fault your ignorance. I’m just learning to identify moths, and I’m making a lot of basic errors in my IDs.

    But I do fault your obstinance for trying to instruct and especially for trying to pass judgment on “false gospels”, while refusing to listen to those whom you are attempting to instruct or judge.

    The second root, Mark, is that while you have read widely, you have not ordered your reading into a coherent understanding of how such diverse voices as Lane Tipton, Richard Gaffin, Scott Clark, Michael Horton, Gordon Clark, Thomas Torrance, Bruce McCormack, and Lee Irons fit into the Reformed tradition. You construct “walls of quotes” from those individuals to suit your arguments, without considering whether those individuals represent Reformed teaching or stand near to or outside the edge of it.

    It is as if you visited Lubbock, Galveston, and Texarkana, then went around telling people that Texas is a flat dusty place with lots of ocean and pine trees.

    You need to learn the center first before you start playing on the edges.

    Finally, Mark, you need to reckon with your pattern of posting. I’ve read your posts for many years, and they are invariably fault-finding, filled with innuendo and (frequently veiled) accusations. Everyone but Mark, it seems, teaches a false gospel.

    The fundamental root of your errors, the reason you make so many mistakes in describing the Reformed position, is that you are accustomed to finding fault. It is more important in your eyes to paint others as wrong, than it is to actually listen to what they say. When your misunderstandings are corrected, you not only persist in them but teach them to your proteges.

    As long as that pattern continues, you will continue to make basic errors about what Reformed theology actually teaches.

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  102. Sdb, prove from Scripture that there is an ontological change in the elect post justification and conversion that gives the elect a new ability to obey all the imperative’s in the New Covenant and the Laws Christ commanded in the Sermon on the Mount. I think Old Covenant Law has been abolished as per the book of Hebrews. That is a whole other rather complicated argument though. Where in Scripture is there evidence for a new enabling power that sanctifies and gives internal power over the elects still indwelling sin that gets its power from the Laws ability to still condemn. Is its Christ’s work imputed alone that breaks the condemnong power of the law or an internal power that enables to obey?

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  103. What is the Reformed teaching about sanctification? Is sanctification or perseverance an antecedent condition for salvation, as has been alleged?

    The Scripture references are retained so that readers can judge for themselves whether it is Scriptural to say that there is a change in the believer post-conversion.

    Q75: What is sanctification?
    A75: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit [1] applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them,[2] renewed in their whole man after the image of God;[3] having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts,[4] and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened,[5] as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.[6]

    1. Eph. 1:4; I Cor. 6:11; II Thess. 2:13
    2. Rom. 6:4-6
    3. Eph. 4:23-24
    4. Acts 11:18; I John 3:9
    5. Jude 1:20; Heb. 6:11-12; Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:10-11
    6. Rom. 6:4; 6:14; Gal. 5:24

    Q77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
    A77: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification,[1] yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ;[2] in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof;[3] in the former, sin is pardoned;[4] in the other, it is subdued:[5] the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation;[6] the other is neither equal in all,[7] nor in this life perfect in any,[8] but growing up to perfection.[9]

    1. I Cor. 1:30; 6:11
    2. Rom. 4:6, 8
    3. Ezek. 36:27
    4. Rom. 3:24-25
    5. Rom. 6:6, 14
    6. Rom. 8:33-34
    7. I John 2:12-14; Heb. 5:12-14
    8. I John 1:8, 10
    9. II Cor. 7:1; Phil 3:12-14

    Q78: Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?
    A78: The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins,[1] are hindered in all their spiritual services,[2] and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.[3]

    1. Rom. 7:18, 23; Mark 14:66-72 ; Gal. 2:11-12
    2. Heb. 12:1
    3. Isa. 64:6; Exod. 28:38

    Q79: May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace ?
    A79: True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God,[1] and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance,[2] their inseparable union with Christ,[3] his continual intercession for them,[4] and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them,[5] can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace,[6] but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.[7]

    1. Jer. 31:3
    2. II Tim. 2:19-21; II Sam. 23:5
    3. I Cor. 1:8-9
    4. Heb. 7:25; Luke 22:32
    5. I John 2:27; 3:9
    6. Jer. 32:40; John 10:28
    7. I Peter 1:5

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  104. @ John: You might want to consider distinguishing two kinds of changes.

    (1) Is there a change in the flesh nature of the believer, so that what is dead becomes alive? No. The flesh never improves, never gets better.

    (2) Does the believer experience the creation of a new man, created to be like Christ in true righteousness and holiness? Yes — Eph 4.24.

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  105. Jeff,

    Those sections of the WCF is what the argument is all about. The change is a change of legal state not a change of nature. The new heart is by the illumination of the Spirit to believe the Gospel. The heart and mind are synonyms. The change is also a change of doctrine or belief in who Jesus is and what he accomplished for his elect people. The elect are placed into a new creation that will fully manifest itself when Christ comes back to set up his eternal and unshakable kingdom. So, the new creation is not a new ontoligical nature infused with power by the Holy Spirit that more and more sanctifies and mortifies sin. Those passages of Scripture in the WCF dont prove their points in the written statements.

    On the other hand, there are some passages of Scripture that do seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit sometimes does help in the overcoming of sin. That does not mean that occurs on a daily abd regular basis. The power is not always there. Plus there are many Scriptures that indicate that those who thought of themselves as more and more law abiding or sanctified got the most severe rebukes from Jesus.

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  106. John, you seem to like justification a lot, but it is not clear you are nearly as interested in being healed, which I’ve probably said to you before.

    It would be God’s prerogative to deliver us only from the penalty of sin, then stop and wait ‘til the other side (we are in eternity) of eternity to save us further. However His word is clear about His promise to save us completely – to heal us, delivering us from the penalty, power, presence of sin and while it is not all promised this side of eternity, He says it is from ‘glory to glory’, as we behold His glory and practice truth and righteousness and endurance.

    Isaiah 53:5bThe chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

    2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

    John 3: 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.

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  107. @jy Have you read the scripture proofs to see how the summaries of the wcf reflect these passages? See, I come across texts like this:
    And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24
    And others claiming that we are a new creation. You are telling me to prove that when Paul tells us we are a “new creation” that he really means nothing about us has really changed…we are just thought about differently. Maybe I misunderstood you?

    ” The heart and mind are synonyms. ”
    No they aren’t. Where did you get that from? Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is love him with all your heart AND mind…

    ” he change is also a change of doctrine or belief in who Jesus is and what he accomplished for his elect people. ”
    The demons also believe and tremble….

    “The elect are placed into a new creation that will fully manifest itself when Christ comes back to set up his eternal and unshakable kingdom. ”
    That isn’t the language of the NT. It doesn’t say you are placed in a new creation, it says you are a new creation. In Corinthians Paul tells his readers that once they were X, but now they are ~X. That is an ontological change.

    “So, the new creation is not a new ontoligical nature infused with power by the Holy Spirit that more and more sanctifies and mortifies sin. Those passages of Scripture in the WCF dont prove their points in the written statements.”
    Your “so” doesn’t follow from what preceded it. Further what preceded it is riddled with basic exegetical errors.

    “On the other hand, there are some passages of Scripture that do seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit sometimes does help in the overcoming of sin.”
    Yes.
    “That does not mean that occurs on a daily abd regular basis. The power is not always there.”
    Really? What is the biblical basis for that assertion? Perhaps the better way to describe what you are getting at is that the flesh continually wars against the spirit because the mortification of the flesh is not yet complete.

    “Plus there are many Scriptures that indicate that those who thought of themselves as more and more law abiding or sanctified got the most severe rebukes from Jesus.”
    Thinking oneself justified by the law (Pharisees) is not what we have on the table here.

    I don’t see what all the hullabaloo is all about. You concede that there is growth in Grace. You just don’t want to label it as Sanctification. But, to get there you have to make scripture not say what it is plainly saying. That seems unwise.

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  108. Ali, what is it I need to be healed of? You say the darndest things. I do like justification- dont you?

    Sdb, the demons believe that God is one- they dont believe the Gospel. Read the passage in James.

    Due to the fact that my laptop has not gotten fixed yet I am having to use my cell phone to access information and most of the stuff I need to make more informed comments is on my laptop that I cant access with my cell phone.

    You are miscontruing my comments. We are not communicating at all.

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  109. johnyeazel says: li, what is it I need to be healed of?

    Rebellion.

    Healed and being healed.

    1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

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  110. Ali, God condemned my sin in the flesh of Jesus when Jesus died on the cross. God placed me into that death when I was taught and believed the Gospel. My righteousness is completely outside myself at Calvary. I’ve submitted myself to Gods righteousness and I no longer try to estabish my own righteousness.

    I was definitively sanctified by the blood of Christ too. If I was definitively sanctifed how is it possible to progress in sanctification at the same time and in the same relationship?

    I was also cleansed and continue to be cleansed by the word of the gospel. Maybe you are the one who is still not submitted to Gods righteousness. Are you still trying to establish your own righteousness? If you are then you are the one who is in rebellion to the Gospel.

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  111. I also place none of my faith in what God does inside me even though I do believe that God does work inside a still full blown sinner like me. If my focus is on what God does inside me than I am not focusing on the power of the Gospel outside of me. And I still have to daily reckon myself dead to sin and alive to righteousness because I still sin daily.

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  112. @ John:

    I also place none of my faith in what God does inside me even though I do believe that God does work inside a still full blown sinner like me. If my focus is on what God does inside me than I am not focusing on the power of the Gospel outside of me. And I still have to daily reckon myself dead to sin and alive to righteousness because I still sin daily.

    There’s certainly an element of truth here. Let’s separate two things.

    (1) What Scripture teaches about sanctification. Clearly, we disagree on that.

    (2) What Scripture teaches about assurance of salvation. On that, we are much, much closer.

    Thinking about the life history you have shared, it seems to be that you used to believe, or were taught, that your progress in sanctification is the key to your being assured of being saved. That teaching was used by others to abuse you.

    And then you learned that the Gospel is not that at all (praise God!). You learned that the Gospel is about what Christ has done for you, outside of you, not at all of works. And you believed, perhaps for the first time.

    All of that is very good. For our assurance is not based on ourselves. Our hope is not found in our progress in sanctification. In fact, as God continues to work in us, we are much more likely to see the contrast between what the Law commands and what our sin nature wants. I believe that’s what Paul is talking about in Romans 7. If our hope were found in our sanctification, we would despair.

    What Scripture teaches about our assurance is that it is first of all grounded in the promise of God to receive us as His children: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    And again: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

    There is a secondary sense in which God’s work in us can confirm that we belong to Him (1 John 1:6-7, 2:5-6). But our *hope* is found in the fact that Christ died for us.

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  113. So now, separate from the question of “what is the ground of my assurance?”, we want to know what Scripture says about the changes God makes in us.

    We’ve agreed to a couple of those. We have agreed that the Spirit enables us to believe. That in itself is an ontological change. We have also agreed that the Spirit in us wars against the flesh. That is also a change, for the unbeliever lacks the Spirit (Rom 8.14)

    I think we could agree to more changes. For example, would you agree that the fruit of the indwelling Spirit is a change that God makes in us? (Gal 5.22 – 23).

    I think we could also agree that our relationship to the Law has changed so that we are no longer under the Law (Rom 6.14).

    And we could also agree that our relationship to the flesh has changed so that we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6.6 – 7).

    Am I correct that we agree to all of these?

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  114. Jeff,

    I think ontological change has to be much more clearly defined. I lean away from the idea that ontological change is some kind of a new implanted nature inside that occurs when someone is effectually called by the Gospel. I think old man and new man in Scripture are legal categories with the new man being influenced by something similar to what Horton called speech/act theory. The Word of God and the Spirit produce illumination, persuasion and willful action in the new man. I think the breach of sin is a legal reality rather than somekind of spiritual power. I cant really give much scriptural support for that off the top of my head.

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  115. @JY I think the challenge you face is the way Paul describes the new man as a “new creation” and as one who bears a different kind of fruit. Since you may not have easy access, here is the text from Galatians 5:

    But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

    Paul is not merely describing a change in legal standing, he is describing how one is empowered to change behavior. Nonbelievers are slaves to their flesh, but the believer has had his legal standing changed AND given a new spirit that enables him to war against the flesh. One is now able to do works in faith that please God (previously) it was impossible to do so. The believer has changed. This change does not *cause* salvation, it is not the *ground* of one’s assurance that one has been saved, and the impact of the change does not make one perfect in this life or create a secular increase in one’s goodness. Rather, the ontological change is an effect that places one on the battlefield that will see ups and downs as one grows in grace (i.e., sanctification).

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  116. johnyeazel says: I think old man and new man in Scripture are legal categories with the new man being influenced by something similar to what Horton called speech/act theory.

    huh? (sincerely)

    Bible Gateway’s verse of the day, today –
    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 NASB

    born of God – an actual new creation

    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6

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  117. JY: I think ontological change has to be much more clearly defined

    Agreed. Could we drop the word “ontological” (imported from Catholic discussions) and use the words “legal” and “experiential”?

    A legal change is a change in our legal status before God. It is also relational in that it defines a new relationship with God (ie: we are adopted because we are justified).

    An experiential change is a change that we experience. We experience the war of Spirit against flesh.

    Does that vocabulary work for you?

    JY: I lean away from the idea that ontological change is some kind of a new implanted nature inside that occurs when someone is effectually called by the Gospel.

    It’s hard to interpret “put on the new man …. created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” as something other than a kind of new implanted nature.

    But perhaps you object to the idea that God makes a new independent nature that is capable of righteous life apart from the Spirit.

    If that’s your objection, then we agree: there is no new man, no new life apart from the direct work of the Spirit.

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  118. @ John: an example of the legal leading to the experiential is in Gal 2: “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

    So there is an experiential change because of the legal change. Further, that change is not found by returning under the law, but by living by faith.

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  119. Jeff,

    Some more Scripture passages about the old man and the new man:

    1) Old man:

    John R. W. Stott, Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5-8 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966), 45: “This is the crucifixion of our our ‘old self’. What is this ‘old self’? Is it not the old nature. How can it be if the ‘body of sin’ means the old nature? The two expressions cannot mean the same thing or the verse makes no sense.

    The ‘old self’ denotes, not our old unregenerate nature, but our old condemned in Adam life—Not the part of myself which is corrupt, but my former self. So what was crucified with Christ was not a part of us called our old nature, but the whole of us as we were before we were converted. This should be plain because in this chapter the phrase ‘our old self was crucified’ (verse 6) is equivalent to ‘we…died to sin (verse 2).”

    The crucifixion of the “old man” refers to a definitive break with the past in Adam and is something God declares to be true of the elect when God justifies them by imputation. God transfers the justified elect from the age of Adam to the age of Christ. The justified sinner is separated legally and positionally from the community of Adam by being placed into the death of Christ to sin.

    2) New man:

    The justified elect pass over from being part of the old creation to being legally part of the new creation. II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation! The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

    The justified elect are not two men inside of another man. The justified elect are not two minds inside of a body “container”. When the elect are justified, they become part of the larger “new man” Galatians 6:15 “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but new creation.”

    When I think of the “new creation”, why do I think of justification, and not only about regeneration? Well, I ask, why do most Calvinists draw the line between two natures? Where does the Bible talk about the new creation being a new nature? Where does the Bible talk about union with Christ being a new nature? Why don’t we draw the line between the justified and the condemned?

    I am not denying the new birth or the absolute necessity for it. I am only saying that the new birth is not “union with Christ” and that it does not result in something called “the new man” on your inside The “new man” has to do with a change in legal state.

    II Corinthians 5:14 “one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh”.

    Those who live” means first of all those who are justified. The category of “we died” is not about an implantation and/or addition of a “seed substance” but about an imputed legal reality.

    The new man is not gradual transformation; it’s an either or—- this legal state or that legal state. The new creation is a legal result of God’s imputation in time of what God did (for the elect alone) in Christ in His death and resurrection.

    Carol Hoch Jr: “The background of the “new creation language is Isaiah 43:16-21, Is 65:17, and Is 66:22…Should “he is” be supplied in II Cor 5:17a? No–if any person is in Christ, new creation. To insert “he is” in 5:17 wrongly narrows the scope of the new creation to an individual.” , p161, The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology: All Things New, Baker, 1995

    Colossians 3:9– “Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 3:10 and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 3:11 Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.”

    McMark: The “new man” in Colossians 3:10 is not something inside an individual.

    John Y: You have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.

    In Ephesians 2:15, the Jewish elect and the Gentile elect have been justified and reconciled, and together in Christ they form the “new man” which is a new redemptive-historical society in which all have free and equal access to God and are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:5-6).

    Romans 6:6 is still thinking of the two humanities (and their heads) as in Romans 5:12-21.15 The “old man,” then, must be who the elect were “in Adam,” that is, in the old age of guilt, death and judgment. The focus is corporate.The “old man” is not a sinful nature, and it’s not our corruption.

    John Y: The point of all this- it is not all that clear that the new man is an implanted new nature in individuals. From the above Scripture passages it sounds more like a collective legal reality made up of the justified elect that are awaiting transformation when Christ returns again. Romans chapter 8 is a summary of all this.

    I am still unclear how this war between flesh and Spirit is fought and plays out in our experience or daily walk. I have seen and been taught in the past some very strange things about this issue. At this time, I simply believe that walk by the Spirit means believe the Gospel and all the benefits and power that are the result of being placed into the death of Christ and justified by God the Father. I have seen a whole lot of goofy stuff that goes by the name of waging war against the flesh by the Spirit. Besides, what the flesh is has to be clearly defined too. Flesh is more often than not an attempt to establish its own righteousness by its own efforts. It seeks its own individual glory under the disguise of the pursuit of holiness.

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  120. @John:

    Thanks. I don’t want to spend a lot of time debating the merits of a forensic view of “old man / new man.” Here’s my one attempt at a pushback. First, in re: Stott.

    (1) His claim that “body of sin” and “the old man” (gr: flesh) cannot be synonyms is without basis. People use synonyms all the time in writing, mainly so that they don’t repeat themselves within the same sentence.

    (2) Stott’s view forces him to interpret Romans 7 in a novel way. In particular, he understands Paul’s “wretched man that I am” as describing the experience of a Jewish Old Testament believer. This despite the fact that Paul was not actually an Old Testament believer. (https://www.delreychurch.com/blog/post/dr-stott-on-romans-7)

    (3) If “the flesh” does not reside within us, but refers to our preconversion legal status, then how is it that “the Spirit wars against the flesh” in Galatians 5? If on the other hand, the “flesh” does reside within us, then how is the “flesh” a part of the “new man.”? But if we admit that the “flesh” is a part of the “old man”, then we have arrived at the point of view that new and old man are simultaneously present in the believer — the one, made alive in Christ; the other, crucified in Christ.

    John Y: At this time, I simply believe that walk by the Spirit means believe the Gospel and all the benefits and power that are the result of being placed into the death of Christ and justified by God the Father.

    This is certainly the core of it. It is also the case that one of the benefits of the Gospel is that the Spirit dwells within the believer, and is actively at work in us, so that the “putting on” of 2 Peter 1.5ff is something that happens as a result of God’s grace and not by our own efforts.

    My concern for the view you have expressed — that “living by the Spirit means believing the Gospel” — is that IF it is taken literally, it would make our ongoing Christian life a matter of our own self-efforts to believe.

    It is crucial that our ongoing Christian life is fully dependent on God’s grace; thus, the centrality of the Spirit in that life.

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  121. Jeff,

    Where did you get the idea that I said the justified elect no longer have what the Scriptures call the flesh? I never said that. Why do you call the old man the flesh? I never said there was not somekind of conflict between flesh and Spirit either. I said I am unsure regarding the best way to deal with it. However, I’m OK with just dealing with it by the power of the elects legal standing in the Gospel.

    I also never said that the Spirit does not work within the elect. I just don’t see that the Spirit has the big enablement role created by a new nature implanted within. The clear biblical evidence for a Spirit infused power is lacking. The power is in the Gospel and the Spirit keeps the elect believing the Gospel. The Spirit and the new nature is not the cause with the breach with sin either. The Gospel is the cause with the breach from sin. This whole idea of Spirit enabled faith that sanctifies and enables a person to overcome sin by its power is what the main argument is about.

    What is saving faith is something I think we disagree about too. We have attempted but not gotten very far with that issue. That faith is something more than assent to the Gospel usually means that you need this Spirit infused breach with sin that is evident in your experience. If you don’t have this experience you are not part of the elect and still under God’s wrath. In other words, you are not really justified yet.

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  122. John, best I can tell you reject God’s word here and therefore think dead people can be justified:
    Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

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  123. And John, I can’t help but keep commenting because some of the things you say seem so egregious like :
    Johnyeazel says , I just don’t see that the Spirit has the big enablement role

    Unless I misunderstand, that seems like blasphemy against the Spirit – giving life is not a ‘big enablement role’ and enabling Jesus to live the perfect life here on earth is not ‘big enablement’,etc.?

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  124. God justifies the ungodly. The Spirit is life because of the imputed righteousness. Without the atoning work of Christ and being placed into that death by God the Father there is no spiritual life. Who should get the glory the Spirit or Christ? The Spirit always directs towards the power of the Gospel. Ive hardly blasphemed the Holy Spirit. I’m just saying things Lordshippers dont like and dont agree with.

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  125. I agree with Ed Boehl (The Reformed Doctrine of Justification, notice the critical preface by Berkhof to the last edition, in which Berkhof claims Boehl is too Lutheran). If conforming into the image of Christ is truly the work of the Holy Spirit alone, then it is difficult to claim a new ability in the regenerate man. The regenerate man is not given an improved ability from the Holy Spirit to obey God. This position does not deny that the regenerate man bears fruit. Nor does it deny that the Holy Spirit sometimes enables the believer to overcome sin. However, it is not the case that this is an ability planted within justified sinners.

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  126. Another important point- nothing that the Spirit does inside the elect justifies the elect. What justifies the elect is being placed into the death of Christ. This causes the Spirit to create faith in the elect. The Spirit does not unite the elect to Christ. ; God the Father unites the elect to Christ. To make what the Spirit does inside the elect part of the elects justification is a false Gospel. That was the route Osiander went and many popular teachers are saying the same thing as Osiander did. This can be traced back to some of the things Edwards believed that were passed on in the New England theology- in particular, the theology of Andrew Fuller. John Piper draws a lot of his theology from Fuller and Fuller’s descendents. Many other contemporary teachers teach that the main thrust or priority in living the Christian life should be about what the Spirit does inside the person rather than what Christ got done at the cross. Many give lip service to the work of Christ but then make the work of the Spirit the critical issue. Christ justifies the elect because his work on the cross propitiates God’s wrath and expiates the elects guilt and condemnation. The work of the Spirit does not justify.

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  127. McMark to Jeff in some comment at old life:

    –The “placed into his death” of Romans 6 cannot be confused with the “Christ in you” and “the Spirit in you” by use of the word “union”. But Jeff you have done this very thing. It is one thing to say that every justified person is a regenerate person. We agree about that (although I do not use “sanctified” as a synonym for “regenerate” and it looks like you (sometimes) do. But it is another thing to say that regeneration has legal or temporal priority to God’s placing the elect into Christ’s death.

    Gaffin—”Despite the exegesis of some Reformed commentators, this death to sin is almost certainly not to the guilt that sin incurs and justification. In view, rather, is a definitive deliverance from sin’s over-mastering power to being enslaved instead to God and righteousness. That Spirit-worked (7:6) deliverance, NOT JUSTIFICATION, grounds and provides the dynamic for the believer’s beginning to “walk in newness of life” (6:4), their being enslaved in their conduct to God and righteousness….This is the crucial soteriological truth that in the inception of the application of redemption, at the moment sinners are united to Christ by faith, they are delivered from sin’s enslaving power, from bondage to sin as master.

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  128. ” nothing that the Spirit does inside the elect justifies the elect”
    Literally no one here suggests any such thing. Yet you continue on with this red herring. It only serves to obfuscate the question at hand.

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  129. ” To make what the Spirit does inside the elect part of the elects justification is a false Gospel”
    No one here is doing that. We are talking about what sanctification entails. It is distinct from justification.

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  130. ” Where did you get the idea that I said the justified elect no longer have what the Scriptures call the flesh? I never said that.”

    “The justified elect are not two men inside of another man. The justified elect are not two minds inside of a body “container”.”

    If old man/new creation only refer to legal system, and there aren’t two wills at odds in one body, you have defined away the flesh.
    This is an obvious contradiction with scripture. A better understanding is that because of our new legal status we are baptized in the spirit who works in us to battle the flesh. This work produces good fruit. The process of the holy spirit working in us to subdue the flesh is Sanctification.

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  131. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness”
    “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit”
    ” The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news”

    From Sinclair Ferguson:
    The Spirit who was present and active at Christ’s conception as the head of the new creation, by whom He was anointed at baptism (John 1:32-34), who directed Him throughout His temptations (Matthew 4:1), empowered Him in His miracles (Luke 11:20), energized Him in His sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14), and vindicated Him in His resurrection (1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 1:4), now indwells disciples in this specific identity.

    A nice essay on the necessity of the spirit in the life of Christ can be found here:

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2017/07/why-did-jesus-need-the-holy-sp.php

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  132. If you read those passages of Scripture that Batzig references you will see that they ssy nothing about the Spirit enabling Christ to obey the imperatives of God. The Spirit descended on Christ, the Spirit drove Christ into the wilderness, the Spirit drove out demons, Christ offfered up his sacrifice by the eternal Spirit, the Spirit annointed Jesus to preach thegood news. It is a red herring to say I am claiming that there is no role of the Spirit in the life of Christ or the life of the elect. That is not the question at hand.

    And what you say that sanctification is what we are disagreeing about. I don’t care what John Murray, Sinclair Ferguson, Rochard Gaffin or Nick Batzig say about it. I think they all are misinterpreting Romans chapter 6.

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  133. Romans 6 does not even mention the work of the Holy Spirit even when the chapter does speak of sanctification.

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  134. @jy first you insist on extremely subtle distinctions to overthrow the majority understanding of the economy of salvation and accuse wide swaths of Christians of believing a false gospel (which as far as I can tell is only held by mm and his acolytes). Fair enough truth isn’t determined by vote. But then you, who insist on extremely careful distinctions and complain about being misconstrued write, ” Jesus has a divine nature and is unable to sin. Jesus does not need the enablement of the Spirit.” You did not say that Jesus didn’t need the enablement of the spirit to keep the law. You said he didn’t need the spirit. I was merely pointing out your statement was incorrect. The MO I see here is that you expect to be readcharitably, but refuse to return the favor. That is unfortunate.

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  135. ” Romans 6 does not even mention the work of the Holy Spirit even when the chapter does speak of sanctification”
    Chapter designations are arbitrary. They are not inspired. If you continue to Romans 7, we read “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Indeed, the description in Romans 6 that, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness….But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” tells us that:
    1) our legal status has changed…. therefore…
    2) don’t let sin reign in your body because
    3) now that your legal status has changed, you will produce fruit that leads to *sanctification*

    This parallels Galatians 5. Once your legal status changes, you receive the spirit so that you have the potential to produce good fruit which leads to… Not a change in legal status… sanctification.

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  136. Sdb,

    Paul is talking about the antithesis between law and Gospel in Romans chapter 7. The way of the Spirit is the way of the Gospel, the way of the written code is the way of the law. You Reformed confession guys and Lordshippers continue to want to place most of your emphasis on the work of the Spirit and you rarely give other than lip service to the atoning work of Christ where the righteousness is found and where the justice of God is. The work of Christ condemned sin in his flesh. This is where the breach with sin is located. You guys always want to say that there has to be something more than that like you do eith the definition of faith. You need this progressive sanctifying power of the Spirit to cause this breach with sin and to obey the imperitives of God. None of us are obeying all the impetitives (if we break one imperitive in thought, word or deed we are screwed acvordind to way of the law). The elect depend on and believe in being placed into the death of Christ. That is the elects only hope. What God does in us is not our hope nor should it be what we emphasize and talk about most of the time. So, let me ask you this, Sdb, can someone become regenerate by the Spirit and given faith by the Spirit without being taught the full and accurate biblical Gospel? Or, to put it another way, can someone become regenerate without being taught the Gospel at all or being taught only part of the Gospel?

    That phrase leading to sanctification does not prove that there is such a thing as progressive sanctification.

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  137. “McMark and his acolytes”- Sdb said that.

    McMark is not the only one in the history of the Gospel to say what he has been saying about the ordo salutis and redemptive history. He has well documented from other theologians who have said similar things. The Reformed confessions are not the final word in interpreting the Scriptures.

    Perhaps we can accuse you of being Absolmon at the gates. That is unfortunate.

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  138. “McMark and his acolytes”- Sdb said that.

    McMark is not the only one in the history of the Gospel to say what he has been saying about the ordo salutis and redemptive history. He has well documented from other theologians who have said similar things. The Reformed confessions are not the final word in interpreting the Scriptures.

    Perhaps we can accuse you of being Absolmon at the gates. That is unfortunate.

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  139. Paul is talking about the antithesis between law and Gospel in Romans chapter 7. The way of the Spirit is the way of the Gospel, the way of the written code is the way of the law.

    No it isn’t. The gospel is the “good news” while the Spirit is the second person of the trinity.

    You Reformed confession guys and Lordshippers continue to want to place most of your emphasis on the work of the Spirit and you rarely give other than lip service to the atoning work of Christ where the righteousness is found and where the justice of God is.

    You have no idea what I want and what I regularly or rarely do.

    The work of Christ condemned sin in his flesh. This is where the breach with sin is located. You guys always want to say that there has to be something more than that like you do eith the definition of faith.

    No. We don’t want to say anything. Scripture teaches us that the flesh continues to wage war against the spirit. There is an ongoing battle being described in scripture over and over and that description is universally coupled with imperatives for the believer.

    You need this progressive sanctifying power of the Spirit to cause this breach with sin and to obey the imperitives of God.

    No. The progressive sanctifying power of the Spirit is what enables us to continue to war against the flesh.

    None of us are obeying all the impetitives (if we break one imperitive in thought, word or deed we are screwed acvordind to way of the law).

    Right. We all agree that we are not perfected upon becoming believers. The power of sin is vanquished but the flesh continues to war against the spirit. You win some battles you lose some battles. This is what Eph 6 is all about.

    The elect depend on and believe in being placed into the death of Christ. That is the elects only hope.

    That is one metaphor that the NT uses to describe our justification. But it isn’t the only one. But I agree that our only hope of salvation is the work of Christ.

    What God does in us is not our hope

    Really? “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” So I guess the apostles who witnessed Christ’s death had no hope because they saw it?

    nor should it be what we emphasize and talk about most of the time.

    And yet every epistle talks about it. Sounds like your beef is with Paul.

    So, let me ask you this, Sdb, can someone become regenerate by the Spirit and given faith by the Spirit without being taught the full and accurate biblical Gospel? Or, to put it another way, can someone become regenerate without being taught the Gospel at all or being taught only part of the Gospel?

    What is the gospel? The full gospel is that “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” So yes, you must believe that Christ died for our sins, was buried, rose again, and appeared. All the details about what the right metaphor is to describe how this benefit is applied, details about Christology, etc… are important. They are not the gospel. That God exists, is triune, etc… is not the gospel. No where in the NT does Paul demand that his readers have the kind of esoteric knowledge in which you are so enthralled (even if riddled with basic logical and exegetical errors). Nothing you have asserted in these threads has convinced me that yours is anything other than an intellectual works righteousness.

    That phrase leading to sanctification does not prove that there is such a thing as progressive sanctification.

    Read more carefully. I did not claim that the phrase “leading to sanctification” proves that there is such a thing as progressive sanctification. Rather I summarized the text in Romans 6 as follows:

    1) our legal status has changed…. therefore…
    2) don’t let sin reign in your body because
    3) now that your legal status has changed, you will produce fruit that leads to *sanctification*

    There is a process from our legal status changing to us producing fruit (something that happens gradually and in the future) to finally sanctification. Your being made holy in other words. Galatians 5 lays out the same argument. You once did X now you do ~X because you have the spirit. This growth in holiness is synonymous with growth in sanctification.

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  140. John, just again and finally, it is a mistake to diminish and reject any of what God has said about Himself.
    God is glorious. “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God”

    to those who are who are chosen-
    1 Peter 12 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

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  141. @Ali – So Peter is telling us that it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us?!!??! I just don’t see how this can be controversial.

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  142. The Word sanctifies, the blood of Christ sanctifies, the Spirit sanctifies. The Scriptures say all three. Does election sanctify? Sanctify means set apart. What is at issue here is whether there is such a thing as progressive sanctification when sanctification is often implied in Scripture that it is definitve like justification. Sorry to repeat myself so often but it seems we are not communicating that well. How can there be degrees of something set apart? Maybe there is more than one meaning of sanctification- that is a possibility.

    Some more issues:

    1) What is the cause of the breach with sin?
    2) Does regeneration give the elect a new implanted nature? What is the purpose of this new implanted nature?
    3) Can someone become regenetate and justified without being taught the Gospel? Is the Gospel just the first paragraph of 1 Cor. chapter 15? Is that all that someone needs to be taught and give assent to? What about where the righteousnees is found- does someone have to be taught that?
    4) Is intellectual works righteousness an oxymoron or is it just idiosyncratic?
    5) What is the best way to deal with this conflict between flesh and Spirit? Is it the Gospel that overcomes this conflict or is some kind of human agent effort needed?

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  143. I think Mark Galli, the editor of Christianity Today magazine, has some interesting things to ssy in the following quote:

    mark Galli: ; the more spiritually mature I am, the more I realize, along with Jeremiah, how desperately wicked my heart is. In that sense, as I run the last laps of life, I’m much less impressed with my outward progress, and more aware than ever of my sin, and more and more in a constant state of repentance. Others compliment me on my “progress”—I no longer have a temper, I’m more considerate of my wife, more compassionate toward others, and so on and so forth. But they cannot see my heart, and if they did, they’d run in fear, repelled by the cauldron evil that remains. Perhaps I’ve simply failed in the pursuit of holiness. Or maybe the pursuit of holiness is not so much a striving to adopt a life of habitual virtue but learning how to live a life of constant repentance.
    DeYoung points us to the Puritans as examples of holiness. But there is a reason that the Puritans have a reputation for priggishness and self-righteousness. Having been a student of the Puritans myself, I know their movement started out with the best of motives—to live godly lives in a sinful world. But their passion for holiness led inevitably to self-righteousness. Their historical reputation is due in part to secular bias, but it is also due to historical facts.
    I think two teachings of Jesus need to play a much larger role in any discussion of holiness, but unfortunately they rarely do. The first is the parable of the Pharisee and the sinner (Luke 18). In that parable we see that the person who has pursued holiness, and has done so with reasonable success, is condemned. The person who is as unholy as unholy can be is praised. His repentance seems to be not merely a way to become holy but the very essence of holiness—that is, an attitude and a behavior that pleases God.
    The second teaching is Jesus’ admonition that our left hand should not know what our right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). The context is almsgiving, but the principle applies to all our good deeds; Jesus knew all too well that when sinful people start examining themselves, taking note of their holiness progress, they will not be able to avoid one of two sins: despair at their lack of progress or self-righteousness at their seeming progress. This progress, of course, is an illusion, because it is tainted with the sin Jesus condemned with vigor: self-righteousness.
    So while I applaud the reminder that we are called to be holy, and while I recognize that there is some deliberate effort involved, I believe that a conscious and purposeful pursuit of holiness is about the worst way to go about it. I cannot think of a person I know or a historical figure who has aspired to holiness without suffering from spiritual pride. This has certainly been the case in my own spiritual journey. The times I have deliberately tried to become godly are when I have become most like the devil—irritable, judgmental, arrogant, and prideful to start with.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/november-web-only/if-at-first-you-dont-succeed-stop-trying-so-hard.html?paging=off

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  144. Huh, John? I thought we were talking about what the word of God says, not what this or that person does. If you don’t want to receive the word of God because of this or that thing, then that seems a problem.

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  145. The Word sanctifies, the blood of Christ sanctifies, the Spirit sanctifies. The Scriptures say all three. Does election sanctify?

    Right. All play a role in the process of our sanctification.

    Sanctify means set apart.

    I agree. Another translation of “set apart” is “Holy”.

    What is at issue here is whether there is such a thing as progressive sanctification when sanctification is often implied in Scripture that it is definitve like justification. Sorry to repeat myself so often but it seems we are not communicating that well. How can there be degrees of something set apart? Maybe there is more than one meaning of sanctification- that is a possibility.

    I agree this is the crux of our disagreement. Holy also means “set apart”. Does it make sense to say that something is Holier than something else? Can something be the Holiest?

    1) What is the cause of the breach with sin?
    The work of Christ.

    2) Does regeneration give the elect a new implanted nature? What is the purpose of this new implanted nature?
    Yes. To glorify God. Perhaps another way to ask this is to describe what the difference is between a creature and a nature. If you are made a new creation you necessarily have a new nature.

    3) Can someone become regenetate and justified without being taught the Gospel? Is the Gospel just the first paragraph of 1 Cor. chapter 15? Is that all that someone needs to be taught and give assent to? What about where the righteousnees is found- does someone have to be taught that?
    I think you have things backwards here. One’s regeneration precedes the ability to respond to the gospel. You can not be justified without faith in the object of the gospel. One need not have a complete understanding of the gospel to be saved. Paul summarizes the bare-bones requirement if you will in the introduction to 1 Cor 15.

    4) Is intellectual works righteousness an oxymoron or is it just idiosyncratic?
    No. Rather than being saved by keeping moral precepts one is saved by keeping theological precepts. Both put the onus on the believer to earn salvation. In the former by keeping the law in the later by keeping sound theology.

    5) What is the best way to deal with this conflict between flesh and Spirit? Is it the Gospel that overcomes this conflict or is some kind of human agent effort needed?
    Well what does Paul and the other epistle writers tell us?

    -Run the race with endurance,

    -put on the full armor of God,

    -Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    -Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

    -So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

    -by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood

    -Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
    If you love me, obey my commandments

    The imperatives throughout the NT are not merely to believe something (though this is essential), but in light of that belief to do something. These are just a few examples.

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  146. Sdb,

    The following is what I hear you saying. You believe that an individual can advance in degrees of holiness by obeying the imperitives- especially those imperatives that imply effort in their commands. I also hear you saying that an implanted new nature along with the work of the Holy Spirit give the elect a new power and ability to obey the imperitives. My question then is this- do you think the imperitives imply the ability to obey them with this new implanted nature and the power of the Holy Spirit? Also, if you are brutally honest with yourself, how do you think you doing in regards to obeying all the imperitives with your new implanted nature? Can you prove from Scripture that we actually receive this infusion of new powers? Where is this infusion and new ability to obey the imperitives taught in the Scriptures?

    If you really believe there is an antithesis between Law and Gospel are you reading the Scriptures with that in mind or do you unknowingly and unconsciously conflate Law and Gospel with this supposed new ability to obey the imperitives. The Law commands and the Gospel gives what the Law commands.

    You told me that I have things backwards in regards to regeneration,etc., etc. That comment tells me that you have not followed or understood my comments about the ordo salutis or order of salvation. However, I have to post this and do something else right now so I will come back to it at another time.

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  147. ” The following is what I hear you saying. You believe that an individual can advance in degrees of holiness by obeying the imperitives- especially those imperatives that imply effort in their commands.”
    I would turn that around and say because we have the Holy Spirit we can do good works in n faith that please God. Or to put it in confessional language, “Christ, by his Holy Spirit, makes us heartily willing and ready to live for him.”
    “I also hear you saying that an implanted new nature along with the work of the Holy Spirit give the elect a new power and ability to obey the imperitives. ”
    I would rather say that we now have a new nature, empowered by the spirit, that enables us to war against the flesh. When Peter and Paul write things like, ” -Make every effort to add to your faith …For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” and “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”
    They really meant to make every effort to add to your faith and to be diligent so you can be holier ( more sanctified).

    “My question then is this- do you think the imperitives imply the ability to obey them with this new implanted nature and the power of the Holy Spirit?”
    We now have the will to strive. We may get better, but we won’t be perfected on this side of glory.

    “Also, if you are brutally honest with yourself, how do you think you doing in regards to obeying all the imperitives with your new implanted nature?”
    I sin every day…thank God for a savior who paid the penalty for my son’s!

    “Can you prove from Scripture that we actually receive this infusion of new powers? Where is this infusion and new ability to obey the imperitives taught in the Scriptures?”
    Well one might infer it from the texts I alluded to above. The fruit of the spirit in Gal 5 for example. One might also consider 1 Jn 2:

    1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
    2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
    3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
    4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
    5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
    6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:1-6

    What I don’t get is where we substantively differ. You said we grow in Grace. I call this sanctification and a lot of what you call sanctification I take to be justification. But just when I think this is all just semantics you say something crazy like we shouldn’t talk about the work of the Holy Spirit so much.

    Cutting through all the weeds, I think we have the following significant differences:
    1. I take the gospel to just be the good news. How the object of that news is applied, it’s scope, why it is just, how it works, etc… are important but they aren’t the gospel. The nature of Christ matters but you aren’t going to hell because you get tripped up over how to describe the hypostatic union. I’m still not clear how you draw the boundaries of essential knowledge of the gospel and why it is so obscure in scripture.

    2. If the statement that you are either X or not X is true the there can’t be degrees of X. You and mm say you are either sanctified or not sanctified therefore there are not degrees of sanctification. This is logically false. You are either wet or not wet. But there are degrees of wetness. Walking through a light mist or a torrential downpour will both make you wet, but one makes you wetter than the other. So the general logic of the statement is a non-sequitor. But is there something special about being “set apart”. Well in the OT Tabernacle we have the Holy place and inside that we have the holiest of holies. In Isaiah we hear that God is holy, holy, holy… a Hebrew construction to make an adjective a superlative. It can also be read to mean holiest. So it is exegetically clear that “set apart” can have degrees. A more common example might be dishes. Some plates may be for common use… Hot dogs onTuesday nigh… Other dishes may be set aside for Sunday lunch. The kids ntuit the as the you don’t nuke pizza on them. The crystal maybe even more set aside and only be brought out for guests on holidays.

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  148. johnyeazel says: Can you prove from Scripture that we actually receive this infusion of new powers? Where is this infusion and new ability to obey the imperitives taught in the Scriptures?

    Ephesians 4: 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

    Romans 8: 29a For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son

    2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

    Romans 5: 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

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  149. Sdb,

    Our differences are much more than you stated and I am miffed as to why you are not seeing these differences. What is so esoteric about stating that the event that unites the elect to Christ is God the Father placing the elect individual into the death of Christ at the hearing of the Gospel? The death ofChrist is the righteousness. The righteousness that is imputed is not Christ’s obedience to the Law. The righteousness that is imputed is Christ’s just satisfaction of the Law that justifies and sanctifies the elect. That is a huge difference between us.

    Theology has always been about subtle distinctions ever since Satan deceived Eve at the Garden of Eden. You claim that the satsfaction of Gods justice is not part of the Gospel. Also, if you don’t include the biblical fact of this placement into the death of Christ for the elect alone you undermine the nature and extent of the atonement. That undermines the Gospel.

    Another big difference between us is that we believe that election governs an understanding of the New Covenant not the Reformed understanding of Covenant theology.

    What really is esoteric is the unionist understanding of union with Christ that has been clearly explained in the quotes from Gaffin, Lane Tipton (who was and still is, I believe, the systematic theology professor at Westminster Philadelphia), Sinclair Ferguson, and that is not clearly explained in the WCF. However, the WCF does clearly state that it is the Spirit that unites us to Christ. It is after this Spiritual uniting to Christ event takes place that the imputation of Christ’s law keeping occurs. This is what makes. someone righteous. This spiritual union umbrella to the person of Christ before legal imputation is about as clear as mud in the Scriptures.

    I dont think your degree of holiness example from the Old Covenant really explains what occurs on the New Covenant. Christ had to replace and abolish that whole sacrificial and sanctifying economy of the Old Covenant that could not redeem and save. Christ’s sacrifice was perfect and one time for his elect people. It perfectly justifies and sanctifies the elect. I know you are going to come back with all the Scripture verses that seem to imply a progress in sanctification. The internal work of the Spirit is not the good news. The good news is outside the elect at the cross of Christ. Paul boasted only in the cross of Christ and counted any internal righteousness as dung- thats what Phil. chapter 3 teaches.

    Again, those verses in chapter 2 of 1 John dont prove any implantation of a new nature. The new ability is the ability to believe the Gospel. That is the main commandment the elect can obey. I think that is clearly explained in one of the chapters of John’s Gospel.

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  150. Ali,

    Those verses don’t prove an implantation or infusion of a new nature. I’m not denying there is a growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds to the truth of the Gospel. The Spirit works in tandem with the Word to teach, instruct and exhort the elect.

    I agree with Ed Boehl (The Reformed Doctrine of Justification, notice the critical preface by Berkhof to the last edition, in which Berkhof claims Boehl is too Lutheran). If conforming into the image of Christ is truly the work of the Holy Spirit alone, then it is difficult to claim a new ability in the regenerate man. The regenerate man is not given an improved ability from the Holy Spirit to obey God. This position does not deny that the regenerate man bears fruit. Nor does it deny that the Holy Spirit sometimes enables the believer to overcome sin. However, it not the case that this is an ability planted within justified sinners. https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/calvin-vs-osiander-reconciliation-is-not-infusion-or-regeneration/?

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  151. ” Our differences are much more than you stated and I am miffed as to why you are not seeing these differences. ”
    Sorry. I’m not trying to be difficult. I really am having a lot of trouble making heads or tails about what you are talking about.

    “What is so esoteric about stating that the event that unites the elect to Christ is God the Father placing the elect individual into the death of Christ at the hearing of the Gospel?”
    First, you aren’t being precise here. There is the event which enables the action, the means by which the action is applied, and the person employing that means. The opening hymn in Ephesians indicates that all three members of the Trinity work in concert to save us from our sin. Christ’s death is what paid the debt for our sin.

    “The death ofChrist is the righteousness.”
    Help me understand this sentence.

    “The righteousness that is imputed is not Christ’s obedience to the Law. The righteousness that is imputed is Christ’s just satisfaction of the Law that justifies and sanctifies the elect. That is a huge difference between us.”
    I’m not sure I get the difference. What does it mean to say sanctification is just? What does it mean to say the Law is justified? What is the difference between justification and sanctification here?

    “Theology has always been about subtle distinctions ever since Satan deceived Eve at the Garden of Eden. You claim that the satsfaction of Gods justice is not part of the Gospel.”
    That the Justice of God has been satisfied is part of the Gospel. How it is his death did that, how it is applied, etc… Is not.

    “Also, if you don’t include the biblical fact of this placement into the death of Christ for the elect alone you undermine the nature and extent of the atonement. That undermines the Gospel.”
    What does the metaphor “placement into death mean?” Why does what I believe about others have bearing on me?

    “Another big difference between us is that we believe that election governs an understanding of the New Covenant not the Reformed understanding of Covenant theology.”
    I don’t know what this means.

    “What really is esoteric is the unionist understanding of union with Christ that has been clearly explained in the quotes from Gaffin, Lane Tipton (who was and still is, I believe, the systematic theology professor at Westminster Philadelphia), Sinclair Ferguson, and that is not clearly explained in the WCF. ”
    This whole discussion is esoteric.

    “However, the WCF does clearly state that it is the Spirit that unites us to Christ. It is after this Spiritual uniting to Christ event takes place that the imputation of Christ’s law keeping occurs. This is what makes. someone righteous. This spiritual union umbrella to the person of Christ before legal imputation is about as clear as mud in the Scriptures.”
    That’s not my reading….

    “I dont think your degree of holiness example from the Old Covenant really explains what occurs on the New Covenant. Christ had to replace and abolish that whole sacrificial and sanctifying economy of the Old Covenant that could not redeem and save. Christ’s sacrifice was perfect and one time for his elect people. It perfectly justifies and sanctifies the elect.”
    Your missing the point. You claimed there can’t be degrees of being set apart. This is not *necessarily* true. It is something that is contingent and thus must be determined exegetically.

    ” I know you are going to come back with all the Scripture verses that seem to imply a progress in sanctification. The internal work of the Spirit is not the good news. The good news is outside the elect at the cross of Christ. Paul boasted only in the cross of Christ and counted any internal righteousness as dung- thats what Phil. chapter 3 teaches.”
    You are subbing internal for self. This is an exegetical mistake.

    Again, those verses in chapter 2 of 1 John dont prove any implantation of a new nature. The new ability is the ability to believe the Gospel. That is the main commandment the elect can obey. I think that is clearly explained in one of the chapters of John’s Gospel.

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  152. JY
    Just to clarify- you do believe that the believer grows in Grace and knowledge. Is that right? You just don’t want to call that growth “sanctification” (or increase in holiness). Do you also dispute that the growth in g&k is empowered by the holy spirit? I’m not clear on what that growth in knowledge entails in your schema. Since regeneration brings about an inerrant understanding of the Gospel, where is room for growth in knowledge? What does it mean to grow in Grace in addition to growing in knowledge? Is it producing fruit? Is it becoming more like Christ and thus more set apart from the world? I don’t mean to ask leading or loaded questions. And I’m not interested in debating them at this stage. I just want to see if I understand you. I suspect I don’t

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  153. Yes, the elect do grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. That is not sanctification. You dont become more holy or set apart because you are considered or reckoned holy and set apart when God places the elect individual into the death of Christ.

    God is the source of knowledge and the Scriptures tell us that God wiil teach his elect the Gospel, impute all their sins to Christ and impute or place them into the death of Christ at their justification. This placement or baptism into Christ’s death (Romans chapter 6) is the cause of the effectual call and creation of faith by the Spirit. As Romans chapter 8 tells us the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Peter, in one of his letters, tells us that faith is given because of righteousness too. I think that is in the first or second sentence of 2 Peter chapter 1. The elect are justified from sin because Christ’s death fulfills the demands of Gods Law in a just manner. The death of Christ not only pays the elects debt, it propitiates Gods wrath on our disobedience and expiates the elects guilt and condemnation. This occurs for the elect alone and not the non elect. All the conditions are fulfilled by Christ’s death along with the sending of the Spirit who creates faith in the object of Christ’s death. The righteousness is found in Christ’s death at Calvary.

    The Holy Spirit is the source of growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ because the Holy Spirt illuminates the truths of the Word to the elect . Christ is the Word or Logos of God. By saying that the Holy Spirit is the source of growth, I am not saying the elect are implanted with a new nature. There are two legal states not two natures. The elect still live in this mortal body of sin. Our corruption was not crucified with Christ. Our old condemned and guilty life in Adam was crucified with Christ. We dont have immortal souls. The soul that sins shall die. Christ won immortality for the elect alone.

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  154. John, if you don’t think God empowers us to love even now, though so imperfectly (the whole Law is fulfilled in one word) as He promises, then I’m not sure what you say He is doing in us.

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  155. @JY
    Let’s see if we can come to an understanding on this before moving forward?

    “You dont become more holy or set apart because you are considered or reckoned holy and set apart when God places the elect individual into the death of Christ.”

    What you are saying here is that you don’t become more set apart because you have been set apart already. But this is not *necessarily* so. I can set apart my China for special occasions. But I can further set it apart for special occasions with company. The fact that something has been set apart does not mean that it cannot be further set apart. That’s why in the OT it makes sense to talk about the holy place, the holier place, and the holiest place. There are degrees to being set apart.

    Now the fact that it is logically possible that someone who has been sanctified can undergo further sanctification does not mean that this possibility is actualized. That is an exegetical question. But your exegesis should not be bound by the non sequitur that something set apart cannot be made more set apart.

    Do we agree so far?

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  156. @ John Y: I’m very troubled by this:

    John Y: The following is what I hear you saying. You believe that an individual can advance in degrees of holiness by obeying the imperitives- especially those imperatives that imply effort in their commands. I also hear you saying that an implanted new nature along with the work of the Holy Spirit give the elect a new power and ability to obey the imperitives.

    What troubles me is that the Reformed doctrine is quite different:

    They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.f — WCF 13.1

    Notice the differences between the actual Reformed doctrine and what you wrote. First, with regard to the role of the persons of the Trinity, sanctification is accomplished *both* by Christ and by His Spirit.

    You have misrepresented the doctrine by alleging that the Reformed doctrine attributes sanctification to the work of the Spirit alone, outside of Christ’s work on the cross. That is false on both counts – not the work of the Spirit alone, and not outside of Christ’s work on the cross.

    Second, with regard to the contribution of the individual, note that sanctification is accomplished by God alone, resulting in “the practice of true holiness.” That is the Reformed teaching.

    You have misrepresented that teaching (not only here, but elsewhere) as “You believe that an individual can advance in degrees of holiness by obeying the imperitives.”

    That’s completely false. In the standard Reformed teaching, obeying the imperatives is a result, not a cause, of sanctification.

    I’m not saying that you’re intentionally misrepresenting. I’m just saying that you aren’t able, for whatever reason, to correctly state the actual Reformed position.

    Wouldn’t you agree that you need to be able to correctly state the Reformed position before you are able to declare it a “false gospel”? And that is it only good and right that you make every effort to do so?

    Thanks,

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  157. Sbd,

    Your continued referral to degrees of holiness does not hold up. The elect died with Christ- his death is the elects death. Christ is the holiest of holy and the elect are reckoned so too because of their legal union with his death. The degree of instrinsic holiness inside the elect is futile to try to measure and guage when the elect still carry around this body of sin, corruption and decay. Are you still going to be reffering to the olympic athlete metaphor when you are 65 years old?

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  158. JY – I think we are talking past each other here. I’m making a much more narrow point in hope of clarifying things. You keep saying that you can’t have degrees of holiness. Surely you agree that it is at least possible in principle for their to be degrees of holiness right? If it is, then you can’t assume that there are no degrees of holiness in the believer to interpret the text. You need exegetical support to infer that there are in fact no degrees of holiness.

    “Are you still going to be reffering to the olympic athlete metaphor when you are 65 years old?”
    God willing… How old do you think Paul was when he drew the metaphor?

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  159. Sdb,

    I’m saying that sanctification is imputed and there is no process or progress in sanctification. I also deny a new implanted nature at regeneration but I do believe in a new legal state. The justified elect are no longer in Adam; the justified elect are in Christ. The agents of sanctificaion are the Word, the blood of Christ and the Spirit. Remember also that I believe in what Horton called Speech/Act theory, i.e., the Word and Spirit work in tandem on the mind/heart of the elect to produce faith in the gospel along with growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Again, no implanted new nature. It’s a new legal state that is the basis for the Spirits activity in the elect. Christ sends the Spirit because of the righteousness imputed. The righteousness imputed is also the cause of faith. Faiths object is the righteousness found outside of the elect at the cross. The cross satisfies and fulfills the just demands of Gods Law for the elect alone. Grace is strictly and narrowly defined as only the imputed righteousness, i.e., being placed or baptized into Christ’s death by God the Father at the hearing of the Gospel. Salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is not the righteousness.

    What I hear you saying is that sanctification is infused (maybe you are saying that sanctification is both imputed and infused) and that there is process and progress involved in sanctification. You also believe in an infused new nature that I take as being implanted by the Spirit. Correct me, like Jeff did, if I am not stating your beliefs correctly.

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  160. Faith is not the cause of the imputed righteousness either. That is why you have to be careful to state that the imputation into Christ’s death is what unites the elect to Christ in time. When you say the Spirit unites to Christ you are conditioning salvation on something inside the sinner, i.e., Spirit created faith. The grace of the imputed righteousness is what justifies, sanctifies, glorifies, i.e, saves. Arminians believe that it is their faith that saves them. That is a false Gospel. The death of Christ is what saves and that has to be the object of faith. Is that esoteric? Can that be easily taught to anyone? If you dont include the elect alone in your gospel message the sinner will hear that fauth is the condition that he must do or fulfill.

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  161. Jeff, thanks for that correction- my bad. I do take issue with that sentence in the WCF that states the whole body of sin is destroyed in the justified elect. I take that as meaning that not only our guilt and condemnation is taken away because the elect are no longer under law but under grace (the imutation into the death of Christ) but our inherent corruption is destroyed too. Both Luther and Calvin taught that the flesh is like a stubborn mule that has to be whipped and beat into submission. Is that how the mortification process works? I have problems with that metaphor because that can be easily abused by the human powers that be. I have lots of personal experience with that from a Calminian brother.

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  162. I’m saying that sanctification is imputed and there is no process or progress in sanctification. I also deny a new implanted nature at regeneration but I do believe in a new legal state. The justified elect are no longer in Adam; the justified elect are in Christ. The agents of sanctificaion are the Word, the blood of Christ and the Spirit. Remember also that I believe in what Horton called Speech/Act theory, i.e., the Word and Spirit work in tandem on the mind/heart of the elect to produce faith in the gospel along with growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Again, no implanted new nature. It’s a new legal state that is the basis for the Spirits activity in the elect. Christ sends the Spirit because of the righteousness imputed. The righteousness imputed is also the cause of faith. Faiths object is the righteousness found outside of the elect at the cross. The cross satisfies and fulfills the just demands of Gods Law for the elect alone. Grace is strictly and narrowly defined as only the imputed righteousness, i.e., being placed or baptized into Christ’s death by God the Father at the hearing of the Gospel. Salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is not the righteousness.

    “What I hear you saying is that sanctification is infused (maybe you are saying that sanctification is both imputed and infused) and that there is process and progress involved in sanctification. ”
    Not here. What I want to address is your earlier statement. I understood you to claim that since you are either set apart or not set apart, there are no degrees of being set apart. Because of what you take to be a basic fact, the scripture should be interpreted a certain way. I want to clarify what is linguistically possible before turning to the text.

    “You also believe in an infused new nature that I take as being implanted by the Spirit. Correct me, like Jeff did, if I am not stating your beliefs correctly.”
    Thanks. Not sure about infused. I believe that we are a new creation. Some *thing* that didn’t exist now exists. We were totally depraved and utterly incapable of pleasing God. Now we have the gift of faith and can please God by deeds done in faith.

    “Faith is not the cause of the imputed righteousness either. ”
    Cause is carrying a lot of weight here. A car comes to a stop at an intersection. One person says the cause of the car stopping was that the light turned red. Someone else says it is because the driver pressed the brake pedal? Another person claims it is because the force of friction from the brake pads decelerated the car. Who is right?

    Paul says you are saved through faith.

    “That is why you have to be careful to state that the imputation into Christ’s death is what unites the elect to Christ in time. When you say the Spirit unites to Christ you are conditioning salvation on something inside the sinner, i.e., Spirit created faith.”
    I don’t understand the importance of this distinction.
    “The grace of the imputed righteousness is what justifies, sanctifies, glorifies, i.e, saves.”
    How does it do this? Why does it do this?

    “Arminians believe that it is their faith that saves them. That is a false Gospel. The death of Christ is what saves and that has to be the object of faith. Is that esoteric? ”
    Yes. You want to insist that we are saved through faith instead of by faith. If you told someone that the car stopped because the light turned red, and they corrected you to say, “no the car stopped because of the force of friction”, I suspect you would tell them to stop being a smart Alek.

    “Can that be easily taught to anyone? If you dont include the elect alone in your gospel message the sinner will hear that fauth is the condition that he must do or fulfill.”
    Or the Ephesians heard that it is by grace you have been saved through faith… without the asterisk “if you were chosen”.

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  163. Sdb: Paul says you are saved through faith.

    John Y: “That is why you have to be careful to state that the imputation into Christ’s death is what unites the elect to Christ in time. When you say the Spirit unites to Christ you are conditioning salvation on something inside the sinner, i.e., Spirit created faith.”

    Sdb: I don’t understand the importance of this distinction.

    John Y: The grace of the imputed righteousness is what justifies, sanctifies, glorifies, i.e, saves.”

    Sdb: How does it do this? Why does it do this?

    John Y: It is the object of faith that saves not tbe faith itself. Christ’s death fulfills Gods Law and satisfies Gods justice. Christ’s death not only justifies the sinner it jusifies God. It is Christ’s death imputed to the sinner that propitiates Gods wrath and expiates the guilt and condemnation. Faith does not do that. It is faiths object that is the important thing. Fairh is not the righteousness; Christ’s death is the righteousness. I guess that does not satisfy your question of why.

    Piscator says that Paul excludes all of our works from justification “whether they be done by the strength of free will or by grace.” Consequently, Piscator could readily agree with theWestminster Confession of Faith XI.1 that says that God does not justify sinners “for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness.”

    What, then, is the source of man’s righteousness? It is Christ’s satisfaction imputed to the believer. “God accepts Christ’s satisfaction for the elect…imputes the same unto them; and thereupon receives them into favor, and adopts them for sons and heirs of eternal life.” Many objected to Piscator’s view –they said that to have forgiveness of sins is not the same as being accounted righteous. They said that to have forgiveness only is to only be back where Adam began before sin.

    If Christ’s active obedience is not accounted as our righteousness, then how can Christ be our righteousness? Piscator responds that when sins are forgiven, someone is counted not only as not having done any sins but also as having done all things required. “Man’s justification consists in remission of all sins: and therefore not only of sins of committing,but also of sins of omitting.” Piscator would not agree that if only Christ’s passive obedience is imputed to us, then we ourselves must supply positive righteousness. Rather, once Christ’s satisfaction is imputed to us, we are in a state of having done everything required because our sins of omission are forgiven. Thus, for Piscator, the source of our righteousness in justification is only Christ’s satisfaction imputed to us.

    Piscator emphasizes that faith itself is excluded as a part of our righteousness before God. The consequence is that all of our works are excluded from our justification. While Christ’s satisfaction imputed to us is the sole source of our righteousness, we are by nature unrighteous. Further, even the righteous acts that we do after grace and faith are excluded from our justification, which, according to Piscator, continues to rest solely in the satisfaction of Christ imputed to us. He argues against Bellarmine that all of our works are excluded from our justification before God. He argues from the fact that Paul “speaks of works in general, whether they be done by the strength of free will or by grace,because Romans 4 speaks of Abraham’s works, those which he had done of grace and faith” Even those works that flow out of faith are clearly excluded from our justification.

    The same pronunciation that gave us comfort in this life that we have a righteous standing before God will then be pronounced openly by the Lord Jesus Christ: “You are righteous on the basis of My satisfaction imputed to you.”

    What are the results of this justification? For Piscator, we are not only forgiven of our sins, but we also have a right to eternal life, for when someone is justified, God “receives them into favor, and adopts them for sons and heirs of eternal life.” The reason why this can occur, according to Pisactor, is because God has said, “Do this, and you will live” (Lev. 18:5, Mt. 19:17, Gal. 3:12). “It comes about that he to whom God forgives sins, is so accounted as if he had not only committed nothing which God has forbidden in his law, but also omitted nothing of that which he has commanded: and therefore, as if he had perfectly fulfilled the law of God

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  164. “John Y: The grace of the imputed righteousness is what justifies, sanctifies, glorifies, i.e, saves.”

    Sdb: How does it do this? Why does it do this?

    I guess that does not satisfy your question of why.”

    Right. In your schema, I don’t see any means fitting into the causal chain.

    “Piscator says…”
    Ok. I don’t see what this has to do with our conversation. I agree that faith itself does not merit our justification. Rather faith is the means by which Grace saves us. Once we are justified, we are made a new creation and given the holy Spirit which enables us to bear good fruit. But we continually wage war against the flesh until we are freed from the very presence of sin. Are you concerned that the effects of salvation are confused with the cause?

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  165. johnyeazel says:I also deny a new implanted nature at regeneration but I do believe in a new legal state.

    According to God, this is what happens at regeneration:

    Ez 36:25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

    Titus 3: 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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  166. Sbd: Piscator says…”
    Ok. I don’t see what this has to do with our conversation. I agree that faith itself does not merit our justification. Rather faith is the means by which Grace saves us. Once we are justified, we are made a new creation and given the holy Spirit which enables us to bear good fruit. But we continually wage war against the flesh until we are freed from the very presence of sin. Are you concerned that the effects of salvation are confused with the cause?

    John Y: N0, the new creation is a new legal state not a new implanted nature. Read the Greek of that verse in 2 Cor. that speaks of the new creation.

    The elect bear fruit because they are assured that they believe the gospel and have made their election and calling sure as Peter instructs the elect to do in one of his letters.

    Do you believe that you can be freed from the presence of sin by waging war against the flesh? Is that how the Christian overcomes sin? Give me some bible verses that claim that.

    My concern is that the atoning work of Christ for the elect alone is not given the top priority in the the content of the Gospel and is taught as almost a secondary issue- like a shelf doctrine. You cant get assurance that you believe the Gospel without teaching the justice of the atoning work of Christ. The atoning work of Christ is the source of all the other blessings that result from being justified by God.

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  167. Ali, those verses say nothing of a new nature. Ive explained that already with Speech/Act theory. The Word and the Spirit work in tandem to teach and instruct by the illumination of the mind/heart. That is the new spirit. Christ sends and gives the Spirit, the Spirit does not give us Christ.

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  168. John,

    I have a couple of questions, if I may.

    (1) Ezek 36 via Ali: Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

    John: Ali, those verses say nothing of a new nature. Ive explained that already with Speech/Act theory. The Word and the Spirit work in tandem to teach and instruct by the illumination of the mind/heart.

    I don’t understand what you mean. Are you saying that having “a new heart and a new spirit within” does not count as having a new nature? Or are you saying that God says he will give a new heart and new nature, but actually does something else?

    And how does that relate to Speech-Act theory? I have always understood that theory to mean that a speaker accomplishes something by virtue of saying it (“I quit”; “Let there be light”; “You are healed.”) Here, it almost seems like you are saying God says that “I will give you a new heart” but does not accomplish it. That would be the opposite of Speech-Act theory.

    (2) If I’d read you correctly, you say that the “old man” of Eph 4.22 and Col 3.9 refers to our relationship to sin and the law prior to justification, while the “new man” refers to our relationship to sin and the law afterwards. The old man was enslaved to sin and under the law. The new man is set free from slavery to sin and is not under the law.

    OK. How does that relate to “the flesh” of Romans 6-8 or Col 3.5?

    Is the “old man” the same as or different from “the flesh”?

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  169. John, I was merely quoting scripture in response to your statement, so I’m not sure what you want to argue with God about.

    Also, again, if a person does not have Jesus and the Spirit, he is not saved, so again what is it you want to argue with God about.
    John 5:12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
    Romans 8: 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

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  170. @Ali I don’t think JY is disputing the scriptures per se. His argument is that they do not prove that we are given a new nature. In his understanding (and JY correct me if I am still getting this wrong), a believer is sanctified when he is justified. At this time he is united to Christ and receives the Spirit. The believer, as a result, grows in grace. This growth is not sanctification.

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  171. John Y: N0, the new creation is a new legal state not a new implanted nature. Read the Greek of that verse in 2 Cor. that speaks of the new creation.
    </blockquote
    I don't know Greek. You'll have to explain to me why the new *thing* that is created is not a new thing, but a different standing.

    The elect bear fruit because they are assured that they believe the gospel and have made their election and calling sure as Peter instructs the elect to do in one of his letters.

    Paul tells us that we bear fruit by “walking” by the spirit. Peter tells us to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

    Now reading Peter, I don’t see how you get that we make our election and calling sure by be being assured that you believe the gospel. He tells us to supplement our faith and to add to our knowledge. I don’t understand how this can be squared with your interpretation.

    “Do you believe that you can be freed from the presence of sin by waging war against the flesh?”
    No, I do not. I believe that as a consequence of being united to Christ and having received the Holy Spirit, we can now wage war against the flesh and subdue it. We will never do so completely though. We will only be freed from the presence of sin by being in heaven.

    “Is that how the Christian overcomes sin? Give me some bible verses that claim that.”
    Well, I don’t believe that this is how the Christian overcomes sin. Rather overcoming sin is a consequence of the new nature implanted in us. We receive that new nature because of the atoning work of Christ that justifies us, adopts us, unites us to Christ, etc… We are no longer condemned and living under God’s wrath. Our heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh. We have received the Holy Spirit — all because of the atoning work of Christ for the believer. And we only believe and receive the benefit of that work because we were chosen by God to have our sins paid for. My only hope in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus Christ. He has paid the penalty for all my sins with his precious blood and freed me from the tyranny of the devil. He watches over me in such a way that not even a single hair can fall from my head apart from the will of my Father – indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, since I am united to him, Christ by his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me willing and able to live for him.

    “My concern is that the atoning work of Christ for the elect alone is not given the top priority in the the content of the Gospel and is taught as almost a secondary issue- like a shelf doctrine.”
    I have never been part of a church where the emphasis has not been on the atoning work of Christ, the priority of believing to be saved, etc… It is never a good idea to diminish the teaching of scripture because we fear that it will be misused.

    “You cant get assurance that you believe the Gospel without teaching the justice of the atoning work of Christ.”
    Agreed!

    “The atoning work of Christ is the source of all the other blessings that result from being justified by God.”
    Agreed!

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  172. I think those verses that mention a new heart and new spirit are talking about the internal influence of the Word and the Spirit on the mind/heart. That is not the same thing as an implanted new nature. Maybe to put it another way, I dont think the bodies biology or physiology is implanted with something new that changes the nature of the person. The change is in the mind/heart/spirit by the means of Word and Spirit.

    Im referring to Speech/Act theory the way Horton defines it in his four volume book set. Im understanding that simply as the Word and Spirit working in tandem in revealing the truths of the Scriptures internally to elect individuals, i.e., those who are placed into the death of Christ with the resulting effectual call by the Gospel.

    I dont think the old man is the same thing as the flesh. I think the old man is the guilt and condemnation passed on to all of Adams descendants. Humanity is all born in Adam. It is the legal state all of humanity is born under. The old man is not our corrupt body of sin or our flesh. The corrupt body of sin or our flesh is the result of being born in Adam. The book of Romans makes a lot more sense with those definitions. Christ crucified the guilt and condemnation of that old man Adam in his flesh and then God declared His elect people in Christ. These are descriptions of changes in legal states that the book of Romans most clearly describes.

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  173. sdb says:t is never a good idea to diminish the teaching of scripture because we fear that it will be misused.

    Thanks sbd. It is interesting that some who seem to want to so defend against works righteousness of man, give evidence they don’t seem to trust God to do what He says He will do through (all of) His word.

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  174. and John simply ‘legal’ status just doesn’t make sense. Do not be amazed that Jesus says to you, ‘You must be born again.’he wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

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  175. Ali,

    You would fit in well at the fictitious Gilead- the main city where, THE HANDMAIDS TALE, takes place. I could picture you as the understudy of Aunt Lydia or maybe Commander Waterford’s wife, Serena. Serena has read widely though so maybe she is a poor comparison. I think the Aunt Lydia comparison is better.

    Do you actually read what I say in my comments or just react to what you think I am saying?

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  176. “I think those verses that mention a new heart and new spirit are talking about the internal influence of the Word and the Spirit on the mind/heart. That is not the same thing as an implanted new nature. Maybe to put it another way, I dont think the bodies biology or physiology is implanted with something new that changes the nature of the person. The change is in the mind/heart/spirit by the means of Word and Spirit.”
    Right. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that your biology changes. Rather, as a result of your legal status changing, your will, affections, and emotions begin to change.

    “Im referring to Speech/Act theory the way Horton defines it in his four volume book set. Im understanding that simply as the Word and Spirit working in tandem in revealing the truths of the Scriptures internally to elect individuals, i.e., those who are placed into the death of Christ with the resulting effectual call by the Gospel.”
    So there is a sense that we will have ears that can hear and eyes that can see. That is true. But that isn’t all. Paul repeated uses the language that you *were* X and now you *are* Y.

    “I dont think the old man is the same thing as the flesh. I think the old man is the guilt and condemnation passed on to all of Adams descendants. Humanity is all born in Adam. It is the legal state all of humanity is born under. The old man is not our corrupt body of sin or our flesh. The corrupt body of sin or our flesh is the result of being born in Adam. The book of Romans makes a lot more sense with those definitions.”
    I don’t see how that helps. I still think our fundamental difference is that you think it is nonsensical for one to be more sanctified. But if you allow sanctification (set apart) to apply to different things, I don’t see the problem. There is a sense that one was always sanctified in that one was always among the elect. There is a sense that one is sanctified when one is justified, united to Christ, and adopted by the Father. There is also a sense that one is sanctified as one grows in grace. In the first example, your status as one chose by God sets you apart from those not chosen. In the second example, your legal status has been changed. In the third, your behavior has been changed.

    “Christ crucified the guilt and condemnation of that old man Adam in his flesh and then God declared His elect people in Christ. These are descriptions of changes in legal states that the book of Romans most clearly describes.”
    Right, but it doesn’t stop with the change in legal state. You have to do exegetical violence to the NT epistles that repeatedly include imperative for behavior that distinguishes them from the world.

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  177. Yes, I read what you say. To me, it is often confusing, contradictory with yourself, contradictory to God’s word, contradictory to stated beliefs of the reformed; and talk about just reacting to what others are saying, sheesh;
    and yes, seems like intellectual man righteousness.

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  178. Ali,

    What I say in my comments can seem confusing and is contradictory to a lot of what John Piper and John MacAurthor teach. Ive made it clear thst I have a lot of disagreements with the WCF. I dont think what i am saying is contradictory to what the Scriptures teach and I have tried to explain why. I might have said some tjings that seem contradictory too but I have tried to clarify those points.

    My main point is that when you make regeneration the top priority in your soteriology and/or ordo salutis you are going to make transformation of your nature and behavior your top measuring guide when judging whether someone has really been born again. Being born again becomes the goal not knowing the accurate biblical gospel. There are many false gospels but only one true gospel. Paul was very protective and guarded about the gospel. You can fake changes of behavior and there is such a thing as behavior modification. Paul said that his behavior before he knew and understood the gospel was without blame. You cant fake knowledge and understanding of the gospel.

    The Gospel is not about a transformation of behavior. The gospel is about finding a righteousness outside yourself. That is the good news. The atoning work of Christ is the important thing. Being born again is a by product of being placed into the death of Christ. The internal work of the Spirit creates faith to believe the Gospel. How much the Spirit is involved in changing behavior is a mystery to me and I think there are many complicated factors involved. Focusing in on the gospel and the outside righteousness is a much more encouraging route in changing peoples behavior. When you focus on your insides your bound to either end up a Pharisee or wilt away in despair.

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  179. John , why don’t you just talk the word the way the bible does, all the way around. God can handle it.
    And behavior? You talk about that, but seldom about the heart.

    Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

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  180. ” John , why don’t you just talk the word the way the bible does, all the way around. God can handle it.”

    Careful Ali! This is the way liberals spoke when they wanted to free themselves from the bonds of confessions. This led to Arianism in one age and Unitarianism in another.

    The scripture is quite clear about the importance of teachers for explication of the scriptures. JY is making a valid point about the dangers of legalism and self-righteousness. He errs on a couple of points, but they are very subtle. The main error I see is that the ordo salutis serves as a central part of the gospel, and any error means you are believing a false gospel and thus lost. I think he is mistaken here and inadvertently falling into the trap he is trying to avoid. But instead of judging people by their charitable works he is judging them by their theological acuity. I don’t think this is malicious or the result of twisting scripture any more than the opposite error of folks like Billy Graham who taught that one could cause regeneration (being born again) by making a decision to follow Christ.

    In the end, I am unconvinced that the gospel is complicated…”it is enough to know that Jesus died and that he died for me” to be saved. Of course the “how” matters and as we grow in Grace and knowledge of the truth, we will learn those things.

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  181. @jy
    Paul writing to the “brothers” concludes his epistle, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
    If sanctification were not progressive, it would not make any sense for Paul to hope that the brothers would be sanctified as they already had been sanctified.

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  182. Sdb,

    It is not enough to know that Jesus died and that he died for me. That is a serious obvious error. Is that what the Reformed confessions teach? I doubt it but I might be wrong.

    Is the Jesus who died for everybody the same Jesus who died for the elect alone? You say that does not matter. I say that the Jesus who died for everybody is a Jesus who lets sinners condition their own salvation. The sinner meeting conditions is not part of the Gospel. God demands in the Law and God gives what God demands in the Gospel. And God does this in a just way. You dont have to include teaching about the justice of the cross in the Gospel?

    What about the outside righteousness and where that is found? That does not have to be taugt as the object of faith? All you need as the object of saving faith, acvording to Sdb, is that Jesus died and he died for me. Do you have to tell and explain to the sinner the 3 Reformed elements of faith? What Sbd says about the object of saving faith may sound simple but it ends up being not so simple. Are you really trusting that Jesus died and that he died for me- i mean really, really, really trusting that. Are you trusting it so much that it actually transforms you and changes you? Is that the good news Gospel?

    God will reveal the Gospel to His elect sheep. God is the source of revelation and knowledge and knows what the sheep need to hear. Psul says, the gospel is the power of God for salvation for in it the righteousness of God is revealed. That is not theological acuity. The accusation of theological acuity is Sbd’s spin on what I am saying. The ordo salutis is a summarizing tool to help guard the true Gospel from false Gospels. A lot of people say that the ordo does not matter but then claim their own ordo as the right ordo with spiritual union with Christ as the umbrella term that covers it all. The main significant difference I am advocating against what is normally taught as the Reformed ordo is that the legal placing into the death of Christ by God the Father is what saves. That is the righteousness of God and from God to His elect sheep. Sdb keeps wanting to tell me that is esoteric and a subtle error. Does it ever pass through Sdb’s head that he might be the one in error?- it does not seem so to me.

    Ill have to comment later about that sanctification verse.

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  183. @JY “A lot of people say that the ordo does not matter but then claim their own ordo as the right ordo”
    Of course. Just because you don’t have to have the order exactly right to be saved doesn’t mean that there isn’t a right answer to the ordo. You don’t need to know the solution to the time-dependent Schrodinger equation, we may disagree as to what the right solution is. Given that, I don’t see why it is a problem for me to say that I know the right solution.

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  184. @ John Y:

    What is the difference between justification, sanctification, and adoption in your view?

    From your description, it seems like justification is a declaration of being righteous, while sanctification is a declaration of being holy, or set apart. I assume that adoption would be a declaration that we belong to the Lord.

    I’m asking because it looks like sanctification is no different between justification + adoption in your understanding.

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  185. Jeff,

    Justification is being baptized (imputed into, placed into) into the death of Christ by God the Father at the hearing of the Gospel. I think the content of the gospel is critical and is much more than just knowing that Jesus died and he died for me. You got to know what propitiates Gods wrath, where the righteousness is, and that it is by grace because of election. Even Peter preached election in his first sermon in Acts. The nature and extent of the atonement has to be assented to. These are not complicated and esoteric biblical truths.

    N0o one here has answered my question about whether someone can be regenerated by God and justified without hearing and understanding the gospel.

    Moving on, the justified are adopted. That is about all I can comment on about that. Im not sure why you think that is a significant question.

    Again, sanctification is by the Word, the blood of Christ, and the Spirit. As far as I can tell, sanctification is definitive and reoccuring. It seems that the elect are sanctified at the hearing of the gospel, when they are placed into the death of Christ and when the Spirit works internally on the heart/mind of the elect.

    I dont see tbe purpose of putting process and progress into the doctrine os sanctification. That is what the Catholics do and I dont think there was a clear break regarding sanctification by the Protestants during and after the Reformation. Progress and process in sanctification leads to theological ideas like a final justification by works or preservation by progress in sanctification. I see that as just a disguised firm of justification by works. It supposedly supplements the work of Christ for his elect people.

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  186. Sdb says: In the end, I am unconvinced that the gospel is complicated…”it is enough to know that Jesus died and that he died for me” to be saved.
    johnyeazel says: Sdb,It is not enough to know that Jesus died and that he died for me. That is a serious obvious error.

    John, what did you believe when you were saved? What did Paul believe when he was saved? What do young children believe when they are saved? Jesus said we must be as a child to see the kingdom, so simple seems right. (Not that we don’t grow in knowledge of Him subsequently.)

    The Gospel project provided this aid (abbreviated) for younger children, not perfect, but simple with the basics:
    God rules- God created everything, He is on charge of everything Rev 4:11
    We sinned – Everyone sins or disobeys God. Our sin separates us from God Romans 3:23
    God provided – God is holy & must punish sin. God sent His son Jesus to take the punishment we deserve John 3:16
    Jesus gives- Jesus took our punishment for sin by giving His life, and He gives us His righteousness. God sees us as if we lived the perfect life Jesus lived 2 Cor 5:21
    We respond-Everyone has a choice to make. Will you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior? You can turn from self and sin to Jesus Romans 10:9-10

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  187. @JY
    “N0o one here has answered my question about whether someone can be regenerated by God and justified without hearing and understanding the gospel.”

    Sorry about that. I thought I had answered that question, but with three people responding to you and my *WAY* too long responses, you might have missed it or I might have not posted it very clearly. No one can be saved without hearing and believing the gospel. Where we differ is 1. on the content of the gospel and 2. how complete your knowledge needs to be. I found Jeff’s discussion of Peter, his salvation, and subsequent misconceptions of the gospel compelling. There is a big difference between incomplete knowledge and knowledgeable rejection of aspects of the gospel. Regard, the content of the gospel, there are many important background theological facts that bear on the gospel (e.g., the dual nature of Christ), but these are not the gospel. That’s why Paul’s brief summary of the gospel is sufficient. Sure there are a lot of background facts that are important, but like the blind man who was healed, there is much that we may not know. That’s why we read about moving on from the milk or growing in grace and knowledge. This growth does not save, but it always follows when one is justified.

    Regarding your definitions of justification and sanctification, I don’t think your definitions capture what the *are*:
    “Justification is being baptized (imputed into, placed into) into the death of Christ by God the Father at the hearing of the Gospel.”
    Your statement is absolutely true about *how* one is justified, but that doesn’t tell us what justification is. Fundamentally, justification is being made right with God. We are declared righteous.

    Your statement about sanctification makes this even more clear, “Again, sanctification is by the Word, the blood of Christ, and the Spirit. As far as I can tell, sanctification is definitive and reoccuring.” Again, you are absolutely right that sanctification is by the Word, blood of Christ, and the Spirit. There is also a sense in which it is definitive and reoccurring. But that doesn’t tell us what sanctification *is*. We all know the “dictionary” definition that sanctification is to be set apart. But what does that mean exactly? At our justification, we are adopted and made sons of God and given a new heart and receive the Holy Spirit. Then we are further set apart from the world by the subduing of our flesh.

    “I dont see tbe purpose of putting process and progress into the doctrine os sanctification. That is what the Catholics do and I don’t think there was a clear break regarding sanctification by the Protestants during and after the Reformation.”
    The purpose is to faithfully understand scripture. Paul and the other epistle writers talk about perseverance, growth, moving on from milk, bearing fruit, etc… When we look over the whole of the NT, we give this process and the progress it entails a name…sanctification.

    “Progress and process in sanctification leads to theological ideas like a final justification by works or preservation by progress in sanctification. I see that as just a disguised firm of justification by works. It supposedly supplements the work of Christ for his elect people.”
    I understand your concern here and agree that it is an important one. Peter talks about how Paul can be difficult to understand and his words twisted. But just as one can twist the understanding of sanctification to teach that one is made right with God by doing good works (keeping the law), one can twist the understanding of justification to teach that one may sin more and more that grace may abound. Antinomianism is a problem too, but we shouldn’t diminish the truth of justification just because we are afraid of what these truths may lead to.

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  188. Ali,

    I spent 19 years faithfully attending local churches and did not know the biblical gospel even though I thought I did know it. The object of my faith during that time was my spiritual experience of being “born again.” That happened when I was 18 years old while visiting my oldest brother in Traverse City, Michigan the weekend before I left to go to college at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio (September 1975). I attended a fellowship/bible study meeting with him at one of his friends house and got all fuzzy and warm inside when my brother prayed for and talked with me about the gospel after the meeting. I dont remember what he told me about the gospel but that seemed irrelevant to me at the time. What mattered to me was this spiritual experience I had. It kept driving me to learn more about it and that is what I spent most of my time doing for the next 20 years.

    I left for college a few days later and right across the hall in the dorm I was living at was a guy who led a fellowship group on campus. We got to be friends and I started reading the bible and attending these meetings. I kept attending churches for the next 20 years too.

    I spent a lot of time reading Francis Schaeffer books in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Then I got introduced th the Theonomists (mostly Rushdoony) and R.C. Sproul. I dont know how many books,tapes and videos I consumed from R.C. Sproul but it was a lot. I ptobably made him a lot of money. One time, a guy from his ministry visited me at my apartment. They must have been tracking the people who were buying lots of their resources. Then in the 90’s I began reading Modern Reformation magazine and began reading the resources the Westminster West folks made available.

    My point in all of this is that I really did not start hearing and understanding the biblical gospel until about 2009 while reading posts and comments at the oldlife website. It amazes me now that a lot of Reformed confessional folks can say stuff like all you need to know about the gospel is that Jesus died and he died for me. I dont think the parable of the sower and the seed teaches that- do you? Btw, the seed in the Scriptures is Christ and the righteousness he won for his elect people at the cross. The seed is not an implanted new nature.

    It aldo amaazes me now when most of the confessional Reformed get all convuluted when you challenge their more and more doctrine of sanctification while maintaining a gospel-lite attitude towards what the gospel is.

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  189. John Y: Justification is being baptized (imputed into, placed into) into the death of Christ by God the Father at the hearing of the Gospel.

    OK. I agree.

    John Y: I think the content of the gospel is critical and is much more than just knowing that Jesus died and he died for me.

    I agree again, though I’m unclear how much or how clearly one must understand in order to be justified. The Philippian jailer comes to mind, as does Paul himself. It seems to me that becoming clearer on the gospel might very well develop post-justification, which is Paul seems to pray for that for the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, and why he writes a letter to the Galatians speaking as if they are saved, yet horribly confused on a basic gospel truth.

    Would you agree that one’s understanding of the gospel can become clearer over time?

    John Y: N0o one here has answered my question about whether someone can be regenerated by God and justified without hearing and understanding the gospel.

    Sorry, missed that question. Not ordinarily, though John the Baptist was clearly an exception, seeming to believe from the womb. Elect infants dying in infancy are clearly a similar exception.

    John Y: As far as I can tell, sanctification is definitive and reoccuring.

    I don’t understand this. Definitive in the context of sanctification usually means one-time. How then definitive and reoccuring?

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  190. John Y: It seems that the elect are sanctified at the hearing of the gospel, when they are placed into the death of Christ and when the Spirit works internally on the heart/mind of the elect.

    Would you agree that the work of the Spirit you describe occurs throughout the life of the believer?

    John Y: I dont see tbe purpose of putting process and progress into the doctrine os sanctification.

    We agree that some kind of process does occur, and growth occurs, in the life of Christians. For what purpose? We agree because we see it in the Scripture.

    John Y:That [making sanctification a process with progress] is what the Catholics do and I dont think there was a clear break regarding sanctification by the Protestants during and after the Reformation.

    The definitive break between Protestants and Catholics with regard to sanctification is two-fold.

    (1) Catholics make sanctification a part of justification (CCC 1989, 1995). Hence, for Catholics, justification naturally includes development (CCC 2000, 2014) and is suspended until final justification at the judgment. Only those given the grace of perseverance will merit heaven (CCC 2016).

    It was a Protestant distinctive to separate those two, so that one is justified by imputation apart from works, then sanctified by infusion, specifically by the work of the Spirit, because one has already been justified.

    (2) For Catholics, sanctification brings life (CCC 2023, 2027). For Protestants, we are brought fully from death to life at regeneration, and sanctification is “living up to what we have already attained.”

    The two points where Catholics and Protestants agree on sanctification are that sanctification is by infusion, and that sanctification is by the work of the Spirit.

    John Y: Progress and process in sanctification leads to theological ideas like a final justification by works or preservation by progress in sanctification. I see that as just a disguised firm of justification by works.

    No. This slippery slope argument is unsound. Calvin’s Institutes, Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, and AA Hodge’s Outlines of Theology provide three good examples of theological treatments that talk about sanctification as a process, yet explicitly reject both a final justification by works AND preservation by progress in sanctification (see Institutes 3.14.11).

    I believe you’ve been misled into believing that if Protestants agree with Catholics on one point, they must eventually agree with them at all points. That’s clearly false; Protestants agree with Catholics that justification is by grace, but not that justification is by grace through faith alone, and there are many other points of difference.

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  191. Thanks John, I like to hear people’s ‘testimony’. I think you said you were saved at 18, but didn’t really focus on worshipping Jesus at that time. The reason I like to hear the stories especially is because is it such glory to God to see the way He works individually, specifically, and uniquely in each person’s life. I remember a time thinking He probably wasn’t really that involved in all the details of one’s lives.
    For me, when He saved me, I recall the overwhelming gratitude for His mercy, having a profound sense of the destruction from which He snatched and rescued me and with deep regret for my sinfulness.

    Titus 3: 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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  192. Ali says: “Thanks John, I like to hear people’s ‘testimony’. I think you said you were saved at 18, but didn’t really focus on worshipping Jesus at that time”

    John Y: No, that is not what I said. I said I had a spiritual experience at the age of 18 and that the spiritual experience was the object of my faith for many years. I don’t believe I was justified by God at that time. The gospel was not the object of my faith; specifically, the righteousness Christ won at the cross for his elect people. The knowledge and understanding of the gospel had not been revealed to me. I thought I had been regenerated or born again and that is what I was believing in.

    Is focusing in on worshipping Jesus the work or action that makes the difference in someone’s life? Is that what justifies or is that what sanctifies in the gospel according to Ali?

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  193. All my religious works and activity during those many years were dead works not good works because they were done before the gospel had been revealed to me. You cannot perform good works without having assurance that the gospel has been revealed to you.

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  194. Jeff,

    God draws the elect sheep to Himself by revealing the Gospel to them. They come to know and understand the gospel and that becomes the object of their faith. The elect sheep have raised the white flag in regards to trying to establish their own inherent or internal righteousness. The Holy Spirit has illuminated the elects minds with the result that they submit themselves to Gods righteousness found in the Gospel.

    You are going to have to define how you are understanding the word infusion. If, by infusion, you mean the Holy Spirit illuminating our minds/hearts to the truths found in the Scriptures than I agree. However, I don’t think that is what you mean by infusion.

    I think tbat is a stretch to say that Catholics believe that someone is saved by grace but not through faith alone. You have a much hroader definition of grace than I do. Grace is the imputed righteousness and Catholics do not believe in any kind of legal imputation. That is the main reason that Jason Stellman converted to Catholocism. He rejected the idea of imputation- the imputation of Adams sin to his descendents, the imputation of the elects sin to Christ and the imputation of Christ’s death or righteousnes to each elect individual at their justification.

    I still reject the idea of progress in sanctification as a more and more diminishing sin in our lives. Sanctification is by the Word, the blood and the Spirit. The effect of the Word, the blood and the Spirit on our lives is reoccuring. They constantly remind the elect of the gospel and their dependance on it and faith in it. That is what I mean by definitive and reoccuring.

    I can post an extended argument that rejects the idea of progressive sanctification but that already has been posted here before.

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  195. @jy
    ” They come to know and understand the gospel and that becomes the object of their faith. ”
    Your “know” allows no room for error about the content or extent of the gospel. You’ve replaced the moral perfectionism of the holiness movement with a sort of intellectual perfectionism that stands in contrast to the scriptures.

    “It is not enough to know that Jesus died and that he died for me. That is a serious obvious error. Is that what the Reformed confessions teach? I doubt it but I might be wrong.”
    It’s a line from the hymn “my heart has found a resting place”.

    “Is the Jesus who died for everybody the same Jesus who died for the elect alone? You say that does not matter. I say that the Jesus who died for everybody is a Jesus who lets sinners condition their own salvation. The sinner meeting conditions is not part of the Gospel.”
    You are confusing Jesus’s nature with his actions. What if God willed to save everyone. Was Christ’s death sufficient or would we need more than one crucifixion?

    “God demands in the Law and God gives what God demands in the Gospel. And God does this in a just way. You dont have to include teaching about the justice of the cross in the Gospel?”
    Obviously not. Not every gospel presentation in the scriptures include this. We all have cognitive dissonances…not everything you believe is logically coherent. That’s ok!

    “What about the outside righteousness and where that is found? That does not have to be taugt as the object of faith?”
    Jesus dying for me is external. He is my object of faith. Not syllogisms about him.

    “All you need as the object of saving faith, acvording to Sdb, is that Jesus died and he died for me.”
    That’s what I said. Thanks for reminding me.

    “Do you have to tell and explain to the sinner the 3 Reformed elements of faith?”
    No. Wesleyans, Calvinists, and Baptists can all come to faith in Christ without detailed doctrinal knowledge. Of course if they are justified they will be sanctified and will see growth in Grace and *knowledge* and they will display the fruit of the spirit, and they will persevere to the end.

    “What Sbd says about the object of saving faith may sound simple but it ends up being not so simple. Are you really trusting that Jesus died and that he died for me- i mean really, really, really trusting that. Are you trusting it so much that it actually transforms you and changes you? Is that the good news Gospel?”
    “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Are you really believing? I mean really, really believing that? Are you believing that so much it transforms you? What’s your point with these questions?

    “God will reveal the Gospel to His elect sheep. God is the source of revelation and knowledge and knows what the sheep need to hear.”
    He also says that they will grow in “knowledge”. We don’t know it all right away?

    “Psul says, the gospel is the power of God for salvation for in it the righteousness of God is revealed. That is not theological acuity. The accusation of theological acuity is Sbd’s spin on what I am saying.”
    That’s right. You are adding to the gospel and creating an intellectual form of perfectionism. No doubt, no error, ready to condemn anyone who slightly disagrees with you lost in their sins. “Yeah I believe a Christian grows in Grace, but if you think that growth should be called sanctification you are on the highway to hell.”

    “The ordo salutis is a summarizing tool to help guard the true Gospel from false Gospels. A lot of people say that the ordo does not matter but then claim their own ordo as the right ordo with spiritual union with Christ as the umbrella term that covers it all.”
    Right. The ordo is a helpful tool, but you can be mixed up with it and be saved. There is still a right answer and as we grow in knowledge we should find that we approximate it better.

    “The main significant difference I am advocating against what is normally taught as the Reformed ordo is that the legal placing into the death of Christ by God the Father is what saves. That is the righteousness of God and from God to His elect sheep. Sdb keeps wanting to tell me that is esoteric and a subtle error.”
    Uh, the reformed doctrine of justification is that, ” Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

    So your difference with this is that the legal placing into the death of Christ by God the Father is what saves. The difference between that and what the wcf describes is incredibly subtle. In fact, Im not sure I can describe the difference.

    “Does it ever pass through Sdb’s head that he might be the one in error?- it does not seem so to me.”
    What does that have to do with anything? What difference does it make to you whether I doubt myself or am confident?

    Where are we? You claimed that sanctification is not progressive by definition (you are or you aren’t). I showed that isn’t the case as there are degrees of holiness. Sanctification may be definitive, but that needs to be established exegetically. We agree that there is growth in Grace and knowledge. We disagree on whether it should be called sanctification. This distinction strikes me as esoteric.

    You have an expansive understanding of the gospel. I’m still not clear on the boundaries here for you. You’ve made clear that we have to get the person of Christ right. You still haven’t told me if that extends to hypostatic union, Trinity, etc.. can your definition be functionally modalist and you still be saved? What about God? How well do you need to be able to articulate his attributes to be considered saved? We know you think we can’t err on the limited atonement. How far do you go?

    Finally we have the imperatives in the NT that describe a difference in the believer pre/post conversion…you were X, now you are y. Somehow I gather you don’t think those are actually imperatives? Or the fruit we purportedly bear isn’t actually a change in behavior, but a change in how we are viewed? Sorry to be so dense… I really don’t get what you are saying….

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  196. Sdb,

    This is getting ridiculous but I will continue playing the game. Commenting back would be much easier on my laptop than it is on my cell phone. My laptop has not been repaired yet.

    John Y: They come to know and understand the gospel and that becomes the object of their faith. ”

    Sdb: Your “know” allows no room for error about the content or extent of the gospel. You’ve replaced the moral perfectionism of the holiness movement with a sort of intellectual perfectionism that stands in contrast to the scriptures.

    John Y: Paul tells the Galatians that if someone believes another Gospel than the one Paul taught them then let them be accursed.

    The content of the Gospel is more than Sdb says it is. The gospel is more than Jesus died and he died for me. Even the WCF in the justification section says more than that, as you stated. I’m saying that election, the nature and extent of the atonement, and where the righteousness is found has to be included for reasons I have already stated. If you dont teach election and non-election the sinner has no reason to believe that redemption is conditioned on something self-generated. The nature and extent of the atonement teaches who Jesus died for and why the atoning work of Christ saves. The righteousness is found in that atoning death outside the sinner. If you want to call that intellectual perfectionism than so be it. It is not that difficult to teach.

    Sdb’s main argument is that the book of Acts sermons dont include all that teaching. Sdb cant imagine that maybe this group of people in the boik of Acts had been following Jesus and His disciples around for about 3 years and that they knew more about the gospel than just those sermons in Acts. To me, that is beside the point because Jesus, Paul, John and Peter teach more about the Gospel than Sdb deems necessary. Bottom line, you have to determine what the Gospel is from the whole New Testament canon. I see no reason to carry on this argument any longer.

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  197. Error alert: I did not text the word not in one of the sentences in my last comment. If you dont teach election and non-election there is no reason NOT to believe….

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  198. John,

    School is starting up, so I will hibernate sometime this week. A few things:

    (1) Keep trusting in Christ and His righteousness imputed to you.

    (2) To you and SDB, try to find a way to talk about what the “minimum gospel message” must be, and why. It is striking to me that in Galatians, the book that clears up true v false gospel more than any other, not a word is spoken of election. Your point is that Scripture doesn’t necessarily tell us everything that everyone said. True enough, but what it does tell us is sufficient so that nothing need be added to it.

    You might consider why God never says that one must believe in election to be saved. Further, nothing in Scripture says anything directly about imputation being the cause of regeneration. And if God does not say that, can we safely require it for salvation? It is possible that you are adding something to the gospel by requiring people to believe in your particular brand of election and imputation in order to be saved. A good and necessary inference is needed here.

    (3) Catholics do in fact teach salvation by grace, not through faith alone. Those are the exact words they use. However, you are right to say that they understand grace differently than Protestants.

    (4) Here’s why I think Scripture requires us to believe that God creates a new nature in us.

    (4a) Two passages directly state so

    Eph 4: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    Col 3: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature … Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

    We note that there is a new self, and it is created. Further, we note the properties of the old self and new self. The old self is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. The new self is created to be like God and it is also being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

    (4b) The new birth of John 3 entails the creation of a new life, and not merely a new legal relationship between individual and God.

    (4c) The view that God does not create a new nature would imply that the Spirit sanctifies us by working on the flesh, producing life, faith, and righteousness in our sin nature. This is contrary to Gal 5, in which the Spirit wars against the flesh.

    The only alternative to the Spirit reforming our flesh is that the Spirit works upon something new: our new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    (5) John Y: You are going to have to define how you are understanding the word infusion.

    Fair question. I think it’s important not to go beyond Scripture here. We know that God creates a new nature in us. We know that the new nature is dependent on the work of the Spirit for life.

    Beyond that, I cannot say. Infusion means that God creates a new nature, and then works on that new nature by His Spirit.

    (6) John Y: I can post an extended argument that rejects the idea of progressive sanctification but that already has been posted here before.

    If you wouldn’t mind posting a link to it here, I haven’t seen it before.

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  199. Jeff,

    The extended argument against progressive sanctification:

    There are different “sanctifications” in the NT. Certainly II Thess 2:13 is talking about the work of God in the heart to cause the elect to believe the gospel. But that work of causing us to believe the gospel is not to be equated with the Father placing the elect into Christ’s death so that they are “set apart by the blood”. The key for me is texts like I Peter 1 which address Christians as “saints”. Sure, either God has worked in our hearts to believe the gospel, but even that goes up and down, increase and decrease. But either we are saints or not, and this is first of all about being united to the death of Christ. Who unites us to the death of Christ? What does Romans 6 say? Is it the Spirit who gives us Christ’s death, or is Christ’s death (imputed by the Father) which gives us Christ’s Holy Spirit? We can’t say that “sanctification by the blood” is included in what Shaw and the WCF are talking about because they are simply not talking about “sanctification by Christ’s death because they are limited to the Spirit’s work in sanctification, and thus make the Spirit the agent of application. Why they do this, to the neglect of the Father’s agency in sanctification, is a historical mystery to me—and I won’t speculate about their motives, but I want us to not repeat their mistakes.

    John Murray is not talking about being set apart by Christ’s death. Murray is talking about a new disposition.

    Steve Yang– Murray argues that those who crucified their old self with Christ are no longer under the dominion of sin (Romans 6). He says that “it is wrong to use these texts to support any other view of the victory entailed than that which the Scripture teaches it to be, namely, the radical breach with the power and love of sin which is necessarily the possession of every one who has been united to Christ. Union with Christ is union with him in the efficacy of his death and in virtue of his resurrection – he who thus died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion” (Murray, 143). Murray further writes, “[the Christian] must reckon himself to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ his Lord. It is the faith of this fact that provides the basis for, and the incentive to the fulfillment of, the exhortation, ‘Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body…’” (Murray, 146).

    Murray’s usage of Scripture, however, has failed to prove that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit necessarily sanctifies a man in a progressive and ontological sense. His usage of Romans, for instance, is unwarranted for the reason that he assumes that by “the dominion of sin” Paul has an ontological change in mind. However, when Paul wrote “so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) the verb he chose to use was logi,zesqe. This verb [logi,zomai] means to “consider”, to “count”, to “credit” or to “reckon”. Such a verb is not used in an ontological sense, but in a positional sense. Paul also uses this very verb to describe the manner in which Abraham was counted righteous by God – by faith (Rom. 4:6, 8-11, 22-24). God accounted, or declared, Abraham righteous even though Abraham ontologically wasn’t. Hence, by his usage of this passage all Murray has done is undermine his own assumptions by reaffirming the positional aspect of God’s blessings.
    The freedom from the dominion of sin, which Paul speaks of, is not the ontological change in holiness, as Murray would suggest. Rather, it is the freedom from the condemnation of sin and from the guilt of falling short of the law’s demands. Whereas Murray would seem to suggest that sanctification is conforming to the law (by the Spirit’s help), Paul’s claim is that “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6,). Paul’s claim is that believers are released from the condemnation of the law’s demand. It is freedom from this captivity that Paul has in mind when he says that Christians are free from the dominion of sin. Whereas Murray would suggest that being freed from the dominion of sin means that the believer has newly attained ability to keep the law, Paul, on the contrary, suggests that such freedom means Christians are absolved from the law’s demands. All the law could do is condemn, kill, and destroy. And it is for this very reason that in Rom. 7:7 Paul anticipates the objection that “doesn’t such a view suggest that the law is sin?” However, the view that the freedom from the dominion of sin only means that the Spirit aids us in obeying the law would never draw one to raise the objection that the law is sin (in fact, quite the contrary). If one were in line with Pauline theology, one would have to expect answer to similar objections in which Paul faced. The fact that John Murray does not seems to attract such objections only suggests that he is not reading the Apostle Paul correctly.

    It is not the case that progressive sanctification follows from the imperatives given to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It will first be demonstrated that the burden of proof is on Murray to prove that the imperatives given to the believer entail the believer’s ability to obey them. A potential set of counter objections from Murray will then be introduced and be responded to.

    Murray writes: “the sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13) (Murray, 148). Murray wishes to acknowledge that the commands in Scripture demand human responsibility – not least Paul’s exhortation to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). However, one must ask what relevance the imperatives have in proving the progressive nature of sanctification? Unless one is ready to make the Pelagian presupposition that God would not give us a command unless we were able to keep it, one cannot assume that just because believers are given a command that the believer has the ability to keep them. Murray would agree with Berkhof that uncoverted man is commanded to be perfect, to do good, to not sin, to believe and be saved, but simultaneously “cannot do any act, however insignificant, whichfundamentally meets with God’s approval and answers to the demands of God’s holy law…In a word, he is unable to do any spiritual good” (Berkhof, 247, emphasis mine). If responsibility does not entail ability in the pre-converted state, then it is the burden of proof of Murray to demonstrate that responsibility entails ability in the post-converted state. Murray clearly fails to demonstrate this by his exegesis of Romans 6. One cannot simply assume that God gave the believer commandments and thus man is able – or guaranteed – to keep them.

    Murray would probably indicate that the difference between post-conversion and pre-conversion is the presence of the Spirit in the regenerate man (which is clearly absent in the unregenerate man). Murray would then state that the Spirit then “enables” the believer to perform the requirements of the Law. However, he must demonstrate how regeneration or the presence of the Holy Spirit grants the believer an ability which the unbeliever does not have. One cannot assume, as Murray does, that the Holy Spirit’s presence grants this ability.
    If one cannot assume that the Holy Spirit grants the believer the ability to keep God’s commandments, then Murray might then object by asking me for an explanation on what purpose God gives someone a commandment if one isn’t able to keep it. To this objection, the Apostle Paul responds, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would nothave known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Rom.7:7, ESV). Again, Paul says elsewhere, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come…so then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:19, 24, ESV). Paul tells us that the law was given so that it would demonstrate that we can’t keep it and, thereby, lead us to Christ as our righteousness. Nowhere does Paul say that commandments are given so that we could keep them. Like the Old Testament Law Paul’s exhortations provide context for what it means to be perfect, thereby providing a measuring stick for perfection (since perfection is always God’s standard) and drive all men to our only hope, Jesus Christ. Paul contextualizes God’s commands, to demonstrate what the perfect man would look like in their contexts of church conflict (1 Cor. 3, 12-14), in church conduct (1 Ti. 5), in marriage (Eph. 5), in mature character (Rom. 12, 1 Thess 5), in generous giving (2 Cor. 8), in relation to the state (Rom. 13), and so forth. There is no question that Paul wishes his exhortations and commandments to be obeyed. But this demonstrates the pastoral heart of Paul, much like it demonstrated Moses’ heart over the nation Israel. However, in no way do the commandments of Paul demonstrate ability to God’s covenantal people in the New Testament any more than the commandments of Moses demonstrated ability to God’s covenantal people in the Old Testament.

    It is interesting to see how Murray can quote so much Scripture and yet miss the essential point of what the passages he quotes actually demonstrate. Jesus’ words in Matthew, for instance, “ye shall be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) demonstrates that God requires perfection and nothing short of it. He is not satisfied with someone’s best work (with or without the Holy Spirit). Jesus’ point in the Sermon on the Mount is that anyone’s best work still falls short of what God requires. He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18, ESV).

    Someone might read that and think that Jesus is asking his hearers to obey more, to sin less, to become more sanctified. However, that would only be relaxing God’s command of perfection and thereby be guilty of what Jesus is warning against: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19, ESV). Jesus is not asking his hearers to put in more effort, to try harder, to sin less, or to be more sanctified – inasmuch as He is setting up the perfect standard of God and thereby demonstrating that they need a greater righteousness than His hearers could ever perform. When Jesus says, “For unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20, ESV), He is trying to expose the inability of fallen man and thereby lead His hearers to find righteousness that does not come from the law, “but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9, ESV). Thus, His aim is not to show that they can keep the law (even the scribes and Pharisees have failed!), but that they can’t. Thus He continues to make the law harsher with the repeated formula: “You’ve heard it said…but I say unto You…, even if You…You have still failed” (Matt. 5:21-47). And it is in this context that Jesus says “Ye shall be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). While it is true that believers are not to be self-complacent, the response Jesus is looking for is not “O wretched man that I am…let me try harder (with or without the Holy Spirit)”, but rather, “O wretched man that I am, I am required to be perfect…who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24, ESV). It is this context which provides an understanding to which the Biblical men above state “woe is me”, and “I abhor myself”. It is in this context that they recognize their inability to perform righteousness, thus they are only left with cursing themselves.

    Again, Murray only undermines his position by the manner in which
    Murray’s usage of Scripture, therefore, in no way supports his position but only seems to emphasize the fallenness of man and his utter inability to amount to anything worthy. To argue for ability from this passage seems contrary to Jesus’ antithetical position of relaxing a commandment. Furthermore, by Murray’s understanding of complacency, it would seem as though the non-complacent man that is able to perform the law (to greater degrees) is not lead to cursing oneself, but rather to the encouraging of oneself in order to perform tasks better and more frequently (after all, the man who is so able wouldn’t want be discouraged by cursing himself). Simply said, Murray does not disprove the positional view of sanctification by claiming that the regenerate man should not be morally lax

    And this link that I have already posted:

    https://treadinggrain.com/2010/guest-blogger-john-zahl/

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  200. Mark Seifrid also argues against the Reformed understanding of progressive sanctification:

    Unlike the Reformed, Luther did not believe in progfess in sanctification Maybe if the Reformed stopped teaching progress in “sanctification” (dying “more and more” to sin), then Kuyper and other Reformed would stop thinking that Ben Sasse is going to slow down abortion rates. or even keep Israel from killing more Muslims.

    Mark Seifrid-—-Calvin is able to speak of the condemning function of the Law with the same vigor as Luther himself ( Institutes 2.7.1-7). Yet in his eagerness to resolve the question of the unity of Scripture, he speaks of the Law as ….not bringing death but serving another purpose. According to this perspective, Law and Gospel do not address the believing human being in radically different ways, but only in differing degrees according to the measures of “grace” present within them. …. The embedding of the Law within grace qualifies law’s demand—while the Law works the death of sinners, it has a different effect on the righteous. The Reformed regard the “flesh” is present as a power that exerts partial influence on us.

    Seifrid—Luther finds a radically different anthropology in Scripture. T. There is no “intermediate state” in which we receive instruction but escape condemnation. The Law speaks even to us who are regenerate as fallen human beings. Being a Christian means again and again, in all the trials and temptations of life, hearing and believing the Gospel which overcomes the condemnation pronounced on us by the Law and by our own consciences in which that Law is written.

    Seifird—Admittedly, this perspective robs “progress” of its ultimacy. The goal and end of the Christian life is given to us already at its beginning in Jesus Christ. But this displacing of “progress” from its place of primacy prevents us from taking upon ourselves burdens that we were never meant to bear. What those need who do not feel themselves to be sinners is the careful, gentle, yet direct exposure of their sins—not merely the faults of our society or problems in our culture but the root sins of self seeking, pride, lust, envy, greed by which we deny God and mistreat one another

    http://equip.sbts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/sbjt_102_sum06-seifrid1.pdf

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  201. John Y: Paul tells the Galatians that if someone believes another Gospel than the one Paul taught them then let them be accursed.

    –> There is a big difference between a mistake in understanding of the gospel and adopting a different gospel. Suggesting that one is justified by keeping the law is directly opposed to the gospel that one is justified by the blood of Christ.

    John Y: The gospel is more than Jesus died and he died for me. Even the WCF in the justification section says more than that, as you stated. I’m saying that election, the nature and extent of the atonement, and where the righteousness is found has to be included for reasons I have already stated. If you dont teach election and non-election the sinner has no reason to believe that redemption is conditioned on something self-generated. The nature and extent of the atonement teaches who Jesus died for and why the atoning work of Christ saves. The righteousness is found in that atoning death outside the sinner. If you want to call that intellectual perfectionism than so be it. It is not that difficult to teach.

    –> There is no basis in scripture for your boundaries. You are drawing inferences that are unwarranted and not making a sound exegetical case for why your particular spin on things is necessary.

    John Y: Sdb’s main argument is that the book of Acts sermons dont include all that teaching. Sdb cant imagine that maybe this group of people in the boik of Acts had been following Jesus and His disciples around for about 3 years and that they knew more about the gospel than just those sermons in Acts.

    –>No. Not just the book of Acts – in fact, I’ve mostly referred to texts outside of the book of Acts such as Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. There are numerous summaries of the faith, and missing in every.single.one.of.them are the details you infer from the texts that you deem so critical. Curious that it remains so hidden in scripture. Perhaps this theology, which I agree is important, is not necessary for one to be saved. Obvious we disagree about the scope of the gospel – I read in scripture that it is a very basic declaration – the herald of good news. An announcement. It isn’t a treatise. There are all kinds of important implications of the gospel, and background information necessary to perhaps fully appreciate why the gospel is such good news. But the implications and background theology – as incredibly important as they are – are not the gospel.

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  202. “We can’t say that “sanctification by the blood” is included in what Shaw and the WCF are talking about because they are simply not talking about “sanctification by Christ’s death because they are limited to the Spirit’s work in sanctification, and thus make the Spirit the agent of application.”

    This is inconsistent with what the WCF says: “They…are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them”. So because it says we are sanctified by Christ’s Word and Spirit dwelling in us, it didn’t really mean Christ’s death and resurrection?

    “However, one must ask what relevance the imperatives have in proving the progressive nature of sanctification?” This questions shows a misunderstanding of what Murray is showing. The imperatives do not prove that sanctification is progressive, and that isn’t what he is really claiming. The imperatives follow the indicatives. We don’t believe that we can follow the imperatives more and more closely (though not perfectly) because there are imperatives. But because of the indicatives we are given in the epistles. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Our reality is that we now live by the Spirit, therefore we should keep in step with the Spirit. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ” This is not describing something that we should do, it is describing something that has been done. And the consequence of this reality is that we bear fruit. 1 John makes a similar argument. Now we walk in the light rather in darkness…

    “One cannot assume, as Murray does, that the Holy Spirit’s presence grants this ability. If one cannot assume that the Holy Spirit grants the believer the ability to keep God’s commandments,”
    Right. It is an exegetical question addressed by Galatians 5 and 1 John 3 (for starters).

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  203. johnyeazel says: Ali says: “Thanks John, I like to hear people’s ‘testimony’. I think you said you were saved at 18, but didn’t really focus on worshipping Jesus at that time”
    John Y: No, that is not what I said. I said I had a spiritual experience at the age of 18 and that the spiritual experience was the object of my faith for many years. I don’t believe I was justified by God at that time. The gospel was not the object of my faith; specifically, the righteousness Christ won at the cross for his elect people. The knowledge and understanding of the gospel had not been revealed to me. I thought I had been regenerated or born again and that is what I was believing in. Is focusing in on worshipping Jesus the work or action that makes the difference in someone’s life? Is that what justifies or is that what sanctifies in the gospel according to Ali?

    Oh John, I thought in your story , you were describing having been saved at 18.
    I think accorinf to the Lord most of us are saved as ‘infants’ (in a spiritual sense) and we ‘grow up’ by God’s grace..

    1 Peter 2 1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

    I think the Lord also tells us, though, some saved remain infants.

    1 Corinthians 3:14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

    My former pastor used to say, you don’t want to enter heaven a infant – God wants you to grow.

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  204. The gospel according to Ali:

    “Oh John, I thought in your story , you were describing having been saved at 18.
    I think accorinf to the Lord most of us are saved as ‘infants’ (in a spiritual sense) and we ‘grow up’ by God’s grace..

    The problem is that we believe different gospels and wear different scriptural interpretive grid lenses. If you cant articulate the accurate content of the biblical gospel you cant judge by the gospel. Unfortunately, Sdb and you call this intellectual works righteousness. If you dont judge by the gospel you’re going to end up judging by morality or the law. The law is a task-master and even though it is the standard for conduct we all fall short of fulfilling and satisfying the Laws just demands. When God commands that does’nt mean that fallen or regeneratee man has the ability to obey the commands. Justification, regeneration, and sanctification do not eliminate the Law/Gospel antithesis (even though many popular teachers and theologians are teaching that in a variety of different ways).

    I also remain skeptical in regards to how the new creation is taught by most popular teachers of the Scriptures. What exactly are the new abilities that the supposed new nature gives the justified and effectually called elect? I dont think that is real clear in the Scriptures and a new legal state is a better expression of the new creation. That is the takeaway from reading the book of Romans.

    I have already stated that there is such a thing as growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

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  205. ” I have already stated that there is such a thing as growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ.”
    Which is why I remain confused about all the fuss. We agree that there is growth. Great! The reformers call that growth sanctification and you come out swinging with charges of false gospel. You weld justification and sanctification together in such away that it is impossible for you to distinguish them in any meaningful sense. As soon as someone talks about growth in Grace as sanctification, you convolve that with justification. But sanctification just means set apart. As we grow in Grace and knowledge, we are more set apart from our oldself…in other words more sanctified.

    As far as obeying the imperatives, your quotes reflect a misunderstanding of the NT. We are told that we will bear the fruit of the spirit, walk in light, etc… Bearing fruit is not a change in legal status. It is a change in behavior that is a result of walking in the spirit.

    Perhaps instead of using the gospel as a tool to judge others with, perhaps we should accept it as simply good news. The good news is not a complicated schema describing how God’s justice is satisfied. The good news is that God became man, lived among us, died for our sins and rose again as the first fruit of the resurrection which is our hope. How that good news is applied and for whom is important, but it isn’t the good news. By making it so, you are adding to the gospel. You are the mirror image of those who wish to prove they are saved by weighing their good works (can’t the Holy Spirit really give you victory over sin if you really believe?) except you wish to prove people are saved by weighing their theological acuity (can’t the Holy Spirit reveal the gospel to you inerrantly if you are truly saved?). It is simply an intellectual form of works righteousness and Christian perfectionism.

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  206. johnyeazel says: spel according to Ali:

    John, I’m not sure which part of what I’ve said is ‘according to Ali’ as if it was more or other than God’s word. (Please tell me specifically so you don’t appear reactionary or as if you have not read comments, as you accuse others) .

    But anyway, that kind of mockery does seem to fit the pattern of some who distort what others say about God’s word to elevate themselves, their ministry, their words, their own glory.

    Ps There are many ways the Lord shares the ‘good news’. Here’s another one I love:

    Luke 4:17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him (Jesus). And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
    18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
    BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
    HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
    AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
    TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
    19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
    20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

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  207. John Robbins on the meaning of good fruit:

    The notion that fruit is doctrine or teaching, rather than works or behavior, is so clearly taught in Scripture that the dominance of the incorrect view must be attributed to our inability to read. For example, Jesus in Matthew 12:32-37 says,

    Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

    Fruit is a metaphor for words, doctrine, speaking, teaching. Evil fruit is false teaching; good fruit is true teaching; and we are to judge men by their fruit, that is, their teaching. This is entirely consistent with the tests prescribed in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 13 and 18) for false prophets: The tests were doctrinal. The Israelites were to disbelieve false prophets even if they performed miracles and foretold the future.

    Jesus prescribes a doctrinal test for false prophets because a behavioral test is unreliable. We all have known unbelievers whose behavior is better than that of some Christians. And if fruit means behavior, and we must judge them by their fruit, then we must conclude that they are Christians, despite what they say. In fact, this misunderstanding of fruit as behavior has led people to say such foolish things as That Mormon is such a godly man; or He is a good Christian man, when all he is is considerate.

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  208. johnyeazel says: John Robbins on the meaning of good fruit: The notion that fruit is doctrine or teaching, rather than works or behavior, is so clearly taught in Scripture that the dominance of the incorrect view must be attributed to our inability to read.

    John – fruit in the bible clearly taught: thought, intention, word, deed, people

    you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), Eph 5:8-9

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  209. Galatians 5:22-23
    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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  210. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the elect? I see no Scriptural evidence that the Spirit unites the elect to Christ, gives the elect a new nature, or diminishes the supposed old nature and augments the supposed new nature. Ali keeps claiming that I am not in agreement with the Bible while she thinks she is in agreement with the Bible. So, I will now qoute a bunch ofScripture passages that reveals the role of the Spirit in the lives of the elect. I think the good amd necessary inference that Jeff is looking for is that Christ always gives the Spirit in the Scriptures it is never the Spirit who gives the elect Christ:

    https://m.facebook.com/groups/251104194973307?view=permalink&id=2567831703300533

    But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
    ‭‭John‬ ‭15:26-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭16:13-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    “This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may kpnow that you have eternal life.”
    ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:6-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father is sent by Jesus Christ to His people to bear witness about Jesus Christ. Full Stop. Christ calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth, meaning that He does not and indeed cannot lie. (See Hebrews 6:18). This means that the Spirit of God tells only all of the truth concerning Jesus Christ, which includes His person as both God and man, and His work as savior of His people. Of great importance is that Christ notes- you will also bear witness. In other words, the people of God receive the witness of the Holy Spirit and they bear or repeat that SAME witness of Jesus Christ. A witness about Jesus Christ which is not the witness of the Spirit of truth is a false witness about Jesus Christ. A false witness of Jesus Christ is not from the Holy Spirit.

    Also note, that Christ says WHEN the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. The Holy Spirit comes in time to each individual elect sinner and gives [true] witness about Jesus Christ, and they receive that witness and they bear that witness. (Cf. John 6:45, God teaches the gospel to His people, and He draws them to Christ).

    It is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself. I think this verse is saying that belief in the Son of God is objective because those who have the testimony of God concerning Christ in themselves (objective) are those who believe in the Son of God. There is a distinction between those who believe the witness of the Spirit and the witness of the devil, namely that those who are of the devil do not believe in the Son of God.

    In contrast, Satan does nothing but lie.

    Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.””
    ‭‭John‬ ‭8:42-47 ESV.

    Christ says of Satan that there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out his own character because he is a liar and the father of lies. In other words, as opposed to the Holy Spirit who only tells the truth and cannot lie about Jesus Christ, Satan can only lie and cannot tell the truth about Jesus Christ. Why? Because lying is his character, another appropriate word might be “nature.”

    Note that Christ says those listening did not believe Him BECAUSE He was telling the truth. Whoever is of God HEARS the words of God. “Hears” here necessarily must mean “hears/receives and believes,” and not merely hearing the words. Christ said the reason you do not hear my words is because you are not of God.

    This means that any person who has not been born of God cannot believe the words of Jesus Christ or the testimony about Him and His work. It is impossible-one must be born again to see the kingdom of God.

    As the elect bear witness of Christ out in the world, many do not believe. The reason for this is because Christ does not send the Spirit of truth to many. The words of God concerning Christ do go out, but unless they are accompanied by the Holy Spirit and power, the person hearing will not believe.

    To whom does Christ send the Spirit of truth? To all that the Father has given Him.

    But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.
    ‭‭John‬ ‭6:61-65‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    The revelation Peter had received in Matthew 16 concerning Christ’s Sonship was not the gospel. Peter had still not received the Holy Spirit yet, and did not understand that Christ had to die. It was only after He died and rose that Peter then received the Holy Spirit and then understood the gospel.

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  211. Granted, I guess you can also call the fruit ofthe Spirit behavior. Primarily though good fruit is manifested in the testimony of the New Covenant that the Spirit manifested and bore witness through the writers of the New Covenant. Since the elect dont always manifest the fruit of the Spirit it is another one of those standards that drive the elect to Christ and His accomplished work. That is the main point.

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  212. Why election has to be included in the good news gospel message- I’m sure this has been stated here before but I will copy and paste it again:

    “The ultimate way we can tell people that the gospel is “outside of you” is to tell them that the gospel they MUST believe excludes even this believing as the condition of salvation. The only condition of salvation for the elect is Christ’s death for the elect.

    No debated language about the objectivity of “covenants” or “sacraments” should be allowed to obscure this gospel truth. Unless you preach that Christ died only for the elect, no matter how
    confessional you are, you will end up encouraging people to make faith into that little something that makes the difference between life and death!

    I am not looking for another discussion about Calvin and Luther on the extent of the atonement. I am also not looking for something ambiguous enough for influential people to sign in some “alliance” or “coalition”.. I am asking us if we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. Or has this doctrine become too “rationalistic” for us?

    Would that doctrine perhaps take the grace of God out of the hands of those who hand out the “means of grace” and locate grace with the Father who has chosen a people and given them to Christ? (Romans 11:4-6) Would the doctrine of effective atonement take the starch out of those who thank God for how much changed their “hearts and souls” are?

    I want more sermons about God’s love being found in the propitiation accomplished by Christ. Out there, back then!

    Election is God’s love. When the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we only stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed. Instead a James Boice (sermons on Psalm 22) will turn the gospel into law, and tell sinners that the atonement was for them but they “ruined” it for themselves.

    A propitiation for the elect which is also the same and enough for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. Does the Neo-Calvinist love the gospel of election, or does he hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but is the church the Norman Shepherd church of elect who become the non-elect? The Shepherd gospel is not first of all about future justification by works. It starts with the idea of talking about “covenant” instead of “election”, about water baptism instead of regeneration.

    The Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. He won’t even talk about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in Him. The Neo-Calvinist wants you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election.

    The Neo-Calvinist will even defend this non-election gospel as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is NOT our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth’s wonderful book against preparationism– Glad Tidings).

    But this is no excuse for leaving the Bible doctrine of election out of the doctrine of propitiation by Christ’s death there and then on the cross. We can and should teach the doctrine of election. The Bible doctrine of election does not teach unbelievers that they are elect, nor does the Bible doctrine of election teach unbelievers that they can find out if they are elect without or before believing,

    The glory of God does not depend on human decisions, and the gospel must not become a hostage to collaborations with evangelicals who in the name of universal atonement condition salvation on what God does in the sinner.”

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  213. Btw, it is not true that Paul did not talk about election in the book of Galatians. Election is assumed in all the writings of the New Covenant. Election was part and parcel of the fabric of society when the New Covenant was being written. The Jews of that time were constantly talking about election and being the chosen people of God.

    Paul begins his typical address to those for whom Christ died-

    “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

    He also explicitly mentions his own election!! –
    But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;”
    ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭1:3-5, 15-16‬ ‭ESV.

    We should understand election as a given in the context of the gospel rather than some novel academic add-on after years of believing outright falsehood. Election is the ink of the gospel and these letters- they are uniformly addressed to elect of God, and it would be intellectually dishonest to say that Galatians is somehow anomalous to that.

    The reason God does not say that one needs to believe in election to be saved is because God does not promise salvation in exchange for certain beliefs, which is what reformed people, Calvinists and Arminians alike believe. John 3 :16-18 is descriptive, not normative. Election is part of what saved people believe. The natural man sees belief as a checklist, and many debates circle what constitutes the minimum that one has to be saved in exchange for salvation. This is folly, as God does not prescribe a minimum belief (which always excludes election and definite atonement, or the gospel)in exchange for salvation. Instead God teaches His people what He wants them to know John 6:45. Because God cannot lie, then God could never teach that Christ died for all and that salvation is conditioned on the sinner. Many, by implication, want to claim that God uses falsehood as His power for salvation and then reveals that the power for salvation was actually a lie. This is falsehood.

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  214. John, I love this passage- a great one to share – so simple, complete, and from God-

    John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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  215. John,

    The big concern I have over the theological package you’ve put forward is that you agree that there is growth in both belief and obedience, but you deny that there is a new nature. That would seem to imply that it is our flesh, the sin nature, that grows and believes. Or alternatively, it would seem to imply that some part of us is untouched by sin and capable of both faith and growth (or growth in faith).

    And since Paul is clear that nothing good dwells in our flesh and that the Spirit wars against the flesh, there seems to be a fundamental contradiction to Scripture in your system. If “new birth” means nothing more than that the Spirit enables the flesh to believe, then something good dwells in the flesh. But if it means that the Spirit brings about faith in some part of our psyche that is not enslaved to sin, then you have denied total depravity.

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  216. The smaller concern I have has to do with the way you draw your conclusion that Christ sends the Spirit, but the Spirit does not unite to Christ.

    You adduce a lot of passages that successfully prove the first part: Christ sends the Spirit.

    Then you make a leap: So therefore, the Spirit does not unite to Christ.

    But this is easily disproved by John 3. In that passage, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that no-one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless born again, and that the new birth happens by the Spirit. He then goes on to explain that all who believe do not perish, and all who do not believe will perish.

    So a basic question: does new birth precede or follow after faith? This was a dividing line between Calvinists and Arminians. The Calvinist answer was clear: first God must bring new birth before faith is even possible. And since it is the Spirit that brings new birth according to Jesus, it must be the case that the work of the Spirit precedes faith, by which we are united to Christ in his death.

    The Arminian alternative is that faith comes first, and the new birth as a result. That raises the problem from my first post: How is there faith in one who is enslaved to sin? Only by denying total depravity can you have faith precede new birth.

    You seem to want a third alternative: First imputation, then new birth, then faith, then justification. In some ways that avoids the Arminian problem, but it creates a new one: what is the difference between imputation and justification? And, at what point are we united to Christ?

    We don’t need to fully engage that debate in order to make a simple observation: you have previously stated that Roman 6.3-5 refers to being united to Christ in His death by the baptism of the Spirit. Assuming you stand by that, then you have a very clear statement that the Spirit unites us to Christ.

    In other words, the Scripture teaches BOTH. Christ sends the Spirit. And the Spirit unites to Christ by creating faith and baptizing us into His death.

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  217. @ John in re: fruit. It would be worthwhile to get the whole counsel of Scripture on identifying false teachers rather than relying on a novel interpretation of a single passage. Consider Jude, Colossians, 1 and 2 Cor, and Jesus’ other teachings about what comes out of the heart.

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  218. @jy Robbins is wrong. Gal is about behavior. The fruit of the spirit is kindness (for example).

    No one here disagrees with the doctrine of the limited atonement or with the doctrine of election. I don’t understand why you bring that up other than to be argumentative.

    The point of stating that Christ’s death is sufficient for all is to emphasize that the Father was not limited to the number he could elect by some limitation inherent in Christ’s sacrifice. Christ would not need to have died twice for the father to elect twice as many people.

    Does neglecting the doctrine of the election run the risk of self righteousness? Yes! The doctrine should be taught. Must one get it right and have no cognitive dissonances to be saved? No. We grow in knowledge.

    “ And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:31”

    “ if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.“

    Obviously salvation is conditioned on belief, but as the hymn says…this he gives the elect.

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  219. Sdb,

    The issue is the necessity of election as part of the gospel, not whether you believe in election or not. I gave you the reasons why election was a necessary part of the gospel. You come back and tell me I just want to be argumentative. I say the same thing to you. You are the one who just seems to want to be argumentat1ive to me. Round and round and round we go- are we on a merry go round? I dont accept your answer that someone can be justified by God without believing in election and definitive atonement. Your proof texts dont prove anything regarding this issue.

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  220. Whatever in regards to the Robbins quote. Good fruit is also good doctrine. I granted you that the fruit of the Spirit included good behavior too. And Robbins was not making his interpretation of good fruit as good doctrine the acid test of true or false teachers. He just gave an example of how true and false prophets were determined in the Old Covenant.

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  221. johnyeazel says:I dont accept your answer that someone can be justified by God without believing in election and definitive atonement.

    John, that seems like a ridiculous thing to say for one who so strongly values the truth of election.
    God is the one who justifies; our theology does not justify us. What does scripture say? – repent and believe and receive Jesus. It’s interesting you don’t seem to emphasize repentance so much.

    Not that we don’t grow in true knowledge and understanding subsequently, by the power of the Spirit; and the more we know Him and His ways truly, the better we glorify Him, because we speak of Him as He truly is.

    I love this passage, for example, about Apollos –
    Acts 18: 24 Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

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  222. Jeff,

    Should I pull out the I’m deeply troubled by your innacurate description of my position on union with Christ line? I’m not sure how you came up with that third alternative but that is not an accurate description of what I believe.

    First of all, being baptized (or placed into) into Christ’s death is not a baptism by the Spirit in the opening verses of Romans chapter 6. Being baptized into Christ’s death is God the Father imputing Christ’s death into the individual elects account when God justifies that elect individual at the hearing of the Gospel. That legal imputing is what unites the elect to Christ’s death. That is union with Christ. That is also why Paul can explain that God justifies the ungodly. That imputation preceeds what God does inside the sinner to create the gift of faith by the Spirit. Romans 8 explains that the Spirit is life BECAUSE OF THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS. So, that is another example of Christ sending the Spirit. Being born again by the Spirit does not unite the elect to Christ because the imputation union has already taken place. The Spirit illuminates the mind and creates faith in the objective death of Christ on the cross (outside the sinner) for the indivual elect person. Faith then justifies the sinner. The faith does not propitiate God’s wrath or expiate the individuals guilt and condemnation. Christ’s death legally imputed by God the Father is what acomplishes those results.

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  223. And John, all you write seems to indicate that you do not want to proclaim the truth that GOD saves – the Father elects and more, the Son propitiates and more, the Spirit keeps and more.

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  224. Ali,

    I dont know why I am not communicating to anyone here. Sure, theology does not save; I have said all along that it is the Gospel that saves and it is the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation. In the Gospel the righteousness of God is found. That righteousness has to be transferred to the elects account in some way. The argument is over what the content of the Gospel is. The Jesus who died for everyone is not the same Jesus who died for the elect alone. They are different Gospels. If you say that someone can be justified while believing in a Jesus who died for everyone then you are saying that God can justify someone by believing lies. I used to believe that too. When the true Gospel was revealed to me I could no longer believe that. I understand Jeff’s and Sdb’s argument about growing in knowledge and inconsistency in thinking and I reject that argument. Actually, both Gordon Clark and John Robbins held to that argument too. Again, I dont believe God justifies anyone by letting them believe lies about the Gospel. God the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth about the content of the Gospel to Christ’s elect people. I think Paul guarded those truths too.

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  225. John,

    Thanks for the clarification. That helps. I think I had remembered wrongly that you previously said that Romans 6 refers to Spirit-baptism and not water-baptism. In any event, I understand you better now.

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  226. JY: “I am asking us if we believe that the glory of God in the gospel means that all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved.“
    SB”No one here disagrees with the doctrine of the limited atonement or with the doctrine of election.”
    JY”The issue is…not whether you believe in election or not.”
    SB: Then why are you asking?

    Maybe you would be able to communicate better if you actually engaged with my questions rather than cutting and pasting unpersuasive responses from earlier.

    If not, then I agree that there is no point in continuing.

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  227. John,

    Having cleared up your view of Rom 6, can you please address the question of how there is growth but no new nature? How there is a new birth but no new nature?

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  228. Jeff,

    The following is a link that discusses the difficulty and controversy in defining what the bible means by old man and new man. Are there really two separate natures in the justified elect? Is it biblically accurate to speak of an implanted new nature that is part of regeneration and progressively diminishes the old nature through the sanctification process? It probably would be helpful to read parts 1 and 2 also:

    https://sharperiron.org/article/does-believer-have-one-nature-or-two-part-3

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  229. To be more accurate the debate was between Fuller and Abraham Booth that was later picked up by Rushton who wrote his book on Particular Redemption after Fuller died.

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  230. present indicatives

    Ephesians 2: 6 Together with Christ Jesus He raised us

    Colossians 2 12 You were also raised with Him through faith in the
    working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
    13 He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses

    Galatians 3; 27 As many of you as have been baptized into Christ HAVE
    PUT ON CHRIST

    I Cor 12 Christ baptized us with one Spirit —whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

    In what sense can believers claim to be “dead to the law”? We know God’s law is just and holy and good. It shows us our responsibility to love God perfectly and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It sets this standard as the guide and the goal of our conduct. We see this standard displayed perfectly in Christ, our Lord and Savior, therefore, our goal is to be conformed to Him. By this standard, the law exposes our sinfulness and shows us our need of Christ and His blood and righteousness as the only ground of salvation.

    Believer’s are justified by God based on the righteousness of Christ. The law, therefore, is not our enemy. God’s law is our enemy only when we seek to attain justification and life by our deeds of the law (Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 3:10). The law curses every sinner who seeks salvation or any part of it based on anything other than the merits of Christ. The same law pronounces all who come to God, “the Judge of all” (Heb. 12:23), pleading the righteousness of Christ alone, righteous and holy. Believers are “dead to the law” in that the law cannot curse them nor pronounce them legally defiled because their debt has been paid by Christ.

    Does the law require anything from a believer? It requires every justified sinner to love God perfectly and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It requires obedience and godliness. But it requires none of these things for the purposes of saving ourselves, keeping ourselves saved, sanctifying ourselves or making ourselves holier or more qualified.

    Seifrid–Paul does not speak of the Christian struggle with sin in Romans 7. He describes a battle already lost, long ago in Adam. Nevertheless, in sheer wonder, the long-lost battle has been decided in our favor by God in Christ. The Christian is thus called to walk the very narrow path marked by the intersection of the new creation with the present fallen world. On the one side we are subject to the danger of the despair that loses sight of God’s work in Christ. On the other hand, we are subject to the danger of a pride that falsely supposes that the power of salvation is now ours, if only we realize its potential. Such a pride in its own way also loses sight of God’s work in Christ. It brings a ‘therapeutic Christianity’ that turns outward achievements, whether individual, corporate, or social, into a measure of spiritual progress and a mark of the presence of the kingdom. It does not see that what has been accomplished in Christ is located abidingly in Christ, not in ourselves. Our salvation, and therefore all true progress, both individual and corporate, does not rest in our hands…

    As Paul tells the Philippians, progress is a progress in faith (Phil 1:21). It is not a turning inward but a being-turned-outward. It is hearing the address of the gospel afresh within the changing circumstances of life. To use Paul’s language, it is again and again ‘reckoning yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:11)… Not only the first step but every step of Christian progress begins with Paul’s sober and realistic confession in Rom 7:25b […with my flesh I serve the law of sin]. It begins with the acknowledgment that as long as we remain in this body and life the unhappy truth that we ‘serve the law of sin’ remains.”

    -Mark Seifrid, Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin

    John Y: The new man is created when God baptizes an individual elect person into Christ’s death. That new man becomes part of the new creation as described in Ephesians and Colossians. The elect continually put on the new man by reckoning themselves dead to the law and under grace.

    The quote by Seifrid explains how growth occurs without an implanted new nature.

    The new birth is necessary to create faith in the Gospel not create a new nature as the means of progressively sanctifying the person.

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  231. @jy
    Sorry, I don’t have the energy or time to plow through a 19th century debate. I don’t think I disagree with the TFU/WS on election and limited atonement, so if Fuller redefined these, I suppose I disagree with him. Perhaps you can briefly summarize where you part ways with the reformed standards.

    As I recall you disagree that Christ’s death is sufficient to save any number of people but in fact only for those who were chosen by the Father. I understand election to be the unconstrained choice by God to save certain people based only on his inscrutable will. Do you disagree?

    If Christ’s death is not sufficient for more than the elect, was election then limited by some quality of Christ’s death? Would he need to die twice to save twice as many people or perhaps stay in the tomb twice as long? If not, then Christ’s death was enough for more had God chosen more. I’m not asking rhetorically. I really thought this was what the standards were getting at.

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  232. Sdb,

    I dont know off the top of my head what the TFU/WS says about election and limited atonement. I dont know what the TFU is. Find it and copy and paste it so I know what you are talking about.

    The problem with saying that Christ’s death is sufficient for more than the elect is that it is a sneaky way of saying that the atonement is indefinate instead of definite. It also separates election from the atonement and makes election depend on the Holy Spirit giving faith to the elect to make the atonement effectual. The atonement is effectual in itself when God the Father baptizes or places the elect into Christ’s death when justifying the elect individual. That is why we argue for the order that we do. It is the legal transfer of the death of Christ to the elects account that is the cause of union with Christ and the cause of the Spirits creating faith in the Gospel for that elect person. You cannot separate election from the atonement. It is Gods love for the elect that provided the atoning death of Christ as a satisfaction for Gods just law. And this plan was commited to before God began creating the world. The plan of the atoning deathof Christ was not a secondary plan after the fall of man.

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  233. TFU stands for Three Forms of Unity. They include the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort. They are the standards for the Continental Reformed churches including the URCNA.

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  234. @JY
    Here is a particularly readable translation of the the three forms of unity (TFU). https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions

    Here is Dort on Election:
    Election is God’s unchangeable purpose by which he did the following:
    Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, God chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. God did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation.

    And so God decreed to give to Christ those chosen for salvation, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through the Word and Spirit. In other words, God decreed to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of the Son, to glorify them. God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of God’s glorious grace. As Scripture says, “God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, “Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).

    On the atonement, the article that I think you balk at is:
    This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.

    However, if you read it in context of the rest of the article, it is impossible to conclude that this “is that it is a sneaky way of saying that the atonement is indefinate instead of definite.”

    For example, they go onto proclaim that:

    For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God’s will that Christ should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

    And further that, the Synod rejects the errors of those
    1. Who teach that God the Father appointed his Son to death on the cross without a fixed and definite plan to save anyone by name, so that the necessity, usefulness, and worth of what Christ’s death obtained could have stood intact and altogether perfect, complete and whole, even if the redemption that was obtained had never in actual fact been applied to any individual.
    3. Who teach that Christ, by the satisfaction which he gave, did not certainly merit for anyone salvation itself and the faith by which this satisfaction of Christ is effectively applied to salvation, but only acquired for the Father the authority or plenary will to relate in a new way with humanity and to impose such new conditions as he chose, and that the satisfying of these conditions depends on human free choice; consequently, that it was possible that either all or none would fulfill them.
    6. Who make use of the distinction between obtaining and ­applying in order to instill in the unwary and inexperienced the ­opinion that God, as far as he is concerned, wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits which are gained by Christ’s death; but that the distinction by which some rather than others come to share in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life depends on their own free choice (which applies itself to the grace offered indiscriminately) but does not depend on the unique gift of mercy which effectively works in them, so that they, rather than others, apply that grace to themselves.

    The Canons of Dort were quite clear that the atonement was definite. They were also concerned to maintain that Christ’s sacrifice was of infinite worth. God was not constrained to elect a limited number of people based on any limitation in the merits of the sacrifice of the second member of the trinity.

    “It also separates election from the atonement and makes election depend on the Holy Spirit giving faith to the elect to make the atonement effectual.”
    I don’t see how you can read these canons and come to that conclusion.

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  235. John Y: The problem with saying that Christ’s death is sufficient for more than the elect is that it is a sneaky way of saying that the atonement is indefinate instead of definite. It also separates election from the atonement and makes election depend on the Holy Spirit giving faith to the elect to make the atonement effectual.

    Not so. Read Hodge and revisit the question. Sufficiency has to do with the quantity of merit procured by Christ: infinite, because He is the God-man. Efficiency has to do with the question of for whom Christ died: for the elect only, because He paid for actual sins.

    https://graceonlinelibrary.org/reformed-theology/limited-atonement/for-whom-did-christ-die-by-charles-hodge/

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  236. Jeff,

    The issue now is not what Hodge taught but what the TFU teaches.

    Sdb,

    Why is it even biblically relevant to say that the atoning death of Christ is of infinite value and enough for the sins of the whole world? What I noticed the most about the passages you quoted from the TFU is what they did not say. There is no mention of the righteousness found in the atoning death of Christ, no mention of the elect being placed into that atoning death as the means of the justification of elect individuals, no mention of the atoning death as the satisfaction of the law for the elect alone, no mention of the atoning death as that which propitiates Gods wrath. It is also not made clear in those passages that without the legal union into the atoning death thete is no legal right for the creation of faith in the Gospel by the Spirit. So, why all the concern over the infinite value and sufficiency for the sins of the whole world if the the nature and extent of the atonement was purposely decreed only for an elect people? Election is not applied by the creation of faith by the Spirit, election is applied by God the Father baptizing elect individuals into the death of Christ. That is not taught in those passages you quoted from the TFU.

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  237. sdb:”God was not constrained to elect a limited number of people based on any limitation in the merits of the sacrifice of the second member of the trinity.”

    This statement assumes some “merits of the sacrifice” apart from election, as a prerequisite for election.

    But election is logically prior to the atonement. Christ’s death cannot be separated from His legal representation/substitution of specific sinners.

    Christ’s death was only an answer to the sins of the sinners He substituted under Law. His death was not an answer to the sins of other sinners.

    The person of Christ has infinite worth, so that His death is sufficient to expiate the sins of all whom He died for. But His death is not sufficient to expiate the sins of those He did not die for, not because of any lack in Christ’s personal worth, but because He was not their substitute.

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  238. Jeff,

    Are you aware of the following writings by Charles Hodge?

    https://calvinandcalvinism.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/charles-hodge-on-the-death-of-christ/

    Hodge responding to a certain Dr. Beman:

    “Dr. Beman’s theory, therefore, which denies that the death of Christ had a special reference to his own people, is inconsistent with the plainly revealed facts : …3. That the design of his death was NOT SIMPLY to REMOVE OBSTACLES out of the way of mercy, but ACTUALLY TO SECURE the salvation of those given to him by the Father; and that it does in fact secure for them the gift of the Holy Ghost, and CONSEQUENTLY justification and eternal life…

    These suppositions are made simply to show that, according to our doctrine, the reason why any man perishes is NOT that there is NO righteousness provided SUITABLE and ADEQUATE TO HIS CASE, or that it is not freely offered to all that hear the gospel, but simply because he wilfully rejects the proffered salvation. Our doctrine, therefore, provides for the universal offer of the gospel, and for the righteous condemnation of unbelievers, as thoroughly as Dr. Beman’s. It OPENS THE DOOR for mercy, as far as LEGAL OBSTRUCTIONS are concerned, AS FULLY AS HIS: while it meets all the other revealed facts of the case. It is not a theory for one fact. It includes them all; the fact that Christ died by covenant for his own people, that love for his own sheep led him to lay down his life, that his death renders their salvation absolutely certain, that it opens the way for the offer of salvation to all men, and shows the justice of the condemnation of unbelief. NO MAN PERISHES FOR THE WANT OF AN ATONEMENT, is the doctrine of the Synod of Dort; it is also our doctrine. ”

    Notice Hodge believes that

    1) Christ’s death removed “legal obstacles” for ALL SINNERS. His death is a righteousness suitable to EACH SINNER. As a result, the non-elect do NOT lack an atonement.

    2) But this removal of “legal obstacles” does NOT BY ITSELF ensure justification. Justification depends on the gift of Holy Spirit which Christ’s death only secured for the elect. On the other hand, the non-elect PERISH for their rejection of the offer of the atonement.

    Hodge further explains why he believes Christ’s death is NECESSARILY suitable for ALL SINNERS:

    “…In the third place, the question does not concern the suitableness of the atonement. What was suitable for one was SUITABLE FOR ALL. The righteousness of Christ, the merit of his obedience and death, is needed for justification by each individual of our race, and therefore is needed by all. It is no more appropriate to one man than to another. Christ fulfilled the conditions of the COVENANT under which ALL men were PLACED. He rendered the obedience required of all, and suffered the PENALTY which ALL had INCURRED; and therefore his work is equally SUITED TO ALL.”

    The following comments by the website owner explain Hodge’s reasoning:

    “However, when considering the expiation in reference to imputed sin, Hodge wants to speak in terms of the law’s charge against the CATEGORIES OF SIN. The condemnation due to one man was the SAME condemnation due to the next, and the next, and so on indefinitely. Therefore, the satisfaction performed by Christ being sufficient for the first man, is NECESSARILY sufficient for the second man, for the third man, and so on indefinitely for all men. As Hodge says, Christ suffered the condemnation of the law under which ALL men lay. And in this way, for Hodge, the expiation is a real and actual atoning sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of the world. Hodge expressly REPUDIATES the idea that only a FIXED AMOUNT of sin from a FIXED AMOUNT of sinners was imputed to Christ. For if that were the case, Hodge would have to concede that 1) had God elected more, the nature of the expiation would have changed, and 2) there can be no commonality with Lutheranism on the nature of the expiation.”

    Hodge’s reasoning is fallacious. The Law does DISTINGUISH the sins between DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS. Hodge wants to fudge and say the Law sees only categories of sin without reference to specific, individual sinners, so that Christ could only die for categories of sin, but not for the sins of specific sinners.

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  239. Hodge also states the following:

    Charles Hodge supporting the “offer” –“Some argue that the work of
    Christ is a satisfaction to divine justice. From this it follows that
    justice cannot condemn those for whose sins it has been satisfied. It
    cannot demand that satisfaction twice, first from the substitute and
    then from the sinner himself. This would be manifestly unjust, far
    worse than demanding no punishment at all. From this it is inferred
    that the satisfaction of Christ, if the ground on which a sinner MAY
    BE FORGIVEN, is the ground on which a sinner MUST BE FORGIVEN

    Charles Hodge– This objection rises from confusing a pecuniary and a
    judicial satisfaction. There is no grace in accepting a pecuniary
    satisfaction. It cannot be refused. It ipso facto liberates. The
    moment the debt is paid the debtor is free; and that without any
    condition.

    Charles Hodge–Nothing of this is true in the case of judicial
    satisfaction. If a substitute be provided and accepted it is a matter
    of grace. Christ’s satisfaction may accrue to the benefit of those
    for whom it is made at once or at a remote period; completely or
    gradually; on conditions or unconditionally; or it may never benefit
    them at all unless the condition on which its application is suspended
    be performed.

    Charles Hodge– Lutherans and Reformed agree entirely in their views of
    the nature of the satisfaction of Christ. that is the foundation for
    the OFFER of the gospel. What the Reformed hold about election does not affect the nature of the atonement. That remains the same whether
    designed for the elect or for all mankind. Christ’s death does not
    derive its nature from the secret purpose of God as to the application
    of Christ’s death , Systematic Theology, 2:557

    And Hodge said the following too:

    Charles Hodge—“Sinful acts become more infrequent and habitual acts
    become more frequent and controlling” ST, 3:226

    230–“The best Christians are in general those who from love to Christ and
    zeal for his glory, labor most and suffer most in his service.

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  240. @JY

    Why is it even biblically relevant to say that the atoning death of Christ is of infinite value

    This is to clarify that the theological doctrine is Christologically orthodox. Keep in mind that the Canons of Dort were written in response to particular challenges posed by the remonstrants in the 16th century.

    What I noticed the most about the passages you quoted from the TFU is what they did not say.

    Right. I just took a couple of selections to make a very narrow point – namely that the statement that Christ’s death was sufficient to save any number of people God may have elected is not a sneaky way to get around the doctrine of particular atonement as you asserted.

    You may wonder why I am so insistent about going back to the standards, and the answer is that it is the standards that define the reformed faith – not Hodge, Calvin, Fuller, Beza, etc… If you are going to make the assertion that the reformed faith teaches a “false gospel”, I would like to see where the errors are in the standards. Of course, the standards were written in a particular historical context to address contemporary controversies, so they don’t address every modern controversy that has happened since.

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  241. @TW

    sdb:”God was not constrained to elect a limited number of people based on any limitation in the merits of the sacrifice of the second member of the trinity.”

    This statement assumes some “merits of the sacrifice” apart from election, as a prerequisite for election.

    Well, I don’t see how election is a “merit of the sacrifice”. Election is God’s free choice. It is made just because of the merits of Christ’s death.

    But election is logically prior to the atonement. Christ’s death cannot be separated from His legal representation/substitution of specific sinners.

    I’m not sure that is true. God could decree to save some sinners and then decide how to do so justly. I don’t see why deciding who to save is logically prior to deciding how to save them. Logically, it could work either way, so it would have to be determined by special revelation. I don’t see that scripture teaches the order one way or the other – God could have decided who to save and then decided how to save them or decided how to redeem people and then who would be redeemed. Since scripture doesn’t reveal which, we are left without that knowledge.

    Christ’s death was only an answer to the sins of the sinners He substituted under Law. His death was not an answer to the sins of other sinners.

    Right. I don’t see that anyone here disputes that.

    The person of Christ has infinite worth, so that His death is sufficient to expiate the sins of all whom He died for. But His death is not sufficient to expiate the sins of those He did not die for, not because of any lack in Christ’s personal worth, but because He was not their substitute.

    These statements are non-sequiturs. If I am of infinite worth, then I *could* buy any number of my kids a brand new car. In fact, I may decide to buy only one kid a car. My wealth is sufficient to buy any number of cars, but in fact I only bought one (hypothetically speaking of course… in reality I would never buy any of my kids a car…HA!). Since the person of Christ is of infinite worth, his death would have been sufficient for any number of people God may have chosen to elect. If God chose to save everyone, Christ’s death would have been sufficient to save them all. In fact, God chose not to save everyone, so Christ’s death was only effected for a limited number of people – namely the elect.

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  242. SDB: Since the person of Christ is of infinite worth, his death would have been sufficient for any number of people God may have chosen to elect.

    Exactly so.

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  243. @John Y: Have you read that whole passage in context? It doesn’t say what you think it says.

    @ John Y and Tianqi W:

    What I am observing from you both is a tendency to pull quotes from secondary sources, and to adopt the interpretation of those secondary sources. That is an unsuitable method in this case, for you have relied heavily on the website “Calvin and Calvinism”, whose proprietor “David” has the mission to sustain[] an elenchus for Classic and Moderate Calvinism. And by moderate Calvinism, he means that (a) all men are redeemed by the blood of Christ, and (b) election is an election to faith, which is the determining factor in salvation. He has a bias (presumably an honest one), and his spin on reformed writers is consistent with his project: to make “moderate Calvinism” to be within mainstream Reformed orthodoxy.

    But in the larger world, that bias is hotly contested. The question of whether Calvin held to limited atonement does not begin and end with “Calvin and the Calvinists.” Paul Helm, for example, makes a (typically strong) case that Calvin was committed to limited atonement, as does Roger Nicole.

    In other words, you have a lot more reading to do before you are ready to come out with guns blazing and hysterical charges of “false gospel.” Your arguments are unconvincing because (a) they seem to be motivated by party spirit, and (b) they do not deal fairly with the totality of the writings of your targets.

    For example, apply a basic common sense test. If Ursinus taught hypothetical universalism in the way that you think of it, why was the Synod of Dordt even necessary to refute the hypothetical universalism of the Arminians? If Hodge taught hypothetical universalism in the way that you think of it, why does he say this:

    The whole question, therefore, concerns simply the purpose of God in the mission of his Son. What was the design of Christ’s coming into the world, and doing and suffering all He actually did and suffered? Was it merely to make the salvation of all men possible; to remove the obstacles which stood in the way of the offer of pardon and acceptance to sinners? or, Was it specially to render certain the salvation of his own people, i. e., of those given to Him by the Father? The latter question is affirmed by Augustinians, and denied by their opponents.

    Hodge is very clear here about limited atonement, regardless of whatever “Calvin and the Calvinists” may say.

    Get thee to a library. Read primary sources. Put down the cudgel.

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  244. sdb:”Since the person of Christ is of infinite worth, his death would have been sufficient for any number of people God may have chosen to elect. If God chose to save everyone, Christ’s death would have been sufficient to save them all. In fact, God chose not to save everyone, so Christ’s death was only effected for a limited number of people – namely the elect.”

    Seeing that you insist on speculation on what Christ’s death COULD HAVE done…

    1) Would Christ’s death be sufficient for any number of FALLEN ANGELS God may have chosen to elect?

    To this question, the answer is not “we don’t know” but an emphatic “NO”. It was NECESSARY for Christ to take on human nature to save fallen humans. For Christ to save angels, He would have to take on angelic nature to save fallen angels.

    To say “we don’t know” – or worse yet, to say “yes” – to this question would be to reject the necessity of Christ’s true human nature for atonement of fallen humans.

    2) Having settled the INsufficiency of Christ’s death for some fallen creatures, it follows that the “infinite” personal worth of Christ does not automatically imply an unlimited sufficiency in His death.

    Why? Because His death CANNOT BE abstracted from the particular conditions defining that Death. In question (1), we saw one such particular defining condition, which is Christ took a particular type of created nature – human nature RATHER THAN an angelic nature – and that’s why His death is INsufficient for fallen angels.

    But there are MORE particular defining conditions that limit the SUFFICIENCY of His death, because His death not only took place in a particular type of created nature, but His death took place as a substitutionary punishment for the sins of some particular sinners.

    i) “Death” may not be abstracted from “punishment”.

    ii) “Punishment” may not be abstracted from “punishment for sins”.

    iii) “For sins” may not be abstracted from “for the sins of some particular sinners”.

    In short, Christ’s death may not be abstracted from His LEGAL SUBSTITUTION for some particular sinners, NO MORE THAN it may be abstracted from His assumption of human nature.

    There are inherent limitations to the sufficiency of Christ’s death, not due to limited value of the Divine person of Christ, but due to the particular legal and ontological conditions defining His death.

    If you see that it makes no sense to talk about Christ’s death apart from viewing Him dying in human nature (rather than some other created nature), why do you not see that it also makes no sense to talk about Christ’s death apart from viewing Him dying in the place of some (rather than other) sinners under Law?

    Is there a focus on the ontological fact that Christ died a human death to the neglect/denial that Christ’s death is also INHERENTLY legal?

    Is there a DIFFERENT IDEA of the legal character of Christ’s death, such as what the “Calvin and Calvinism” web-owner reports Charles Hodge to have articulated – Christ did not die for the concrete sins of individual sinners, but for categories of sins?

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  245. Jeff and Sdb,

    The following is some notes I took while trying to sort through the universal view of the atonement, the particular view of the atonement, and the supposed and very confusing moderating view of the atonement that claims sufficiency for all and efficacy only for the elect. Im confused as to how Dordt accepted that moderating view of the atonement yet in the section that dealt with objections to election they seemed so clear in their views of particular redemption by a particular atonement for a particular people:

    Christ died to make simultaneously both a “universal atonement” and a “limited redemption.”44 Historically, this centrist view finds its greatest early Protestant endorsement in the school of Saumur and its greatest early champions in John Cameron and especially Moïses Amyraut.45 Amyraldism, which is properly a minority variation of Calvinism, early on adopted Peter Lombard’s understanding that Christ’s death was “offered . . . for all with regard to the sufficiency of the price, but only for the elect with regard to its efficacy, because he brought about salvation only for the predestined.”46 The connotative elasticity of the phrase “sufficient for all but efficient for the elect” proved useful as a vehicle of mediation at Dordt, where in 1618–19 a mixed body of both “high” Calvinists and Amyraldians crafted a united response to the threat of the Arminian Remonstrance—the famed Canons of Dordt, from which the wellknown “five points” derive.

    • On the particularist pole we could have added at least two views: (1) the so-called “commercial view,” a minority variation of particularism that denies the atonement’s infinite value and excludes common grace from the atonement, and (2) the “eternal application” model that sees the accomplishment and application of atonement as simultaneous—either in eternity past or on the cross.

    Thomas J. Nettles argues for this less common particularist understanding (though without using the commercial label) over and against Andrew Fuller’s more widely held historical expression of particularism (By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, rev. and exp. 20th anniversary ed. [Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006], 335–59). Once a rare view even among hyper-Calvinists (see, e.g., John Brine, A Defence of the Doctrine of Eternal Justification from Some Exceptions Made to It by Mr. Bragge, and Others [London: A. Ward and H. Whitridge, 1732]), this view has few if any modern proponents.

    mark— i am in on #1, but not #2, but most people assume 2 if you have 1

    There are at least four distinct views associated with a general atonement position: (1) that Christ’s death secures the expiation of all sins and with it prevenient grace so that all may either accept or reject that expiation; (2) that Christ’s death simply provides for the expiation of all sins except unbelief, which is a separate category; (3) that Christ’s death merely satisfies God’s wrath without properly substituting for each sinner; and (4) that Christ’s death expiates for all, universalism.

    Questions that Amyraut asked that made him doubt that Christ died only for His elect people:

    Amyraut—“Sin seems to have changed not only the whole face of the universe, but even the entire design of the first creation, and if one may speak this way, seems to have induced to adopt new councels”

    and thus God becomes the God who declares not the end from the beginning but the end from the fall

    the fall is conditioned on the sinner, and the creation is either plan a or no plan at all

    did God make the world, and then decide (after man decided) what to do with the world

    why must we deny that death is God’s work also?

    why must we deny that the fall of Adam is God’s work also?

    why must we keep talking about what Adam “could have done” or “might have done”?

    was God’s plan a to be glorified in a church of human Adams who never sinned? (Ephesians 3:20)

    According to the Marrow theology, in the preaching of the gospel God in Jesus Christ is offered to all but possessed by some (those who meet the condition of faith)— “God moved with nothing but his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life” .

    As confusing as the language is, specifically, the phrase, “deed of gift and grant,” it is evident that the statement intends to teach God’s would-be love to all humans who hear the preaching on the condition that they believe. Implied in this statement is the doctrine that Christ died for all humans without exception. The church must “go and tell every man, without exception, that here is good news for him! Christ is dead for him! and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him”.

    The language is odd. “Christ is dead”? And Christ is dead for every human who hears the gospel? Not: “Christ died for every human.” But: “Christ dead for every human.” Contrast this confusing statement concerning the extent of the atoning death of Christ the clear language of the Canons of Dordt— For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father, etc. (Canons of Dordt, 2.8).

    If God in the gospel lovingly offers salvation to all humans without exception, on the ground of Christ’s death for everyone, Christ is not the whole savior. The sinner himself, by his acceptance of the offered Christ, is instrumental in his own salvation. The Arminians call this acceptance “free will.” The Marrow Calvinists call this acceptance “regeneration followed by instrumental faith”. But in both cases, Christ is not the savior because what God does to make the sinner accept Christ is the most fundamental part of salvation.

    According to Thomas Boston. the offer is God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ to all who hear the gospel, including those who never possess salvation. On this view, the gospel is not a gift to effectually save anybody, but only makes Jesus available to all those God predestined to be in the same room with gospel preaching. . Boston uses the example of the gift of money to a poor man: “Even as when one presents a piece of gold to a poor man saying, ‘Take it, it is yours’; the offer makes the piece really his in a sense nevertheless, while the poor man does not accept or receive it, it is not his in possession, nor hath he the benefit of it; but, on the contrary, must starve for it all, and that so much the more miserably, that he hath slighted the offer and refused the gift”

    Boston comments— This giving, which in light of I John 5:11 is certainly gracious on God’s part, does not, however, put anyone in possession of eternal life. It merely makes it possible for humans to take possession”of eternal life. This giving of eternal life by God in the offer is not to and for the elect, but to and for all who hear the gospel, including those who may be reprobate, and perish. The party to whom eternal life is given by the offer is not the election only, but mankind lost.” In the offer, there is a giving of Christ and salvation to many where there is no
    receiving, for a gift may be refused.”

    Berkhof (452) “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.”

    Jonathan Gibson, From heaven, p 358—-Election and the Atonement do not operate on separate theological tracks. What God has joined together, let no theologian separate. Affirming union with Christ by God’s election before redemption is accomplished counters any dis-junction between the effect of Christ’s death and the effect of His resurrection.
    …………………………………………………………………………………

    God’s election comes first before Christ’s atonement

    Atonement to satisfy justice is a result of God’s love for the elect
    God’s love for the elect is not a result of Atonement for the elect

    When the false gospel says that Christ’s death has “sufficiency” to make an offer to every sinner, at the same time that false gospel is teaching that Christ’s death is not sufficient to cause any sinner to become justified before God. The false gospel denies that Christ’s death purchased regeneration or faith because the false gospel thinks that would make regeneration and faith something not grace but something God owed to Christ because of Christ having purchased regeneration and faith. Like the Socinians, the false gospel says that grace must not be bought by Christ’s death or it is no longer grace.

    And so the false gospel says–trust God, not God’s justice. Trust Christ in His present resurrection status, not Christ for what His death did by way of propitiation and purchase.

    The false gospel teaches that only Christ’s status as justified and resurrected are imputed to elect sinners.. The false gospel denies that Christ died by an objective justice for specific sins and that this death is imputed to elect sinners.

    The false gospel teaches that Christ represented every sinner. So does the false gospel teach that Christ at some point stopped representing some sinners/
    Or does the false gospel teach that Christ represented every sinner, right up until the time most of them perish?

    It’s a requirement of God’s justice that everyone for whom Christ died will become justified. This is God’s debt to God. This is God’s obligation to God to be the God who is just.

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  246. “Having settled the INsufficiency of Christ’s death for some fallen creatures”
    You’re putting the cart before the horse here, but this is a red herring. You are assuming that a limitation on quality implies a limitation on quantity. That’s a mistake.

    “If you see that it makes no sense to talk about Christ’s death apart from viewing Him dying in human nature (rather than some other created nature), why do you not see that it also makes no sense to talk about Christ’s death apart from viewing Him dying in the place of some (rather than other) sinners under Law?”

    There are limits on whom that death is counted for. You don’t need more death to elect more sinners. You need a different *kind* of death to save other kinds of sinners (insofar as it makes sense to talk about the death of immortal angels). Dordt was not arguing that Christ died for everyone. They are quite clear that he only died in the place of some sinners under the Law. But the quality of that death is sufficient for any number of sinners. In other words, the Father’s election was not limited by the value of Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t need two sacrifices to save twice as many sinners.

    Not sure what your last questions have to do with the Canons of Dort.

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  247. ” I’m confused as to how Dordt accepted that moderating view of the atonement yet in the section that dealt with objections to election they seemed so clear in their views of particular redemption by a particular atonement for a particular people:”

    I think your confusion originates in seeing Dordt’s view as a moderating position. It wasn’t. They were answering a different question than the one you are looking at. You keep insisting that election came first and then the atonement, but I don’t think that is obvious as you seem to suggest. Did God establish how he would save sinners and then select the ones he would save or did he decide to save sinners and then come up with a plan to do so? I don’t see that it makes all that much difference, and I certainly don’t see the two different approaches as two different kinds of gospels. When Dort says that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for any number of sinners, they are talking about the value of the sacrifice. That sacrifice was then applied to particular people.

    “When the false gospel says that Christ’s death has “sufficiency” to make an offer to every sinner, at the same time that false gospel is teaching that Christ’s death is not sufficient to cause any sinner to become justified before God.”
    Right. Christ’s death by itself does not complete the causal chain of salvation. Election is necessary for starters.

    “The false gospel denies that Christ’s death purchased regeneration or faith because the false gospel thinks that would make regeneration and faith something not grace but something God owed to Christ because of Christ having purchased regeneration and faith. Like the Socinians, the false gospel says that grace must not be bought by Christ’s death or it is no longer grace.”
    Rather than using a blanket (and dare I say loaded) term like “false gospel”, perhaps you should focus on the reformed teaching of the gospel. The reformed standards do not teach what you’ve written here.

    “And so the false gospel says–trust God, not God’s justice. Trust Christ in His present resurrection status, not Christ for what His death did by way of propitiation and purchase.”
    That is not implied by the reformed standards.

    “The false gospel teaches that only Christ’s status as justified and resurrected are imputed to elect sinners.. The false gospel denies that Christ died by an objective justice for specific sins and that this death is imputed to elect sinners.”
    The reformers do not deny this.

    “The false gospel teaches that Christ represented every sinner. So does the false gospel teach that Christ at some point stopped representing some sinners/
    Or does the false gospel teach that Christ represented every sinner, right up until the time most of them perish?”
    The reformed view does not teach this.

    “It’s a requirement of God’s justice that everyone for whom Christ died will become justified. This is God’s debt to God. This is God’s obligation to God to be the God who is just.”
    This is the reformed view as I understand it.

    However, this is not the gospel… Important theology, true theology. But not the gospel.

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  248. Tianqi:

    You’re confusing several different ideas: efficiency, sufficiency, and suitability. Christ’s suffering was not suitable for the salvation of the angels, because He is not their federal head. That is distinct from the question of sufficiency. If indeed He *had* been their federal head, His death on the cross, suffering God’s wrath against sin, would still have been sufficient for them.

    The matter of sufficiency can be seen simply, as follows:

    Suppose hypothetically that God had elected to save one more person. We agree that in that case, Christ would have had to pay for that person’s sins, definitely and specifically on the cross. The efficiency of the atonement is in complete agreement between us.

    But now the question: Would He have had to suffer any greater amount in order to atone for one additional person?

    No. For His suffering consisted of satisfying God’s eternal wrath against sin, of being separated from God in His human nature, of experiencing Hell on our behalf. His one act is the same act, applied to all of the sins of all of His people (and only those sins).

    For simplicity, imagine that only you, John Y, and Mark M are saved. The three of you are saved because, on the cross, Jesus specifically took on your sins and suffered God’s full wrath for them.

    Now imagine a different world in which I also am saved. In that case, on the cross, Jesus specifically took on the sins of all four of us and suffered God’s full wrath for us. The same act is *sufficient* for as many as God chooses to impute the sins of. It is *efficient* only for the elect, because *only* the sins of the elect are imputed to Christ.

    TW: In short, Christ’s death may not be abstracted from His LEGAL SUBSTITUTION for some particular sinners, NO MORE THAN it may be abstracted from His assumption of human nature.

    Whyever not? Where is that in Scripture?

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  249. John Y: I’m confused as to how Dordt accepted that moderating view of the atonement yet in the section that dealt with objections to election they seemed so clear in their views of particular redemption by a particular atonement for a particular people

    That’s a very good observation. Consider how you handle that where it comes to Paul or Jesus. For both say things that sound very universalist: “God is the savior of all, especially of those who believe” or “God did not send His son into the world in order to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

    But they also say things that are definitely not universalist, but predestinarian (Rom 9, John 5 / 6).

    So what do you, John Y, do with that? I know what you don’t do! You have never once, praise God, said that Paul or Jesus teaches a false gospel. And that’s because you have the good sense to seek to harmonize their statements. You *assume* that they have a coherent-but-complex understanding of salvation, and interpret accordingly.

    You need to do the same with Dordt, Hodge, Calvin, etc. Dordt is clear on particular atonement:

    Rejection 1
    [We deny that] That God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness and worth of what Christ merited by His death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person.

    For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is
    contrary to Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: “I lay down My life for the sheep, and I know them” (John 10:15,
    27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He
    shall see His seed, He shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Is. 53:10).
    Finally, this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church.

    That being the case, it is clearly to no avail to seize upon statements that sound universalist and try to use them to make Dordt into a “hypothetical universalist” document.

    Let’s get the views clear:

    Dordt: Christ’s death is sufficient for all because He is the God-man. It paid for specific sins, and is thus efficient only for the elect. In this view, Christ paid for actual sins on the cross. The election is both to having one’s sins imputed, and to faith.

    Amyraut (hypothetical universalist): Christ’s death is sufficient for all because all could, if not for total depravity, choose to believe. But God elects to give faith only to some, thereby accomplishing His election. The election is to faith, not to having one’s sins imputed.

    I will freely admit that it would have been nicer if Ursinus had been clearer. For he speaks like a hypothetical universalist at points (eg.: Commentary on HC, Lord’s Day 16, section 3). And yet even there he says,

    Lastly, the orthodox Fathers and Schoolmen, also distinguish and restrict the above passages of Scripture as we have done; especially Augustine, Cyril and Prosper. Lombard writes as follows: “Christ offered himself to God, the Trinity for all men, as it respects the sufficiency of the price; but only for the elect as it regards the efficacy thereof, because he effected, and purchased salvation only for those who were predestinated.”

    The bottom line is this: no-one is going to meet your demand for perfect linguistic consistency.

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  250. sdb:”There are limits on whom that death is counted for. You don’t need more death to elect more sinners. You need a different *kind* of death to save other kinds of sinners (insofar as it makes sense to talk about the death of immortal angels). Dordt was not arguing that Christ died for everyone. They are quite clear that he only died in the place of some sinners under the Law. But the quality of that death is sufficient for any number of sinners. In other words, the Father’s election was not limited by the value of Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t need two sacrifices to save twice as many sinners.”

    What you are doing here is exactly talking about Christ’s death APART FROM viewing Him dying in the place of CERTAIN sinners under Law.

    If Christ died for a different set of sinners, then it’s a different sacrifice and Christ would be a different priest. The sacrifice and priesthood is conditioned by the federal/legal representation and substitution.

    You agree this much – one cannot separate Christ’s human nature from the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ.

    How much more so, you cannot separate the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ from His federal relation to the elect for whose sake He partook that human nature!

    Hebrews 2:11 For both the One sanctifying and the ones being sanctified are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brothers,

    14 Since, then, the children have partaken of flesh and blood, in like manner He Himself also shared the same things, that through death He might cause to cease the one having the power of death, that is, the devil;

    16 For indeed He does not take hold of angels, “but He takes hold of” “the seed of Abraham.”

    17 For this reason He ought by all means to become like His brothers, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things respecting God, in order to make propitiation for the sins of His people.

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  251. Jeff,

    “You’re confusing several different ideas: efficiency, sufficiency, and suitability. Christ’s suffering was not suitable for the salvation of the angels, because He is not their federal head. That is distinct from the question of sufficiency. If indeed He *had* been their federal head, His death on the cross, suffering God’s wrath against sin, would still have been sufficient for them.”

    By definition, Christ isn’t the federal head of the non-elect. Do you agree that His death is therefore neither suitable nor sufficient for them? I would certainly agree with that, but this perhaps is not your intention.

    “But now the question: Would He have had to suffer any greater amount in order to atone for one additional person?

    No. For His suffering consisted of satisfying God’s eternal wrath against sin, of being separated from God in His human nature, of experiencing Hell on our behalf. His one act is the same act, applied to all of the sins of all of His people (and only those sins).”

    You say, His suffering consisted of satisfying God’s eternal wrath against “sin” – what is this “sin” in the singular? Is it the sum total of “all of the sins of all of His people (and only those sins)”? Or is it something general, indefinite?

    If the former, then clearly Christ’s suffering would be different, since now He is suffering for God’s wrath also against the SINS of this additional person.

    If the latter, then this ends up agreeing with what “Calvin and Calvinism” webmaster reports Charles Hodge to teach: the expiation is for categories of sin, not concrete personal sins of individual sinners.

    “Now imagine a different world in which I also am saved. In that case, on the cross, Jesus specifically took on the sins of all four of us and suffered God’s full wrath for us. The same act is *sufficient* for as many as God chooses to impute the sins of. It is *efficient* only for the elect, because *only* the sins of the elect are imputed to Christ.”

    This “act” – taking on sins of sinners to suffer God’s full wrath for them – CANNOT BE SEPARATED from the imputation of the sins of these sinners.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made the One who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

    The imputation of sins of certain sinners is a pre-condition for Christ’s death and defines its SUFFICIENCY as atonement.

    One can see this by trying to consider the sufficiency of Christ’s death IF NOBODY’S SINS were imputed to Him. Would it have ANY SUFFICIENCY? It would be no atonement at all.

    Now, you might point out this scenario is impossible because Christ would not have died if no sins were imputed to Him, because His death occurred as a punishment of SINS, a result of God’s wrath against the sins imputed to Him.

    That’s exactly right, and for the same reason, His death would be a different punishment, and would have a different SUFFICIENCY, if it is now a result of God’s wrath against the sins of more sinners.

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  252. Here is an article about the error of “sufficiency for all”

    http://www.the-highway.com/sufficiency.html

    On the spuriousness of the argument from Christ’s deity to “sufficiency for all”:

    “Fourthly, that since Christ in His person is divine and infinite, so must be His work on the cross; therefore His death is sufficient for all. Answer: “It is a non sequitur to move from the deity of the sacrifice to the sufficiency for every individual person. Such a conclusion assumes that the Deity can perform nothing by measure,”4. In His feeding of the five thousand, Jesus multiplied the loaves by a divine act. Yet all the loaves in the world were not multiplied, only the ones He handled and blessed for the five thousand. Again, it was a divine act (and thus infinite) that raised Lazarus from the grave. Yet this was limited to Lazarus. To say that the raising of Lazarus was sufficient for all but efficient for Lazarus makes little sense if any. It is obvious that Christ had the power to raise whomever He chose. The fact is He chose to raise only Lazarus, and His divine actions were limited to that.

    “Perhaps more to the point, Christ’s nature, being divine and thus infinite, does not increase the intensity or quantity of that which was laid on Him at the cross. However, His nature does enable Him to bear whatever it might have been. Our sins are not infinite, and we are not infinite; it is Christ who is infinite. Christ bore the penalty for the sins of a finite number of people. His divine nature ensured that He would successfully bear the eternal wrath due to those sins, no matter how great or how many. His atonement is sufficient for all whom it was intended. It is sufficient for all whose sins were laid on Him, no matter how many. The question is, Was Christ a real substitute for, and did He bear the punishment due to, all men or some? The doctrine of limited atonement says some, the elect, or else all would be saved. To say that His death was sufficient for all, or that His atonement was sufficient for all, certainly implies otherwise.”

    On the errors on atonement entailed in the “sufficiency for all” view:

    Example 1: W. G. T. Shedd

    “One error of this view is found in its lack of precise distinction between atonement and the effectual call. By maintaining that Christ’s death was sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect, there is a tendency to define the extent of the atonement in terms of personal application by the Holy Spirit.

    “An example can be found in the work of W. G. T. Shedd, an eminent Calvinist theologian of the nineteenth century who adopts the “sufficient for all” view. In Shedd’s discussion of the extent of the atonement he differentiates between passive and active meanings. Passively, he claims, “the extent of the atonement is unlimited.” Actively, which he says denotes the act of extending, it is limited. Shedd goes on:

    “The extent of the atonement in this sense [active] means its personal application to individuals by the Holy Spirit. The extent is now the intent. The question, What is the extent of the atonement? now means: To whom is the atonement effectually extended?5.

    “This essentially identifies the doctrine of effectual calling with atonement! It removes any efficacy from the atonement itself and makes Christ’s work on the cross merely tentative! If He has died for all sufficiently and the only particularity is in the personal application by the Spirit, then I cannot see how one distinguishes this from the universal atonement of the Arminians, who claim that Christ died for all men, with its benefits accruing only to those who believe. The difference between the two does not lie in the atonement, but in the Spirit’s effectual calling.

    “Shedd’s problem is that he has decided to say “Christ’s death is sufficient for all” and now he must try and explain what he means by it. While his particular reasoning may be somewhat unique, his basic solution is not. In order to find some significant difference between sufficiency and efficiency he turns to the application work of the Spirit. This is a typical problem for the “sufficiency” view, and the solution in this case is erroneous.”

    Example 2: Alexander Hodge

    “In another attempt to explain how Christ’s death is sufficient for all, Alexander Hodge has taken a different approach. He states that the atonement has objectively “removed the legal impediments out of the way of all men.”6 This explanation has become quite popular, but it is not without its inherent problems.

    “If all legal obstacles to a man’s salvation have been removed then what hinders his being saved? You say his unbelief? Logically then, the only reason men are condemned is unbelief. But is not unbelief a sin for which Christ suffered the legal penalties? Certainly, for even the elect were guilty of unbelief at one time. Do we then say that persistent unbelief is in a different category as some have suggested? What then about the man who never had the opportunity to disbelieve? If all the legal obstacles to his salvation have been removed and he never hears of Jesus, then certainly no just reason remains why he should be condemned. Is he then saved? If so, it is better that I tell no one the gospel. If not, then for what is he condemned? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer.

    “In addition, if every legal obstacle is removed for all men, there is no basis for the wrath of God continuing upon any man. To remove the legal obstacles is to satisfy God’s justice and His wrath. Why then does Scripture persist in teaching otherwise? “For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come,” Col. 3:6. And again, “because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience,” Eph. 5:6. The answer is that the legal obstacles have not been removed for all men but for the elect, all those for whom Christ died, so that “He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,” Rom. 3:26. The wrath of God and the justice of God are satisfied for those for whom Christ was a substitute, and that is not all men, but by His grace it is some.”

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  253. If Christ died for a different set of sinners, then it’s a different sacrifice and Christ would be a different priest. The sacrifice and priesthood is conditioned by the federal/legal representation and substitution.

    I think you have found the root of where we differ. The text you quote from Hebrews does not entail this at all.

    How much more so, you cannot separate the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ from His federal relation to the elect for whose sake He partook that human nature!

    Sure you can. Look, what you are arguing is that the Father was limited to the number of the elect by a limitation in Christ’s death. I disagree. Christ’s resurrection power over death in the case of Lazarus was sufficient to raise any number of people from the dead, but he chose to raise one person. Christ’s power over nature was sufficient to multiply any number of loaves, but he chose to only multiply some. Christ’s death was sufficient to pay for the sins of any number of people, but the Father chose to save some.

    It looks to me like we’ve reached an impasse. Perhaps you have some different argument to make? Otherwise, I don’t see much room for progress. I think your view is mistaken, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you have stumbled into a false gospel. However, I find it bizarre, that you assert that an esoteric argument like this distinguishes the true gospel from a false gospel. There are think you are dangerously mistaken.

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  254. Tianqi,

    Thanks for the link. I want to point out several things in the article and ask you questions in relation to them:

    (1) The author says While no Calvinist would deny the intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death for the redemption of all men had God so designed and intended it, I find the use of such phraseology dubious.

    Do you agree with the author that “no Calvinist would deny the intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death for the redemption of all men had God so designed and intended it”?

    (2) The author says Maintaining the infinite intrinsic value of Christ’s death is not the same as saying “He died sufficiently for all men and efficiently only for the elect.” The latter seems to ascribe to Christ a purpose or intention to die in the place of all men, and to benefit all by the proper effects of His death as an atonement or propitiation.

    I disagree with this interpretation of the phrase, though I concede it is possibly poorly worded to allow such an interpretation. Do you agree that your objection rests on interpreting the phrase “sufficiently for all” to mean a purpose or intent to die in the place of all men? And that if the phrase is not so intended, then your objection falls away? That is: if “sufficiently for all” DOES NOT mean an intent or purpose to die for all, but DOES MEAN only and indicate “the intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death for the redemption of all men had God so designed and intended it”, then your objection is no longer valid?

    (3) The author concedes that This statement has been used by good solid Calvinists who have no intention of giving way on the doctrine of limited atonement, but that does not make it valid or advisable phraseology.

    Do you agree that the statement “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” can be used by good solid Calvinists who have no intention of giving way on the doctrine of limited atonement?

    (4) The author claims Primarily, the use of this terminology seems to be an attempt to soften the impact of the doctrine of limited atonement on the natural mind, for it is indeed no simple matter of understanding. Most people don’t want a theological treatise as an explanation, they just want a simple answer (and in no more than three minutes, if you please). So we say, “His death was sufficient for all, but efficient only for the elect.” This may be brief and easy to remember, but accuracy and integrity have been sacrificed for the sake of brevity.

    He might be reflecting on his own contemporary observations, but historically this is not the case. The phrase extends at least back to Lombard, and the concept back to Augustine. It was used by 1st and 2nd generation Reformers as a part of historic continuity with the church.

    Do you agree that it is necessary to understand the history of an idea in order to properly judge it?

    (5) The author states that Perhaps more to the point, Christ’s nature, being divine and thus infinite, does not increase the intensity or quantity of that which was laid on Him at the cross. However, His nature does enable Him to bear whatever it might have been. Our sins are not infinite, and we are not infinite; it is Christ who is infinite. Christ bore the penalty for the sins of a finite number of people. His divine nature ensured that He would successfully bear the eternal wrath due to those sins, no matter how great or how many. His atonement is sufficient for all whom it was intended. It is sufficient for all whose sins were laid on Him, no matter how many.

    Do you agree with him?

    For my part, I think that focusing on “sufficient for all” is a red herring. It might mean something universalist; it might not.

    The place to focus one’s attention is rather on the effect of the atonement: Did Christ pay to forgive actual and specific sins, or did He pay for the possibility of sins forgiven? If the former, as Calvin, Ursinus, and Hodge do, then one is “committed to” (Helm’s phrase) particular atonement. For it is impossible that if Christ paid to forgive actual and specific sins, that either any of the elect could perish, or that their election was to faith only.

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  255. Jeff,.

    The Scriptures often use a universal word when describing groups of nouns or verbs where the meaning ends up being exclusive to some rather inclusive to all. In other words, the whole ends up being only a part of the whole. One example is the Scripture verse that says money is the root of all evil. Money is certainly the root of a lot of evils but not all evil. My point being is that you can come to a conclusion if the Scripture verse, or group of verses, is (are) using universal terms in an exclusive way. I admit that proving that can be difficult in some cases but it can be done. Whether the atoning work of Christ is for all people or only for the elect is one of those difficult cases. Many have argued very convincingly that the overall message of the Scriptures is that Christ died only for the community of God’s people called the elect (among other exclusive words) without having to revert to explanations that appease both the universalist and the particularistic. In fact, I think a red flag should be raised if a compromise solution is argued for. I think the Canons of Dordt were written is some of its sections as a compromise with some of the group of writers who were holding on to an Amyraldian view of the atonement. That’s why they came up with the phrase sufficient for all but effective or efficient only for the elect. That introduced a confusing concept into the atoning work of Christ where much ink was spilled trying to explain it.

    When the issue is the content of the Gospel and it’s meaning you have to be careful linguistically or deviations will raise their ugly heads quickly. Deviations often sound good while subtlety changing the meaning of words, terms and concepts, and entire doctrines. Sure, we should be forgiving and patient with others unintentional linguistic mistakes and errors. However, when they persist and undermine the content and meaning of the Gospel after given a fair hearing then the ideas and doctrines that stem from the arguments should not be tolerated any longer. I speak to myself and any errors of my own when I say that too. We all are prone to error and often need to be corrected by each other. That is why I value continued dialog with those who claim to know the Gospel.

    Actually, McMark and Tianqi know the art of argument much better than I do (and are much better at it than me) so I really should let them handle the more complex doctrines and issues. I do enjoy listening to lively and important debates though so I will continue to listen and hopefully learn something and correct any of my own errors while doing so.

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  256. Jeff,

    I’m not convinced yet that the sole reason Dordt taught the infinite value of Christ’s death was because of Christ’s divinity. I think they were making more than that point. Whether intentional or not I think equating the infinite value of Christ’s death with sufficiency for all undermines the commercial or pecuniary understanding of the atonement. To quote Andrew Fuller:
    Andrew Fuller–”if the specificity of the atonement be placed in the atonement itself, and not in the sovereign will of God, it must have proceeded on the principle of PECUNIARY satisfactions. In commercial payments, the payment is equal to the amount of the debt, and being so, it is not of sufficient value for more than those who are actually liberated by it.
    letter to Ryland #3, 2:708

    For Andrew Fuller, Christ’s death is specific only because of God’s sovereignty not because of God’s justice, and not because of the nature of the atonement.. Fuller makes a distinction between the nature of the atonement and its design and application.

    But unless we believe in eternal justification, don’t we all make a distinction between the atonement and its legal application? Yes, there is a time gap, but the question remains about the imputation of specific sins to Christ and the nature of the justice of Christ’s death at the cross.

    I think Charles Hodge makes a similar comment in the atonement section of his Systematic Theology book:

    Charles Hodge supporting the free offer of the Gospel:

    –“Some argue that the work of
    Christ is a satisfaction to divine justice. From this it follows that
    justice cannot condemn those for whose sins it has been satisfied. It
    cannot demand that satisfaction twice, first from the substitute and
    then from the sinner himself. This would be manifestly unjust, far
    worse than demanding no punishment at all. From this it is inferred
    that the satisfaction of Christ, if the ground on which a sinner MAY
    BE FORGIVEN, is the ground on which a sinner MUST BE FORGIVEN

    Charles Hodge– This objection rises from confusing a pecuniary and a
    judicial satisfaction. There is no grace in accepting a pecuniary
    satisfaction. It cannot be refused. It ipso facto liberates. The
    moment the debt is paid the debtor is free; and that without any
    condition.

    Charles Hodge–Nothing of this is true in the case of judicial
    satisfaction. If a substitute be provided and accepted it is a matter
    of grace. Christ’s satisfaction d may accrue to the benefit of those
    for whom it is made at once or at a remote period; completely or
    gradually; on conditions or unconditionally; or it may never benefit
    them at all unless the condition on which its application is suspended
    be performed.

    Charles Hodge– Lutherans and Reformed agree entirely in their views of
    the nature of the satisfaction of Christ. that is the foundation for
    the OFFER of the gospel What the Reformed hold about election does not affect the nature of the atonement. That remains the same whether
    designed for the elect or for all mankind. Christ’s death does not
    derive its nature from the secret purpose of God as to the application
    of Christ’s death , Systematic Theology, 2:557

    John Y: I might be mistaken in my assumption and misunderstanding what the Canons of Dordt were trying to communicate about the meaning, nature and extent of the atoning death of Christ.

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  257. sdb:“Look, what you are arguing is that the Father was limited to the number of the elect by a limitation in Christ’s death. ”

    No, this is not what I’ve been arguing. You either misunderstood my point very badly, or worse.

    As I said before, election is logically PRIOR to atonement. The atonement does not exist apart from imputation of guilt, and the latter is ultimately determined by election. More specifically:

    In God’s eternal counsel, Father sovereignly, unconditionally elected a number of sinners to be saved by the Son.

    This decree of election established the federal representation. This is how the eternal Son became Christ! The Son is intrinsically the Son, but He is never Christ apart from the election of His church.

    This federal representation is the basis of two things:

    1) The legal substitution of Christ for sinners in humiliation, suffering and death

    2) The legal imputation of Christ’s finished cross-work to sinners

    In the very act of being sent to earth, Christ – who is already the federal head of elect alone by the decree of election – legally acted as their substitute.

    This means He took on their guilt under Law in and with the very act of incarnation, and THEREFORE he was born as a man under the curse of Law, a man of sorrows from birth, and received in full God’s condemnation and punishment due to them at the cross.

    By His receiving this penal death for the guilt He bore, He fully atoned for the guilt He bore, and consequently He was raised from dead in full glory of the Son of God.

    Now He sits at right hand of God to administer the fruit of His cross-work, imputing the legal value of His death to every one for whom He died (this is the “baptism” that saves, without water or human hands) and giving the Spirit into their hearts to regenerate them unto faith in His gospel.

    Notice this point I highlighted in the above: the imputation of sins happened in the very sending of Christ to earth, in the very act of incarnation.

    George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of Atonement – “the Lamb of God appeared without inherent sin or taint of any kind, but never without the sin of others. The sin of man was not first imputed to Him or borne by Him when He hung on the cross, but in and with the assumption of man’s nature, or, more precisely, in and with His mission.

    “The very form of a servant, and His putting on the likeness of sinful flesh, was an argument that sin was already transferred to Him and borne by Him. Because He bore sin, and was never seen without it, it may be affirmed that the mortality which was comprehended in the words, “Thou shalt surely die”—that is, all that was summed up in the wrath and curse of God,—was never really separated from Him until He died. As the sin-bearer, He all through life discerned the penal character of sin, the guilt, not personal but as the surety could realize it, and the obligation to divine punishment for sins not His own, but made His own by an official action.”

    What’s my overall point?

    Christ’s death is * thoroughly substitutionary *:

    Election and federal representation
    -> Legal substitution and imputation of guilt
    -> Incarnation in a state of humiliation
    -> Condemnation and punishment, suffering death on the cross
    -> Imputed guilt atoned, justification-resurrection-glorification
    -> Ascension and reign, imputation of His death and gift of Holy Spirit

    Because of this, all the potential in Christ’s death is necessarily fully realized – full justification from sins and inheritance of eternal life.

    Christ’s death satisfied justice. Justice – no merely sovereignty – now demands Christ’s death have its full fruition.

    Against all affirm some unlimited/general/indefinite/multi-purpose sense of atonement:

    There is NO unrealized potential in the death of Christ!

    There is NO potential in Christ’s death that falls below eternal salvation!

    It doesn’t matter whether you say the non-realization of the full potential is due to human will or divine will.

    Herein lies the problem with Dordt. Dordt only affirmed the certainty of realization of the potential in Christ’s death for the elect, as a matter of God’s sovereign will. It evades the question of whether there is some unrealized potential in Christ’s death.

    In fact, it SUGGESTS this is the case by saying Christ’s death is “more than sufficient to atone for sins of the whole world” and denying the non-elect perish due to any “insufficiency” in Christ’s death.

    At the least, this allows for the position that in addition to only being a substitutionary death for the elect ensuring their justification, the death of Christ has a greater potential that the non-elect could have benefited from by accepting the gospel offer. This implies that there is some non-substitutionary aspect to Christ’s death that could be turned into substitution by some event happening now in the preaching of gospel.

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  258. Jeff,

    (1) “Do you agree with the author that “no Calvinist would deny the intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death for the redemption of all men had God so designed and intended it””

    This statement requires clarification. What we mean by the statement is precisely WHY we are having THIS discussion.

    (2) “Do you agree that your objection rests on interpreting the phrase “sufficiently for all” to mean a purpose or intent to die in the place of all men?”

    My objection extends beyond “purpose or intent to die in the place of all men”.

    My main objection in this discussion, in fact, is to the following idea

    (*) That there is an objective potential in Christ’s death for the salvation of the non-elect, which is not realized due to God’s purpose/intent.

    I only accept the idea that had Christ died as a result of a different legal arrangement, then that different death would be sufficient for a different number of sinners.

    (3) “Do you agree that the statement “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” can be used by good solid Calvinists who have no intention of giving way on the doctrine of limited atonement?”

    Maybe, but they will only do so in spite of this burden of tradition, having to explain away the obvious connotations of the phrase.

    (4) “Do you agree that it is necessary to understand the history of an idea in order to properly judge it?”

    I agree that in order to understand what historical people mean by a phrase, we need to look at their historical context.

    (5) “Perhaps more to the point, Christ’s nature, being divine and thus infinite, does not increase the intensity or quantity of that which was laid on Him at the cross. However, His nature does enable Him to bear whatever it might have been. Our sins are not infinite, and we are not infinite; it is Christ who is infinite. Christ bore the penalty for the sins of a finite number of people. His divine nature ensured that He would successfully bear the eternal wrath due to those sins, no matter how great or how many. His atonement is sufficient for all whom it was intended. It is sufficient for all whose sins were laid on Him, no matter how many.

    Do you agree with him?”

    I agree with what he said here.

    “The place to focus one’s attention is rather on the effect of the atonement: Did Christ pay to forgive actual and specific sins, or did He pay for the possibility of sins forgiven? If the former, as Calvin, Ursinus, and Hodge do, then one is “committed to” (Helm’s phrase) particular atonement. For it is impossible that if Christ paid to forgive actual and specific sins, that either any of the elect could perish, or that their election was to faith only.”

    The trouble is that Calvin, Ursinus, Hodge all seem to teach this view

    (*) That there is an objective potential in Christ’s death for the salvation of the non-elect, which is not realized due to God’s purpose/intent.

    Such a view is still compatible with Dordt, which only affirms the certainty of the realization of salvific potential in Christ’s death in regard to the elect, due to God’s purpose/intent.

    But such a view denies the thoroughly substitutionary nature of Christ’s death (see my previous reply to sdb for a more detailed explanation of what I mean by this). It implies that there is some non-substitutionary aspect to Christ’s death, which can be turned into substitution by something outside Christ’s death itself.

    But this is saying the real “atonement” was not accomplished in Christ’s death, but rather this “something” turns Christ’s death, which is non-atoning in itself, into a real atonement.

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  259. Tianqi:

    Thanks for the last post. It is helpful in clarifying your concern. I want to highlight your contrast here:

    You object to (*) That there is an objective potential in Christ’s death for the salvation of the non-elect, which is not realized due to God’s purpose/intent.

    You accept: that had Christ died as a result of a different legal arrangement, then that different death would be sufficient for a different number of sinners.

    To rephrase your concern, you wish to reject the notion that there is merit sitting around unused.

    We actually agree on that point. To be clear, I reject (*), and I believe that anyone who holds to limited atonement rejects (*) as well. It is logically necessary: If one holds that Christ died for specific sins, and not to establish a general treasury of merit (Catholic) or potential for forgiveness (Arminian / Amyrauldian), then one is committed in principle to the view that Christ’s death is entirely spent on the elect, and there is no unused potential. This is how I learned limited atonement, from Presbyterians who used Hodge in their arguments.

    So why then do Ursinus and Hodge use the language to which you object? I would argue that it is not because they are trying to sneak in universalism or Amyrauldianism.

    Rather, it is because they lacked a coherent language to describe infinity.

    If you have not encountered David Hilbert’s “Grand Hotel”, I recommend reading this: https://www.ias.edu/ideas/2016/pires-hilbert-hotel

    My calculus students, especially the ones who are imaginative but not sufficiently attentive, will sometimes to try make calculations with infinity, such as “0*oo = 0 because anything times 0 is 0” or “oo – oo = 0 because anything minus itself is zero” Both of those statements are false, but tempting. So I have a slogan to try to remind them: Infinity is not a number with which we can do arithmetic.

    When you argue that IF Christ’s death is sufficient for all, THEN there must be unused potential left over, you are adopting a hidden premise that Christ’s merit on the cross is a number that must be divided amongst the sins of His people. And if that were true, the rest of your argument would be sound: sufficiency for any more than the elect would imply unused potential.

    But if Christ’s death is of infinite value — which it must be in order to purchase salvation for even one sin — then we cannot do arithmetic with it. Your hidden premise is false, and the rest of the argument falls with it.

    The upshot of Hilbert’s Grand Hotel is that when there is infinite value, it may be completely used (as is here), AND YET if additional room is needed, room can be found. Hilbert showed this analytically, but in the 20th century. I contend that Lombard, Ursinus Hodge, et al, were grappling with this notion, and settled on “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” as a way to describe the mental picture. They did not have the mathematical machinery to make this precise, but they had a true mental picture.

    Read Lombard again: Christ offered himself to God, the Trinity for all men, as it respects the sufficiency of the price; but only for the elect as it regards the efficacy thereof, because he effected, and purchased salvation only for those who were predestinated.

    Take the second part: …and purchased salvation only for those who were predestinated.

    The limitation Lombard places here is not a limitation on who is chosen to have faith, so that there is unused potential. Lombard does not limit salvation only to the predestination to faith. He specifically limits the atonement, what Christ purchased, to those who were predestined. Whatever he is saying, it is not (as you fear) an atonement that creates a treasury of merit or the potential to forgive sins.

    It is rather an atonement that specifically purchases salvation for the elect only. AND YET is sufficient for all, with regard to the value. How is that possible? Because the value is infinite. Hilbert’s Grand Hotel.

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  260. Tianqi and John,

    This is my last post on this topic. Thanks for the conversation, and continue to persevere in your faith in Christ crucified for you.

    Why have I engaged here? The prize for me is to uphold the confessional view of the church and our understanding of how doctrine is developed and taught. In what follows, I have some hard things to say, but without rancor.

    First, I believe it is important to listen to the collective wisdom of the church. The church is not infallible, but it *is* guided by God’s Spirit, and it *has* had to wrestle with many prior issues, including the one we have debated. In our discussion, both of you seem eager to throw the wisdom of the church and her recognized teachers under the bus — Dordt, Calvin, Ursinus, and more — in favor of individuals of untested authority (McCulley) or rejected authority (Hoeksema). And there are times when this must be done, but those times are rare. On this well-hashed topic, it is unlikely that you or I would find something new.

    So: Listen to the church.

    Second, by uttering the words “False Gospel”, you have articulated a standard of orthodoxy. There is a principle of strict scrutiny for such tests: They *must* be either directly taught in Scripture or shown to be good and necessary inference from Scripture. If such test fails to be either, then it is legalism: A teaching of man added on to God’s word — and in this case, a teaching that would carry with it the sanction of eternal Hell if disobeyed.

    However, there is no direct Scriptural attestation to the idea that belief in the gospel MUST include belief in limited atonement, nor imputation prior to faith. That would call for great caution, and a careful examination of whether your standard is truly an inference from Scripture.

    So: Demonstrate proper caution when laying down weighty standards with which you would bind the consciences of believers.

    Third, both of you need to recognize that the distinction you draw is very narrow and somewhat hard to follow. If it is really the case that one must believe in your version of the ordo to be saved, and that limited atonement of your variety is the only true gospel by which men may be saved, then it is probably impossible for anyone with an IQ of less than 130 to come to saving faith.

    That should be a reason for self-skepticism — especially because Scripture *never once* shows an instance of “imputation prior to faith” being preached evangelistically.

    So: have some perspective about the implications of your teaching. Not everything that is true is necessary for salvation.

    Those are my exhortations, offered with friendship and a desire for a strengthening of all of our faith.

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  261. Jeff,

    Thanks for patiently continuing the dialogue until now. Here are some (concluding) remarks from me. It will consist of two parts, to your last two comments respectively.

    1.

    It’s interesting to know that you are a math teacher. I’m in fact a math student (currently in grad school), so I do encounter (and use) the concept of mathematical infinity quite regularly.

    If you wish to use the Hilbert Hotel analogy, then what do you intend by “rooms”? I agree that the Son could have contracted to substitute any number of sinners. But my point is that once He contracted to be the Savior of the elect sinners, and came in the flesh as their sin-bearer, then the death that He actually died on the cross was only a punishment/payment for the sins of these sinners.

    There is only “unlimited potential” (logically) prior the plan of redemption is decided in God’s eternal counsel. But once the Father gave a definite number of sinners to the Son, and the Son came as their representative and substitute, then there is a only definite potential in the historical death of Christ, which is fully realized.

    Perhaps you say this is exactly what is meant by “sufficient for all”. In that case, I do not doubt that this is what YOU meant by it. But certain passages by Calvin, Ursinus, Hodge show that something MORE is meant. In particular, they connect the “sufficient for all” to the “offer of gospel”. But if all that is meant by “sufficient for all” is a counter-factual possibility in God’s eternal counsel of the plan of redemption, then how can it be relevant to the “offer of gospel”, and enable one to make an “offer” to all sinners?

    2.

    What defines membership in the church?

    Biblically, a person is in the church if they have fellowship with the apostles who have fellowship with Father and Son. One has this fellowship with them if one receives the gospel they directly received from Christ and preached (1 John 1:3, 4:6) .

    One of the greatest evils of the evolving institution called Roman Catholic Church is that they usurped this apostolic authority for themselves, their predecessors, and their successors – as if the faith has not already been ONCE delivered to the saints, but were in need of assistance of such Great Men called “church fathers”.

    The true church fathers are the ones that gave us the New Testament as their Spirit-inspired witness to the gospel of Christ whom they knew and served, who have finished the race as examples of fellow believers in Christ. Everyone confessing this gospel in the sense they preached is a member of the true church.

    This means that we should have no qualms of “throwing anyone under the bus” (including our own PAST selves!) when we learn from the Spirit-inspired writings of these true church fathers. The Scripture is clear and sufficient. If the Spirit of Christ is in us, then we should understand and believe in them, even if we never heard of any of the world-renowned “church fathers”. If not, then not, and nothing can help it.

    The writings of past theologians cannot be given a priori authority, but must be tested in light of scripture. Nor should they be regarded as indispensable preparation for understanding scripture, since they do not clarify the meaning of scripture, which is already clear. At best, they faithfully confess the clear doctrine of the Bible in a way peculiar to their context, which may be applicable to readers in a similar context, i.e. against certain prevailing errors. More often, they are a mixture of truth and error but still hit the questions the Bible addresses and thus are provocative for the reader to think for himself. In the worst case, they are subtly devised errors to lead the confused and unthinking astray.

    For instance, a person does not need to have heard of the error of Arminianism in order to know the gospel. However, when a person who believes the gospel comes to understand the teaching of Arminianism, he will recognize it for what it is – a denial of the gospel.

    Is “limited atonement” such a complicated idea? It may be so to the present-day generation because the false idea of universal atonement has been spread universally.

    But at the bottom, “limited atonement” is the only kind of atonement that the Jews had known – for Israel, not for Gentiles, nor for those who are cut off. The question is then, who is the Israel that God is going to save eternally? This is a fundamental question raised and answered in the New Testament. The answer is clear: it is not decided by ethnicity and religious rituals, or by human will or works, but by God’s unconditional election before the world began, manifested in effectual calling (or new birth) unto faith.

    Is “my version” of “limited atonement” such a complicated idea? Again, it may be so to the present-day generation because the meaningless-or-worse phrase of “sufficient for all” has been continually defended to this day.

    But at the bottom, Christ’s death is always proclaimed as a substitutionary death, a judgment of His people’s guilt laid on him, and His entire life of humiliation and sufferings on earth is viewed in this light. Before Christianity got popular for its moral influence and even officially sanctioned due to its popularity, could a sane person believed that the crucified man is the beloved Son of God, without also believing He was truly imputed with the real personal sins committed by real sinners? Only the later theologians of Christendom, taking so much for granted, had the luxury to expand Christ’s death to “more” than this, to dilute its meaning, in service of “sacraments” or “offers”.

    I’m not the innovator here, but those who try to add some universal potential to the cross are the innovators, and they are badly mistaken.

    Is “imputation before faith” such a complicated idea? Again, it may be so to the present-day generation because the false idea of “faith” as an instrument of grabbing Christ and His benefits has become so widespread, a legacy of the revered Reformers.

    But at bottom, this is the confession of all who truly believe in Justification of the UNGODLY. If we put anything done in men or through men – understanding, belief, confession, commitment, love, living right, circumcision, water baptism, etc – as the condition for the free gift of righteousness, then we have denied the gift is free, and consequently we have rejected the gospel of grace.

    For those who have been justified through faith, they see faith not as a condition that God enables them to meet for getting Christ’s righteousness, but as a spiritual gift that is given in Justification, both on account of God’s free gift of righteousness. “I was once blind, now I see.” Seeing what? God justifying the UNGODLY not conditioned on my seeing, but solely conditioned the accomplished righteousness in heaven that He has now freely given me by imputation and also caused me to see in the gospel.

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