Monday, November 24, 2014

Samuel Petto: Covenants and Conditions

I just finished reading Michael Brown's book Christ and The Condition - The Covenant Theology of Samuel Petto (1624-1711). For anyone who wants to get a solid introduction into the development of covenant theology from the time of the Reformers through the high Reformed Orthodox period this is a valuable read. As the title indicates, the main focus is the covenant theology of Samuel Petto, a 17th century reformed theologian. Though hardly a household name today, Brown places Petto among the several influential covenant theologians of his day.

Only 124 pages, yet Brown covers a lot of ground, surveying that period of history with concise historical summaries, quotes, and insights. He looks at the covenant theology of Calvin, Ursinus, Olevanius, Rollock, Perkins, Polanus, Wollebius, Ames, Sibbes, Ball, Bolton, Strong, Rutherford, Dickson, Calamy, Cocceius, Patrick Gillespie, Owen, Turretin, Witsius, and of course Petto. The question in focus throughout is, "how did the Mosaic Covenant relate to the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace?" Brown documents what were a variety of approaches to that question among these many theologians. Crucial to these Reformed theologians, and especially Petto, was understanding the Mosaic covenant in such a way as to not impinge upon the unconditional promise of salvation in, and the continuity of, the Covenant of Grace throughout Scripture. And very much related to that was their view that the Mosaic covenant was not a re-inauguration of the Covenant of Works for one's salvation.

Here are two shorts excerpt taken from the book:
"The better Covenant and that at Sinai, are contradistinguished, and so must be two distinct Covenants, else the opposition were groundless, Jer. 31.31, 32 -- I will make a New Covenant -- Not according to the Covenant I made with their Fathers -- i.e. not according to the Sinai Covenant; for that was it which was made when they were brought out of the Land of Egypt. He doth not say, I will set up a new administration of my Covenant (though that had been true) but a New Covenant; there is a plain opposition between Covenant and Covenant, and therefore the New and that at Sinai must be two distinct, and not one and the same in two different forms; and the rather, because this New Covenant is not opposed to the Covenant with Abraham, and to that with David, but only to that with Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai..." (Petto, p. 101)
... He [Petto] refused to call faith, repentance, or obedience "conditions," either antecedent or subsequent ones. He acknowledged that if there was a condition for believers in the new covenant, it would seem to be faith, yet that cannot be the case. A condition "properly taken," he argued, earns the right to the benefit promised. This, said Petto, cannot apply to faith, because faith receives a benefit; it does not earn a right to it. While recognizing that the New Testament often uses conditional language to speak of the necessity of faith, repentance, and obedience, he stressed that these are gifts earned by Christ's obedience and bestowed upon believers by the inward working of the Holy Spirit. "In the very Covenant it self, it is promised that he will write his Laws on their hearts, Heb. 8.10. and that inplyeth Faith, Repentance, and every gracious frame." (p. 113)
[The quotes that Brown uses here are from Petto's Difference between the Old and New Covenant]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Competent Turk?

And now for something completely different...

Screen shot
Frank Turk inquires into my thinking regarding a comment I made in response to this post of his. The conversation is below. It seems that Frank's style is to opt for condescension, a quick exit rather than engagement - and then a hasty closing off any further comments in order to have the last word and prove he stands alone as the smartest guy in the room. Impressive...

Jack Miller said...
Hearty Amen. Nicely reasoned - of course, with the help of your younger brother! The Spurgeon quote is icing on the cake...
5:59 PM, NOVEMBER 21, 2014Jack Miller said...
But I would say that Jones wasn't really saying his sanctification was imaginary as to demean the sanctification that God works in him (us), but that compared to the standard of God's holy law his obedience or sanctification in this life is but a meager start and far from (imaginary when compared to...) the holiness that is required in the Law. 
6:27 PM, NOVEMBER 21, 2014Frank Turk said...
Jack --
I think that it would be great if that's what he said. Can you show me where he said that? Because his words are pretty clear:
Personally, I am so thankful for my right standing with God because, after all, my sanctification is more imagined than real. But my justification is more real than imagined.
And if you ask me which blessing I love most right now, the answer is easy: union with Christ. For, in him, I have everything, so that I don't really need to decide whether I love justification or sanctification more than another. I'm comforted, primarily, by the fact that I belong to Christ and his work for me and in me will not fail.
That passage is pretty clear. Where does he say that stuff about God's law?
If anything, the expanded quote says this: I don't have to worry about my sanctification at all because Christ's ultimate work for me is all that matters. If I love Jesus, that's enough.
I'm not the one who asked the question, nor am I the one who wants to propose an answer which hides behind an MLJ quote which is often misused to mean that we can be careless about whether what we preach is antinomian.
I think what Jones said there was flowery, and full of puppies and bunnies, and gravely mistaken -- but I am open to see how you find your interpretation of his words in his words. 
9:19 AM, NOVEMBER 22, 2014Jack Miller said...
Frank, given how short Jones' post is I don't think one can say definitively what he means here and there. But in trying to give him a charitable read I take him as simply saying that his justification is fully complete and perfect in Christ. And that his sanctification by comparison is far, far (therefore the metaphor imaginary) from complete. As for the union bit I don't agree with his emphasis there. I think he may be presenting false choices between the three. But still, his comparison/contrast between justification and sanctification is consistent with the Reformed standards. And wouldn't you agree that the expression of sanctification in one's life would show itself in a direction of obedience to God's law? If so, then growing in sanctification would imply growing in obedience to the law.
WLC Q. 70. What is justification? [perfect & complete]
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
Of Sanctification [ongoing & partial in this life]
1. They, who are once 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.
Heidelberg Q. 114.
But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?
No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience... 
11:20 AM, NOVEMBER 22, 2014Frank Turk said...
Dear Jack --
I always find it hilarious when people quote the WCF or the Catechism on Justification to mop up their crumby reading of what it says about sanctification.
Thanks for the laugh. Have a nice weekend.
2:27 PM, NOVEMBER 22, 2014
New comments have been disabled for this post by a blog administrator.

Calvin: Embrace Christ Fully...

"It is indeed true, that we are justified in Christ through the mercy of God alone; but it is equally true and certain, that all who are justified are called by the Lord, that they may live worthy of their vocation. Let then the faithful learn to embrace him, not only for justification, but also for sanctification, as he has been given to us for both these purposes, lest they rend him asunder by their mutilated faith."
John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:13.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Role Does the Law Play In Our Daily Renewal?

What role does the law play in our being renewed in righteousness and true holiness by the Spirit, i.e our sanctification? To answer that I think it is safest to look primarily to the confessional standards such as:
WLC Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate? 
A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men [see Q. 95 below], it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.
WLC Q. 95. Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A. The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives: to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.
So the moral law points the regenerate to Christ and his fulfilling of that law as a covenant of works for us (which we couldn't fulfil and still can't) and that he endured the curse of the law in our place (we are miserable offenders). And all of this he alone accomplished for our good. And it is this good news that increases and provokes more and more thankfulness in us as we grow in the blessedness of God’s grace in which we stand. That thankfulness finds its expression in our grateful duty as we endeavor to walk in conformity to Christ’s moral law, it being the guide or rule of our obedience.

Regarding sanctification, it seems to be more a function of God’s grace than his law:
WSC Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Certainly the law is used by God, through both preaching and His written Word, yet it is Christ himself who has been given to us for both justification and sanctification and, as the earlier quotes make clear, even our whole salvation. John Calvin responding to Sadoleto:
… We deny that good works have any share in justification, but we claim full authority for them in the lives of the righteous. For if he who has obtained justification possesses Christ, and at the same time, Christ never is where His Spirit is not, it is obvious that gratuitous righteousness is necessarily connected with regeneration. Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches (1 Cor. 1:30) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification.Wherever, therefore, that righteousness of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too Christ is, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life.

The Way Appointed to Salvation...

Lest there be any confusion:
O Christians, men and women, hear this and learn. For surely the ignorant man shall perish in his ignorance, and the blind who follows another blind man will fall into the ditch with him. But there is one way to life and salvation, and that is faith and certainty in the promises of God which cannot be had without the gospel; for by hearing it and knowing it living faith is provided, together with sure hope, and perfect love for God and a lively love toward our neighbor. Where then is your hope, if you contemn and scorn to hear, see, read, and retain this holy gospel?
From John Calvin’s preface to Pierre Oliv├ętan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534)

Monday, November 3, 2014

*Gospel Sanctification*

"This whole matter of sanctification and holiness is peculiarly joined with and limited unto the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls...
"The “law,” indeed, for certain ends, “was given by Moses,” but all “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” There neither is, nor ever was, in the world, nor ever shall be, the least dram of holiness, but what, flowing from Jesus Christ, is communicated by the Spirit, according to the truth and promise of the gospel."
- John Owen, Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Priority of Justification in Good Works

10. In this way we can admit not only that there is a partial righteousness in works, (as our adversaries maintain,) but that they are approved by God as if they were absolutely perfect. If we remember on what foundation this is rested, every difficulty will be solved. The first time when a work begins to be acceptable is when it is received with pardon. And whence pardon, but just because God looks upon us and all that belongs to us as in Christ? Therefore, as we ourselves when engrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed. Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone. Now, if that righteousness of works, whatever it be, depends on faith and free justification, and is produced by it, it ought to be included under it and, so to speak, made subordinate to it, as the effect to its cause; so far is it from being entitled to be set up to impair or destroy the doctrine of justification that it is what it is.
John Calvin, Institutes of Religion - Book 3.17.10

Friday, October 31, 2014

Our Faith Looks To Christ...

It’s the emPHAsis thing. The truth that the moral law is still binding on believers can be sooo stressed as to cause one to lose sight of what has actually been merited by Jesus Christ for believers. Jesus proclaims “It is finished” and then for some that truth gets put into a lock box as believers are told that they now need to get about their part that is “necessary” for their salvation. I get it – obedience – isn’t optional as if we were saved to then go out and do whatever. The moral law continues to be a perfect rule of righteousness for believers (WCF 19.2).

But the emPHAsis that we obey, pray, learn, and trust like Jesus did – that he is the pattern for our Christian life – can leave out (despite the reality of the Spirit now within) a very big something >>> the abiding reality of our sinful nature and that our faith at its most basic and important level is a faith that looks to Christ for cleansing from sin, comfort for our consciences assaulted by the accusations of the enemy, and repentance of our wobbly hearts… In sanctification our sin is mortified by the blood of Christ not by our defiled good works which are acceptable only inasmuch as they are accounted acceptable by God for Christ’s sake.
Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness. Calvin, Institutes 3.17.8.
Salvation is by God's free grace (WSC 33, 34, and 35).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Perfect Obedience of the Law Is Righteousness

We've been discussing the righteousness of the Law and the imputation to the elect of Christ's righteousness, i.e. his perfect obedience (passive and active) to the Law. What follows below are some excerpts of John Calvin on this topic. I've added italics and bold emphasis to certain portions of the text to draw attention to them, highlighting Calvin's argument. And I've also added some [bracketed phrases] that, I think, help clarify what it means to be righteous before God in Calvin's view. In other words, do we define righteousness as a substance or quality of goodness transferred from Christ to believers, one that continues to grow in believers? We know that when Scripture or the Confessions speak of Christ's righteousness being imputed to believer's through faith that they have in view the passive and active obedience of Christ to the Law. So it is helpful to keep together that relationship between righteousness and his perfect obedience as we think about what righteousness is in the believer and his good works.

7. Nor do I deny that the Law of God contains a perfect righteousness. For although we are debtors to do all the things which it enjoins, and, therefore, even after a full obedience, are unprofitable servants; yet, as the Lord has deigned to give it the name of righteousness, it is not ours to take from it what he has given. We readily admit, therefore, that the perfect obedience of the law is righteousness, and the observance of any precept a part of righteousness, the whole substance of righteousness being contained in the remaining parts. But we deny that any such  righteousness ever exists [i.e. for sinful man]. Hence we discard the righteousness [that comes through perfect obedience] of the law, not as being in itself maimed and defective, but because of the weakness of our flesh it nowhere appears...
The things contained in the law God enjoined upon man for righteousness but that righteousness we attain not unless by observing [through perfect obedience] the whole law: every transgression whatever destroys it. While, therefore, the law commands nothing but righteousness [i.e. perfect obedience]...
8. … Paul finds nothing stronger stronger to prove justification by faith than that which is written of Abraham, he "believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness [i.e. for perfect obedience to the Law]," (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6.)...
Here I beseech believers, as they know that the true standard of righteousness must be derived from Scripture alone, to consider with me seriously and religiously, how Scripture can be fairly reconciled with that view. Paul, knowing that justification by faith was the refuge of those who wanted righteousness of their own, confidently infers, that all who are justified by faith are excluded from the righteousness of works [for that requires perfect and complete obedience].
Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness [the perfect obedience of Christ], just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven. Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness [i.e. as perfectly obedient to the Law for Christ's sake].

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Our Hope is Built on Nothing Less...

Righteousness and perfect obedience aren't to be equated in such a way that they are made to be the very same thing, or that believers are actually made righteous. Yet for sinful man, there is no justification apart from presenting to God a righteousness that consists of a perfect obedience to the Law. That is, in order to be declared righteous by God he must have a just status of having perfectly satisfied the Law both to its demand for sin-payment and perfect obedience of every precept. And the obedience that fulfills the Law is not and never is his own. Rather his obedience before the Law upon which he is accounted with a righteous standing is Christ's imputed passive and active obedience before the Law. It's not a mere technicality. Christ's righteousness before the law is legally and justly my righteousness. It is not the status of a "quality" or substance of righteousness that is imputed or imparted, but the forensic status of having actually "done" the righteousness required by the Law. The sinner has nothing to offer here. Hence there is no righteousness for the sinner apart from a death for sin and a perfect obedience performed by Another that is imputed to him. So we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ because his passive and active (perfect) obedience to all the Law are imputed to us.

Louis Berkhof:
“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner.” (systematic, p 452)By God's election we are legally united to Christ our Surety and Mediator. Thus his death is our death. His obedience is our obedience. Upon his resurrection God imputes Christ's finished work to the elect."
It is Jesus, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). The declaration of Justification is then brought to us in the gospel and made ours when by the work of the Holy Spirit through God's effectual calling we are made alive in Christ, given the grace of saving faith by which we are united spiritually with Christ and justified in Him. The imputation of Christ's passive and active obedience is the legal (forensic) ground of our effectual calling. We receive that judgment or status, that legal justification through faith upon hearing the gospel. Westminster Larger Catechism:
Q. 57. What benefits hath Christ procured by his mediation?
A. Christ, by his mediation, hath procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.
Q. 58. How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?
A. We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.
Q. 59. Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
A. Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Q. 70. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
Q. 71. How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.
Q. 72. What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.
Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Christ's Active Obedience: The End of the Law Unto Righteousness To Everyone That Believes

Last excerpt from Thomas Jacomb, a contemporary of John Owen, on this topic. This post and three previous posts from his 17th century work explain clearly and convincingly the Reformed understanding of the imputation of Christ's active obedience to believer's as held by the Divines of that era.
But 'tis queried, Was not Christ's passive obedience, without the active, sufficient for both of these? for righteousness and for life? To which they of the Opinion answer, No; they say upon Christ's death and suffering we are freed from guilt, but upon that (abstractly from his active obeying of the Law) we are not strictly and positively made righteous: So also, upon his death and suffering (they say) we are saved from wrath and Hell, but yet upon that alone we are not entitled to Heaven: they grant in Christ's death alone we are not entitled to Heaven: they grant Christ's death a fulness and sufficiency of Satisfaction, but as to merit for that they must take in the holiness and obedience of his life
I do but recite; not undertaking (at present) to defend what is here asserted: only let me close this Head with one thing which (to me) is observable. Our Lord being both to do and to suffer, to obey actively and passively (that he might fully answer the Law's demands for the justification and salvation of Sinners); 'tis considerable how the New Testament, in two eminent places, speaks distinctly to both these parts of his Obedience, in their distinct reference to both the parts of the Law under the old Testament, and in their distinct influence upon the Sinner's good. Gal. 3:13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one & c. or as 'tis Vers. 10. Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things & c. --- here is Christ's passive Obedience (with respect to the old curse or penal part of the Law here mentioned), and the benefit which we reap thereby viz. deliverance from the Law's curse. That's one place; the other is Rom. 10:5. Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth: for Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, that the man which doth these things shall live by them: here is Christ's active Obedience (with respect to the mandatory part or doing righteousness of the Law here mentioned also), and the imputation and benefit of this to believers viz. righteousness and life: Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, (that is to convey that righteousness which the Law could not, or to perform the Law in order to righteousness which the Sinner could not); take it as you will, it must have reference to the Moral Law and to the preceptive part thereof, for so the Apostle opens it in that which follows Vers. 5.  
Now Christ's active Obedience thereunto is imputed to believers, otherwise why is it said that he is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth? All that I drive at is (1.) That the imputation of the passive obedience in Gal. 3:13. must not justle out the imputation of the active obedience in Rom. 10:5. (2.) That as the imputation of the one is necessary to free from the Law's curse, so the imputation of the other is necessary for the having of righteousness and life.
4. If Christ actively fulfilled the Law for us then his active fulfilling thereof must be imputed to us, but so he did, ergo. The Consequence I judge to be good and strong; for surely whatever Christ did on our behalf, in our stead, as designing and aiming at our good as his main end, that must needs be imputed to us; otherwise he and we too might lose that which he principally designed in his Obedience (which is not to be imagined). As to the Assumption that Christ actively fulfilled the Law for us, that is generally asserted and defended by Divines against SOCINIANS and Others: For whereas these affirm, that Christ fulfilled the Law for himself (he as a Creature being under the obligation of it), they prove the contrary (of which before); shewing, that Christ was not, in that way wherein he fulfilled the Law, at all obliged so to fulfil it for himself; but that all was done by him purely upon our account: he obeyed not merely as a Subject but as a Surety therefore his Obedience must be for us, and so imputable and imputed to us. And whereas others affirm, that Christ actively fulfilled the Law that he might thereby be fitted and qualified for his Mediatory Office, two things are answered:
(1.) The Scripture, where it speaks of Christ's subjection to the Law and accomplishment of it, doth not lay it upon this end or upon what refers to Christ himself, but upon that which refers to us (as the proper end thereof): He was the end of the Law for righteousness to them that believe; ---&c. made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of Sons
(2.) They say, that Christ's fitness for his Mediatory Office did result from his Person, from the personal Union of the Divine and Humane Natures in him, rather than from his active Obedience to the Law; else he could not have been looked upon as one fit to be a Mediator till he had finished his whole Obedience to the Law; whereas from the first instant of the personal Union he was fit for that Work and Office
'Twas fit, nay necessary, that Christ the Mediator should conform to the Law; but these are two different things, what was fit for the Mediator to do and what must fit him to be the Mediator. These Ends therefore respecting Christ himself being removed, it follows that it was wholly for us that he fulfilled the Law: whence then I infer that that must be imputed to us, otherwise the end of it would not be attained; for without the imputation of it we should neither be the persons designed in it nor profited by it. To prevent mistakes and to give this Argument its full strength, I would state it thus: Whatever Christ did that we were obliged to do and which was to be our righteousness before God, that certainly must be imputed to us; I do not say that all which Christ did is strictly and properly imputed to us, but whatever he did if we were bound to do it, and if the doing of that was to be our righteousness, that must be imputed (or else we are in a sad case). He was incarnate for us yet that is not formally imputed, why? because Sinners were not under any obligation to any such thing; so I might instance in his working of Miracles, Intercession &c. But now if our Lord will be pleased to put himself under the Law and to fulfil the Law, that must be made over to us because that was a thing which we ourselves (according to the capacity of Creatures) were bound unto, and this was to be our righteousness before God: what is so circumstantiated, must be imputed; therefore this being taken in the Argument is good. [emphasis in the original except for bold type] 
 Eighteen Sermons on Romans 8:1-4, pp 591-93 ( 1672). Thomas Jacomb

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The "Righteous" Necessity of the Imputation of Christ's Active Obedience

More from Eighteen Sermons on Romans 8:1-4, pp 590-91 ( 1672). Thomas Jacomb makes the case for the necessity of the active obedience of Christ imputed to the believer in justification - a necessity, he argues - extending beyond the justification which comes to the sinner upon first believing in Christ but further unto the believer's "title to eternal life."
And I desire the words may be well observed; 'tis not said that the righteousness of the Law might be endured, suffered, or undergone by us, as if it did relate to the penalty of the Law; but that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, which surely most properly must relate to the doing part of the Law: doth he *fulfil who suffers? that's very harsh. To say that one of the things that have been spoken of was or is sufficient viz. the undergoing of the punishment without the doing of the duty, and that therefore the imputation of Christ's death and sufferings is enough: I say for any to assert this, they do (in my thoughts ) offer some violence to the Text in hand, which tells us the righteousness, the whole righteousness of the Law was to be and is fulfilled in believers. 
3. 'Tis urged thirdly, 'tis necessary not only in respect of the Law, but of ourselves also that Christ's active Obedience should be imputed, inasmuch as our righteousness and title to eternal life do indispensably depend upon it. The Law is the measure and standard of righteousness, let that be fulfilled and a person is righteous, otherwise not; without this none can stand before the great God as being such. Well then, the Sinner himself being altogether unable thus to fulfil the Law thereby to be made righteous; Christ's fulfilling of it must be imputed to him in order to righteousness. Guilt and righteousness do both carry in them a reference to the holy Law; when that is broken, 'tis guilt; when that is kept, 'tis righteousness: therefore as, supposing that Law had not been transgressed, we had not been guilty, so unless that Law be fully conform'd to, we cannot be *righteous. Now where shall we find this full conformity to the Law but in Christ? and what will that in Christ avail us if it be not imputed and made over to us? So as to eternal Life, unto which without fulfilling the Law we can have no claim or title: For the old Law-condition or Covenant being yet in force, do and live, (Lev. 18:5; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12; Luke 10:28); unless this Condition be performed we cannot hope for life. True indeed, under the Covenant of Grace God accepts of what is done by the Surety, and he doth not expect of the Sinner in his own person the perfect obeying of the Law as a condition of life, but yet he will have the thing done either by or for the Sinner, either by himself or by his Surety, or else no life: doth not this then evince the necessity of the imputation of Christ's active Obedience? [emphasis in the original]

Monday, October 13, 2014

Interpreting Romans 8:4 - Imputation

Thomas Jacomb's exposition on Romans 8:1-4 was *described by John Owen in this way:

The same truth is fully asserted and confirmed, Romans 8:1-4. But this place has been of late so explained and so vindicated by another, in his learned and judicious exposition of it (namely, Dr. Jacomb), as that nothing remains of weight to be added unto what has been pleaded and argued by him, part 1 verse 4, p.587, and onwards.  And indeed the answers which he subjoins (to the arguments whereby he confirms the truth) to the most usual and important objections against the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, are sufficient to give just satisfaction unto the minds of unprejudiced, unengaged persons. I shall therefore pass over this testimony, as that which has been so lately pleaded and vindicated, and not press the same things, it may be (as is not unusual) unto their disadvantage. *[THE NATURE OF JUSTIFICATION AS DECLARED IN THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL, IN THAT UNTO THE ROMANS ESPECIALLY]

Continuing the case to be made, Jacomb furthers his explanation of how and why the "requirement of the Law" is fulfilled in believers (Rom. 8:4) through the imputation of both the passive and active obedience of Christ:

2. That Obedience of Christ must be imputed without the imputation of which the righteousness of the Law is not, or could not be fulfilled in believers: (this cannot be deny'd, for 'tis brought in here expressly as the end of God's sending his Son, that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us). Now I assume, but without the imputation of Christ’s active Obedience, the Laws righteousness is not and could not be fulfilled in believers, ergo. This I prove from - what hath been already said; the Law’s righteousness consists in two things, (1.) in its requiring perfect conformity to its Commands: (2.) in its demanding Satisfaction, or the undergoing of its penalty upon the violation of it: This being so, how can the Law’s righteousness be fulfilled in Saints either by the active or by the passive Obedience of Christ apart and alone? put them both together and the thing is done, there is that in both which is fully adequate to the Laws demands; but divide them, and it is not so.

The passive Obedience satisfies as to the Law’s penalty and secures from the Law’s curse, but where's our performing of the Duty which the Law requires if the active Obedience be not imputed also? And 'tis conceived, that this righteousness of the Law doth mainly and primarily refer to the preceptive and mandatory part of the Law, and but secondarily to the penal and minatory part of the Law: For in all Laws ( Civil or Sacred ) that which is first intended in them is active Obedience; the bearing the penalty is annexed but to further and secure  that: so that he who only bears the penalty doth not answer the first end and the main intention of the Law. Whence I infer, since the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in believers (as the Apostle here saith it is), that therefore the commanding part of the Law must be fulfilled in them, (that being the main branch of its righteousness and that which is principally designed by it ); but that cannot be, unless the active Obedience of Christ be imputed to them. This Argument (with submission to better judgments) is to me of great weight. [emphasis in the original]

Eighteen Sermons on Romans 8:1-4, pp 589-90. Thomas Jacomb 1672