Posted by Bob Mattes
I believe it worthwhile pointing out how Federal Visionists dance around exact definitions and rely on unstated assumptions to try to sound orthodox or hijack the orthodox Reformed view. There’s an interesting Federal Vision assertion here:
It wasn’t too long ago that we were assured in the name of protecting the Gospel and the Reformed Faith that God was “in no way” the savior of any except those predestined to everlasting life.
For clarity, 1 Tim 4:10 is the verse in question and it says:
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (ESV)
This first assertion about “the Savior of all people” was clearly answered in this post, including direct quotes from James Jordan giving the Federal Vision view and Calvin (and his translator) providing the orthodox Reformed view. Pretty straight-forward, so this first assertion has no basis.
The second Federal Vision assertion is:
Now we are hearing similar absolute negatives about being united to Christ. None of this is either Biblical or “Reformed.”
He attempts to use WLC Q.63 to assert that the unregenerate in the visible church are united to Christ.
Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.
He then concludes his argument with:
The proof associated with “being uder [sic] God’s special care and government,” is First Timothy 4.10, which I quote above.
But notice that neither the WLC or 1 Tim 4:10 say that the unregenerate in the visible church are united to Christ! To read that in the catechism would require equating “being under God’s special care and government” with being “united in Christ”, something the catechism excludes, especially when reading the two later catechism questions:
Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.
Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.
Also see WSC Q.30:
Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
See that the catechisms specifically call out union with Christ as a benefit for the elect based on effectual calling, but specifically exclude it from the general visible church which is NOT effectually called. So it is only the Federal Visions unstated assumption that “being under God’s special care and government” means “united in Christ”, something contrary to both the Standards and Scripture. Hence, Andy Webb’s post United to Christ But Not Going to Heaven is right on target in its use of absolutes. So is my earlier extensive post on Union with Christ, which also covers the orthodox Reformed view and includes an excerpt from the PCA’s study report that starts out with:
The Westminster Standards only speak of a “union with Christ” as that which is effectual; or to say it another way, as that which is saving and belongs to the elect (LC 65, 66). This is the “work of God’s grace” whereby the “Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling” (LC 66; SC 30). This “thereby” of the catechism’s statement is important: it conveys that the Spirit uses faith to unite believers to Christ (cf. WCF 26:1).
The Federal Vision post ends with the usual intemperate language which I will not repeat here. Must be a manifestation of serrated edge theology.
Just thought that you’d like to know…the rest of the story.
Posted by Bob Mattes