A Quick Comment on Union with Christ

Posted by David Gadbois

I know there is an avalanche of great Leithart-related material streaming into Greenbaggins at this time, and I don’t mean to distract us too much from the primary issues of substance Lane and Reed have been focusing on, but I did want to slip in a few thoughts on Union with Christ that I made down in the combox of the “It Comes Down To This” post in response to one of the commenters there, and perhaps solicit some further discussion on the matter.  I have slightly modified my comment for posting here.

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[previous commenter]:  Are there reprobate within the visible Church, i.e., the kingdom of Christ? So, it’s quite plain that “in some sense” the reprobate within the visible Church are united to Christ.

I keep hearing variations of this argument but, no, it is not “plain” that they are “united” to Christ in any sense. There are logical steps and arguments that are missing to get from the premise that since some reprobate men are in the covenantal community of Christ and outward administration of the covenant of grace to the conclusion that they must be “in some sense” united with Christ. To speak of having unity with Christ – being one with Christ- is a profound thing, and it certainly must mean more than that they simply have a relation or connection to Christ. Even unbelievers outside of the covenant have a relation to Christ, in some sense.

First, it is a disingenuous move on the FV part to have the qualifier “in some sense” operate as a blanket over their formulation to cover their hides, so that it might mean almost anything and they don’t have to actually define what sense that is. For this and other reason FV has earned its reputation for being very weak on systematic theology.

We normally mean several things when we talk about being united with Christ, the union is legal, that is it is federal where Christ is our head as the second Adam, as well as existential (“mystical union”), the subjective sharing in the life of Christ by the operation of the Holy Spirit, wherein Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19). The reprobate clearly do not share in this union.

It is assumed that since the reprobate can be members of the covenant of grace and, indeed can be marked by the seal of the covenant, that this would imply a unity with Christ. But that would only be true if covenant membership in and of itself conveyed the blessing of union with Christ and other salvific blessings, that the covenant was unconditional. But Reformed theology and the WCF clearly see the CoG as conditional, the terms of the covenant state that true faith in Christ is required for the blessings promised. FVers always lose sight of the issue of conditional vs. unconditional promises in their conception of the covenant.

I think part of the problem with the FV is that they make the marriage covenant/relationship into a controlling paradigm for the covenant of grace and covenantal community, and it is the case that even the worst marriages still presuppose a level of existential unity and intimacy.  But the Bible only actually establishes that there are similarities between the two, the analogy does not always hold up due to the discontinuities between them.  The FV try to press this analogy to do the hard work for establishing their conclusions, rather than actually establishing their specific conceptions of the nature of the covenant from Scripture.

All of this reasoning also seems to ignore the fact that the Scriptures paint an adversarial picture of all those who are unregenerate, whether inside or outside of the covenant. In what sense can someone who is at enmity with God, with minds set on the flesh, not things of the Spirit, and that cannot please God (Romans 8) be said to be one with Christ? Indeed, “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Old Saint Berkhof steers us right when he remarks concerning “Erroneous Conceptions of the Mystical Union”:

Another error to be avoided is that of the sacramentarians, represented by the Roman Catholic Church and by some Lutheran and High Church Episcopalians….It makes the grace of God something substantial, of which the Church is the depositary, and which can be passed on in the sacraments; and completely loses sight of the fact that the sacraments cannot effect this union, because they already presuppose it.

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30 Comments

  1. October 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Awesome! Thank you! To be united to the visible church as the covenant community is NOT the same as to be united to Christ. Hebrews 6:4-6 uses the strongest possible language to describe the (potentially) reprobate within the church: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance” – These verses say much about the benefits of being in the covenant community, but they do not speak of being united to Christ. Union with Christ is our salvation and is irreversible – “No one can snatch you out of My hand” (Jesus in John 10:28) and “[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 10:39).

    FV folks, including Leithart, imagine a reversible union with Christ, an interruptable “Golden Chain” of salvation (Rom. 8:29-30). Such a concept is antithetical to the Gospel, to sola gratia, to the doctrine of the perseverence of the saints, etc., etc.

  2. Mark B. said,

    October 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Good post. Pressing Biblical analogies (or parables) to the point where our conclusions (no matter if they sound logical), contradict other clear passages of scripture is foolish. I thought Pastor Stellman did a good job of laying out the issues in his opening. Too bad the trial didn’t follow that pattern.

  3. Dean B said,

    October 15, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Good morning David.

    Good points.

    Whenever there is a discussion about Baptism FV advocates want to insert comments about how the sacrament itself brings one into “union with Christ.” After they are pressed to explain what they mean they talk about the benefits of the visible church which is the Body of Christ and by magic everyone in the visible church has union with Christ.

    The confusion is that baptism does not bring one into the visible church because this is done at conception. Pastor Keister points this out in the prosecution transcript where he references WLC 166, WCF 25.2, WLC 62, which builds off 1 Corinthians 7:14.

    The FV believe we are brought into a covenant relationship at Baptism, but WLC 166 A.b. says, “but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.”

    Both the Baptist and FV do not understand this fact. The Baptist miss covenant connection and fail to baptize, the FV miss the covenant connection and believe getting wet brings them into the covenant and the benefits of the visible church.

    Regardless if whether the Baptist believes a covenant relationship exists already it already exists. The baptist infant is a member of the covenant and therefore shares in the benefits of the visible church. Simply because they refuse to baptize their child these facts do not change the reality. The baptist sin is one of disobedience but this disobedience to baptize does not negate the covenant blessings. Expressed differently, does belief in the covenant benefit create the covenant relationship?

    Federal Vision believe obedience to the command to baptize is where the covenant relationship begins and then the blessings of the visible church start.

    Much of this confusion centers on WCF 27.2 especially the phrase, “whence it comes to pass”. “There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.” Does “when it comes to pass” refer to the time baptism is administered or does it refer to when the sign and the thing signified are accomplished?

    In Hodges commentary of WCF 27.2 he says, “Hence Romanists and Ritualists have inferred that the sign is inseparable from the grace signified, and that these spiritual effects are due to the outward ordinance. Hence the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. But it must be observed that the Scriptures do not assert these spiritual attributes of water baptism in itself considered, but of water baptism as the sign or emblem of baptism by the holy Ghost. These spiritual attributes belong “only to baptism by the Spirit, and they accompany the sign only when the sign is accompanied by that which it signifies. It does not follow, however, that the sign is inseparable from the grace. The grace is sovereign; and experience teaches us that it is often absent from the sign, and that the sign is least frequently honored by the presence of the grace when it is itself most implicitly relied upon.”

  4. michael said,

    October 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    David,

    me too. This thread, as well, for me, is quite helpful as I am being enlightened and refreshed and renewed in exercising my mind having my mind washed from its “stinkin’ thinkin’ so to speak as we say in my fellowship. Reading what you wrote is allowing the Mind of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring to an end the influences of my carnal mind’s way of thinking, at the end of the day, today, tomorrow and every day, from now on, until I, too, pass to Eternal Glory in Christ.

    Here is a question or two:

    You write: “… But Reformed theology and the WCF clearly see the CoG as conditional, the terms of the covenant state that true faith in Christ is required for the blessings promised. FVers always lose sight of the issue of conditional vs. unconditional promises in their conception of the covenant.

    Would this verse be a simplified expression of that “condition” for the CoG to be in effect in my life in reference to that you wrote, there?

    1Pe 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    The Covenant of Grace is just that, a “Work” that someone else did, (Christ on behalf of all the Elect) and it is that work alone that He did that brings us into eternal life and what I mean by eternal life is life now on the earth in “true” fellowship with God My Heavenly Father, God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and God, the Holy Spirit. And also, by that true fellowship I can now have true fellowship with those for whom Christ died?

    Would you say that the FVers are an ultra-conservative wing of the aged old futile “problem solving” solution of men before God, (works righteousness), blunting the clarity between the covenant of works that was given to Adam and the covenant of Grace given to the Elect, born from Adam?

    It seems the more refined this debate becomes in here the clearer it becomes to me, in my mind, that the events that happened some ten years ago unleashed a fine dark and destructive notion into the Presbyterian movement that Grace is as much a part of the Covenant of Works as the Covenant of Grace?

    Isn’t that just about how it is? I am just trying to draw out of you the simplest explanation of the “error” of this movement that seems to be growing like a cancer within this great work God started, I guess, at the hand and pen of John Calvin and by those framers framing up the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Standards?

    Can you frame up the error more simply?

    What is the error of the FVers?

  5. October 16, 2011 at 8:53 am

    David,
    Although I agree with what you said (in fact as I read, I found myself thinking the very things that you went on to state), I think this portion could be expanded upon:

    It is assumed that since the reprobate can be members of the covenant of grace and, indeed can be marked by the seal of the covenant, that this would imply a unity with Christ. But that would only be true if covenant membership in and of itself conveyed the blessing of union with Christ and other salvific blessings, that the covenant was unconditional. But Reformed theology and the WCF clearly see the CoG as conditional, the terms of the covenant state that true faith in Christ is required for the blessings promised. FVers always lose sight of the issue of conditional vs. unconditional promises in their conception of the covenant.

    Those conditions are reciprocal responses that are necessary conditions for receiving the blessings the covenant contemplates. Notwithstanding, there is a sense that the CoG is not conditional – in the same sense that “unconditional election” is not conditional. The establishment of the covenant is not conditional; it’s the receiving of the blessings that are conditional, something FV misses I think. God established the covenant with Christ and by extension with those who would find existential union with him. The establishment of the CoG precedes faith, in that those with whom the covenant is established exercise faith because the covenant was established with them – as opposed to the covenant being established with them because they would one day exercise faith. With that said, I wouldn’t want you to be taken as suggesting that the CoG is “conditional” in the sense that Arminians use the term to describe election as being conditional. Yes, there are “conditions” that must be met, but those are necessary for receiving the promise. In other words, the conditional aspect is not the basis upon which the covenant is established with God’s elect in Christ – rather it is the ground for receiving the salvific blessings in Christ.

    Again, I agree with what you wrote but given the baggage that can come with “condition” I thought I’d comment.

  6. Andrew McCallum said,

    October 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    David,

    Thanks for your comments – very apropos. For the FV union with Christ is at the heart of the matter so we need to address what is and what is not meant by “union with Christ” and whether it is possible in any sense for the reprobate to be unified with Christ. I wish the FV folks would stop using the term “in some sense.” Surely by now they realize that this is just begging the question and that our first response back to them will be, “in what sense?” My experience is that when you ask the FV folks to elaborate that the answers differ considerably and herein lies some of the frustrations in answering them. The FV often claim that they have been misunderstood and my thought is that yea, and maybe there is a good reason for this!

  7. David Gadbois said,

    October 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Reformedapologist, yes, I perhaps should have elaborated that there is indeed an unconditional aspect of the Covenant of Grace as well as the conditional terms. Specifically, it is unconditional in that it promises “to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.”

    Concerning the eternal covenant made with Christ, it is best to categorize this as the Covenant of Redemption (the Larger Catechism confusing labels this the Covenant of Grace, so there are some semantic problems here, the Confession itself does not follow suit).

  8. Stephen Norris said,

    October 20, 2011 at 5:35 am

    What about John 15.2 ‘He cuts off every branch en emoi that bears no fruit’

    If it is possible to be ‘in Christ’ in a way which can nevertheless have you cut out of Christ, is this perhaps the sense in which some in FV speak of union with Christ in the ways you regard as problematic … and I realise you have been discussing the problems of ‘in some sense’ language so forgive me if I’m missing the boat here

    How do you understand John 15.2?

    Blessings

    SN

  9. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 20, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Stephen,

    This link might be helpful: John 15

  10. Jed Paschall said,

    October 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the link. This highlights one of the easiest mistakes that can be made in exegesis, namely that when we see seemingly similar terms or concepts used by different biblical authors, we assume that they are speaking to the same realities without paying any mind to the context that a particular author is developing.

    Wilkins puts a whole lot of stock in the similarity between Johannine (abide in me) and Pauline (in Christ) concepts. However, John’s use of Christ’s discourse, and Paul has more defined argumentation in his epistles. Secondly, without driving a wedge between Paul and John, since there is definitely cohesion between the two, they have very different ways of developing their concepts. Good exegetical method will keep their concepts separate until their authorial aims are fleshed out, and then there can be either systematic or biblical theological convergence. You did a fine job of this in picking up off of Calvin’s arguments.

  11. Stephen Norris said,

    October 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks for the link. It seems that on your reading we would say some are in Christ’s cricle but fall away etc – but would we say that they were ‘in Christ’? That’s what the text says

    I don’t know anything about FV. But I don’t assume that to be in Christ in John 15:2 is the same thing as to be in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:17. So doesn’t this point towards the fact that there are at least two kinds of union with Christ?

    Once we say that some people are in Christ and they are not saved, I don’t see the problem with using the ‘in some sense’ union with Christ language of some of the reprobate.

    SN

  12. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Stephen,

    I’m comfortable saying that there are “branches in Christ in John’s sense” that can be broken off; in fact, I see a parallel between John 15 and Rom 11.

    What then is that sense? That from the point of view of other men, these “branches” had every evidence of being “in Christ.”

    That appears to me to be John’s take on Judas: He appeared to the eyes of men to be another apostle among twelve; but from the beginning, he did not believe. He was unclean, but they were clean because of the words Jesus spoke to them (which they believed). He was the primal branch-who-bore-no-fruit, who was in the process of being broken off and cast into the fire as Jesus spoke.

    In other words, the two senses in which the language is used are

    (1) From God’s point of view: those whom God sees as “in Christ” are those who are in fact possessors of salvation.

    (2) From man’s point of view: those whom man sees as “in Christ” are presumed to be possessors of salvation.

  13. Stephen Norris said,

    October 21, 2011 at 3:40 am

    So do you think when Jesus says ‘Every branch in me which bears no fruit …’ he is really saying ‘Every branch which seems to you to be in me but which is not really and which bears no fruit …’

    I think that’s rather forced

    Surely we have to be comfortable with saying it is possibe for someone to be in Christ and not be saved. That’s what the text says.

    And indeed in Romans 11 the branches which are warned about the reality of being broken off are branches which have first of all been grafted IN.

    It’s not that I disagree with you about the differences in divine/human perspective, a phenomenological one I suppose; it’s just that to be going down the route of ‘in some sense’ someone is in Christ does not seem to be that different to me from those who this original post takes issue with for using the ‘in some sense’ united to Christ language.

    Calvin uses your language here about it seeming to men that some are in the vine, but then explicitly explains that in covenantal terms – Israel having by outward profession the name of a church etc. That I think is where some of the FV language seems to come from my saying that there is a form of covenantal union with Christ which is not a saving union.

  14. Ron Henzel said,

    October 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Stephen,

    You wrote:

    So do you think when Jesus says ‘Every branch in me which bears no fruit …’ he is really saying ‘Every branch which seems to you to be in me but which is not really and which bears no fruit …’

    I think that’s rather forced

    Actually, it is the words of Christ themselves in John 15:5 that lead one to the conclusion that only those branches that bear fruit are really “in Him”:

    …Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…

    [John 15:5, ESV]

    Branches that do not bear fruit are people who have attached themselves to Christ outwardly, but do not give the evidence required in verse 5 of being truly in Him.

    The discussion of how baptism—particularly infant baptism—relates the person being baptized to the covenant of grace is a long one in the history of Reformed theology (cf. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 637-643). “According to Reformed theology [baptism] is not, as the Roman Catholics claim, the means of initiating the work of grace in the heart, but it is a means for the strengthening of it or, as is often expressed, for the increase of grace” (ibid., 641). The problem with the FV is that it assumes the Catholic position here as opposed to the Reformed position.

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Stephen: Calvin uses your language here about it seeming to men that some are in the vine…

    To be fair, I’m borrowing his language.

    Stephen: …but then explicitly explains that in covenantal terms – Israel having by outward profession the name of a church etc.

    Yes, that’s precisely what I’m talking about: the outward profession.

    Thus Calvin: But here comes a question. Can any one who is engrafted into Christ be without fruit? I answer, many are supposed to be in the vine, according to the opinion of men, who actually have no root in the vine. Thus, in the writings of the prophets, the Lord calls the people of Israel his vine, because, by outward profession, they had the name of The Church. — Calv Comm John 15.3

    Nor does Calvin attribute the term “election” to them:

    Those who are cut off from Christ are said to whither like a dead branch; because, as the commencement of strength is from him, so also is its uninterrupted continuance. Not that it ever happens that any one of the elect is dried up, but because there are many hypocrites who, in outward appearance, flourish and are green for a time, but who afterwards, when they ought to yield fruit, show the very opposite of that which the Lord expects and demands from his people. — Calv Comm John 15.6

    So don’t be too quick to assume that Calvin is speaking of the same thing as the FV’s “covenantal perspective.” Steve Wilkin’s discussion of John 15 in The Federal Vision explicitly rejects the “external” language.

    Stephen: It’s not that I disagree with you about the differences in divine/human perspective, a phenomenological one I suppose; it’s just that to be going down the route of ‘in some sense’ someone is in Christ does not seem to be that different to me from those who this original post takes issue with for using the ‘in some sense’ united to Christ language.

    Yes, if the phrase “in some sense” didn’t have a history, I would be comfortable with saying that those who profess Christ are Christians and are saved in some sense — in the sense of “as far as we can tell”, the sense of charitable judgment, or of phenomenological knowledge (see here).

    That’s a different sense from the Wilkins sense, according to his discussion of Eph 1.

    Which raises the big question: What is that sense? It has a name — the “convenantal perspective” — but it lacks specific content, unless I missed the definition of “in some sense”, which is possible.

    Stephen: So do you think when Jesus says ‘Every branch in me which bears no fruit …’ he is really saying ‘Every branch which seems to you to be in me but which is not really and which bears no fruit …’

    I think that’s rather forced

    I hear you. But it seems forced because we 21st centuriers use language in a more precise way than Hebrews. 21st century Jesus would never say, “This is my body” without giving a hundred qualifications. Praise the Lord that He didn’t live in our time.

    John seems to be comfortable switching back and forth between the ontological “is” and the phenomenological “is” throughout the entire gospel; there’s no reason that this passage should be different.

    I’ll check out now. Thanks for the interactions.

  16. rfwhite said,

    October 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    For those interested in the influences that shaped FV thinking about the covenant and its cognate ideas, FV critic Carl Robbins, in responding to FV proponent John Barach, found key elements in the “Liberated” Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and in particular Klaas Schilder in the 1940’s and (before him) Calvin Seminary Professor William W. Heyns from the early 1900’s. For more on this, see Cornelis Van Dam, ed., The Liberation: Causes and Consequences – The Struggle in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in the 1940’s (Winnipeg: Premier Publishing, 1995); William W. Heyns, Manual of Reformed Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1926); and Anthony Hoekema, “The Christian Reformed Church and the Covenant,” in Perspectives on the Christian Reformed Church: Studies in its History, Theology and Ecumenicity, ed. Peter Ke Klerk and Richard R. De Ridder (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 185-201.

  17. Stephen Norris said,

    October 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Thanks Jeff – you are a pleasure to “debate” with and I appreicate you helping me here.

    Calvin doesn’t use election here to refer to the covenantally unfaithful in John 15.2-6 … but of course he is very happy to do so elsewhere cf. his comments on Romans 9.6-7 in his Comm. He refers to it as a ‘general election’ which is different from the hidden grace of the ‘second election’ or the ‘secret election’.

    It is true that by ‘election’ Calvin normall means everything which he has become famous for, but he can use the word in different ways … a bit like, I am suggesting, the way the concept of union with Christ functions in the Bible.

  18. October 25, 2011 at 11:49 am

    We would be interested to hear more on the forensic elements John Calvin’s doctrine of union with Jesus Christ, Son of God.

    What anthropological distinctions must be drawn prior to a biblical theological account of union? Is the problem ultimately fixed in contradictions at the heart of the Sauline soteriology? Thank you.

  19. Hugh McCann said,

    October 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Continuing the dialogue started at
    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/leithart-trial-my-cross-examination-by-robert-rayburn-and-howard-donahoe-defense-counsels/
    {with Jeff #272 & Joshua #273}, I acknowledge that many diverse Reformed folk like saying that our justification is grounded in our union with Christ.

    First, to look at some cathechesis: WSC 30, WLC 66, 69; & Calvin’s Institutes 3.1

    WSC 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.
    &
    WLC 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.

    These say that God applies redemption by giving us faith which unites us to Christ.
    Regen -> Faith -> Union.
    They don’t say that union is basis/ ground of redemption, justification, etc.

    WLC 69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
    A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

    This indicates that justification makes union manifest, not that union is justification’s ground.

    Calvin Inst. 3:1:1 ~
    “We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings…”

    Calvin again: Institutes III:xi: 1, p. 725 ~
    “Under this curse must necessarily lie all who are judged by works — none being exempted save those who entirely renounce all confidence in works, and put on Christ, that they may be justified in Him, by the gratuitous acceptance of God. The ground of our justification, therefore, is, that God reconciles us to himself, from regard not to our works, but to Christ alone, and, by gratuitous adoption, makes us, instead of children of wrath, to be his own children.”
    http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/tan-union.shtml

    Mike Horton: “Regeneration, or the new birth, is the commencement of this union. God brings this connection and baptism even before there is any sign of life– ‘while you were dead…he made you alive’ (Eph.2:1). The first gift of this union is faith, the sole instrument through which we live and remain on this vine. But this is a rich vine, pregnant with nourishing sap to produce an abundance of fruit. Though we are not attached to nor remain attached to this vine by the fruit (what branch depends on the fruit?), those who are truly members of Christ inevitably produce fruit. Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted (sanctification).”
    (From ‘Union with Christ,’ 1992, Monergism web article.)

    From Monergism: “Sinners are right with God because of what Christ did in their stead. Imputation of Christ’s righteousness exists because of our union with Christ. Because we are in Christ, all of Christ’s redemptive blessings are now ours — including our righteous standing before the Father as the New Adam. The forensic, imputational aspect of redemption is included as a critical dimension of our union with the risen and vindicated Christ. Justification is a function of our oneness with Christ.”
    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Union-with-Christ/

    Rich Lusk on N.T. Wright (2002): “Wright makes union with Christ more foundational than imputation/ reckoning, but this move was already anticipated in Calvin and has been reiterated even more strongly by Gaffin. Because we are in Christ, all that Christ has is now ours — including his righteous standing before the Father as the New Adam. The forensic, imputational aspect of salvation is included as one dimension of our union with the risen and vindicated Christ. As Gaffin says, justification has no discrete structure of its own; it is a function of our oneness with Christ.”
    http://hornes.org/theologia/?p=456#6a

    Next, the OTHER side…..

  20. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    October 28, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    It is possible for the reprobate covenant member to receive some of the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. I really don’t see how this can be contested confessionally or biblically.

    -”they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit…” WCF 10.4
    -see also Matt. 7:22, Heb. 6:4-5

    But there is such a close connection between Christ and the Holy Spirit that Paul can refer to the Lord who is the Spirit. And the Spirit is the down payment of full salvation in the eschatological sense. The elect and regenerate (in the strict sense–I’m not using them in any partial sense) receive the HS through union with Christ. How then does the reprobate, although never truly or inwardly joined to Christ, who will not receive the full inheritance, share in the Holy Spirit?

    This, by the way, is a real question on my part, not some sort of trick or challenge.

    Does God just bestow the HS on the reprobate by some sort of fiat?

    What are those “common operations?”

    Etc. The FV has raised those questions, and, while we may reject their answers, it might be fruitful for us to actually consider how to answer them from within the confessional tradition…

  21. michael said,

    October 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Hugh,

    going over what you just wrote above I wanted to ask you, based in this that was quoted by you, WSmallC 30: “… thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. …, WLargeC 66 “… 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. …”.”.

    Is there any treatment in either Catechisms dealing with the good works the Apostle Paul refers to at Ephesians 2:10?

    I want to say, basis Ephesians 3:8-12, that our effectual calling “is an active” good work that must include prayers and fellowship to and with God, Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, 1 John 1; and fellowship actively with those in our immediate circle of Brethren that Ephesians 2:10 applies too; and a demonstration of the Spirit’s power by that manifold wisdom of God directly to the principalities and powers of spiritual wickedness.

    It seems to me the devils want us to focus more on the error of flesh and blood and not get down to business with them?

    What do I mean by “getting down to business” but effectual prayers to God to “hasten” the coming of the day of the Lord and to ask God continually to kick Satan down to the earth by sending His warring Angels to kick him down as is described @ John 12:31 and by effectual prayers affect back onto all of our spiritual enemies “”double harm”” as they have done to us as God showed John @ Rev 18:6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
    Rev 18:7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’

    It seems to me by being united to Christ, now as His active living Wife, in our generation, too, we are the True Heavenly Queen dwelling on earth in the flesh and we should not tolerate for a moment any unholiness of that one who glorifies herself by living in luxury and causing such torments and mourning among the Saints?

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t have my eyes on the ends of the earth? I came in with nothing and I will take out nothing. The best I can do is live for the Glory of God from now on and when I pass leave all my worldly possessions to my living heirs, in hopes, they, too, would do the same for theirs to subsequent generations, however many generations there are to come before the end of these present heavens and earth?

    It seems to me now is the time for the Church of Jesus Christ to stand in the Name of the Lord and begin to manifest the manifold wisdom of God to all wicked rulers and authorities in heavenly places in the same way as King David wrote about it, this way:

    1Ch 16:31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
    1Ch 16:32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!
    1Ch 16:33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
    1Ch 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

    After all has been said and done, this fact still remains enforceable to the last generation of mankind through the Wife of the Lamb, is it not?

    Psa 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

    Psa 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
    Psa 24:8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!
    Psa 24:9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
    Psa 24:10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

    And when He comes in, will He not “destroy” both the adversaries of our souls, Psalm 143 and Satan himself, Hebrews 2:14-15 delivering all who live under the fear of death and not in the Fear of the Lord?

    “… Psa 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
    Psa 34:9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
    Psa 34:10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
    Psa 34:11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. …”.

    Can you give me some rough thoughts about all that?

  22. michael said,

    October 29, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    James,

    I wonder if the Apostle got it right when we read this of him about Him?

    Php 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    Maybe that is not old enough for you?

    How about King David, then?

    2Sa 7:18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?
    2Sa 7:19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD!

  23. michael said,

    October 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Oddly James, I see it just the other way based on these Words, that is, He opened not His mouth so that we would open ours!:

    Act 8:32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.
    Act 8:33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
    Act 8:34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”
    Act 8:35
    Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
    Act 8:36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

  24. paigebritton said,

    October 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    James Bathoupres:
    I removed your three comments of 10/29 to “pending” status for other moderators to review — the theological point of view you are promoting is an unfamiliar one, and your comments do not seem to be relevant to David’s post above. If you would like to identify your system of belief to us, and also explain why you think your comments relate to David’s concerns, try again.
    Thanks,
    Paige Britton (moderator)

  25. michael said,

    October 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    James, these comments are in no way attempting to “one up you” with verses.

    As long as that is not our motive, rather, the opening up the Word that the Spirit might touch more and more hearts and etch His Word on living stones, amen!

    I would say from an Elect’s point of view these Words of Scripture found in the book of Job are the very fuel for the flame for why the Church in this year of Our Lord 2011 and years to come until the very end should not be silent anymore, rather become even more active, loud, forceful and deliberate in our declaration to the world of the Power and Spirit of the Gospel of Peace:

    Job 12:6 The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand.
    Job 12:7 “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
    Job 12:8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
    Job 12:9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
    Job 12:10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
    Job 12:11 Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food?
    Job 12:12 Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
    Job 12:13 “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.
    Job 12:14 If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open.
    Job 12:15 If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
    Job 12:16 With him are strength and sound wisdom;
    the deceived and the deceiver are his.
    Job 12:17 He leads counselors away stripped, and judges he makes fools.
    Job 12:18 He looses the bonds of kings and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
    Job 12:19 He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the mighty.

    Job 12:20 He deprives of speech those who are trusted
    and takes away the discernment of the elders.
    Job 12:21 He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the strong.
    Job 12:22 He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light.
    Job 12:23 He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
    Job 12:24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a pathless waste.
    Job 12:25 They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.

    It is my belief those Words of Job are apropos what is going on around the world and in many, if not all, nations today?

    At the very end of the day the only institution that will be standing is the Wife of the Lamb!

    I believe we have more to understand what the Spirit wants us to come into as we let His Light shine through our daily life and experience so that we are repaying double the queen of this world who sits in the created heavens living luxuriously:

    Rev 18:3 For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
    Rev 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
    Rev 18:5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
    Rev 18:6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
    Rev 18:7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’

    This indeed, to come to pass, would be a Work of His Grace, would it not, the Wife of the Lamb paying back double for her deeds?

  26. Towne said,

    October 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    One is not amused.

  27. Hugh McCann said,

    November 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Per my #19 above, due to a family tragedy in October, I have been unable to explain my concerns & comments about our union with Christ being touted as the ground of our justification.

    I apologize to all, and ask prayer as I seek to get up to speed on a number of duties! Thanks!

    More discussions & food for thought on this:

    http://reformedforum.org/ctc200/

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f48/lane-tipton-centrality-union-christ-theology-65791/

  28. Hugh McCann said,

    December 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Horton well replies to Tipton: http://reformedforum.org/media/ctc/ctc207.mp3

    I simply question whether union is the basis/ ground/ foundation of justification.

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Hugh, how about “none of the above”? Union describes the way in which God applies the benefits of redemption to us: by making us one with Christ in a legal sense (i.e., we are justified because Christ is our federal head) and in a “mystical” sense (i.e., we are sanctified because Christ’s indwelling Spirit wars against the sin nature).

    So union is not a basis or ground — God does not justify on account of union (“Oh look — Bob is united to Christ. I’ll justify him because of that.”). Nor is union a foundation — God does not build our justification on top of our union (“Having been united to Christ, we are therefore justified”).

    Rather, union is a method or mechanism. God justifies us by reckoning us “in Christ”, which is synonymous with imputation. And He unites us to Christ by faith.

    This is, IMO, the plain reading of WSC 30 and WLC 65,66,69 ; as well Calv Inst 3.

    I should further note that “being united to Christ” appears in the catechisms to be entirely accomplished in our effectual calling.

    Now, I’ve just given the Calvinic version of this. Ursinus (see Comm Heidelberg Catechism) had a more complex understanding of justification and union, as David R has pointed out elsewhere. For Ursinus, justification occurs in two phases. First, God imputes righteousness to us ; then we believe and are united to Christ ; then we receive God’s verdict of righteous. So for Ursinus, both of these propositions are true:

    (1) “And yet our application of the righteousness of Christ is from God; for he first imputes it unto us, and then works faith in us, by which we apply unto ourselves that which is imputed; from which it appears that the application of God precedes that which we make, (which is of faith) and is the cause of it, although it is not without ours, as Christ says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”” (Comm HC 59-60.V), AND
    (2) “Justification is the effect of faith” (Comm HC 21.V)

    It seems clear that Ursinus and Calvin are actually different on this point, and I suspect that Horton and Tipton are spotlighting that difference in this debate.

  30. Hugh McCann said,

    December 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks, Jeff!


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