The Nine Declarations Versus Wilkins, part 2

We will start section 2 with Wilkins’s views on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. He argues that Paul’s use of the term here in verse 11 is not identical with the WS’s use of the term, since these same Christians are later warned against falling away and being condemned (he references 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). The verse which is important for our purposes (we will look carefully at the context) is verse 11:

 καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε: ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν.

Translated, it reads this way: “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” The context of this verse is one of those long lists of vices which Paul excoriates. In fact, even from verse 1, Paul is talking about activities (such as suing a brother) that are inconsistent with the Christian life. However, inconsistent as this behavior is, Paul still calls the litigants in verse 6 “brothers.” The behavior, though, is inconsistent with the claim. Then Paul lists the vices that are characteristic of the unrighteous (ἄδικοι: Fee notices the word-play with ἐδικαιώθητε, on pg. 246 of his commentary). Then Paul explicity tells them that they are no longer unrighteous (καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε). Then follows these three aorist verbs. Now, one must not over-read the aorist tense. Some prefer to say that the aorist means “point-like action,” a “once for all” aspect in the past. It can mean that. It meant that much more rigidly in Classical Greek than it did in Koine Greek. The aorist often becomes the simple narrative past tense in Koine Greek. However, here, it does seem that Paul is emphasizing the past “once-for-all-ness” of these three acts of God’s grace. We should not be fooled by the middle tense of “washed.” This verb almost never occurs in the passive, and so most scholars have argued that this is a functional passive.

The verb “washed” is not the normal verb used for baptism. Paul could easily have used the normal verb, if he had chosen. Of course, there is significant semantic overlap between the two verbs. However, it is not the same verb. Given the context of the list of vices, surely Paul is emphasizing the washing of regeneration. In other words, although reference to baptism need not be excluded from the passage, it is surely to the thing signified that Paul refers here. Almost all the commentators notice this, especially the ones who argue a reference to baptism. Fee does not accept a reference to baptism here (pp. 246-247 of his commentary). Fee recognizes the difficulty of the phrase ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, but he says that to see here a reference to the baptismal formula is “to read Paul through the eyes of Luke” (p. 246).  The name of a person is so closely connected to the person himself, that this just as easily refer to union with Christ. Indeed, the reference to three aspects of conversion makes this seem likely. What is important to notice here is that the thing signified is the only thing that will answer to being a good argument as to why the Corinthians should not engage in such evil practices. He is not telling them about their obligations (which would answer to mere water baptism), but about who they are. Only regeneration, definitive sanctification (I would argue that that is the reference here in ἡγιάσθητε), and justification answers to a change in the person’s character and status. “Washing” refers to the removal of the pollution of these former sins by the blood of Christ. “Sanctification” refers to the setting apart of the person from the world (and these sins). “Justification” refer to the removal of guilt by the declaration of the person being not guilty on the basis of Christ’s person and work. Each of these three actions are aimed at one of the various aspects of the sin being discussed.

The word ἐδικαιώθητε itself does not occur in the rest of the epistle (Thiselton, p. 455 of his commentary). Thiselton also argues that the term has its full theological sense. If the word does not occur in the rest of this epistle, then Wilkins is begging the question by saying that it has a different meaning here than in the other epistles. How could one know what Paul meant by it, except by referring to the other Pauline epistles?

Lastly, Wilkins’s hermeneutic is skewed by how he reads 1 Corinthians 10. He mentions the judgment of charity argument, only to dismiss it without the slightest argumentation as being “less likely.” I have argued here that the terms refer to real conversion, real justification. If that is true, then the judgment of charity is the only option. Therefore, Wilkins is incorrect.



  1. Ken Christian said,

    July 11, 2007 at 1:58 pm


    Let’s assume you’re correct about Wilkins interpretation here. Let’s assume his exegesis of 1 Cor. 6:9-11 is flawed. Does this mean he is non-confessional as well? I ask this because I think that’s the crux of the matter at the end of the day. Forgive me if you’ve addressed this in an earlier post.

    One more question concerning Paul and the words he uses, how can we say with dogmatic certainty that he uses a word one way just because he uses it that way in all his other letters. Clearly Paul’s letters represent, at most, 5% of his total communication, both oral and written, from his conversion to his death. That’s just not enough to go on. Certainly context must play a way larger role in defining Paul’s terms than simply poling his epistles for other uses of that same word. Your thoughts?

    Thanks, Lane,

  2. Ken Christian said,

    July 11, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Dang it. I wish we could edit. Sorry for the punctuation errors.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    July 11, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Ken, I am arguing that his position is non-confessional. I have argued this at length in my series on his reply to presbytery here:

    If my position is correct, then Wilkins has no basis for saying that the term “justification,” for instance, is used in a broader sense in Scripture than the WS uses. My arguments in those posts linked to above are attempting to prove that Wilkins’s temporary benefits conflicts with the WS.

    The criticism has been levelled at the critics of the FV that they have not dealt with the exegesis of FV writers. I am attempting to render that criticism baseless.

    The written communications from Paul are the only thing we have to go on with regard to Paul’s theology. Furthermore, they are completely sufficient (together with all the Scriptures) for *all* we need for salvation. We cannot argue on the basis of what Paul may or may not have said besides what he wrote down. This is to argue the loopholes, when we need to argue what’s there. The imagined “context” is no context at all. We can only go on what we have. And that is sufficient.

  4. pduggan said,

    July 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    If you prove the justification is a “once for all” event here, how does that establish that its the kind of justification referred to in the WCF? Hebrews can speak of the problem of apostasy being that the apostate violates a non-repeatable quality of the “salvation” he spurns, (“it is impossible to renew them to repentence” etc)

  5. Ken Christian said,

    July 11, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by an “imagined context”…I was only speaking of the context of the passage itself (whatever passage it might be). And of course the Scriptures are sufficient, once we’ve understood them. I’m just pointing out that for me, the way you are proposing to arrive at such understanding, is not, on its own, quite as definitive as you seemed to be implying.

    As for your arguement that Wilkins is contradicting the WS, it seems to me that even if you DO prove that Wilkins proof-texts for “temporary benefits” have been misinterpreted, you still haven’t proven he’s contradicting the WS, particularly when he affirms the WS in their entirety. To prove a contradiction, you’d have to find a statement in the WS that says no one can ever use these terms (sanctification, adoption, regeneration, etc) in way different from their stipulated use with in the confession, no matter HOW qualified, different, and non-contradictory one’s use of such terms might be. No such statement exists in the WS of course. Your only other option seems to be to simply accuse Wilkins of dishonesty when he says he also affirms the confessional use of such terms. To date, I haven’t seen you do that. And I honestly don’t think you would.

    The point is this: Even if your critiques of Wilkins’ are valid, how can you accuse him of being anything else but wrong about those particular texts?

  6. July 11, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    My guess is that the clean division between sign and reality here in terms of the sacramental nature of Baptism is undoubtedly a modern anachronism of Wilkins that is being brought into the text. I think it could very easily be demonstrated that there is a sort of communicato idiomatum in the New Testament where both sign and reality (ie. physical washing and spiritual regeneration, respectively) are either referred to in place of each other or as equivalent in the sense one being spoken of and the other being meant (ie. Titus 3:5). The New Testament writers were not always as careful as later modern interpreters in using everyday language though this does not mean that the text is somehow unclear. This also, for me, would explain the use of the middle voice instead of the passive for “washed”. If the middle voice means anything though I would think it would be an emphatic emphasis on the fact that your Baptism and/or regeneration means something and is important beyond the mere physical washing of water! In other words, even if you take the meaning of “washed” to refer to the physical act–it always points to regeneration anyway.

    It remains incredulous to me, for example, that Paul would use the symbol of regeneration to indicate anything other in the main than regeneration. There is no potential note of failure or doubt that real Holy Spirit inspired regeneration didn’t take place here in this passage and the “such were some of you” makes that very clear in my view.

    But we can use Wilkins’ own hermeneutic against him in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. If we can in fact separate sign from reality (in other words, speak only of the sign in the biblical text and not the reality–I’m not advocating that the Apostles because of their use of language viewed the sacraments ex opere operato–I hope I’m being clear) in terms of how we describe what happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness–why must we assume that their physical death of necessity meant that they were not in the end saved by God’s grace? Does not 1 Cor. 5:5 make a similar point? So, using the same hermeneutic Wilkins brings to the table absolutely undercuts the support he brings to bear for his reading of 1 Cor. 6:11.

    The lockdown that further inhibits Wilkins’ view in the passage is the use of “you were sanctified” and “you were justified” in the name of Jesus…in the Spirit” and the rest of the chapter 6. Undoubtedly, Paul is referring to people who he believes are elect, saved, and in really in union with Christ (1 Cor. 6:15-17). The fact that some in the visible church may not be does not of necessity void that assumption.

  7. July 11, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    that last paragraph should read:

    The lockdown that further inhibits Wilkins’ view in the passage is the use of “you were sanctified” and “you were justified in the name of Jesus…in the Spirit” and the rest of the chapter 6. Undoubtedly, Paul is referring to people who he believes are elect, saved, and in really in union with Christ (1 Cor. 6:15-17). The fact that some in the visible church may not be does not of necessity void that assumption.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    July 11, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Ken, Paul doesn’t define justification in this passage. Therefore, in order to get at what he means, we have to go to the other passages in Paul, first of all. Surely, this passage is not “about” justification. It is about the change of life from the former sins to the present state. Part of that reality is justification. Calvin’s exegesis is admirable on this point. You should look it up.

    With regard to Wilkins and the WS, I believe I have already done this in those previous posts: established that Wilkins’s view contradicts the standards. It is not necessary to prove that the WS exclude a particular use of the word that Wilkins uses in order to prove that he is out of accord. If I can prove that his doctrine is out of accord, that is quite sufficient. Go not only to the Wilkins exam post, but also the one reacting to Barlow and the continuation with Xon post. But, as I said, this post is primarily focused on Wilkins’s sloppy exegesis.

    Paul, how in the world can you come to this text assuming that justification means something different from the rest of Paul, and have that be your starting point? Surely the burden of proof is on anyone who says that Paul is using the term in a unique way here. I have attempted to prove that the benefits in view are *only* consistent with true believers. If that is the case, then the definition of justification in view has to be the irrevocable version characteric of all the rest of Paul’s letters. My argument hardly hinges only on the aorist tense of the verb and its “once-for-all” characteristic, as you seem to think it does.

    Kevin, great points.

  9. Ken Christian said,

    July 11, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    I have read those exanges, Lane, with Barlow and Xon. And I just wasn’t convinced you made your case. I do appreciate the exegetical labors though. Please keep them up.

  10. pduggan said,

    July 11, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    “Paul, how in the world can you come to this text assuming that justification means something different from the rest of Paul”

    I didn’t say that. I said different from the WCF.

  11. seth2958 said,

    July 11, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Lane, I’m still playing catch up with the whole FV issue (since I’m Baptist) but very interested. Are you saying that the Fevers (my new nickname for them) use this verse to support baptismal regeneration?

    theological satire

  12. greenbaggins said,

    July 11, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Ken, doubtless someone more sympathetic to the FV (such as yourself) will require much greater proof than a critic such as myself. Tis the nature of things.

    Paul, that doesn’t answer my argument about the lack of definition in 1 Cor 6. How will you go about defining Paul’s term there in 1 Cor 6?

    Seth, Wilkins is using this text to support a “lesser” version of saving benefits. They come to the non-elect covenant member (which is probably not a construct that most Baptists would hold). He is separating the sign of baptism from the thing signified here in order to say that sanctification and justification as defined here in Paul (!?) accrue to all members of the church.

  13. July 11, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I guess I don’t see why we just can’t say the non-elect are in the visible church and as such often obligate themselves and put themselves under greater judgement without reference to changing all our vocabulary and potential meanings of things like election, justification, and the meaning and use of Baptism. I don’t see that as a violation of the Westminster Standards–what is your opinion Lane?

  14. greenbaggins said,

    July 11, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I agree, Kevin. It is exceptionally dangerous territory for us to be adding to the definitions of established theological words. It immediately introduces confusion, as is seen quite clearly (!) in the FV camp. Do you see Wilkins as doing what you describe (that is, what you advocate), or as adding to the definitions of words?

  15. July 11, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    My personal view after the last several years is that such specificity on the part of Wilkins and other FV men does add to the confessional definitions of these words and as such is problematic. The reason I say that is because the Bible, while it does emphasize much of what they are in my view trying to say it does not make it quite so cut and dried as Wilkins, Wilson, and others would suppose.

    An analogous issue is the definition of the Real Presence in Anglican circles. Very few Anglicans are willing to be dogmatic about what that Presence is other than to say yes there is a presence and yes it is real but beyond that it is a mystery. Attempts to codify it have resulted not only in grave distortions of the matter but also have resulted in terrible divisions in the Church both within and outside of Anglican circles.

    The biblical language I think supports the idea that non-elect members of churches are members of churches and obligate themselves in ways they shouldn’t further increasing the judgement and condemnation due them. But that sentence doesn’t need the sort of Federal Vision explanation that bends and distorts normal confessional language and theology in my view and is completely fine with the general support the Bible overall lends to that point.

    I believe our modern tendency (and our Reformed scholastic heritage) to explain and defend with cogent argumentation has taken this simple truth all too far and the Federal Vision advocates at this late date wind up defending doctrines that in the end look a lot more like the Eucharistic debates of past centuries and countermand previous orthodox understandings of the faith in the process.

  16. July 11, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Ken writes:

    One more question concerning Paul and the words he uses, how can we say with dogmatic certainty that he uses a word one way just because he uses it that way in all his other letters. Clearly Paul’s letters represent, at most, 5% of his total communication, both oral and written, from his conversion to his death. That’s just not enough to go on. Certainly context must play a way larger role in defining Paul’s terms than simply poling his epistles for other uses of that same word. Your thoughts?

    This is a good and important question but one that I think Lane has already at least partially answered.

    The only thing we can go on of course is Paul’s own extant writing and perhaps other minor but indirect influences. The reason we can look at Romans or other letters of Paul when examining a passage like this is because above all, each book of the Bible is inspired. In addition to Paul’s epistles being by the same author the text itself is different than all other texts and represents another univocal Author. Scripture interprets Scripture here.

    Whatever else of Paul’s communications were definitive in providing further elucidation of what a term like justification means in his letters is really irrelevant simply because there is no other extant communication available for us to examine. So, it all becomes a grand argument from silence to look elsewhere than the Pauline corpus for these sorts of definitions. As such, that of course does not rule out lexical studies and semantic issues present with any language but any context for determining the meaning of the ancient texts is first answered in the text itself before we go tromping elsewhere to redefine what is in the immediate and most important part of the contextual data for us to examine–namely, the passages and books in question.

  17. Grover Gunn said,

    July 11, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    He argues that Paul’s use of the term here in verse 11 is not identical with the WS’s use of the term, since these same Christians are later warned against falling away and being condemned (he references 1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

    Is Steve saying that God never warns those who are truly saved against apostasy? And that is his argument that 1 Corinthians 6:11 is not referring to the golden chain justification of Romans 8:30 and the WS?

    On the contrary, the Holy Spirit can efficaciously use warnings in the lives of the regenerate elect as a means of grace to enable perseverance.

    The classic concrete non-soteriological example of a warning given to those whom God sovereignly planned to save is found in Acts 27. The warning is in verse 31, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” The sovereign plan to save is found in verses 21-22: “… there will be no loss of life among you.” God used the warning to keep the sailors on ship, and the sailors were a part of God’s sovereign plan, which involved the execution of certain sailing maneuvers (verse 40). All were saved in this physical sense just as God had sovereignly planned (verse 44).

    Grover Gunn

  18. July 12, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Wouldn’t we say the warnings apply to both the elect and non-elect? The elect, by efficacious grace, heed the warning, the non-elect do not and apostatize.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Terry W. West

  19. eric said,

    July 12, 2007 at 12:18 am

    However you want to skin-this-cat; with a “charitiable judgment” or a “means of perseverance”, it is blantantly obvious that Paul was writing this verse to the visible body of Christ. With these terms Paul is identifying this visible body, and affirming the present reality of who they are in Christ – despite all their sin. Reformed pastors might despise the “covenantal” explanation of these terms; yet nevertheless, Paul wrote this to the visible church and in like manner we should preach to her. Whether we choose a “charitiable”, a “means”, or a “covenantal” explanation may best be determined by which one packs the most punch! Which ever one identifies who they are, what they now have, and gives them the most reason to persevere should determine the explanation we give of this verse. These questions should first be answered before we give a quick and “safe” explanation of I Cor.6:11. For what we consider to be systematically “safe”, Paul may consider pastorally impotent.
    – eric

  20. Ken Christian said,

    July 12, 2007 at 6:23 am

    Good morning, Lane,

    In reference to your words in post 12, I don’t know what it means to be “sympathetic” to the Federal Vision. It certainly doesn’t mean I’m in agreement with every FV point or think the FV is beyond serious critique. To be completely honest, I too remain unconvinced of Wilkins’ treatment of 1 Cor. 6:9-11.

    What I AM sympathetic to is fair treatment. That’s the case I tried to argue for on the floor of GA. That’s what I’m appealing to you for now.

    Please, interact with Wilkins’ exegesis. Disagree if you must (at times I’m sure I’ll agree with you). But don’t turn your disagreements over individual texts into proof of some grand contradiction Wilkins must have in regards to the WS. That just doesn’t seem like fair treatment to me.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    July 12, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Grover and Terry, both excellent points. The warnings of scripture partake of the same characteristics as Scripture itself (especially given the fact that the warnings of Scripture *are* Scripture). The Word divides. Warnings divide. Warnings are for the elect not because there is any possibility of them falling away, but because they are God’s means of keeping them from falling away. Wilkins does not indeed miss this entire idea. He seems to think that just because there is a warning, all the people who are warned have the possibility of falling away. It is an Arminian approach.

    Ken, if I prove that Wilkins’s exegesis is wrong on all the points he makes in this paper, then what right does he have to make systematic towers on such a shaky foundation? The fact is that his faulty exegesis drives his faulty systematics. And he does, in fact, contradict the WS. And I will show that the one implies the other. You need to make sure that you are not driving such a hard wedge between exegesis and systematics as comment 20 seems to imply. I believe that I am describing what he actually says. I don’t believe that I have misrepresented him. I am as concerned about accuracy as anyone.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    July 12, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Eric, welcome to my blog. Please tell us your last name.

    The difference between the charitable interpretation and the supposed “covenantal” intepretation is that the visible church does not entirely consist of regenerated people. If that is so, then it follows that some kind of differentiation must happen. If that is so, then it is legitimate to address the church as a mixed body. This is what 1 John 2:19 does, and Romans 9:6 does, and several other passages that support the visible/invisible distinction. Those passages are also written to the entire church, Eric.

  23. July 12, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Eric writes:

    With these terms Paul is identifying this visible body, and affirming the present reality of who they are in Christ – despite all their sin. Reformed pastors might despise the “covenantal” explanation of these terms; yet nevertheless, Paul wrote this to the visible church and in like manner we should preach to her. Whether we choose a “charitiable”, a “means”, or a “covenantal” explanation may best be determined by which one packs the most punch! Which ever one identifies who they are, what they now have, and gives them the most reason to persevere should determine the explanation we give of this verse. These questions should first be answered before we give a quick and “safe” explanation of I Cor.6:11. For what we consider to be systematically “safe”,

    I don’t think it’s immediately clear that Paul is of necessity writing to “the visible church”. Paul is of necessity writing to the Corinthian church–a fine distinction but one which I think allows us to remember that just because Paul may be addressing the assembly at Corinth, that does not mean that he always has every single person in the Church in mind in terms of what he says. The term which bests describes this in my view is synecdoche. I believe I’ve already established in comments above that Paul is talking in 1 Cor. 6 about people who have been transformed by regeneration, etc., and are elect–and I must have missed anywhere that you or others somehow dealt with the exegetical and other arguments about the passage that I’ve brought to the table.

    Part of the problem with Wilkins’ view in looking at the passage is doing it in such a way that does not recognize literary devices such as synecdoche that the Apostle Paul clearly uses here and elsewhere in the text. Instead, he insists on a sort of wooden literalism that forces us to see mention of the saints as either all the elect or the visible church. I don’t think we need to delineate Paul’s audience in that fashion and that allows the text to have the freedom to give warnings in the Church and understand that the elect will never fail even while those warnings are laid down in the New Testament.

  24. July 12, 2007 at 10:08 am

    […] Wilkins’ comments interesting and I’ve been discussing this with some others over at Green Baggins. What follows is a compilation of some of my comments below. I thought I’d see if our […]

  25. Grover Gunn said,

    July 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Re: charitable judgments

    Paul addresses his comments to the saints in a certain area or to a certain local church, but he also sprinkles his letters with occasional qualifying statements that his statements about salvation really apply only to those whose inward spiritual condition is consistent with their outward profession. I have found at least one of these qualifying statements in every epistle Paul wrote to a church except the short second epistle to the Thessalonians. I think perhaps the strongest such statement is Romans 8:9: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” See the section “The ‘If Indeed” Qualification” in the article “Corporate and Individual Election” found at

    Grover Gunn

  26. July 12, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    One of the most disturbing features of FV is precisely this “Wilkins” hermeneutic, which does great violence to the Pauline epistles. I’d say it is just as dangerous as the doctrinal errors themselves, and so FV can fairly be compared to dispensationalism on this account. That is, there is a wooden literalism powering their hermeneutic, only in this case it results in blurring the lines between elect and non-elect covenant members rather than confusing the relation between Israel and the church. The changes to our reading of Scripture are no less sweeping than Darby and Lewis Chafer’s system. And both are heretical.

  27. Ken Christian said,

    July 12, 2007 at 1:48 pm


    Brother, what really frustrates me about reading your blog is how you seem to read everything in the worst possible light. For a case-in-point example of this, look at the way (in comment 21) you represented my words from comment 20.

    Where did I ever imply the driving of a wedge between exegesis and systematics? C’mon man. You’re serious? And yeah, I know you said, “seems to imply”? But that only illustrates my point. Why would what I wrote “seem to imply such a wedge in your eyes? Are you sure you’re not looking for the worst possible interpretations of people who express affinity with FV? Seriously, are you sure?

    Leaving behind my suposed “implications”, what I actually SAID was that I agreed with you in disagreeing with Wilkins’ as it pertains to 1 Cor. 6. On most of the other passages Wilkins’ brings in to prove the so-called “temporary benefits”, I agree with him. I just don’t think 1 Cor. 6 is describing such benefits. But I don’t think Steve’s exegetical error at this one point makes his over-all theology out of accord with the standards. You seem to think it does and yet I’m still waiting for some convincing proof.

    So where is my “wedge” again? I’ve missed it.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    July 12, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    BOQ But don’t turn your disagreements over individual texts into proof of some grand contradiction Wilkins must have in regards to the WS. EOQ

    This is the statement that is a problem for me, Ken. This statement seems to imply that it is illegitimate to move from exegesis (or a disagreement about a text) to more systematic concerns. You have to understand, Ken, that critics are extremely sensitive on this issue, since we have seen so much pitting of the Bible against the WS. Maybe we’re overly-sensitive.

    I am not arguing that because of this specific exegetical disagreement over 1 Corinthians 6, that therefore Wilkins is a heretic. Rather (waiting for all the other exegesis to be finished, and also based on previous discussions), on the basis of all the exegesis in which I will engage or have engaged, I will prove Wilkins’s views to be unbiblical. If it is unbiblical, it is also unconfessional. That’s the direction my argument is headed. It is not based on the exegesis of one text alone. Rather, it is based on the entire hermeneutic, and on the logical consequences of Wilkins’s views. Hope this clarifies.

  29. Ken Christian said,

    July 12, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Alright, Lane, I think I’m tracking with you. Yet I do think there was some over-sensitivity. No worries, let’s move on.

    I think I would completly understand where you’re coming from (and where you’re headed) if you could briefly address the following hypothetical situation:

    You’re seated at a table with Wilkins. You guys start talking about “temporary benefits (just, sact, etc)”. You say, “Show me temporary benefits in the Confession.”
    He says, “I can’t; because the Confession does not address them. It only talks about permanent saving benefits, which I totally affirm as well. But I can show you temporary beneftis in the Bible. Do you want to see?”

    You say, “Sure,” and take a look at those texts with him. And let’s say you believe he’s wrong about EVERY one of them. Would you THEN pounce and say, “Ha, you’re not in accord with the Confession.”

    And what if Steve, at that point pointed to another text, a passage you guys hadn’t looked at yet and said, “Out of accord with the Confession? THIS text teaches the permanent saving benefit of justification. That’s why I agree with Confession on that point.” At that point, Lane, is Wilkins’ still unconfessional (even though he might, in your eyes, be wrong about all the other texts)?

  30. greenbaggins said,

    July 12, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    What I see the FV saying about itself is exactly what you are describing. They think that they are simply being biblical, and that, since they affirm what the Confession says, that therefore anything in addition to that confession (which they do not think is contradictory) is okay.

    What the critics are saying is that the FV theology is not merely additional to the confession. The WS actually do address the issue of apostates. The WS actually do address the issue of hypocrisy in the church. They address the efficacy of baptism, and they carefully define it.

    The ultimate issue is the benefits of salvation: how are they defined, and who gets them? The problem here is that if the saving benefits of justification and sanctification are given to the non-elect, then the result is Arminianism. It doesn’t matter whether or not this schema is additional to the decretal system or not. Are non-elect people forgiven of their sins? Are they justified by faith alone? If they are, then the systematic boundary between elect and non-elect has been breeched. Then, whether or not one says that there are differences between elect and non-elect, de facto the differences are erased.

    The question then becomes this: is there a “covenantal justification,” “covenantal sanctification,” “covenantal adoption” that exists alongside of the Confession’s definitions? That is the exegetical question which I am seeking to answer. I am arguing that there is not. Therefore, for Wilkins to say that there is would constitute a denial not only of the WS, but also of the Bible’s own teaching.

  31. pduggan said,

    July 12, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    “You say, “Sure,” and take a look at those texts with him. And let’s say you believe he’s wrong about EVERY one of them. Would you THEN pounce and say, “Ha, you’re not in accord with the Confession.””

    Looks like Lane is saying “yes”

  32. Ken Christian said,

    July 12, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    In reference to Lane’s comments in 30


    Haven’t these guys said over and over again that the temporary benefits given to the non-elect are NOT the same in quality or in duration as those benefits which are given exclusively to the elect? Lane, what are you reading that we’re not?

    And even if Wilkins is wrong in claiming certain passages teach a covenantal justification (different in quality and duration from elect-only justification), then he hasn’t DENIED the Bible’s own teaching. He’s merely confused about certain passages (Would you say that anyone who disagrees with your exegesis of a certain text has “denied the Bible’s own teaching”? That seems a bit extreme.).

    And he certainly hasn’t DENIED the WS He’s not even speaking about them in relation to covenantal justification. It seems to me that you’re seeing something that just ain’t there.

  33. Ken Christian said,

    July 13, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Just in case anyone’s still paying attention:

    Denying the Bible’s teachings and being (honestly) wrong about them are two different things. “Denying” would mean one understands what the Bible says yet still teaches something different (like feminists do when they say Paul is just being sexist in Eph. 5). What ever Wilkins’ is doing, he is not denying anything.

  34. Grover Gunn said,

    July 13, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Let’s say that a person believes that John 15:2 teaches that everyone in the visible church has that same vital covenant union with Christ which is the essence of salvation, and that Romans 11:17 teaches that everyone in the visible church receives saving benefits which are qualitatively the same. Let’s call this Doctrine A. Yet this same person does not believe that everyone in the visible church is decretively elect, and so he believes that the grace received by the non-elect in the visible church differs from the grace received by the elect in duration and final outcome. He acknowledges that this must be due to a difference in efficacy. Let’s call this Doctrine B. When asked to explain how to reconcile Doctrine A and Doctrine B, he claims that this is a mystery which only God can comprehend. Yet when someone accuses him of believing doctrine A, he responds by denying that he believes doctrine A because he believes doctrine B, which contradicts doctrine A. This is not a legitimate response. He should acknowledge that he does indeed hold to doctrine A but that he also holds to doctrine B and claims the mantle of mystery.

    The Westminster Standards do not regard this as a mystery which only God can comprehend. They deny doctrine A and affirm doctrine B.

    WCOF 10.4
    Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved …

    WCOF 3.6
    As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

    For my treatment of John 15 and Romans 11, see

    Grover Gunn

  35. greenbaggins said,

    July 13, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    But a covenantal justification implies forgiveness of sins. I have argued from WCF 15 that no forgiveness of sins is possible unless there is forgiveness of original sin. This makes it an all or nothing deal. It’s *all* forgiven completely, or else *none* of it is. This is why Wilkins denies the WCF with his theology, while affirming it in his words.

    BOQ So, in propositional form, it would look like this: 1. There is no pardon of actual sins without pardon of original sin. 2. There is no pardon of original sin without regeneration. 3. Only the elect are regenerated. Therefore. 4. Only the elect have pardon. 5. No non-elect person can have any kind of pardon, since pardon involves pardon of original sin, which can only happen if regeneration is present. EOQ

    This makes “covenantal justification” a contradiction of the WS’s definition of justification, since it involves forgiveness of sins, which is connected to original sin, which is connected to regeneration, which is given only to the decretally elect. So, Wilkins’s theology contradicts the WS.

  36. July 13, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Wilkins’ insistence on using ordo salutis terms (justification, forgiveness of sins, adoption, etc.) is supposedly qualified by the fact that he says he conceives of those benefits as “qualitatively different” from the corresponding benefits given to the elect. But HOW are they different? In his exam, he can’t get beyond saying, essentially, ‘they are different because they are different.’

    It is one thing to, in some circumstances, redefine various terms. It is another thing to insist on redefining terms and then not actually providing alternate definitions of your redefined terms.

    And this was all cause for disturbing the people of God and looking down their noses at the rest of the Reformed world in the 2002 pastor’s conference – the propagation of benefits and terms for non-elect covenant members which they refuse to define? These schismatics should be ashamed of themselves.

    But one way we can tell what precisely Wilkins is driving at when he uses these terms is to look at the Scripture texts he indexes his terminology to. This includes not only I Corinthians, but also Ephesians 1 and Romans 8. So by good and necessary consequence Wilkins is using those terms in the same way that WS and 3FU do, so Wilkins is outside of the confessions in imputing those benefits to the non-elect covenant members.

  37. Ken Christian said,

    July 13, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Lane — Are you sure you meant WCF 15 in your last post. I’m having difficulty locating the subject matter in that chapter. Thanks for checking – Ken

  38. greenbaggins said,

    July 14, 2007 at 9:09 am

    WCF 15 is correct. The argumentation has to do with evangelical graces, of which repentance is one. This repentance is such that “none may expect pardon without it.” The reference is to “all sinners.” He turns from “them all” (referring to sins, which must include original sin) unto God. Pardon for sin is not something that comes without complete repentance, says the Confession. There is no room for a temporary, full forgiveness of sin without this evangelical grace of repentance. In other words, if a non-elect covenant member receives forgiveness of sins in any sense (“none may expect pardon without it”), then that idea contradicts the WS.

  39. Ken Christian said,

    July 14, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Lane. I’m with you now (I hope).

    Not that I presume to speak for Wilkins’ but couldn’t you imagine him replying to your WCF 15 arguement this way: “WCF 15 is speaking about full and final pardon granted to the eternally elect when they are granted true evangelical faith and repentance. I’m not denying that at all. I affirm it, because I believe the scripture does. ”

    He continues, “BUT, I believe the Bible also talks about a type of pardon that is NOT full and final and is NOT identical to the pardon given to the eternally elect. For example, check out the parable of the unjust steward in Matt. 18:23-35.”

    Now Lane, I can see how you might want to disagree with Wilkins’ interpretation of that parable. But I still don’t see how his interpretation puts him in conflict with the standards. In hismind, the types of pardon being described in WCF 15 and Matt. 18 are two completely different things.

  40. Grover Gunn said,

    July 14, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    I believe the key to addressing this argument is to ask specifically what is meant by forgiveness in the context of the parable. According to the principles of covenant administration, the servant received both the promise and the obligations of the covenant. The promise of forgiveness was never unconditional in the sense that he was forgiven irrespective of his future behavior. The forgiveness the master gave him was from the beginning forgiveness consistent with the Lord’s Prayer petition, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” The master in the parable represents God, but only God as He operates within history. The master of the parable could not represent God in His eternity. From His eternal perspective, God knows the end from the beginning and knows the nature of the root before any fruit, either good or bad, is born. From this perspective, God knows from the beginning which of His servants in history have their sins cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19) and removed from them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

    It is instructive that in this parable, the unforgiving servant ends up paying his original debt and more. The master’s original response to his servant’s great debt was to plan on selling the servant, his family and his possessions and applying the money received to the debt. Considering the size of the servant’s debt to his master, that punishment seems mild. The master upon discovering the servant’s unforgiving spirit withdraws the previously offered forgiveness. The master doesn’t reason that he had already forgiven this servant his original debt and so now he can punish him only for throwing the second servant into prison. No, the master throws the unforgiving servant to the tormentors until he repays fully his original debt. This man’s last state is much worse than his original when the master was planning on selling him. So this man’s debt was never forgiven in any totally unconditional sense. What the master had done was to promise his servant forgiveness if indeed the servant met the obligations of the covenant. As we apply this to our experience of salvation, we need to remember that all those whom God truly forgives, He will also enable to be forgiving. Thus forgiving is not a price we pay to be forgiven but an evidence that we are forgiven. If we are not forgiving, that is evidence that we were never really forgiven.

    The above is from the article found at

    Grover Gunn

  41. Ken Christian said,

    July 14, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Mr Gunn,

    Sure. That JUST might be the proper interpretation of the parable. Wilkins’ interpretation might be wrong. But what still hasn’t been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt is how Wilkins’ understanding of the “forgiveness” given in this parable puts him out of accord with the WS. He’s said over and over again that he’s not proposing that the “forgiveness” spoken of Matt. 18 is in any way the same as the full and final forgiveness that the eternally elect receive (the type of pardon described in WCF 15).

    So assuming Wilkins is not lying when he makes that distinction, where is the contradiction with the Standards?

  42. greenbaggins said,

    July 14, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    What I don’t understand about the FV hermeneutic is this desire to limit the WS’s meaning on something like forgiveness to the elect, in order to make room for some other kind of forgiveness that can accrue to the non-elect. On what basis is “none may expect pardon without it” limited to the elect? It is talking about the whole world there. See especially the “all sinners” of the immediately preceding sentence. This is also born out by the universals in the proof-texts. No one in the entire world may expect pardon without evangelical repentance, a grace given by God. To read it otherwise is to artificially limit the WCF’s meaning there. There is no basis in the text whatsoever for such a limitation. If the FV is going to read the cracks here, then it has to justify that there is a crack. They have clearly not done so. If it is replied that exegesis of Scripture can prove that there is a crack, then they are going to need a whole lot more than just the bare-bones assertions about texts that Wilkins is constantly setting forth. He references practically no opposing views (unless to casually dismiss them without argumentation), and does no detailed refutation of the traditional Reformation views. He dismisses the judgment of charity argument, for instance, by saying that it isn’t convincing to him. Well, woop-de-do. That’s such a detailed, logical argument. Assertion is not argumentation.

    What is amazingly and increasingly frustrating here is the demand on the part of FV guys that the critics provide everything and the kitchen sink (as in, a complete exegesis of every passage in the universe, a systematic theology complete in every respect in every statement, and a complete church historical examination) in order to prove that their heresies are heresies, while they do not demand of themselves anything like an equal level of argumentation to prove that the Confession is inadequate. They think that all they need is to say that their view doesn’t contradict the standards. Well, that is proving to be a bit shallow, as denomination after denomination in NAPARC are coming together on this. I’m sorry, Ken. This frustration is not directed solely at you, but at all the FV guys, who will be satisfied with not one iota of argumentation from any critic whatsoever, while their own authors are gods. Idolatry is absolutely rampant in FV circles in this respect.

  43. Grover Gunn said,

    July 14, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Dear Ken,

    Thanks for the encouraging word!

    A writer sometimes quoted by FV proponents at one time had an article on the Internet which concluded the following from the parable of the unforgiving servant:

    Apparently, then, God forgives the sins of covenant members so long as they persevere within the covenant by faith working in love. But if they apostatize in ingratitude and hatred, then their sins will no longer be forgiven and they will fall under God’s condemnation. Our Lord himself teaches, then, that at least one of the benefits of salvation in him–forgiveness–is enjoyed by individuals so long as they remain within the covenant by a loving faith. That is to say, the non-elect can stand forgiven, for a time.

    This writer removed this article from his Internet page and at one time had a notice that he was re-writing it. I don’t know if he still holds the view expressed in this quoted statement. With that said, I want to comment on the above statement. This statement concludes from the parable that the non-elect visible church member has this actual redemptive benefit temporarily. In definite contrast, I believe that all in the visible church have the promises of the covenant but that only those who, enabled by God’s irresistible grace, meet the obligations of the covenant (saving faith and its necessary fruits, repentance and new obedience) ever actually possess the salvation which is promised. I also believe it is impossible to truly possess this salvation temporarily.

    Forgiveness, of course, is an aspect of justification. The above quoted statement refers to real forgiveness temporarily possessed by the non-elect. I believe that is contrary to what our confession clearly says. Only the elect are ever justified (WCOF 3.6). Those whom God has accepted in Christ cannot fall away (WCOF 7.1).

    Do you have a statement from Steve in which he clearly defines what he means by this temporary forgiveness given to the non-elect in the visible church? Does he mean the same thing as expressed in the above quoted statement?

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  44. Ken Christian said,

    July 14, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Mr. Gunn – Here is the best I could do on such short notice. In this quote, Wilkins is referencing the “forgiven” steward from Matt. 18:

    “However we might state this, we would have to maintain that the “forgiveness” received by such a person is not identical to that received by the elect. To repeat what I’ve said earlier: First, differs in its duration. The elect person perseveres and remains in a state of grace until the end of his life. The non-elect eventually forsakes
    his faith and falls away from the state of grace. And second, it differs qualitatively. The elect person’s forgiveness in time is an anticipation of his final vindication at the last judgment. The non-elect’s “forgiveness” is not. Although the non-elect person has standing for a time in the church which is “realm” of the forgiven, his Thus, for example, though the non-elect are brought within the family of the justified and in that sense may be referred to as one of the justified, the elect person’s justification in time is not only a declaration of his present acquittal from the guilt of sin but also an anticipation of his final vindication at the last judgment. The non-elect church member’s “justification” is not. His“justification” is not the judgment he will receive from God at the last day.”

    There is much in this quote that I still have questions and concerns about. But clearly Wilkins at least believes he is distinquishing between temporary “forgiveness” and the full-and-final forgiveness described by WCF 15 which is only bestowed upon the elect.

  45. Ken Christian said,

    July 14, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Lane –

    Your last comment has left me speechless. Your accusations of me (even the ones only slightly directed my way) are unfounded, not to mention absurd. You have my email I assume. Please send me your phone number. We need to talk, brother.


  46. Grover Gunn said,

    July 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Thank you, Ken. That is helpful.

    Steve here makes his standard remarks about duration and future outcome. The statement that a temporary salvation differs from a permanent salvation in duration and final outcome is a truism which doesn’t really give us any new information. The real question is the nature of this temporary “salvation.”

    Steve here says that the non-elect forsakes his faith. What is the nature of this faith? Would Steve agree with the following statement from the study report:

    The faith which the non-elect sometimes have is from the beginning a dead faith which does not work by love (cf. WCF 11.2). The works performed by the non-elect in the church are not pleasing to God because they are not “the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith”(WCF 16.2) and because “they proceed not from an heart purified by faith” (WCF 16.7).
    page 2226, lines 13-17

    If he agrees with this, then his statement about the non-elect forsaking his faith is really not saying anything new or different. If he disagrees with the above and means that the non-elect can for a time have a faith that is qualitatively the same as the faith execercised by the elect, then his statement about faith is outside our confessional bounds. Which of theset two options is it, or is there a third option I haven’t thought of?

    In regard to forgiveness, Steve mentions membership in the visible church. He calls the visible church “the family of the justified” and says that the non-elect member is justified in the sense that he is a part of this family. This boils down to another truism: the members of the visible church are members of the visible church.

    He says that forgiveness involves a present declaration of acquittal from guilt and a final vindication at the last judgment. Now I don’t think he is clear, but he appears to be saying that the non-elect in the church have the former but not the latter. He appears to be saying that the elect and the non-elect in the visible church are the objects of the same divine present declaration of acquittal from guilt. At the moment in history in which it occurs, it is qualitatively the same for both elect and non-elect. If that is what Steve is saying, then I believe he is out of accords with our Standards because he is saying that a person can be really saved temporarily.

    Now the other possibility is that Steve doesn’t mean that the non-elect in the visible church receive the same present declaration as the elect in the visible church. Maybe he means that the non-elect in the visible church receive only the promises of the covenant but not the salvation promised. If so, then Steve is saying nothing new or different.

    Is there some third explanation of Steve’s words in which Steve is saying something new and different which is not out of accords with our Standards? If so, I don’t know what this third explanation is.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  47. Anne Ivy said,

    July 14, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    A significant problem with the “differs in duration” argument that the FV offers as an explanation is that the primary distinguishing feature of the Reformed understanding of forgiveness is that it precludes difference in duration.

    For pity’s sake, any RC/Orthodox or Arminian would nod like a bobble-head doll on a bumpy road at the notion that divine forgiveness can be of limited duration. Wasn’t it largely such a belief that provided the impetus for the Reformation?

    Reformed doctrine – unless I’m badly confused – states unequivocally that divine forgiveness is an either/or proposition….either one IS forgiven by God or one is NOT forgiven. Allowing for forgiveness of a limited duration as any sort of category at all essentially guts the traditional Reformed teaching on forgiveness.

    This is why it doesn’t work for anyone to say they hold to the WS doctrine of forgiveness while simultaneously saying there is a way in which someone is temporarily forgiven by God. The WS doctrine precludes such a possibility.

  48. Grover Gunn said,

    July 14, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Is someone able to clarify what Steve’s statement about forgiveness means? Is he indeed saying that both the elect and non-elect in the visible church are both objects of a present declaration of acquittal of guilt which is qualitatively the same for both at the point of time at which it occurs? If not, what is he saying?

    Anne makes a very good point. Saying that a person can be saved temporarily and that this temporary salvation is qualitatively different from permanent salvation only in the sense that it differs in duration and final outcome does not get to the real heart of the matter at all.

    WCOF 3.6 & 7 clearly explain the qualitative uniqueness of permanent salvation. Its qualitative uniqueness is due to the Holy Spirit’s applying the benefits of redemption in accordance with the decree of election.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  49. August 7, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    […] Wilkins’ comments interesting and I’ve been discussing this with some others over at Green Baggins. What follows is a compilation of some of my comments below. I thought I’d see if our […]

  50. November 12, 2007 at 11:47 am

    […] of Steve Wilkins’s Response to the 9 Declarations. Response to Declaration 1, Response to Declaration 2, part 1, Response to Declaration 2, part 2, Response to Declaration 2, part 3, Response to Declarations 3 […]

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