Quote of the Week

This month’s quote of the week (!) is from Geerhardus Vos, my favorite theologian of all time. It is located in volume 4 of his Reformed Dogmatics, which just became available. Volume 4 covers soteriology, and this quotation comes from the chapter on justification (p. 173):

33. What should we answer when someone says that in justification, declaring us to be righteous, God does not act according to truth, since in ourselves we are still full of sin and unrighteousness?

a) God’s judgment pronounced in justification does not mean that we possess a perfect inherent righteousness. If God said that, he would be making an untrue declaration. But He does not do that.

b) God’s judgment would likewise be untrue if He imputed to us an imperfect righteousness of the Mediator as if it were perfect. This would be ex injuira (by injustice). But this, too, is not the case. Nothing at all is lacking from the righteousness of Christ.

c) God’s judgment would be precisely untrue if He declared us righteous on the basis of our persistently imperfect subjective righteousness. On Rome’s position, a justification according to truth during this life is impossible.

d) The truthfulness of God’s judgment rests on the truthfulness of imputation. This is no fiction. In reality, God ascribes the merits of Christ to our account. To deny that this is a reality is also to deny the reality of the atonement, in which, conversely, our sins are imputed to Christ. If the mediator can occupy our legal position without that detracting from the truthfulness of God, so also we can occupy the legal position of the Mediator, and God’s judgment concerning that can be fully according to truth.

7 Comments

  1. December 10, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    One wonders why this work wasn’t translated and published many decades ago.

  2. roberty bob said,

    December 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

    When the Holy Scriptures speak of Christ bearing the sins of the many, or of taking away the sin of the world, which I believe He did as God’s sacrificial Lamb offered up as a sacrifice of atonement, Vos and you are in agreement that such sin bearing can only have occurred when our sins are imputed — or put on the ledger of Christ’s account — so that He is made to be the world’s greatest sinner as far as God’s law is concerned. Christ is without sin in actual fact, but in a legal sort of way he is made out to be the world’s greatest sinner because all of the sins are put on his account.

    Conversely, the merits of Christ — do the Holy Scriptures list or tell us what these merits are? — are imputed [added to the accounts of] all sinners who have faith in Christ’s atoning blood. Can anyone tell me what these merits are? I was taught that the believing sinner is justified by faith in Christ’s atoning blood, by which the sinner received the forgiveness of his or her sins. I don’t see the imputation of any such merits in that, only grace. Yet, Vos and you are in agreement that we [also?] need the merits of Christ imputed to our accounts. Is the forgiveness of my sins through Christ’s atoning blood not sufficient for my eternal salvation, or do I need more than that?

  3. Kevin said,

    December 14, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    Mr Vos, my exact sentiments Well said sir. .” Read Roman Catholic doctrine, believe the opposite, arrive at biblical truth” My favorite theolgian Kevin Failoni

  4. rfwhite said,

    December 30, 2015 at 11:31 am

    2 roberty bob asked: Is the forgiveness of my sins through Christ’s atoning blood not sufficient for my eternal salvation, or do I need more than that? Short answer: you — we — need more.

  5. Ron said,

    December 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    RB,

    I read several months ago over at called to confusion the same caricature of sin being imputed to the Savior as you just put forth. I trust yours is an sincere misunderstanding, something I can no longer attribute to those people. That aside, do you find it impossible and if not impossible then necessarily immoral to constitute and then treat one as something that is not instrinsic to that person nature and life?

    Do you find any parallel to Moses lifting up the serpent and one being cursed, hanging on a tree?

  6. W.A. Scott said,

    January 1, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Amen to the fine words from Vos.

    As to your questions Roberty Bob,

    You are correct that forgiveness of sins is sufficient–it’s just that there’s more to remission of sins from the reformers standpoint than is often attributed to it at present. Here’s some comments from earlier post that may help to flesh out what I mean:

    “Forensic perfect righteousness –> Contra some modern reformed who say that forgiveness only makes us “neutral” rather than “righteous”–the reformers held that remission of sin encompassed the entire forensic righteousness of faith. Forgiveness gives “positive” righteousness because God reckons not only that we have not sinned by commission but also that we have not sinned by omission (i.e. failing to keep the Law).

    Again, as Augustine says: All the commandments are considered fulfilled when whatever is not fulfilled is forgiven.[Retractions Book 1, 19:3]

    Little wonder that this is the case, because it is not some morally neutral covering we receive when our sins are “covered” or “forgiven” (as the Scripture says–e.g. Psalm 32:1,2 and Romans 4:6-8), rather, it is the perfectly and positively righteous Blood of Christ Himself that covers our guilt before God.”

    Finally, the Scripture makes clear that in God’s proclamation of Christ as perfectly righteous/just (i.e. in His act of raising Christ from the dead) He likewise justified every individual united to Christ. If we are proclaimed righteous in the Father’s great declaration of His Son’s righteousness how can the declaration of righteousness over the believer not be entirely on the basis of Christ’s inherent righteousness (that is, Christ’s active and passive obedience are genuinely ours through our mystical union with Him).

    W.A. Scott

  7. roberty bob said,

    February 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    to #6 W.A. Scott . . .

    I understand God’s forgiveness as the letting go of our sins, not holding them against us. Thus, God is able to take away our sins and remove them from us as far as east is from west.

    However, I am unfamiliar with the teaching that in forgiveness God gives “positive” righteousness, reckoning that we have not sinned by commission nor failed to obey due to omission. Where in the Bible is this clearly taught?

    I am fully on board with the teaching that Christ is the head of God’s new humanity — Second Adam from Above — so that those who belong to him are also “found in him.” He was put to death for our sins, and raised for our justification. The Divine verdict declaring Christ righteous vindicates all who are in union with him.

    As to Christ’s active and passive obedience, I gather that the passive obedience is his willingness to offer up his life as an atoning sacrifice, letting wicked men do unto him what their evil hearts devised; I gather that the active obedience is the doing of his Father’s will rather than his own, and in the fulfilling of the law’s righteousness [which he showed through his life and teaching — the Sermon on the Mount being a prime reference]. What I fail to find is a Biblical text that explicitly states Christ obeyed the law in our place in such a way that the accrued merits of his law-keeping are credited to our accounts. What I find instead is that it was necessary for Christ to obey without sinning so that he could be God’s Lamb, the sacrifice of atonement for the sin of the world. We are saved by the blood of the Lamb, justified by faith in his blood. I do not see any necessity for the so called merits of Christ’s active obedience to get credited to our accounts. I do see a necessity for professing believers in Christ to submit to God’s law as they live according to the Spirit [of life!] instead of according to the sinful nature [Romans 8]. In this way the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in those who live according to the Spirit. In the Spirit, in Christ, Christian believers fulfill the law. Christ didn’t obey the law in our place; he gave us his Holy Spirit for us to obey the law in our own place and time.


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