The Strong Consolation of Imputation

The Reformed Reader

Reformed theology teaches, following Scripture, that justification includes double imputation: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and their sin is imputed to him (Is. 53:4-6, Rom. 4:1-10 2 Cor. 5.21, etc.)  In The Golden Key, Thomas Brooks discusses justification and imputation clearly.  Then he asks the pastoral question: “What strong consolations flow from this fountain – the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ?”  Below is an edited summary of his faith-strengthening answers.

First, let all believers know for their comfort, that in this imputed righteousness of Christ there is enough to satisfy the justice of God to the uttermost penny, and to remove all his judicial anger and fury.  When a believer casts his eyes upon his many thousand sinful commissions and omissions, no wonder he fears and trembles.  But then, when he looks upon Christ’s satisfaction, he may see himself acquitted, and rejoice.  For if…

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Comfort from the Covenant of Redemption – Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored

sacred_bond_coverKnowing that our salvation was planned out by the triune God before the foundation of the world gives us unspeakable comfort.  If you are a Christian, it is because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit covenanted together in eternity to save you.  You are not a Christian because you are better, smarter, or possess a softer heart than other people.  You are a Christian because the Father chose you in the Son, the Son fulfilled the conditions for your salvation, and the Spirit applied to you the redemptive benefits of the Son’s work.  When you are tempted to doubt your salvation, remember that Christ said, “It is finished,” and that the Father is satisfied with the work of his Son.  Your salvation remains secure, not because of anything you do, but because Christ finished the work the Father gave him to accomplish and satisfied God’s justice.  Consequently, the Father has highly exalted him.  The obedience-reward pattern in the covenant of redemption causes us to look to Christ rather than ourselves for assurance of our salvation.  pp. 37-38

Brown, Michael G. & Keele, Zach, Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored; Reformed Fellowship, Inc. 2012, Grandville, MI

Lectures based upon this book are currently being delivered by Michael Brown and are available here: http://christurc.org/catechism_others.html

Michael Brown and Zach Keele,

Sacred Bond is an introduction to covenant theology geared to the lay reader. This book gives an introduction to the nature of a covenant and the various covenants in Scripture: the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, the common grace (Noahic) covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and finally the new covenant. The authors explain how these covenants relate to each other and provide brief explanations of how these covenants relate to justification, sanctification, and the law/gospel distinction.

More about the book below.  HT: Pilgrimage to Geneva

Authors Michael Brown and Zach Keele are both Alumni of Wesminster Seminary California.

Click Here to Order the Book

An excerpt from the introduction:

“What is a covenant? A covenant is a formal agreement that creates a relationship with legal aspects. By relationship, we do not mean merely those relationships of husband-wife, or government-citizen—though these are included—but also the relationship of giving your word to do something. If you tell your neighbors that you will feed their dogs while they are on vacation, this is a commitment or agreement. You have a relationship with your neighbor just by being her neighbor, but giving your word that you will feed the dogs is a commitment, a covenant of sorts. A covenant can be commitment, promise, or oath. In fact, in the Bible, promise and oath are often used as synonyms for covenant.”

“People often ask me for a basic or introductory book on covenant theology. Now we’ve got one—Sacred Bond. Brown and Keele explain covenant theology in basic and readable terms. Better yet, they do so without succumbing to the tendency to talk down to the reader or make the complicated too simplistic—a common problem with introductory texts. This book does many things well, but perhaps the most important thing it does is that it will help people to better understand their Bibles. That, it seems to me, is what makes this book so valuable. And that is why you should buy it, read it, and digest it. To understand covenant theology is to understand the Bible.”—Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) in Anaheim, CA, and author of A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times

“Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this wonderful guide. In doing so, you will be much better equipped to know what you believe and why you believe it.”—From the foreword by Dr. Michael S. Horton, Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California

See more on Covenant Theology here: http://pilgrimagetogeneva.com/category/covenant-theology/

The Obligations Imposed on Abraham from Horton’s Systematic Theology

the_christian_faith_hortonGod did, of course, impose obligations on Abraham, but they were the consequence rather than the conditions of his promise.  In some sense, faith may be considered a condition of receiving Christ and all of his benefits, but even in this instance it is contrasted with works.  The works that believers are called to “walk in” are the way of life, not the way to life.  Despite its imperfections, this grateful response can be offered by us precisely because the stability of the covenant depends on Christ’s life of thanksgiving and his guilt offering cancels the sin clinging even to our best works.  While the moral commands continue to indicate the course that our sanctification is to take, it is from the gospel alone that we draw our strength.  Union with Christ is not a goal, but the presupposition, of our new obedience: “If we have died with him, we will also live with him;  if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself”  (2Ti 2:11-13). p. 617
Horton, Michael Scott (2011) The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Zondervan, Grand Rapids

Heidelberg Catechism on Gospel – questions 1, 21, 60

1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.  Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

21. What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

Machen – The Active and Passive Obedience of Christ for the sinner

 “How shall we distinguish Christ’s active obedience from His passive obedience? Shall we say that He accomplished His active obedience by His life and accomplished His passive obedience by His death? No, that will not do at all. During every moment of His life upon earth Christ was engaged in His passive obedience. It was all for Him humiliation, was it not? It was all suffering. It was all part of His payment of the penalty of sin. On the other hand, we cannot say that His death was passive obedience and not active obedience. On the contrary, His death was the crown of His active obedience. It was the crown of that obedience to the law of God by which He merited eternal life for those whom He came to save.

Do you not see, then, what the true state of the case is? Christ’s active obedience and His passive obedience are not two divisions of His work, some of the events of His earthly life being His active obedience and other events of His life being His passive obedience; but every event of His life was both active obedience and passive obedience. Every event of His life was a part of His payment of the penalty of sin, and every event of His life was a part of that glorious keeping of the law of God by which He earned for His people the reward of eternal life. The two aspects of His work, in other words, are inextricably intertwined. Neither was performed apart from the other. Together they constitute the wonderful, full salvation which was wrought for us by Christ our Redeemer.”

J. Gresham Machen in the book God Transcendent (190-191)

Source: http://iustitiaaliena.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/machen-the-active-and-passive-obedience-of-christ-for-the-sinner/

The Gospel in the Narrow Sense, Herman Witsius

The Economy of the Divine Covenants by Herman Witsius available here

The following selections are quoted below to show that Herman Witsius believed the Gospel to have a “narrow sense” in which it is to be understood.  To wit, “…the gospel strictly taken, consists of pure promises of grace and glory.”

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 284

VIII. Divines explain themselves differently as to the CONDITIONS of the covenant of grace. We, for our part, agree with those who think, that the covenant of grace, to speak accurately, with respect to us, has no conditions properly so called: which sentiment we shall explain and establish in the following manner:

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 284

IX. A condition of a covenant, properly so called, is that action, which, being performed, gives a man a right to the reward.  But that such a condition cannot be required of us in the covenant of grace, is self-evident; because a right to life neither is, nor indeed can be founded on any action of ours, but on the righteousness of our Lord alone; who having perfectly fulfilled the righteousness of the law for us, nothing can, in justice, be required of us to perform, in order to acquire a right already fully purchased for us. And indeed, in this all the orthodox readily agree.

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 286

XII. Besides, when God proposes the form of the covenant of grace, his words, to this purpose, are mere promises, as we have lately seen, Jer. xxxi. and xxxii. Our divines therefore, who, in consequence of the quirks of the Socinians and Remonstrants, have learned to speak with the greatest caution, justly maintain, that the gospel strictly taken, consists of pure promises of grace and glory.

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 286

XIII. And indeed if we were to take the promises of the covenant of grace altogether without exception, we could not, so much as in thought, devise anything in us, as the condition of these promises. For whatever can be conceived as a condition, is all included in the universality of the promises. Should God only promise eternal life, there might be some pretence for saying, that repentance, faith, and the like, were the conditions of this covenant. But seeing God does in the same breath, as it were, ratify both the beginning, progress, uninterrupted continuance, and in a word, the consummation of the new life; nothing remains in this universality of the promises which can be looked upon as a condition of the whole covenant. For we here treat of the condition of the covenant, and not concerning anything in man, which must go before the actual enjoyment of consummate happiness.

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 286-7

XIV. It is, however certain, that God has in a very wise and holy manner, so ordered it, that none should come to salvation but in a way of faith and holiness, and so ranged his promises, that none should attain to the more principal, or more perfect happiness, but they who should first be made partakers of the preceding promises.  Whence we gather, that none can take comfort in the infallible hope of happiness, who has not sincerely applied himself to the practice of faith and godliness.  And the scripture now and then assures us, that it is impossible for any to please God without faith, or see him without holiness. From this, many were induced to call faith, and a new life, the conditions of the covenant: whereas, to speak accurately, and according to the nature of this covenant, they are on the part of God, the execution of previous promises, and the earnest of future happiness, and on the part of man, the performance of those duties, which cannot but precede the consummate perfection of a soul delighting in God.  Or if we will insist upon it, to call these things conditions: they are not so much conditions of the covenant, as of the assurance that we shall continue in God’s covenant, and that he shall be our God. And I make no doubt, but this was exactly the meaning of those very learned divines, though all of them have not so happily expressed themselves.

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 288-9

 XVIII. But, which is the principal thing, we imagine, the best way to conceive of this constitution of the covenant, is as follows: since the covenant of grace, or the Gospel, strictly so called, which is the model of that covenant, consists in mere promises, prescribes nothing properly as duty, requires nothing, commands nothing: not even this, believe, trust, hope in the Lord, and the like. But declares, sets forth, and signifies to us, what God promises in Christ, what he would have done, and what he is about to do. All prescription of duty belongs to the law, as, after others, the venerable Voetius has very well inculcated, Disput. Tom. 4. p 24. seq.  And we are, by all means, to maintain this, if, with the whole body of the Reformed, we would constantly defend the perfection of the law, which comprehends all virtues, and all the duties of holiness. But the law, adapted to the covenant of grace, and according to it, inscribed on the heart of the elect, enjoins to receive all those things which are proposed in the Gospel, with an unfeigned faith, and frame our lives suitably to that grace and glory which are promised.  When God, therefore, in the covenant of grace, promises faith, repentance, and consequently eternal life, to an elect sinner, then the law, whose obligation can never be dissolved, and which extends to every duty, binds the man to assent to that truth, highly prize, ardently desire, seek, and lay hold on those promised blessings. Moreover, since the admirable providence of God has ranged the promises in such order, as that faith and repentance go before, and salvation follows after, man is bound, by the same law, to approve of, and be in love with this divine appointment, and assure himself of salvation only according to it.  But when a man accepts the promises of the covenant, in the order they are proposed, he does, by that acceptance, bind himself to the duties contained in the foregoing promises, before he can assure himself of the fulfillment of the latter. And in this manner the covenant becomes mutual. God proposes his promises in the Gospel in a certain order. The man, in consequence of the law, as subservient to the covenant of grace, is bound to receive the promises in that order. While faith does this, the believer at the same time, binds himself to the exercise of a new life, before ever he can presume to entertain a hope of life eternal. And in this manner it becomes a mutual agreement.

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 288-9

XIX. But let none here object, that life is promised in the new covenant to him that believes and repents, no less than it was in the old covenant to him that worketh; in order thence, to conclude, that faith and repentance are now, in the same manner, conditions of the covenant of grace, that perfect obedience was the condition of the covenant of works. For when life is promised to him that doeth anything, we are not directly to understand a condition, properly so called, as the cause of claiming the reward. God is pleased only to point out the way we are to take, not to the right, but to the possession of life. He proposes faith, as the instrument, by which we lay hold on the Lord Jesus, and on his grace and glory: good works, as the evidences of our faith, and of our union with Christ, and as the way to the possession of life.

Vol. 1, Book III, Chapter I, p. 291

XXIII. In the discourses of the prophets, Christ and his apostles, there is a certain mixture of various doctrines, which, indeed, are closely connected, and mutually subservient; each of which ought to be reduced to their proper heads; so that the promises of grace be referred to the Gospel; all in junctions of duty, and all threatenings against transgressors, to the law.

Selections were taken from here: The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Vol I, Book III

Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, (Escondido, California: den Dulk Foundation, 1990) Vol. 1