Temporal Sequence of the Benefits of Redemption?
DOCTRINAL QUESTION FROM VISITOR:
I found these â€œtogether withâ€ words. Things that happen to us together with Christ. Reformed doctrine splits these up and puts them at different times, some before the foundation of the world, some at the cross, and some that God does at or after â€œtheir regenerationâ€. Why do you feel it is OK to split apart and re-order these â€œwith Christâ€ events?
The Word The Strongâ€™s #
â€œcrucified withâ€ (4957)
â€œdead withâ€ (4880)
â€œburied withâ€ (4916)
â€œquickened withâ€ or â€œmade alive withâ€ (4806)
â€œraised up withâ€ (4891)
â€œseated withâ€ (4776)
â€œshall live withâ€ (4800)
â€œunited withâ€ or â€œplanted withâ€ (4854)
â€œconformedâ€ (4832) = â€˜jointly formedâ€™
â€œbeing made conformableâ€ (4831a)
NT:4831 a summorphizomai (soom-mor-feed'-zo-mahee); derived from NT:4862 and NT:3445; causative; this word is only used in Christian writings: to be conformed to, to grant or invest with the same form, to share the likeness of, to take on the same form as (what Christ took on through his death, Phil 3:10).
So, when do these things happen to a person? Do you know what happens to a person in each step of this process?
Finding these words and looking up the contexts where they were used was like spotting a glimmer of gold in a mine. I had searched diligently through the whole New Testament, writing down individual verses on note cards that had to do with regeneration. After 6-9 months and stacks of cards I only had the possibility of only one verse: Gal. 3:26 â€œFor you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesusâ€. â€œIf regeneration = new birth, then we were born again as a son of God by faith,â€ I reasoned. But, since the context was of adoption then I felt the doctrine might teach we are only a son by adoption, so it wasnâ€™t strong enough. But when I found these â€œtogether withâ€ words, charted their contexts, and studied them out, WOW, did I learn tons, and I just keep learning more.
Thank you for your thoughtful letter. Your zeal and devotion to the Lord is obvious and I especially appreciate your commitment to the authority of Scripture, God's revealed word, our highest authority and presupposition. I pray the Lord continue to work great affection for Him in your heart. My time is limited but I would respond as follows:
You asked>>>> I found these â€œtogether withâ€ words. Things that happen to us together with Christ. Reformed doctrine splits these up and puts them at different times.
Actually we don't split them up into different time. Perhaps this is a misunderstanding. We affirm that all redemptive blessings are derived from our union with Christ. Though these benefits cannot be separated, it is helpful to distinguish them. Therefore, instead of imposing a chronological order we view these as a unitary work of God to bring us into union with Christ. Regeneration, justification, sanctification all have their source in the one fountain: Union with Christ. Also, when we say that regeneration precedes faith we are not speaking temporally, but causally. Regeneration is the new birth, a new creation, never spoken of in the imperative (command) because it is something God does for us. Consider the question: when God created the world how much time elapsed between the Divine fiat of "Let there be..." and the time "...and there was" ??? The answer is "none". When God created the world, His calling it into existence from nothing, and it actually becoming something, occurred simultaneously. Similarly, when Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man, how much time elapsed between the time his eyes were opened and the time he could see? No time. But one indeed caused the other. When Jesus called Lazarus to come forth out of the grave, how much time elapsed between his call to live and the time he was alive? none. They are simultaneous events.
When we consider these same issues when we apply them to our new life in Christ, we ask how much time elapses between the time the Holy Spirit brings us into union with Christ and our faith, justification and the inauguration of our sanctification? No time.. These events happen simultaneously, but they are caused by Christ and his work when applied by the Holy Spirit. For those without the Holy Spirit cannot, by definition, understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:7). They do not have the mind of Christ so they think of spiritual truths as foolish. Faith does not come from our unregenerated human nature, which is hostile to Christ. Christ must first open our blind eyes, unplug our deaf ears and turn our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. We do not believe while we are still stony hearted. God must do an effectual work of grace in us if we are to understand and see the truth, beauty and excellency of Christ.
For an everyday example of the difference between a temporal order and a causal order. Consider the pool ball. It sits on the table entirely passive unless there is the force of another ball to strike it. When the one ball strikes the other ball, I ask, how much time elapses between the time it touches it and the event it set in motion? No time since they touch at precisely the same time, but one event sets the others in motion. Faith presupposes new life, not the other way around. Faith is not possible to those who have a hard heart toward Christ, who are blind and deaf to spiritual realities.
Secondly, the Bible itself plainly speaks of regeneration being the cause of our faith. See John 6:63-65 ... it says that no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it. Jesus (v 63) says that the Spirit gives birth to spirit and flesh to flesh AND then states "THAT IS WHY NO ONE can come to me unless God grants it." And in verse 37 in the same context Jesus says all that the Father grants to the Son will believe. So together we are told by Jesus that the Holy Spirit gives life (quickening, new birth, regeneration). And Jesus affirms that this is why no one can believe in Christ unless God grants. And all to whom he grants will believe.
Another passage is just as clear: 1 John speaks of the new birth in Christ the immediate cause of our love for Christ, our obedience and our faith in Him. The following passages in the Greek all show the past tense of the new birth causing the action....
"If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him." (1 John 2:29)
"No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:9)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
The above two passages show that our obedience and love of Christ springs from the fact that we HAVE BEEN born of God. An unregenerate person cannot, by definition, obey or love Christ. Love for Christ is not his heart's deepest animating principle and motive, nor is it his motive at all. Christ must stir up faith in us, grant us faith in the new birth as the following passage testifies:
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God..." (1 John 5:1)
As you can see, just like the other passages in 1 John which show that love of God and obedience spring from a renewed, quickened heart, so does faith. Those who believe do so because they HAVE BEEN born of God.
All the benefits of redemption such as conversion (faith & repentance), justification, sanctification and perseverance presuppose the existence of spiritual life found only in our union with Christ. The work of applying God's grace is a unitary process given to the elect simultaneously.
The Apostle Peter treats this the same way: in 1 Peter 1:3 he states: "According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead"
I.e. as we are united to Christ and his resurrection we too are regenerated to a new hope. The new hope causally follows the new birth, according to this passage.
Here is a challenge for you: If you do not believe that God's grace is effectual and irresistible then you believe that when he gives grace we can either believe or reject Him, right?. If this be the case, let me ask you then, if two persons are granted the same grace, why does one person believe the gospel and not the other? In your understanding What makes the two persons to differ? Grace? no because you believe both had grace. So what makes them to differ must be some natural or innate virtue, or wisdom, or humility that person #2 did not have. If so then you have salvation by merit and not salvation by grace alone in Christ alone.
Hope this helps