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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « The Gospel According to Galatians, Pt. 6: Justification by Faith Alone by C. R. Biggs | Main | Images of the Savior (8 - His Discourse with the Woman at the Well) »

    Temporal Sequence of the Benefits of Redemption?

    DOCTRINAL QUESTION FROM VISITOR:
    I found these “together with” 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 “their regeneration”. Why do you feel it is OK to split apart and re-order these “with Christ” events?

    The Word The Strong’s #
    “crucified with” (4957)
    “dead with” (4880)
    “buried with” (4916)
    “quickened with” or “made alive with” (4806)
    “raised up with” (4891)
    “seated with” (4776)
    “shall live with” (4800)
    “united with” or “planted with” (4854)
    “conformed” (4832) = ‘jointly formed’
    “being made conformable” (4831a)
    NT:4831 a
    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 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”. “If regeneration = new birth, then we were born again as a son of God by faith,” 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 wasn’t strong enough. But when I found these “together with” words, charted their contexts, and studied them out, WOW, did I learn tons, and I just keep learning more.

    Response
    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 “together with” 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
    Shalom
    J.W. Hendryx

    Posted by John on October 18, 2006 02:37 PM

    Comments

    Hopefully this posting will be a success seeing I posted something about fools in the Hardening Pharaoh's heart article and it hasn't found it's way there yet??

    This is a wonderful understanding here J.W..

    I commend you J.W. for it.

    I would put the metal to the sword and observe some more words based on just the two times we do see that one Greek word used,:

    συζωοποιέω
    suzōopoieō
    sood-zo-op-oy-eh'-o
    From G4862 and G2227; to reanimate conjointly with (figuratively): - quicken together with.

    Can anyone imagine a "conjoined" twin being separated from it's sib?

    Chances are high one if not both will die after surgery to separate them.

    Now, can you imagine who will live separated from CHRIST after Ephesians 2:5 where that Greek word is used?

    Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by (grace ye are saved;)


    I would also point to the relevance of this Greek word used only twice in Scripture too:

    λογικός
    logikos
    log-ik-os'
    From G3056; rational (“logical”): - reasonable, of the word.

    See Romans 12:1 and 1 Peter 2:2.

    The Word logikos' is a fascinating venture for me knowing as I do now these many years what Jesus was teaching Peter in His famous debate with that "BRAND NEW APOSTLE":

    Joh 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

    Having been in Ministry [and intending on being in Ministry] some 30 plus years now rarely do you hear the Preacher preach on the LAMBS in this story of Peter and his "LOVE"/"LOVE", agape and phileo debate with Christ.

    So it is fascinating to realize that he and Paul got it right when they use the Greek Word LOGIKOS as the starting place for NEW FOUND BABES to FEED. Drink the milk!

    The other two Words for Word are of course Logos and Rhema. Another direction and path to keep with those two Truths here on? I am new to this blog so I may be speaking to something already discussed and put forth for comment in prior posts?

    We are a seed. We then, once buried hopefully sprout out a tender tree and in the end hopefully become FRUIT BEARING.

    Seed.
    Tree.
    Fruit.

    Another interesting Greek Word that slides in here is the Greek Word:

    βίος
    bios
    bee'-os
    A primary word; life, that is, (literally) the present state of existence; by implication the means of livelihood: - good, life, living.


    This word is where we build our lectures on BIOLOGY from.

    There are many words for the one English word: LIFE.

    This is one of them and the most basic of them; zoe is one, zao is another, psuche, biotikos, helikia jew a few more mentions here.

    Jesus liked to point out who was living/bios WELL in His Judgment:


    Luk 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
    Luk 21:2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
    Luk 21:3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
    Luk 21:4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.


    And you too, if you want to be A BABE in Christ, casting in all the LIVING/BIOS that you have might be a place to start that He will note on your behalf seeing we were dead in our trespasses and sins and He has conjoined us to Christ because of His Rich Mercy and Love.

    michael

    John,

    Thank you for your adequate defense of the causal relationship between regeneration and faith in the elect. In reading the letter written, though I only had part of it, it seemed as if the individual writing it misunderstands the reality that there is much in scripture that shows an atemporal God moving into time in such a way that does not, from human perspective, seem to flow with our timelines.

    Let me give a couple of examples:

    Ephesians 1:4, he chose us before the foundation of the world. He chose to love us and save us before there was a blood sacrifice, yet all of redemptive history takes place for the purpose of saving the elect whom God chose to love before there was any justice established (the cross) in time on earth.

    Hebrews 4:3, his works were finished before the foundation of the world. What is this? The work of Christ to bring His elect into His eternal rest. This work was completed and finished before the world began, yet the cross had not yet happened in time, our faith had not yet been won in time, our obedience had not yet been made manifest through the working of the Spirit in time, etc... Yet, all this is said to have happened before the world began.

    Revelation 13:8, the Lamb crucified before the foundation of the world. Christ was sacrificed and crucified before the world began, yet he was crucified in time.

    All this may seem confusing...it is! We have a God who is outside of time and decides, works, and acts in time and outside of it. What God does outside of time, in His eternal counsel and wisdom, works itself out for the good of the elect within time.

    I say all this to make one point. The individual writing the letter seems to have difficulty with Reformed people splitting these up and reordering them... Yes...there is a reason why we do. The reason is simple, the scripture does this. In one sense the scripture talks about these events and/or experiences in salvation as an immediate event. Some other places it splits them up...for example: Ephesians 1 splits up predestination, the work of Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit as the garuntee of our inheritance in Christ...but the scripture seems to say that all this happened before the foundation of the world, then at the cross, then in regeneration...so what is the order? The work of salvation is an atemporal event (I question whether or not we can use the word event with atemporal things, but then again that is beyond me). The moving of something from an Atemporal reality to a temporal reality will most likely confound the mind and appear to be dissordered. Then again, the terms "confound" and "appear" must necessarily apply to the minds of finite creatures while the infinitely wise and providential God has ordered each in such meitculous perfection that there is no disorder but all perfectly happening according to His ordination.

    So, are we saved before we're born, at the cross 2,000 years ago, at regeneration, upon the exercise of faith after regeneration, upon obedience after faith and regeneration, at glorification...etc? The answer is simple, yes! Yes to all of it. God has chosen to make each event within the chain of salvation from election to justification, to the cross, to our glorification of equal importance and of equal necessity to the salvation of man. In a sense we are saved at each part, but in a sense each part is of a whole which is not finihsed until the whole is finished. This is why we use language like we were saved, we're being saved, and we will be saved. In doing this we recognize the fact that God has worked to save, is working to save, and will work to save us. Why God has chosen to reveal His saving grace to us in such a way I cannot answer, but we can say that it is a marvelous plan, one worth rejoicing and the offering of our lives to His glory.

    Not knowing the rules herein, I hope I am not breaking one by asking Luke:::>

    AT WHAT TIME DOES GOD STOP WORKING TO SAVE SOMEONE?

    Knowing me as I do and not knowing me as well as God knows me, I just cannot get my head around the idea of God wanting to dwell with me for the rest of my eternity. I can't think of anyone I wouldn't want to live with for the rest of my eternity than me! Why God chose to reveal to me what has been revealed is beyond my pay grade, not complaining mind you, just unsearchable for one such as I wretched am!

    michael

    Michael,

    Your question is very revealing to the issue at hand. "At what time does God stop working to save someone?"

    1. Your use of the word "time" implies that you are referring to the temporal realities of salvation. In this sense, there are varying ways in which God has stopped, is, and will work to save us.

    Our justification and regeneration were works in time that are done...can never be repeated or duplicated, improved upon or altered. These are one time works in time.

    The work of sanctification is a work in time that is both a process and a one time event that is over.

    For example, we are sanctified according to 1 Corinthians 1:2 in the sense that we have been set apart by God to be made His children as distinct from those in the world. So, in this sense sanctification is a finished work that will never happen again. We have been seperated by the Love of Christ from the rest of the world to enjoy and be the beneficiaries of God's grace and love that the world will never know.

    On the other hand we are being sanctified in that we are in the process of seeing the fruits and reality of this salvation come to be. Our salvation is not complete, not in the sense that it is insufficient, but it is not complete in the process of making it happen. So, in time we are expereincing the convicting work of the Spirit, continual repentance, and a mighty struggle with the flesh that we aim at mortifying! This process is a necessary aspect of salvation, without which there would be no genuine salvation.

    Furthermore there is glorification to be had. None of us reading this are glorified, but in time will be glorified and will thus spend all eternity with God as glorified beings.

    To answer your question directly I would say this. In one sense God will be finished working to save us at glorification, as it appears to be the pinnacle of God's saving grace. In another sense God will never be finished in His work to save us, even for all eternity. The reason I say this is to make clear that our eternal hope is not in God making us to be acceptable on our own merrit at any time, even in eternity, but to eternally rest in Christ. So long as we are resting in and looking to Christ to be our righteousness before the throne of a thrice holy God, in this sense, God will continually work to save us. Thankfully, Christ did, in time - in a once for all act, - suffered the wrath of God for our sin so that we have such a glorious hope. The cross was a once for all work of God to save us, but the work of the cross in the sense of our trusting that work will never cease to benefit us and make us worhty of God's love, it will be the central theme of our hope and glory in eternity, for all eternity.

    2. But, the use of the word "time" in and of itself can be misleading due to the fact that all of what has come to us in Christ was planned and accomplished before the eyes of God before the foundation of the world.

    Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain."

    (This, by the way, is an awesome defense for Unconditional Election...note the book was written, with all the names prior to our existence, and re: limited atonement, the lamb that was slain was for those in the book...I never thought about this passage being used in that way, but it is very clear!)

    My point in using this verse is to point out that not only is the work of Christ atemporal, but God's love for His elect, His work to save us, is an atemporal work. God has chosen to manifest and accomplish this work in time (temporally), but it is an atemporal work none-the-less. Why make this point? If we want to ask the question of the process or length of time in which God is going to save us, then we have to be able to comprehend and evaluate this from an atemporal perspective. We are not capable of this in this life, we only have the scriptures to rely upon to answer such a question. I think I have outlined what indeed the scripture does say. In one sense salvation is complete and finished, but in another sense(s) it will never be finished. But, this should not lead one to think that salvation is thus insufficient, it is to say that salvation not only benefits us for all eternity, but works for all eternity.

    It is like asking, "When driving from Las Vegas to New York at what point do you no longer need your car?" The simple answer is, when you get to New York. Salvation is not this small. We are asking, in regards of salvation, how do you get from a dead depraved sinner under the righteous wrath of God, to a spiritually alive saint enjoying the riches of Christ? How we get there is through the cross. To arrive at New York in your car only requires you stay in New York to enjoy your destination. But this is not the case with our salvation. The means God uses to save us is synomous with the means He uses to keep us. I can live and thrive in New York City without a car...my car is not what keeps me apart of New York City. On the other hand, the cross not only justifies me and the benefits therein are a foreign righteousness for me to get me before the Lord in peace, but it is the cross that keeps me there.

    So, yes, in time the work can be completed, but the implications and necessity of that work will work for us for all eternity.

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