Whole Counsel Theology

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Atonement: How We Are Justified

I have taken a great deal of time getting to the writing of this particular post, at least in finishing it. I suppose the reason for that is that I am not one who enjoys conflict, especially conflict among Christians, whatever it may be. However, this is something that is quite important, as it addresses the very work of Christ and what He has accomplished on the cross for people, and, more specifically, for all who would believe.

This isn't an article about how God views someone as righteous; that is, my point here is not to contend with the errors of Rome with regard to what Justification actually is. Though I'll cite verses that speak of the wonder of justification by faith, I'll do so as statements to the reality of it rather than arguing for it for the most part. This article is for Christians, and any true believer in Christ will indeed affirm that God views us as righteous by faith, and that apart from works.

The point of this particular post is instead the question of where faith comes from, and what is the ground of it. That is to say, how is it one comes to believe? On what basis does God produce faith, a wondrous righteousness, in the lives of wicked sinners?

The origin and source of faith is the question I shall address, and, by the grace of God, answer from the Scriptures as I complete this long overdue post.

Recently, I have discussed this matter via blog posts with Tony Byrne and via email with David Ponter. Mr. Ponter has been quite gracious in his responses and answering of the questions I've posed to him, and Tony's wealth of information and historical/theological citations have contributed to all that I've needed to make this post accurate and thorough. It is with one of those aforementioned citations that I shall take issue to bring out the differences between us (that is, between me and what Mr. Ponter and Mr. Byrne, both of whom agree with each other against me in this) and to shed some biblical light on what the work of Christ has done with regard to bringing faith to God's elect.

Some time ago,[1] Tony posted this article about faith and the Atonement, citing Henry James Carpenter and something he had to say about this matter. I have reproduced the quote below:

"But I proceed to notice another objection, and one very commonly urged against this doctrine [general redemption]. It is objected, that if our Lord died for all, then it would be unjust to punish any one, for this would be to exact a double penalty for the same offence—to punish the same sins twice over.

No doubt it would be unjust to punish the sinner if Christ had borne his sins, with the stipulation that his sins should be absolutely forgiven—that, in consequence of his sacrifice, all men should be unconditionally pardoned, irrespective of their state of mind, irrespective of their believing or not believing, of their receiving the Gospel or rejecting the Gospel.

But nothing like this doctrine can be discovered in the Bible; the death of our Lord is nowhere in Scripture represented in this light. There we read, as I observed before, that a certain medium is necessary before the benefits of Christ's death can be actually applied to any man. Men must have faith; they must believe on Christ—they must trust wholly in his atoning sacrifice, that they may be forgiven their trespasses. "He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." The Lord Jesus is "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood."

It is undeniable that our Lord could have annexed what condition he, in his wisdom, thought fit, in order that man should receive the benefits of the sacrifice he was about to offer; and it is no more unjust to punish the sinner who rejects Christ's offer of salvation than to treat an imprisoned debtor as still liable to his debt, because he refuses to send a petition to his rich benefactor, who freely paid his debt, but stipulated that the benefits of his generous payment should only be enjoyed by those debtors who would comply with his condition, and petition him for their release."

Henry James Carpenter, Did Christ Die For All Men, Or For The Elect Only? A Letter To A Friend In Ireland (London: T. Hatchard, 1857), 21.


This quote from Henry James Carpenter makes reference to John Owen's double payment argument. I thought it wise to dig up the original quote,[2] since it is often referenced and almost never quoted. So then, here it is:

God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the Lord should mark iniquities, who should stand?” Ps. cxxx. 3. We might all go to cast all that we have “to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty,” Isa. ii. 20, 21. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.

From John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, pages 173--174.


Tony has observed with some measure of frustration that people tend to toss John Owen's double payment argument around, assuming that it settles the matter of the Atonement in and of itself. He, that is, Tony, makes it very clear with the quote he provided by HJC that he does not believe that Dr. Owen's argument settles the matter of the Atonement in and of itself, as he has disagreed with it publicly on more than one occasion. In fact, there is more discussion on the internet (at least according to Google) that disagrees with and critiques Dr. Owen's argument than agrees with it!

I like John Owen's argument as stated above and in his work The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I find it helpful and useful. However, I also agree with one point that Tony has in his objecting to people using the double payment argument as if it is the end-all argument on the Atonement. I think it is significant that Dr. Owen waited until pages 173 and 174 in his work to put forward this particular assertion. Dr. Owen didn't lay it out without a foundation on which to set it; he had already written over 150 pages of text leading up to this point in his work. For Dr. Owen, it was the conclusion of much arguing from Scripture on which it was founded. Failure, then, to put forward the Scriptures to buttress this "double payment argument" written by this amazing theologian is often a failure to use it properly. The particular section of the argument I address here, and my point of contention with Mr. Ponter, Mr. Byrne, and also Mr. Henry James Carpenter, is that of faith. I do indeed believe that faith is something obtained by Christ in the Redemption, the Atonement that He made, for those He purchased on that tortuous cross, that is the elect, and for no one else. Therefore, the Atonement, the propitiation that Christ made on behalf of the elect, is for them alone, and not for every single person who has ever lived. He provided faith for their unbelief.

This assertion is contrary to what Mr. Carpenter said in the quote Tony provided from him. In the quote from the letter Tony provided, Mr. Carpenter said (emphasis added):
No doubt it would be unjust to punish the sinner if Christ had borne his sins, with the stipulation that his sins should be absolutely forgiven—that, in consequence of his sacrifice, all men should be unconditionally pardoned, irrespective of their state of mind, irrespective of their believing or not believing, of their receiving the Gospel or rejecting the Gospel.

The problem with the above statement is, well, that it doesn't address the argument. It is indeed unjust for God to punish sins that are borne by Christ. That was Owen's point -- but it isn't irrespective of their faith, their receiving the Gospel. It rather guarantees that some men will have faith and receive the Gospel! The work of Christ makes certain that minds will indeed be changed and set aright to embrace the One True God through Jesus Christ -- that such would truly have genuine faith. The sins of the elect are to be absolutely forgiven, including that of unbelief, and the reason for it must be that the provision to remove that unbelief is sealed up in the work of Christ itself.

Mr. Byrne and Mr. Ponter clearly believe that faith is a gift that God provides. In this blog post that Dr. White put up at Alpha and Omega Ministries we can see Tony affirming it as he talks to "brig" and "conviction", using the name "Polhill":

(Polhill) brig, faith is a gift, but it is also the act of the renewed man, as Spurgeon said.

(Polhill) Conviction, the bible doesn't speak of "faith" as a gift that must be accepted. Rather, it is Christ who is the gift that must be accepted through our act of faith.


As Tony seems to suggest here, and as Mr. Ponter clearly affirmed in an email to me, they do not believe that faith is something that Jesus obtained [edit 5-18-2010] and secured for the elect on the cross, though they do understand it to be a gift from God. Those who agree with Owen on the Atonement, however, would insist that faith is something Jesus obtained [edit 5-18-2010] and secured for the elect, as I have stated earlier. Yet, all of this stating this or that is nice, but what does the Scripture say? What does the Bible teach about this aspect of faith? That is where we must turn. Only the Scriptures can decide between us, and lest I run the risk of falling into the error I have already warned against with regard to Owen's double payment argument, it is to the Word of God that we shall now go! First we shall "turn" to Ephesians 2:8-9 and address the issue of faith as a gift before we look more intently into Paul's argument about from where it springs.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


This is an absolutely beautiful passage that demonstrates quite well that our salvation comes to us not as a result of works. Most people would rightly maintain that this passage teaches that salvation is not of works, but rather of grace -- for Paul says clearly that we are saved by grace. He says this is "through faith," as well in verse eight, and then goes on to say that "this is not your own doing." Now, to what was Paul referring when he used the word "this"? It is a (near)demonstrative pronoun, and all pronouns have antecedents. So then, what is the antecedent, that is, the word or words that the word "this" replace(s)?

The Greek language is quite exact, a good deal more so than English. Pronouns agree with the nouns they replace in gender as well as number. In English, words don't have gender; that is, they are not considered masculine or feminine (or neuter for that matter), but in Greek, all of them are. It helps us to determine which words modify what in a given context.

In this case, in verse eight, we have the word "grace" which is a feminine noun. We also have "faith," another feminine noun. Lastly, we have "saved" which is a masculine participle. So, it would make sense for the "this" to be masculine we might think, that it would modify saved....or perhaps feminine, that it would modify one of the two nouns mentioned. However.... we do not have either. The word "this" is a neuter demonstrative pronoun, so it doesn't match any of the three candidates we've given in gender. Yet, all is not lost! Sometimes in Greek, a neuter is used as a catch-all; that is, it is employed to refer back to all of the preceding nouns in a sentence, regardless of their gender.

This is what we have here. Paul is saying in no uncertain terms, that the whole of our salvation proceeds from God -- all of it. Grace, faith, being saved -- all of it is a result of God's work in the lives of the elect to bring about the latter's salvation. The text is quite clear.

That being established, we now move on to the origin of this salvation, the reason God can grant it at all. How is it this grace through faith salvation comes to undeserving sinners? I'm glad you asked, and Paul doesn't leave us without an answer as he wrote the very words breathed out by God:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (26) It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (27) Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. (28) For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.


In the quote that Tony provided by Mr. Carpenter, we find this statement:

The Lord Jesus is "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood."


This is of course, true. This particular rendering that Mr. Carpenter provides is slightly more literal than the one given by the ESV translators. The word order seems to fit better with it. That being said, however, we have a serious problem, a problem that often arises when a verse (or in this case, part of a verse) is removed from its context:[3] we arrive at a misunderstanding at best, heresy at worst. [4]

One of the greatest doctrines of Scripture recovered in the Reformation was that of Justification by Faith Alone. That is, the means by which God declares someone to be righteous is faith, and that alone. It is a forensic act, a legal declaration. Here indeed, as well as elsewhere in Paul's writings (some of the other places in Romans I'll address here, at least by way of footnote), we see this great doctrine put forth in verse 28: we are justified by faith apart from works. The word translated apart is the Greek word choris which means "separate from" and also "without." This is why we as "Protestants" (and anyone who would claim the title "protestant" for himself must hold to this) insist on the word alone in understanding faith's role with regard to justification. Rome insists that works done in a state of grace merit grace. Yet, Paul makes it clear that we are justified by faith apart from, or without, works. So then, if faith (which is something we do, that is, we are the ones believing) is not a work,[5] then it must be the only thing that is not a work -- it MUST be a grace!

As you the reader I am sure noticed (if not, please read it again!), this fact has not escaped Paul in Romans 3:23-28. In verse 24, we have this statement, the statement that provides the corrective understanding to the quote Mr. Byrne provided by Mr. Carpenter:
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
-- Romans 3:24, emphasis added

First we see that we are justified by grace. Justification comes by the grace of God, yet as we have seen, it is by faith[6]. Faith is part of the grace of God that comes to us in salvation! It is right to say then, as Paul does, that we are justified by grace,[7] and also justified by faith. Given that the inspired apostle is the one writing is, such is a given.

Now, however, is where the real meat of the argument comes, and why Mr. Carpenter's interpretation, as well as that of Mr. Ponter and Mr. Byrne must be rejected. Through what does this justification by grace/faith come? How does any grace come to us? Paul tells us that it is "through the redemption" that is in Christ Jesus. To unpack this and get the fullest understanding, we must discern what is meant by the word translated "through" and that of "redemption."

Paul says we are justified by grace through the redemption that is in Jesus. The word rendered through is the Greek preposition dia. Making a theological case on a preposition is shaky ground most of the time; prepositions in Greek (and in English for that matter) are notorious for having a myriad of meanings; pinning them down to one particular understanding can sometimes be difficult. Here, though, I think we tread fairly safely.

The word is used 509 times in the New Testament according to Bibleworks (and my addition). Of those 509 times, the top two meanings are "through" (225) and "because" (111). If something happens "through" something else, then that something else is the means by which the first thing happens. If I speak through an interpreter, then my message is not understood by my audience without that interpreter; he or she is a necessity, and is the means by which the message goes forth. When Paul says we are justified by grace "through" the redemption, he is saying that we are justified in this manner "on account of" or "because of" or "through the agency of"[8]. This justification by grace/faith comes to us by means of the redemption -- that is where it comes from. Faith comes out of the redemption!

So then, what is this "redemption" then? It is "a release effected upon payment of a ransom." What Jesus did on the cross was to guarantee the setting free of the elect by the payment of a ransom! They would indeed be released! A redemption is a releasing as much as it is a payment. When Jesus provided this redemption, He achieved propitiation (next verse), absorbing and satisfying the wrath of God on behalf of all who would believe. I say it that way because of what we've already seen: justification by grace (or say it justification by faith; Paul as we have seen, does both) comes on account of the redemption. It doesn't happen apart from it. This means then that faith is something Jesus obtained in His work on the cross, and since not all have faith, then not all are released. Since not all are released, then (given the meaning of redemption) not all have had payment made for them. Since not all are released and not all have had payment, then God's wrath has not been satisfied on behalf of every single individual, but only against those who will believe -- the elect.

That being the case, the phrase "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood" needs to be understood as how God applies this propitiation to the elect. Before the point of salvation, even an elect person is not justified. God applies the work of Christ to that person, and the grace that He uses to do so is the faith we've been talking about for some time now. :)

I welcome interaction on this issue, on this text. Please, however, if you comment and wish to take issue with what I've said, bring your exegesis with you. Man's opinions ultimately carry no weight, but only what God has said.


May God use this to the glory of His Name and the edification of His Church!
sdg,
david b. hewitt


_____________________________________

1. When I started this post I could have said "recently" but well, such is not the case now. :)

2. Ok, I confess: it was actually TurretinFan who found the link for me. :) I am indeed indebted to God for men like him.

3. This, of course, is not to say that we can never cite a verse or two (or even part of a verse) to make a valid theological point. What I am trying to draw attention to here is what tends to happen when we do this. Extreme care must be taken to avoid error when quoting verses without their contexts.

4. For the record, I believe this situation to be of the former, not of the latter.

5. Paul brings this out beautifully in Romans chapter 4 with his discussion of Abraham:
Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." (4) Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. (5) And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (6) just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

Please note that the one who trusts God to justify the ungodly is the "one who does not work." If faith is something that one hasn't worked to get, then faith must be of a different nature than works. Faith must be of grace; it necessarily follows.

6. Another oft quoted verse to describe justification by faith is from Romans 5:
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.


7. Paul mentions being justified by grace elsewhere in his corpus, Titus to be exact:
Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (6) whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (7) so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.


8. This is another way the word dia is translated, though admittedly only once. I put it forward here as part of the argument to suggest more connotation than denotion. If someone were to ask, "What does Paul mean by 'through,'" then one could respond, "He means 'through the agency" of," in response.

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18 Comments:

  • hey David

    I wish you had told me that you intended to make the contents of my emails public or use them in this manner.

    I got this far:

    "As Tony seems to suggest here, and as Mr. Ponter clearly affirmed in an email to me, they do not believe that faith is something that Jesus obtained for the elect on the cross, though they do understand it to be a gift from God."

    I thought I was clear on this, repeating my thought. I believe I said, among other things, the person of Christ, obtains faith for the elect, in and through and on account of the death of Christ. However, the death, itself, does not secure faith.

    David

    By Anonymous David, at Tuesday, May 04, 2010 9:41:00 AM  

  • DavidH says:

    Now, however, is where the real meat of the argument comes, and why Mr. Carpenter's interpretation, as well as that of Mr. Ponter and Mr. Byrne must be rejected. Through what does this justification by grace/faith come? How does any grace come to us? Paul tells us that it is "through the redemption" that is in Christ Jesus. To unpack this and get the fullest understanding, we must discern what is meant by the word translated "through" and that of "redemption."

    [bold mine.]

    DavidP says, I am not sure this works as you want it to.

    I see a few things upfront. Grace and faith are different. You have moved from saying faith is a gift of the cross to grace is a gift of the cross. The cross secures the gift of grace, David? The Grace of God was not secured by the cross, and I as understand it, no one in Reformed history has ever made that sort of argument.

    Rather, it is the grace of God that secures the cross. You have inverted the order. The cross flows from the free favor of God, not the other way around.

    The grace of God is either the free favour of God, an attitude, a disposition; or it speaks of gifts of grace; eg tongues, and fruits of the Spirit, etc. When Paul speaks of "grace" in Roms 3:24, he means the former.

    Romans 3:34 says we are justified freely by his favor (grace), which justification is through the redemption. Do you really want to text to say that the favor of God is "through the redemption" in the same way that justification is through the redemption?

    You have switched terms from faith to grace, making the latter the obtained by the cross just as the gift of faith is?

    By Anonymous David, at Tuesday, May 04, 2010 11:20:00 AM  

  • Next, even if I was to grant this argument, all that could be derived is that, "for we, the Justified, grace and faith has been secured by the cross...." Thats all.

    cut
    DavidH:
    When Paul says we are justified by grace "through" the redemption, he is saying that we are justified in this manner "on account of" or "because of" or "through the agency of". This justification by grace/faith comes to us by means of the redemption -- that is where it comes from. Faith comes out of the redemption!

    DavidP: You are right except for the last there. The text does not say faith comes out of the redemption. (Eph 2:3 does not say faith comes out of the redemption.) in both verses the source of faith and grace (the free unmerited favor of God) is God himself. Rom 3:24 says, 'by the free favor of God, we are justified, through the redemption;' "through" which in your own words means on account of, because of. Nowhere does it say "grace" comes out of the redemption. Please show me where it says that? Grace comes "out" of God, ie from God.

    DavidH:
    I say it that way because of what we've already seen: justification by grace (or say it justification by faith; Paul as we have seen, does both) comes on account of the redemption. It doesn't happen apart from it. This means then that faith is something Jesus obtained in His work on the cross, and since not all have faith, then not all are released. Since not all are released, then (given the meaning of redemption) not all have had payment made for them. Since not all are released and not all have had payment, then God's wrath has not been satisfied on behalf of every single individual, but only against those who will believe -- the elect.

    [bold mine.]

    DavidP: You are jumping again. It does not say faith was something obtained on the cross, David. The texts you have adduced show two things. From Eph 2, faith is a gift of God etc. From Rom 3, by the free favor of God, we--who believe--are justified through the redemption of the cross.

    By Anonymous David, at Tuesday, May 04, 2010 11:20:00 AM  

  • This verse does not establish this logic:

    1) Faith is a [infallible] result the death of Christ for all whom he died.
    2) If a man does not have this fruit.
    3) Christ did not die for that man.

    I see no evidence for premise 1.

    Again, neither verse teaches that grace and/or faith is obtained on the cross for all whom Christ died.

    DavidH
    That being the case, the phrase "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood" needs to be understood as how God applies this propitiation to the elect. Before the point of salvation, even an elect person is not justified. God applies the work of Christ to that person, and the grace that He uses to do so is the faith we've been talking about for some time now. :)

    [bold mine.]

    DavidP: "The grace that he uses"?

    David, the grace Paul speaks of is the free favor of God. It is his free gracious favor to us. It is not something he "uses." It is not a commodity, an object, a means within us, but his own free favor: it is the favor of free pardon, wherein he freely (not on account of merit or works) justifies us. I would encourage you to check out some commentaries, like Murray and others.

    I put it to you, you have just about totally misunderstood Rom 3:23-4.

    David

    By Anonymous David, at Tuesday, May 04, 2010 11:21:00 AM  

  • To start with:

    Hewitt said:
    "Recently, I have discussed this matter via blog posts with Tony Byrne..."

    Me now:
    This is completely false. David Hewitt and I have never discussed the extent of the atonement subject that I can remember [and certainly not "recently"] and we have most certainly not discussed my view of the relationship between faith and the cross-work of Christ. Mr. Hewitt has been in dialogue with David Ponter in emails [that's true], but Hewitt and I have never spoken in email whatsoever. The only thing I have discussed with Mr. Hewitt [on my blog and elsewhere] is my past conflicts with James White, the will of God and the topic of hyper-Calvinism. Among these topics, the only "recent" thing I have discussed with Hewitt is White, the will of God and hyper-Calvinism. That's all.

    By Blogger YnottonY, at Friday, May 07, 2010 4:24:00 AM  

  • Secondly,

    Hewitt said:
    "Tony's wealth of information and historical/theological citations have contributed to the [sic] all that I've needed to make this post accurate and thorough."

    Me now:
    This makes it sound as though you have spent a significant time on my blog doing research in to my primary sources. This is also false. Even before you posted this I have been watching your activity on my StatCounter. According to it, you've only glanced at two of the posts on my blog [my interaction with Welty and the H. J. Carpenter post]. And, even though David Ponter gave you links to research Baxter's statements on faith as a fruit of Christ's death and John Humfrey on the purchase of faith, there is no indication on my SiteMeter or Statcounter that you've even bothered to look at those posts at all.

    Further, you don't seem to realize that Carpenter is only one small example of a much larger cumulative case [among noteworthy Calvinists] against the double payment/double jeopardy argument. It is to be viewed in conjunction with Norman Douty, Carl Trueman, Joseph Bellamy, Alan Clifford, A. A. Hodge, Edward Polhill, John Davenant, Neil Chambers, R. L. Dabney, Charles Hodge, Curt Daniel, Ursinus, Edward Griffin, Ralph Wardlaw, and Nathanael Hardy. The serious student would have checked here and here for all of these sources. While Carpenter makes valid points, I think, it is not how we would exhaustively respond to the double payment fallacies. You should have at least dealt with Charles Hodge, Shedd and Dabney, not the obscure Carpenter.

    Your delay in posting was certainly not because you were doing extensive research in to the primary sources on my blog. That's for sure. In fact, you've barely glanced at only two posts on my blog. Readers of your post should be made aware of that.

    By Blogger YnottonY, at Friday, May 07, 2010 5:01:00 AM  

  • Sigh.

    Gentlemen, I have a response for what you've both said; much of the reason for it is my thinking ahead of what I had typed, and not making all of the connections between my mind and my fingers.

    I'll answer each of the objections raised, but it will take me a bit. Part of the reason it took my so long to put this post out (aside from the fears I've already mentioned) is due to other responsibilities that prevent me from being as prolific a blogger as I once was.

    I plead with you for patience and not to take my silence as ignoring either of you.

    sdg,
    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Friday, May 07, 2010 10:08:00 PM  

  • Ok, tonight I begin a series of responses and comments to my two brothers in this thread, David Ponter and Tony Byrne. Such is a thing (that we are Christian brothers) is important to remember and, I think, to state, when such disagreements happen.

    Furthermore, when I have erred in some manner, or worse yet, sinned, then I need to come forward and admit/confess/repent accordingly. Some of that will be going on as I continue in my replies and responses.

    Moreover, when I have failed to be clear in my statements, or let my fingers trail behind my mind in linking together my thoughts, I need to clarify. I am certainly not immune to the malady of muddle, however much I would like to be.

    I am firmly convinced that this interaction and whatever may continue here between myself and these two gentlemen will serve the purpose of our mutual sanctification. They have benefited me in this matter whether they realize it or not. :)

    So, with that said, I'll address the comments in the order that they have appeared. I'll turn off comments in the meantime, mainly so that I can finish my comments before anyone else chimes in, so that I can be as thorough as possible.

    May God be glorified.

    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Tuesday, May 18, 2010 6:28:00 PM  

  • First, to address the first comment by David Ponter:
    "hey David
    I wish you had told me that you intended to make the contents of my
    emails public or use them in this manner."

    Hey, David. First, please forgive me; I had not intended to violate a
    trust or to misuse information. I thought I had taken appropriate
    measures not to do this; I must have been mistaken. I didn't quote anything specifically in your messages, and the reason I did not do so was so that I wouldn't bring the private conversation, that is, your exact words, into the message. At the same time, I didn't think there would
    have been anything wrong with my referencing the messages since I wrote you in I think the first email I sent to you that I was writing a blog post on the subject. I guess I assumed you would have understood that
    some of the discussion we would have, at least the thoughts behind it, would make its way into the post itself, given that they were about the same subject. Apparently, I was wrong. It was an act of negligence on my part, but one that at the very least gave the impression of distrust and underhandedness. For that, I apologize and seek your forgiveness where needed.

    David Ponter continues, citing me:
    "I got this far:
    "As Tony seems to suggest here,
    and as Mr. Ponter clearly affirmed in an email to me, they do not believe that faith is something that Jesus obtained for the elect on the cross, though they do understand it to be a gift from God."

    I thought I was clear on this, repeating my thought. I believe I said, among other things, the person of Christ, obtains faith for the elect, in and through and on account of the death of Christ. However, the death, itself, does not secure faith."


    In this case, I erred, though only slightly. It was my understanding that you didn't think that the faith that the elect have would have come through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. At the same time, part of the reason for that is my own set of presuppositions.

    Please allow me to explain.

    For me, to say that the elect have faith obtained for them by the work
    of Christ means that Christ's death secures
    that faith for the elect. This, as you have said, is something you
    deny, yet I readily affirm. That is really the difference this post was meant to address anyway, so though I stated it incorrectly, and even had some level of misunderstanding, the issue of disagreement that divides us on this issue is still brought out in this post, and was indeed what I was striving to show from the text in Romans. I have edited the post quite conspicuously to reflect this.

    More to come!
    sdg,
    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Tuesday, May 18, 2010 6:51:00 PM  

  • That is, I will make it so comments do not appear until approved. I won't approve them until I am done answering the others. :D

    dave

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Tuesday, May 18, 2010 6:53:00 PM  

  • Mr Ponter said:
    "DavidP says, I am not sure this works as you want it to."

    Sure it does. :) You just have to let me explain what I meant as it didn't come across too well apparently.

    "I see a few things upfront. Grace and faith are different. You have moved from saying faith is a gift of the cross to grace is a gift of the cross. The cross secures the gift of grace, David? The Grace of God was not secured by the cross, and I as understand it, no one in Reformed history has ever made that sort of argument.

    Rather, it is the grace of God that secures the cross. You have inverted the order. The cross flows from the free favor of God, not the other way around."


    I would say that in some sense, yes, the cross secures grace. At the same time, I would not say that "The" grace of God is secured by the cross. Surely, you are correct here: the very fact that the cross happened at all, in that it brings blessings to sinners, is an act of God's grace. God wanted to be gracious to sinners, so He provided the Cross.

    At the same time, it is also correct that the cross made a way for God to be gracious. I don't think anyone would argue that forgiveness of sin is anything less than grace. Yet, how can a righteous God forgive sin? Or, how can God have passed over sin in the past of people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, etc? Romans 3 provides the answer in verses 25 and 26. The sacrifice of Christ, God setting Him forth as a propitiation was to take care of the sins He didn't punish, that He passed over. So, in that sense (and it is the sense I meant), it can be said that the Cross obtained God's grace, meaning that the cross made God favorably inclined toward people, which I would of course believe to be the elect. Part of that favor would be faith.

    In fact, I think it is probably most correct to say it this way. Because God wished to be gracious and save and forgive (ultimately for His own glory) then He had to provide a sacrifice to remove His wrath against sinners, to pay for sin.

    You also said:
    "Romans 3:34 says we are justified freely by his favor (grace), which justification is through the redemption. Do you really want to text to say that the favor of God is "through the redemption" in the same way that justification is through the redemption?"

    Well, if I am reading you correctly, yes. There are two aspects of our justification, and they involve the active and passive obedience of Christ. In order for us to be justified, we need both, the latter of course being Christ's death. Paul of course in this context is speaking of Christ's death as propitiation and as redemption. I think it is agreed that God, when He justifies sinners, is being gracious to them, showing grace to them, yes? And since this justification flows from the cross.... I just connect the dots. :)

    "You have switched terms from faith to grace, making the latter the obtained by the cross just as the gift of faith is?"

    The reason I switched back and forth between the terms is because both are correct. I was thinking, as I was writing it, that it might be confusing, but went ahead anyway, partly because I was trying to get it done since it was so long in coming (kind of like these responses).

    I also failed to explain another way I used terms. I would say that faith is "a grace," that is, something that is a gracious provision of God that comes to us because of the work of Christ on the cross.

    More to come!
    sdg,
    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, June 10, 2010 7:37:00 PM  

  • Again, Brother Ponter, I embark on addressing your comments. If I haven't said so before, my apologies for taking this long in getting to it.

    You said:
    "Next, even if I was to grant this argument, all that could be derived is that, "for we, the Justified, grace and faith has been secured by the cross...." Thats all."

    It isn't all, but that is because it has to be taken into account with the reality of the redemption that is in Jesus, which is the point of Romans 3:24. We'll get into that a bit more momentarily as you discuss it further below.

    You cited me saying....
    "When Paul says we are justified by grace "through" the redemption, he is saying that we are justified in this manner "on account of" or "because of" or "through the agency of". This justification by grace/faith comes to us by means of the redemption -- that is where it comes from. Faith comes out of the redemption! "

    ...and then followed by saying...

    "You are right except for the last there. The text does not say faith comes out of the redemption. (Eph 2:3 does not say faith comes out of the redemption.) in both verses the source of faith and grace (the free unmerited favor of God) is God himself. Rom 3:24 says, 'by the free favor of God, we are justified, through the redemption;' "through" which in your own words means on account of, because of. Nowhere does it say "grace" comes out of the redemption. Please show me where it says that? Grace comes "out" of God, ie from God."

    Of course, grace comes from God. At the same time, as I mentioned in the previous comment, God cannot be gracious to sinners in every sense unless something happens first. He was gracious to provide the Cross to be sure, but the redemption and propitiation had to happen before He could be gracious and save. This is what I mean when I say that some grace, or if you will, some graces, flow from Christ's work on the cross. God had to become favorably inclined toward a sinner before that sinner could be saved. Of course this is all planned and determined by God Himself in the Eternal Covenant of Redemption before the foundation of the world, but it still had to happen so that God could justify sinners. This is true retroactively for saints before the time of Christ, such as David and Abraham. They had faith in the One to come, and God justified them on the basis of the work of the One to come.

    When I say that it all comes out of the redemption, it is here that I mean that it is infallibly secured for the elect. The very meaning of "redemption" carries with it the idea of a release with a ransom paid. The ransom is paid by the death of Christ to God the Father on behalf of the elect. It is only the elect as well, and the reason is because of what a redemption is: it is a release. It is the noun form of the verb apolutrow, which means, "to release on payment of ransom." (See Bibleworks.) So then, if someone is redeemed, they are released, pure and simple.

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 5:51:00 PM  

  • ....continued from previous comment...


    That being the case, if someone is justified "through the redemption" then this justification comes out of the aforementioned redemption. In other words, it happens because the ones who get justified are the ones who are redeemed, or ransomed. Since justification is by grace, and also justification is by faith, and only those who are redeemed are justified, then it follows that faith is from the redemption as well. Tie this is with the fact that Jesus's death is a propitiation as well as a redemption, then those who are redeemed are also seen favorably by God. Those who are not (or who will never be) are not covered by this propitiation, are not in this redemption, will never be justified, and never would have faith. All of these are tied together in the passage in Romans.

    You continue to say, after quoting me again:
    "You are jumping again. It does not say faith was something obtained on the cross, David. The texts you have adduced show two things. From Eph 2, faith is a gift of God etc. From Rom 3, by the free favor of God, we--who believe--are justified through the redemption of the cross."

    Well, it doesn't directly say "faith was obtained on the cross." Those exact words are not present. However, it follows to say what I have said, I believe.

    1.) Justification is by grace, and comes through the redemption, and thus the cross.
    2.) Justification is also by faith.
    3.) Therefore, faith also must come through the redemption.

    That's the general argument.

    sdg,
    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 5:51:00 PM  

  • Last comment to address what brother Ponter has said, and then on to brother Byrne!

    First, you site me:
    "That being the case, the phrase "set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood" needs to be understood as how God applies this propitiation to the elect. Before the point of salvation, even an elect person is not justified. God applies the work of Christ to that person, and the grace that He uses to do so is the faith we've been talking about for some time now. :)"

    Then you say:
    ""The grace that he uses"?

    David, the grace Paul speaks of is the free favor of God. It is his free gracious favor to us. It is not something he "uses." It is not a commodity, an object, a means within us, but his own free favor: it is the favor of free pardon, wherein he freely (not on account of merit or works) justifies us. I would encourage you to check out some commentaries, like Murray and others.

    I put it to you, you have just about totally misunderstood Rom 3:23-4."


    Here is a case where I failed to indicate properly what I meant by the "grace He uses." I meant that faith was "a grace" as I think I have mentioned already. Since faith is "a grace" (as would be repentance, sanctification, many other things), and since we are justified by faith, then faith is the grace God uses to apply the work of Christ to an individual.

    I would also have to disagree with your conclusion. :)

    sdg,
    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 6:14:00 PM  

  • Ok, brother Tony, your turn. :)

    You first cite me:
    "Hewitt said:
    "Recently, I have discussed this matter via blog posts with Tony Byrne..."


    And then you comment:
    "Me now:
    This is completely false. David Hewitt and I have never discussed the extent of the atonement subject that I can remember [and certainly not "recently"] and we have most certainly not discussed my view of the relationship between faith and the cross-work of Christ. Mr. Hewitt has been in dialogue with David Ponter in emails [that's true], but Hewitt and I have never spoken in email whatsoever. The only thing I have discussed with Mr. Hewitt [on my blog and elsewhere] is my past conflicts with James White, the will of God and the topic of hyper-Calvinism. Among these topics, the only "recent" thing I have discussed with Hewitt is White, the will of God and hyper-Calvinism. That's all."


    Well, it isn't false. The reason for it is in the comments you yourself made. Please allow me to explain.

    I consider the discussion we had about Dr. White and hyper-calvinism and the issues surrounding the offer of the Gospel as things related to the Atonement. The reason I think this is because, if I understand you correctly, you tie the scope of the Atonement directly to whether or not a well-meant offer can be genuine. Therefore, any discussion about said offer or how a denial of such leads to hyper calvinism, in my opinion, is talking about the Atonement in some way with you. :) It isn't laying out specifics of Christ's work, but it is related to it.

    That is what I meant, so as you can see, it wasn't a false statement. I wasn't clear in what I said, and for that I apologize. At the same time, you didn't ask what I meant before drawing your conclusion. ;)

    One more to go!

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 7:11:00 PM  

  • Ok, last one. Again, my apologies why it has taken me so long to get to this. I could explain, but I do not wish to bore you with details.

    You first again cite me:
    "Tony's wealth of information and historical/theological citations have contributed to the [sic] all that I've needed to make this post accurate and thorough."

    First, thanks for pointing out my word error. The word "the" should have been omitted. :) I have corrected it.

    Now, you comment:
    "This makes it sound as though you have spent a significant time on my blog doing research in to my primary sources. This is also false. Even before you posted this I have been watching your activity on my StatCounter. According to it, you've only glanced at two of the posts on my blog [my interaction with Welty and the H. J. Carpenter post]. And, even though David Ponter gave you links to research Baxter's statements on faith as a fruit of Christ's death and John Humfrey on the purchase of faith, there is no indication on my SiteMeter or Statcounter that you've even bothered to look at those posts at all."

    My saying that was meant as a genuine compliment, sir. You have done a lot of research, looked into many things. I looked at the link you provided with regard to the site meter; very interesting indeed! It is true that I only followed direct links to the two posts you mentioned. However, the site meter apparently doesn't track home page hits. I've looked at several things on your homepage, (I remember the commentary by Sam Waldron you posted about John 5:34 for example, which I found to be quite helpful), and remember there being a great many links to a great many people and things from there. (I looked again today to make sure I was remembering correctly.)

    Furthermore, I have seen you comment at more than a few blogs, including those of Peter Lumpkins and Michael Brown. In those comments you have referenced several authors, quotes from them, commented about the Atonment, hypercalvinism, the well-meant offer, and maybe a few other things; I cannot remember at the moment. The combined weight of all of what I just listed prompted me to say what I did about you and your site. I presumed that most everything, if not everything you posted elsewhere was contained on your blog.

    I hope that clarifies. The comment was not meant to suggest that I have been clicking through many articles on your site, but rather meant what I have indicated above in this comment. Therefore, I stand by what I said -- compliment and all. :)

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 7:47:00 PM  

  • .....continued from previous.....

    You continue:
    "Further, you don't seem to realize that Carpenter is only one small example of a much larger cumulative case [among noteworthy Calvinists] against the double payment/double jeopardy argument. It is to be viewed in conjunction with Norman Douty, Carl Trueman, Joseph Bellamy, Alan Clifford, A. A. Hodge, Edward Polhill, John Davenant, Neil Chambers, R. L. Dabney, Charles Hodge, Curt Daniel, Ursinus, Edward Griffin, Ralph Wardlaw, and Nathanael Hardy. The serious student would have checked here and here for all of these sources. While Carpenter makes valid points, I think, it is not how we would exhaustively respond to the double payment fallacies. You should have at least dealt with Charles Hodge, Shedd and Dabney, not the obscure Carpenter."

    My point wasn't to deal with all of those people and the information you've provided about them and their writings, Tony. I saw something on your homepage by Capenter, thought it represented what you and David believed about the Atonement well, and decided to use it as a means to talk about the DP argument, but more than that (and more importantly), I wanted to use it as a springboard into the text of Scripture and the exegesis thereof, where I wanted to spend the most time, which I did. It might not have been the most text posted, but was certainly the most time consuming to prepare to post. :)

    That is where the argument is. Whatever all of the above people said about the Atonement, the "well meant offer" or whatever it nice and all, but if it is not said in conjunction with exegesis of Scripture, then it really isn't worth a whole lot in and of itself. A lot of really smart people have said useful and true things, but a lot of really smart people (sometimes the same ones!) have said many intelligent-sounding yet erroneous things.

    The Scripture must decide between us. This is why I appreciated your citation of Dr. Waldron that I mentioned before. In it there was some good exegesis of John 5:34, and I agreed with most of his conclusions, and might have agreed with them all had I done the research he had into the use of the 2nd personal pronoun and its uses in John.

    Tony, most of the time, however, you do not post exegesis of Scripture. You post quotations from people, highlighting certain sections from these quotes that are particularly relevant to your point, saying that they agree with you. Whether or not they agree with you is not my point; the first sentence in this paragraph is.

    I am largely ignorant of the works of many men of history, many renowned theologians, Reformed or otherwise. I will likely remain that way for many years, gradually increasing my knowledge. I do not have the time to read large quantities of "The Works of __________". I can and must, however, look at the Bible and do it as carefully as I know how. This is my first priority, and, as I am sure you would agree, it is the final determiner of all faith and practice.

    It is there we must go!

    One more summary comment coming.

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 7:47:00 PM  

  • So, if you two are willing, I wouldn't mind continuing the discussion of this passage and relevant passages that might shed some light on this passage. However, please do not bring a lot of quotes from this writer or that, unless they are dealing specifically with this passage in the quote you mention.

    May God be glorified!
    sdg,
    dbh

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, June 12, 2010 7:48:00 PM  

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