Active/Passive Justification and Union

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Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
So today I listened to episode 49 of the Glory-Cloud Podcast on Justification and Union with Christ and was introduced to the concepts of active and passive, or objective and subjective justification. Active justification logically precedes regeneration whereas passive justification logically follows faith (See Berkhof). Prior to this I was convinced that we are vitally/mystically/existentially united to Christ by faith and it is from that union that all the benefits of redemption flow, which of course includes justification. However, the introduction of Active and Passive justification has challenged my formulation in that it allows for a justification grounded in our federal union with Christ through the pactum salutis prior to regeneration and thus prior to faith and any vital union with Christ while simultaneously preserving justification by faith alone. In summary, the renovative is grounded in the forensic. In the past I would've said you can't ground the renovative in the forensic because it mingles categories. Having both justification and sanctification flowing from our vital union with Christ alleviates the issue of intermingling the forensic and renovative but I'm no longer sure if it's even an issue. Rather, now I'm unsure how one would receive the gift of the Spirit if not previously declared righteous through imputation.

What do you all think? All insight is appreciated.

Berkhof, Section E
 

Romans678

Puritan Board Freshman
So today I listened to episode 49 of the Glory-Cloud Podcast on Justification and Union with Christ and was introduced to the concepts of active and passive, or objective and subjective justification. Active justification logically precedes regeneration whereas passive justification logically follows faith (See Berkhof). Prior to this I was convinced that we are vitally/mystically/existentially united to Christ by faith and it is from that union that all the benefits of redemption flow, which of course includes justification. However, the introduction of Active and Passive justification has challenged my formulation in that it allows for a justification grounded in our federal union with Christ through the pactum salutis prior to regeneration and thus prior to faith and any vital union with Christ while simultaneously preserving justification by faith alone. In summary, the renovative is grounded in the forensic. In the past I would've said you can't ground the renovative in the forensic because it mingles categories. Having both justification and sanctification flowing from our vital union with Christ alleviates the issue of intermingling the forensic and renovative but I'm no longer sure if it's even an issue. Rather, now I'm unsure how one would receive the gift of the Spirit if not previously declared righteous through imputation.

What do you all think? All insight is appreciated.

Berkhof, Section E
Bump for visibility. The subject of union with Christ has now come up in the "Practical Childrearing" thread just now.

Sent from my SM-A326U using Tapatalk
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm still leaning toward justification logically preceding mystical union contra Gaffin and company but the waters are murky for me at best. Would one say legal union with Christ is the basis for the regenerating work of the Spirit and Christ's imputed righteousness to the sinner is the basis for their mystical union with him (This being a double application beginning at regeneration but not being complete until the sinner trusts in Christ)? I'd love to see some dialogue on this!
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
It's been a long discussed issue in Reformed history full of nuances. And this is one area (perhaps the only one!) where I disagree with Berkhof. I agree with his distinction of objective justification (God's declaration) and subjective justification (God communicating that reality to us). But I think both are received after faith.

It's important to keep in mind that this is a problem of logical order. Regarding the actual act in time, union and justification happen at the same moment. Thomas Boston has a helpful summary of this in his chapter on Union with Christ in "The Fourfold State". Basically, union with Christ unfolds in two parts. First, there is the Spirit-wrought regeneration (Christ taking hold of you), and then the immediate response of faith (you taking hold of Christ). Through that faith-union, you receive Christ and his benefits as your own, including his righteousness and consequent justification. Another way of saying it, is that you enter into communion with Christ and his righteousness and the legal status that comes with it (i.e. justification). A common illustration is that of marriage. The moment the marriage union begins, the poor indebted wife immediately receives the wealth of her rich husband as her own, and his wealth pays off her debts. Or perhaps another illustration, at what point was the leper cleansed? It was the moment Christ (the clean one) touched him and imparted his virtue to him (changing him from unclean to clean), Mt 8:3.

So, logically, faith-union precedes justification (objective and subjective), but in time it happens instantaneously.

You can see the same logical sequence in Shorter Catechism 29-32:

29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

30 How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

31 What is effectual calling?
Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

33 What is justification?
Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us,(3) and received by faith alone.

Logical Order: Spirit's effectual calling/regeneration, faith, union, imputation, justification.

But again, it's a highly nuanced discussion so I'm open to correction.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Patrick.... Yep.

If what you are portraying is what they said, it just sounds like they are teaching eternal justification in some form.
 
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TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
It's been a long discussed issue in Reformed history full of nuances. And this is one area (perhaps the only one!) where I disagree with Berkhof. I agree with his distinction of objective justification (God's declaration) and subjective justification (God communicating that reality to us). But I think both are received after faith.

It's important to keep in mind that this is a problem of logical order. Regarding the actual act in time, union and justification happen at the same moment. Thomas Boston has a helpful summary of this in his chapter on Union with Christ in "The Fourfold State". Basically, union with Christ unfolds in two parts. First, there is the Spirit-wrought regeneration (Christ taking hold of you), and then the immediate response of faith (you taking hold of Christ). Through that faith-union, you receive Christ and his benefits as your own, including his righteousness and consequent justification. Another way of saying it, is that you enter into communion with Christ and his righteousness and the legal status that comes with it (i.e. justification). A common illustration is that of marriage. The moment the marriage union begins, the poor indebted wife immediately receives the wealth of her rich husband as her own, and his wealth pays off her debts. Or perhaps another illustration, at what point was the leper cleansed? It was the moment Christ (the clean one) touched him and imparted his virtue to him (changing him from unclean to clean), Mt 8:3.

So, logically, faith-union precedes justification (objective and subjective), but in time it happens instantaneously.

You can see the same logical sequence in Shorter Catechism 29-32:

29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

30 How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

31 What is effectual calling?
Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

33 What is justification?
Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us,(3) and received by faith alone.

Logical Order: Spirit's effectual calling/regeneration, faith, union, imputation, justification.

But again, it's a highly nuanced discussion so I'm open to correction.
That's an understandable confusion here. I was caught up trying to understand this distinction a few months back and I hope I can help here. In my opinion, Berkhof, Bavinck and all modern commentators I've found who write on this make the distinction sound super confusing and open it up to objections like this. Compare to Turretin, who makes it more simple, in my opinion:

“Since justification can be viewed either actively (on the part of God who justifies) or passively (on the part of man who is justified), a twofold handling of it can be adopted: either with respect to the benefit itself conferred upon us by God and of the righteousness imputed to us; or with respect to its reception and application made by faith” (Vol 2, Sixteenth Topic, Seventh Question, I).

In other words, the distinction is between the imputation of righteousness and the declaration of righteousness (or imputation vs. justification). When God declares us just, He does not do so as a legal fiction, but rather, His declaration is grounded on the reality of the righteousness of Christ that has truly been imputed to us. Richard Gaffin comments on this (from Brandon Adams' blog):

[According to Owen] To be “reputed” righteous, he said, was not the same as having Christ’s righteousness be “imputed” to us. “To be reputed righteous and to have righteousness imputed, differ,” explained Owen, “as cause and effect.” Imputation was set forth as something prior to being declared or reckoned righteous. The view that Gaffin found in Calvin, as previously mentioned, would seem to have been Owen’s view as well. Being imputed righteous and being reckoned righteous were not the same. Imputation was the cause, of which being reckoned righteous was the effect. Owen continued:

“For that any may be reputed righteous ‐ that is, be judged or esteemed to be so ‐ there must be a real foundation of that reputation, or it is a mistake, and not a right judgment; as any man may be reputed to be wise who is a fool, or be reputed to be rich who is a beggar. Wherefore, he that is reputed righteous must either have a righteousness of his own, or another antecedently imputed unto him, as the foundation of that reputation. Wherefore, to impute righteousness unto one that hath none of his own, is not to repute him to be righteous who is indeed unrighteous; but it is to communicate a righteousness unto him, that he may rightly and justly be esteemed, judged, or reputed righteous”.

A clearer statement of how imputation and declaration were related would be hard to imagine. Declaration was clearly a consequence of imputation, and imputation was clearly the foundation of declaration. One could not be reputed as righteous unless one really were righteous. Imputed righteousness was logically antecedent to being reckoned as righteous before the divine tribunal. Only as one was indeed righteous, because righteousness had already been communicated, could one then, on that basis, “rightly and justly be esteemed, judged, or reputed righteous” before the judgment seat of God.

A few pages later this interpretation is confirmed. lmputation was “not a naked pronunciation or declaration of any one to be righteous,” insisted Owen, “without a just and sufficient foundation, for the judgment of God declared therein. God declares no man to be righteous but him who is so; the whole question is how he comes to be!” Declaration without a prior imputation would be meaningless. Only imputation as a prior transaction could provide declaration with a “sufficient foundation".

In other words, imputation is what gives one the right to the New Covenant, and one is declared just within it. To see this we simply have to look at
Jeremiah 31:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when I will cut a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I cut with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, but I was a husband to them,” declares Yahweh. “But this is the covenant which I will cut with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Yahweh: “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Now, if the writing of the law upon men’s hearts (regeneration) is part of the New Covenant, then it is clear that regeneration cannot be a prerequisite for entering it, as it only flows from it.

The question, then becomes, what exactly places one within the New Covenant? The answer can only be found in that which gives one the right to the blessings of the New Covenant; namely, the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ. Thus, the imputation of Christ's obedience (in life and death) imputed to you, releases you from the law as the Covenant of Works, because it switches you into the Covenant of Grace (Rom. 7:4). You enter the New Covenant through the imputation of Christ's obedience. Consider Rom. 7:4, where we are told we have "died to the Law" (released from the Covenant of Works), "through the body of Christ" (the imputed obedience in death of Christ), that we may be "joined to another" (Christ the Covenant head of the New Covenant).

So the correct ordo salutis is:

Election in Christ - Atonement - Gospel Call - Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness - Inward Call/Regeneration - Faith/Repentance - Justification/Sanctification - Glorification

Imputation is logically prior to regeneration, since imputation is what gives one the legal right to the New Covenant (which includes regeneration), but we must also remember that imputation takes place within the effectual call because the ordo is a logical order, not a temporal one. The forensic/legal is always the basis for the transformative.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
So the correct ordo salutis is:

Election in Christ - Atonement - Gospel Call - Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness - Inward Call/Regeneration - Faith/Repentance - Justification/Sanctification - Glorification

Imputation is logically prior to regeneration, since imputation is what gives one the legal right to the New Covenant (which includes regeneration), but we must also remember that imputation takes place within the effectual call because the ordo is a logical order, not a temporal one. The forensic/legal is always the basis for the transformative.
This is the key error of Berkhof, in my opinion. Yes, imputation of Christ's righteousness precedes the declaration of justification. But you cannot have Christ's imputed righteousness before having Christ himself (by faith). As the Catechism explains, you receive that imputed righteousness through faith. Faith-Union must precede imputation because it provides the channel through which you receive Christ and His righteousness. Regeneration precedes faith/union, and so it must also precede imputation/justification as well. The legal basis for applying regeneration logically prior to our justification is found in Christ himself, who secured our redemption on our behalf as our surety. The application of that redemption comes through Spirit-wrought regeneration/faith which unites us to Christ and his righteousness. Again, the Catechism order is very helpful here. We cannot separate Christ and his benefits.

Sinclair Ferguson is also very helpful on this point too, in his book "The Whole Christ" (really just building on Thomas Boston). Lane Tipton's work on union with Christ is also useful here too.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
The legal basis for applying regeneration logically prior to our justification is found in Christ himself. . .
This would be considered the legal union, correct? Then faith logically precedes vital union? What has priority between justification and vital union? I believe reformation theology has historically placed justification logically prior to vital union but that’s mainly from reading quotes from Reformers on Scott Clark’s blog.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
This would be considered the legal union, correct? Then faith logically precedes vital union? What has priority between justification and vital union? I believe reformation theology has historically placed justification logically prior to vital union but that’s mainly from reading quotes from Reformers on Scott Clark’s blog.

In Reformation theology, it depends on who you read and in what context. The Westminster Standards present a specific logical order, but yes, you do see some diversity of opinions about the ordu salutis, though I have found in my own reading that union was emphasized more as prior to justification in the older writers, while those later are trying to guard the distinction between justification and sanctification, and make justification the basis for sanctification (often in an attempt to fight legalism or federal vision abuses). They would argue, like Berkhof does, that you can't have the transformative benefits (i.e. regeneration) prior to the forensic benefits (i.e. justification). But if so, then you have in a situation where faith precedes regeneration, or imputation/justification precedes faith (thus potentially opening a door to the idea of eternal justification, though Berkhof explicitly rejected it). But if you follow the Standards order, that Christ is acting as our federal head when he applies redemption to us, then that objection really goes away. Rather than receiving sanctification after justification, you receive them simultaneously through faith-union with Christ as dual benefits. The justification is not grounded upon the transformative grace, but upon Christ and his righteousness alone imputed through faith, while sanctification also begins through faith-union with Christ (Confession 14.2) at the same time. Note also another important nuance, that the Standards distinguish between regeneration and sanctification, but others make them synonymous (and so stress the need to keep justification prior). Again, it's a logical order, not chronological, since both sides of this discussion would agree it's applied instantaneously in time on the basis of Christ's prior headship and work.

So I would argue that yes, logically, faith precedes vital union, because it's through faith that we are united to Christ. Regeneration, faith, union, imputation, justification/adoption/sanctification, etc. Imputation happens automatically as a result of union with Christ and his righteousness. Christ is federally representing his elect as our surety (i.e. pactum salutis), prior to their actual possession of faith and justification, but they are not actually justified until faith receives Christ and his righteousness (Note Confession Ch. 11.4 on the timing of justification, "God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect; and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them."). The concern to keep the forensic prior to the transformative is satisfied by Christ acting as our surety, not by the application of justification prior to sanctification. Through union with Christ, both are applied simultaneously.

The Larger Catechism 69-73 is helpful here too is stressing this order (effectual calling, regeneration, faith, union, imputation, justification)
69 What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

70 What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

71 How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified, yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

72 What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

73 How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, not as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he recieveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

We can see the same logical order in Belgic Confession 22, and Heidelberg Catechism 20, 21, 53, and 61 though not a clearly articulated as Westminster.

Sorry, didn't mean to write so much. Hope that is helpful... Again open to correction from others...
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
In Reformation theology, it depends on who you read and in what context. The Westminster Standards present a specific logical order, but yes, you do see some diversity of opinions about the ordu salutis, though I have found in my own reading that union was emphasized more as prior to justification in the older writers, while those later are trying to guard the distinction between justification and sanctification, and make justification the basis for sanctification (often in an attempt to fight legalism or federal vision abuses). They would argue, like Berkhof does, that you can't have the transformative benefits (i.e. regeneration) prior to the forensic benefits (i.e. justification). But if so, then you have in a situation where faith precedes regeneration, or imputation/justification precedes faith (thus potentially opening a door to the idea of eternal justification, though Berkhof explicitly rejected it). But if you follow the Standards order, that Christ is acting as our federal head when he applies redemption to us, then that objection really goes away. Rather than receiving sanctification after justification, you receive them simultaneously through faith-union with Christ as dual benefits. The justification is not grounded upon the transformative grace, but upon Christ and his righteousness alone imputed through faith, while sanctification also begins through faith-union with Christ (Confession 14.2) at the same time. Note also another important nuance, that the Standards distinguish between regeneration and sanctification, but others make them synonymous (and so stress the need to keep justification prior). Again, it's a logical order, not chronological, since both sides of this discussion would agree it's applied instantaneously in time on the basis of Christ's prior headship and work.

So I would argue that yes, logically, faith precedes vital union, because it's through faith that we are united to Christ. Regeneration, faith, union, imputation, justification/adoption/sanctification, etc. Imputation happens automatically as a result of union with Christ and his righteousness. Christ is federally representing his elect as our surety (i.e. pactum salutis), prior to their actual possession of faith and justification, but they are not actually justified until faith receives Christ and his righteousness (Note Confession Ch. 11.4 on the timing of justification, "God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect; and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them."). The concern to keep the forensic prior to the transformative is satisfied by Christ acting as our surety, not by the application of justification prior to sanctification. Through union with Christ, both are applied simultaneously.

The Larger Catechism 69-73 is helpful here too is stressing this order (effectual calling, regeneration, faith, union, imputation, justification)
69 What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

70 What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

71 How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified, yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

72 What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

73 How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, not as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he recieveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

We can see the same logical order in Belgic Confession 22, and Heidelberg Catechism 20, 21, 53, and 61 though not a clearly articulated as Westminster.

Sorry, didn't mean to write so much. Hope that is helpful... Again open to correction from others...
Excellent point, doesn't this tie into the whole ordo salutis and histori salutis question?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
My own preference is not to use the term 'justification' to refer to any immanent or eternal act in God. I simply do not see the Scriptures using justification in this way, and as I understand it, this view of justification has its origin with the English Antinomians, passing over to the Reformed through the writings of the Independents around the time of the Westminster Assembly. The Presbyterian party was adamantly against it. I understand that not everyone who talks about justification this way is heterodox, but at best it has a troubled history and it's less clear that simply using the term 'justification' to refer to the Scriptural doctrine.
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
This is the key error of Berkhof, in my opinion. Yes, imputation of Christ's righteousness precedes the declaration of justification. But you cannot have Christ's imputed righteousness before having Christ himself (by faith). As the Catechism explains, you receive that imputed righteousness through faith. Faith-Union must precede imputation because it provides the channel through which you receive Christ and His righteousness. Regeneration precedes faith/union, and so it must also precede imputation/justification as well. The legal basis for applying regeneration logically prior to our justification is found in Christ himself, who secured our redemption on our behalf as our surety. The application of that redemption comes through Spirit-wrought regeneration/faith which unites us to Christ and his righteousness. Again, the Catechism order is very helpful here. We cannot separate Christ and his benefits.

Sinclair Ferguson is also very helpful on this point too, in his book "The Whole Christ" (really just building on Thomas Boston). Lane Tipton's work on union with Christ is also useful here too.
"you cannot have Christ's imputed righteousness before having Christ himself (by faith)."

I would say that having Christ's imputed righteousness is having Christ himself. The imputation of Christ's righteousness is the start of our legal union with Him.

"As the Catechism explains, you receive that imputed righteousness through faith".

In a sense, yes, but consider, for comparison, Paul's words in Gal. 3:2, where he asks the Galatians whether they "received the Spirit...by hearing with faith?". Certainly, Paul did not mean that "receiving the Spirit" (regeneration) logically follows from "faith", but because its a logical and not a temporal order, he can speak of "receiving the Spirit by faith" in the same way the Catechism speaks of "receiving Christ's righteousness by faith".

"Regeneration precedes faith/union"

This is where I'd push back and where I think Berkhof and the older scholastics rightly saw the need for the active/passive justification distinction. How can regeneration precede union with Christ? Is not regeneration a benefit of union with Christ? I would say so, and for that reason, I would distinguish imputation, which is what federally unites us to Christ so that we may legally receive His benefits, from justification, which is the application to us from the declaration of God of the prior imputation of Christ's righteousness, and follows after faith (which itself is, obviously, after regeneration). The legal union (imputation) logically precedes the vital union (regeneration...which after it follows faith, and then justification) because it's the basis for it.
 
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Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
"you cannot have Christ's imputed righteousness before having Christ himself (by faith)."

I would say that having Christ's imputed righteousness is having Christ himself. The imputation of Christ's righteousness is the start of our legal union with Him.
Correct
"As the Catechism explains, you receive that imputed righteousness through faith".

In a sense, yes, but consider, for comparison, Paul's words in Gal. 3:2, where he asks the Galatians whether they "received the Spirit...by hearing with faith?". Certainly, Paul did not mean that "receiving the Spirit" (regeneration) logically follows from "faith", but because its a logical and not a temporal order, he can speak of "receiving the Spirit by faith" in the same way the Catechism speaks of "receiving Christ's righteousness by faith".
Paul's sequence fits perfectly with the Catechism. Regeneration is not the same as "receiving the Spirit". Regeneration is the Spirit resurrecting the soul (giving you the new heart) and giving you the capacity for faith. All other benefits flow through faith which immediately unites you to Christ and all his benefits (including the Spirit).

That is where Boston was helpful. Through regeneration, Christ is reaching down to you (by the Spirit) to regenerate, and immediately we respond in faith reaching up to Christ, and thus are united to him. and all his benefits. It's through faith we receive Christ, his imputed righteousness, and the indwelling of the Spirit. Or perhaps put it another way, through regeneration the Spirit creates the door (faith) through which he enters and indwells the soul.


"Regeneration precedes faith/union"

This is where I'd push back and where I think Berkhof and the older scholastics rightly saw the need for the active/passive justification distinction. How can regeneration precede union with Christ? Is not regeneration a benefit of union with Christ? I would say so, and for that reason, I would distinguish imputation, which is what federally unites us to Christ so that we may legally receive His benefits, from justification, which is the application to us from the declaration of God of the prior imputation of Christ's righteousness, and follows after faith (which itself is, obviously, after regeneration). The legal union (imputation) logically precedes the vital union (regeneration...which after it follows faith, and then justification) because it's the basis for it.

For clarification, yes the older scholastics did make an active/passive distinction (God's declaration vs. communication of it to the conscience), but they also taught that both happened after regeneration and faith. Perkin's Golden Chain is a classic example. It's through faith you receive the imputed righteousness of Christ, and on that basis the declaration of justification from God. It was the later writers like Berkhof who shifted some form of active justification prior to faith. The older writers understood the prior legal basis for receiving the benefits is found in Christ acting as our legal "surety" not in some form of imputation prior to regeneration and faith.

It seems you may be confusing "legal union" with "federal union". Federal union occurred in the covenant of redemption in eternity with Christ appointed mediator/surety of the elect. Legal union begins later with imputation. Vital union is logically prior to legal union, because through vital union we receive Christ and in his righteousness (legal union).

Again, notice the larger Catechism:
70 What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

71 How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified, yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

72 What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

The sequence is very clear about the application of redemption: regeneration, faith, vital union/imputation, then active justification (God's declaration), passive justification (God communicates forgiveness to the individual conscience).

Imputed righteousness is not the basis for regeneration. Faith is the instrument through which we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ and so it must be imputed after regeneration. For example, Romans 4:3 "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.'" The legal basis for applying regeneration is in the mediation of Christ as our federal head and surety, not in a prior imputation of righteousness to the sinner.

Here's a quote from Perkin's Golden Chain to show how older scholastics described the order.
"The end and use of the Gospel is, first to manifest that righteoussness in Christ, whereby the whole law is fully satisfied, and salvation attained. Secondly, it is the instrument, and, as it were, the conduit pipe of the holy Ghost, to fashion and derive faith into the soule: by which faith, they which believe, do, as with an hand, apprehend Christ's righteousness." Ch. 31, pg. 70 He goes into more detail in Ch. 36 and 37. He's clear that effectual calling/regeneration/ faith are prior to imputation and justification.

Hope that is helpful...
 

TryingToLearn

Puritan Board Freshman
Correct

Paul's sequence fits perfectly with the Catechism. Regeneration is not the same as "receiving the Spirit". Regeneration is the Spirit resurrecting the soul (giving you the new heart) and giving you the capacity for faith. All other benefits flow through faith which immediately unites you to Christ and all his benefits (including the Spirit).

That is where Boston was helpful. Through regeneration, Christ is reaching down to you (by the Spirit) to regenerate, and immediately we respond in faith reaching up to Christ, and thus are united to him. and all his benefits. It's through faith we receive Christ, his imputed righteousness, and the indwelling of the Spirit. Or perhaps put it another way, through regeneration the Spirit creates the door (faith) through which he enters and indwells the soul.




For clarification, yes the older scholastics did make an active/passive distinction (God's declaration vs. communication of it to the conscience), but they also taught that both happened after regeneration and faith. Perkin's Golden Chain is a classic example. It's through faith you receive the imputed righteousness of Christ, and on that basis the declaration of justification from God. It was the later writers like Berkhof who shifted some form of active justification prior to faith. The older writers understood the prior legal basis for receiving the benefits is found in Christ acting as our legal "surety" not in some form of imputation prior to regeneration and faith.

It seems you may be confusing "legal union" with "federal union". Federal union occurred in the covenant of redemption in eternity with Christ appointed mediator/surety of the elect. Legal union begins later with imputation. Vital union is logically prior to legal union, because through vital union we receive Christ and in his righteousness (legal union).

Again, notice the larger Catechism:
70 What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

71 How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified, yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

72 What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

The sequence is very clear about the application of redemption: regeneration, faith, vital union/imputation, then active justification (God's declaration), passive justification (God communicates forgiveness to the individual conscience).

Imputed righteousness is not the basis for regeneration. Faith is the instrument through which we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ and so it must be imputed after regeneration. For example, Romans 4:3 "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.'" The legal basis for applying regeneration is in the mediation of Christ as our federal head and surety, not in a prior imputation of righteousness to the sinner.

Here's a quote from Perkin's Golden Chain to show how older scholastics described the order.
"The end and use of the Gospel is, first to manifest that righteoussness in Christ, whereby the whole law is fully satisfied, and salvation attained. Secondly, it is the instrument, and, as it were, the conduit pipe of the holy Ghost, to fashion and derive faith into the soule: by which faith, they which believe, do, as with an hand, apprehend Christ's righteousness." Ch. 31, pg. 70 He goes into more detail in Ch. 36 and 37. He's clear that effectual calling/regeneration/ faith are prior to imputation and justification.

Hope that is helpful...
I'll just say a quick couple of things. First of all, you say that "receiving the Spirit" in Gal. 3:2 does not refer to regeneration. I'm curious, what do you believe it is referring to, then? My understanding is that this refers to the entirety of the gifts of the H.S. (including regeneration; indeed, I think regeneration is primarily in view, as it is the first instance of the believers' experience of the H.S.).

Secondly (and this would certainly be more controversial), I would not differentiate between legal and federal union and I would also not say that one has a federal union with Christ in the CoR, but would agree with John Owen when he says,

But yet some will not distinguish between the covenant of the mediator and the covenant of grace, because the promises of the covenant absolutely are said to be made to Christ, Galatians 3:16; and he is...first subject of all the grace of it. But in the covenant of the mediator, Christ stands alone for himself, and undertakes for himself alone, and not as the representative of the church; but this he is in the covenant of grace. (cf. the prior link to Adams' blog).

Certainly, Christ is acting as a representative for all of the elect who were chosen in the mind, plan, and purpose of God in the CoR, but I would not say He is our federal head until we are actually united to Him (in the Cov. of Grace).

Certainly, there will be some pushback here, and understandably so, but I feel this is all I have left to say. Very enjoyable and edifying conversation though! :)

Edit: Last thing I thought I should mention is that I've been influenced by Charles Lee Irons here and am basically following him here: https://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/2019/03/justification-and-union-with-Christ-part-9.html
 
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Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
I'll just say a quick couple of things. First of all, you say that "receiving the Spirit" in Gal. 3:2 does not refer to regeneration. I'm curious, what do you believe it is referring to, then? My understanding is that this refers to the entirety of the gifts of the H.S. (including regeneration; indeed, I think regeneration is primarily in view, as it is the first instance of the believers' experience of the H.S.).

Secondly (and this would certainly be more controversial), I would not differentiate between legal and federal union and I would also not say that one has a federal union with Christ in the CoR, but would agree with John Owen when he says,

But yet some will not distinguish between the covenant of the mediator and the covenant of grace, because the promises of the covenant absolutely are said to be made to Christ, Galatians 3:16; and he is...first subject of all the grace of it. But in the covenant of the mediator, Christ stands alone for himself, and undertakes for himself alone, and not as the representative of the church; but this he is in the covenant of grace. (cf. the prior link to Adams' blog).

Certainly, Christ is acting as a representative for all of the elect who were chosen in the mind, plan, and purpose of God in the CoR, but I would not say He is our federal head until we are actually united to Him (in the Cov. of Grace).

Certainly, there will be some pushback here, and understandably so, but I feel this is all I have left to say. Very enjoyable and edifying conversation though! :)
This has indeed been an edifying conversation! It has helped me go back and reread some old friends :)

A lot of the differences again has to do with nuances. Beeke and Jones have a very helpful chapter on this specific question in Puritan Theology, ch. 30, explaining this relationship of Union with Christ, Justification, and Regeneration. What are we defining as vital union? The Puritans defined it in a twofold-way. There is the initial union in regeneration where Christ imparts spiritual life to us by the Spirit, and the "mutual" or completed union by faith where we actively take hold of Christ and his righteousness.

So their ordu salutis in the moment of conversion was basically: initial union/regeneration, faith, completed union with Christ and his righteousness (imputation), then justification/adoption/sanctification, etc.

In my arguments above, I was basically arguing that regeneration was distinct and the "completed union by faith" was the point of "vital union" through which we receive Christ and all the other benefits. This is also the same position of Perkins (quoted above) and Turretin in his Institutes Vol. II, pg. 684. (I think this is also the order the Catechisms articulate too). His order there is effectual calling, regeneration, faith, union/imputation, justification, etc.

But I am perfectly content to take the common Puritan perspective too, calling the act of regeneration as the the point where Christ initiates union (by the Spirit) while the believer's first act of faith completes the union. So some will call the initial union/regeneration the point of "mystical union" and some will call the completed union by faith as "mystical union". So you just have to discern how each author is using it in his articulation of the ordu salutis. I'm fine with these distinctions.

But all (including Owen) were also clear that imputation occurs through faith. Through faith we take hold of Christ and his righteousness, and on that basis are justified by God. (Note also the helpful summary in Puritan Theology, Ch. 31, reviewing Owen's view of Justification by Faith). Owen will argue that union with Christ is the basis for imputation (referring to initial union) but also argue that imputed righteousness is received/applied through faith.

The prior legal basis for applying Christ and his righteousness to us is found in the decree/appointment as our mediator in the covenants of redemption/grace. There Christ is appointed our federal/legal surety and acts in our place, but we are not actually justified until that moment of vital union with Christ and his righteousness (initial union/regeneration, faith, completed union/imputation, justification). The author of the blog you referenced seems to be confused about Owen's quote on that point. Owen is very clear elsewhere that Christ is acting as our federal representative and surety prior to vital union, and on that basis is guaranteeing our eventual vital union. Owen's argument in the Death of Death for example is a based upon this premise too. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the blog author. But I think Owen is pretty clear about this.

Regarding your question about the difference between regeneration and the indwelling of the Spirit, I'll need to think about that a little more.

Anyway, hope that is helpful. It's been a delightful study.
 
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alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
Thomas Halyburton enters into this in a very helpful way in the volume of his works called Faith and Justification, which can be purchased here:

There is a phase, or certain kind of union to Christ that precedes regeneration, but one has to carefully nuance things. This was touched on in a recent paper about Union with Christ at a Theological Conference, if you’re interested:

https://www.fpchurch.org.uk/sermon/union-with-Christ/
 
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