Justification from Eternity

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by JM, Jul 3, 2006.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    When I asked about this topic on another Reformed forum, the question was posed, "If God hates the wicked, how can He also love everyone at the same time?"

    This is a new topic for me, it's an aspect of Reformed Baptist theology that I've never studied before and thought I'd bring it up.

    Quote: "...how is it that God can love men? He HATES the wicked. Yet He loves the Righteous. Well what about those saints before the cross of Christ? How was God able to demonstrate His love for them if they had not already been justified. The answer is He could not unless of course He already saw them as justified in Christ (righteous) from before the foundation of the world. God loves all of His people because He's always viewed them in Christ (timely speaking)."

    Well, what do you think? Is there much on the net about this topic?

    Peace and thank you.
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    You need to qualify your terminology. Justification is an act of God, that takes place in history, for every one of God's elect. It is, if you will, a "moment of salvation" for each one of them, when God "passes judgment on them." So-called "eternal justification" is a misnomer, and has proved to be a problematic concept when applied.

    And it is not necessary to use it. God loved his elect who lived before Christ's historical death, on the basis of what he intended to accomplish for them, not because he had already justified each and every one of them already. This is also true for his elect who live after the cross. We are not (probably most of us) born into the world justified--with due allowance for those who are "called" from their mother's womb. But even those persons are justified in time and history, not before they exist.

    God loves his people not because they are justified, or sanctifed, or anything else. He loves them because "he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy." He loves them for no reason outside himself and his internal counsels. He has loved them from before the foundation of the world.

    So, was he ever wrathful towrd his elect, prior to their salvation? Yes, because by nature we are all children of wrath. His wrath is oriented toward all sinners, and their direction is toward hell. And then some hearts are changed, and they turn away from sin. They begin to love the Lord their God. And feel the love of God toward them. So who changed? Did God change? Did he suddenly start loving these elect people? No, the individuals changed (or rather were changed).

    The change in God's aspect toward the elect, upon their conversion, is based upon the regeneration of their heart. See, his wrath toward sin (and sinners) is always the same, permanent reaction the holy God has toward sin. The difference in the elect is that wrath is not a permanent judicial sentence and everlasting attitude against them. Even when they sin after conversion, the wrath against their sin is unchanged from before, but they are aware that this is a "Fatherly displeasure," and discipline, not a product of his implacable hostility to the wicked. They are restored and brought back to a place where they feel the Father's love once again.

    When this has never happened before (prior to their conversion) they have no experience as of yet of that saving, merciful love. They are in the same starting condition as that of the wicked non-elect who never leave it. Having no electing or covenant-love promised to them in Christ, they show that they are not loved in the way the elect are loved.

    [Edited on 7-3-2006 by Contra_Mundum]
  3. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    :ditto: to Pastor Bruce. I have studied this topic a bit, and am willing to say that eternal justification (such as that of John Gill et. al.) damages, if not destroys altogether sola fide in the reformed sense of the term. According to the doctrine of "eternal justification", faith is no longer the instrument God uses to justify a person, but merely for a person to realize their justification from eternity. This is not the reformed position. The bible speaks clearly of an actual justification by free grace, but BY FAITH.

    The Westminster Confession addresses this very idea:

    The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XI
    Of Justification
    IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,[11] and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:[12] nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. [13]

    11. Rom. 8:29, 30; Gal. 3:8; I Peter 1:2, 19-20
    12. Gal. 4:4; I Tim. 2:6; Rom. 4:25
    13. Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3-7; Gal. 2:16; cf. Col. 1:21-22
  4. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    In addition to what Bruce explained about the matter eternal justification as it relates to the issue of God's love for His elect in general, the question above seems to indicate confusion on the relationship between those saints who lived prior to Christ's temporal coming and those who lived after it. If eternal justification would have been necessary to demonstrate God's love for Old Testament believers, then it would have been equally necessary for New Testament believers; but as it is not in fact necessary for New Testament believers, it is likewise no more necessary for Old Testament believers. For, as biblically demonstrated by Abraham, Old Testament believers were saved in the same gracious way as New Testament believers, and exercised faith in the same Messiah.

    Indeed - and furthermore, your noted point here illustrates that under the eternal justification scheme, faith and works would actually possess and play a largely identical nature and role, respectively; for, since we believe that works themselves do in fact serve to further aid a person to realize their already-accomplished justification (WCF XVI.2; XVIII), holding the doctrine of eternal justification would force one to logically limit faith to that same purpose, thereby giving it an essentially identical function as works.
  5. VanVos

    VanVos Puritan Board Sophomore

    I agree whole heartily that eternal justification is totally erroneous, but as to the elect being *under* God wrath prior to justification I'm not biblical sure of as yet. If the elect have their sins expiated in Christ, how can they be said to *under* the wrath of God? Yes all the elect sins deserve just punishment, but God from eternity pass has decreed for that wrath to be satisfied in a substitute. Prior to salvation, like eph 2:3 says, we are all by nature children of wrath, but this is from our perspective. In other words, our sinful behavior warranted wrath, we were by nature suitable for eternal punishment. May be I'm splitting hairs, but this could cast a shadow upon God's immutability. Thoughts??


    [Edited on 7-3-2006 by VanVos]
  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    What are we saved from? The wrath to come. The wages of sin? Death. I already referenced the vital text, Eph. 2:2-3. I don't think that one can simply say with that verse "that's just our perspective on the issue." And later in the same chapter: Eph. 2:12 "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Our divine relation is in one state or the other. The wonder of salvation and the love of God is that we were loved despite our evil natures.

    Simply put, we were subject to judgment until such time as we were translated, Col. 1:13 "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son."

    Until we are historically entered into the covenant of grace, we are still under the covenant of works, condemned in Adam. Gal 3:10 "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'"
  7. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph 2:1-3)

    It doesn't get any clearer than that.
  8. VanVos

    VanVos Puritan Board Sophomore

    I do not disagree with any of the above, that´s why I carefully qualified what I was saying. Is it good for us, when systematizing our theology, to speak of the elect as *under* the wrath of God prior to justification, do the elect of God in space and time have the wrath God abiding upon them? There is a difference between experiencing the effects of sin and God's judicial position towards someone. Remember cursed is He who hangs upon a tree. I hope I'm not irritating anyone with this but I do think there's room for discussion here.

    [Edited on 7-3-2006 by VanVos]
  9. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    I'm in deep water...

    Joh 3:36 "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

    So, until we believe we are under wrath and God hates us?
  10. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    God hates us in Adam, but loves us in Christ.
    Ponder that based on God's immutability for a while.

    Two non-contradictory senses are in play.

    Christ's work, though, covers the judgment that would have enslaved us to hell for all eternity.

    The Reformers/Puritans called it virtual justification (from eternity) and actual justification (acutally in time).

    If you own the works of Thomas goodwin, he has some really good things to say on it.
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I'm not irritated (I don't think Fred is either). I think we're just content with a face-value reading of Eph. 2:3, and so we're disagreeing with what you seemed to say, and saying: no, even the elect first pass under the sentence of death (Jn. 5:24; 1 Jn 3:14), before being redeemed. If death reigns over us at any point, It seems that defintionally we are "under his wrath and curse" (as the WSC 19 puts it).

    Granted, you say you are agreeing with the substance of what I've laid down in my posts so far, so it seems that you are just uncomfortable/unsure about the terminology "under," is that it? Rather than introduce another category of "lost" people, or try to conceptualize a difference in "attitude" from God toward elect-unsaved as opposed to nonelect, I think we're better off just saying: until salvation all men are in the same stew.
  12. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Is it a matter of how we understand time? If God is outside of time or not affected by time, then the actual justification doesn't really matter... :( sorry for being so dense...it's an interesting topic and I would have used the same words quoted to describe justification.
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    For what it's worth, a Calvinistic Baptist pastor I know once said that "eternal justification" is the often the root of three errors:

    1. Hyper-Calvinism
    2. Antinomianism
    3. Failure to evangelize (not sure if this is exactly the third one he mentioned, but he definitely said the first two and this one would seem to follow)
  14. VanVos

    VanVos Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for your comments Matthew. I'll be sure to check out the works of Thomas Goodwin for further insight.

    Bruce, good comments also. I agree that all that are born in Adam receive the curse of Adam in this life. Maybe Thomas Goodwin work might help alleviate the tension between the two positions.

  15. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Note the distinct terms "virtual" and "actual". In eternity past, God "justifies" the Son, in that, covenantaly God undertakes to do the work of redemption. This is before the world, the creation, sin, the fall, anything. This promise and intention of God is in no way contingent or less sure than if it had already taken place, for none can divert the divine will. But this "preliminary" action is of one whole piece with the whole work of redemption. And in the resurrection, Christ is justified in History, the revelation of his triumph.

    And in him (Christ), we are elected in love, even in eternity past. However, there is (as Goodwin puts it) something "inchoate" about this benefit for us as individuals, though it be real. "They are in this respect justified from all eternity." There is something "virtual" about it, due to our election "in him" before the world began. But you can't even begin to speak about this sort of "virtual" justification without comprehending the Trinitarian relation, and the Father's declaration of the Son, and then recognizing that those who are elect in him have the inceptive work of promise accorded their name (or identity).

    However, this isn't "actual" justification. Both in terms of eternity past, and in connection with the resurrection of Christ, the justification accorded to us is prospective or promisorry. To quote Goodwin again, "But these two acts of justification are wholly out of us, immanent acts in God; and though they concern us, and are toward us, yet are not acts of God upon us, they being performed towards us, not as actually existing in ourselves, but only as existing in our Head, who covenanted for us, and represented us."

    Do you see what he's saying?
  16. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Yes I understand Rev. Buchanan, thank you. I'm going to sleep on it and re-read it tomorrow.

    I've heard the above three reasons given for plain ol' 5 point Calvinism. :pray2:
  17. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Just for the sake of lightening things up... Haven't you all been in a relationship where you hated someone and loved them at the same time? That is how messed up I can be.:lol:
  18. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    John Nelson Darby wrote: "The truth is, Christ is said to love the church, never the world. That is a love of special relationship. God is never said to love the church, but the world. This is divine goodness, what is in the nature of God (not His purpose), and His glory is the real end of all. But I do not dwell on this, only pointing out the confusion of propitiation and substitution as necessarily making confusion in the gospel, enfeebling the address to the world, or weakening the security of the believer, and in every respect giving uncertainty to the announcement of the truth. I believe earnestness after souls, and preaching Christ with love to Him, will be blessed where there is little clearness, and is more important than great exactitude of statement. Still it is a comfort to the preacher to have it clear, even if not thinking about it at the moment; and, when building up afterwards, the solidness of the foundation is of the greatest moment."

    sorry, my background is dispensationalism. :bigsmile:
  19. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    About God's love for the world -- I would understand His creative love to be distinct from His special redeeming love? For instance that His love for the world is more related to His work and His relationship as the Creator (His tender mercies are over all His works), and to all men as not only the works of His hands but in common grace, still retaining an imprint of His image? So that He desires not the death of the wicked, as their Maker. & We are to love the sinner as well, being ourselves in God's image: Christ, the true human, loved sinners: he wept over their judgment. I would also understand the love for the world to be in the sense of God loving His creation too much to allow it to be destroyed. He is going to recreate all things: in this sense too, His love extends to 'the world'?

    As far as justification/time and eternity -- I was wondering if a view of eternal justification could/has led to legalism as well as antinomianism, given Chris's point about faith and works as a 'realization' above?
  20. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Indeed, brother. :chained: :banghead: :deadhorse:
  21. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    True. But I'd think it's more prevalent with those holding such views.
  22. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Speaking of taking texts at face value, Eph. 1:6 is important for this discussion. Assuming the apostle is still speaking about before the foundation of the world, this text provides a solid basis for "virtual" justification from eternity.

    If I remember correctly, Thomas Goodwin provides a threefold distinction here. 1. By stipulation from eternity. 2. By representation in Christ's work. 3. Personally upon believing.
  23. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor


    [Edited on 7-4-2006 by Scott Bushey]
  24. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    It could. That 's why we need to understand a couple of points of background before diving into justification so specifically defined.

    In other words, if we don't understand how "we" exist to God, then dealing with virtual and actual as terms will be confusing.

    We exist as a thought in God's mind. How, then, does progression/immutability or time/eternity differe for the manner in which He experiences being and how we do?

    This applies heavily.

    On the other hand, Paul simply wants us to understand in Romans that justification happened at a CERTAIN TIME. We were not justified, and then, by grace through faith, we are then justified. It is impossible, without simply throwing out the text in both Romans and Galatians, to avoid his point. Its an issue of redemption, not God's immutability, or eternality in those passages.
  25. P.F.

    P.F. Puritan Board Freshman

    I prefer to think of God's wrath as his revealed displeasure.
    Prior to Justification => Only God's displeasure is revealed against us, on account of our sins - we are children of wrath, under wrath, and wrath is abiding on us
    Post Justification, but prior to Glorification => God's displeasure with and love of us is revealed in the instrumentality of discipline - like Moses, God may be wroth with us from time to time, but he loves us and chastises us.
    Post Glorification => Only God's love is revealed toward us
  26. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Just to add...

  27. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate


    I'm not sure if you are familiar with Brandon Kraft or not, but he is a well known hyper-calvinist in the internet world. He goes off the deep end in trying to defend God's sovereignty, but without warrant. There is a balance that is needed, that does not comprimise God's love from eternity, but also does not comprimise justification by faith in time. This is how we should look at the two....one (God's love from eternity) existing in the decree of God...and the other (justification by faith in time) existing in providence. The same works for "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world." He was "virtually" slain from all eternity and "actually" slain in time. The two are not contradictory, but co-exist.
  28. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is a thought worth pursuing if you are inclined towards actual eternal justification: was Christ justified from eternity? If so, and if the eternal justification proponent believes that the work of Christ is somehow involved in the process, then how? How could Christ have been justified at the point he was bearing the sins of the elect and bearing the wrath of God for them?
  29. AdamM

    AdamM Puritan Board Freshman

    Pastor Winzer makes an excellent point.

    Although held by a few notables, eternal justification has always been a minority position.
  30. srhoades

    srhoades Puritan Board Freshman

    I just finished a chapter in John Gerstner's <i>Theology in Dialogue</i> in which he addresses this issue. He makes the distinction that it is undeserved love - hence mercy and therefore not contradictory of God's hateful wrath. If it was meritorious love, ie the person exhibited something that deserved God's love, then it would be inconsistent with his divine wrath. God can choose to love someone that deserves his wrath but He can not owe love to someone that deserves his wrath.

    Prior to regeneration, God loves because he chooses to, an after regeneration he loves because he see's the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer.

    I always understand these things in my head better than I can convey them in writing so I hope that make sense.

    [Edited on 7-10-2006 by srhoades]
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page