Justification from Eternity

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

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  1. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    Like I said earlier, unless one is willing to abandon justification by faith (which is a very clear doctrine in scripture), then one cannot accept eternal justification. Justification by faith, means justification IN time, by the means of faith, on the grounds of Christ and his righteousness alone.
  2. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor


    .v11 is about Jacob and Esau when it speaks about "the children." Are you saying "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)" is speaking of all mankind which includes Adam and Eve? On what basis? Doesn't this deny the personal election of Jacob and Esau?
  3. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    That's not true!

    "Sometimes people reject the doctrine of eternal justification as though the doctrine indicates that people do not have to believe in order to be justified. That is not a valid comparison. By eternal justification all we mean is that justification is bound to God´s eternal decree. We are not saying that someone is justified subjectively before he believes. Romans 8:29-30, "œFor whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Many times we view these verses as taking place in time but these are all tied together "” "œwhom he did foreknow he also did predestinate"¦ moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called"¦" We know that at the time Paul wrote this passage not everyone who would be called had already been called. Then why did he use the past tense? He used the past tense because these graces are linked from all eternity."


    "The Bible speaks of an objective justification as well as a subjective justification. When God looks at his people objectively, he sees Christ. Objectively he sees the righteousness of Christ, not our sin. But that does not mean that subjectively each one of us is justified until such time as we believe. To give you an idea of what this idea signifies, we need to read Romans 4:25, "œWho was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." If Christ was "œraised again for our justification," when does our justification take place? Did our justification take place at his resurrection? Does our justification take place when we believe? There is an objective sense in which God sees nothing but Christ when he looks at his elect people though they have yet to believe. But there is also a subjective sense in which we receive that justification at such time as we believe.

    Let´s consider the example of a surety standing for a debt. When was the debt paid? Was the debt paid when the surety first agreed to stand for it or was the debt paid when the debt was actually paid, or was the debt paid when the debtor received the information that the debt was paid for him? There is a sense in which each of those times is correct. As soon as the surety agrees to pay the debt, the debt is no longer hanging over the original debtor. Then, when the debt actually comes due and the surety pays the debt, there is the sense in which that is the time at which the debt is paid. And finally, when the original debtor comes in to pay his own debt and finds that it has already been paid for him, subjectively it is then that the person is notified that the debt has been paid for him. So, in different aspects, in different senses, all three times are correct. During the Reformation the doctrine of predestination, the doctrine of election and the doctrine of justification were closely bound together. There cannot be one without the others. This is why the Reformers could not accept an Arminian gospel as being a true gospel. We have to see justification as referring to the eternal decree of God, or we do not see Christ as surety." Richard Bacon

  4. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    PS: I'm not fighting for this doctrine, just struggling to understand it, that's all. :chained:
  5. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    I am saying that this passage is meant to teach us about how God elects people TO salvation (this includes all mankind, but AFTER the fall, for no redemption was necessary before the fall.). To plan to justify someone is different than actually justifying them. Before the foundation of the world is when God planned to send his son to be the propititation for our sins, he planned to regenerate us by his Spirit, he planned to give us the gift of faith, and he planned to justify us. But don't you think it is putting the cart before the horse to ACTUALLY justify a person before they had ACTUALLY fallen? Isn't that like fixing something that was never broke (but you planned on breaking it!)?
  6. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Not to :deadhorse: but I think I the piece linked above by Pastor Bacon makes a very good point that shouldn't be overlooked:

    I really love Pastor Bacon and have always appreciated his insights and the systematic way in which he pursues a question. That's why I think the above is particularly significant in regard (and in response) to those who, for example, wrongly think the universal desire for the salvation of all men is a mark of orthodoxy. When you consider Eph 2:3,4 in which we're told that while we were children of wrath like all the rest that God loved us, the idea of eternal justification in Christ provides the legal and objective basis by which the enmity between God and those for whom Christ died is overcome throughout the entire spectrum of redemptive history. It doesn't take any action or movement on our parts to be transformed into objects of God's love, for we are already loved because of Christ in accordance with God's immutable and eternal decree. On what other basis could Paul write that we were the objects of God's love even when we were personally and subjectively alienated from God on account of sin?
  7. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    It would be putting the cart before the horse in terms of time, I agree, but is our justification in time or in the eternal decree of God?

    I don't know. :banghead:

    Thanks brother.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2007
  8. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    Hi Sean,

    While I respect the motives of those who defend EJ, I don't see the reasoning above as necessarily defending EJ.

    For instance, upon what basis does God view us in Christ? The reformed answer is because he loved us before the foundation of the world. But why does he love us from eternity? Because he sees us in Christ. See the circularness of this argument?

    I could be wrong, but I don't see the doctrine of election this way (although I must admit I have in the past). I view it like this:

    God chose us from the foundation of the world to be in Christ because he first loved us. Why did he first love us? Because he made us to be objects of his love, not wrath. Simple as that. He has the right, for he is the potter, to make some for loving, and others for hating.

  9. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    Just to include in the conversation:

  10. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    You said that an acceptance of EJ is to abandon justification by faith, but hopefully you can see now that is not the case (or, at least, you haven´t yet shown it to be the case). Certainly I hope you agree that Pastor Bacon is not abandoning JBF per the piece cited above? The problem I have with your argument is the phrase "œBecause he made us to be objects of his love . . . ." Eph 2 cited above states that God loved us "œeven when we were dead in our transgressions." Our faith and repentance doesn´t make us lovable to God, for we were already objects of His love before regeneration. There was never a time when we were not objects of his love for He loved us even before the world was made, just as he loved the one and not the other before the two were born. Conversely, elsewhere in Scripture we´re taught that God hates sinners (Psalm 11:5, Prov 22:14, and many other places), yet Eph 2 makes it clear that there are some sinners He loves. Why? On what other basis can it be said that God "œhath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel" except on the basis of Christ´s propitiatory cross work? It seems to me that there has to be a sense in which God has always viewed us (and all the saints throughout history) in Christ and through the basis of His finished work. Of course that does not negate the fact that we are not subjectively, individually and personally justified until such time as we come to believe in Jesus Christ and His righteousness applied to us by faith.

    Perhaps "œeternal justification" is not the best way to describe the situation Bacon describes, but if OT saints were justified by faith in that they were looking ahead to the promised Messiah and His perfect sacrifice yet to come, then I don´t see why it causes any conflict to say that from God´s POV all the elect are seen as justified and sinless in Christ even though some still await to be made alive and the full number are brought into the Kingdom.
  11. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    I am certainly not accusing Bacon of denying the gospel (or Gill or any other person who believes in EJ). However, I do think that to say that one is justified by faith, and one is eternally justified is contradictory, or the fallacy of equivication. One can try to say that the term "justification" has different senses (which I would agree), but the doctrine remains the same. Justification is still:

    I understand what you are getting at here, but I think it is a misunderstanding of what I meant to convey by the phrase. My argument was not that God changes us to be objects of his love, but merely that he decides to make us objects of his love. On what basis? That is the question that the scriptures don't answer In my humble opinion. Because he decided to make some for love, others for destruction.

    I don't think that solves the problem. Why did God decide to impute the work of Christ to some sinners and not others? Isn't imputing Christ's righteousness to some an act of love? How could he love them without Christ's righteousness imputed to them? It is still circular.

    Even after reading Bacon, Gill and others, I don't understand what the difference is between the supposed "subjective" and "objective" justifications are. The closest I can come to is when a person comes to faith, they then realize their true condition, that they have always been justified. Nothing changes at faith, but realization.

    And that brings in the OT saints, which brings a whole different element into the discussion. For the sake of time, I will have to comment on this later, Lord willing.

    I understand where the EJ folks are coming from, but give me Westminster anyday.
  12. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    What he said....:p
  13. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Fair enough. I guess my concern is that you have God´s love extending to sinners as sinners and I think this is problematic. Sin must be addressed. Scripture does answer this question, even if it doesn´t answer others.

    Again, I think Bacon makes a great point and by way of example:

    Does the act of believing justify a man or did Christ´s cross work accomplish our justification more than 2000 years ago? It seems to me that faith is receiving what has already been accomplished. At that moment, the moment we first believe, justification is applied and we are translated from one kingdom to the next.

    Hopefully you will at least agree that bringing in OT saints is hardly irrelevant. This is why I think you might be missing the point, because no one is denying Westminster in the least, but rather explicating the first clause of Chapter 11, Article 4, "œGod did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect . . . ." Again, I think Bacon is on target:

    [Edited on 9-7-2006 by Magma2]
  14. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Good quote, sometimes when we get going on a topic it's easy to forget that others [better able to deal with the topic] have written on this or similar topics. I don't hold to this confession as I understand it right now, but still thinking and studying on it.
  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    As much as I respect Pastor Bacon, this makes the gospel nothing more than notification and faith nothing more than assurance; and I know he does not hold to this. The analogy is amiss for the simple reason that there is no predetermined plan in the case of an ordinary debtor.

    Reformed theology teaches conclusively that justification and sanctification are NEVER separated, only distinguished. It is this very point that the reformers used to vindicate their doctrine from the Romanist allegation that it was fictitious.
  16. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    And in fairness to Pastor Bacon, I don´t think you should try and stretch the analogy further than he intended either. As I read the piece my understanding is that there is an objective sense in which the elect are always viewed as being "œin Christ." Just as payment for the sins of the elect was accomplished completely apart from us on the cross, however it is only at the moment when a person first believes that the benefits procured are imputed to us (i.e., per the great exchange occurs). This is how I understood his analogy and the distinction he draws between objective and subjective justification "“ or, objective justification from the standpoint of God's eternal decree and our personal, subjective justification in time where we're cleansed from our very particular and individual sins.

    You lost me. How does this relate to the doctrine of eternal justification or anything else Bacon said per the linked sermon?

    [Edited on 9-7-2006 by Magma2]
  17. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The problem with the objective/subjective language is the fact that we are justified by a righteousness outside of us, which can only be conceived of objectively; the only thing subjective about it is the assurance that we are justified. Saying that justification is objective from eternity, when justification by nature is objective, is to teach justification from eternity; whereas the natural import of Scriptural language indicates that God views the sinner outside of Christ as under wrath. It is better to retain the traditional language of virtual/actual.

    I believe it is common ground that Dr. Bacon would agree with. It is pertinent because it requires us to view justification and sanctification along parallel lines at the three points of decree, impetration and application. We do not say that we are chosen in Christ and are therefore holy, but that we are chosen in Christ "that we should be holy." Likewise we should also say that we are chosen in Christ "that we should be ... without blame," Eph. 1:4. The Scriptures refer to God's eternal decree in purpose clauses, not consecutive clauses.
  18. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

  19. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    in my opinion you miss the point, but not by much, and I don´t see that the object/subject language as being a problem nor does it render justification in time as nothing more than an aspect of assurance. You´re right in that the objective nature of justification and the source of our righteousness is outside of us. Frankly it was nailed to a tree at Calvary. Hopefully, that much we can agree on. I would also think we would agree that the benefits secured and applied are two different things and are different aspects of justification. Even beyond this, and as Richard Bacon rightly points out; "œJustification begins in eternity past and it continues in eternity future. Biblically, "œeternity" simply means outside time" (see his discussion of Rom 8:29-30 above). So, eternal justification, as I see it, is the consideration of Christ being the first born of many brothers and looking at justification from the perspective of eternity. Bacon again:

    in my opinion it is only from the vantage point of God´s "œconstant now" that, say, Numbers 23:21 makes sense. Now if you have a different take on this verse than Bacon, and you must, I´d appreciate hearing what you have to offer.

    I disagree that the "œnatural import of Scriptural language indicates that God views the sinner outside of Christ as under wrath." That´s too large a blanket and it´s simply not true in every case. Aside from Numbers and Romans adduced above, I´ve already mentioned Ephesians 2 which teaches that even while the elect were "œby nature" still children of wrath and dead in sin and trespass, suffering under the contagion of sin, they are viewed "“ and are always viewed "“ as objects of God´s *love* "“ not His wrath. Jacob was love by God even before he could do anything good or evil. Jer 31:3 also tells us; The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness." This is true of all God´s chosen people. We love God because He first loved us. Yet, that´s not the all of it, for the only basis for God´s expressed love is Christ and His finished work on account of sin. Which is why I agree with Bacon and disagree with you when he says; "œGod never saw the elect in any way other than in Christ."

    Anyway, I don't want to major in the minors or :deadhorse: so I will only ask that you read through and consider the points raised in Bacon's sermon (which in my opinion is excellent) and feel free to have the last word. I will however continue this with Jeff if he wants to add anything.

    [Edited on 9-8-2006 by Magma2]
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't have anything extra to add, Sean, except to charify that I would not want any observations I have made to detract in the slightest from Dr. Bacon or his ministry. Blessings!
  21. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    If justification takes place in time, how does the death of Christ in time affect our understanding of how the OT saints were saved, considering they were saved before the cross...??

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