Reformed Forum: Union with Christ

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FenderPriest

Puritan Board Junior
Have any of you guys listened to Reformed Forum's episode last week, Union With Christ? It was very helpful. I'm going to need to listen through again to catch all the steps of discussion and distinctions. They bring up the essential difference between Lutheran and Reformed perspectives on Union with Christ, the priority of Union with Christ in relation to justification, sanctification, and regeneration. They also discuss some of the differences between Westminster East and West (i.e. Horton and Gaffin). Any thoughts on the episode and issues raised? I have to confess my own infancy in understanding this issue, so my thoughts are very, very minimal.
 

yoyoceramic

Puritan Board Freshman
I listened to the episode last night, and I thought it was very good. I must confess that I have pitted Justification over and above Sanctification, so hearing this discussion is very helpful. I thought Dr. Tipton's analogy was helpful. When asked by Camden how "Justification can be the main hinge upon which religion turns", Dr. Tipton points out that the hinge is not free-floating in air, but is affixed to the door frame which rests upon a sure foundation. So too, our union with Jesus is the foundation upon which we receive the benefit of justification and sanctification (both definite and progressive, which is an important distinction).

Rather than thinking of our justification as the cause of our sanctification, we must look to Jesus Christ and our union with him as the source of our justification and sanctifcation. That said, there are some benefits we receive from justification we do not receive from sanctification. Lane mentioned that in no way could I look to my sanctification for a right standing before God, but rather I may look to my justification to reassure my conscience I am right before God. If I am thinking correctly, both justification and sanctification flow in parallel from our union with Christ rather than Sanctification as an effect of our Justification only - ie one following the other. This is why the phrase "Our sanctification is just getting used to our justification" misses the mark. It is Christ and our identity with his death, burial, and resurrection which truly and really sanctified and continues to sanctifies us.
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
Yes it was excellent. I would also recommend Dr. Tipton's lectures on this topic (which can be found on the WTS Itunes page I believe.) He walks a lot of the same territory but much more slowly. :)
 

FenderPriest

Puritan Board Junior
Yes it was excellent. I would also recommend Dr. Tipton's lectures on this topic (which can be found on the WTS Itunes page I believe.) He walks a lot of the same territory but much more slowly. :)
Do you mean the 'Calvin and Union 1,2, & 3'? Thanks for the pointer to it!
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for the tip!

Excellent podcast and a refreshing listen. Thank God for the faithful proclamation of the Word and the marvel of the grace we enjoy by union with the Lord Jesus, the full-orbed Jesus Christ of the scriptures!
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
It was very enjoyable. Reformed Forum has proven to be the best and most stable Reformed podcast on the web.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I listened to the episode yesterday and am still sorting it out in my mind today, which is evidence that it was a good talk. No doubt it did an excellent job of explaining the issues and celebrating the breadth of all Christ has done for us. I think it may have been not as fair as it might have been, in spots, in how it represented the Westminster West position. But overall, it was a beneficial and informative episode.
 

Beoga

Puritan Board Freshman
I listened to it today and thought it was excellent! Thanks for the recommendation!
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
This should be the thread of the month

Here is a link to a response article defending Tipton (and others) concerning their view of Calvin http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/51/51-3/JETS 51-3 543-558 Johnson.pdf

Also here is a link to lectures from a recent Conference on the Union with Christ Alive with Christ: Saving Union with Christ (Monergism MP3)

Great article, thanks Hermonta. And thank you Jacob; this thread contains some of the most interesting and edifying discussion I have encountered since joining the PB.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Very interesting read by Marcus Johnson. The comments were very illuminating and clarifying in my estimation as to the charges laid at the feet of those who supposedly have some New Perspective on Calvin. It looks like Wegner might have gotten some things out of wack in my estimation.

The first of Wenger’s arguments stemming from this passage is largely semantic. He proposes that it is significant that Calvin twice described sanctification as “secondary,” suggesting that Calvin thus understood justification as the “primary” of the “double graces.” This argument runs into the following problems: (1) it is not clear that Calvin intended to assign a relative worth to sanctification when he described it as “second” in order, as if justification were first in order of soteriological value and sanctification a rung lower in value; (2) Calvin did not describe justification and sanctification here as “double graces,” but as a “double grace (duplex gratia).” This is important to note because Calvin understood that the duplex gratia is received only by “partaking of him” in whom the benefits reside. When Christ is “grasped and possessed by us in faith,” we receive the duplex gratia of justification and sanctification; it is a two-fold grace, not two graces.


… Calvin’s
understanding of the relationship between justification and sanctification, as Wenger has it, is one of cause and effect: sanctification is impossible if not founded on justification.35

The primary evidence Wenger presents for these claims is Calvin’s refutation of Osiander in Book 3 of the Institutes. Having already warned his readers of the problem of “erratic readings” and “proof-texting,” I am a bit surprised that Wenger chose the dispute with Osiander to prove his point. As the texts that Wenger selected show quite clearly, Calvin’s problem with Osiander was that his understanding of justification destroyed the foundation for the believer’s assurance of salvation. By asserting that Christ is our righteousness according to his divine nature—in a “mixing of essences— Osiander construes justification as both forgiveness and renewal unto holiness.36 Osiander’s understanding of union with Christ resulted in a commingling of justification and sanctification which Calvin flatly rejected.37 Calvin’s concern with Osiander is not that he has inseparably bound together justification and sanctification;38 Calvin’s concern is that Osiander has included sanctification within justification and thus destroyed the foundation on which a believer’s assurance rests. The assurance of one’s reconciliation with God, the peace that quiets the soul, is grounded in justification, not in one’s inherent holiness (sanctification).39 Thus, Calvin’s point is not that sanctification must be grounded in justification, but that the assurance of salvation must be grounded in justification.

As Calvin stated repeatedly, justification and sanctification are benefits that are to be distinguished but never separated (distinctio sed non separatio). In this respect, the importance of 1 Cor 1:30 for Calvin could hardly be over- stressed as a paradigm for understanding the relationship between the two benefits.40

From this also, we infer, that we cannot be justified freely through faith alone without at the same time living holily. For these fruits of grace are connected together, as it were, by an indissoluble tie, so that he who attempts to sever them does in a manner tear Christ in pieces. Let therefore the man who seeks to be justified through Christ, by God’s unmerited goodness, consider that this cannot be attained without his taking him at the same time for sanctification or, in other words, being renewed to innocence and purity of life.41

The “indissoluble bond” by which justification and sanctification are connected is Christ himself. To sever these benefits is to “tear Christ in pieces.” Sanctification, as much as justification, proceeds from the person of Christ who is grasped in faith. Justification no more “grounds” sanctification than sanctification grounds justification: both are grounded in, and proceed from, the believer’s union with Christ:

Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God. Yet you could not grasp this without at the same time grasping sanctification also. For he ‘is given unto us for righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption’ (I Cor.1:30). Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not sanctify. These benefits are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond, so that those whom he illumines by his wisdom, he redeems; those whom he redeems, he justifies; those whom he justifies, he sanctifies. . . . Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces (I Cor.1:13). Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy. He bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other.42

Calvin’s consistent refrain, one that was evident in his debate with Osiander, was that justification and sanctification are distinct benefits that are never to be separated, any more than Christ himself can be separated.43 They are distinct only by reason of their soteriological function. As C. P. Venema has noted, the twofold benefit of union with Christ is distinct in conception: “Justification answers the question, how and on what basis are we acceptable to God? and regeneration (sanctification) answers the question, what positive fruit or effect does the Spirit accomplish in the lives of those who have trusted in Christ alone for their salvation?”44 Calvin emphasized the distinction between the two benefits only insofar as they served differing soteriological ends. It is the living Christ who contains the twofold benefit in himself and who is the living, effectual reality behind both justification and sanctification. They are not related in terms of cause and effect, or of ground and consequence, but in terms of their relation as a dual reality in the singular, redemptive person and work of Christ.
 
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