By the Power of His Deity

Heidelberg Catechism Q. 17:

17. Why must he also be true God?

That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath,1 and so obtain for 2 and restore to us righteousness and life.3

1 Isaiah 53:8. Acts 2:24. 2John 3:16. Acts 20:28. 3 1 John 1:2.

The sub-text of Satan’s offer, in the garden, was power. You see, the covenant of works offered glorified, everlasting, consummated fellowship with God on condition of absolute submission and obedience to God. Adam had to trust God’s promise and he had to obey. The faith that Adam called to exercise was not like the faith that we, after the fall, are called to exercise. Confusing these two things is one of the great errors of all forms of covenantal moralism (e.g., the self-described “Federal Vision” movement and it appears not infrequently among writers who don’t necessarily identify with the FV movement but who share a common rejection of the historic Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works) is that it conflates Adam’s duty to trust the promise of life made to him with the faith believers after the fall have in Christ the Mediator and substitute, the Last Adam. By confusing these two kinds of faith the moralists become Pelagians, they put us after the fall in the same state as we were before the fall.

Glorified union and communion with the Triune God is a kind of power. It is conferred, derived power but it is real power. The Evil One knew that and thus he offered to us an alternative power without submission to God. It was a false, competing, alternative covenant of works. All we had to do was to submit to him, obey him. Follow him. Trust him. In this way a covenant of works was unavoidable. In his case the offer was not actually life, even if it was ostensibly life. The offer was ostensibly of knowledge but it was actually darkness. He offered an alternative source of power.

Thus, it is significant that we confess that by the power of his deity he, Jesus, God the Son, might bear in his humanity the burden of God’s eternal wrath. Power was offered and power is required. In the beginning only God had the real authority and real power to confer eternal life. The Evil One is a complete liar. That’s one of the more remarkable aspects of the fall: the Evil One is and has always been nothing more than a creature. A powerful and dangerous creature to be avoided and ultimately defeated but a creature nonetheless. No mere creature has ever had the authority or the ability (power) to offer or confer eternal life. Only God has that power and only God has that authority.

It is a great proof of Christ’s deity that he repeatedly offered eternal life on his own authority and on the authority of his Father and in his own name, through faith in himself. Why do you think that was? It infuriated the rabbis (and still does). It seemed like impossible arrogance! But where was that outrage in the garden? It’s quite misplaced. Here, in the incarnation, was a wonderful re-enactment of the Garden drama all over again. God the Son came to us and once again offered eternal life, union, and communion. This time the “condition” (mutatis mutandis) of the offer was not “do this and live” but “whosoever believes in me shall never perish.” The “condition” (sole instrument) was trust (resting and receiving) in the Second Adam, the Final Adam, who would obey for us and who had in himself the power of an indestructible life. This Adam would refuse the temptation of the Evil One. This Adam is once again the Mediator of a covenant—not a covenant of works but a covenant of grace.

Before glory, however, there is death and the business of obtaining righteousness and life for us. The same Son who, in the garden, offered to us consummated glory and life now had to “obtain” or earn for us righteousness and life. Life, of the sort under discussion here, always had to be “obtained.” Adam had to obey, he had to submit in order to receive consummated life. Do you see the difference between life before the fall and life after the fall? Before the fall we had no need of “righteousness” because we were righteous. We confess (because Scripture teaches) that we were created “in righteousness and true holiness.” Now, however, righteousness had to be obtained. That’s why our tradition spoke of a covenant of works or a covenant of life or a covenant of law. The first Adam had to obey the law, to fulfill a covenant of works, to do battle with the Evil One in his Father’s holy place (the garden). He refused and made a false covenant with a false god—who is no god at all.

We should not miss the implied force of the expression “for us.” The “us” there are those who believe. Jesus came for, obeyed for, died for, and was raised for “us,” i.e., those who believe. The intent of the incarnation, actively passive (suffering) obedience and extent of the atonement is not addressed in detail in the catechism but there are clues. Those who struggle with Q. 37 should remember to read it in light of Q. 17 and globally in light of the expression “for us” (QQ. 31, 42, 45, and indeed in Q. 37 itself!). That prepositional phrase communicates a great deal about the original intent of the framers of the catechism and indicates how it ought to be understood today. Truly, the Synod of Dort was not changing Reformed doctrine of but elaborating upon what we already confessed.

Like the First Adam, the Second and Final Adam had to trust his Father but, like the first Adam, the faith he exercised was not the faith that we sinners exercise. The faith he exercised was that his Father’s promise was good, that he would reward his obedient Son with life. The empty tomb and the ascension of Christ are all the evidence we need that our Father’s promise was good. The obedience he rendered to his Father was not, as the moralists would have it, for himself, to qualify himself. He was born qualified! No, as Paul says, he was born of a woman, under the law, for us not for himself.

The faith we exercise is also that the Father will reward us with life if we meet the condition of the covenant but the difference for sinners is that the condition is not “do this and live” but “trust him him who has done for sinners.” The difference between the gospel and its corruption is the difference between saying “do this and live” and “trust him him who has done.” The Mediator makes all the difference but all moralists want us to take our eyes off of the Mediator or they want to make the Mediator just another believer, a mere example. The faith we exercise is not that if we do, God will give but that Jesus, God’s Son, our one Mediator, obeyed for us and that he gives life freely, unconditionally to those who have not done but who trust in him who has done for us.

Jesus, the Second Adam (Rom 5), the Final Adam (1 Cor 15:45) is the life-giving Spirit. He was raised from the dead. He has life in himself to give. He earned the right to give to us life. He has the authority and he has the power and because Adam (and we in him) did not put to death the Evil One the Righteous One had to taste death for us. He did but he also tasted life, on the third day.

Your people will offer themselves freely,
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours
…He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head (Ps 110)

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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31 comments

  1. Very well said. I would love to use this in my High School Bible classes if that is OK by you.

  2. Excellent post…basic truth always profitable for meditation and reflection.

  3. So when the answer to Q37 says he suffered the “wrath of God against the sins of all mankind” it doesn’t really mean all of mankind?

    • Hi Terry,

      That’s correct.

      See Ursinus’ explanation of Q. 37. The denial of definite atonement didn’t arise until later so the HC doesn’t address it specifically but the “for us” language and Ursinus’ lectures make it pretty clear that they were thinking in the same categories regarding divine intention as the later orthodox at Dort.

      • I just did as you suggested and read Ursinus’ explanation and here us what I found:

        In answer to the question, “What, therefore, did Christ suffer?” Ursinus in point #7 said this, “The keenest and most bitter anguish of soul, which is doubtless a sense of the wrath of God against the sins of the whole human race.”

        It would seem that in the above quote Ursinus is using the phrase “sins of the whole human race” as synonymous with the phrase “sins of all mankind” in Q37. So I am curious how you would account for Ursinus’ use of this language that seems pretty straight forward.

        • Keep reading. Ursinus appealed to the distinction between the sufficiency and efficiency of the atonement. There’s little evidence that the Heidelberg Calvinists thought or meant to teach universalism or hypothetical universalism. They did try, however, to account for the universalistic language of scripture. There is a universal aspect to the atonement but neither a universal propitiation nor expiation.

          • I did keep reading and in the answer to objection 4, Ursinus clearly states that “Christ satisfied for all” which Ursinus must mean here the “sins if the whole human race” or as Q/A 37 says “sins of all mankind” but that the limitation is in the application. So I don’t see how that Ursinus’ language and the language of Q/A37 can be restricted to simply “us” in so far as what and for whom Christ suffered and made satisfaction. If the limitation is as Ursinus says “in the application thereof” then there is nothing that I can see in Ursinus’ explanation of Q37 that would require that I not take the phrases “sins of all mankind” and “sins of the whole human race” at face value to mean exactly what each phrase says. After all when the Son became incarnate certainly took the humanity that is common to “whole human race” correct?

          • It would appear that the English representatives at Dort wrestled with this issue as well. Under review on this end.

            • Yes, Philip, according to Muller several of the English delegates to Dort actually held what he calls a “non-speculative” hypothetical universalism along with some other delegates as well. He also says that this form of hypothetical universalism has a well established orthodoxy in the reformed tradition and cites Ursinus as an example of this fact. I’ll post the quote from Muller below.

              Richard Muller:
              “Moore also underestimates the presence of non-amyraldian or non-speculative forms of hypothetical universalism in the reformed tradition as a whole and thereby, in the opinion of this reviewer, misconstrues Preston’s position as a “softening” of Reformed theology rather than as a continuation of one trajectory of Reformed thought that had been present from the early sixteenth century onward. Clear statements of nonspeculative hypothetical universalism can be found (as Davenant recognized) in Heinrich bullinger’s Decades and commentary on the Apocalypse, in Wolfgang Musculus’ Loci communes, in Ursinus’ catechetical lectures, and in Zanchi’s Tractatus de praedestinatione sanctorum among other places. In addition, the Cannons of Dort, in affirming the standard distinction of a sufficiency of Christ’s death for all and a efficiency for the elect, actually refrained from canonizing the early form of hypothetical universaliam or the assumption thats Christ’s sufficiency serves only to leave the nonelect without excuse. Although Moore can cite statements from the York conference that Dort “either apertly or covertly denied the universality of man’s redemption” (156), it remains that various of the signatories of the Canons were hypothetical universalist – not only the English delegation (Charleton, Davenant, Ward, Goad and Hall) but also the [sic] some of the delegates from Bremen and Nassau (Martinius, Crocious, and Alsted) – that Charleton and the other delegates continued to affirm the doctrinal points of Dort, while distancing themselves from the church discipline of the Belgic Confession, and that in the course of the seventeenth-century debate even the Amyraldians were able to argue that their teaching did not run contrary to the Canons. In other words, the nonspeculative, non-Amyraldian form of hypothetical universalism was new in neither the decades after Dort nor a “softening” of the Reformed tradition: the views of Davenant, Ussher, and Preston follow out a resident trajectory long recognized as orthodox among the Reformed.”

              Richard A. Muller, Calvin Theological Journal, 43 (2008), 149-150

  4. 1. Thanks Terry.

    2. Just ordered “The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (1618-19)” (Church of England Record Society).

    http://www.amazon.com/British-Delegation-1618-19-England-Society/dp/1843831570/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279926206&sr=8-1

    3. Also, “King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom” (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History).

    http://www.amazon.com/Reunion-Christendom-Cambridge-Studies-British/dp/0521793858/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279926504&sr=8-1

    4. We’ll see what surfaces. Re: the English delegates, there was also political direction by King James 1 to the delegates to have a moderate voice in all things (non-conformists being a problem) and also to remain sensitive to Lutheran concerns (I suspect the Formula of Concord and geo-politics). The research continues. I understand James 1 endorsed the conclusions of Dort…but cannot understand why Dort was not afforded constitutional and confessional status in England. Further, it is understood that George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, laboured to give Dort confessional status.

    5. And then…came the hapless Mr. Laud.

  5. Hi Scott,

    What a God-glorifying, Christ-exalting post. Thanks for it. A great preparation for worship tomorrow!

    Could you help me out a bit and refine my thinking on one thing…

    In the second to last paragraph, you write:
    “The faith we exercise is also that the Father will reward us with life if we meet the condition of the covenant but the difference for sinners is that the condition is not “do this and live” but “trust him him who has done for sinners.” ….The faith we exercise is not that if we do, God will give but that Jesus, God’s Son, our one Mediator, obeyed for us and that he gives life freely, unconditionally to those who have not done but who trust in him who has done for us.”

    My struggle is with the “meet the condition” and the “unconditionally” parts.

    I understand that saving faith is a gift earned by Christ on my behalf and granted to me while dead in my sins through the vivifying power of the Holy Spirit. Where I want to be sharpened is how to express the two (seemingly) contradictory ideas of conditionality.

    Thanks, brother.

    • Ted,

      I could have added that, properly, faith is no condition (Witsius) but a the sole instrument (Belgic Confession) in justification. I should put “condition” in quotation marks. You’re right, it’s not something we do but a gift that the Spirit gives.

  6. “By confusing these two kinds of faith the moralists become Pelagians, they put us after the fall in the same state as we were before the fall.”

    Clarifying question. If the above is so, then what is to preclude the objection of Reformed Anthropology advocating Pelagianism in the pre-fall condition?

    • We weren’t sinners before the fall. We confess that we were “created in righteousness and true holiness that we might rightly know” God our Creator “heartily love him and live with him in eternal blessedness.”

      It is fundamentally Pelagian to confuse the pre- and post-lapsarian states.

  7. Scott

    A few observations…

    ‘You see, the covenant of works offered glorified, everlasting, consummated fellowship with God on condition of absolute submission and obedience to God’.

    Don’t you think this is rather a sweeping claim? Where do we find such a prelapsarian promise? ‘Do this and live’ does not apply to Adam; Adam already ‘lived’.

    Further, if the work of Christ merely ‘restores’ us to original ‘righteousness and life’ (I presume the state of Adam before the fall) then we are no better off than an unfallen Adam.

    Does Scripture teach that Adam was ‘created in righteousness and true holiness’? This is what we are in Christ in new creation but nothing in Ephesians suggests it is what Adam was. It is ‘in Christ’, a righteousness and holiness that belongs to glorification.

    Is there not contradiction here? On the one hand we are ‘restored’ to what Adam was yet on the other hand we are apparently recipients of what Adam aspired to.

  8. Dr. Clark,

    Granted it is Pelagian to confuse the two states. It is also Pelagian to cofnuse nature and grace. Julian was quite adamant aginst Augustine that grace and righteousness were natural to man prior to the fall. Since the imago dei could not be lost, man was naturally “graced” in his view. The point of difference then here seems to be that the Reformed take theimago dei capable of being lost rather than denying the Pelagian thesis that grace was natural.

    • No, we say the imago Dei was corrupted profoundly but not utterly lost. We affirm BOTH nature AND grace. One of the great benefits of confessional Reformed theology is that it does not confuse the two.

      It’s important to distinguish here, however. in what sense one is using the word “grace.” If we speak of the gift of righteousness before the fall it is in a quite different sense than the grace of righteousness after the fall. If grace is soteric then Adam had no need of grace ante-lapsum.

      See WCF 7 on this. Note that the divines appealed to the freedom of the divine will not to “grace” per se.

      • Granted you say that the imago dei was corrupted, but one can say that and still say that the imago dei per se was lost in that one of its essential constituent properties was lost, such as righteousness or grace, without it being the case that it was completley lost in that all of its constituents are lost. ISTM that the Reformed hold to the former and not the latter.

        True the Reformed affirm both nature and grace, so did the Pelagians and so did Augustine. My reference above was how the Pelagians took righteousness or grace to be a constituent of the imago dei and Augustine didn’t, leaving the Reformed on the side of Pelagianism on that point.

        It seems by making rightousness a constituent of the imago dei, they do confuse nature and grace since Adam was created “graced” rather than grace as something added to nature.

        Does Adam have need of grace prior to the Fall or does he merit salvation via obedience by his own natural powers prior to the fall given that righteousness is a constituent of the imago dei? If so, it looks like salvation by works, just placed prior to the fall.

        The making of “reward” via divine will also seems to smack of Pelagianism in that it is an extrinsic relation between God and man similar to the ways the Pelagians thought of “grace” via divine will as an external help. Making it so Christ achieves salvation by works in one’s stead doesn’t seem to lessen the fact taht it is still salvation, by works.

        • Perry,

          You are not correct about Reformed theology.

          The Reformed taught and confess that original righteousness was a constituent of the divine image. That righteousness was lost and the image defaced (remember, we are the ones who teach “total depravity” or corruption of all the faculties) but not lost. That said, one can find Calvin using quite strong language about the effect of the fall.

          Some, perhaps most, of us agree with Pelagius on the creation, rather than the transmission of the soul, but that hardly makes us “Pealgians” does it?

          I don’t know know whether what you claim about Augustine is true or not. I’m skeptical.

          We are not at all Pelagians in the material sense of the question at hand: we affirm the necessity of grace after the fall. We deny human ability (relative to soteriology) after the fall.

          To speak of soteric grace before the fall is unhelpful and confusing. The fundamental human problem is not ontological. We are not in need of more being. We didn’t lack being in creation. We lacked glorification. Adam had the ability before the fall to meet the test, obey the law, pass the probation and thus enter into a state of glorification. He failed and we fell with him. Adam may be said to have been in a state of favor before the fall but not in need of unmerited acceptance. Before the fall he was intrinsically and legally righteous. After the fall he was intrinsically and legally corrupt.

          Jesus, the second and last Adam was intrinsically and legally righteous. His intrinsic and legal righteousness is imputed to all who believe. Those who believe were dead in sins and trespasses without any ability to prepare themselves for grace or cooperate with grace.

          That’s hardly Pelagian in the sense in which the term has been used since the high middle ages.

          • I believe I said the same thing that original righteousness was a constituent of the imago dei on the Reformed reading. So the Reformed say that the image was lost in that one of its essential constituents was lost, but not that all of its constituent properties were lost, such as reason, will, etc. The fall doesn’t make man a rock. So the image wasn’t lost in so far as all of its properties weren’t lost. So here I do not think we disagree.

            I am familiar with the fact that you teach total depravity and really need no reminder of that fact. In answer to your question, the issue wasn’t the generation of the soul, but whether with Augustine, grace is added to nature or grace is a constituent of nature as the Pelagians held. This was a fundamental point of difference between Augustine and Julian. So if the Reformed side with the Pelagians on the nature of humanity as originally constituted and that man was able to merit salvation by his works via his natural powers prior to the fall, that seems more than a superficial simlarity to Pelagianism. This is even more significant given the schema as adapted from the neo-semi-pelagianism of Biel of reaching up and laying hold of Christ. Adding Augustinian pre-emption doesn’t make the system any less Pelagian so far as I can see. Even if we say it isn’t merit strictly speaking but a matter of what God accepts as a matter of will, it is still salvation by works.

            If you’re skeptical, just read Augustine’s major work against the Pelagians, that is, Against Julian. Don’t take my word for it by any means.

            The Pelagians also affirmed post fall the necessity of “grace.” In fact, Pelagius teaches salvation by “faith alone” in his biblical commentaries, where faith reaches up and lays hold of Christ. Just read his commentaries on Romans or the “catholic” epistles.

            If we take Pelagianism to consist primarily in post fall meriting salvation, then the Reformed are certainly not Pelagian. (Neither is practically anyone else for that matter.) But then, that wasn’t the cheif error of Pelagius, but a consequence of his error, which was conflating nature and grace. It was because nature was already intrinsically righteous or graced that all help post fall only needed to be an external help. The difference post fall is that Pelagius thinks that no constituents of the imago dei are lost and the Reformed do.

            I am not sure why you think it is unhelpful to think of grace as saving prior to the fall. I can see why it would be on Reformed principles since nature is rather autonomous given that righteousness is intrinsic to it prior to the fall. This is why he didn’t need “unmerited acceptance.” If righteousness is a constituent of the imago dei and is lost at the fall and presumably restored in salvation, perhaps you can tease out for me how that isn’t an ontological matter? I don’t think we lacked “being” either for the recored.

            I am a bit confused when you say that the intrinsic righteousness of Christ is included in the imputation to us. Do you mean the righteousness whereby the divine person of Christ is righteous or the created and merited righteousness that accrues to him in his earthly mission?

            As for the sense of pelagianism as used in the high middle ages, that is a matter of history, but not really relevant. What is relevant for what constitutes Pelagianism is what representatives of Pelagianism in fact taught, namley Pelagians and Julian.

  9. In the article, you said, “The difference between the gospel and its corruption is the difference between saying ‘do this and live’ and ‘trust him who has done.”

    Given that your article is directed to sinners who have believed, I am concerned by the statement that we are to do nothing other than “trust him who has done.”

    Even if life in Christ may be distinguished from living in Christ, isn’t it quite probable that teaching and preaching this understanding of grace to believers will produce (and has produced) Christians who are motivated to do nothing good? Are reformed pastors and teachers leading a whole generation of believers into the complacency of the wicked servant who, though knowing the expectations of his master, did zero with the life (talent) given to him?

    Is there no place in our life in Christ between your description of what we are to do with the faith given to us and that of the “moralist” to whom you refer?

    Mention was made of WCF 7. WCF also provides that:

    “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.” (WCF 9.4 – Free will.)

    And

    “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (WCF 13.2-3 – Sanctification.)

    How will the reformed church in the US produce believers who “attain to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ,” described by Paul when modern day reformed teachers and preachers keep tapping into the milk of the word, even if it is the milk of grace?

    Jesus said, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Jesus then goes on to say that he will tell those who call him Lord, but practice “lawlessness,” to depart from him.

    Perhaps the reformed church should start teaching “Trust him who has done and do this and live.” While it is all by his grace and power, the expectations of our Master should never be minimized, not by one “jot or tittle.”

    • Randy,

      One cannot say everything in every post. If I did the HB would be really long and even more tedious than it is!

      Do a little reading before you condemn me as a mere teacher of milk or whatever.

      Is the problem in American Reformed churches too little third use of the law? Really? Not from what I’ve seen for the last 30 years.

    • No!

      God’s Word does not teach and thus we do not confess justification through faith and works! Absolutely not. We confess justification and salvation through faith alone without the works of the law.

      God’s Word teaches and we confess that believers, all of whom are united sola gratia, sola fide, to Christ by the Spirit, will walk by the Spirit, sola fide, sola gratia. They will seek to obey God’s law out of gratitude.

      This is why our catechism is in three parts: guilt, grace, and gratitude.

      The covenant of grace is a covenant of unconditional favor not a covenant of grace (and works). Works are necessary as evidence and fruit of justification but sanctification is by grace alone, through faith alone just as justification is.

      We want and long for and desire God’s people to be sanctified but we reach that goal through the gospel mystery of sanctification not through the rationalism of moralism.

  10. Scott, thanks for your reply and reminding me of the solas.

    I do understand that the elect are saved by grace through faith, and that salvation includes (1) the authoritative, legal declaration o f God that justifies, and (2) the creation of a new nature through which God’s power sanctifies. Both are gifts of God. Grace is over and through every aspect of salvation. While neither involve salvific works of the elect, both require “doing by the elect.”

    The simplest textual example of doing by the elect that comes to mind is, “what must I do to be saved.” The answer wasn’t “nothing.” Moreover, the answer certainly wasn’t a scolding about “doing” being equal to moralism. Ironically, even as you object in capitals in your preceding reply, you in fact include doing in your salvation formula. “Trust him who has done.” Why trust? If no doing is required, why must there be trust? Isn’t trusting “doing?” I imagine that in the 30 years you referenced in your first reply, you have encountered many good Christians who struggle in the “doing” of trusting.

    The more complicated textual example of “doing by the elect” appears in my original comment. Jesus said the one who will enter heaven is the one who does the will of the Father. So, what is “doing the will of the Father.” Isn’t it obeying him?

    There simply is no incompatibility between salvation by grace and “doing by the elect.” Indeed, doing is our responsibility, our duty as the elect of God. Is the doing by grace, enabled by grace, continued and completed by grace? Yes to all.

    Given what Jesus said in Matthew 7, I will stand by the “Trust him who has done and do this and live.” Given what Jesus said, and given the short time that we have, I think we should be exhorting all to obey all that Jesus commanded (which is his commission to his disciples) and encouraging all that his grace is sufficient to enable us to obey…and to forgive us when we fail to perfectly obey…and when we fail to perfectly trust him who has done.

    Thank you for the opportunity to dialogue.

    • Randy,

      I notice that you do not say “faith alone.”

      Your notion of “doing by the elect” is or seems to be exactly the sort of predestinarian moralism taught by several late medieval theologians and rejected by the Reformation.

      Christ has done for us.

      We receive and rest in (i.e., trust) Christ and his doing for us for justification and salvation.

      We do, i.e., obey and cooperate only as a response and by grace alone. Our works are nothing but evidence and fruit of our justification.

  11. Faith alone. The one essential to our salvation is God’s sovereign choice. In God’s good economy, faith is the alone instrument used by God, but, as you implied in your last comment, it is never alone. The righteous live by gracious faith.

    The question in this dialogue is whether it is appropriate, biblically, to say to someone, “do this and you shall live.” From your comments, it is fair to say that you believe it is appropriate to say, “receive, trust in and rest in Christ and you shall live.”

    When speaking of salvation, Christ himself found it appropriate to say, “trust in God; trust in me.” He also said “come to me you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Trusting is resting. So, of course it is correct to say, “receive Christ and trust in Him and you shall live.”

    Christ also found it very appropriate to say “he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” is the one who will enter the kingdom of heaven. Isn’t it Christ like, then, to say “do the will of the Father and you shall live?” Isn’t this consistent with gracious faith in Christ alone?

    Christ also found it very appropriate to call the person wicked who received God’s gift and rested, but then did nothing with it. Likewise, Paul found it very appropriate to say that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Fighting against false teaching, Paul went on to say, “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Isn’t it Christ like and consistent with Paul, then, to say, “don’t do this and you shall live?” Isn’t this consistent with gracious faith in Christ alone?

    I see “faith” as encompassing all that we should think, do and say in Christ and excluding all that we must not think, do or say. Therefore, just as it is correct to say, “believe this and you shall live,” it is correct to say, “do this and you shall live.” In fact, they are “mutually inclusive,” if I may put it that way, as Christ demonstrated with the rich, young ruler.

    Eternal life through faith in Christ begins in his spirit. All trusting and all doing in his Spirit are life. Continue trusting and you shall live; continue doing and you shall live. And the power to persevere in both by grace through faith in Christ. With God, both trusting and doing are possible; with men, neither are.

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