Resources On the Imputation Of The Active Obedience Of Christ

In case you are unfamiliar with this debate: Anselm thought that Jesus had to qualify himself to be the Savior, so he divided Jesus’ obedience into phases. The 1st half (active obedience) was for himself, 2nd half (passive) for us. He divided Christ’s work chronologically. The first part of of his life was for himself, to qualify himself to be the Savior. The last part, Anselm argued, was for us, to suffer as our substitute. He did not actually address the question of Christ’s active and passive obedience but his chronological distinction became important when the debate arose after 1570.

The terms “active” and “passive” are potentially confusing because we tend to juxtapose active and passive differently. When we say “passive” in that context we mean “something done to us.” In this case, however, it is just Latin. It is from the deponent Latin verb, patior, to suffer. From that comes the abstract noun, passio, suffering.

There are two views regarding the imputation of active obedience (IAO). One distinguishes Christ’s work into two phases and says that the first phase was for himself, to qualify himself to be the Savior and that only his suffering (passive) obedience, rendered at the end of his life was for us. Those who deny IAO tend to think and say that Jesus’ suffering and death makes the believer innocent but, say the proponents of the IAO, it does not address the need for a positive righteousness. Those who deny IAO complain that it punishes Christ twice for the same crime. Those who affirm IAO understand the law to require two things: perfect obedience, or positive righteousness and  punishment of those who transgress. They say Christ rendered both for us, perfect obedience (active obedience) and substitutionary suffering obedience. Those who affirm IAO do not make a chronological distinction in his work. They do not think that Christ had to qualify himself to be the Savior but rather that he was born under the law for us. He was qualified by virtue of his incarnation.

The first person to explicitly deny IAO was a Lutheran theologian, Karg(ius) c. 1570. He was roundly criticized by other Protestants for it. Caspar Olevianus’ son-in-law, Johannes Piscator, also notoriously denied it. For that was roundly rebuked by three French Reformed Synods. Three of the Westminster divines (a minority) denied it, Gataker, Twisse, and Vines. The Divines accommodated them by changing “whole obedience” to “perfect obedience.” We might wish that they had not been so accommodating. Since then affirmation of IAO has been the norm in Reformed orthodoxy. Today those who deny it tend to be associated with the Federal Vision theology or the New Perspective on Paul.

Those who deny IAO worry that it might license believer to be disobedient, that it takes away the motive for godliness and obedience. Those who affirm it are concerned that its denial tends to leave the believer in limbo. The denial leaves us innocent but not positively righteous. This leaves the door open for our own righteousness by cooperation with grace, or future justification, or even the doctrine of congruent merit (as distinct from Jesus’ condign merits imputed to us) whereby, it is said, God imputes perfection to our best efforts. Those who affirm IAO say that the gospel of the imputation of Christ’s whole, perfect actively passive obedience empowers believers to live lives of grateful obedience in union with Christ their substitute, in the Holy Spirit. Even though Heidelberg Catechism 60 was written more than 7 years before the controversy broke out, it addressed it in principle:

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

That phrase “as if I….had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me” is vital to godliness. We obey because we are no longer under the pedagogue, the law, for our justification. For Paul, it is only because we are free that we can obey and only because we are free that we want to obey. The denial of the IAO seems like a half-step toward putting the believer back under the law.

The dying words of J. Gresham Machen in 1936 came in a telegram to John Murray:


He was right.

  1. Audio: The Foolishness of the Gospel (2004)
  2. “Do This and Live: The Active Obedience of Christ,” in R. Scott Clark, ed. Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006), 229–65.
  3. The Consensus of the Divines, Legalism, and the Covenant of Works (1)
  4. The Consensus of the Divines, Legalism, and the Covenant of Works (2)
  5. Calvin on Christ’s Active Obedience
  6. The Reformed Confessions on Merit
  7. Irish Articles on the Covenant of Law, Christ’s Merits, and Grace to Sinners
  8. Christ Fulfilled the Covenant of Works and Earned Condign Merit For Us
  9. Meritorious Works for Adam and Christ But Grace For Us
  10. Adam Would Have Merited
  11. Adam, Christ, Conditions, and Merit
  12. Christ Condignly Merited A Reward
  13. Adam Would Have Merited His Reward
  14. On Merit in the Covenant of Works
  15. On Christ’s Merits and Sola Fide
  16. Christ Condignly Merited His Glorification
  17. Wollebius: Christ Merited Our Justification By His Active Obedience As the Last Adam
  18. On Wright’s Denial of the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience
  19. With Lane Keister on the Imputation of Active Obedience (1)
  20. Heidelcast Ep. 29: Imputation of Active Obedience (2)
  21. Audio: With NoCo Radio on the Imputation of Christ’s active Obedience
  22. Perkins On Christ’s Active Obedience and Our Gratitude
  23. Brakel: Those Who Deny the Covenant of Works Misunderstand the Covenant of Grace
  24. Olevianus On the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness
  25. Owen Defended IAO Against Richard Baxter
  26. Answers to Objections Regarding Imputation of Active Obedience
  27. Forty Three Years of Federal Vision Theology
  28. Is There A Monolithic Reformed Doctrine of Justification?
  29. URCNA Nine Points on the Federal Vision and Justification
  30. Explaining the URCNA’s Nine Points
  31. Audio: Explanation of the Nine Points
  32. URCNA Report on the Federal Vision
  33. PCA GA Committee Report on the Federal Vision
  34. OPC Justification Report
  35. RCUS Justification Report (2004)
  36. RCUS Federal Vision Report

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  1. This is great, Dr. Clark – a real treasure trove. Many thanks for the post and these resources on such a humbling and comforting truth.

  2. “As we were made sinners by one mans disobedience, so we have been justified by one mans obedience. To declare that by him alone we are accounted righteous, what else is this but to lodge our righteousness in Christ’s obedience, because the obedience of Christ is reckoned to us as if it were our own” [Institutes 3.11.23].

    Heresy…damnable doctrine… a false gospel…

    The RCUS Justification Report is very good and certainly doesn’t hold back (rightly) in its criticism of Norman Shepherd, nailing him and his cronies tightly to the wall. The OPC Justification Report is broader and very polite but it’s good to see that both denominations shared their reports and made them available. It would be nice to think that they’ve done some good.

    “Simple Faith” and the perfect and sufficient work of Christ alone, His atoning blood and imputed righteousness alone, is never enough for people like Shepherd and The Vision. I’m not necessarily saying that everyone who denies IAO is a heretic but why would anyone want to rely on anything they’ve done or might do, their own filthy works, when Christ has done it all for His people. Utter madness and further proof of the folly and wickedness of the unregenerate human heart.

  3. Dr. Clark,

    Thank for your these posts. For sake of brevity and clarity, could you provide a short answer on the differences there may be between man’s righteousness before the fall and the righteousness belonging to Christ?

  4. Dr. Clark,

    Adam had a right standing before God by keeping His works before the fall. Christ was sinless and also did had a right standing before God. Is it not true that Christ earned righteousness in His life? Please correct me if I am wrong. If that is true, my question is: did Adam also earn righteous by right under the covenant of works? This seems to be John Piper’s criticism: “[God’s law] stopped being a job description for earning wages under a so-called covenant of works” (Foreward to Fuller’s “The Unity of the Bible.”) Is Piper’s assessment of the covenant of works correct?

  5. The Heidelblog has recently covered this in great detail. Click on the resources tags for John Piper, and covenant of works. You will find answers to all your questions.

    • In a nut shell, according to Reformed teaching, before the fall Adam was our representative before God. God put him under the covenant of works, so that if he had obeyed God, Adam’s righteousness would have been credited to his progeny people and they would have had eternal life with God. But since Adam did not obey under the covenant of works, all his progeny people are subject to the death curse in the covenant of works. But God promised a new representative who would keep the covenant of works perfectly and suffer the death curse in their place. His perfect keeping of the stipulations of the covenant of works is credited or imputed to those who trust in Christ, the new Adam. That is the covenant of grace, the promise that those who believe in Christ as their Savior/new Adam, as their representative, are credited or imputed with Christ’s perfect active obedience of God’s law and Christ’s passive obedience, suffering the death curse on the cross. But the covenant of works is still in effect, if you refuse to accept Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law and his death in your place, you will be judged on the last day based on your own keeping of the law. Reformed believe that we are completely saved and righteous before God or justified only on the basis of trusting in Christ, and that we respond to God by doing good works out of gratitude to God for His grace in Christ, but our acceptance with God is only through trusting in Christ our representative and that trust will be our vindication on the last day. Piper and Fuller basically deny the covenant of works/covenant of grace distinction. They say we have always been under a conditional covenant of grace where we will be finally judged on our faith plus our works on the last day. That is called two stage justification. Piper says we are justified by faith when we believe, but we will be finally judged on our works. Although he calls himself reformed, he teaches something quite different from the doctrines of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. The covenant of grace is grace for us when we trust in Him alone, because Christ obeyed the covenant of works for His people and suffered the death curse for their covenant breaking.

  6. Angela Werner,

    Thank you for this excellent explanation of the covenant of works and that of grace. The specific question I was asking, however, is: before the fall, did Adam earn his own righteousness as Christ did? Saying it that way makes it seem like God was a debtor to Adam, owing a perfect life to him.

    • L. C.,

      There’s a lot of material on the HB re the covenant of works, but briefly: the way the Reformed have thought about the covenant of works is to see how, e.g., the Apostle Paul thinks about works. E.g., Romans 4:4:

      Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

      Works are one thing, grace is another. Hence “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Adam earned death. Wages are earned. “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor” (1 Cor 3:8). On this principle of works and wages Paul quotes Deuteronomy and Leviticus: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’” (1 Tim 5:18).

      This is why the Reformed taught that Adam was in a covenant of works, not grace. He was to earn his entrance into a state of glory or consummation by his obedience. We think this too because of Paul’s comparison of the First and Last Adams or the First Man and the Last Man in Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:45.

      Our Lord Jesus was not in a covenant of grace for us but rather a covenant of works. He earned our salvation by meeting the terms of the law on our behalf, by fulfilling all righteousness. He was not in need of saving grace because he was righteous and not a sinner.

      Adam was created in righteousness and true holiness (Heidelberg 6). He was not in need of grace. He had, by nature, all that he needed to fulfill the command to love God with all his faculties and his neighbor as himself. He refused but that was in no way due to creation. He was able to to do it.

      How could it be? The Westminster Divines said that God “by voluntary condescension” entered into this covenant with Adam. God was free to make a covenant of works with his holy and righteous servant Adam. Did it put God in his debt? Not by nature but only in virtue of his own voluntary condescension to enter into a covenant.

      The question is what is the nature of righteousness? Did Christ earn our salvation? Did he fulfill all righteousness? Was God obligated to recognize his perfect, righteous obedience to the law? Yes! Praise God that justice has been fulfilled for us.

      As to opposition to the covenant of works, well that has been about since the Remonstrants. Remember that Piper learned his covenant theology from Daniel Fuller. To that nomist system he has added imputation but he has retained Fuller’s fundamental structure, e.g., initial and final justification/salvation. It is not a Reformed scheme or understanding of salvation so it is no surprise that, like Fuller and the Remonstrants, he rejects the covenant of works.

  7. Dear Dr Clark,

    I have a question wich is not specifically related to this issue, although it does have some connection with it.

    I come from a reformed background in the Netherlands and still believe there’s very much essential Biblical truth in reformed doctrine in general. Not because others who wrote their systematic Theologies are ‘probably’ right, but because I tried to discern Biblically if what they say is indeed so and I can do no other then affirm much of it.

    Lately I’ve been reconsidering certain doctrines like the well meant or sincere offer of the Gospel and the ramifications of it in relation to ‘Gods Sovereignty & human Responsibility”, of which you probably are aware since those issues are around a very long time. Such an issue however connects with a lot of other doctrines or Biblical themes like ‘What is the Gospel’ and how should we relate to it, or not’ or ‘Justification, regeneration, faith’
    Now I know of course something of your convictions with regards to many of these doctrines, and your mostly classical reformed perspective.

    I also know that others like people of the PRC or Primitive Baptists f.e. are being charged with ‘Hyper Calvinism’ because of the convictions they hold to with regards to some of these core doctrines.

    I do not seek for your opinion about these denominations, but since studying and comparing some of the essentials, I’ve become increasingly convinced about the Biblical arguments they bring forth in defense of f.e. the denial of the Well meant Offer, and refutation of the Responsibility of man & Sovereignty of God as a paradox (contradiction), antinomy or ‘balance’, and free Justification by Christ alone for salvation (eternally saving), unconditional love for His elect, etc. So not Repentance & Faith as conditions (responsebilities) to obtain, but provisions in the covenant and pure evidences (Hebr 11:1), not the Gospel as an offer, but proclamation (I Cor 15), with assurance given to those who have ears to hear and admonition to them (who believe) to repent of their sins & offer their lives a living sacrifice as their reasonable service for so great a salvation. Etc.

    Thats different with some (neo)calvinistic or contemporary classical reformed perspectives.
    My question is not so much a ‘curious’ one but truly one of a desire for discernment and seeking to believe and communicate Biblical truth.
    Are you familiar with what I mentioned above and the Biblical arguments they give and what are your thoughts on this? I know your position of course, but in reading f.e. an article of David Engelsema in which he Convincingly defends the denial of the WMO and in addition strongly warns those who do preach such, or certain primitive baptists that not just seek to be wise(r), but realy in a Biblical way expose the errors that seem to be imbedded in these issues from (neo)calvinistic perpectives.

    I hope you have an idea what I mean and can provide some helpful reflection on this issue that connects with so much of the Biblical doctrine of our faith.

    Many thanks

    • John,

      You ask a number of questions. I cannot answer them all fully here—that would require me to write a couple of books.

      I can point you to some resources for further reading.

      1. The Reformed confessions articulate the understanding of the most important articles of faith and the Word of God as confessed by the churches. You should read these carefully beginning with the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. From there I would read the Westminster Standards.

      2. I believe that the well-meant or free offer of the gospel is a thoroughly biblical doctrine. The Reformed churches at the Synod of Dort confessed a “serious” and “promiscuous” offer of the gospel.

      Free Offer of the Gospel

      You should especially listen to the messages by Dr Hywel Jones on the well meant offer. He did a marvelous job. They are linked above in the HB library of resources on this topic.

      Here is one of those resources that might help.

      Here are resources on the question of conditions in the covenant of grace, which I think touches on the question of God’s unconditional love for his elect in Christ.

      For my part, I am convinced by my study of the history of Reformed theology that the denial of the free/well-meant offer is not grounded in Scripture as much as it is in rationalism. I made that case in this article:

      “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology,” in David VanDrunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004), 149–80.

      I hope that you do not give up the wonderful and wonderfully biblical doctrine of the free/well-meant offer. There is a reason so many of our forefathers and our confessions speak this way. It is because Scripture speaks this way.

      At the end we must resolve to let the secret things belong to God and the revealed things belong to us. The denial of the free/well-meant offer calls this distinction a “Janus” theology. It is not. It is biblical theology and it is Reformed theology.

  8. Dr Clark,

    Thank you very much for this reaction. I really appreciate it that you take so much time and effort to elaborate on such questions! I must of course admit that much seems to spreak in favor of those who hold to the so called classical reformed perspectives.

    And I can honestly tell you, I have read those historical documents more than once, have paperback versions of them all, had to learn them all the way through from my youth, incl. some of the Biblical references and remember them still. Whats more important, I seek much the connection between what I remember and what I live and love.
    The other recommended articles I will read/listen for sure!

    But what keeps coming back to me with the arguments you give, is that ‘the others’ rely on the same arguments. They take much of the historical confessions/documents and say : “See, it says this, therefore..this.” And by that show that the docs and historical/old christians are in favor of their convictions.
    Another thing is that still others point out that what you call relying to heavily on rationalism; their argument is that Gods revelation is not irrational, not in any way contradictory or illogical. Not only do PB’s or PRC’s such but I think about Robert Reymond, Gordon Clark, who despite their mostly classical reformed convictions, seem to end up in a different position while also claiming with Biblical arguments to hold on to the Scripture and that the old reformed positions are on their side.

    That to me, a layman, is quite confusing. Im pretty rational, logically minded myself. Therefore, those arguments they use and the Biblical backup or explanations and motivations they give for it, seem to me a strong indication to what is actually true.

    I do not mean to be opposed to your comments/arguments and I greatly respect you. I’ve spiritually profited of many episodes of your Heidelcast myself, for which Im thankful! Its just that in this area I seem to be ‘lost’ in some way, because of trying to discern and filter truth from different positions in the Christian faith. And I think that because of the lack of convincing Biblical, coherent answers from the (neo)Calvinistic side, where there’s more and strong reliance on the old classical (confessional) positions and ‘tension, mystery, antinomy, etc’ and in opposite to that well thought, clear, strong and truly Biblically answers and explanations from the other side, it seems to appeal more to me. I know that can sound ‘dangerous’, because there certainly are mysteries in the christian faith. But when it comes down to those things wich are revealed, there’s no illogical, irrational, contradictory interpretation necessary I think. Isn’t it true that God choose to be clear in that (written revelation)? That He gave language, and revealed His truth to us by that, not to confuse but to be clear right?
    That a sovereign, finished, particular & effectual work on behalf of a specific group of people isn’t to be offered to anybody at all, let alone sincerely to people for whom it was never intended. That sovereign grace, is in fact sovereign, without any act of responsibility of man wich would certainly destroy the soveriegn and the geace part. Etc.

    That such huge confusions come into being because of certain minor differences in interpretation is a sad thing. I thank God that its not by being exactly right in all our Theology that He saves us. That would absolutely be a small number then, if any at all. But thankfully by His Son, and His true and finished work alone he saves.

    Well Dr Clark, again Im still thankful for your labor in the Lord and efforts to seek to clear things up!


    • John,

      There is a good bit of biblical argumentation here, especially from Hywel Jones & John Murray.

      If I have to choose between Gordon Clark and the word of God as confessed by the churches, for example, in the Canons of Dort, I will side with the latter.

      If you track down the argument that I published in the volume, Pattern of Sound Doctrine, you will see that I showed that Clark and others placed reason on par Holy Scripture. You can get this article from any library via Interlibrary Loan.

      You and I are not the final judges of what must or can be true. We are mere creatures and recipients of truth as it comes to us in Scripture.

      I am not suggesting that you should put implicit faith in the confessions. Only scripture deserves such faith. I am saying that the Reformed are correct when they say that Scripture teaches that God reveals himself as freely, sincerely offering salvation.

  9. John, I read your questions with great interest. I have grappled with them myself. I found answers to them in Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Luther points out that since the fall, we have a bound, corrupt will that is incapable of responding to God’s offer of grace unless the Holy Spirit regenerates it. The Holy Spirit regenerates those chosen from eternity. While the offer is freely extended to all, which makes everyone responsible for their choice, only those born again are able to respond in faith. Everyone is responsible to accept the free offer of grace in Christ alone, but the ability to do so comes through regeneration by the Spirit. Why God does not regenerate everyone is not for us to pry into.

  10. Hello Angela,

    Thank you for your unexpected addition to this! I certainly appreciate it.

    I have that book, read it and in general of course agree with Luther in his argument against Erasmus on the Issue. There’s no way to Biblically deny the human depravity and the bondage of the will, by nature to its nature. I think the Bible is certainly clear on that and we can even see it in our own lives and the world around us, for sure.

    However, that also affirms some of these issues over what is called ‘traditional Reformed’. And I say the following with respect to you and your comment, but I can’t help to point out what I think are some misconceptions in it.
    I mean (all) men ARE allready responsible for there just and eternal (con)damnation because of their sin against the Holy, Righteous & Infinite God. Before there’s any offer made to them at all by which they’re supposed to become responsible for accepting it, to be saved, or rejecting it to get (or in fact remain) lost. So if you suggest that man becomes ‘responsible’ by his/her response to a Gospel offer, I don’t find any Scriptural basis for that because the Bible in the first place never speaks of the Gospel as an offer. You said however, ‘but by the renewal of the Holy Spirit some will make that right choice.’ If you mean by that ‘regeneration’ (impartion of eternal life) Then it still means that no one excercises so called ‘responsibility’ to become eternally saved; the regenerated ARE saved before choosing themselves to believe & repent. If not regeneration but some form of so called ‘prevenient grace’; God does not enable man to save himself either. He gives (eternal) life to the dead, they consequently believe that they ARE saved. That is why faith is called the evidence of what is not seen and that is what the Gospel does; ‘It brings life and immortality to light’ according to Paul, writing to Timothy. So it becomes evident that no one himself excercises so called responsibility to be(come) saved (or not), with regards to an offer that is supposedly made to him/her. But that it is God who graciously saves some of the irresponsible (with regards to their eternal salvation) and leave others of them under the just condemnation which they are all under from the beginning.
    We don’t have to make offers, we have no Scriptural mandate for that, instead we are to proclaim the Good News of Christ, Who finished the eternal salvation completely for His people. Those who believe that testimony have the assurance that they ARE saved and are admonished to repent of their sin and walk in thankful and loving (Gospel)obedience as their reasonable service, to the One Who saved them by sovereign grace.

    No where in Scripture can I find even the concept of Gospel offers to all of humanity, let alone together with the condition of faith to accept/effectuate it and therefore save some, nor do I find 100% sovereign grace that needs the co-operation from responsible acts of man. That is contrary to Scripture and language itself. Regardless whether one holds on to ‘But it is the Spirit who renews and then people are enabled to excercise their responsibility’ or something in that way.
    Instead I find God saving the totally irresponsible, by sovereign grace.
    Isn’t that even the testimony of many if not most Christians, in the Bible, history and even now?

    God’s particular, or specific & efficacious salvation is not something to be offered at all, because there never was the intention nor provision of God to save all. So your supposed question & answer of ‘Why does God not regenerate all, is not for us to pry in.’ Is one that is clearly and abundantly being adressed in Scripture I think. Not all are chosen, Christ did not die for all, but for those whom the Father gave Him. It follows that the atonement did not provide regeneration for the non-elect because of its specific/particular nature. The atonement was born out of the purpose of God. So the notion of ‘sufficient for all but efficient for the elect only’, (what most certainly is one of the things behind the well meant offer I think), is something that indicates a possible purpose outside of Gods purpose, which I think is unscriptural

    For those for whom it is meant, it is certain and secure by covenant from before the beginning of the world, and granted/applied in time to them: ‘While they were dead in their sins and trespasses’, totally responsible for their sins, but absolutely irresponsible with regards to obtaining or effectuating eternal salvation for themselves. That is what I think (more and more) that Scripture teaches indeed.

    But in this I also defend what ‘they’ from the other side mostly hold on to and what I now might become increasingly more convinced of. Because it seems to have more Biblical ground in my opinion.
    I don’t think, with regards to these issues, that Gods revelation in Scripture is meant to make such things vague, mysteries or irrational and illogical. Its just our fallenness, blindness and falibility by which sometimes we misinterpret things.
    Gods purpose was and is to be clear, that’s why He gave us langugage that we can understand, and in which He chose to reveal Himself and His will. When we are allowed the liberty to interpret that as irrational, or seemingly contradictory, (f.e. God sovereign in salvation and at the same time man (partly) responsible for it), then there is no limit to what we can ‘make’ the Bible say and we have in fact no revelation at all anymore. Because how do you determine then what is actually so, or not? In the end it gives room to anyone to excuse any ‘paradox’ which in reality are just plain contradictions.
    Of course, we invented so called ‘pious’ ways to go around it by explaining them as antinomies, paradox, mystery, balancing Scripture, etc. But those are in my opinion just ways to say ‘I don’t get it, but its true, and if you try to explain them, you do away with the Scriptures.’ Or in other words, as Robert Reymond said: ‘..With that, someone says in fact ‘I have all figured it out, its a paradox, and no one will ever be able to do a ‘better’ job’. And if you then come and do explain Scripture in that area, you’re most certainly wrong in their eyes.’ I think you see his point, that when we try to understand and explain Scripture and not (accept) paradoxes, we are in any case ‘wrong’.

    What worries me is the total trust in all these historical men and documents as if they are equal to Scripture and can have no faults.
    I do agree that they are very Biblical and profitable in many things, but they are man’s production, falible man. We seem to hold on to those as an excuse to not examine for ourselves if these things are so. And if one does and may find things that may be different, he will soon be rejected as one who does not believe the Scriptures.

    I think that one of the fundamental issue that’s at the root of this ‘offer’ and ‘responsibility’ issue is the confusion between faith and repentance as “conditions for” instead of “provisions in” the covenant. Because despite what some reformed folks say, that they are indeed provisions, they nevertheless present them as clear conditions, commands, to obtain eternal life, and they must do so indeed because of the offer.

    That in itself may have another root in, that ‘if we just present the Gospel and give people the promise and assurance that if they believe the ARE saved (as Gods Word says), people will maybe ‘to’ easily claim it. So when you put them on the beginning, as conditions….” and you can finish that probably.

    It fits in the tradition of Rome, I must admit.

    Sorry for elaborating so much, but as you probably already noticed, it is heavily on my heart and in my mind to rightly discern. These are certain thoughts, not all necessarily my true and definite convictions.


    • John,

      Have you read Murray on the free offer? If so you’ve quite missed his point and Luther’s. They, along with many of our writers, can see no other way to characterize Ezekiel and our Lord’s appeal to his people except as an offer freely and sincerely made.

      “Why will you perish? Come says Yahweh…”

      “Come to me all you who are weary…”

      “Come and buy…”

      “Jerusalem, Jerusalem how I have longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks”

      You really need to re-read Luther, Calvin, Murray, Van Til et al on these and many other passages.

      You need to hear Hywel Jones on Isaiah.

  11. John, I am concerned for you, that you are coming very close trying to look into God’s secret will. We are not God, and we cannot know what only God knows, the way God knows it, as Dr. Clark so often reminds us. But we certainly are called to repent and believe the gospel. Because the natural man is spiritually dead, he cannot respond to God’s offer. Therefore he must be made alive by the working of God’s Holy Spirit. What is impossible for us is given to us from God. God had given us the Word and sacraments, through His church, to publish His well meant offer of grace. The offer is freely extended to all but unless the Spirit makes us spiritually alive, we are unable to respond. We are told how we are saved by means of the preached Word, that makes us responsible for our choice, but it remains for God to give us spiritual life, without which we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus said, you must be born again. Maybe that seems simplistic to you, but it is what God tells us in His Word. Can we fully understand, how we are responsible when it all depends on God’s monergistic working? No! But we simply take Him at His Word.

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