Dr. Richard Gaffin, Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has written a new book entitled By Faith, Not By Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Paternoster, 2006). Dr. Gaffin has committed much of his career to the exposition of Pauline theology and this new book is a further expansion and building upon his earlier work entitled Resurrection and Redemption, A Study in Paul's Soteriology (originally entitled The Centrality of the Resurrectionhis thesis for the Doctor of Theology degree at Westminster in Philadelphia). Gaffin declares that this new book comes at a time when "the study of Paul is currently dominated by the so-called `New Perspective on Paul,' the substantial reassessment of his theology that has emerged over the past several decades" (1). In the first chapter, Gaffin gives a brief summary of the differences between the Reformation's understanding of Paul and that of the New Perspective. He then indicates the purpose of his book.
In view of reservations and denials accompanying the emergence of the New Perspective and resulting in a diminished interest in or dismissal of the importance of the question of the ordo salutis in Paul, it seems well to test this dismissal by structuring reflections on his theology, especially his soteriology, in terms of this question and the issues it raises. The controlling question I want to address throughout concerns Paul's understanding of how the individual receives salvation . . .. What does the application of salvation to sinners involve for him? Does he distinguish between salvation accomplished (historia salutis) and salvation applied (ordo salutis) and if so, how, and how important is the latter for him? What is the place of justification in his theology? Is it basic in his soteriology? These and related questions will occupy us (4).
In this book, Gaffin interacts with the New Perspective, but he does not do so in detail. It remains a background consideration. His primary purpose is to write a positive presentation of Paul's theology, especially his soteriology. But he makes his own position in the debate on Paul crystal clear.
. . . I see myself as working within the Reformation understanding of Paul and his soteriology, more particularly the understanding of Calvin and classical Reformed confessional orthodoxy, as I build on the biblical-theological work that has emerged within that tradition, particularly that of Herman Ridderbos and, before him, Geerhardus Vos, with the attention they have drawn to the controlling place of the redemptive-historical or covenant-historical dimension of his theology (5).
One of the things that I most appreciate about Dr. Gaffin is his desire to get to the center of our Christian faith. In his new book, he speaks regularly about central concerns. I trust that it goes without saying that the foundational consideration for Gaffin is an unwavering commitment to the centrality of the Bible. The Scriptures are the rule for our faith and life. And it is from the Scriptures that we derive both our theology and our theological method. The Bible is not only the content of God's revelation to us; the Bible also reveals to us how we are to read it.
Of course, Gaffin accepts the Pauline authorship of all the books ascribed to him in the NTthis over against many of the New Perspective proponents (46). And his commitment to the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture stands out in his discussion of Paul as a theologian. As a theologian, Paul must be distinguished from all other theologians who have come after him. Paul is not a theologian on a par with theologians who follow after him in the sense that his theology has no more authority than that of any other. Paul was an apostle and as such, to receive him is the same as to receive the one who sent him. Christ sends Paul as his apostle. Therefore to receive Paul is to receive Christ; to reject Paul is to reject Christ. The writings of Paul are Scripture and they come to us, along with all other Scripture, as the authoritative word of God. In those Scriptures, Paul's theology is contained. Paul's theology therefore "is Spirit-borne, canonical, foundational . . . all subsequent theology, including ours, ought to be Spirit-led (Rom. 8:13), but unlike Paul's it is not also Spirit-borne (2 Pet. 1:21). Ours is non-canonical, no more than derivative of his" (13).
Gaffin views himself as standing firmly in the tradition taught in the Westminster Standards. He refers to them often. On his handling of Scripture, he states, "I do not understand myself to be saying anything other basically than what is affirmed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:6, namely, `that the teaching of Scripture is not only what is expressly set down in Scripture, but also what by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture'" (15). "In terms of the history of redemption, we share with Paul, and the other New Testament writers, a common redemptive-historical focus or concern." Along with all the NT writers, we live in the same redemptive historical context. We all live between the comings of Christ. Therefore, their religion and ethic is our religion and ethic. And Paul's theology and soteriology must be ours as well. This "redemptive-historical continuity between ourselves and the New Testament writers" will help insure in us "that the `good and necessary consequence deduced'" from Scripture "is truly that, truly `good and necessary'" (15).
As I read Dr. Gaffin's book, I was reminded of the article by Geerhardus Vos entitled "The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology" which appears in the book Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., 234-67), a book containing the shorter writings of Vos.
Because the Bible is central, then also the doctrine of the covenant is central. Gaffin agrees with Vos and Ridderbos that Paul's theology is "controlled by the redemptive historical or covenant historical dimension." The reader of Gaffin's new book will find, I believe, a faithful Reformed exposition of the doctrine of the covenant. I remember him saying once that no one in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had to subscribe to the teachings of Machen or Warfield or Vos. But all in the church had to subscribe to the Westminster Standards. And from the evidence in this book, I believe that he agrees with Vos's assessment of the Westminster Confession of Faith in the above mentioned article, when he wrote: "The Westminster Confession is the first Reformed confession in which the doctrine of the covenant is not merely brought in from the side, but is placed in the forefront and has been able to permeate at almost every point" (239). Gaffin sees Paul as a covenant theologian. In his discussion of union with Christ, he makes the statement that "Paul's understanding of union with Christ . . . stems from the Old Testament and, as much as anything, shows him to be a covenant theologian."
The OT and the NT are tied together by the theme of covenant. In the original covenant of works, Adam, by his perfect obedience would gain everlasting, eschatological life. Vos puts it this way:
After the fall man would never again be able to work in a manner pleasing to God except a completed work of God be performed on his behalf. Earning eternal life has forever been taken out of his hands . . .. The obtaining of eternal life thus comes to lie in God, as a work that is his alone, in which his glory shines and of which nothing, without detracting from that glory, can be attributed to the creature (246).
This is the overarching content of Paul's theology. This new book from Gaffin helps us see Paul as the expositor of this covenantal perspective. As he develops his presentation, this commitment to the Reformed perspective of the covenant is made apparent.
The Bible is central. And the covenant is central in the Bible. And central in the covenant is God and his glory. In Vos's article, he discusses the Reformed commitment to the doctrine of the covenant (241-42). This is not due, Vos says, just to the fact that the Reformation was a movement to return to the Scriptures alone. The Lutheran as well as the Reformed shared that commitment. But Reformed theology "succeeded in mastering the rich content of Scripture . . . because Reformed theology took hold of the Scriptures in their deepest root idea" (241).
This root idea which served as the key to unlock the rich treasures of the Scriptures was the preeminence of God's glory in the consideration of all that has been created. All other explanations of the difference between the Lutheran and the Reformed traditions in the end again come down to this, that the former begins with man and the latter with God. God does not exist because of man, but man because of God. This is what is written at the entrance of the temple of Reformed theology (241-42).
If I understand Vos correctly, he was saying that for Luther, man's salvation, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, was the center of Biblical teaching. This is understandable because of the theological battle in which he was engaged. By the grace of God, Luther rediscovered the Biblical gospel that the people of God did not have to face an uncertain future and fear the coming judgment day. Gaffin puts it this way:
Late medieval Roman Catholicism left the future verdict at the final judgment the ever anxious and uncertain outcome of the Christian life. In contrast the Reformers came to understand that, in effect, the verdict, belonging at the end of history, had been brought forward and already pronounced on believers in history, and so constituted the certain and stable basis for the Christian life and unshakeable confidence in the face of the final judgment (80).
This rediscovery of the gospel was like the blowing of refreshing breezes off of the shores of heaven itself. No wonder that Luther made the doctrine of justification by faith alone the center of the Biblical message and the center of his doctrine of salvation.
But Gaffin, in concert with Vos, will go deeper in Scripture to find the center of the Biblical message. He will go deeper than the doctrine of justification by faith. As he discusses these things, Gaffin will at the same time, be careful to distinguish what he says from some of the current controversies over the doctrine of justification in the church at large. He insists that though it will be his contention that the root of Paul's theology is not the doctrine of justification or any of the other benefits of Christ's work applied to the believerthat this understanding does not
"de-center" justification (or sanctification), as if justification is somehow less important for Paul than the Reformation claims. Justification is supremely important, it is absolutely crucial in Paul's "gospel of salvation" (cf. Eph. 1:13). Deny or distort his teaching on justification and that gospel ceases to be gospel . . .. But no matter how close justification is to the heart of Paul's gospel, in our salvation, as he sees it, there is an antecedent consideration, a reality, that is deeper, more fundamental, more decisive, more crucial: Christ and our union with him, the crucified and resurrected, the exalted Christ. Union with Christ by faiththat is the essence of Paul's ordo salutis (43).
Gaffin doesn't want to "de-center" justification or in any way diminish its importance in Paul's theology and soteriology. But union with Christ is deeper and more fundamental and more decisive and more crucial. Perhaps in understanding Gaffin's emphasis, we would profit from his illustration of the iceberg mentioned in his book Resurrection and Redemption.
. . . the true problem in understanding Paul is that he is a theologian, a careful and systematic thinker, accessible only through pastoral letters and records of his sermons. His writings are obviously not doctrinal treatises; but neither do they consist in a variety of unrelated, ad hoc formulations or in an unsystematic multiplication of conceptions. They reflect a structure of thought. The Pauline epistles may be aptly compared to the visible portion of an iceberg. What juts above the surface is but a small fraction of what remains submerged. The true proportions of the whole lie hidden beneath the surface (28).
Gaffin's exposition of Paul's doctrine of salvation will not "de-center" justification, but he sees that doctrine as one of the peaks of the iceberg jutting above the surface of the water, along with all the other benefits of the salvation of Christ applied to us by his Holy Spirit. But all these peaks above the surface are invariably tied to the unifying, deeper substructure of the iceberg, namely the doctrine of the covenant and its emphasis on union with Christ. The whole iceberg is at the center of Paul's theology and soteriology. But the iceberg has a structure that also needs to be appreciated and understood.
Gaffin's interest is to find the center of Paul's theology at its deepest level. As precious as the doctrine of justification by faith is to all of us, and "near to the heart of Paul's gospel," that doctrine does not penetrate deeply enough; it does not penetrate, to use Vos's term, to the "root idea" of Scripture. The root issue is not how can sinners be made right before God? If that is the "root idea," then, as Vos comments, it still begins with man and with man's salvation. God is still viewed in some sense as existing for man, and man and his need of salvation is the center of God's concern. If this view dominates the faith and life of the church, it creates grave problems in the church. If we begin here, then the tendency is for us to end up worshipping our own salvation instead of the God who saves us (Cf. S. G. De Graff, Promise and Deliverance, 1:21). And in its worst forms, it leads to the idea so prevalent in our day, that if my need for salvation is God's chief concern, then I must be the most important consideration for God and he must exist to meet my every need. And hence we have the narcissistic Christian world we live in. God exists to entertain me in worship! God exists to serve me and make me happy! God exists to meet my needs!
As Vos says, Reformed theologycovenant theologypenetrates to the "root idea" of the Scriptures. That "root idea" is the preeminence of God's glory. "This is what is written at the entrance of the temple of reformed theology" (242). Salvation is to the end of worship. God and his glory are at the center, at the root of all Biblical teaching. God is the Creator of man and as such man is accountable to God to render him glory. Sin in its basic essence is withholding that glory from God and giving it to another and usurping it to himself. Redemption in Christ is all about restoring man to be man as created in God's image and that to this endto bring him glory. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).
The Bible is about the covenant. And the covenant is a covenant of grace. It's all about what God does in his Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. Obtaining eternal life is forever placed beyond the reach of our own good works. God must do this work for us and in doing it for us, the glory belongs entirely to him. As Vos puts it in his previously mentioned article: "When the Reformed takes the obtaining of salvation completely out of man's hands, he does this so that the glory which God gets from it might be uncurtailed" (247).
In his article, Vos goes on to expound the centrality of the doctrine of the covenant and that the root idea in the covenant is God and his glory. He says that the principle of the preeminence of God's glory divides into three parts.
When this principle is applied to man and his relationship to God, it immediately divides into three parts: 1. All of man's work has to rest on an antecedent work of God; 2. In all of his works man has to show forth God's image and be a means for the revelation of God's virtues; 3. The latter should not occur unconsciously or passively, but the revelation of God's virtues must proceed by way of understanding and will and by way of the conscious life, and actively come to external expression (242).
When I read or hear Dr. Gaffin on Pauline theology and soteriology, this statement of Vos comes to mind. I believe that Gaffin's work in teaching and writing is embedded in the doctrine of the covenant and is always seeking to lead us to the root of the Biblical messagethe preeminence of the glory of God. And this is his service to the church. He regularly is helping us to see: (1) every work of man is preceded first by the work of God accomplished in Jesus Christ and the glory belongs to God! (2) Anything that can be said about our work only serves to show forth God's glory as his character is imprinted and reproduced in us by his work of grace in us. (3) Gaffin works hard to get the church to understand this clearly and consciously so that deliberately coming to realization in our minds and coming to expression upon our lips, is praise and glory to God for that precious work that God has accomplished on our behalf in Christ. To see that the whole content of Biblical revelation is not about us, not about man, but rather it is about God and what he has done in his grace in Christ, to save his people from their sins.
James Dennison, in his Gospel of John lectures, reminded us of the debate between Pelagius and Augustine where they contended for different ways to express the covenant between God and his people. Pelagius said it was to be stated this way: "God, ask what you will. God, I will give you what you ask." Augustine disagreed! This is the way the covenant is to be expressed: "God, ask what you will. God, give what you ask." God's work always precedes man's work that the glory might belong to him. This is what Paul is doing in his theology. In his book, Gaffin is helping us to see and understand it. Salvation in Christ is to the end of worship, that God might be glorified.
The Bible is central, the covenant is central to the Bible and central to the covenant is the preeminence of God and his glory. Now how does Paul's theology expound the covenant and show forth the preeminence of God and his glory? What is at the center of Paul's theology? What makes up the iceberg of his thought?
In getting at the center of Pauline theology, Gaffin draws from the work of Vos and Ridderbos who both posited the primacy of redemptive history. He writes, "In the Reformed tradition of interpretation there are only two attempts to deal comprehensively with the teaching of Paul as a distinct unit. These are Geerhardus Vos's study on Pauline eschatology (The Pauline Eschatology) and the recent volume of Herman Ridderbos" (Paul an Outline of his Theology)." And he states that both of these men came to the same basic conclusion independent of one another that "the center of Paul's teaching is not found in the doctrine of justification by faith or any other aspect of the ordo salutis. Rather, his primary interest is seen to be in the historia salutis as that history has reached its eschatological realization in the death and especially the resurrection of Christ." At the deepest level of Paul's theology then is the emphasis on the historia salutis, the history of salvation. Here Paul's focus is first and foremost on the work that God has done in Christ.
In the covenant of grace, every work of man is preceded by the work of God, that the glory of God might be uncurtailed. Therefore, at the center of Paul's theology is the history of the saving work of Christ. In that event, Jesus acted not just for himself but as covenant head and representative of his people. The once-for-all accomplishment of salvation in history is where Paul's attention first lies. The writings of Paul unfold for the church the amazing grace of God in the work of Christ. They cause his readers to see that salvation is not our work so that we can never boast. Paul calls upon us to join him in boasting in nothing but the cross of Christ.
Gaffin maintains Paul's focus is on the historia salutis. But then, arising from the history of the accomplishment of Christ's work is Paul's accompanying interest in the ordo salutis, the matter of how the once for all accomplished work of Christ is applied or appropriated by the individual believer. Gaffin asks, Does Paul have an ordo salutis in his theology? Does he answer the question, How does a person get saved? Yes he does! In Acts 16:31, the episode of the Philippian jailor, Paul answers that very question from the jailor, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul and Silas answer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved." Paul says in Romans 10:9 "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." Paul is clear that a person is saved by faith in the accomplished work of Christ. We appropriate the accomplished work of Christ by faith that is focused upon him. We receive Christ and rest in him alone for our salvation. By faith we lay hold of Christ and all the benefits of his work for our salvation.
The Bible is at the center of our Christian faith. The doctrine of the covenant is at the center of the Bible. And at the center of the covenant is God and his glory. And at the center of Paul's theology is the history of redemption. Next Gaffin argues, for Paul, at the center of the history of redemption, is the death and resurrection of Christ.
The central historical event of Christ's coming is his death and resurrection. This center of his redemptive historical theology can be detected from his writings. When Paul summarizes his preaching and teaching, it is focused on Christ and specifically on his death and resurrection. There are several passages in Paul where this is evident. A major passage to consider here is
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, where Paul summarizes the gospel which he preached to the Corinthians by saying: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." Paul's message to the Corinthians could be summarized as the gospel proclamation of Christ's death and resurrection. This was the matter of "first importance" by which Paul not only means that it was the first item in his teaching, but also that it was the item of central and paramount concern (23).
This surely squares with the information we have on Paul from the Book of Acts. On the road to Damascus, the resurrected and exalted Christ appears to Paul. In the subsequent accounts of his conversion experience in Acts this is the focal point of his presentation. He saw the risen Christ. For Paul, the good Jew and Pharisee, the resurrection belonged to the final ageit belonged to the eschaton. The OT prophesied many things concerning the arrival of the great future, but one of those things was that it would be the age of resurrection. "Your dead will live; their corpses will rise" (Isa. 26:19). When Paul sees the risen Christ, it begins to dawn on him that the final age, the eschaton had arrived and commenced. Therefore, it is the death and resurrection of Christ that impacts Paul so greatly and it is from that event in history that his whole theology and soteriology emerge.
Paul's gospel reveals that his theology is focused on Christ and upon the definitive work of Christ in his death and resurrection. This means that the death and resurrection of Christ are at the center of Paul's soteriology. Therefore, Gaffin states: "the center of Paul's gospel-theology is not one or the other applied benefit of Christ's work [justification, etc.] . . . but that work itself . . .. In other words, as we raise the question of the ordo salutis in Paul, we need to keep in mind again that his controlling focus is the historia salutis, not the ordo salutis . . . he is concerned with matters of individual appropriation only as they are integrally tethered to and flow from his redemptive-historical focus" (24). As he said before, this does not "de-center" justification in Paul's teaching but it does put the benefits of Christ's salvation applied to us in a more proper Biblical perspective. It puts those benefits in the perspective of the covenant. Those redemptive benefits only flow to believers because of the work of Christ as the covenant head of his people. And to understand how this central redemptive event of Christ's death and resurrection is applied to believers, we have to understand the eschatological nature of the event and its application to us.
As Paul reflects upon the coming of Christ, the whole eschatological character of redemptive history comes to the fore. The OT prophesied that when the Messiah came and the final era arrived, it would be a time of both salvation for God's people and judgment for the impenitent. When Jesus comes, he reveals that the element of salvation and judgment are separated. Jesus comes the first time to bring salvation, to bear the judgment himself upon the cross. Judgment is postponed to allow for the ingathering of the elect through the preaching of the gospel. Only when the time of harvest is over will final judgment come at the second coming of Christ. So Paul sees that though the final era has commenced with the first coming of Christ, it will only be consummated at the return of Christ and the end of this world.
So, for Paul, Gaffin writes: "eschatology is defined not only in terms of Christ's second coming but also by his first, by what has already taken place in Christ, especially his death and resurrection, as well as what is still future at his return. Paul teaches an eschatology that for the church is, in part, present, already realized" (26). Paul sees the whole of redemptive history from creation to consummation by way of the two-age constructionthis age and the age to come. There is first this present evil age, fallen, sinful and in rebellion against God. This world united to the first Adam is a life under the dominion of sin, condemnation and death. Redemption in Christ according to Galatians 1:4 is to deliver us from this present evil age and "by implication, to bring believers into the coming world order, the new and final creation, marked by eschatological life in all its fullness" (27). Salvation in Christ is to be seen as being transferred from one age into another, from this present evil age and its mode of existence of sin, condemnation and death, into the age to come and its new mode of existence of righteousness, justification and life. Paul puts it this way in Colossians 1:13: "For he delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his Son." The believer in Christ is viewed by Paul as a new creation where old things are passed away and behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). "The believer, in union with Christ, is already [a] participant in God's new and final order" (28). He already in one sense belongs to the age to come. He is blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:4). He has the down payment of it by the Holy Spirit.
For Paul, our salvation is our being transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God, from one domain or sphere into another. So, to understand Paul in his soteriology, you have to understand Paul on sin. In the domain of darkness, this present evil age, man in sin and rebellion is guilty before God and he stands on the brink of eternal damnation. Not only is man the sinner guilty before God but he is also utterly helpless. Gaffin states: "This, as Paul sees it, is the grim `plight' of sinners, a plight all the more grim, because, left to themselves, sinners are unable to comprehend adequately, much less acknowledge, either their guilt or the bondage of their corruption in sin. Even less can they grasp what the `solution' is" (33).
The sinner does not see or understand his own plight nor can he see that the only remedy for sin is the gospel. Paul declares that the Gentile holds the gospel to be foolishness and the Jew holds it to be a scandal (34). In Ephesians 2:1ff., Paul describes the plight of man as a tomb like existence: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desire of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
Dead men cannot do anything to extricate themselves from their tomb-like existence. If this plight of man is going to be resolved, the message of Scripture is that God must do it. Paul goes on in Ephesians 2:4 to say, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us." God must work salvation for man. God must snatch him from the brink of the chasm of eternal damnation and transfer him from his state of sin and misery into the estate of salvation. God's work always precedes man's work. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, "God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer" (Q&A 20). In the covenant of grace, God in Christ transfers us out of this fallen world and its mode of existence of sin and death, and into the new mode of existence of righteousness and life of the world to come.
How is this deliverance in Christ accomplished? How is this transfer from this present evil age into the age to comeinto the kingdom of Godhow is this transfer accomplished? The answer is Paul's teaching concerning our union with Christ. And this answer is the heart and center of Paul's soteriology.
In Paul's teaching of union with Christ, he shows himself to be a covenant theologian. He learns union with Christ from the OT and from the description of the covenant regularly repeated throughout Scripture as a relationship of mutual possession: God is our God and we are his people who will dwell together in his own heavenly dwelling place. Union with God in the covenant brings to the forefront how that covenant union is accomplished. It is accomplished by union with Christ. In union with Christ, God's people come to be his possession and God becomes their possession. "The climatic realization of this covenantal bond, this reciprocal possession between the triune God and his people, centers for Paul, in union with Christ. This . . . is the central truth of salvation for Paul, the key soteriological reality comprising all others" (36).
Paul is talking about union with Christ when he uses the language of being "in Christ" or "with Christ." Paul's meaning here is most clearly seen when he compares and contrasts Adam and Christ, as the last Adam (Rom. 5:12-19). "What each does is determinative . . . respectively for those `in him,' as their representative" (36). At the head of the whole race stands the first Adam. What the first Adam did had consequences for all whom he represents. For all who are united to him the consequences of his fall into sin flow to them. But there is also the last Adam, Christ, the head and representative of his people who by faith are united to him. From Christ and his work, all the benefits of salvation flow to his people.
This union with Christ or solidarity with Christ is all encompassing (37), extending from eternity to eternity. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and we remain united to him through to the future glorification (Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 15:22). Though Paul knows that he was chosen "in Christ" before the foundation of the world, he recognizes that this worked itself out in time and in his own life. He states that there was a time in his life when he was outside of Christ (37), when he was also a child of wrath, even as the rest, as he states in Eph. 2:3. But Paul comes to be "in Christ" Gaffin states, "Here an absolutely crucial question, an ordo salutis question, emerges. What effects this transition from wrath to grace, from the wrath of being `outside' Christ to the salvation from that wrath of being `in Christ'?"(37-38).
Christ accomplishes this transition from wrath to grace. And our faith unites us to Christ in his work. We by faith receive him and rest in him. We are united to Christ in all the work he performs. Paul is quite consistent in describing this. We are buried with Christ! We were crucified with Christ and died with Christ! We are raised with Christ! We have ascended with Christ and are seated with him in the heavenly places! We reign with Christ! We shall return with Christ when he returns! We are inseparably united to Christ in the history of the redemption he accomplished. And therefore, when Christ undergoes his transition from death (that he bore in our place) to life, we were passed from death to life in him. We are in him and all the benefits of his work become ours. "Faith unites to Christ so that his death and resurrection are mine, in the sense of now being effective savingly in my life . . . faith is the work of God by his Spirit, effective in `calling' sinners, otherwise `dead in trespasses and sins' (Eph. 2:1, 5) and thus utterly incapable of faith in and of themselves, `into the fellowship of His Son' (1 Cor. 1:9), into union with Christ" (42). By faith in Christ, we are united to him and transferred in him from wrath to grace, from condemnation to justification, from death to life. Justification is essentially this transfer (45).
But the movement is also in the other direction. Those who are in Christ then also have Christ in them. "[P]resent union has a reciprocal character. Not only are believers in Christ, he is in them, and `the hope of glory' for the church is `Christ in you' (Col. 1:27)" (39). When I swam for the first time in the Pacific Ocean, it wasn't long before the Pacific Ocean was in me. Jesus does his work for me (justification and adoption), but then he also does his work in me (sanctification and glorification). In that order! It's all of grace. It's all the work of God to save us in Christ, and nothing of the gospel and nothing that characterizes our salvation is outside of Christ. The gospel is not just the grace of God done for me in Christ. It is also the grace of God in Christ worked in me. Both the forensic (justification) and the transformative (sanctification) are functions or manifestations or aspects of union with Christ. "In union with us Christ has a significance that is decisively forensic as well as powerfully transforming" (41). Gaffin summarizes: "Present union with Christsharing with him in all he has accomplished and now is by virtue of his death and resurrectionthat, as much as anything, is at the center of Paul's soteriology" ( 40). Calvin agrees when he speaks in the Institutes (Book 3) of the way of salvation: "First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us."
It is by virtue of union with Christ, that we have the two-fold remedy for the two-fold plight of sin. The salvation provided for us in Christ is the remedy for the guilt of sin and also for the enslaving power of sin. Christ remedies the guilt of sin in the forensic work that he does for us. Christ remedies the enslaving power of sin in the renovative/transforming work that he does in us. The remedy for the guilt of sin is found in the forensic work of Christ of justification. The remedy for the enslaving power of sin is found in the renovative work of Christ of sanctification. The latter half of Gaffin's book is given to these two aspects of Paul's soteriology, sanctification and justification.
But before he does that, he says some preliminary things about justification. Interacting with the New Perspective, Gaffin makes what he calls some baseline observations about Paul on justification. He is persuaded, over against the New Perspective, that the Reformation was right in its assessment of Paul on justification. Justification is about soteriology not ecclesiology. It is not about ecclesiology. It is not about whom you may eat with and who you are to have fellowship with. It's not about being and living as a Christian. Rather, it's about how one becomes a Christian (45). It is a transfer term, describing an individual's transfer from wrath to grace, a part of which is involved in Col. 1:15: "that God delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his son."
Without going into Gaffin's detailed explanation here, he argues that the best entry for understanding Paul on justification is his parallel between Adam and Christ (46). In Romans 5, Paul presents a parallel construction between Adam and Christ and the corresponding two orders of existence. Adam stands at the head of the first order described as sin, condemnation and death. Christ stands at the head of the new order described as righteousness, justification and life. The new order that Christ brings answers to the order of the first Adam. Christ's righteousness answers and remedies sin. Christ's justification answers and remedies condemnation. Christ's resurrection life answers and remedies death. Condemnation is a forensic ideaa judicial act based upon man's sin. It results in the sentence of death. Justification is a forensic ideaa judicial act based upon Christ's righteousness. It results in the sentence of life. Therefore, justification takes place in union with Christ (50). The ground of justification is our union with Christ and his righteousness imputed to us. Gaffin quotes Calvin once more: "This is a wonderful plan of justification that . . . they [believers] should be accounted righteous outside themselves" (52) In our justification, an alien righteousness is imputed to us and faith is the alone instrument of our appropriation of it. Gaffin remains persuaded that the Reformation understood Paul's doctrine of justification by faith alone correctly.
In the final chapters, Gaffin discusses Paul's ordo salutis in the framework of his eschatology. The order of salvation in Paul is tethered to the center of his gospel theology and that center is focused on Christ's death and resurrection which is eschatological in nature. Eschatology encompasses not only the return of Christ, but also his first coming and everything of the believer's faith and life between Christ's comings. Therefore Paul's order of salvation is itself a thoroughly eschatological reality. The question Gaffin asks is this: how does Paul elaborate the eschatological salvation in Christ received by faith? (53). What are the implications of union with Christ by faith for the subject of the application of salvation to the believer? Gaffin first takes up the matter of sanctification.
In his book Resurrection and Redemption, Gaffin argues that Christ's resurrection is his justification, his adoption, his sanctification and his glorification. His presentation there is too much to go into here. But this is only to be understood in the context of the covenant. Christ, as the covenant head and representative of his people, became sin for us who knew no sin. He was condemned for the sin which he became. He was made to be a curse for us by his suffering and hanging upon a cross. Under the curse which he became for our sakes, he was abandoned by the Father when he said, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me"? And he died the penalty for the sin of his people. Christ's resurrection reverses all of these things which he became and did as head of the covenant on behalf of his people. In Christ's resurrection, the believer has his own resurrection. The resurrection is Christ's justification and in Jesus' justification, the believer has his. The resurrection is Christ's adoption and in Jesus' adoption, the believer is adopted. The resurrection is Christ's definitive sanctification and in Jesus' sanctification (in that sense) the believer has his sanctification. The resurrection is Jesus' glorification and in Jesus' glorification, the believer is glorified. Every work of man is preceded by the work of God.
Paul's order of salvation is determined then by the way he views the resurrection of Christ and the believer's participation in it. In By Faith, Not By Sight, Gaffin writes: "Consistently, without exception, [Paul] stresses the unity there is between Christ's resurrection and theirs, the solidarity that exists between him and them in being raised" (59).
This inseparable unity between Christ's resurrection and the resurrection of believers is clearly presented in a passage like 1 Corinthians 15:20 where Christ's resurrection is called the "firstfruits." "Firstfruits" is a reference to the OT offering of firstfruits that Israel gave to God. It consisted of the earliest fruits to ripen, the initial portion of the harvest, the first installment of the whole (59). But the important thing to remember is that the firstfruits, the initial quantity is inseparable from the whole harvest and represented the entire harvest. Therefore, Paul is saying that the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the believer cannot be separated. In God's redeeming plan, there is one whole, single harvest of resurrections. Christ's resurrection is the "firstfruits".
Christ's resurrection is the first, but the resurrection of believers is in view. There is an order involved. Verse 23 confirms this: "each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ." Paul means here not just that Christ's resurrection is the guarantee of the believer's resurrection. "Rather, Christ's resurrection is a guarantee in the sense that it is nothing less than the actual and, as such, representative beginning of the `general epochal event' . . . the general resurrection, as it includes believers, begins with Christ's resurrection" (60). This means that the resurrection of Christ is not an isolated event like other resurrections in scripture. Christ's resurrection signals the arrival of the new era and is the initial portion of the whole harvest of resurrections belonging to that new era. (i.e., Christ the firstborn also, p. 61).
The resurrection of Christ and the future bodily resurrection of the believer are not separate events. Rather they are two episodes, temporally distinct, of the one and same event. Together they form the beginning and end of the same harvest (61). They are so inseparable that Paul will argue in 1 Corinthians 15, that if there is no resurrection of Christ, then there is no resurrection of the believer. And if there is no resurrection of the believer, then there is no resurrection of Christ. They are two episodes of the one event.
Now within the unity between Christ's resurrection and the believer's resurrection, the believer participates in the resurrection of Christ in two stagesthe already and the not yet (62). On one hand, Paul will speak of the believer's resurrection in the past tense and say that believers in Christ have already been raised. Colossians 3:1: "If you then have been risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." Believers in union with Christ were raised with Christ. When he was resurrected the believer was also. But it has two stages to it, an already and a not yet stage. The believer is already raised with Christ and this phase of his resurrection commences at his conversion. In Eph. 2:1-10, Paul describes the believers walk before he was a Christian and after he became a Christian. Before he walked in the deadness of trespasses and sins and after becoming a Christian his walk is characterized by good works. What accounts for this radical reversal in conduct? The answer lies in verses 5-6. The thing that has produced this decisive change in conduct is his having been made alive and having been raised with Christ. (62).
Therefore, three things are to be understood in Paul's teaching on the theme of the resurrection: "(1) Christ's own resurrection, three days after his crucifixion; (2) the resurrection that occurs at the inception of life in Christ, the believer's initial appropriation of that salvation; and (3) future, bodily resurrection of the believer at Christ's return" (63). All of these constitute a single resurrection harvest. The union of the believer in Christ's resurrection "consists of two episodes in the experience of the individual believer, one that is past, already realized and one that is still future, yet to be realized"(63).
How is this already/not yet participation of the believer in the resurrection of Christ further explained by Paul? What are the implications of our union with Christ by faith for the subject of the application of salvation to the believer? To answer this question, it is necessary to understand Paul's anthropology.
Paul's anthropology can be summed up as "inner man" and "outer man." 2 Corinthians 4:16 says it best and succinctly: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." This is how he views the constitution of the Christian. "Here we have Paul's basic outlook on the Christian existing between the resurrection and return of Christ, on how, in fundamental categories, believers are to view themselves during this interim. In other words, this is a key text for issues related to salvation in its actual appropriation, for Paul's ordo salutis (54).
Paul sees these two aspects of "inner man" "outer man" as entering into Paul's soteriology in a major way. In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the outer man, the body, is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. What is now true in the inner man is not yet true for the outer man (55). What is true for believers in the inner man is not yet true for their bodies. "The outer man is the subject, the `I' that I am, undergoing decay resulting in death. The inner man is the subject, the `I' that I am, marked by life, in fact . . . eschatological life and ongoing (`day to day') renewal" (56). In 2 Corinthians 4:7, he puts it this way: "We have this treasure in clay jars." The treasure is the life-imparting gospel which we have in the inner man, while the clay jar is the body which is not yet renewed by that gospel.
This inner man/outer man distinction is how our participation with Christ in his resurrection is to be viewed in the pattern of the already and not yet. "In view here is our participation in the eschatological salvation revealed in Christ, as both realized and unrealized, as already present and still future." The believer is united to Christ in all of his accomplished work, but he participates in it in an already/not yet manner. He participates in it in two stages. The benefits of Christ's work are already possessed by the believer in his inner man, but those benefits are not yet possessed in the body, in the outer man. "So far as the believer is `inner man' [he is] already raised; so far as the believer is `outer man' [he is] yet to be raised" (65). In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul puts it this way: "For we walk by faith, not by sight." Here, "faith" corresponds to what the believer already presently has in the inner man and "sight" corresponds to what the believer will receive in the future and what will be openly manifest in the resurrection of the body at Christ's return (58). Presently, the benefits we receive from union with Christ are received by faith and not sight. In the future when Christ returns, those benefits will be openly manifest for all to see. Then we will possess those benefits by sight.
Already believers united to Christ by faith are resurrected in the inner man. Gaffin puts it this way: "in the deepest recesses of who they are . . . believers will never be more resurrected than they already are" (67). This is not figurative language. In terms of Paul's anthropology, the past resurrection of the inner man is to be understood as realistically and literally as future, bodily resurrection. By faith in Christ, the believer is already in the inner man a new creation, born again into the new eschatological era, into the kingdom of God. This is the basis for the believer's ongoing renewal (sanctification) day by day spoken of in 2 Cor. 4:16. The good work that God has begun in them, God will also complete. That good work is the work of resurrection. (Phil. 1:6). The whole of a believer's existence is subsumed under the category of resurrection. The whole of the believer's life is about being transformed by the resurrection. The Christian life is resurrection life. The believer is born into that life, he walks daily in that life of sanctification and one day his transformation will be completed by the resurrection of his "outer man," in the resurrection of his body.
We are to understand our salvation in terms of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. The benefits of his death and resurrection are applied to us in an already/not yet pattern. We appropriate this salvation already in the inner man and then later, in the future, in the outer man.
The eschatological resurrection of Christ, the already/not yet and inner man/outer man distinctions in the teaching of Paul all determine what he says about sanctification. This can be seen in his consistent use of the indicative and the imperative. Such use is clear in a passage like Colossians 3:1-4. In verse one, Paul writes: "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." "If you have been raised with Christ"is in the indicative mood; in the phrase "seek the things above", the verb is an imperative. So Paul is saying, if the indicative, then the imperative; or concretely, if you have resurrection life, then seek resurrection life; because you have resurrection life, seek resurrection life. Therefore, seek after what you already have. This is the pattern of indicative and imperative in Paul (other passages are listed on p. 70).
In regard to sanctification then, this grace of God is viewed on the one hand as the gift and work of God already possessed by the believer (1 Cor.1:2; Phil.1:6), and on the other hand as the work of the believer that he pursues (2 Cor 7:1). What in Gal. 5:22 is called the "fruit of the Spirit", in Rom. 6:22, is called "your fruit." "Love" is the first fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5, but it is also the first command (Rom. 13:8-9). Therefore Paul's ethic can be summarized like this: "become what you are!" "Become what you [already] are in Christ!" (71). The indicative describes the believer's salvation that he has, as a gift of God's grace, in Christ. The imperative then speaks to how the believer is to live. In his writings, Paul put it in a variety of ways. You are saints, holy ones; become what you are. Pursue holiness. You are citizens of heaven, conduct yourselves as citizens. You are light, walk like the light. Sanctification for Paul does not say to believers, become what you are not. Rather, for Paul, sanctification says to believers, become what you already are in Christ. As Charles Dennison put it, you cannot get to heaven unless you start in heaven. You can't pursue holiness unless you begin as holy in Christ.
This relationship between the indicative and the imperative is not reversible. The indicative precedes the imperative. Paul always writes in this way. No command is given to the church until he first reminds them about who they are in Christ. He never asks them to obey without first reminding them that Jesus has obeyed first. And he doesn't just cite Jesus as the example for obedience. He makes it clear that Jesus in them is also the power that will enable them to obey. You cannot live the Christian life until you are first a Christian united to Christ by faith. You must first be in Christ and that salvation accomplished by him. Only then can Christ be in us and work in us the new obedience of a life striving to obey God's commands. "[T]he indicative provides the impulse or incentive toward fulfilling the imperative" (72). Christ's work precedes our work. If you reverse these then, you are saying that obedience leads to the state of being in Christ; and that makes our salvation to be on the basis of our own works.
The relationship between indicative and imperative is also inseparable. When Paul writes in the indicative, he always at least implicitly has the imperative in view. Imperative without the indicative makes for moralism. Indicative without imperative leads to antinomianism. The "indicative and imperative are given together and compliance with the imperative is the consequence and attestation apart from which the indicative does not exist" (72).
In Phil. 2:12-13, the imperative comes first. Let the believer continue working out their salvation with fear and trembling. But then he reminds them of the indicative: "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." He does not say that the indicative of God's working parallels our working. "Nor does he say that God's activity supplements ours, or ours his. Nor is there even a suggestion of a tension, as if God is at work in spite of us or to compensate for the defects in our working. Rather, we are working just because . . . God is working" (73). "[It] is not divine-human partnership, in the sense of a cooperative enterprise with each making its own contribution . . .. Sanctification is 100% the work of God and, just for that reason, is to engage the full, 100% activity of the believer" (74, i.e., God's mysterious math).
God's work of salvation for his people is all of grace. Sanctification is the work of God's grace that he does in us. "[U]ltimately, [it] is not a matter of what we do, but of what God does. As the best in the Reformation tradition recognizes, [sanctification], no less than our justification, is a work of his grace" (77; Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 75; Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 35). And this benefit of Christ's redeeming work is applied to us in the already/not yet pattern. The believer in Christ is declared already holy, already sanctified in him. This is the definitive sanctification of the believer. But then also there is the progressive aspect of our sanctification. The believer in himself is not yet holy and he must pursue holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Paul in his letters to churches addresses them as saints, "holy ones." They are already holy in Christ by virtue of his cleansing work and the imputation of his holiness and righteousness to them. But they are also not yet holy and therefore they are to pursue holiness. They are to seek to overtake what they already have. They seek to become what they already are in Christ. But their position in Christ provides them with the enabling grace to pursue the life of sanctification. Because, by faith, we are united to Christ and have put on Christ, the power of sin over us, the dominion of sin over us, has been broken and we are able in Christ and by his Spirit dwelling in us to present our members as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6) (78).
We are saved by grace "through faith and that not of ourselves. It's the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. But also we have been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." The fruit of good works originates from God not from men. Remember Vos's principle: every work of man is preceded by the work of God that his glory might be preeminent. Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul our good works are not ours but God's. They are the result of God's imprinting upon us his own character and virtues so that we reflect his glory back to him and reflect his glory out before others. Our works in sanctification are his work begun and continuing in us, his being at work in us, both to will and to do what pleases him. Paul asks in 1 Cor. 4:7, "What do you have that you did not receive?" "These questions . . . have the same answer for sanctification as for justification, for our good works as well as for our faith. Both faith and good works, are God's gift, his work in us" (78). "The deepest motive for our sanctification, for holy living and good works . . . is the resurrection power of Christ, the new creation we are and have already been made a part of in Christ by his Spirit" (78).
How should Paul's teaching on justification be understood in terms of the eschatological nature of his soteriology? How is justification to be understood in terms of the believer's union with Christ in his resurrection and in terms of the already/not yet and inner/outer man distinctions?
The Reformation firmly grasped the eschatological `already' of justification. "For instance, in a verse like Romans 8:1, `There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,' Luther and others, instinctively and implicitly if not explicitly, heard an eschatological pronouncement. They understood that the `now' . . . there has eschatological force; it is the `now' of eschatological realization" (80).
But what about justification and the not yet? Does Paul's soteriology support the idea of our justification as in some sense still future? Gaffin states that: "at least as an initial reaction, that our answer should be in the negative, and an emphatic `no' at that. . . .To speak of justification as in any sense `not yet' appears to take away from it's `already,' definitive character . . . to threaten its present, absolute finality, to undermine its settled certainty in the life of the Christian" (80). Gaffin insists that Paul never undermines this settled certainty. Anything that might be said about a future aspect to our justification cannot take away the certainty that the believer is already justified by faith in Christ.
References in Paul to a future justification are few if any at all (cf. Rom. 2:13; 5:19; Gal. 5:5; 2 Tim. 4:8). All of these passages are contested, but Gaffin believes at least some of these teach a future justification. "[T]he case for a future aspect to the Christian's justification or, put another way, for a decisive future aspect to the forensic side of salvation that is tantamount to justification, does not rest on such passages alone or even primarily" (81). Gaffin will build his case for a future justification on four components: (1) a presumptive consideration stemming from the structure of Paul's soteriology and eschatology; (2) the forensic significance that both death, including bodily death, and resurrection have for him; (3) his teaching on adoption; (4) his teaching on the final judgment. (81)
Before he takes up the four components, Gaffin refers us to the teaching of the Westminster Standards. Larger Catechism Q&A 90: "What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?" Shorter Catechism Q&A 38: "What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?" In both answers, it is stated that on the judgment day believers, said to be already righteous, shall be "openly acknowledged and acquitted."
To be acquitted or justified are interchangeable. Acquittal is at the heart of justification. Therefore these catechisms teach "in effect, that for believers the final judgment, as it involves their being acquitted, will have justifying significance; in some sense it will be their justification, their being declared to be righteous. We may conclude, then, by clear implication, that the notion of the believer's justification as in some sense future or having a future aspect has confessional grounding in Reformation orthodoxy" (82).
First, the structure of Paul's overall theology and soteriology infers that justification must be one aspect of that whole structure. There is no room in Paul for a justification that lies outside the center of his soteriologywhich lies outside of union with Christ and the benefits of that union that are applied to believers. There is no room in Paul for a justification that is not qualified by his inner/outer anthropology or that is outside his already/not yet pattern. Therefore, "a future justification of the Christian at Christ's return, in the resurrection of the body and at the final judgment . . . is a `good and necessary consequence,' fully consonant with Paul's teaching" (83). Justification cannot be isolated from Paul's root idea of union with Christ and its related aspects. This presumption, Gaffin states, may not convince everyone but there is more than this.
Second, a future aspect to justification is seen in the forensic significance that both death (including bodily death) and resurrection have for him. Union with Christ is not only renovative. It also has judicial or forensic significance.
There is judicial importance to Christ's resurrection. As the God-man and second Adam and head of the covenant, to redeem us Jesus who knew no sin became sin on our behalf (worst of sinners). He was then condemned for the sin he became and he died on the cross the sentence of that condemnation. Therefore, Jesus' resurrection is his own justification; it is God's declaration of Jesus' own righteousness; it is God's justification of his Son and it is the reversal of the sentence of death by putting life in its place. Jesus' resurrection speaks in a judicial manner. It is Christ's own justification as the head of his covenant people. Therefore, for Christians, Christ's justification given with his resurrection becomes theirs. When they are united by faith to the resurrected, the justified Christ, his righteousness is reckoned as theirs or imputed to them.
1 Timothy 3:16: confirms the resurrection of Christ as his own justification. "He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit." The word `vindicated' is the word `justified'. In the resurrection of Christ, Jesus was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit and his resurrection was his justification. It is important to note that his justification was not on the basis of any righteousness of another imputed to him, but only on the basis of his own righteousness. And Romans 4:25 directly connects Jesus' resurrection with our justification: "who was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised for our justification." The resurrection is Christ's justification on the basis of his righteousness. The believer's justification is a function or manifestation of union with Christ in his resurrection. In Christ's justification we are also justified. Sin brings the consequence of the judicial sentence of condemnation and death. Christ's righteousness brings the reversal of the sentence by the judicial declaration of justification and life. The judicial sentence of death is reversed in the judicial verdict of resurrection life. The believer is united to Christ in his justification and in Christ's justification the believer has his own. Our justification is of the whole man. The believer is righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness imputed to him. He is justified in the whole person before God on the basis of that righteousness and he is already raised from the dead. This complete justification is realized first in the inner man and only in the future will it be openly manifested in the outer man by way of the resurrection of the body. The believer "is alive from the dead yet in a mortal body" (cf. Rom. 6). His justification is complete, but it is still hidden and invisible to the world because his body is still subject to decay and death like everyone else in the world. What is future about his justification then is the resurrection of his body at the judgment day when, before the whole world, the believer will be openly and publicly justified before men. God will declare unmistakably that those who believe in Christ are redeemed and have life while those who do not believe are condemned and receive death. The one act of justification unfolds in two steps: one already realized and one still future. "[T]he open or public declaration of that judicial reversal, that manifest declaration attendant on their bodily resurrection and the final judgment, is likewise still future. In that sense, believers are already justifiedby faith. But they are yet to be justifiedby sight" (88).
Third, like justification, adoption in Paul is a forensic reality. Christians only become the children of God by being adopted into his family in Christ. Christ is God's Son uniquely. Only on the basis of his redeeming work that cleanses us and makes us holy, does Jesus' Father become our Father. Apart from Christ, we are children of wrath. This wrath of God is the divine sentence judicially pronounced against us. When we are adopted, this is on the basis of a judicial declaration of God. We are called the children of God. "Christians are not God's sons either inherently or by virtue of creation. Neither is that identity the outcome of a renovative process. Rather, the believer has the status of being God's son by his decisive, declarative act. Adoption like justification is judicially declarative" (92).
But in Scripture, adoption, this judicial, declarative act, also participates in the already and not yet of Paul's theology. In Romans 8:14-17, believers have already been adopted. They are the sons of God. But a few verses later (v. 23), Paul writes that "we wait eagerly for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." Now adoption is future and it coincides with the yet-to-come end of all things when we receive our resurrection bodies. The resurrection of believers will be declarative of the believer's adoption. Therefore adoption, a forensic, declarative, judicial act is seen as both present and future. At first glance this appears confusing. How can the believer be both adopted and not yet adopted (perfect/not yet perfect)? Adoption is one event that the believer partakes of in two stages. He is adopted in the inner man and that hidden and received by faith. He will in the resurrection of the body be adopted also in the outer man openly and he will have his adoption then by sight (93). Therefore, Paul's teaching on forensic adoption provides a window on how he would have us view the closely related forensic blessing of justification. As adoption is both present and future, so too is justification.
Fourth, at the final judgment Scripture states clearly that works will serve as an essential criterion. It will be a judgment according to works. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Cor. 5:10). "Believers, too face final judgment, and for them, too, that judgment will involve the just adjudication of the things they have done bodily in the outer man." (94). In Romans 2:5-6, Paul, in the midst of arguing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, refers to the day of wrath that is coming; in v. 6 he adds, that on that judgment day, "God will render to each one according to his works."
What are we to make of these passages that speak of the need for obedience and good works as a condition for entrance into the kingdom of God? "How are we to relate this future judgment according to works . . . to his clear and emphatic teaching elsewhere that justification . . . is a present reality, received by faith alone and on the basis of the imputed righteousness of God revealed in Christ?" (97-98).
The answer is everywhere given in Scripture. The righteousness that is required for entrance into the eternal kingdom of glory is also given as a gift of God's grace to his people. Gaffin quotes Ridderbos to show that "[f]or Paul the imperative, no less than the indicative, is the concern of faith . . . and they are that together and inseparably. On the one hand, faith in its receptivity answers to the indicative, on the other, faith in its activity answers to the imperative" (73). For Paul, faith works through love. We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone but by a faith that is ever accompanied by good works (Westminster Confession of Faith). "For Christians, future judgment according to works does not operate according to a different principle than their already having been justified by faith. The difference is that the final judgment will be the open manifestation of that present justification, their being `openly acquitted' as we have seen. And in that future judgment their obedience, their works, are not the ground or basis" (98). They are the proof of our justification by faith and the necessary fruit that accompanies genuine faith in Christ.
"Nor are [good works] (co-)instrumental" for appropriating our justification before God. Works are in no way a supplement to the instrument of faith. "Rather, they are the essential and manifest criterion of that faith, the integral `fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith'" (Westminster Confession of Faith 16:2) (98). Note Gaffin's comment on p. 100: there is an "integral, unbreakable bond . . . between justification and sanctification." The "alone instrument of justification is not alone in the person justified" (Westminster Confession of Faith, 11:2).
Faith is alone the instrument of our justification, but it is not alone; rather it is accompanied by good works. We are already justified by faith in Christ. And that justification by faith that we already have will, in the judgment, be openly manifested in sight of all. Believers will be acquitted openly not on the basis of their works, but only for only on the basis of the work of Christ imputed to them. That justifies them! But the genuine character of their faith in Christ that justifiesthe proof of itwill be openly manifest in the good works that they performed.
But the root of those good works is again the work of Christ. Our good works are also given and worked in us as a gift of God's grace, but the reward for them is given to us. We receive a crown of life; yet believers, knowing that the root of their good works is Christ in us, cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Every work of man is preceded by the work of God.
How do the resurrection and the final judgment relate (99; Larger Catechism Q&A 90; Shorter Catechism Q&A 38)? The full possession of our salvation (even the not yet portion of it) are given to us prior to the final judgment. The completion of our redemption, our bodily resurrection, precedes final judgment. When Christ returns the dead are raised bodily; those alive at his return are changed in the twinkling of an eye. Paul says that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:10). But believers partake of their future resurrectionthe consummation of their salvationbefore the judgment takes place. By faith in union with Christ, they have a secure and complete salvation. The final judgment where works are considered does not reverse that or take away that complete salvation. We appear at the judgment "in `Spiritual' bodies that are as imperishable as they are glorified and powerful . . . as they are already fully conformed to the image of their brother, the exalted Christ" (99). "If believers appear at the final judgment already resurrected bodily, then they will appear there also as already openly justified. Their future justification . . . will have already taken place in their resurrection, with the de facto declarative, forensic, justifying significance it has in Paul . . .. This means, further, that, for believers, the final judgment, as it is to be according to works, will have for them a reality that is . . . reflective of and further attesting their justification that has been openly manifested in their bodily resurrection"(99-100).
Therefore, this not yet aspect of our justificationthe public manifestation of it in the future resurrection of our bodydoes not diminish the assurance and certainty of our present justification. Toplady's hymn, "A Debtor to Mercy Alone," states:
My name from the palms of his hands, eternity will not erase;
Impressed on his heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in heaven.
We are justified in Christ and we are preserved by Christ in that justified state. Calvin says, "Therefore, we must have this blessedness not just once but must hold to it throughout life." God is the one who justifies (Rom. 8). Christ in heaven is making continual intercession for us. Christ as servant of his people accomplishes our salvation. But even now in heaven he continues to be the servant in the application of his salvation to us by his Spirit. He intercedes on our behalf. This is why nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Our confession of Christ, our perseverance in faith, our final arrival in glory and our final possession of the resurrection body, is all the work of God's grace. Jesus continues in heaven to intercede for us before the throne of God and to preserve us in our justified state. His work precedes any of our work. Our work is only reflective of his person and work in our lives. And Paul's interest is that we see that and know it consciously. Dick Gaffin helps us to see that in Paul.
In his book, Gaffin is making certain appeals to the Reformed church community. Preeminently he pleads with us for a proper appreciation for the foundational position of the doctrine of union with Christ. The church often has the tendency to talk about justification and all the applied benefits of Christ's redeeming work without tethering them to the underlying truth of union with Christ. Gaffin does not at all want to see any diminishing of the concern for the ordo salutis in the Reformed community. But he wishes for a greater and more conscious rooting of the ordo salutis in the historia salutis in the once for all accomplishment of salvation by Christ in history. God's work precedes man's work, that the glory to him might be uncurtailed.
Along this line, he appeals to the church to see sanctification, not just justification, as a work of God's grace arising from our union with Christ. The tendency is often to speak of justification as God's work of grace for us in Christ and sanctification as our work done in gratitude to God for that salvation. Taking nothing away from the note of our appropriate thanksgiving to God by the pursuit of a holy life, sanctification is not our workit is God's work of grace in us flowing from union with Christ. God's work always precedes man's work that his glory might be uncurtailed.
Further, Gaffin pleads for the eschatological understanding of the gospel. That is, in the exposition of Paul's theology and soteriology, we will always take consciously into account his pattern of the already/not yet and the inner/outer man; what is now ours by faith and what will be ours in the future by sight. What we have in the already of our salvation belongs to the inner man; we lay hold of it and possess it by faith. What we do not yet have of our salvation belongs to the outer man and will in the future be ours by sight.
In this book, Gaffin is helping us to see the doctrine of the covenant of grace in such a way that the grace of God, and therefore the glory of God, are given their preeminent place.
Vos discusses the conception of Christ as our great high priest saying that Christ's priesthood in the covenant involves both the idea of "leadership and participation in attainment."
The priest is not one who stands personally outside of the movement he directs or has no share of his own to realize in the end he serves. His close unity with the people and his representative relation to them already indicate that the opposite must be true . . . the priest himself is the first to travel the road and reach the goal to which it is his task to bring others ("Hebrews, The Epistle of the Diatheke," Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 212).
Vos goes on in the article to discuss the idea in Hebrews that Jesus is the "author" or "captain." In Hebrews 2:10, Christ is called the "author" of our salvation. In Hebrews 12:2, he is called the "author and perfector" of faith. Vos states:
Jesus does not as an outside person procure salvation for the race; by breaking His own way to the goal He has carried the others in His wake. And again, Jesus has not produced faith in us, while Himself living above the plane and beyond the need of faith; it is through His own perfect exercise of faith that He helps believers to follow in His footsteps (213).
In this wonderful exposition of Christ as the covenant head of his people, at every point along the path our Savior is revealed to us as the authorthe leader of the whole movement of redemption. Jesus is the "trailblazer" of our salvation. As the trailblazer in the old west went first and opened the path and then brought others over that same path which he pioneered, so is Christ to his covenant people. He goes first and he goes alone. He cuts the path; he opens the path to God and heaven and glory. And then he also brings his people over that same path which he pioneered. He brings the many sons to glory.
In this latest book, Dr. Gaffin is expounding this covenant perspective for us. Christ, for our salvation, and as covenant head of his people, goes first in everything. And his people must see their salvation and understand it in terms of their union with him. He is saved in order that we might be saved in him. He has perfect faith in order that we might be saved by faith in the faith of Jesus. Jesus is first in life in order that we might have life in his name. He was justified by his own merits in order that we might be justified in him as a gift of God's grace. He was adopted in order that we might be adopted in him. He was sanctified, declared the holy one, in order that we might be declared holy in him. He was glorified first in order that we might be glorified in him. Everything we have of our salvation has come to us as a gift of God's grace in Christ. Paul asks the Corinthians and through them he asks us, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7).
Gaffin stands with Vos and Ridderbos in working out the full implications of our Reformed and Covenantal theology and soteriology. As Vos says, the preeminence of the glory of God is written over the "entrance of the temple of Reformed theology" (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 242). Dr. Gaffin helps us to see the revelation of God's virtues so that by way of our understanding and by way of our wills and by way of our conscious life all of this might come in the church to external expression.