Monday, March 28, 2011
Active Obedience Imputation Is Not Biblical - Part 5: "A Mini-Catechism Refuting Active Obedience Imputation"
I offer this as a conclusion to this five-part series of posts.
Think through these questions with me:
Q. What is imputed to us?
A. Christ's righteousness.
Q. What is righteousness?
A. In this context we might say "rightness", or right standing with the Holy God, without guilt of sins.
Q. Is righteousness inherent in men?
A. No, they are born and live in wrong standing or wrong relationship with God, and stand guilty of sins, until they are justified, or declared righteous by God.
Q. Is righteousness inherent in Christ?
A. Yes, since He has always been in right standing and right relationship with God, and has always been sinless.
Q. When a man is regenerated and given faith in Christ, is he justified or declared righteous, once forever?
Q. How is he declared righteous?
A. In the pattern of Abraham, his faith is credited to him as righteousness, Christ's righteousness is imputed to him, and he is thereby declared righteous (that is, in right standing and relationship with God, without guilt of sins, which are forgiven).
Q. By what act or series of acts is this justification obtained?
A. By ONE act, the shedding of the blood of Christ in his death on the Cross, which of course was followed by His burial and resurrection.
Q. Is there a CLEAR scripture to prove this?
A. Yes, here are two:
Romans 5:18, "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through ONE ACT of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."...and,
Hebrews 10:14, "For by ONE OFFERING He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
Q. What then of His life of obedience to the Father?
A. He did indeed live a life of "Active Obedience", which should never be discounted, but it did not make Him righteous.
Q. Was His obedience instrumental in His righteousness?
A. By no means. His righteous is inherent in Himself. His obedience did, however, authenticate His righteousness, and identify Him as the Messiah and Son of God, along with many other prophetic and miraculous authentications.
Q. And it is this righteousness inherent in Him that He imputes to us?
A. Yes, through the instrument of the ONE ACT on the Cross.
Q. Are you intimidated by the fact that so many godly Reformed men disagree with you?
A. Not in the least, though I am humbly willing to change my mind in a moment, if there might be an abandoning of red herrings, smoke and mirrors, Confessions and theologians...in favor of just a verse or two which might show that Christ's "active obedience" is imputed to us....AND if my analysis of the aforementioned Rom. 5:18 and Heb. 10:14 are dealt with exegetically, instead of merely evaded.
Sometimes someone will say to me something like, "You're wrong, Terry, when you refute Active Obedience Imputation, because the 'New Perspective' and 'Federal Vision' people also refute it, and they are false teachers."
This argument is, of course, utterly illogical.
Those neo-legalists are false teachers on the very subject of Justification itself. In other words, they don't believe in biblical imputation of righteousness at all! Therefore, they of course couldn't believe in active obedience imputation.
In varying forms, they teach that if believers stay in the Church, and live a life that's good enough until they die, they will EVENTUALLY be declared righteous BASED ON THEIR WORKS!
I despise the doctrine of the New Perspective, Wright, Gundry, Shepherd, Federal Vision, and the rest of the neo-legalists. Their views of justification are based on OUR works, and is legalistic, and I despise legalism.
However, because THOSE GUYS deny the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ, their names are used to smear others who fully believe in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, but NOT the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ.
I am as sola scriptura as anyone I know. In fact I am so sola scriptura that I have a visceral reaction to "proofs" given without Scripture, such as:
"The 1689 says..."
"The Westminster says..."
"Throughout the centuries Reformed theologians and confessions have embraced and taught this distinction..."
"The Belgic Confession...the Heidelburg Catechism...the Second Helvetic..."
"John Gill...John Owen...Charles Hodge...William Ames...Turretin...Witsius...Edwards...Shedd..."
Worst of all is the concept of defending so-called "Historic Christianity", because in 1500 A.D. that would have meant defending Roman Catholicism.
No doctrine should shrink from an examination from Scripture alone, and then a RE-examination from Scripture alone.
Having thoroughly studied this subject, but always open to Scriptural light, I looked for ONE verse of Scripture to support the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ, and found not one.
The question was asked of me, after quoting the 1689 London Baptist Confession, "Could it be any more clear?"
No, the LBC couldn't be much clearer, but the Scriptures they referenced for "proofs" not only don't support their premise of imputation of Active Obedience, but they teach the opposite.
For example, Rom. 5:18 says, "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through ONE act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."
Another example: Heb. 10:14, "For by ONE offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
Third example: 1 Peter 1:18,19, "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."
Now I'm certainly not saying that Christ did not obey the Law perfectly throughout His life. He sure did.
But here's the key question:
Did Christ obey perfectly because He was righteous, or was He righteous because He obeyed perfectly? Surely it's the former. He was ALREADY righteous! That's why He obeyed. His righteousness was not dependent on His obedience, but His obedience showed that His righteousness was already inherent in Him.
I have read virtually every treatise on this so-called imputation of Active Obedience, and have repeatedly seen two things:
1. A dizzying reference to creeds, confessions, catechisms, and theological gurus, and...
2. A total lack of clear scriptural evidence.
In a much longer post, I could deal with the UNclear verses which are used to support the doctrine, but the burden of proof lies with those who teach the doctrine while avoiding relatively clear Scriptures like the plague.
Finally, why is this question important? Because the teaching of the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ is a very subtle denial of the Cross, the Blood, and the Death of Christ as sufficient for our justification.
The basic idea is that somehow Jesus ATTAINED or ACHIEVED righteousness that He didn't previously have, and that's why I think the doctrine is dishonoring to Christ.
An example is "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration" which is all over the Internet including here.
In article 13 of "Affirmations and Denials" they wrote. "We affirm that the righteousness of Christ by which we are justified is properly his own, which he ACHIEVED [emphasis Terry's] apart from us, in and by his perfect obedience."
Jesus ACHIEVED righteousness?!! Then when did He not have it?
I realize that I stand against 125 heavyweights here, but who cares? The Bible says that by "one act", singular, justification became ours (Rom. 5:18), not by 33 years of acts.
It's true that Jesus fulfilled the Law. It's true that He obeyed the 10 Commandments perfectly. No dispute there. But this DEMONSTRATED the righteousness He always had, and AUTHENTICATED Him as the Messiah. It didn't ACHIEVE His righteousness.
To say less is to dishonor the Always Righteous One.
Here's my radical theory:
The Westminster Confession of Faith TRADITION of Active Obedience Imputation has made "the Word of God of none effect", and those who teach Active Obedience Imputation are not as Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as the final authority) as they think they are.
Oh, they MEAN to be Sola Scriptura, but they will not go against the "Great Confessions" and will not bow the knee of Active Obedience Imputation to the Scriptures, which NOWHERE say that Christ's Active Obedience was imputed to us.
It's His RIGHTEOUSNESS that was imputed to us, and that Righteousness was ALWAYS His. One doesn't GROW in righteousness. You are either righteous or you're not. And Christ was ALWAYS righteous.
Three things the issue IS NOT:
1. It’s not a question of whether Christ obeyed the Law perfectly. Of course He did.
2. It’s not a question of whether Christ imputed His Righteousness to us. Of course He did. That’s Biblical Justification.
3. It’s not a question of “denying Active Obedience”. Of course Christ “actively obeyed”.
Three things the issue IS:
1. Was it Christ’s obedience that was imputed to us, or was it Christ’s Righteousness that was imputed to us? The Bible clearly teaches that it was His Righteousness.
2. Did Christ *achieve* or *gain* or *earn* or *eventually have*
this Righteousness to impute to us?
No! He was always Righteous. In eternity. In the womb. At birth. Throughout His life on earth. To say less, I believe, is to dishonor Him.
3. Then is His life of obedience, that is, His perfect Active Obedience, important?
Yes, of course, because it DEMONSTRATES His Righteousness -- this Righteousness that He ALWAYS had, and that He imputed to us.
Here’s another exegetical slant that may shed light:
The Old Covenant sacrifice lamb needed to be “without blemish”. Only such were worthy to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. They had to be examined to SHOW that they were without blemish, right?
Question: Was the little lamb without blemish *before* it was examined?
Answer: Yes! It’s examination only DEMONSTRATED it to be so. Likewise, Jesus DEMONSTRATED Himself to be a worthy sacrifice by His life of obedience. But was He worthy BEFORE He showed it? The Scriptures say yes. It was the SACRIFICE (through "one act" -- Rom. 5:18) of the Lamb of God that secured our Justification, and His obedience to the Law only DEMONSTRATED that He ALWAYS was Worthy.
The Parrots Of Active Obedience Imputation
Not much amazes me any more in the thoughts and attitudes in the Church. I've seen too much for too many years to really be amazed.
But I am amazed at one thing.
I am amazed at the inability of otherwise sharp and biblical men and women to engage biblically on the subject of the "active obedience" of Christ being imputed to us believers.
I have discussed this at length, and read all the "top" books, and, I kid you not, I have never heard an exegetical biblical explanation for the doctrine. In fact, it is almost assured that a person of this persuasion will blow more smoke skirting the issue, than on almost any other subject I've seen.
Parrots parroting parrots, with a little [faulty] logic occasionally thrown in, based mostly on Jesus "fulfilling all righteousness" by being baptized (not only irrelevant, but wrongly defined as somehow "earning" righteousness, as if the Son of God was ever not righteous).
Not only are these parrots parroting other parrots, but they do so with what appears to be an almost idolatrous attitude toward both men and confessions (I say "appears", not wanting to judge anyone's heart). They say things like, "If you disagree with me, you are out of step with 500 years of great giants of the faith, not to mention the Westminster Confession, the 1689 London Baptist Confession, and [God forbid!] John Owen and R.C. Sproul."
Giants, shmiants. Give me the Scriptures.
The issue is not as complicated as the blown smoke would indicate. The Son of God is and always was righteous as both God and Man, eternally, internally, intrinsically, and inherently. It's that righteousness which was imputed to us through the "one act" of His death, followed by His burial and resurrection.
It's not some "earned" or "achieved" righteousness that was imputed.
One Parrot may whine, "Then was His life of obedience to the Law just a waste of time?" What this Parrot can't hear, for some reason, is this simple truth:
Of course a righteous God-Man will ACT righteously! He's righteous! His actions demonstrate His righteousness.
Having said all that, I'm still very open, and I mean that, to any exegetical biblical explanation for why our Savior would need to "achieve" righteousness.
But I have no confidence such an explanation will come.
The parrots are not just parroting. They are wrong.