Posted by: reformedmusings | August 14, 2007

Merit and News Catch-up

I’m now officially WAY behind in analyzing the Joint Federal Vision Statement. Others have been carrying the load, though. Since I’m so far behind, I’ll list the good stuff by site rather than topic.

Green Baggins is a whole blog page ahead on the joint statement. He does a very nice job with the The Church, a second round of the decrees, Justification and the Covenant (which I also touch on in my post on the decrees), Baptism, Lord’s Supper and Imputation, and just today on Law and the Gospel. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with the last link, but that seems to be sorting itself out in the comments. There’s a pretty lively exchange under the Baptism comments.

Dr. R. Scott Clark over at the Heidelblog has been posting on other things besides the joint statement. He covers The Decree nicely. Dr. Clark has a wonderful perspective on Reformed history, and also provides great comments from the Three Forms of Unity. Having worshiped and studied with a wonderful RCUS congregation for a year and a half some years back, I have great respect for the Three Forms.

Not to be outdone, Jason Stellman covers the Federal Vision’s Covenant of Life, carefully differentiating it from the orthodox Covenant of Works. Jason also posted on Union and Imputation.

In a comment exchange on Green Baggins, I was challenged on the concept of merit. In response, I posted several comments worth repeating here. First on the importance of Christ’s active and passive obedience imputed to us:

Then, of course, there is always Romans 5. Rom 5:10 says: “For if, when were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Again, both the passive (”death of his Son”) and active (”saved by his life”) are in view. Rom 5:12-21 seals that deal, as in verse 18: “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” Again, clearly Christ’s active obedience as a gift that is offered to all but only received by those elected from before the foundation of the world for their salvation.

It was then posited by the same commenter that:

but repenting from dead works and receiving forgiveness from a God eager to grant it without merit.

To which I responded:

Repenting of dead works, yes. But God does NOT grant forgiveness without merit. He forgives us because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin in our place and the Father graciously accepts the Son’s perfect sacrifice and imputes the Son’s perfect righteousness, which is meritorious, to us. 1 Cor 5:21.

The only covenant which we are all universally under is the COW [Covenant of Works]. It applies to all of creation. The only question is “by whose works are we saved?” In and through the COG [Covenant of Grace], the Father justifies the elect (and only those elected before the foundation of the world) based on the Son’s perfect obedience (i.e., works) which fulfilled the COW perfectly. That’s the central point of Romans 5.

I was then challenged as to why Christ’s work had to be meritorious, to which I replied:

A fair question. From the PCA study report, page 7:

“This is precisely the point of the Standards’ use of the term and theological category of “merit.” Merit relates to the just fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant of works (LC 55, 174). This no man can do since the Fall (LC 193) but Christ only (WCF 17.3). The Standards consistently assert our inability to merit pardon of sin (WCF 16.5), and contrast our demerit with Christ’s merit (LC 55, cf. WCF 30.4). Christ’s work (active and passive, preceptive and penal, perfect and personal, obedience and satisfaction) fulfills the conditions of the covenant of works (WCF 8.5, 11.1, 3, 19.6), and thus secures a just and righteous redemption that is at the same time freely offered and all of grace.”

The footnote from the end of the paragraph reads:

“Hence, denial of the category of merit, or the substitution of the idea of maturity in its place, neither enriches our covenant theology nor makes God more gracious in his dealings with us, but instead compromises the Cross’s vindication of the righteousness of God, and diminishes the believer’s apprehension of the security that flows from the costly justice of free grace.”

I might have added the words of PCA Declaration #4:

The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

‘nuf said.

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