in us and for us

The provision of salvation for sinners includes not only a work done in us, but also a work done for us.

What needs to be done in a sinner is to give them a new nature (‘create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me’) – bringing to life the soul that was dead in trespasses and sins, and enabling the sinner to know God, to love God, and to acquiesce in God’s ways of doing things. Since these things are impossible for us to create in ourselves – just as impossible as for a child to give birth to itself – this radical change has to be brought about directly and immediately by God the Holy Spirit if it’s to happen at all. Then, after conversion/regeneration, his work in the soul is ongoing – increasing the saved sinner’s love for God and trust in God and strengthening them in habits of holiness. Those who are being sanctified die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness – the path of the just is like the shining light, which shines more and more until the perfect day.

But this can’t be all that the work of salvation needs to accomplish. Because in addition to the internal corruption and defilement and deadness which the work of God in the soul deals with, there is also the matter of guilt and condemnation. That’s not just feelings of guilt, but actual guiltiness before the law, being deserving of real punishment, and condemned to that punishment which our sins deserve. These things require the sinner to be pardoned and made every bit as righteous as the law demands, while meeting the demands for satisfaction made by the broken law and God’s offended holiness.

The mechanism for achieving this aspect of salvation is Christ’s work for his people. God pardons and accepts sinners on the basis of Christ’s work for them (rather than the Holy Spirit’s work in them) – Christ’s work being that of acting as his people’s representative, bearing their sins and the punishment of their sins, fulfilling everything that the law required from them and honouring it in their place. He achieved not only the undoing of what Adam did, in other words, but also the fulfillment of what the law positively requires. The righteousness which he worked out in his life and death on this earth is not his essential righteousness which belongs to him as God the eternal Son, but what he accomplished in his role as the mediator of his own people. Whatever he achieved here in his sufferings and death, he achieved for his people – with them in mind, on their behalf, for their benefit, and in their place.

When God imputes this righteousness to particular sinners, this is the crediting to their account of what was done with them in mind to start with. It isn’t a fiction, not a question of pretending they’re something that they’re not. It brings about a change in the status of the sinner – they are no longer condemned, they are brought into a right relationship with God, his wrath is turned away from them, their sins are pardoned, they can safely be recognised as being as righteous as the law requires them to be – these are real changes, real benefits. Additionally the change in the sinner’s status isn’t effected in isolation from the change in their nature – the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the conversion/regeneration of the soul, and the onset of sanctification are not only all instantaneous but simultaneous.

And they are simultaneous also with faith’s personal appropriation of Christ’s righteousness. The existence of a mediator and the availability of a righteousness which would suit my needs in view of the demands of God’s law are no use to me unless I get a hold of it for myself – which is what faith does, like an open hand stretched out for such blessings to be put into it. We say that God treats sinners as if this was their own righteousness, because it’s always Christ’s righteousness that belongs to him personally – but it is also true to say that this righteousness becomes their righteousness, because they take hold of Christ and his righteousness to be their own by faith.

In some ways, I suppose, because justification is a one-off legal transaction which brings about a change in the relation between sinners and the Saviour, it’s a bit more invisible than sanctification and less easy to observe in yourself or other people. Psychologically, perhaps something like effectual calling is more perceptible, or is more amenable to being latched on to on the personal level. But because justification is the only thing that does bring about that fundamental and desperately necessary change in the relation between sinners and their God and Saviour, a clear appreciation of what it consists of is essential for the soul’s wellbeing, in terms of a sense of peace and security, insight into the blessedness involved in the salvation God provides, and motivation to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.

last night i left the office in daylight

I even have a picture to prove it, but unfortunately not available for posting right at the moment. It was a triumphant moment, though dusk and quite chilly.

I’ll have more time to think/write here soon I hope.



source, ground, method, etc

Thomas Watson explores the Shorter Catechism’s answer to the question, ‘What is justification?’ in the following sequence of questions and answers in his book, A Body of Divinity, first published 1692 for use by the general public. The style of the whole book is practical and devotional – ie not a comprehensive theological treatment of the doctrine – but aiming to be comprehensible and applicable by any reader.

  • What is meant by justification?

It is verbum forense, a word borrowed from law-courts, wherein a person arraigned is pronounced righteous, and is openly absolved. God, in justifying a person, pronounces him to be righteous, and looks upon him as if he had not sinned.

  • What is the source of justification?

The causa, the inward impellant motive or ground of justification, is the free grace of God … God does not justify us because we are worthy, but by justifying us makes us worthy.

  • What is the ground, or that by which a sinner is justified?

The ground of our justification is Christ’s satisfaction made to his Father. If it be asked, how can it stand with God’s justice and holiness to pronounce us innocent when we stand guilty? the answer is, that Christ having made satisfaction for our fault, God may, in equity and justice, pronounce us righteous. It is a just thing for a creditor to discharge a debtor of the debt, when a satisfaction is made by the surety.

  • But how was Christ’s satisfaction meritorious, and so sufficient to justify?

In respect of the divine nature. As he was man he suffered, as God he satisfied. By Christ’s death and merits, God’s justice is more abundantly satisfied than if we had suffered the pains of hell for ever.

  • Wherein lies the method of our justification?

In the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. …

  • What is the means or instrument of our justification?

Faith. ‘Being justified by faith.’ The dignity is not in faith as a grace, but relatively, as it lays hold on Christ’s merits.

  • What is the efficient cause of our justification?

The whole Trinity. All the persons in the blessed Trinity have a hand in the justification of a sinner: opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa. God the Father is said to justify. ‘It is God that justifieth,’ Rom 8 v 33. God the Son is said to justify. ‘By him all that believe are justified.’ Acts 13 v 39. God the Holy Ghost is said to justify. ‘But ye are justified by the Spirit of our God.’ 1 Cor 6 v 11. God the Father justifies, as he pronounces us righteousness; God the Son justifies, as he imputes his righteousness to us; and God the Holy Ghost justifies, as he clears up our justification, and seals us up to the day of redemption.

  • What is the end of our justification?

The end is, (1) that God may inherit praise. ‘To the praise of the glory of his grace.’ Eph 1 v 6. Hereby God raises t everlasting trophies of his own honour. How will the justified sinner proclaim the love of God, and make heaven ring with his praises! (2) That the justified person may inherit glory. ‘Whom he justified, them he also glorified,’ Rom 8 v 30. …

  • Are we justified from eternity?

No: for, (1) By nature we are under a sentence of condemnation. John 3 v 18. We could never have been condemned, if we were justified from eternity. (2) The Scripture confines justification to those who believe and repent. ‘Repent therefore, that your sins may be blotted out,’ Acts 3 v 19. Therefore their sins were uncancelled, and their persons unjustified, till they did repent. Though God does not justify us for our repentance, yet not without it. …

[Sorry there’s nothing remotely attempting to be original in this post – attention mostly diverted workwards at the moment :( ]

archnumpty of canterbury

Okay, so Rowan Williams’s position is slightly more nuanced, according to recent BBC reports, than the headline version I saw earlier today.

Still, it is disgraceful. Sharia law is a byword for oppression and injustice – and not only would it be an utterly massive retrograde step for this country to come under it, but it is being used on a daily basis to oppress multitudes of our fellow human beings – in this country and around the world. Women, non-Muslims, ex-Muslims – even thinking of the situation right here in the UK, we’re seeing honour killings, blanket provision of halal food in some institutions, violence and aggression towards people who turn from Islam to Christianity or anything else – and this in a context where fundamentalist Islam is a minority. People are being jailed, tortured, killed, and penalised in all sorts of ways, all over the world constantly in Muslim-majority situations, where sharia law is implemented.

Rowan Williams, as official spokesman for a religious body which ostensibly seeks to promote (Judeo-)Christian values and ethics for the good of individuals and societies, should be the last person to even give the appearance of endorsing, licensing, or condoning the option of this moral/ethical and social nightmare even for Muslims in our communities.

123 meme

Thanks to Berenike:

The 123 Rules:
1. Pick up the book nearest you with at least 123 pages. (No cheating!)
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Count the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other bloggers.

Sitting directly in front of my bookcase, I picked the one that caught my eye first. It’s going to need explanation :|

“The Bible itself is subject to the same determining principle. ‘The doctrine of this Church’ expresses the sense in which men are to understand the Holy Scriptures. That is to say, the Church declares her doctrine, or reasserts it from time to time with such modifications as the influences at work throughout the changing years may effect, and according to the varying criterion thus established she understands the Scriptures.”

From The Free Church of Scotland: The Crisis of 1900, by Alexander Stewart and J Kennedy Cameron.

[They’re exposing the heinous error of what office-bearers were required to subscribe to at their ordination in the United Free church. It’s a use-vs-mention thing. I could have cheated, but the next closest was the Bible.]

And so I hereby tag:

even the risk of violence

Yet more threats of violence against people who comment on the violence and other undesirable traits of of Islamism.

In an article a few weeks ago, Michael Nazir-Ali (Bishop of Rochester) wrote this:

“One of the results of this [ie of facilitating people living in separate communities without encouraging healthy relationships with the majority] has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into “no-go” areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.
Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them and even the risk of violence. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation. Attempts have been made to impose an “Islamic” character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer.”

– and has now started receiving death threats.

He also questions the wisdom of seeking to implement sharia law in Britain, noting that sharia-compliant mortgages are already available, but querying “whether the far-reaching implications” (for, I assume, women, non-Muslims, and people who leave Islam particularly) have been considered at all.

The BBC and Telegraph are referring to him as the “no-go bishop”, although he has written many other hard-hitting articles, arguing, for instance, that Islamist rhetoric of victimhood sits uncomfortably with their philosophy of domination, that the respect which Muslims demand from the ‘Christian’ West needs to be reciprocated in Muslim-majority situations such as Pakistan, and that this country’s decades long collapse of Christian morality and spirituality is in no small part responsible for the upsurge in political and radical Islam.

The current death threats, moreover, seem to suggest that the no-go areas where one runs the risk of hostility and even violence for failing to adhere to Islamist ideology can be found pretty much anywhere in the UK, including the homes of Anglican bishops.

Funny to think that it was threats against him and his family that led to him coming to the UK in the first place (“The threats to Dr Nazir-Ali that resulted from this ideological conflict eventually became so unpleasant especially as they were also directed at his children that the young bishop left Pakistan, and settled in Britain,” says the Independent). Fair enough, but if we wanted to relocate to escape political Islam now, where could we go?

ridiculous at the weekend

A woman and a man behind me in the queue at the supermarket this morning struck up an acquaintance based on the shocking fact that they were having to wait in line at the checkouts. Repeatedly, it seemed. Clutching a couple of items each, they shared with each other that they’d “phoned up head office” (and been given a £5 voucher), and “written letters” to express their disgust at the queues in this shop. “It’s just ridiculous in here at the weekends!” they agreed.

If it hadn’t (a) been the basket queue, with all of 4 people ahead of me, with baskets, queuing for 4 separate checkout tills, and (b) been utterly empty all around the shelves, with perhaps one person drifting along each aisle at any given time, they might have had a point.

As it was, they were clearly only there to provide themselves with moan fodder – taking up space in the shop which could have been better spent by people who, perhaps unlike them if I may pass such a judgment based on appearances, actually had no choice but to do their week’s shopping on a Saturday morning. Honestly: people!!