|The Plan of Redemption,|
The Plan of Redemption
Romans 1:17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
We can be very sure that when the Son of God became incarnate, by the will of the Father and through the power of the Holy Spirit, it was for a work that He was sovereignly intent on completing.
When that Son of God went to the cross, we are left in a stunned daze of shock and reverence. When considering this wonder, we’re made acutely aware that whatever work He intended to complete through this immeasurable sacrifice, He did in fact complete it and has finished it. Thus He cried out with His quickly fading breath, “It is finished.”
The Westminster Catechism defines, Justification and Adoption this way.
Question 70: What is justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in His sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.(2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:19, Galatians 2:16, Philippians 3:9).
Question 74: What is adoption?
Answer: Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, whereby all those that are justified are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow heirs with Christ in glory.(1John 3:1, John 1:12, Romans 8:17).
When we are Justified we, through imputation, receive Christ's obedience.
We get IT! That is we get All of it and it’s ALL NEEDED. By faith we receive it, not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:8)
The first verse of the old hymn, ROCK OF AGES makes the point plainly clear.
When we understand the doctrine of imputed righteousness, we begin to understand that Christ's righteousness was not one dimensional but two.
“Be of sin the double cure; Save from wrath and make me pure.”
To make this clearer we must ask,
The answer is that He was storing up righteousness for all who would come to Him and take freely of grace. He was accumulating obedience that would be imputed to all who would put their faith in Him alone for salvation.
We have said that the ‘righteousness’ or the ‘obedience’ of Christ is two dimensional, and these two sides are His  Active and  Passive obedience. These two components of the obedentia Christi (obedience of Christ) are fundamental to understanding the doctrine of justification by imputation.
Dr. C. Matthew McMahon stated that, “Reformed Theology does not need to be modernized; it simply needs to be understood.”
Romans 10:4, says “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Christ is the ‘termination’ of any righteousness sought by and through the law. He is only this for those who believe (by faith) that His obedience legally justifies them eternally.
Let me explain exactly what imputed righteousness means.
Firstly the word Imputed means: attributed or accredited to someone on behalf of another.
So in this sense we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness by faith, and by faith alone. It’s not a wage or a reward; it’s completely a gift accredited/imputed to the regenerate (those who are Born Again).
Justification is based solely upon this imputation of Christ’s righteousness by faith. Justification is what we call the legal declaration of God toward the sinner counting the believer righteous. I say counting them instead of ‘MAKING’ them righteous because this is not what God does at justification. To suggest this would be to blur the clear biblical lines between justification and sanctification.
The imputation of Christ is completed upon God’s legal declaration of freedom and perfection to the sinner. At the heart of this ‘declarative justification’ is what in Latin is called the “iustitia alienum et extra nos." That is the alien righteousness, not of the sinner, but of Christ. This righteousness is imputed to the believer through faith by grace; again appealing to Eph 2:8-10.
Correctly stated; Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law of God secures our release from the necessity of personally keeping the Law as a condition of justification. This does not render the law useless or obselete, but in terms of one’s justification it has already been fulfilled. This is to say that at the point of justification, the imputation of Christ makes the law ‘perfectly fulfilled’ on behalf of the one who is united Christ by faith.
We will deal with the ongoing importance of the law in just a moment, but for now its paramount we understand that we are not saved on account of ANY LAW keeping, but all our righteousness is from Christ ALONE!
The sinner now enters into a justified state before God; solely by the imputation of the active obedience and the passive obedience of Christ. Subsequently God’s just declaration of the sinner’s righteous state is based SOLELY on the work of Christ.
The point is evidently clear that redeemed sinners still continue to war with sin. Luther so aptly put it this way, “...they are piles of dung covered in gold.”
The remnants of sin and the filthiness of the flesh (in the believer) continue to war against the indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:17). These remnants and their fruit must also have a covering that continues to infinitely atone for them before the holy justice of God; otherwise, justification is horribly inadequate.
The regenerate man expresses a reflex act of faith springing from his regenerate heart. He is immediately, upon this faith declared righteous by God on account of Christ’s imputation. He is then continued to be viewed in this credited ‘righteous’ manner because of the perfect obedience of Christ’s work. Jesus has perfectly fulfilled the law and obeyed where men could not. It is this active obedience that continues to justify them, and it is passive obedience that saves them from the wrath of God’s infinite justice.
Let’s now define these two types of righteousness,
Passive obedience: this refers chiefly to Christ’s work on the cross whereby He dies for the sinner. He pays the sinner’s fine, expunges their guilt, and provides propitiation before an almighty, Holy God. The sinner had incurred this guilt/debt because of their past sins. Christ imputes to the sinner, at justification, a righteousness that is passive. Christ gives him obedience that is not active in that it is not an act that He performs, but inactively/passively receives the wrath of God on the sinner’s behalf.
When God looks on the sinner He no longer sees a sinner, but He sees Christ. And in this context of passive obedience, He sees the fulfilment of the punishment that the sinner deserved, though in reality it was in fact Christ who bore the wrath on the sinner’s behalf.
Theologians for centuries have spoken of this dimension of Christ’s obedience as passive obedience because it’s not, in any real sense, PRO-ACTIVE but rather inactive or more clearly understood to be ‘dormant absorption’.
Active obedience: this is the dimension that is often left without consideration among christians. This is in actuality, why many professing believers have little idea what the ramifications of justification by faith really are. I’ll use a quote to illustrate what is meant by this ACTIVE obedience and why it is so essential to understanding the fullness of justification.
Both of these dimensions of Christ’s obedience are imputed, (credited) to the believer when they become Born Again. Therefore Justification is not by any works but by grace through faith in Christ ALONE!
Throughout the centuries Reformed theologians and their many confessions have embraced and taught a distinction between the active and the passive obedience of Christ Jesus.
Let’s look as a few;
Question 60 the Heidelberg Catechism defines this righteousness which Christians receive, “as if I (the sinner) had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me.”
The Second Helvetic Confession echoes these sentiments, “Therefore, solely on account of Christ's sufferings and resurrection God is propitious with respect to our sins and does not impute them to us, but imputes Christ's righteousness to us as our own (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 4:25), so that now we are not only cleansed and purged from sins or are holy, but also, granted the righteousness of Christ, and so absolved from sin, death and condemnation, are at last (in finality) righteous and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, therefore, God alone justifies us, and justifies only on account of Christ, not imputing sins to us but imputing His righteousness to us.” - Chapter XV, Of the True Justification of the Faithful.
The puritan John Owen speaks extensively about this throughout His works. In one example he states: “First, By the obedience of the life of Christ you see what is intended, His willing submission unto, and perfect, complete fulfilling of, every law of God, that any of the saints of God were obliged unto. It is true, every act almost of Christ’s obedience, from the blood of His circumcision to the blood of His cross, was attended with suffering, so that His whole life might, in that regard, be called a death; but yet, looking upon His willingness and obedience in it, it is distinguished from His sufferings peculiarly so called, and termed His active righteousness. This is, then, I say, as was showed, that complete, absolutely perfect accomplishment of the whole law of God by Christ, our mediator; whereby He not only did no sin, neither was there guile found in His mouth, but also most perfectly fulfilled all righteousness, as He affirmed it became Him to do. Secondly, that this obedience was performed by Christ not for Himself, but for us, and in our stead.”
Theologian Herman Witsius explains the imputation of the work of Christ and the period of time in which Christ’s sufferings count for us, "...from His very infancy, and through the whole course of His life, especially the close thereof, He endured all manner of sufferings, both in soul and body, humbling, nay, emptying Himself, and being obedient to the Father unto death, even death of the cross. In time He fully performed for His people all that the law required in order to obtain a right to eternal life.”
Without these two dimensions of obedience/righteousness, men can never be fully justified in the sight of God or obtain a true righteousness that does not fail them.
This transaction must be complete or there’s NO SALVATION!. He, the Saviour, must take all of our sins on that cursed tree and we must receive ALL of His obedience/righteousness.
If there’s even a speck of sin that He doesn’t atone for, then we’ll burn brightly forever in hellfire. We need Him to take all of our disobedience or the whole plan of redemption is an utter failure.
As much as we need Him to take all our sin, we also need Him to offer us all of His righteousness. If He just suffers for our sin, and still leaves us with much left to do, much active righteousness to accumulate on our own, we will be lost despite His efforts to save us.
We plainly and simply cannot perform the righteousness required by the law, hence our depravity in the first place.
Can you imagine a Saviour going to a cross to take most and to give most, and the intended recipients of His immense sufferings still remain without hope? This is stupidity in its highest form and vanity in the highest regard. This was not the plan.
Much discussion today has been saturated with works-bases salvation. Many suggesting that we HAVE to worship on a certain days to complete/validate our righteousness, or we NEED to tithe in order to escape hell, or we that the saved MUST be baptised in water to be FULLY saved. One of the more ridiculous I have encountered is the falsehood that says we NEED to speak in tongues, to get into heaven. This is all and utter stupidity.
We need to, we need to, we need to, we need to,
NO NO NO NO!!! We don't NEED / MUST / HAVE to...
Salvation is by FAITH and FAITH ALONE! As it is written "the Just shall live by faith."
This justification includes all NECESSARY active obedience. And as much He’s taken all our sin He’s also provided for all our righteousness.
This is not to say that baptism, worship, tithing or any other stipulation that’s put with salvation is not VITALLY important to the Christian life. They may very well be, we are not here to adjudicate their validity; I’m simply saying that they are not ESSENTIAL to salvation.
If you are justified , then you will be by faith and faith alone and all those other things are subsequent to this initial work of grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, not of works, not of works, not of works, lest any man should boast. (see Ephesians 2:8-9)
And so now the question remains, “Why bother following the law at all?”
Paul phrases this all important question in Romans 6,
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do we not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Rom 6:1-4
Should we sin more that grace may abound all the more?
That sounds like a fair question and perhaps some smart mouthed, cleverly worded sub-theologian had propositioned it in Paul's hearing.
This is deadly theology, and it’s still around today.
How does Paul deal with it? Well he uses one of these razor sharp lines he is accustomed to emplouing and simply states, “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?” ...ouch...
Can we see why we resist sin? Because we’re dead to it!
Our obedience is already taken care of and we cannot add one iota to justification, nor add one speck of obedience to Christ’s finished work. But we shall no longer continue in sin because we’re dead to it. The reason why we resist and refuse sin is not because we’re trying to earn merit with God, nor because we’re holier than others. We’re no more holy than dead men, but we’re also no more interested in sin than a dead men.
No one ever tips off the lid of a coffin and stands in awe of the corpse’s holiness, do they? Nor do they say stupid things like, “Well he’s just so pious, and I’ve never heard him swear once.”
That's because he’s dead!
No one walks into a graveyard and marvels at the lack of sin being committed in the silent graves.
And Paul says that this is the state we are to in. Of course we fight against sin, but we’re not saved because of any mark of holiness; or level of sanctification, nothing else is to be expected from dead people: Right?
Holiness is certainly the fruit that's expected to be produced in the life of the believer, they should be always growing in a closer communion with God whilst at the same time growing in a more distant communion with sin; but to suggest that perfection is required for salvation is repugnant and unbiblical. Those who are justified refuse and battle sin because they are dead to it, not because they seek to validate their justification.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Vs. 3-4
Through the waters of baptism we are made to identify with Christ’s death and thereby become dead to sin and the world. “...we too might walk in newness of life.”
Just like the thief on a cross, we too look to Christ alone and put all our trust in Him, Then He gives us all of His obedience, which is all the obedience necessary. No part of the required righteousness is expected of us, but simply believe and trust wholeheartedly.
The thief, who was crucified alongside Christ never had an opportunity to tithe, he couldn't undergo baptism, he didn’t go and worship on selected Sabbath days, in fact all we can confidently say is that he believed.
And thus the words of Christ were clear and unmistakeable, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
Is obedience to the [moral] law vitally important? I answer with a most resounding YES!!!
But does it make you saved, or add to your justification? I answer with a most resounding NO!!!
There is only ONE plan,
Sometimes it's so easy to forget that this thing called ‘the plan of redemption’, this product called the ‘New Creation’, cost God infinitely more than human minds could imagine.
People often speak out against God’s plan, as though this was wise for created mouths to do; to look heavenward and declare injustice with this great and omnipotent God.
But this exactly what they do. They apply humanistic reasoning and logic to God’s justice and declare the penalty of sinners excessive; even unjust. They declare God too harsh and too severe. Sometimes the question is even posed how could God send His own children to hell forever? And this is a theologically profound question, though they never mean it to be.
In truth we never see the bible refer to the unregenerate, unrepentant sinner as God's child. This is humanistic philosophy creeping in contaminating the gospel of God. Those who refuse to bow in worship of the one true, Triune God, are called sons of the devil and children of wrath.
The bible says God's anger burns white hot against then and unless they repent they will be laid utterly undone before His vengeance and wrath.
The bible is clear that He’ll give no mercy or sympathy to sinners.
“I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you...” - Proverbs 1:26.
Jonathan Edwards the great theologian and revivalist put it this way,
This is biblical theology and it’s deadly frightening.
Let’s go back however to our theologically profound question. Many minds have pondered with a depth of wonder at the eternality of hell, the severity of hell, the gruesomeness of hell and they considered their fellow man falling headlong into such a place a terrible thing. They feel deep pity for him, even though the sinner justly deserves it. They ask questions, unwisely, about how God could do such s thing.
But very few people look at the cross and see Christ enduring the fullness of hell itself and feel the same depth of wonder. In fact very few people have rephrased that (theological profound) question to carry its correct theological implications, how could God sentence Him, His one and only Son to hell by a cross? How, how, how??? Why doesn't anyone ask this?
It seems it's far too natural for mortal men to look heavenward and ask Him, who knows no beginning or end, to explain Himself in His judgement of sinners. Rather than to stare in Gob-smacked wonder at the cross and ask why, how, for whom, for what? How is it possible that the only sinless person to ever live, endured hell and God cause it to be so?
This is not humanly natural because, innately speaking, human nature desires sin and longs to be swimming in a pool of smutty lawlessness; and most importantly to be in full enjoyment of sin without penalty. BUT one of the loudest messages of the cross is this: God hates sin and He’ll even kill His own Son if He’s seen to be wearing it!
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21
Martin Luther once stated that Christ is our righteousness and we (I) am His sin. And to make this a reality God dealt a most severe blow to Him, His Son and killed Him because this is what God does to sin. Christ endured hell on a cross so we might never have to. We’d do well to ponder that for eternity.
If you belong to one of these heretical groups in the world today who deny the doctrines of justification by faith alone, imputed righteousness, substitutional atonement, and/or penal substitution; Ask yourself this, Do you not think if there was another plan, an easier path, a softer road that ensures God as much glory as this one, then He (God) of all people would have chosen it?
To make salvation a possibility for anyone, God endured the most and suffered the most and receives glory to the uttermost.
He set this plan in place and we are wise when we know it is most assuredly the best.
This is the plan of redemption.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”