16 July 2006

The Great Exchange (Part 1)

by Phil Johnson

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).



ere is the apostle Paul's most succinct statement about the meaning of the cross. This could be the shortest, simplest verse among many in the Pauline epistles that make the meaning of justification inescapable: "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

That text is all about the atoning work of Christ. Its meaning can be summed up in a single principle: substitution. It describes an exchange that took place through the atonement that Christ offered—our sin for Christ's righteousness. He took the place of sinners so that they might stand in His place as a perfectly righteous man.

Notice the graphic language: He was made sin (that's the very epitome of all that is despicable and odious), so that we might be made righteousness (that's everything that is good and pure and acceptable in God's estimation). This was the exchange: our sin for His righteousness. Our sin charged to His account; His righteousness credited to our account. It is a profound concept, and several amazing things stand out on the face of this text.

God did this

First of all: The atonement was God's own sovereign plan and purpose. "He [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us." It was God who appointed His own Son to stand in the place of sinners.

In the words of Acts 2:23, Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." His death on the cross was not merely something inflicted on Him by the wicked hands of sinful men. This was not merely an atrocity instigated and carried out in the strength of human free will. God ordained it.

As Isaiah 53:10 says, "it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief . . . [He made] his soul an offering for sin." Acts 4:28 also says that what happened at the cross was precisely what the hand and the counsel of God predetermined to be done.

So God Himself was the One who offered this amazing sacrifice on behalf of sinners. It was all done, according to John 19:28, so "that the scripture might be fulfilled." In other words, the cross was not an accident of history or an afterthought. But long before the beginning of time this was the predetermined plan of a sovereign God to redeem sinners. That's why Revelation 13:8 refers to Christ as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The truth of God's sovereignty permeates this text. God did this.

He did it for us

Second, this is pure grace: "He hath made him to be sin for us." Christ, who did not deserve the wages of sin, suffered the full weight of divine wrath on behalf of people who did not deserve anything but judgment. He did not deserve to die; we did not deserve to live; but He changed places with us.

First Peter 3:18, "[Christ] suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Think of how amazing this is. Romans 5:7-8: "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

So this was an extraordinary expression of amazing, unimaginable, incomprehensible love for people who were utterly undeserving of any favor whatsoever. Yet God did this for us. Sinners though we were; enemies though we were; our sin having set us against God as stubborn adversaries—He sacrificed His own beloved son for us.

He did it through Christ

Third, notice that what God planned and purposed was accomplished through the agency of the incarnate Christ—the eternal Son of God in human flesh, who did all this willingly, on our behalf. He "who knew no sin" became "sin for us."

Both His life and His death are in view here. The fact that He "knew no sin" speaks of His sinless life. The reality that "He [became] sin for us" speaks of His dying on the cross—when He stood in the place of sinners and bore the wages of their sin as if He Himself had been guilty of all of it.

And yet he wasn't. "[He] knew no sin." Again, that speaks of His perfect life. Born under the law, He fulfilled every jot and tittle of God's commandments perfectly, in every degree. Hebrews 7:26: "[He was] holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." "[He] did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). According to 1 John 3:5, "He was manifested to take away our sins; [but] in him [there was] no sin." He was the spotless, sinless lamb of God—innocent, pure, without sin—as far from sin as anyone could ever be. But He was manifested to take away the sin of the world by bearing it and paying the awful price of it.

That message is what the true gospel is all about. No text of Scripture presents it more plainly or more concisely than this verse. In a few upcoming posts, we'll look at 2 Corinthians 5:21 from three perspectives that help unpack the text's implications for the doctrine of justification.

Phil's signature

70 comments:

Craig Bennett said...

Good stuff PJ,

There is nothing more wonderful then the cross, and the words of that hymm, when I look up to the wonderful cross....


Are you going to finish the story though and tell of the wonders of the resurrection and what that has effected for us?

Blessings craig b

4given said...

Thank you for going through this. The men in our church in the evening service have been leading us through the Ordo Salutis (reformed). One of the Elders spoke on Sola Fide last night. It was excellent.

The value of the book of James in this discussion is also exciting to ponder... he communicates the essential evidence that demonstrates whether or not our faith is genuine: "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18). His emphasis was not in how an adopted child of God attains legal righteousness, but how one who claims to have attained such righteousness should behave.-(monergism.com)

Carla said...

So this was an extraordinary expression of amazing, unimaginable, incomprehensible love for people who were utterly undeserving of any favor whatsoever. Yet God did this for us.

Unimaginable, incomprehensible love.

As I read this I considered my own attitude towards my children when they act up, and disobey. My first (flesh?) reaction is to withhold favor from them. Whether it's dessert that night, or letting them watch their favorite show. What they've earned was punishment, not favor.

While they are "utterly undeserving of any favor whatsoever" (due to blatant disobedience) it is a monumental lesson in grace to re-read the Scriptures you've shared here, and to remind myself just how undeserving I was, of His grace.

Humbling indeed. Thank you Phil.

SDG,
Carla

Steve said...

That's a very powerful post--it's very moving to read what Scripture itself has to say about the great exchange. Thanks for putting God's Word at center stage, where it belongs.

Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me!

Exist~Dissolve said...

Phil--

Notice the graphic language: He was made sin (that's the very epitome of all that is despicable and odious), so that we might be made righteousness (that's everything that is good and pure and acceptable in God's estimation). This was the exchange: our sin for His righteousness.

Huh? There is no mention of exchange here. All the text says is that was made "sin" (there is no mention of "our" sin being imputed to Christ) so that we could be "become" the righteousness of God. You are imposing a theological convention that is not actually there.

Our sin charged to His account; His righteousness credited to our account.

Actually, the text says exactly the opposite of this. Paul's language here is not forensic; he is talking about ontology. He says that Jesus was "made" sin--this is an ontological concept. There is no mention of "crediting." Moreover, he says that we will be "made" the righteousness of God. Again, this is an ontological use of language which clearly expresses that we, in our own natures, will be "made" righteous, not just considered so by God.

It is a profound concept, and several amazing things stand out on the face of this text.

The profundity of the concept is debateable. However, even if this was admitted, it is still obvious that this "profound" thought is actually not there in the text.

God did this

First of all: The atonement was God's own sovereign plan and purpose. "He [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us." It was God who appointed His own Son to stand in the place of sinners.

In the words of Acts 2:23, Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." His death on the cross was not merely something inflicted on Him by the wicked hands of sinful men. This was not merely an atrocity instigated and carried out in the strength of human free will. God ordained it.

As Isaiah 53:10 says, "it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief . . . [He made] his soul an offering for sin." Acts 4:28 also says that what happened at the cross was precisely what the hand and the counsel of God predetermined to be done.

So God Himself was the One who offered this amazing sacrifice on behalf of sinners. It was all done, according to John 19:28, so "that the scripture might be fulfilled." In other words, the cross was not an accident of history or an afterthought. But long before the beginning of time this was the predetermined plan of a sovereign God to redeem sinners. That's why Revelation 13:8 refers to Christ as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The truth of God's sovereignty permeates this text. God did this.


This is materialist rubbish about the relation of God's action within history and the phenomenological interpretation thereof. It is profoundly absurd to say that God foreordained inrevocably that Christ should be punished in the stead of human sinners, for this very proposition requires that God equally ordain the concomitant reality that would necessitate such a punishment. A God who would ordain the very reality which the same God would so utterly despise (so much so that this God would eternally desire to punish Godself for such a creation) is the ultimate vision of neurosis.

He was the spotless, sinless lamb of God—innocent, pure, without sin—as far from sin as anyone could ever be. But He was manifested to take away the sin of the world by bearing it and paying the awful price of it.

Yes, manifested (according to your philosophical presuppositions) to take away the very sin of the world which God had eternally desired to create and punish through the death of Christ. It seems that a lot of trouble could have been avoided if God had managed to overcome God's eternal vacillation between the desire to create and destroy sin. Perhaps Jesus is the one who represents the final reconciliation of God to Godself.

DJP said...

Craig Bennett -- Are you going to finish the story though and tell of the wonders of the resurrection and what that has effected for us?

Yes... and the baptism and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the heavenly mediation of Christ, and the second coming and millennial kingdom and eternal state and church government and social involvement and homeschooling and.....

Gee, Phil, on second thought, maybe you should have chosen a specific topic and focused on that.

Oh wait -- you did.

Well, maybe you should have said that that was what you were going to do!

Oh wait....

You did.

Phil Johnson said...

exist~dissolve: "No mention of exchange here"?

When you open with something as patently absurd as that, it's tempting to ignore your comment altogether. But in subsequent posts, I'll respond to the main points of your comment.

By the way, it's interesting, but perfectly understandable, that radical Arminians like "Deviant Monk" and Exist~Dissolve would want so badly to debunk the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21. They'll go to almost any length to deconstruct a clear exposition of that text, because the verse plants a heavy foot on their theological air hose, and then just stands there.

One statement in particular is revealing:

exist~dissolve: "It is profoundly absurd to say that God foreordained inrevocably that Christ should be punished in the stead of human sinners, for this very proposition requires that God equally ordain the concomitant reality that would necessitate such a punishment. A God who would ordain the very reality which the same God would so utterly despise (so much so that this God would eternally desire to punish Godself for such a creation) is the ultimate vision of neurosis."

Thank you for another stellar example of how Arminianism 1) undermines a high concept of God and 2) is ultimately hostile to the concept of substitutionary atonement.

DJP said...

The un-Godding of God. We're really supposed to get over that at conversion.

Phil, you're a bigger man than I, so maybe it doesn't bother you as much as it does me when you work on a post and the trolls frolic right off the bat.

It's in a whole different league, but can you picture Luther nails up the Big 95, a guy looks it over and says, "That's really great... so now you gonna write about tithing?"

And another guy glances it over and says, "Okay, that's great, but tell me again: how can we get the Pope's help to secure God's grace for our departed loved ones?"

The forehead-slap heard 'round the world.

Steve said...

exist-dissolve wrote, "It is profoundly absurd to say that God foreordained inrevocably that Christ should be punished in the stead of human sinners, for this very proposition requires that God equally ordain the concomitant reality that would necessitate such a punishment. A God who would ordain the very reality which the same God would so utterly despise (so much so that this God would eternally desire to punish Godself for such a creation) is the ultimate vision of neurosis."


The key words are "this very proposition requires." What a marvelous example of imposing a human straitjacket upon divine truth. I genuinely pity those whose God is no bigger than the limits of human comprehension.

Exist~Dissolve said...

phil--

When you open with something as patently absurd as that, it's tempting to ignore your comment altogether. But in subsequent posts, I'll respond to the main points of your comment.

We'll see. All you were apparently able to do in your response to my response was to attempt to undermine my thoughts by associating me with a system of thought to which I do not even ascribe. Perhaps next time you can lay off the name-calling and actually engage my ideas.

By the way, it's interesting, but perfectly understandable, that radical Arminians like "Deviant Monk" and Exist~Dissolve would want so badly to debunk the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21.

I like that you have convinced yourself that your interpretation of this passage constitutes "truth." I will have to start frequenting this blog more, being as one such as yourself has epistemological access into the infinite mind and will of the eternal God. I was hoping, though, that given your self-identified "truth" interpretation, you could actually show where my interpretation was lacking, being as I did engage the text in my response. However, I guess when you've unpacked the truth, there is not need to explain it to others--a good one-line propositional statement will do the job.

They'll go to almost any length to deconstruct a clear exposition of that text,

The only thing I seek to deconstruct is your self-justified interpretation of the text. What is "clear" to you is mud to others who do not operate under the same presuppositions as you.

because the verse plants a heavy foot on their theological air hose, and then just stands there.

LoL! Good mental image.

One statement in particular is revealing: exist~dissolve: "It is profoundly absurd to say that God foreordained inrevocably that Christ should be punished in the stead of human sinners, for this very proposition requires that God equally ordain the concomitant reality that would necessitate such a punishment. A God who would ordain the very reality which the same God would so utterly despise (so much so that this God would eternally desire to punish Godself for such a creation) is the ultimate vision of neurosis."

Thank you for another stellar example of how Arminianism 1) undermines a high concept of God and 2) is ultimately hostile to the concept of substitutionary atonement.


And thank you again for showing that instead of actually engaging the logic of what I have said, you are content to simply lob pathetic and hollow slights at my theological understanding by attempting (without any substantiation, it must be noted) to associate my thought with a system of thought to which you are "hostile."

However, it is interesting and telling that you believe that you have identified that which constitutes a "high" view of God (which is arrogance defined).

I would object to (2). I am not hostile to the concept of substitution in atonement. That to which I am hostile is a system of thought that says that 1.) God desired from all of eternity to kill Christ 2.) God killed Christ and 3.) God determined the conditions under which it would be necessary to kill Christ. As I have mentioned before, this kind of thinking represents a God as the embodiment of an infinte neurosis. It is readily apparent why many (not just me) would be "hostile" to this kind of absurdity.

Mike Y said...

Phil: Excellent post! And nice response.

Dan: You've got me laughing on a couple of your comments! Thanks.

exist~dissolve: Huh??? You may wish you could simply dissolve later for trying to preach that false gospel of yours. I'd go back and re-read Galatians if I were you.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Steve--

The key words are "this very proposition requires." What a marvelous example of imposing a human straitjacket upon divine truth. I genuinely pity those whose God is no bigger than the limits of human comprehension.

I completely agree. However, it should be noted that I am not the one who created the proprosition--the theological system to which Phil (and yourself, it appears) ascribes is that which created the proposition. I am only repeating it to show how absurd it is. It is refreshing that you recognize this.

Therefore, if you think propositions such as these are absurd, I would suggest that 1.) you are right and that 2.) you should act upon this conviction by jettisoning any theological perspectives which would force you to affirm such. Like TULIP, for starters (which is the college-level example of a logically propositional system). This is the epitomy of the "human straightjacket" which is imposed upon God. From there, work backwards into all of the "fore" doctrines, getting rid of propositional thinking about God's "knowledge," "ordination," "destination" and "election."

Exist~Dissolve said...


Huh??? You may wish you could simply dissolve later for trying to preach that false gospel of yours. I'd go back and re-read Galatians if I were you.


I have read Galatians many times and I do not see where what I have said constitutes your unsubstantiated drive-by smearing of "false gospel." However, given that you have simply thrown an entire book at me and have not shown any specific examples of what you mean, I am not too concerned.

Perhaps next time you could present a reasoned arguement to back up the rhetoric instead of simply attempting to get in a quick quip that is, perhaps, mildly witty, yet lacking in any substance whatsoever.

Steve said...

Exist-dissolve wrote: "I completely agree. However, it should be noted that I am not the one who created the proprosition--the theological system to which Phil (and yourself, it appears) ascribes is that which created the proposition. I am only repeating it to show how absurd it is. It is refreshing that you recognize this."

You don't get it, do you? You're the one imposing the proposition and the straitjacket, not Phil (or me). And it's not the "theological system" that created the proposition.

Rather, you yourself created it in your attempt to circumvent plain biblical truth.

Phil Johnson said...

Exist~dissolve: "All you were apparently able to do in your response to my response was to attempt to undermine my thoughts by associating me with a system of thought to which I do not even ascribe. Perhaps next time you can lay off the name-calling and actually engage my ideas."

It wasn't merely "name-calling," but an attempt to acknowledge and identify your theological perspective. What would you prefer? "Postmodern Wesleyan"? "Hard-core individualist who thinks he sees things more clearly than anyone in all of church history and eschews theological labels because his homebrew opinions don't fit any existing categories"?

In any case, your lead assertion ("There is no mention of exchange here") is quite simply absurd. An exchange is "a reciprocal act of giving and receiving," which is precisely what this verse describes. If you have some way to deconstruct the text and make it say something different, feel free to post it. But so far, your dismissal of that point is a bare assertion without any supporting exegesis of your own. It's hard to respond to a non-existent argument.

With regard to your claim that Jesus' being "made sin" is an ontological concept, that raises a host of theological problems too obvious to warrant a detailed reply in a comment thread. (One is tempted to say such an assertion is heretical. Certainly, the mainstream of Christian thought would deem it so).

Nevertheless, you are not the first person to suggest that Jesus was "made sin" in an ontological sense. (You have put yourself in pretty questionable company with that claim, frankly.) So I do intend to address the idea in an upcoming post. Please be patient.

Broken Messenger said...

Phil,

Thanks for putting meat and bones to a recent rant/complaint of mine about how all theology must precede from this one, central doctrine. Kudos for this fine synopsis and a good reminder.

Brad

Steve said...

exist-dissolve wrote: "Huh? There is no mention of exchange here. All the text says is that was made "sin" (there is no mention of "our" sin being imputed to Christ) so that we could be "become" the righteousness of God."

As Phil pointed out, you've neglected to explain your exegesis.

What's more, the matter of Christ taking on our sin is clearly stated in Isaiah 53:4-6.

Exist~Dissolve said...

It wasn't merely "name-calling," but an attempt to acknowledge and identify your theological perspective. What would you prefer? "Postmodern Wesleyan"? "Hard-core individualist who thinks he sees things more clearly than anyone in all of church history and eschews theological labels because his homebrew opinions don't fit any existing categories"?

Instead of wasting your time trying to label me (which attempt can only inevitably be pursued for the sake of guilt by association), why don't you engage what I have said? Instead of arguing with a label, argue with my words.

In any case, your lead assertion ("There is no mention of exchange here") is quite simply absurd. An exchange is "a reciprocal act of giving and receiving," which is precisely what this verse describes.

Where does it talk about "giving and receiving?" All it mentions is that "X happens" and "Y happens." While one could make an argument for causality between the two (i.e., that X gives rise to Y), it is an hermeneutical error to claim that Jesus' "becoming" sin is and our being "made" the righteousness of God is a "swap" between two parties. As I said before, since this is an ontologically-rooted discussion, the conception of "exchange" is utterly meaningless. Therefore, a better, more consistent interpretation that doesn't require the "filling in" with forensic theologizing is necessitated.

If you have some way to deconstruct the text and make it say something different, feel free to post it.

That's the rub, isn't it? We all get the text to say what we think it says, even you. As I have asserted, I do not believe your interpretation is valid being as the language (both explicit and implicit) of the passage does not indicate a forensic exchange is occurring.

As a solution, I would suggest that a recapitulation motif is a more plausible interpretation. We can become what Christ is because Christ become what we were (notice the ontological trajectory of this). That would seem to be the simplest and most straightforward interpretation. Then again, obviously I have my own theological biases.

But so far, your dismissal of that point is a bare assertion without any supporting exegesis of your own. It's hard to respond to a non-existent argument.

Previously, I raised a philosophical objection to your conclusion. Above, I have suggested an alternative exegesis. I can say more if you would wish.

With regard to your claim that Jesus' being "made sin" is an ontological concept, that raises a host of theological problems too obvious to warrant a detailed reply in a comment thread. (One is tempted to say such an assertion is heretical. Certainly, the mainstream of Christian thought would deem it so).

Well, that certainly depends upon how one defines "became sin." Apparently, your conception of "becoming" sin is quite different than mine (although I don't quite see the actual difference between Christ "being" sin and Christ being "declared" sin--both would appear to be equally damnable). I would also question to which "concensus" you are appealing. I do not have many problems with being theologically eskew from Protestant theology. I think a good defense of my position, however, could be made from historical, ecumenical and orthodox theology.

Nevertheless, you are not the first person to suggest that Jesus was "made sin" in an ontological sense. (You have put yourself in pretty questionable company with that claim, frankly.) So I do intend to address the idea in an upcoming post. Please be patient.

Again, your polemic against my interpretation is based upon your characterization of what the "ontology of sin" is all about. I would suspect, however, that your characterization and what I actually believe are quite different.

Nonetheless, I suppose it is much simpler to attempt to overcome my argument by quickly moving (as you have done before and which is becoming your signature "move") to locate my thought in relation to those traditions which you deem heretical (even though the historic faith of the church may not agree with you).

Exist~Dissolve said...

steve--

You don't get it, do you? You're the one imposing the proposition and the straitjacket, not Phil (or me). And it's not the "theological system" that created the proposition.

LoL! That is one of the funnier things I've read this month! I would suggest that one of the things of which we can be most sure is that those who claim that they are not imposing "proposition and straitjacket" are actually the ones who do it with the most abandon. Look, we all impose presuppositions and biases upon the Scriptures, theology, etc. It is unavoidable. What is not unavoidable, however, is being naive about the fact that we do this, as you appear to be.

Rather, you yourself created it in your attempt to circumvent plain biblical truth.

I would suggest that I have not created it, for I am simply repeating what I have heard dozens and dozens of thinkers say about the logic of atonement. Nonetheless, even if I have created it, it has been created not to "circumvent plain biblical truth" (which you arrogantly presume to have gotten a handle on), but rather to overturn your presupposed and self-justified interpretations of the Scriptures.

Exist~Dissolve said...

steve--

As Phil pointed out, you've neglected to explain your exegesis.

Read my more recent response.

What's more, the matter of Christ taking on our sin is clearly stated in Isaiah 53:4-6.

Even if it could be definitively proven that this text is speaking explicitly about Jesus (and not just proof-texted by the biblical authors in their theological apologetics), this pericope can hardly be utilized to "clearly" substantiate the Protestant conception of imputation.

As before, I would suggest that this passage would be more indicative of a recapitulation motif (with its ontological overtones). After all, one cannot "take up" infirmities and "carry" sorrows without becoming that which is subject to infirmities and sorrows...

donsands said...

Wonderful teaching! Thanks Phil.

Looking forward to the follow up teachings.

Jesus paid it all. He not only forgives our debts, but He pays it in full. He paid it with His precious blood. What mercy! And He makes us co-heirs, brothers and sisters in His righteousness. What grace!
Undeserving, and unworthy we are, but He has made us worthy. What love!

Broken Messenger said...

exist-dissolve,

There is no mention of exchange here. All the text says is that was made "sin" (there is no mention of "our" sin being imputed to Christ) so that we could be "become" the righteousness of God.

I'd have to agree with Phil, the text clearly asserts an exchange in accordance with Galatians 3:13 and Christ's own words in Mark 10:45:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Actually, the text says exactly the opposite of this. Paul's language here is not forensic; he is talking about ontology.

ex-d, sheesh! What do you think "be made the righteousness of God" means if not if it is not in agreement with the faith that is credited to the believer as righteousness that Paul labored so heavily to prove in Romans 4? And actually, Paul is probably talking about both. Christ is the sacrifice today as much as he was the sacrifice.

Brad

Exist~Dissolve said...

brad--

I'd have to agree with Phil, the text clearly asserts an exchange in accordance with Galatians 3:13 and Christ's own words in Mark 10:45:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.


I don't see why you quoted 3:13, being as this text, like the other, seems to imply an ontological meaning, not forensic. The presence of the word "becoming" implies that Christ's ontology engaged that which he became. That the word "become" should be taken as a forensic indentification is, IMO, an odd assertion given the fact that the actual language suggests something entirely different.

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Again, the forensic nature of this verse escapes my notice. I will admit the potential of causality--however, causality is very much at home in ontology and the fact that "x" leads to "y" does not suggest that said text must be interpreted through a forensic lens.

ex-d, sheesh!

Bless you.

What do you think "be made the righteousness of God" means if not if it is not in agreement with the faith that is credited to the believer as righteousness that Paul labored so heavily to prove in Romans 4?

Call me crazy, but I would think that the word "made" means what "made" normally means--that an ontological effect occurs. It is curious that the writer of this passage would use ontological language when a forensic meaning is implied. Perhaps the writer was simply a poor communicator. Or perhaps a forensic interpretation is simply invalid in light of the ontological language.

Moreover, I do not quite understand your utilization of Romans 4. In this passage, Paul's primary intention is to show that righteousness comes not by identification with the religious cultus of the Judaism, but rather through faith in Christ. I would suggest that the imputation/forensic language which you are conjuring is that which Paul is precisely arguing AGAINST in Romans 4. But I digress...

And actually, Paul is probably talking about both. Christ is the sacrifice today as much as he was the sacrifice.

Alright. And your point is?

Taliesin said...

E~D:A God who would ordain the very reality which the same God would so utterly despise (so much so that this God would eternally desire to punish Godself for such a creation) is the ultimate vision of neurosis.

Not if God has a purpose in doing so. If God's purpose is to reveal both justice and mercy, love and wrath, holiness and grace, He has to ordain a reality which would allow for both to be displayed.

So what God desires is not to punish the Son for such a creation but to punish sin as a display of justice and mercy - that is displaying both His righteousness in punishing sin and His grace in forgiving sinners.

E~D: Call me crazy, but I would think that the word "made" means what "made" normally means--that an ontological effect occurs.

So, using this principle we can correctly infer that when Peter writes, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."(1 Peter 2:24 ESV) he literally means our sins were placed on Christ and punished on the cross?

E~D: I do not quite understand your utilization of Romans 4.

In Romans 4 Paul repeatedly states that Abraham had righteousness credited to him because he believed. He is not made righteous. He does not become righteous. Faith is credited (imputed) to him transactionally as righteousness.

There are reasons in the context of 2 Corinthians 5:21 to take "become" in other than an ontological sense. But this is Phil's blog, and he's promised more exegesis on the text, so I'll leave that for him to discuss.

Mike Y said...

Ugh!

BTW Phil, Forgot to tell you I'm looking forward to the follow-up to this.

Steve said...

E-D wrote, "I don't quite see the actual difference between Christ 'being' sin and Christ being 'declared' sin--both would appear to be equally damnable."

The fact you don't see an actual difference between the two is problematic. For Christ to "be" sin is to say He became a sinner. That's simply not possible, for that would have instantly invalidated His work on the cross. That Christ paid the penalty for our sins does not equal Him becoming a sinner. Even on the cross Christ remained holy and blameless, thus making possible His victory over sin and death.

There's a world of difference between the two; they are not equal at all. The difference is this: If Christ literally became sin, He would have become a sinner, nullifying the effect of His sacrifice. But if He was declared a sinner, He could still take our punishment and claim victory over sin and death. In reference to Christ's work on the cross, Romans 5:6-8 uses the phrase "die for" four times, using the preposition hyper in all four instances ("on behalf of").

If Christ "became" sin in the way that you specifically assert, then it is necessary for you to work the equation BOTH WAYS and assert that we have "become" righteous--which, as evidenced by our lack of perfection, is most definitely not the case.

Hence, only imputation makes sense. For lack of time, I'm keeping this very abbreviated. I'm expecting Phil will touch upon some of this in future posts.

Broken Messenger said...

EX-D,

the fact that "x" leads to "y" does not suggest that said text must be interpreted through a forensic lens.

This is confusing language becaue if X leads to Y, then no forensic lens is needed. That's kind of the whole point anyway.

Call me crazy, but I would think that the word "made" means what "made" normally means--that an ontological effect occurs.

No argument here but your insistence on ontology only lends to my point. Being made righteous by faith in Christ is not negated by the fact that we are being made righteous in faith. Nor does any of this negate as to how we are able to come to Christ by faith...again consult Romans 4 in light of your protests.

Moreover, I do not quite understand your utilization of Romans 4.

Because your objection to Phil's use of "credited" is absurd in light of this passage. You cannot strip Paul down to a single verse, mine it as you like, but then deny the consideration of all other relevant passages in light of the one you are protesting.


In this passage, Paul's primary intention is to show that righteousness comes not by identification with the religious cultus of the Judaism, but rather through faith in Christ. I would suggest that the imputation/forensic language which you are conjuring is that which Paul is precisely arguing AGAINST in Romans 4.

Yes, righteousness not by identification. Yes, not by the culturs of Judaism. Yes, by faith in Christ. But no, you cannot then "conjure" for yourself some phantom link between imputation of righteousness and Judaism in order to demonize the argument with ghosts that just aren't there. We are credited righteousness by faith in Christ. It's Christ's righteousness that we are given, not the righteousness of self found under Judaic law, customs and observances.

Ex-D, you need to show how your concerns over the ontologoical and the forensic are mutually exclusive. I don't see this as either/or at all, it's a both/and situation.

Brad

TheBlueRaja said...

Being made the righteousness of God in Christ isn't a statement about the imputation of Christ's righteousness, it's about incorporation into Christ, who is the only Righteous One - at least if you're going to take the prepositional phrase "in Him" seriously.

TheBlueRaja said...

Exit Dissolve,

You may be making too big a deal with the ontological business about "made". Being "made sin" doesn't have to mean that Christ actually was transformed into "sin" - what could that even mean? How could Christ be "made" into such an abstraction?


Obviously this text is talking about an identification with sin, which in Jesus' case, would have to be forensic, since Paul wouldn't have affirmed that Jesus was a sinner(cf. Ro. 8:3). It says that He was made SIN, not "a sinner".

Harping on the "ontological" nature of the word "become" is completely over-wrought, since the word can speak of "becoming" in any number of senses - changes in status included (cf. "circumcision has become uncircumcision" in Ro. 2:25 - is this miraculous foreskin growth?). In other words, referring to this use of "become" as "odd" is . . . well . . . odd.

You said, "Call me crazy, but I would think that the word "made" means what "made" normally means--that an ontological effect occurs."

You crazy ;)

rjscheid said...

Steve said:

"If Christ literally became sin, He would have become a sinner, nullifying the effect of His sacrifice".

This is exactly where alot of the Keneth Copeland types miss the true meaning of this doctrine. They want to say that Christ became a sinner, and needed to be born again somehow.

The Levitical types clearly point out the substitutionary work of Christ; the innocent for the guilty that the guilty could be forgiven.

The JDS (Jesus Died Spiritually)fable is a huge heresy in the church today.

The SINLESS Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world!

Keep up the great posts Phil!


Randy

Taliesin said...

Dog pile on E~D!

Let me get out from under the bottom here.

Frank, I think you need to offer him a "safe haven" like you did Deviant Monk.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "Being made the righteousness of God in Christ isn't a statement about the imputation of Christ's righteousness, it's about incorporation into Christ, who is the only Righteous One - at least if you're going to take the prepositional phrase 'in Him' seriously."

On the contrary, as I plan to demonstrate in an upcoming post, the paralellism of the text ("He made Him to be sin. . . that we might be made righteousness") fairly demands that we read this as "a statement about imputation."

Given the apostle's stress on imputation elsewhere whenever he writes about justification, the popular kneejerk resistance to every affirmation of forensic justification nowadays is really quite remarkable.

And the fact that this type of thinking is so prevalent among people who fancy themselves Protestants—even though it is antithetical to the core idea of historic Protestant doctrine—is the fruit of a century of serious neglect and bad teaching. Thanks to all who have proved my point about that.

Phil Johnson said...

Incidentally, Raja, I meant to say that I strongly disagree with the implication that the believer's union with Christ and the forensic aspects of justification are two incompatible ideas.

I agree that the expression "in Christ" explains the sense in which we are "made righteousness." I strongly disagree that this eliminates the idea of imputation or the forensic aspect of justification.

I'll address that common misconception in an upcoming post, also.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

Looking forward to it. Thanks!

As per your comments, of course union with Chirst and forensic declaraions about status aren't incompatible. I believe in the forensic (fundementally status-oriented) nature of justification through the instrumentality of our spiritual union with Christ. An emphasis on incorporation instead of imputation doesn't deny the essentially forensic nature of the declaration (as my responses to exit-dissolve illustrate). Incorporation is not infusion.

TheBlueRaja said...

Further food for thought . . .

Guess who said the following:

"We come now to the question of imputation which has seemed to very many to be a necessary corollary of the forensic view. Traditional Protestantism has made much of the doctrine of imputed righteousness and has given it precision by saying that the merits of Christ are imputed to believers. Thus Calvin can say “the Son of God, though spotlessly pure, took upon him the disgrace and ignominy of our iniquities, and in return clothed us with his purity.” But in modern times this position has been strenuously opposed, and for example N.H. Snaith maintains that, if we hold to imputed righteousness “we have not emancipated ourselves from that very doctrine which Paul spent most of his life combating – namely that salvation is by righteousness”: and he goes on to say: “the fact of the matter is that God does not require righteousness at all, in any shape or shadow, as a condition of salvation. He requires faith.” It is very difficult to substantiate either extreme from Scripture . . . In view of plain statements like these [in Romans 4:5, 23] it seems impossible to hold that Paul found no place for the imputation of righteousness to believers. On the other hand, he never says in so many words that the righteousness of Christ was imputed to believers, and it may fairly be doubted whether he had this in mind in his treatment of justification, although it may be held to be a corollary from his doctrine of identification of the believer with Christ."

Was it:

A) NT Wright
B) EP Sanders or
C) Leon Morris?

Here's a hint - he fancied himself a Protestant, and I'm guessing that Phil might actually believe him . . .

centuri0n said...

Gosh, I miss all the good stuff during the dog days of summer.

On the issue of Christ being "made": I find it ironic that people who oppose the literal reading of Scripture often read Scripture in such a wooden way that they hardly can be said to be reading at all.

Case in point:

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Now, you only have to be able to read English to understand that to be reconciled means "to restore friendship", right? Why not use the word "harmonize" or "conform" or "reunite"?

It is because the other prevalent meaning of "reconcile" is "to set the accounts straight". That's the funny thing about translation: fluent people translate languages fluently, and even the KJV translators were fluent enough to use the word which means both "restore friendship" and "set the books right" to bring this meaning into English -- and notice how even the ESV does not try to tamper with suich a translation.

But to be sure, we have to check the Greek, right? If Paul is setting up an accounting metaphor, or using book-keeping language, he should start here. And indeed, look at that: "katallassw" means in the most common sense, "to exchange coins; to trade one thing for another of like value".

In that, when God is working out the ministry of "katallassw", he is working out an exchange: our sin on Christ, and Christ's righteousness on us.

This niggling over the word "make" simply shambles past the issue of God's "reconciliation" which Paul is so careful to repeat at least 4 times here -- if we don't count the idea of God "not counting their tresspasses against them" as a fifth reference to this metaphor.

Everything else in this thread from E~D is balanced on his inability to read this passage as the kind of metaphor in which it is written.

Great stuff, Phil.

TheBlueRaja said...

I agree with your conclusions, Cent, but not the way you got there. katallasso isn't being used metaphorically here any more than it is being used metaphorically in 1 Co. 7:11 - it just means "reconciled". Which is why the translators chose the word . . . "reconciled". It might be a really confused metaphor if taken that way, since the imagery is one of an "ambassador" offering peace between warring parties. It's used in relationship to God as vanilla "reconcilliation" with God Hellenistic Jewish texts like 2 Mac. 1:5 and 2 Mac. 7:33 as well.

The idea that this is an intentional accounting metaphor is extremely flimsy, at least as based upon the word katallasso in this text. Thankfully good exegesis means not hinging such conclusions on word studies, and I think exit-dissolve's conclusions fail on other grounds (some of which I suggested above).

That's not to say you're not a good exegete, or that you think word studies is the end-all of Bible study, by the way. I just don't agree with your treatment of that word in this text.

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way, beyond looking at the context of 2 Co. 5 my conclusions were based on looking at the word in the LXX, Josephus and Philo as well as the NT - but if an appeal to linguistic authorities matter, BAGD supports my reading. The "monetary exchange" overtones were present in classical greek and the papyri, but in theological contexts the word was clearly used to denote an the change from enemy to friendship, as the LXX usage makes clear.

donsands said...

Very encouraging thoughts Centurion. Complemantary to Phil's teaching for sure.

Raja,

The context of 2 Cor. 5:21 is immeasurably more significant than 1 Cor. 7:11, even though the same word for reconciliation is used.

Wonders for Oyarsa said...

I've been thinking a bit about how Jacob's wrestling with God may actually prefigure this concept - of God becoming sin that we might become righteous. I think there may be some foreshadowing going on here.

TheBlueRaja said...

donsands,

Of course it is. That's why I rejected Centurion's claims of intentional monetary connotations based on the context of 2 Co. 5 and the word's meaning in similar theological contexts (within the NT, LXX and other Jewish texts, like Philo and Josephus). My comment about 1 Co. 7:11 was that that the word katallasso doesn't carry that meaning everywhere it's used - and the other texts I cited prove that point.

Again, that's the majority opinion in the lexicions as well. See also the New International Greek Testament Commentary. The literal meaning is monetary, but the usage here isn't intended to convey a book-keeping word-picture.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: If you find something in that quote from Morris that you think contradicts anything I have said, I cannot imagine what it would be, unless it's the phrase, "it may fairly be doubted whether he had this in mind in his treatment of justification."

(Actually, I think that point may indeed be "fairly . . . doubted" by someone who thinks "biblical theology" is at odds with systematic theology. But ultimately such doubt has to be overruled if you're willing to compare Scripture with Scripture. If I recall correctly, Morris himself strongly affirmed the imputation of righteousness to the believer but preferred the language of Philippians 3, which refers to it as "the righteousness of God," as opposed to Christ's active and passive obedience. I could live with that—because there is no convenient proof-text that speaks of the imputation of Christ's righteousness in so many words—but a few people have misunderstood the point and tried to make it appear as if Morris denied imputation altogether, which he did not.)

Or perhaps it's the fact that Morris seems to describe Calvin's statement as one of two "extreme[s]." A poor choice of words, IMO.

In any case, I'd have to see the context to know what argument Morris is making. If it's merely the point that it is hard to substantiate Calvin's statement based on the exegesis of 2 Corinthians 5:21 alone (i.e., without reference to any other text of Scripture and without any appeal to systematic theology, or the logic of analogia scriptura), I might even concede the point.

But, then, I've always thought the opinion that systematic theology is evil is foolish. And I absolutely reject the notion that every doctrine must have a proof text. Else you could nullify Trinitarianism on similar grounds. Indeed, it was practically the very argument Arius used to defend his heresy.

...which by the way is where I think the kind of thinking that has given us the New Perspective on Paul is likely to lead in the end. But that's another thread.

I would simply point out Morris's conclusions, which seem to affirm, and do not deny, the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer.

Chris Pixley said...

Raja-

I'm surprised. You challenge Cent's conclusions based upon what you interpret his overly simplistic use of a dictionary definition of the word "katalasso" to make his case, only to then supply a dictionary definition of the word "katalasso" as proof positive for your prefered interpretation.

Is it really that difficult to determine what Paul means by reconciliation in this passage? Doesn't he actually define it for us when he remarks "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them?" "Counting" translates "logizomai," a term used by Paul in other texts to describe the transaction inherent in justification. So to argue that "the idea that this is an intentional accounting metaphor is extremely flimsy" is itself an argument that is...well...extremely flimsy.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

Of course Morris didn't deny imputation - but he admitted that identification with Christ in his death and resurrection is what makes the doctrine tick, along with the essential notion that it is a status we're talking about with the word "righteousness". I think he's right about that.

Instead of viewing Christ's righteousness as something which is given to us, and is now found in us (though it's Christ's), the concept of incorporation says that our righteousness is found in Christ, in whom we are placed by faith. His death becomes our death, and His resurrection and vindication becomes our resurrection and vindication.

Here's Morris again on the idea of righteousness as "status" and how this impacts the debate over "imparted" versus "imputed" righteousness:

"When we have grasped the fact that the righteous are those accepted by God, some of the controversy concerning imputed and imparted righteousness seem beside the point. What difference does it make whether we impute or impart a status? Denney has well said on this matter: “the distinction of imputed and infused righteousness is unreal. The man who believes in Christ the propitiation – who stakes his whole being on sin-bearing love as the last reality in the universe – is not fictitiously regarded as right with God; he actually is right with God and God treats him as such. He is in the right attitude to God the Redeemer, the attitude which has the promise and potency of all rightness or righteousness in it, and it only introduces intellectual and moral confusion to make artificial distinctions at this point.” Those who come relying trustfully on the work of Christ for their acceptance with God are accepted as righteous, and if we bear in mind the essentially forensic nature of the term “righteous” there seems little need to dwell unduly on imparted or imputed righteousness. By the same token it may be possible to cavil at Denney’s inclusion of a reference to the “promise and potency of all rightness or righteousness”, for men are justified on Paul’s view not on account of any merit of their own, potential or actual, but only on account of Christ’s work and of their faith."

And, of course systematic theology is necessary. It's how systematic theology should be constructed that might spark debate.

As for your point about the New Perspective (as it relates to this question), you should note that some of its harshest critics (such as Mark Seifrid and Francis Watson) also opt for a view which emphasizes incorporation over imputation.

TheBlueRaja said...

Chris,

You shouldn't be THAT surprised that I take NT lexicons over Webster's in this case. Furthermore, the fact that "not counting their trespasses against them" further qualifies "reconcilliation" doesn't mean that it "defines" it, as you know from the myriad of grammatical options for participial qualification.

What's more straightforward - to see the word "reconcilliation" as meaning "reconcilliation with God" in the sense of re-established relationship, or as a subtle accounting metaphor? You could argue that the word "logizomai" intends to conjure accounting imagery - but I take the controlling metaphor to be the one actually explicitly mentioned in the text, namely the one of "ambassador" for a King.

Again, since the majority opinion of NT lexicons in theological contexts support the vanilla meaning of "reconciliation" as opposed to the accounting word-picture, it may be time to define your use of the word "flimsy".

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: " I take the controlling metaphor to be the one actually explicitly mentioned in the text, namely the one of "ambassador" for a King."

Chris's point was that both ideas are prominent in this context. The "ambassador" idea applies to the preacher and evangelist, who proclaims the message of reconciliation. The work of reconciliation, accomplished by Christ, is where the forensic aspects apply.

This doesn't strike me as a particularly complex distinction. It certainly doesn't warrant the elimination of imputation from Paul's doctrine of justification. Ditto for the truth of our union with Christ. Your insistence on either/or in both cases (either reconciliation or imputation and either union with Christ or imputation) makes no sense whatsoever.

I realize that argument is not unique to you, and it's gaining popularity—but that doesn't make it any less unjustified. Since it's such a radical departure from the historic Protestant consensus, it's going to take a lot more than a "well, it seems to me..." type of argument to persuade me.

CalvDispy said...

Raja,
1) How do you define "incorporation"? 2) Where have you borrowed this term? 3) Does your understanding of incorporation rule out substutionary atonement?

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

1) I didn't argue for a non-forensic understanding of reconilliation, I didn't even argue that the word ruled out an accounting word-picture - I just said that the WORD BY ITSELF doesn't freight all of that stuff in, and that the lexicons are right to suggest that whatever interpretation of the passage you may take, reconcilliation means the plain old removal of offense and restoration of a relationship. Nothing hinges on the nonsense about "accounting metaphors" which stands behind the word reconcilliation in 2 Co. 5:21 - you can have a robust Reformed interpretation without it, and the points I made about the meaning of the word in this context stand, however insignificant they are.

2) I realize that a "it seems to me" argument (whatever that is) might not be convincing to you - it's just that my view is actually in the text. It says that we are made righteous "in Him" - not through Him, not because of Him, but in Him. If you want to argue that this isn't incompatible with the picture of "exchange", that's fine with me - but the picture of "incorporation" is much more than an "implication" of this text - it's actually in the text. So, I'll take the concession you offered when it comes to THIS text, anyway.

Whatever your view of building systematic theology I'm sure you'd agree that we have to find out what one text is saying (and this one is pretty clear) before we harmonize it with another. It'll be breat to see what you've got cooking from other passages in the rest of the series.

I'm curious to know, however, what's at stake in your mind if a) substitution is clearly affirmed, and b) the forensic nature of our righteousness is clearly affirmed and the denial of infused righteousness is also stressed such that the only difference being proposed is that identification with Christ is the instrumentality for these things instead of an exchange from one party to another.

Calvdispy,

As for 1) and 2), check out Michael Bird's article for a sensible Reformed expression of the view. As for 3), no, no, no, a thousand times no.

TheBlueRaja said...

Ugh. I meant "great" not "breat". That's one letter away from an admin deleted post. I typed all of that pretty fast. Or "bast", if you will (it seems to me, as it were).

Chris Pixley said...

Raja-

You shouldn't be THAT surprised that I take NT lexicons over Webster's in this case.

Who said anything about Webster's?

Furthermore, the fact that "not counting their trespasses against them" further qualifies "reconcilliation" doesn't mean that it "defines" it,

Is not qualification a means of further defining what is meant by the use of a particular term. Sure, qualifiers may not define a thing in its entirety, but certainly they provide some explanation as to what is meant in part. In Paul's case, he seems clearly to be arguing that the reconciliation he envisions involves the "not counting" of an indivudual's sins against them. In other words, this reconciliation--the restoration of a relationship--could not happen if one's sins were still counted against them by God. Thus, Paul is partly defining the nature of this reconciliation.

as you know from the myriad of grammatical options for participial qualification.

Yes, I am familiar with the variety of uses of participial phrases in the NT. As I recall, I sat through the same classes you did ;-) Would you care to offer an interpretation of the phrase that might counter the idea that Paul is using transactional language here?

What's more straightforward - to see the word "reconcilliation" as meaning "reconcilliation with God" in the sense of re-established relationship, or as a subtle accounting metaphor? You could argue that the word "logizomai" intends to conjure accounting imagery - but I take the controlling metaphor to be the one actually explicitly mentioned in the text, namely the one of "ambassador" for a King.

You've simply made an arbitrary choice (and Phil has rightly suggested that's it's based on the false notion that only one idea can be present in the text). I'm arguing that, by use of logizomai, Paul is expliciltly drawing our attention to the transaction of justification that is essential to biblical reconciliation. As Phil has stated, both ideas are present in the text.

Again, since the majority opinion of NT lexicons in theological contexts support the vanilla meaning of "reconciliation" as opposed to the accounting word-picture, it may be time to define your use of the word "flimsy".

I'm familiar with what the majority of NT lexicons have to say about the meanining of katalasso. But you know as well as I do that strict lexical definitions only go so far in interpreting a text. A term's full gloss is determined by it's usage in a particular context. That's why I argue that Paul's use of katalasso in 2 Cor 5 can only be rightly understood in light of his use of logizomai as a qualifier.

TheBlueRaja said...

Incidentally, Phil, I don't think the distinction between Christ transferring His righteousness to us and us recieving our righteousness "in Him" is too complex a notion, and I didn't say that one couldn't affirm the doctrine of our union with Christ or justification and still hold to imputation. That, of course, would be nonsense. All I'm saying that the picture of incorporation fits the actual texts involved much better and puts greater significance on Paul's repetition of the "in Christ" terminology throughout his letters. Our faith unites us to Jesus and causes us to share in His death and resurrection, resulting in our justification.

Moreover, in that it maintains penal substitutionary atonement, the propitiation of God's wrath, the forensic nature of our justification and the rejection of Catholic notions of infused righteousness, it's something of an overstatement to call it "a radical departure".

TheBlueRaja said...

Chris, I think we're talking past one another. Take a look at what I wrote to Phil under 1), and see if that helps to clarify (and my responses to exit-dissolve, while you're at it).

My only disagreement with Cent was the idea that the word katallasso is an intentional market-place metaphor. In other words, my very point was our agreement that "lexical definitions only go so far in interpreting a text" - a sound interpretation can't rest on a dubious word study. If you want to argue for an accounting metaphor here, you'll have to find other features in the text beyond freighting in extended classical definitions from the word katallasso (and logizomai, for that matter). In theological contexts within Hellenistic Judaism, this is the word people used to refer to a restored relationship, change in status, with God - no subterranean depiction of the exchange of coinage present.

But neither the existence of such a metaphor, or such connotations of these words, are necessary for seeing an implied transaction in this passage - but it must be admitted that such a transaction is implied, not somehow smuggled into a "rich" word-picture present behind these two words.

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way, Chris - to answer your question, yes of course "not counting our trespasses" further qualifies how Christ reconciled us to God - but one can affirm this without saying that the word "reconcile" pictures a financial exchange and the word "counting" depicts a ledger with my account balance listed. Reconcile in this context means "reconcile". "not counting our tresspasses against us" means "not counting our tresspasses against us".

God has brought us into fellowship with Himself in Jesus Christ by not regarding our sins because of the work of His death and resurrection. I can teach that without referring to these words as clever "finanical metaphors" which are only "really clear in the Greek" - because they're not.

CalvDispy said...

Raja,
Do you regard the "en christo/ en auto/ sun chirsto/ sun auto" and the various "sun" compound verbs (e.g. Rom. 6:4, 6, 8) as a reciprocal ways of expressing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or as Col. 1:27 says, "Christ in you..."?

I am in process of reading the ETS article. I am trying to understand what you are saying.

TheBlueRaja said...

Calvdispy,

Well, I take the "en" in Col. 1:27 passage as "among you" (i.e. among the body of believers in Colossae), and I take the "in Christ" passages you mentioned to refer to our Spiritual (as in "by the Holy Spirit") union with Jesus by which Paul says you have died with Him (Col. 2:20) and you are raised to new life with Him (Col 3:1). This is also present in Ro. 6:1-7. We are placed "in Christ" by faith, and by this union that we have Christ's righteous standing before God.

Steve said...

Blue Raja said to donsands, "The literal meaning is monetary, but the usage here isn't intended to convey a book-keeping word-picture."

Later, Blue Raja said to Phil, "I didn't even argue that the word ruled out an accounting word-picture."

Maybe I'm too simplistic a reader, but is Blue Raja backpeddling a bit in that latter statement?

CalvDispy said...

Raja,
Taking a second Look at the grammar of Col. 1:27, I think I agree with you. However, what is your thought on Gal. 2:20? Specifically the phrase, "Christ lives in me [ev emoi]". I think this is a significant phrase expressing union with Christ considering its connection with the use of sunestauromai (i.e. the 'sun' compound - "crucified together with [Christ]"). I believe Paul coined certain 'sun' compound verbs to express our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. However, is union no less expressed in the "Christ lives in me" phrase?

I question the strictly federalist view of union with Christ as represented in many reformed circles as incorporation (or what some call "corporate solidarity"). Both John Murray (cf. art. "Definitive Sanctification") and Richard Gaffin (cf. book "Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology") reject the corporate view of union and opt for an experiental view. I have been persuaded by their careful arguments. This is based on a strictly locative understanding of the "en Christo, et. al." formulas as first propounded by A. Deissmann with some qualifications (I think Deissmann over-simplified the data). I think this has profound implications for our understanding of union and may nuance our understanding of justification though I must think through those notions. I just find it interesting that you bring up union in connection with justification. However, I question the incorporation view if it represents the standard federalist interpretation of union.

Forgive my ramblings, I am sort of thinking out loud.

TheBlueRaja said...

Calvdispy,

That's interesting, Scott (I just realized who you are!) - I'll have to look into that. Thanks for the references!

Steve,

I was saying to donsands that the presence of this word isn't sufficient to prove a book-keeping metaphor. I was telling Phil the same thing. The word doesn't necessitate it (donsands), and it doesn't rule it out (Phil). In short, the word itself isn't enough to justify the presence of such a metaphor in the passage.

So no, I'm not backpeddling.

Steve said...

I typed my last post at 10:51 last night--make that backpedaling, not backpeddling (now that would be interesting to see...).

donsands said...

raj,

I thought because of the context, Cent was expounding on the meaning of this word. It's context that releases the meaning of a word, isn't it?

Exist~Dissolve said...

taliesin--

Not if God has a purpose in doing so. If God's purpose is to reveal both justice and mercy, love and wrath, holiness and grace, He has to ordain a reality which would allow for both to be displayed.

So God's "justice" can only be displayed if evil exists? According to this logic, it would seem that evil is actually necessary to God's existence. Odd, indeed. However, at least God would not be neurotic, only schizophrenic.

So what God desires is not to punish the Son for such a creation but to punish sin as a display of justice and mercy - that is displaying both His righteousness in punishing sin and His grace in forgiving sinners.

I do not understand why punishment is necessary for the display of God's justice. If God is truly "just," it would seem that any act would be a display of justice. Therefore, if punishment of sin is a necessary requisit to God displaying justice, my previous comment about sinfulness being necessary to the existence of God is spot on. Of course, it is odd that God would react so strangely to something inherent to God's nature, but that is what schizophrenics do, I suppose.

So, using this principle we can correctly infer that when Peter writes, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."(1 Peter 2:24 ESV) he literally means our sins were placed on Christ and punished on the cross?

Sins cannot be abstracted from persons, for sin does not have an ontological existence unto itself. Therefore, I would suggest that the interpretation should follow along the lines of something like Christ becoming prey to the consequences of human sinfulness.

In Romans 4 Paul repeatedly states that Abraham had righteousness credited to him because he believed. He is not made righteous. He does not become righteous. Faith is credited (imputed) to him transactionally as righteousness.

What of 1 John 2:28-3:3:

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

It seems that this pretty explicitly says that we shall be "like" Christ, not simply considered to be like Christ.

Exist~Dissolve said...

broken--

No argument here but your insistence on ontology only lends to my point. Being made righteous by faith in Christ is not negated by the fact that we are being made righteous in faith.


Huh?

Nor does any of this negate as to how we are able to come to Christ by faith...again consult Romans 4 in light of your protests.

Again, Romans 4 is a decently sized chapter. More specific references would be helpful.

Because your objection to Phil's use of "credited" is absurd in light of this passage. You cannot strip Paul down to a single verse, mine it as you like, but then deny the consideration of all other relevant passages in light of the one you are protesting.

Stripping Paul down to one verse---oh, you mean like the verse with "credited" in it? Pretty convenient.

Yes, righteousness not by identification. Yes, not by the culturs of Judaism. Yes, by faith in Christ. But no, you cannot then "conjure" for yourself some phantom link between imputation of righteousness and Judaism in order to demonize the argument with ghosts that just aren't there. We are credited righteousness by faith in Christ. It's Christ's righteousness that we are given, not the righteousness of self found under Judaic law, customs and observances.

But it is not "credited." We are "born of God," as 1 John says. This, again, is ontological language, a fundamental change in the very constitution of who we are.

You need to show how your concerns over the ontologoical and the forensic are mutually exclusive. I don't see this as either/or at all, it's a both/and situation.

I've already discussed at length my objections to forensic language. If you have a specific question about what I have said, I will be more than willing to answer it. HOwever, I do not wish to rehash everything that I have said to this point.

Phil Johnson said...

Exist~dissolve "What of 1 John 2:28-3:3 . . . It seems that this pretty explicitly says that we shall be 'like' Christ, not simply considered to be like Christ."

You have confounded justification with glorification. Taliesin cited a passage where Paul is expressly dealing with justification and explaining the principle of imputation. You deflected to a passage where the apostle John is dealing with glorification. (And you did so without even acknowledging the plain truth of the passage that was originally cited. Not a very fruitful way to discuss such a weighty issue.)

No one denies that we will be made "like Christ" when we are glorified. What we deny is that our standing with God right here and now is somehow dependent on the future reality of what we will be, rather than the accomplished fact of what Christ has done for us.

In other words, if I'm justified by being made "like Christ," then my full justification must await my glorification. But that's contrary to the plain statements of Romans 5:1, Romans 8:1, and a host of other NT references.

CalvDispy said...

Raja,
I read Bird’s JETS article, “Incorporated Righteousness” and I believe he makes some valid points regarding the connection between justification and union with Christ. I think it is particularly apropos for the present discussion of 2 Cor. 5:21 since Paul says we have become the righteousness of God “in Him” (en auto).

However, Bird’s argument hinges on his understanding of union with Christ which as I suspected is understood as representational. This understanding is simply assumed without argumentation. Given that, if I understand his argument correctly, imputation is unnecessary for the following reason: the locus of righteousness is found strictly in the person of Christ (no one would deny that), but the benefit of Christ’s righteousness for the believer is limited to His being their representative. In other words, since Bird seems to tie justification primarily to federal union (to me this is a dubious and reductionistic treatment ignoring a wider array of data), then no transactional dimension of justification can be seen. I am not so sure that proves much even for those who hold to federal headship. It seems to me like so much sound and fury signifying nothing. Why can’t righteousness be imputed under Christ’s representation? It seems to me that imputation has the same forensic overtones that federal representation does.

In either case, I think a stronger case for imputation can be made from understanding union with Christ as that which is in some way real and not merely representational. This is the reason for bringing up Gal. 2:20 (cf. also Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 3:17). I think it is fair to say believers are “in Christ” in the same way that Christ is in the believer. This treats the “in Christ” formulas as locative. In other words, the fact that the believer is joined ‘really’ to Christ and Christ to the believer makes the notion of imputation of sin and righteousness via exchange much more palpable in my mind.

This does not mean that our union with Christ is ontological (let us dispense with E~D’s silliness), although there is an organic connection (i.e. think of John 15 – the Vine and Branches motif along with other metaphors describing the believer’s relationship to Christ that are perhaps less metaphorical than we usually think). I think union with Christ points to the experiential transformation of conversion. Although the objective reality of justification is not experiential, I think its connection to union ties it to the whole matrix of salvific ideas, both objective and subjective. In other words, ultimately we cannot isolate any one dimension of salvation be it the ideas of redemption, reconciliation, atonement, regeneration, adoption, union, or justification, etc…

This is not a finely tuned argument on my part, but merely the results of my ongoing reflections on some of the issues involved in the bigger picture.

Chris Pixley said...

Raja-

If you want to argue for an accounting metaphor here, you'll have to find other features in the text beyond freighting in extended classical definitions from the word katallasso (and logizomai, for that matter).

I'm not arguing for such an idea inherent in katallasso, rather that, in this particular context, katallasso is qualified by logizomai. Are you suggesting that the bookeeping/accounting metaphor should not be understood as inherent in logizomai? How does Paul use logizomai, particularly in texts clearly relating to justification? Would not the Corinthians have understood some bookeeping sense when Paul used the term?

Jeremy Weaver said...

Why is Raja still peddling Bird's Incorporated Righteousness article? How many times does it have to be refuted?

TheBlueRaja said...

Scott,

That's really interesting - at this point I'm not sure that there's got to be one picture/model for how this works. It could be that Paul employs more than one imagery to describe our reception of Christ's righteousness. Moreover I'm not sure that representationalism is a necessary component to Bird's view - maybe you could flesh that out a bit more. I didn't see the distinction of metaphorical vs. actual union as being at stake in the discussion, since an experiential union with Christ could just as easily serve as the instrumentality of recieving Christ's righteousness. But again, I haven't really thought much about this particular debate - and it'll be fun to follow up on the sources you mentioned. How do you speak of the dying and raising of Christ and its impact upon the believer as it relates to justification as per the experiential emphasis you've mentioned?

Chris,

If you're not arguing for such an idea inherent in katallasso, we don't have a disagreement. If you're arguying for logizomai as inherently communicating a bookkeeping metaphor, we disagree. The word means to "consider" or to "reckon", in justification contexts. No, the Corinthians would not have understood it to be a word-picture from bookeeping. Words by themselves rarely are so picturesque, and Greek isn't special in that regard.

Jeremy,

I'm not "peddling" anything. What do I possibly have to gain from anyone being convinced by this view? I don't care whether you embrace it or not - I just happen to think it better explains the language in the texts used to describe imputation. Amd as I recall it hasn't been soundly refuted here. In fact, in the treatment of 2 Co. 5:19-21 within this post, it was largely conceded. Disagreement and refutation are two different things, and your vocalization of the former doesn't entail the latter.

Taliesin said...

E~D: However, at least God would not be neurotic, only schizophrenic. . . . I do not understand why punishment is necessary for the display of God's justice. . . . Sins cannot be abstracted from persons, for sin does not have an ontological existence unto itself.

I think I'll pass on the invitation to run around the mulberry bush again.

So, for now at least, let's have a cease fire. Phil has promised more posts on the topic, so let's be gentlemen and let him finish, shall we?

CalvDispy said...

Raja,
If you are still reading this thread, I must say I am not prepared to say too much more about the connection between justification and union with Christ as I understand it. This is still fresh in my mind and your comments on this thread sparked further interest in the matter.

Apart from this side discussion, I have not been convinced of the arguments against imputation. I find it interesting the respect Bird pays to John Piper's work, "Counted Righteous in Christ." I think Piper did a fine job defending imputation and I look forward to PJ's up-coming posts.

Michael Coughlin said...

Can I just say that this is such a wonderful and succinct post describing the glory of Christ?

I saw this 03/01/2013, but noticed the post was written July of 2006, less than two weeks after this HAPPENED TO ME. I praise God that pryo is still here today for me to read and for the grace of Christ to me that month.