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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dr. Gaffin On The Perpetual State of Justification

Dr. Richard Gaffin recently asserted in an article printed in the February, 2007 issue of New Horizons that the justified in Christ remain justified due to Jesus’ intercessory prayer (among other things). If such a point is sound, then it would stand to reason that without the supposed necessary condition of the Mediator’s prayer, the justified would fall from grace. Let’s remove from this discussion the obvious point that Christ holds together all things by the word of his power. Dr. Gaffin is not merely suggesting that if Christ doesn’t pray for the world it will fall apart and that the disintegration of the world would of course include the believer’s justification. Rather he is saying that if Christ does not pray for our state of justification, we would lose what we have in Christ. For Dr. Gaffin’s thesis to be true, it must be logically possible for the benefit of justification that proceeds from effectual calling to be undone. Obviously Dr. Gaffin appreciates that it is theologically impossible for a saint to lose his salvation because of God’s promise. The question is whether it is logically impossible for a soul to fall from grace and lose his forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. To entertain the logical possibility of one losing his justification, we must table the theological promise that informs us that such will not occur. We are not looking at what will occur but what could occur if there was no Divine promise to the contrary.

Allowing for counterfactuals, we can imagine without logical contradiction that I am writing this entry due to Jesus’ effectual prayer and that without it I would be reading instead. The reason that it is tenable that I could be reading rather than writing is because such a counterfactual does not contradict who I am; it does not contradict my essence in other words. Does it stand to reason that there would be no logical contradiction in my essence or in my relationship with God if I were to fall from grace due to a lack of intercessory prayer?

Why should we believe that the non-eternal, existential union that believers have in Christ by grace can be logically altered? It is probably more evident that it would be logically impossible for a glorified soul to fall from glory because of the ontological change that will occur when the corruptible puts on the incorruption. For starters, there would be no point of contact for sin to infect the glorified saint so that he might fall from glory. However, must redeemed sinners wait for their glorified state in order to receive any immutable, ontological change to their essence that would prohibit them from falling from God’s favor unto a loss of forgiveness in Christ? Is it logically possible for those who have been recreated in Christ to become uncreated and separated from Christ's body? Is it posssible that the Head be separated from His Body? Is it logically possible that one die if Christ has died as his substitute? Doesn't our security in Christ transcend His intercessory prayer and rely solely on what He has already done for us?

Our Lord is praying for many things for which I am grateful, but I am not convinced that He is praying that believers remain (forgiven) in Him and that He remain in them, anymore than we should suppose that Jesus must pray for the mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Trinity. Of course, Christ prays that believers grow in him but why should we believe that He prays for those who are in him to be perpetually forgiven and declared righteous in Him? Don't believers have by grace what the Son has by nature – immutable sonship with all its privileges – namely, immutable union and communion with the Triune God that cannot logically (and of course theologically) be altered? Believers are Christ’s body. Can Christ lose his body? Must Christ pray that his vindication over death remain His and isn't Christ's vindication the believer's by a union with Christ that cannot be broken and need not be asked for by the Son?

If Jesus stopped praying for our sanctification, why would we not enter into glory as opposed to death? Why should we believe that the default position or gravitational pull is downward as opposed to upward for the saint who has been recreated in the image of Christ? I should probably tread lightly here given whom I am questioning but it seems rather obvious to me that our forgiveness has been sealed until the day of redemption and that fact is not a matter of prayer. What is a matter of prayer is the growth that has been appointed for the believer in Christ, for it is logically possible that one grow less than he will.


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