Paul's Passing Thoughts

Calvin’s Double Imputation Voids the Gospel of Promise and the Spirit’s Two-Fold Use of the Law

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 9, 2015

“Again, we find another major role of the Holy Spirit in regard to the promise: His two-fold use of the law; to condemn, and to sanctify. Calvinism only recognizes ONE use of the law: condemnation which Christians are still under. That’s why Christ needed to be a perfect law-keeper in their minds. But as a result, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is falsely reduced to a single dimension.” 

Longtime Protestants would probably agree that among the mass of pithy orthodox truisms they live by, one is conspicuously missing. Even though orthodox truisms often use non-biblical words, this missing truism is actually Bible-specific: “the promise.”

The promise is central to the gospel, but where has it been? So, what is the promise? Let’s find out, and then show why it is antithetical to the Protestant gospel.

Understanding the promise begins with understanding the seed, or offspring of Abraham. The seed is mentioned in Genesis as first coming from Eve, although that could also refer to Mary the mother of Jesus, but the seed is not associated with any salvific covenant until Abraham.

The seed (offspring) then becomes part of the Covenant of Promise, also known as the Abrahamic covenant, but more biblically correct as “the Covenant of Promise.” I am going to pull the whole rabbit out of the hat here as a way to establish the thesis for this post:

God makes a promise to Abraham and the seed. The promise is the coming of the Spirit. The “seed,” singular, is Christ. So, the basics of the Covenant of Promise follow: God reconciled Himself to man by promising Abraham and Christ…the coming of the Spirit. This makes all three members of the Trinity major players in salvation. To emphasize one particular member of the Trinity over another in regard to salvation is heresy; the Father makes the Promise to Christ and Abraham, Christ is the seed, and the Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise. God also elects Christ, angels, and Israel as a means of bringing about the fulfillment of the promise.

The promise is to all men who believe, and saving faith is defined by believing the promise. That’s it; the ONLY thing man can do to be saved is believe the promise. Abraham is the father of our faith because he believed the promise God made to him.

 Genesis 15:1 – After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Saving faith believes the promise. It is the promise of Christ and the gift of the Spirit. As part of it, God promised Christ that he would be resurrected by the Spirit after bearing the sin of the world. Christ is efficacious to the promise, but is also a recipient of the promise. Let’s look at some Scripture:

Acts 1:4 – And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

“The promise of the Father” is a major step in the unfolding of the Covenant of Promise. Part of it is the baptism of the Spirit. Peter elaborates on this further in his sermon during Pentecost:

Acts 2:22 – Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know;

23 him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay:

24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

25 For David saith concerning him, I beheld the Lord always before my face; For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope: 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou madest known unto me the ways of life; Thou shalt make me full of gladness with thy countenance.

29 Brethren, I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day.

30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne;

31 he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

32 This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses.

33 Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear.

34 For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?

38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. (ASV).

First, note that Christ was approved by God, and this approval by God was shown forth to men by “mighty works and wonders and signs” and NOT perfect law-keeping. This should be noted for future reference in regard to Protestant double imputation. Also,

Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear.

This promise was to…

Galatians 3:16 – Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

The “promises” in the plural refer to the other covenants that build on the Covenant of Promise to Abraham. The Davidic covenant is hinted at in the afore quoted sermon by Peter.  The promises were to Abraham and Christ, and the coming of the Spirit in power is the specific promise. Part of the promise is that Christ would not be left in the grave, but rather:

Romans 8:11 – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Believing the promise necessarily involves believing what the promise is; it is the promise of eternal life through the means God elected. God promised Abraham that he and Sarah would give birth to an heir even though both were old and Sarah was barren. Abraham would then be the father of a great nation from which all of the other nations on earth would be blessed. In his lineage would be the seed (offspring) that would take away the sins of the world. Christ would die for the sins of the world, and would be raised by the promise of the Spirit. For Abraham’s offspring, viz, his children of faith, that means receiving the promise of the Spirit, or the baptism of the Spirit. This is the new birth—it means you literally die with Christ according to the old you, and are literally resurrected with Christ as a new creature, “you must be born again.”

This is where the Bible takes great pains to emphasize that the law has no part in this whatsoever. The Covenant of Promise is by promise only. Abraham stumbled and attempted to help God out with the planned promise by bearing a son with one of his concubines. God then took opportunity to make the fiasco representative of the law.

Galatians 4:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

The lineage of Christ would always be according to promise apart from man’s works or efforts. When Rebecca had twins,

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Normally, the eldest son would be heir.

The right of possession into which the eldest son is born. The first son born to the father occupied a prominent place in the Hebrew family (Gen. xxvii. 19, xxxv. 23, xli. 51, xlix. 3; II Sam. iii. 2). Such a one is the “first-born” in the proper sense, and is to be distinguished from sons who are “first-born” merely in the sense of being the first child born to one of the several wives that men might have (Ex. xiii. 2, 12, xxii. 28; xxxiv. 19; Num. xviii. 15).

The first-born son took rank before his brothers and sisters (Gen. xxvi. 31, 32; xliii. 33). Usually the father bequeathed to him the greater part of the inheritance, except when a favored wife succeeded in obtaining it for one of her sons (Gen. xxvii.; I Kings xi. 11-13).

~ Jewish Encyclopedia

God trumped tradition and decided that the “older would serve the younger” before either had done anything good or bad. Granted, this could have been determined by God because He foreknew the character of the two sons. God did not hate Esau before he or his descendants did anything good or evil, His hatred towards Esau was based on things that he did (Mal 1:1-5, Heb 12:16).  Who would serve whom and who would be the heir was predetermined, not a hatred for Esau before he was born. The point of Romans 9 follows: any Jew claiming that the law is part of the promise may be a fleshly offspring of Abraham, but not according to promise. Also, the Jews are still God’s chosen people even though some rebelled; regardless, a remnant of the promise remain.

The apostle Paul makes the point in his letter to the Galatians that if law has anything to do with our inheritance, it is not by promise. The law or any work of man is not even in the ballpark. Salvation comes by believing the promise.

Galatians 3:1 – O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Again, Paul makes the point that Christ was shown to be approved by God through the miracles he performed, not law-keeping. And,

the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

And…

Galatians 3:15 – To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

This is what makes the Reformed view of double imputation a huge problem.  It is the idea that God’s law is the standard for righteousness. Supposedly, Christ came to die for our sins (passive obedience), and lived a perfect life to fulfil the law for us. As we have seen, the standard for becoming righteous is believing the promise only. If the law had anything to do at all with the baptism of the Spirit according the promise, the law would be an additional offspring with Christ:

16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

The law is not an additional offspring that can give life—that’s Paul’s point. And it doesn’t matter who keeps the law; i.e. Christ, the issue is law period.

Hence, Calvinists insert law where it doesn’t belong, and then they take it away where it does belong.

Galatians 3:21 – Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

In regard to salvation, there is no law, but all sin is against the law (1Jn 3:4).  In this way, every sin committed by man is imputed to the law. Christ then died on the cross to end the law and all of the sin imputed to it (Rom 10:4).

Again, we find another major role of the Holy Spirit in regard to the promise: His two-fold use of the law; to condemn, and to sanctify. Calvinism only recognizes ONE use of the law: condemnation which Christians are still under. That’s why Christ needed to be a perfect law-keeper in their minds (Christ was a perfect keeper of the spirit of the law by virtue of who He was). But as a result, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is falsely reduced to a single dimension. Christians must park at the foot of the cross in order to keep their sins COVERED by the perfect obedience of Christ. They are not free to serve in the new way of the Spirit:

Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

All of the unsaved are still under law, and the Holy Spirit uses that law to warn them of sin and the judgment to come, thereby pointing them to Christ who ended the law for them (Jn 16:8). When they believe, the Spirit baptizes them and uses the law (Scripture, Holy Writ, etc) to sanctify them (Jn 17:17).

Be sure of this: Reformed double imputation rejects the new birth.

All and all, I would say the major emphasis of this post points to the deliberate diminishing of the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation and sanctification. Calvinism is the Galatian problem all over again. It inserts law where it doesn’t belong, viz, as part of the promise (and makes it the gospel’s standard for justification), and takes it away from the new way of the Spirit. There is no law in sanctification because Calvinism keeps “Christians” under the law’s condemnation. Therefore, supposedly, Jesus must keep it for us.

This circumvents the Christian’s ability to fulfill the spirit of the law through loving acts prescribed by the Bible. Those must also be substituted by Christ lest salvation be completed by works because according to the doctrine of double imputation, the standard for justification is perfect law-keeping and not new birth resulting from believing the promise.

The new birth therefore makes us holy priests who use our temple and its members to give living sacrifices to God according to biblical instruction (sanctification). The law is for sanctification, not justification.

paul

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