Friday, January 29, 2010

3 Christ's Merit and Our Salvation: Covenant and Justification in Olevianus's "Exposition of the Apostles' Creed"

Yesterday I mentioned that i've just obtained the new work by the German Reformer, Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed, newly published by Reformation Heritage Books in the Classic Reformed Theology series, edited by Scott Clark. The first in the series was the excellent exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism by William Ames, the English Reformer, entitled A Sketch of the Christian's Catechism, published last year, and which I also very highly recommend.

As I have begun to get into this work, I keep digging up nuggets of gold. Witness this one that I just ran across this morning, from the Introduction by Olevianus, immediately following the piece I quoted yesterday:
"We can see from the following that this covenant between God and us is a gracious one and does not rest upon any condition of our own worthiness or merit, but exists through faith alone. For so far as God is concerned, He, strictly speaking, makes the covenant with us when He seals in our hearts through His Spirit the promise of gracious reconciliation offered in the gospel (Titus 3:5-7; 2Tim 1:9; Gal. 3:6, 28-29). So far as we are concerned, we receive it through faith alone when we are graciously endowed with the Holy Spirit who brings it about that we want to believe and are able to believe the gracious promise of reconciliation through Christ (Eph. 1; Joel 2; Isa. 59). If you look at the Mediator, our heavenly Father has indeed received from Him the price of reconciliation and we have satisfaction in Him. For in the same way the Mediator was graciously sent and given to us, and also imputes to use that merit, the covenant is also gracious. So this whole covenant is purely gracious and exists through faith alone. With respect to God, the offering of the promise of grace and the giving of Christ Himself is gracious. The reception on our part is also gracious because it is the action of God in us by which He seals His promise on our hearts. He does this so that having been acted upon, we might act, that is, that having been made believers by Him, we might believe (Eph. 2:1, 5-10). All of these things are clearly described in that promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 that I referred to above.

The reason why God wanted this covenant to be completely gracious was so that all glory might redound to Him alone...." (pp. 14-15, Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles' Creed)
Despite the objections of some in the Federal Vision camp, or those more recently who seem to want to echo the Federal Vision's objection to ANY discussion of merit, the grounding of salvation in God's gracious election and the just imputation of Christ's righteousness to His elect is an OLD idea - is not the product of any newfangled hermeneutic. Olevianus, one of the architects of the Reformation in Europe, as one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, clearly teaches here in this little section of the introduction to this work - and elsewhere within, and (Scott Clark will confirm this I'm sure, as a recognized scholar of Olevianus) throughout his writings - that Christ's merit, the merit of the Mediator, is applied to us. We are reckoned FULLY righteous in the sight of God - and that righteousness is, sorry to say to some recent objectors - a meritorious righteousness, for it is CHRIST's righteousness, properly speaking.

How glorious is our Lord - how magnificent is His salvation, for He has granted and imputed the fully meritorious righteousness of Christ to filthy and depraved sinners such as you and me. We have to grasp both the depth of our sin, and the stupendous height of the righteousness we are imputed with, in order to really begin to understand the matchless grace of God...and, as we increase in our appreciation of the magnificence of this grace, we have all the more motivation toward thanksgiving and praise... and all indeed does to redound to God's glory!

Again, though my time in this book is small, I have to say it will be well worth the price. Grab a copy, which you can buy here and hear how this elder brother in the faith fleshed out the doctrines of the creed. You won't be sorry you did.

Our date for discussing this book and Caspar Olevianus with Dr. Scott Clark is now set - February 16 - on Covenant Radio. Look for the podcast (check the right-hand sidebar of this page for subscription instructions) and be on the lookout for rebroadcasts on our streaming station, Sola5 Radio. Daily announcements of programming highlights at Sola5 Radio may be accessed at the Sola5 blog.


Bobby Grow said...

Could you clarify on what you mean when you say:

the grounding of salvation in God's gracious election and the just imputation of Christ's righteousness to His elect is an OLD idea . . .

How do you further ground salvation in Christ? In other words to frame it this way is to say that salvation is grounded in 'us', the elect; which makes me wonder how this framing can be said to be "Christ-centered" at all.

I've only read Bierma on Caspar, I look forward to reading this work soon.

Todd said...

Bobby -

Where did I say that salvation was grounded in "the elect"?

All I am saying (albeit I certainly could have worded things in a way that wouldn't have confused you) is PRECISELY that salvation has its point of reference outside of us. We are saved

because God elected us from before the foundation of the world

because Christ laid down his life for the elect

because God imputes Christ's righteousness to the elect and therefore they are accepted in the beloved.

Check Ephesians 1 and 2, and you'll see exactly what I was talking about, and what Olevianus clearly points to - ALIEN righteousness, salvation that is fully gracious, hinging upon nothing that the elect person has brought to the table.

I really don't understand how my words were seemingly so misconstrued as to be interpreted as my saying (or Olevianus's saying) that salvation is grounded in the elect.

Bobby Grow said...


My point is that you don't have salvation grounded in Christ. In other words you have introduced a need into the life of God which w/o us He cannot meet.

It is the strangest thing to me, that "Federally Reformed" folks cannot see or make this connection.

If you think this through and out of the Incarnation, and its inner logic, then we ground salvation in Christ; we ground it in His 'elect humanity for us'. I see Jesus as the Deus Incarnandus (the God to be Incarnate); and I follow the Scotist idea that He always intended to become incarnate even w/o the 'fall'. This preserves His freedom, and also sees the ontological and economic nature of God as self-same (which federalism places a wedge between by way of its decrees absolutum decretum).

Karl Barth critiqued the problems inherent to the classic framing of predestination/election; and I think in a more biblically faithful way. That's where I'm coming from, that's why Scott runs me off with his typical caricatures (i.e. Barth mafia et al). I'm not really interested in following the steamroller of WTS, and of which Clark typifies; but every now and then I just get the urge to throw a little 'word' out there.

If you haven't read Barth or TF Torrance's critique of your view of election/predestination then you should. People like Clark just demonize Barth, and "appeal to the people," and thus create an atmosphere of fear when they hear of Barth or Torrance (like my friend unfortunately who has been taken captive by URC).

Anyway, that's where I'm coming from.


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