Old Doxoblogy

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chosen To Be Like Christ

Christ-likeness is the goal of salvation. As we behold Christ we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another. Finally, when Christ returns, we will see Him as He is and we will then be like Him. How is this related to Election? Well, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 8 says this;

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30)


In other words, those who God knew were predestined to Christ-likeness. Then in verse 30, Paul shows us the golden chain of salvation. Those who are foreknown are predestined, those He predestines He calls, those He calls He justifies, those He justifies He glorifies. Each link in our salvation is dependent on the previous link, which makes all of salvation dependent, primarily, on God, and secondarily, His election.
So then, we see that the purpose of election is glorification, or, Christ-likeness. Paul says the same thing in Ephesians;

"...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. " (Eph 1:4)


So, since we know that God intends to make us like Christ, the question becomes, "How does He do it?" Good question! Here's your answer.

Sanctification.

I guess we need to be a little more technical in our answer. He does it by sending Christ to live a perfect life and die in our place as though He had lived our wicked life, raising Him from the dead, giving the Holy Spirit, sending preachers into all the world, calling the elect through the preaching of the Gospel, regenerating the elect, sanctifying the elect, and keeping them till that day when we see Jesus face to face and are transformed into His likeness.
But we are not to think that Christ-likeness is only something that is accomplished in the future. Christ-likeness is something that is being accomplished now in our lives. This is called sanctification. Sanctification is the process whereby we are being conformed to Christ's image right now. This is an area where we are challenged by Scripture. If we are not being sanctified, we are not saved. Paul tells us this in 2 Thessalonians;

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Th 2:13-14)


Sanctification is the means that God has ordained to bring us to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the matter of sanctification is vitally important to diagnosing our spiritual health. If there is no sanctification present, you are dead. God chose us to be like Christ, and all those He chose must be conformed to the image of Christ.
This conforming to the image of Christ takes place as we hear and obey the Word. As we gaze intently into the Scriptures we see Jesus. We are being transformed into His glory. This does not happen for everyone who reads the Bible, though. It is only after the veil has been removed from our eyes that we can see Christ in the Scriptures. Paul, again tells us this in 2 Corinthians;

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Co 3:16-18)

Only by the work of the Spirit opening our eyes to Christ are we able to see Him. And as we see Him we are changed. And when we finally see Him face to face we will be changed.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1Co 15:51-58)


Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1Jo 3:2-3)


God's purpose in choosing us is that we should be holy, blameless, sanctified, and conformed to the image of Christ. And if God has chosen, we can rest assured that it will be accomplished.

Soli Deo Gloria

13 comments:

Bobby Grow said...

Interesting post, Jeremy, have you been reading William Perkins', i.e. The Golden Chaine. It's is interesting how you draw the link between one's sanctification, and one's election, you said:

"Sanctification is the means that God has ordained to bring us to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the matter of sanctification is vitally important to diagnosing our spiritual health. If there is no sanctification present, you are dead. . . ."

Doesn't this focus on MY works, tend to cause me to introspectively look at myself; rather than the work of Christ (cf. Jn 6:29) for assurance of salvation--and measurement of spiritual vitality. I think Martin Luther would disagree with this analysis on what role works have in the believers life.

This is a good post at capturing the typical "Reformed" understanding of election. I just don't think it adequately portrays the "whole" of scriptures emphasis--which is christocentrically driven.

I am challenging you a little bit Jeremy, but in love.

bluecollar said...

Christ-likeness is God's goal in salvation. This truely is accomplished as we gaze at Jesus while reading His word (2Cor.3:18). It is God the Holy Spirit Who does the work not any amount of introspection on our part-it is all of God's working.

Sanctification through the working of God's Spirit now at present in sanctification, and glorification in the future at His coming. 1John 3:2. Rom. 8:29. God's desire is that we focus on Christ, where His focus is,not on ourselves. That is the reason why we go into the word on a regular basis personally and during worship while the word is carefully expounded through expositional preaching.

It is the preacher's responsibility to carefully portray Christ in his preaching so that the congregation can clearly see Jesus and thereby be changed into His image through the working of the Holy Spirit. Keeping your eyes on Jesus is the clear lesson here.

Steve Weaver said...

Jeremy,

Good post! I agree.

Bobby,

As much as I revere Martin Luther, I am more concerned about whether the apostle Paul (or any of the rest of the inspiried writers of Scripture) would agree with this analysis. See 2 Corinthians 13, especially verse 5:
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (ESV)

Our role as interpreters of Scripture is not to weigh certain kinds of verses against others and adopt the most emphasized. Instead, we must have interpretations of Scripture which are able to make sense of the paradoxical statements of Scripture. The Bible is obviously Christocentric, but the same Bible also says that "Faith without works is dead." Does your view allow you to adequately portray the "whole" of Scripture?

Blessings,
Steve

Jeremy Weaver said...

Bobby,
"...because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2Th 2:13-14)
I don't think there is any getting around the fact that when God chose to save us He also chose to use means in that salvation.
He chose to regenerate us by the power of the Spirit through the Preached Word. These verses in 2 Thess. are pretty clear that God chose to save us through the work of the Spirit setting us apart initially (primary meaning of sanctification) and then also by the continued work of sanctification (secondary meaning).
To your question, "Doesn't this focus on MY works, tend to cause me to introspectively look at myself; rather than the work of Christ (cf. Jn 6:29) for assurance of salvation--and measurement of spiritual vitality."
No. It doesn't exclude Christ from the picture in any way. Rather it focuses our faith on Him, and also causes us to examine our own selves. "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure." Introspection is a how we determine if we are elect. We look at ourselves and the question, "Do I evidence regeneration in my life?" Do I have faith in Christ? Am I repenting of my sins? Am I becoming more like Christ in my christian walk?
Christ is the focus and goal in my view.

Bobby Grow said...

Steve,

Of course my view captures the whole of scripture ;-).

Jeremy and Steve,

I must say, esp. Jeremy's response, you definitely have an understanding of the Puritanical expression of Calvinist soteriology. You are part of a long line of what has been called, "experimental predestianarians," never sure if elect, so always looking at my works to prove my election. At least you're consistent in your view.

Usually when I press Calvinists on this, the anthropocentric focus of the relationship between election and works, they back peddle a bit seeing the inherit emphasis on "personal works" thus evincing a "man-centered" (and even falling back into a Roman Catholic salvific understanding) view of salvation that isn't just pardoxical to scripture--but contradicts the whole concept of "faith alone".

The II Cor 13 passage doesn't really provide a framework, or even THE test that Steve speaks of; rather in the next verse, Paul says to the people that indeed they are in the faith (interesting that the Corinthians were less than stellar Christians--thus the need for writing the epistle in the 1st place); so the focus of Paul here is not to point the Corinthians to themselves, as Steve and Jeremy's view seems to emphasize, but to focus on Christ.

Futhermore, the emphasis of Phillippians is on God's work in me, in other words I look "outside" of myself, to the cross of Christ, rather than internally to "prove" "my" salvation. Emphasis is everything in theology, and I think your emphasis explicitly leads one back to self, before getting to Christ, which is not the "order" or emphasis of salvation in the scriptures.

Your view seems to make salvation's goal, personal assurance, when scripture's goal is to bring people into vibrant focus and relationship with Jesus Christ (i.e. Jn 17:3). Scripture pre-supposes what your view is constantly trying to prove, one's salvation. Scripture speaks corporately and your view tends to be individualistically focused.

Notice what Steve Ozment has to say on Calvin's understanding of the centrality of works in salvation:

“For Calvin, good works did not have the direct bearing on salvation that medieval theology taught (read Roman Catholic theology); they attested divine favor and gave presumptive evidence of election, but they did not put one in a position to expect salvation as condign merit. On the other hand, Calvin’s teaching, like his conduct of the Genevan church, once again made good works and moral behavior the center of religious life and reintroduced religious anxiety over them. In Calvinism the presence or absence of good works came to be taken as a commentary on one’s eternal destiny.” (parenthesis mine) (Quote taken from: Steven Ozment, “The Age of Reform 1250-1550,” 379)

Constantly looking at self is not the focus of scripture. Calvin's and thus your interpretation here, seems to mis-understand scripture. I don't understand why you want to forward such a view given this faulty focus, personal works and assurance of salvation, neither of these are focuses of scripture (they are by products, i.e. not central as your emphasis makes them).

Thanks for the discussion.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Bobby,
I think you are projecting something into this post that just isn't there.
Never once have I said that anyone should look to their own selves for salvation.
You, on the other hand, want to ignore all the passages in the Bible that speak of introspection by stating that the emphasis is on Christ and His work. Who would argue with that? Christ is the one who did all the work.
But you are ignoring passages in the process that tell us that we should watch our souls.
This is neither right nor safe.
I'm sorry, but I don't see why you would argue against Scripture in favor of emphasis.

BTW, Thanks for the complement.
"you definitely have an understanding of the Puritanical expression of Calvinist soteriology."

Jeremy Weaver said...

Bobby said,
"You are part of a long line of what has been called, "experimental predestianarians," never sure if elect, so always looking at my works to prove my election."

I said,
"Do I evidence regeneration in my life? Do I have faith in Christ? Am I repenting of my sins? Am I becoming more like Christ in my christian walk?
Christ is the focus and goal in my view."

I now say,
"I am sure I am elect because I am believing and repenting."

Bobby Grow said...

Jeremy said,

"Do I evidence regeneration in my life? Do I have faith in Christ? Am I repenting of my sins? Am I becoming more like Christ in my christian walk?

Christ is the focus and goal in my view."


It's one thing to make the assertion, that your view leads immediately to Christ, it's another thing to look at the theological construct informing a view that supposedly gets one to look at Christ. I don't think, when looking at your view, that it emphasizes the works of Christ, but rather my own works.

I'll stop now, Jeremy, I obviously don't agree with TULIP, and we could hash, and re-hash this stuff for another 10yrs, probably, and not come any closer to eachother's view. So I'll just stop, at this point.

I do enjoy your blog, and have posted you as a link on my site (if that's ok?).

In Christ,
Bobby

Rose said...

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"

Shoot, Jeremy, it seemed you could be picked on for misquoting scripture, but the NIV uses death both times like you did. It just didn't sound right without both words grave & death, but J. Wendell pints out that they both mean the same thing anyway.

Neat discussion. This person enjoyed reading your writing, as usual, and found the comment section quite interesting.

Wondering about that Romans 8:29 passage, though. Are we sure that is in our regular, earthly chronological order? If it is, are we already glorified? Just a thought. Blessings. :~)

DOGpreacher said...

To Rose:

Yes, IF you are one He foreknew (now there's a word for study), predestinated, called, & justified, You ARE (as good as)glorified.....Time just has to pass! When God decrees something, it is CERTAIN, & can not be thwarted. With that understanding of God's sovereignty, NO ONE that He 'foreknew' will skip or miss a link in this chain. I believe the type of speach used in verses 29 & 30 is "How God converts the human soul" from God's view, not from ours. Thus...the "glorification" of those He has 'ordained unto life', is ASSURED because it is His decree!

graced,
The DOGpreacher

Rose~ said...

Jeremy,
Even when you don't respond to my comments, somebody will ...they will correct my thinking ... or scold me ... or whatever is necessary, I guess ...but I just keep on smiling! (just couldn't enter that comment in the third person, try as I might)

What if one wasn't a foreknown one... under your theological construct ... what could you tell them to do about that? ... if they begged for mercy, could they find it if they weren't "foreknown"?

Should I direct my comment to DOGpreacher or Jeremy...I don't know...

BTW - I didn't find DOGpreachers comments disagreeable at all.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Rose,
Your hypothetical isn't real. There is no one who seeks after God.
I think this is fundamental to our understanding of repentance. While there are probably many people who desire mercy and recognize that they are sinners, the don't want the trade off. They don't want God in place of their sins. And God doesn't give forgiveness without giving Himself.

DOGpreacher said...

To whom it may concern;
or Rose;#:~)

You said: What if one wasn't foreknown...what could you tell them to do about that?...if they begged for mercy, could they find it if they weren't foreknown?

(1) I would preach the whole counsel of God (the whole Gospel) to any human being, as I would not KNOW who was foreknown and who wasn't. He knew I (or anybody) would really mess it up if we had that knowledge.#:~)

(2) Short answer...NO. It seems like I remember a fellow named Esau, who searched high and low a-crying as he did go...and there was NONE (forgiveness/mercy)to be found.