Sunday, December 30, 2007

Defending the doctrine of Active Obedience against New Covenantal Theologians (part 4)

[continued from here, here and here]


The verse 2 Cor. 5:21 would prove to be the flashpoint, since it is hereby asserted that this verse is the most explicit verse teaching the active obedience of Christ and furthermore of Christ's righteousness. Let us now look at the verse in its context of v. 16-21.

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

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 5:16- 6:2; v. 17 in bold.)

As it can be seen, the context here is talking about salvation. Verse 17 is a wonderful statement of our new being in Christ which we have gotten through God's grace in regeneration. Verses 18-20 talk about God reconciling the world to Himself and giving us the minitry of reconciliation; in bringing people to salvation in Him, as it can be also seen in 6:3, while verses 1 and 2 are exhortaion to believers not to trifle with the grace of God (not to receive the grace of God in vain) but to receive it in a reverent manner as manifested in a changed life, which is seen in the larger context of the 2nd epistle to the Corinthians.

Since the context of the passage talks about salvation, how then should we interpret verse 21? The verse reads:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The first part clearly teaches the imputation of our sins to Christ, and thus emphasizes the 'passive' obedience of Christ when he took the penalty of sin on our behalf. Such was done 'for our sake', Christ was said to 'knew no sin', in the sense that He was sinless, yet He was 'made sin' on our behalf. Since Jesus was personally sinless, He can only be 'made sin' either by infusion or imputation, and of course the book of Romans makes it clear that it is via imputation (ie God justified the ungodly cf Rom. 4:5). Thus, it is most definitely the teaching of Scripture that God imputes our sins to Christ.

The second part of the verse states simply 'so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God' is hotly disputed by those who deny the Active Obedience of Christ. The phrase however is clear within its context. The phrase is used 'that... we might become' shows that we would become actually righteous, either through imputation or otherwise. In other words, it is not just we are not evil, but that we are to be reckoned as positively righteous before God.

Looking further into this sentence will reveal the parallel being drawn here. The first part mentions the imputation of our sins to Christ, while the second part talks about 'making us the righteousness of God'. If this sentence is intended to be a parallelism, and I don't see why not, then this would prove that just as the first part teaches Christ's passive obedience and the imputation of our sins to Christ, the second part teaches Christ's active obedience and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to out account. Clearly, the sentence structure is conducive to such a rendering. The New Covenantal Theologian reading would create an insurmountable difficulty. How can we be said to become not only righteous, but the righteousness of God if only our sins are imputed to Christ? Surely then, it is only Christ who is the righteousness of God and we can only be said to be the ones make righteous or the recipient of the righteousnes of God, but never that we are also the righteousness of God, because we cannot be said to actively possess righteousness before God but only passively considered righteous because of Christ's sacrifice for us. To put it simpler, if NCT is right, they can say that we are passively righteous before God, but not actively, which is what the phrase 'become the righteousness of God' states.

As stated, the context of this verse is regarding salvation. Therefore, it is invalid also to state that the phrase 'becoming the righteousness of God' refers to a life of active obedient living as a manifestation of our regenerate nature. For the entire context is on what salvation, which is NOT by works (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:5), accomplishes, and therefore works should not be in the picture here at all. Unlike certain people who put works somewhere in the picture, in for example the equation of "Salvation +Works = Faith" or something to that effect, works should not be seen anywhere in the equation. Rather, works are the proof of a regenerate heart, and thus is linked only with a manifestation of salvation, nowhere in the salvation process itself. Therefore, it is invalid to read this as a remark on the manifestation of righteousness in active obedient living.


Therefore, in conclusion, 2 Cor. 5:21 is an excellent text teaching both the passive and active obedience of Christ and the doctrine of double imputation. The wording thus mitilate against any other position such as the NCT, just by itself. If we take into account the requirements of the Law, and the Covenant of Works, then the proof for the doctrine of Active Obedience is overwhelming. Clearly, it can be seen that the erroneous hermeneutics employed by New Covenantal Theologians such as Lehrer and Volker are to blame for such an error of theirs. Let us therefore strive to avoid their mistake and learn how to rightly divide the Word of Truth.


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