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Posts Tagged ‘Geerhardus Vos’

As J. V. Fesko points out, understanding our “theology (proper) as it is realized in Christology, […] has a world of implications for our soteriology, especially the doctrine of justification.”

There are some who would argue that the concept of justification is just a metaphor. And since metaphors are merely meant to tell us something about how God relates to us, they are contextual and don’t necessarily signify an actual reality. And since justification is likewise a metaphor (they say), it is not essential nor necessary to our understanding of salvation and may be readily interchangeable with other metaphors — say theosis.

Fesko takes this idea to task in his book, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine:

Scholars have long noted that Christ’s resurrection was his justification. Geerhardus Vos explains that “Christ’s resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just. His quickening bears in itself the testimony of his justification.” There is nothing metaphorical about the resurrection of Christ. It was an event that occurred on the plane of history and is a prophetic declaration of the church’s own resurrection on the final day. As Multmann observes, “The raised body of Christ therefore acts as an embodied promise for the whole creation. It is the prototype of the glorified body.”

Because soteriology, and more specifically justification, is inextricably bound with Christology in the concrete reality of the incarnation, one cannot make the claim that justification is but one metaphor among many other legitimate images of redemption. One can easily see the problems with construing justification as a metaphor when it is compared with its theological antonym, condemnation.

There was nothing metaphorical about Christ’s condemnation by the Pharisees and his subsequent justification by his resurrection. Likewise, there is nothing metaphorical about the condemnation that lies over the unbeliever. For the one who places his faith in Christ and is justified, the condemnation is removed–he is transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Christ, and therefore Paul can say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Or, glossed in parallel fashion, “There is therefore now justification for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Prior to the believer’s justification, he is at enmity with God; after his justification, he is at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). If atonement and justification are merely metaphors that compete with other images such as union with Christ, then one must come to the conclusion that sin is also a metaphor: propitiation is God’s metaphorical way of dealing with a metaphorical problem. The glaring problems is, of course, that sin and death are not metaphorical, and neither is the wrath of God, which Christ placates by his crucifixion, which is a propitiation. To place justification, or any other element of the ordo salutis for that matter, into the category of the metaphor does violence to the message of Scripture and destroys the gospel. – Fesko, J. V., Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine, (P&R Publishing, 2008), pp. 64-66.

Oh man!

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I haven’t read very much (if any) Geerhardus Vos before. But I ran across this text regarding the ministry of the proclamation of the gospel.  What is striking in this passage is the clarity of the gospel message itself: that it is about the person and work of Christ is no overstatement. And that this message is to be brought to the heart of the hearer with great conviction. In this consists the burden of the preacher. There is no room for ambiguity or equivocation.  Clarity and power are essential. But above all that clarity must be about the person and work of Christ ‘for us’. And that power should be to press this message upon the consciences of the listeners that they may be convinced of their sinfulness and their need for perfect righteousness and likewise convinced of the sufficiency of Christ and his perfect work accomplished on their behalf. Anything less in not the gospel and is not preaching.

The proclamation of the Word of the gospel has left behind all the old reserve and restrictions and limitations under which Moses and his successors laboured. Its ministers can now speak fully and freely and plainly the whole counsel of God. Paul glories in being able to do this. He uses great boldness of speech. There is nothing to withhold, nothing to conceal: the entire plan of redemption has been unfolded, the mystery hidden through the ages has been revealed, and there is committed to every ambassador of Christ an absolute message, no longer subject to change.

There is a straightforwardness, a simplicity in preaching, which is proportionate to the preacher’s own faith in the absoluteness, and the inherent truthfulness of his message. No shallow optimism about the adjustableness of Christianity to ever-changing conditions, about its self-rejuvenating power after apparent decline, can possibly make up for a lack of this fundamental conviction. Unless we are convinced with Paul that Christianity has a definable and well-defined message to bring, and are able to tell wherein it consists, all our talk about its vitality or adaptability will neither comfort ourselves nor deceive others.

…the greater distinction of the ministry of the New Covenant springs from this, that it is in the closest conceivable manner bound up with the Person and work of the Saviour. It is a Christ-dispensation in the fullest sense of the word. What is possessed by the New Covenant is not the glory of God as such, but the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Moses had a great vision on the mountain, but Paul had a greater one, even as Moses himself had a greater, when he stood with Elias on the New Testament mount of transfiguration. Paul beholds the glory of Christ as in a mirror, or, according to another rendering, reflects it as a mirror. His entire task, both on its communicative and on its receptive side, can be summed up in his reflecting back the Christ-glory, caught by himself unto others. To behold Christ and to make others behold him is the substance of his ministry.

All the distinctive elements of Paul’s preaching relate to Christ, and bear upon their face his image and superscription. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. In the procuring of righteousness Christ is the one efficient cause. In Christ believers were chosen, called, justified, and will be glorified. To be converted is to die with Christ and to rise with him. The entire Christian life, root and stem and branch and blossom, is one continuous fellowship with Christ. But to say that the gospel is full of Christ is still too general a statement. What the apostle affirms is that it is particularly the gospel of the glory of Christ, and that, therefore, its ministry also has specifically to do with this.

– Geerhardus Vos, ‘Grace and Glory’ p. 92-95

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