My speculation on what is meant by “corporate justification”.

September 6, 2007 § 1 Comment

Earlier today I attempted to comment on Andy Gilman’s question for Pastor Doug Wilson concerning his statement defining “corporate justification”

Here is Pastor Wilson’s statement:

“…corporate justification is God’s forensic declaration that the human race has been legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ, the last Adam. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the instantiation of that blessing in the world, for the world.”

Here is Andy Gilman’s question:

” …corporate justification is God’s forensic declaration that the human race has been legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ, the last Adam. The Church, as the bride of Christ, is the instantiation of that blessing in the world, for the world.”

I don’t understand how these two sentences fit together. In the first sentence, the human race is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ,” and in the second sentence, the Church is said to be an instance or example of “that blessing in the world, for the world.”

The first sentence indicates that the “human race” is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ.” Is “legal and covenantal reconstitution in Christ” the same blessing the second sentence is talking about, when it ascribes it to the Church? If so, then why is it said to be given to the “human race” in the first sentence? In Doug’s view, is corporate justification a blessing enjoyed by the whole human race, or is it limited to the church? And what does it mean to be “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ?”

I generally think of myself as possessing reasonably good reading comprehension, but I don’t get this.”

I will now add the comment I attempted to submit at Green Baggins. I am posting this here on my blog because WordPress wouldn’t let me post it at Green Baggins for some reason.
My comments:

Andy,

This is the first time that I have seen this formulation by Pastor Wilson concerning “corporate” justification, but I think I may understand what he is trying to get at. Pastor Wilson, I’m sure, will correct me if I’m wrong.

Andy, you said: “I don’t understand how these two sentences fit together. In the first sentence, the human race is “legally and covenantally reconstituted in Christ,” and in the second sentence, the Church is said to be an instance or example of “that blessing in the world, for the world.”

In the first sentence we may possibly have what Vermigli would call “incarnational union”. Or we could also call “incarnational” representation. Christ, the God-man, represents the entire human race (this means every individual member thereof, not just as some abstract “class”) in at least 3 ways:

1. Christ took the human nature that is common to all in Adam (sin excepted).

2. Christ obeyed the law of God perfectly, the law that every member of the human race is duty bound to obey. Through his obedience he grew in favor with God and thus maintained that paternal/covenantal relationship with the Father that Adam and all his posterity forfeited.

3. Christ willing suffered the death (i.e. penalty) that every member of the human race deserves. He suffered the wrath of God as a member of the human race in the place of the human race. Christ bore “our” sins in his body on the tree, thus becoming the penal substitute for the human race.

John Calvin said this: “Luke goes still farther, showing that the salvation brought by Christ is common to the whole human race, inasmuch as Christ, the author of salvation, is descended from Adam, the common father of us all.” (Institutes Book 2, Chapter 13, paragraph 3)

Through this “incarnational” representation, all the legal obstacles have been removed so that upon the condition of faith any member of the human race may be forgiven and delivered from the penalty of the law. Christ is the Justified One and all who are in Christ have the promise of justification upon the condition of faith.

W.G.T. Shedd said this: “Christ’s death as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly. It is an infinite “propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2….This one offering expiated “the sins of the whole world,” and justice is completely satisfied in reference to them. The death of the God-man naturally and necessarily canceled all legal claims. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:437, 438.

Now, in Pastor Wilson’s second sentence we have the normal means through which the benefits secured for the human race are administered. i.e. the Church who are the covenant people of God. Every baptized member of the Church of Christ bears a covenantal union with Him. They have signed and sealed to them in baptism the promise of God that upon the condition of faith they have all the benefits that Christ secured for them as members of the human race.

Now, I know that many will not be satisfied if I just stop here, so I will state the special union that the elect (i.e. decretaly elect) have with Christ. God sovereignly grants to the elect alone the regeneration and faith by which they infallibly possess all the benefits given to them in Christ.

Well that’s my shot at it.

Again, this just my attempt to express what may be contained within the idea of “corporate justification”, and therefore I may be way off the mark of what Pastor Wilson and other FV advocates are trying to say.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

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§ One Response to My speculation on what is meant by “corporate justification”.

  • I have posted the conversation that followed my original posting of this article:

    1. Tony S Says:
    September 6th, 2007 at 1:14 pm e

    To me this sounds analogous to the unlimited atonement aspect of Luther’ doctrine of justification, but instead of the objective justification being unlimited it’s limited to the covenant.

    2. Terry W. West Says:
    September 6th, 2007 at 1:36 pm e

    Tony,

    Thanks for your comment. I am walking out the door, so I don’t have time for an extended reply. I’m not sure I’m familiar enough with Luther to say.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Terry W. West

    3. David Ponter Says:
    September 7th, 2007 at 7:26 am e

    Hey Terry,

    I bet Wilson is tracking Warfield here: the _new_ human race, the true humanity. Warfield cast this idea against the eschatological deliverance of the church, as the true human race. I don’t think Wilson is speaking along the same lines as Vermigli and Athanasius on incarnational union.

    Btw, scope this out: Calvin and Calvinism

    David

    4. Tony Says:
    September 8th, 2007 at 12:42 pm e

    I think David P. is probably right about the conceptual direction of Wilson. After all, doesn’t Wilson hold to the strict view of Christ’s satisfaction, at least at the present time?

    Moreover, never is the term “justification” used of one who merely has the promises conditionally proposed to him. It is used for the entering into those promises through faith. In other words, according to the New Testament, it is used for the actual “deliverance from the penalty of the law,” or redemption applied.

    5. Tony Says:
    September 8th, 2007 at 12:54 pm e

    I should have signed my name “Tony B.” so there is no confusion 🙂 Anyway, Tony S. made an insightful comment. What Terry has described above in his speculation about Wilson’s position sounds like some Lutheran views when they say the human race is “objectively justified.” That kind of language is scripturally unwarranted. None but those who give evidence of truly believing are called “justified.”

    6. Steven W Says:
    September 9th, 2007 at 11:47 pm e

    Eh, I think it is fairly consistent with the rest of the Christ-centered ordo. After all, it is “my Just one” who lives by faith.

    And while Wilson may be thinking Warfield, someone like Wilkins is clearly closer to the concept that Terry described.

    A Hebraic definition of “Judge” is also helpful, and I’m not sure many throughout Church History have tried to do this. Ehud is a more appropriate concept that Clarence Thomas.

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