Chapter 4 now picks up the issue of how we are united to Christ.  In order for us to be enabled to actually grow in righteousness and holiness and to become like Jesus, we need to be rightly endowed with those things that enable us to practice righteousness—Chapter 2. 

 How are we endowed with a right frame and structure of heart and mind to be able to practice righteousness?  It happens by our union with Christ – Chapter 3.  Question 66 the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “What is that union which the elect have with Christ?”

 Answer: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

 Question 67 asks, “What is effectual calling?

 Answer:  Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto)he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

 Question 67 is the essence of Marshal’s fourth chapter.  His fourth directive is “The means or instruments of this union and all fellowship are 1) the gospel, and 2) faith.

 Usually James Hervey’s assertions are shorter and simpler than Marshall’s.  However, in this chapter Hervey goes into greater detail in his summary.  He writes, “The means or instruments whereby the Spirit of God accomplishes our union with Christ, and our fellowship with Him in all holiness, are 1) the gospel whereby Christ enters into our hearts, begets us to the faith whereby we actually receive Christ himself, with all His fullness, unto the hope of eternal life by Him.  And thus, 2) by the influence of the Spirit of truth, we un-feignedly believe the gospel, and also believe on Christ, as He is revealed, and freely promised to us therein, for all His salvation.

 Chapter 4 can be divided into 2 parts; the gospel, and the nature and exercise of faith.

 Part 1.  Marshal briefly explains how it is that the gospel is a means of grace.  The emphasis in this part is on the inability of man to conceive of a union with Christ separated from the special revelation of God.  In the gospel, God makes known to us the unsearchable riches of Christ, and He makes known to us Christ in us the hope of glory. 

 The gospel is God’s instrument of conveyance, wherein he sends Christ to us.  Were there no gospel, we would could not be saved.  The reason we could not be saved is because we could not come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Tim 2:4)  The gospel is the means by which God reveals what is necessary for us to be reconciled to God.  By the gospel proclamation, Christ is formed within us (Gal 4:19), and faith is wrought in us through the hearing of it (Rom. 10:17).  The gospel is nothing less than God condescending to bring the salvation which would otherwise be unattainable.

 Part 2. In the second part, Marshall defines faith and explains how faith is an instrument of grace.

Marshall defines saving faith as “believing the truth of the gospel, and believing on Christ, as promised freely to us in the gospel.”  In the gospel, Christ is conveyed to us.  Faith accepts that what is said about Christ is true.  But more than that, faith also receives Christ. 

Marshall illustrates this with a cup of milk.  It is one acts to receive the cup of milk, and another act to actually drink the milk.  Therefore, true faith consists of both of these acts, an unfeigned love to the truth, and a desire to have Christ above all else.

 Supposing a person claims to have done one of these two , there is no saving faith.  A person does not have saving faith if he only asserts that the gospel is true.  Even the devils believe as much!  Likewise, if a person ascribes to believing in Jesus, but shuns the truth of the gospel, the Jesus that he is believing in is not the Jesus conveyed in the gospel.  Jesus cannot be received unless he is offered to us in the gospel.

 Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.”  Filled with what?  Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness are filled with Christ!

 Thus, these two acts cannot be separated.  In fact, to have the one, a person must have the other.  Psalm 9:10 says, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

 Here are the two acts of faith.  1) “Those who know your name” – acknowledge the truth of the gospel – are those who “Put their trust in you.”  To know Christ is to trust Him.  To trust Him is to know Him.

 Marshall goes into great detail explaining how this understanding of faith is problematic for many people.  There are those who think that there must be something more to our salvation than receiving and resting in Christ alone.  Thus they seek to add some sort of additional requirement.

 One case in point is Roman Catholicism (and I would add a consistent Arminianism).  Justification – initial sanctification—is received by grace, but then progressive sanctification is accomplished by our own performance of the law.  According to Marshall, this amounts to a conditional faith.

 But, even though faith may be strong or weak at different times in our lives, it is faith nonetheless that unites us to Christ.  According to Catholicism and Arminianism, should that faith fail, salvation would be lost.  But, since faith is the instrument or the means by which we are united to Christ and through which we are receivers of Christ, and since Christ has stated in John 6:44 that he will lose none that belong to him, i.e. that are united to him, faith cannot fail.  And it cannot fail, not because we who exercise it are incapable of failing, but rather because he who gives faith is Himself faithful!

 The voice of faith is found in Hosea `14:3.  “Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan (which is us) finds mercy.”  And also in 2 Chronicles 20:12 we read, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

And this faith is not powerless.  Paul writes in 1Thessalonians 1:4-5, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

 Just as the gospel tells us the truth about who Jesus is and what He has accomplished, and why we need Him, those that receive the gospel also receive the Holy Spirit and therefore the divine power to sustain faith.   

 In summary, faith does not unite us to Christ by its own virtue, but by the power of the Spirit working by it and through it.  Thus, we are first passive, and then active, in this great work of mystical union.   We are first apprehended of Christ, and then we apprehend Christ.  Christ enters first into the soul, to join Himself to it, by giving it the spirit of faith; and so the soul receives Christ and His Spirit by divine power; as the sun first enlightens our eyes, and then we can see it by its own light.

 And those that are joined with Christ passively, will — if God permits them the life—join with Christ actively, by their exercise of faith.  And until they act this faith, they cannot know or enjoy their union with Christ, and the comfort of it, or make use of it, for any other act of holiness.

 This is what Paul meant when he wrote “The just shall live by faith.”  It was this verse, Romans 1:17, that transformed Martin Luther and freed his soul from the bondage of sin, and released him into a life of holiness.

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