Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Gaffin on Our Future Adoption and Justification

On vacation I read, among other things, Sinclair Ferguson's introduction to Justified in Christ: God's Plan for Us in Justification, ed. K. Scott Oliphint, as well as Richard Gaffin's provocative essay on "Justification and Eschatology." I thought this was a helpful section where Gaffin showed the parallels between forensic justification and adoption:
In basically the same context, within the scope of a few verses, then, adoption, as a forensic, declarative reality, is seen as both present and future. Initially this could seem confusing, even incoherent. How can it be both? By the nature of the case, it would seem apparent, either I am adopted or I am not. If I am adopted, how can I be awaiting adoption?

Paul, we can be sure, has not become unsure of himself here. Nor is he involved in some kind of double-talk. He is not speaking in paradox, where adoption as future renders uncertain adoption as present and settled. The left hand of the "not yet" of adoption does not take away or cancel out, in dialectical fashion, what the right hand of the "already" of adoption gives. Rather, the respect in which he distinguishes present and future is clear from the immediate context. What is still future, and the entire creation longs for, is "the revelation of the sons of God," that is, fairly glossed, "the open revelation of the sons of God" (v. 19). Again, what is in prospect is "the freedom of the glory of the children of God," that is, the free and open manifestation of their glory (v. 21). Believers await the open manifestation of their adoption in the resurrection of the body.

Here, yet again, the principle of 2 Corinthians 5:7 is present and controlling. For now, until Jesus comes, Christians have their adoption "by faith," but not yet "by sight." They are God's adopted children in the mode of "believing," but not (yet) of "seeing." It is in fact the case, they are not yet openly adopted. A fair commentary on Paul at this point is 1 John 3:2, "now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed."

Paul's statements on adoption, we may conclude, provide a window on how he would have us view the closely related forensic blessing of justification. As adoption is both present and future, so too is justification. We have already been justified by faith but not (yet) by sight. Like our adoption, our justification has still to be made public or openly manifested. We have not yet been "openly acquitted." (pp. 14-15)