Cheung on faith as a condition (2)

Vincent Cheung writes:

“Therefore, when discussing the doctrine of justification by faith, we must not portray faith as a condition for salvation that God requires from us, as if we could produce faith in and of ourselves prior to regeneration and apart from the Spirit’s power. So, although it is correct to speak of faith as our necessary response to the gospel, this “response” of faith is in fact one of the very things that Christ’s atonement purchased for his elect, and that God bestows upon his chosen ones by his Spirit. In other words, God is the one who produces this response of faith in his elect” (Cheung; bold emphasis mine–CD).

In this paragraph above Cheung connects “faith as a condition” with “So, although it is correct to speak of faith as our necessary response.” From this it would appear that Cheung’s problem is not with conditions wrought by “the Spirit’s power,” but with conditions that are produced “in and of ourselves.” But if one were not sure that Cheung was using “faith as a condition” and “necessary response” in the same way there are other places where Cheung is more clear in asserting that faith is a condition. For instance, Cheung writes the following:

“The true biblical teaching is that both wrath and grace belong to God’s nature. Paul writes, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you” (Romans 11:22, ESV). Thus he shows wrath toward some men and shows grace toward others. The distinction is based on his decision, without regard to the conditions found in men, for he is the one who creates all conditions found in men in the first place, including faith. In fact, Paul writes that God creates some men as vessels of wrath and some as vessels for mercy, some to suffer damnation and some to enjoy salvation (Romans 9:21)” (Cheung).

Here Cheung says that God “creates” (by regenerating power I assume) the condition of faith in the elect. And then Cheung cites 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and comments on it in a footnote:

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13) [6]. …Divine election is not based on a passive prescience, and divine prescience is not passive in the first place. God chooses a person because he wants to choose that person, and he knows who will believe the gospel because he knows whom he will cause to believe the gospel.

[6] Faith is a necessary condition for justification, but faith is not the reason or cause for election, but rather the product of election. Faith in Christ is the means by which God saves those whom he has chosen”

(Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology, pp. 167, 169).

Here above he asserts that faith “is a necessary condition for justification.” And returning to Cheung’s ironically entitled “Justification by Christ Alone,” he writes:

“When Scripture says that salvation is by faith and not by works, it is not throwing out works just to make faith a condition that man must fulfill in order to obtain salvation from God, although this is precisely how the doctrine is frequently but mistakenly portrayed, either by explicit statements or by implication” (Cheung).

Well, we know that Cheung believes faith is a condition for salvation. What he seems to be saying here above is that faith is not another different kind of work to fulfill in order to obtain salvation. He appears to be saying that: although faith is a condition it is not therefore a work. Of course, it IS therefore a work.

“Faith is not a good work or a condition for salvation that God requires from us before he would do anything to save us; instead, God has already decreed and performed all that is necessary to secure the salvation of his chosen ones, and faith in the gospel is precisely one of those things that he has secured for the elect by the work of Christ, and that he sovereignly produces in their minds when he commands them to believe and summons them to himself by the gospel.There is therefore no place for boasting. Salvation comes from God through Christ alone. We cannot even boast about our faith, since it is a sovereign gift of God, merited by Christ for the elect.”

Cheung erroneously believes that condition-fulfilling on the part of the sinner precludes boasting since the condition-fulfilling gift is sovereignly and unconditionally bestowed. But what does Scripture say to that? It says this:

“But if by grace, no longer is it of works; else grace no longer becomes grace. But if of works, it is no longer grace; else work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6).

The Greek word for “work” (or “works”) is ergon. From Thayer’s dictionary the term “work” can include all efforts proceeding from the sinner’s person (e.g., an act of the mind, a deed, or other similar kind of effort). Cheung wants to say that conditional faith is not a work since it is produced by “unconditional grace.” This would imply that ANY CONDITION — no matter what that condition is said to be — that is “created” or produced in the sinner’s person by “unconditional sovereign grace” is NOT a work.

In Romans 11:6 Paul talks about work no longer being work. That is, if grace has any kind of work or effort surreptitiously foisted into it, then there is no such thing as a work. Thus, as long as the supposed “unconditional sovereign grace” is sufficient to fulfill the “non-meritiorious condition” of willing or running it is therefore of grace and not of works (contra Romans 9:16). One could say that this “graciously enabled” willing or running is a product, fruit, or result of “unconditional electing grace.”

Cheung claims that there is no place for boasting according to his salvation conditioned on faith scheme. Again, let us go to the Scriptures:

“… being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, as a demonstration of His righteousness through the passing over of the sins that had taken place before, in the forbearance of God, for a demonstration of His righteousness in the present time, for His being just and justifying the one that is of the faith of Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).

Already Cheung is denying that justification is free. To him justification is only “free” in the sense that other “non-meritorious conditions” are freely and unconditionally secured IN ADDITION to Christ’s “sole meritorious condition” fulfilling. Since Scripture has application for all times, cultures, and situations (and is not obsolete or irrelevant) this condition-meeting stuff is just a modern-day version of circumcision where people attempt to add to or put something else in the place of the strictness of God’s law (Galatians 5:2-3). The solemn message to Cheung is that since he will ADD conditions to Christ’s conditions, he is a debtor to do ALL the law (Galatians 5:3). Cheung MUST fulfill the law’s penal and preceptive demands (Romans 10:4-5; Galatians 3:10-12).

“Then where is the boasting? It was excluded. Through what law? Of works? No, but through a Law of faith. Then we conclude a man to be justified by faith without works of Law. Or is He the God of Jews only, and not also of the nations? Yes, of the nations also, since it is one God who will justify circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Then is the Law annulled through faith? Let it not be! But we establish Law” (Romans 3:24-31).

Cheung claims to not have a boast since the supposed conditions are unconditionally and effectually wrought in the sinner’s heart. But Cheung’s god is a figment (or fig tree) of his imagination that secures conditions in addition to Christ’s. Boasting is only excluded through a Law of faith that believes Christ fulfilled the law’s demands (cf. Romans 10:4). Multitudes of false Christians claim to not have a boast since it is (supposedly) only due to God’s “grace” that they were enabled to meet conditions or make themselves to differ from others. If any conditions are being fulfilled or proceeding from the sinner’s person, then there IS a boast no matter how “sovereign” a person claims their idol is at enabling or causing elect persons to ADD to what Christ has done.

“Now to one working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt. But to the one not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:4-6).

As we have seen it is very popular and fashionable for false Christians to preface works or efforts with the word “grace” so that phrases such as “salvation by works” and “justification by works” completely vanish from existence. As long as God is said to be doing this by “grace” then the performance of any number of conditions is NOT a reward of merit or debt, but a reward of grace since it is solely by “unconditional grace” that a person is enabled to perform all this condition-fulfilling work.