It is interesting reading this article to find that Gaffin agrees with Wright that those who are truly justified will never ever lose that status. I agree with both of them, but in the case of Wright I think his understanding leads him astray when dealing with the frank warning passages in Romans 11. I don’t know about Gaffin. He may well (and should, in my opinion) have a more robust view of how warnings function. My personal favorite on this sort of thing is Charles Hodge.
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, (that ye may be) blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 1.9).
…Shall also confirm you. God had not only enriched them with the gifts of the Spirit, but he would also confirm them. The one was an assurance of the other. Those to whom God gives the renewing influence of the Spirit, he thereby pledges himself to save; for “the first fruits of the Spirit” are, as just remarked, of the nature of a pledge. They are an earnest, as the apostle says, of future inheritance… Shall confirm… ie. shall make steadfast, preserve from falling. The word is used in reference to persons and things. God is said to confirm his promises, when he fulfills them, or so acts as to prevent their falling… He is said to confirm his people when he renders them steadfast in the belief and obedience to the truth… unto the end, may mean the end of life, or the end of this dispensation, ie. to the end of the period which was to precede the advent of Christ; or it may be understood indefinitely as we use the expression “final perseverance.” Unblamable, ie. Not arraigned or accused. He is unblamable against whom no accusation can be brought. In this sense it is said “a bishop must be blameless,” Titus 1, 6. 7. God will confirm his people so that when the day of judgment comes, which is the day of our Lord Jesus, ie. The day of his second advent, they shall stand before him blameless, not chargeable with apostasy or any other sin. The are to be “holy and without blame.” Compare 1 Thess. 5, 23. When we remember on the one hand how great is our guilt, and on the other, how great is our danger from without and from within, we feel that nothing but the righteousness of Christ and the power of God can secure our being preserved and presented blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus (pp. 9-10).
And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (First Corinthians 8.11)
For whom Christ died. There is great power and pathos in these words. Shall we, for the sake of eating one kind of meat rather than another, endanger the salvation of those for whom the eternal Son of God laid down his life? The infinite distance between Christ and us, and the almost infinite distance between his sufferings and the trifling self-denial required at our hands, give to the apostle’s appeal a force the Christians heart cannot resist. The language of Paul in this verse seems to assume that those may perish for whom Christ died. It belongs, therefore, to the same category as those numerous passages which make the same assumption with regard to the elect. If the latter are consistent with the certainty of the salvation of the elect, then this passage is consistent with the certainty of the salvation of those for whom Christ specifically died. It was absolutely certain that none of Paul’s companions in shipwreck was on that occasion to lose his life, because the salvation of the whole company had been predicted and promised; and yet the apostle said that if the sailors were allowed to take away the boats, those left on board could not be saved. This appeal secured the accomplishment of the promise. So God’s telling the elect that if they apostatize they shall perish, prevents their apostasy. And in like manner, the Bible teaching that those for whom Christ died shall perish if they violate their conscience, prevents their transgressing, or brings them to repentance. God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end. If the means fail, the end will fail. He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died shall be saved, as that the elect shall be saved. Yet in both cases the event is spoken of as conditional. There is not only a possibility, but an absolute certainty of their perishing if they fall away. But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent (pp. 148-149).
…There is, however, a sense in which it is scriptural to say that Christ died for all men. This is very different from saying that he died equally for all men, or that his death had no other reference to those who are saved than it had to those who are lost. To die for one is to die for his benefit. As Christ’s death has benefited the whole world, prolonged the probation of men, secured for them innumerable blessings, provided a righteousness that is sufficient and suitable for all, it may be said that he died for all. And in reference to this obvious truth, the language of the apostle, should any prefer this interpretation, may be understood, “Why should we destroy one for whose benefit Christ lay down his life?”… (p. 149).
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (First Corinthians 10.12).
…There is perpetual danger of falling. No degree of progress we may have already made, no amount of privileges which we may have enjoyed, can justify the want of caution. Let him that thinketh he standeth, that is, let him who thinks himself secure. This may refer either to security of salvation, or against the power of temptation. The two are very different, and rest generally on different grounds. False security of salvation commonly rests on the ground of our belonging to a privileged body (the church), or to a privileged class (the elect). Both are equally fallacious. Neither the members of the church nor the elect can be saved unless they persevere in holiness; and they cannot persevere in holiness without continual watchfulness and effort. False security as to our power to resist temptation rests on an overweening self-confidence in our own strength. None are so liable to fall as they who, thinking themselves strong, heedlessly run into temptation (p. 181).
I’m not sure I completely understand statements like this from Gaffin:
Christ is the living and abiding embodiment of the righteousness that has been irrevocably imputed to believers. As such, he continues to sustain in their justified state those whom God has already predestined and justified (vss. 29-30). And he does that sustaining work with unwavering faithfulness, just as he has ever since each of those elect was first united to him by faith. Because of his intercession, they cannot and will not ever fall from the state of justification.
OK, here’s the deal. Usually, if I do something “irrevocably” I don’t have to keep sustaining it. Perhaps I’m wrong about this. I got married irrevocably, but I obviously have to work at it. But then again, divorce laws are quite clear that I am not married irrevocably. If one of us files and abandons the other, then the marriage will be “revoked.” What is different about Jesus is not only that he never files, but he prevents our faith from failing (as Gaffin points out) so that we never file either.
But here’s where the rubber meets the road. One way in which (sometimes) believers are prevented from falling into unbelief is by warnings. Faith “trembles at the threatenings” in the Word of God, we are taught in the Westminster Confession (yeah and its in the Bible too, for you nonPresbyterian readers who still don’t understand church authority). If we are all taught we are in an irrevocable status–that Jesus is stuck with us even if we go out leave him with all the children, and sleep with strange men–then the church of God gets deprived of a means by which some are effectually called to salvation.
Gaffin’s version of “irrevocable” is consistent, I think, with the contingencies and the ongoing need for Christ’s intercessory work. But if he had been writing for the edification of the Church, rather than the party which he has joined in (not that there is anything wrong with these men other than defining themselves according to imagined opponants), he could have presented us with a much more engaging discussion regarding common pastoral concerns.