the authors … either assumed or made explicit a distinction which the FV either denies or ignores: the distinction between a purely external relation to the covenant of grace and an internal relation to the covenant of grace.
via What’s Going On in the Siouxlands Presbytery (PCA)? « Heidelblog. (emphasis added)
Let’s be very clear here: whatever R. Scott Clark means by “purely external relation,” if he means that it excludes a real work of the Holy Spirit, then he is misleading his readers.
The “authors” being mentioned here include the Westminster Assembly. Thus:
Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved
This is from the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter ten on effectual calling. Obviously, those not elected are not effectually called, but some are called. Judas was called to Christ and he responded to the call and did miracles by the power of the Spirit but he was never truly (“effectually” called) and he thus never persevered in following Christ, never “truly” came to him. The prooftexts for those who “never truly come to Christ” include those a reference to Judas
John 13:18. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
So how do we describe Judas’ relationship with Christ, in which he followed Christ for a time but eventually decided to find his prosperity on the other side? Many, Reformed and not, have gone to Romans 2 and Paul’s language about the Jew who is one “secretly” or “inwardly” and the one who is not. That seems perfectly fine to me and I doubt Moon or Lawrence would have a problem with it.
But Romans 2 also says something about the Spirit which has led to a problem:
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.
I think it is pretty clear from the context that “by the letter” means merely having been assigned to possess the Scriptures. See Romans 2.27 (which the ESV obscures by using the term “written code”; the NASB is better: “letter of the Law”) and 3.1. Thus the Spirit would lead the true Jews to actual faith and obedience.
But this gets people confused and leads them to assume that “external” is some sort of precise scientific term that rules out the presence of the Spirit in those who respond in some way to the Gospel but who are not effectually called. Whatever the Westminster Confession allegedly ought to teach according to some, it in fact teaches the very opposite. There are shared workings “common operations” between the elect and some non-elect. While some may go to church purely and only because they want better business connections, others may truly be drawn by the Spirit and for a time enjoy His gracious fellowship. Thus the Westminster’s prooftext for the statement.
Heb. 6:4-5. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come …
The trailing dots are in the original. God’s spirit is at work both in elect persons who respond to the Gospel and truly come to Christ and the same Spirit is at work in non-elect who respond to the calling of the Gospel, but not “effectually”–they never truly come to Christ. We can talk about differences in their union with Christ, but claiming one group doesn’t have the Spirit, never was enlightened, never tasted the heavenly gift, and never tasted the word of God and the powers of the world to come, is a claim that the Bible and the Westminster Confession tells us is off limits.
For this (along with many other reasons) Clark has zero basis for claiming anyone denies a distinction in the covenant of Grace between those who persevere according to God’s sovereign choice and those who “fall” (Heb 6.6) from the heavenly gift they have been made the eat, who fall from the light they have been made to see, who fall from participation in the communion of the Spirit, who fall from the Gospel message, who fall from the powers of the next world. The point, as the author of Hebrews says himself, is only to exhort the congregation to
hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
We need to exhort people to not throw away their confidence, which has a great reward, to remember the need for endurance so that they will do the will of God and received what is promised.
We need to exhort our congregations not to doubt, but to remember they are adopted by God:
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Kind of interesting isn’t it? You would think the preacher of Hebrews, in the spirit of “Bobsled sovereignty,” would tell them to find the Esaus and get rid of them because there is nothing that can be done about them. But no. “lift up drooping hands and strengthen weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.”
Preaching like the author of Hebrews is not and cannot be a violation of the Westminster Standards, a deviation from covenant theology, or a departure from the Reformed Faith.
Nor can it be heresy to agree with the Apostle Paul. He declares to the entire congregation that, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (First Corinthians 11.27). And what is the basis of Paul’s claim? “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (First Corinthians 11.12, 13). Deny Paul’s claim and you are not only going against the Word of God, but you are completely undermining the ethics of the church community in First Corinthians 11.12ff.
So, however, we explain the differences (and there are real qualitative differences whether we can fully explain them or not), the relationship between the non-elect and Christ is not purely external as opposed to Spiritual (i.e. by and of the Holy Spirit).