“…fell down before the Lamb… and they sung a new song, saying, ‘Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood…”
“He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name…”
“Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out his soul unto death:”
Order of Contents
In the Middle or Non-Committal 5
Yes & No 2
Early & Medieval Church
The History of the Issue
That Christ merited salvation and glory for his beloved, believing people is a clear teaching of Scripture and has been a standard doctrine in reformed theology.¹ However, what is not quite as clear is whether Christ merited glory for Himself. On this related, but distinct question, Reformed theology in her classical era was split, about 50 / 50.
¹ For an early and influential exposition of this, see John Calvin, Institutes, Book 2, Ch. 17 (trans. Beveridge).
On the one hand there seems to be no practical difference upon the Christian life in the answer one gives to the question of whether Christ received his reward above all principalities and powers by his own merit, by a free and gracious promise, or solely due to what was owed to his Person by the Hypostatic Union, as He is God. On any grounds, Christ has reached his reward and has glory and power over all. Hence, Calvin called the very inquiry itself ‘foolish curiosity’.
On the other hand, Calvin leaned hard to essentially answering the question in the negative, and thought it theologically important to do so. Investigating the issue causes us to deeply consider and sort out many foundational truths which Scripture reveals, and attempt to set them in their proper relations in order to be able to more profoundly and clearly understand the great salvation which God has graced us with. As many brighter and godlier men than we, who were more studied in the Scriptures and sought into these things their whole lives, have come to different conclusions about the matter, professing their own uncertainty about it, any conclusion we may come to (and we will come to a conclusion) must of necessity be tentative and held with a humble and adoring spirit.
Because reformed theology has so strongly emphasized Christ meriting salvation for us, it may at first seem inconceivable to some persons how it could be denied that Christ merited his own eternal reward by his perfect life and work on this earth. To get seriously theologically humbled, which will be a good starting point for further looking into the question, pause, take a little time, and read John Owen’s brief but weighty treatment of the question, answering ‘No’:
John Owen, Death of Death, Bk. 2, ch. 2, section 1 in Works, vol. 10, pp. 203-205
When one comes to grips with the foundational truth that Christ’s person is God, it is by no means immediately clear how a Person who is God can merit anything, when all is owed to his Person in the first place (Rom. 11:36), and that in the flesh (Heb. 1:2-3).
The Early & Medieval Church
While Augustine affirmed that Christ merited for Himself, and Anselm (d. 1109) briefly elaborated on this teaching, it appears that it was not until Peter Lombard (d. 1160) in the Middle Ages that the question was so clearly put forward, discussed at large and answered at length (and that in the affirmative). As Lombard’s Sentences were so influential and many later Medievalists commented on them, so most of the Medieval theologians and philosophers followed in the same train.²
² Hugo St. Victor (d. 1141) was an exception.
An unhealthy tendency in this setting was for such scholastic Medievalists to major on human merit (such as John Duns Scotus); it may seem that defending Christ’s merit had the additional incentive of propping up human merit in general,³ or semi-Pelagianism.
³ Specifically what was called congruent and condign merit.
No real practical matter, as He did in fact attain it, whatever the cause or grounds of it be.
All the scripture passage are arguably ambiguous
Vain curiosity, yet makes one plummet the depths of theological principles.
The strength of one side, is the seeming worthiness of his human action. However, the other side reminds us that Christ was God to begin with, to whom all things are owed. Searching the depth of this makes the answer much less obvious.
Some see Christ judging the world as a fruit flowing out of his work and atonement, something merited, therefore they understand a general aspect to his atonement, in paying for their sins, as the way in which He earned the right to be their Judge as Mediator. Yet He also judges angels, yet paid for no sins of angels.
Most of the No’s were early, CoR later, focus on the promise of the Father to Christ, if admit of the CoR how can one deny merited in an improper sense by fulfilling the terms, and so it owed to Him (voluntarily entered into) by Covenant, to be graciously rewarded. Not strictly merited by creatureliness, nature or the innateness of the work (argue against Moek), nor a scheer consequence of gracious blessing, but by Covenant, for the good of his people to be at the right hand of God (which cannot be merited in anyway by a creature’s actions), and a revelation of his right by nature and free love from Father.
Creature cannot make God owe anything, because a servant (Owen). Doesn’t matter if an act of God via Jesus, as acts of God cannot indebt God to be rewarded, except by a gracious condescension of his will, by CoR. Though his actions are innately good, and perfectly so.
Despite hypostatic union giving infinite value, yet it gives infinite value to all his actions, post exaltation for which there is no reward, and the reward, in fact, is finite.
If less was given Him, in circumstances or otherwise, would it impugne God’s justice? Not by nature, but yes by Covenant as agreed.
Was it aimed at by Christ for Christ? For the Church to save in love, for the ultimate glory of God, and for the good of Christ as human? His Person need it not, but it is a lawful and necessary good duty of the creature to seek its own good in some way, as a subordinate motive.
Conclusion: both and, by his person being owed all, and human nature meriting by way of covenant.
No, in English
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
Institutes, Book 2, Ch. 17, section 6 trans. Beveridge
Bellarmine responded to Calvin in his disputations.
Commentary on Philippians, chapter 2, verse 9
Willet, Andrew – ‘Whether Christ Merited for Himself?’ in Synopsis Papismi (London, 1592), The Five Other Popish Sacraments, About the Natures of Christ, 19th Controversy Concerning the Divine Nature of Christ, 3rd Part, pp. 614-615
The Papists argued that Christ not only merited eternal life for us, but also his own glorification. Willet argues on behalf of ‘Protestants’, that though Christ did merit our eternal life, He did not merit his own glorification; rather it was due to Him because of his divine Person.
On the Late 1500’s and early 1600’s
On the reformed context surrounding the debate about the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, contra Medievalism as well as Piscator and others:
de Campos, Junior, Heber Carlos – Johannes Piscator (1546-1625) and the Consequent Development of the Doctrine of the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience PhD diss. (Calvin Theological Seminary, 2009), p. 294
“Righteousness, in the fallen state, is twofold according to the demands of the law. Hence, Christ’s vicarious righteousness also needs to be twofold. He merits for us both deliverance from punishment and right to eternal life. None can be to Him alone for He is not liable to the first and [He is] entitled to the second due to the hypostatical union. Covenantally, however, he assumes the role of representative viator [wayfarer] in order to obtain the covenant promises for us.”
Muller, Richard – ‘Meritum Christi’ in Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms
Perkins, William – Ch. 37, Question 1, pp. 121-122 in A Golden Chain: or The Description of Theology containing the Order of the Causes of Salvation and Damnation… (Cambridge, 1600)
Field, Richard – Book 5, ch. 20, ‘Of the Merit of Christ: of his not Meriting for Himself, and his Meriting for us’ in Of the Church (1606-10; Cambridge, 1850), vol. 3, pp. 134-145
Field (1561-1616) was an English ecclesiological theologian associated with the work of Richard Hooker. Whereas Hooker, eight years Field’s senior, had written his Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity to defend conformity against non-conformity, Field’s major work, Of the Church (1606/10), was a defence of the Protestant Church of England under its Elizabethan settlement against the charge of Romanist opponents that it was no church at all.
Airay, Henry – Point 1, ‘The Cause of his Exaltation, or Rather, the Sequel of his Cross’, pp. 123-125 in Lecture 29 on Phil. 2:9-10, in Lectures upon the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians (Edinburgh, 1864)
Airay (d. 1616) disclaims to enter into the disputed point (p. 124, rt. col.), and yet he earlier said, giving his view, the “apostle, and our Savior Himself [Lk. 24:26], speaketh of his crown of glory and honor as a consequence of his cross, not as caused by the cross; as following his cross, but not as merited by his cross.” (p. 124, lt. col. top)
Airay helpfully notes that Christ entered into his exaltation to the right hand of the Father at least for the sake of his people (p. 124, rt. col.; note Eph. 1:20-23), which all sides can agree on. Whether He did it for Himself, is another question.
Wolleb, Johannes – Book 1, ch. 19.6 of The Abridgment of Christian Divinity, 3rd ed. (London, 1660), pp. 158-159 Wolleb’s editor, Alexander Ross, in a footnote, offers the both/and view.
“Christ attained to this exaltation by his obedience, not as it were by merit, but as it were by the means or way.”
Walaeus, Antonius – Section 29 of Disputation 28, ‘On Jesus Christ in his State of Exaltation’ in Synopsis of a Purer Theology, vol. 2, ed. Henk van den Belt (1625; Brill, 2016), p. 175 In Latin
“The question also arises, whether it was strictly speaking through his passion and death that Christ merited this glory for his human nature. And whereas we really do not wish to enter into a dispute with those who make this claim,† since Christ certainly did obtain it for us by the worthiness of what He merited, yet we are of the opinion that the opposite point of view, which is shared by many Reformed writers, rests upon arguments that are stronger.
The chief one of these is that the glory was owed to Christ by the right of his hypostatic union, and as the Son’s, and as the Son’s rightful inheritance (Ps. 2:7-8; Heb. 1:2). And so, by the consensus of all theologians, that hypostatic union does not follow upon any merit, nor the things which necessarily and by God’s decree followed it–which is why the apostle Paul also uses the word [karisasthai] ‘to bestow as gift’ in this context (Phil. 2:9 [‘and given Him’]).”
[For a response to this understanding of the Greek word in Phil. 2:9, see Witsius below.]
Ames, William – Section 15 of Ch. 20, ‘Of Satisfaction’ in The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London, 1635), p. 80
“15. But the exaltation of Christ, although it be an essential part of his mediation, yet it doth not pertain to his merit, or satisfaction.”
Swadin, Thomas – pp. 189-190 of The Scriptures Vindicated from the Unsound Conclusions of Cardinal Bellarmine, and the controverted points betwixt the Church of Rome and the Reformed Church stated according to the opinions of both sides (no place, 1643)
Dutch Annotations – On Phil. 2:9 (1657)
[By this word therefore is not shewed that by this humiliation Christ merited the following glory for Himself: for all that Christ merited, that He merited for us, Jn. 17:19. But sheweth only what followed hereupon, or was fit to follow. See the like Act. 20:26; Heb. 3:7; 2 Pet. 1:10.]
hath also above measure exalted Him,
[namely, after that He being risen from the dead and ascended up to heaven, sat on the right hand of God in the highest glory, Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3, which according to his divine nature He had indeed from eternity, Jn. 17:5. But seeing He had as it were laid aside the use thereof in the state of his humiliation; He took the same upon Him again after his ascension, and shewed it gloriously: and his humane nature both in soul and body was adored with as high glory and blessedness, as a creature can receive, far surpassing all glory of angels and other men.]
and hath given Him
[or freely given. See chap. 1, v. 29, whereby is meant that his exaltation came to pass according to the Father’s will and pleasure]”
Bk. 2, ch. 2, section 1 of The Death of Death in Works, vol. 10, pp. 203-205
This is the main section to read in Owen.
‘The suffering of Christ may be considered absolutely… or with reference unto God’s constitution and determination, predestinating Christ unto that work’, p. 458 being points (1) & (2) in ch. 8 of Of the Death of Christ, in Works, vol. 10
Owen argues here that God is not obliged by creation and nature to reward anyone for obedience, because all creatures are servants, and hence debtors to God.
p. 94 (2.) in Exercitation 28 in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews… vol. 2 ed. W.H. Goold in Works (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), vol. 19, Preliminary Exercitations
Owen here affirms that Christ merited ex pactum, by the Covenant of Redemption.
No, in Latin
Tossanus, Daniel – pp. 293-294 of Loci, ch. 2 of Praelections on the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians in Theological Works, vol. 2, Commentaries on the Rest of the Epistles of Paul… (Hanau, 1604)
Tossanus (1541-1602) was a French Reformed theologian.
Polanus, Amandus – ch. 26, cols. 2739-2748, ‘The meritorious cause of it [Christ’s Exaltation] is somewhat controverted’ of Book 6 in A System of Christian Theology, vol. 2 (Hanau, 1609)
Paraeus, David – Doubt 6, out of Heb. 2:9 in A Commentary on the Divine Epistle to the Hebrews of St. Paul the Apostle (Frankfurt, 1609), col. 96
Also, per Voet, see his Exercitationibus, p. 102, edit. in 8 (unable to locate on the net).
Ch. 8, ‘Whether Christ may have Merited to Himself?’ in Book 7, ‘Of the Office of the Mediator: of Mediation According to the Natures’ in Panstratiae Catholicae, vol. 2, Of God & the Worship of God (Geneva, 1626), pp. 256-260
Book 5, chs. 12 & 13, ‘Of the Merits of Christ’ & ‘Whether Christ May Have Merited to Himself?’ in A Body of Theology, or Theological Common Places (Geneva, 1653), pp. 220-222
Matthew Sladus – Contra Conrad Vorstium (unable to locate on the net)
Sladus (1569–1628) was an English nonconformist minister and royal agent, in the Netherlands by 1600 and active there in the Contra-Remonstrant cause.
Ames, William – ‘Whether Christ may have yet merited something to Himself? chs. 9 & 10’ in Bellarmine Enervated (Amsterdam, 1629), vol. 1, Book 2, ‘Of Christ’, ch. 3, sections 17-22, pp. 122-123
Schotanus, Meinardus – On Phil. 2:9 in Analysis et Commentaria in Epistolam Pauli ad Philippenses, cum Observationibus Earumque Usibus Ref (Franeker, 1644)
Collection 5, ‘Of the Mediator’ in A Theological Collection of all that which is Extant… (Franeker, 1641), Part 1
18. Out of These [previously argued positions], this Disputation maintains: 1. That Christ Suffered, and all this Endured so that we might be redeemed from the wrath of God; and not truly as Socinus judges, that Christ suffered such and so much for this primary reason, that he may enter into his glory, pp. 269-271
35. Christ Merits Divine Worship, not by the principle of created power, nor by the principle of the Office of Mediator, but only by the Uncreated Principle, which, one with the divine nature, He has communicated to Himself, and by which He is God, pp. 362-369
pp. 150-151 of the end of Controversy 4, ‘Of Christ’ in A New Synopsis of Elenctic Theology, or an Index of Controversies of the Faith out of the Sacred Scriptures from that which has been produced by the Jesuit Jacob Tirin, with a Continuous Censure, augmented, emended and Refuted, vol. 1 (Groningen, 1648)
Section 6 of ‘A Miscellaneous Disputation containing a Decade of Theological Assertions, Looking at some Difficult Questions’ in A Syllabus of Some Select Disputations, vol. 2 (Groningen, 1663), pp. 220-222 (these pages are mislabeled as pp. 120-122)
Crocius, Johannes – On Phil. 2:9, ‘Wherefore’, pp. 566-567 in A Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, vol. 1 (Frankfurt, 1680), on Philippians, ch. 2, First Part
Crocius (1590-1659) was a German, reformed professor of theology at Marburg. He cites Matthaeus Martinius (1572-1630) as in favor of the same position.
Danaeus, Lambert – A Response to the Theological Disputations of Robert Bellarmine on Controversial Things in Religion, to vols. 1-2 of Bellarmine (Geneva, 1596/1598), Controversy 2, book 5, ch. 10, pp. 202-204
Daneau (c.1530-1595) was a French jurist and reformed theologian.
In the Middle and/or Non-Committal
Daille, Jean – On Phil. 2:9, pp. 164-169 of Sermon 10 on Phil. 2:9-11 in An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians (Philadelphia, 1841)
Daille says that Christ’s exaltation after his humiliation “may be something more than a single consequence and order of dependence. I willingly admit that his glory was the fruit of his cross, and his exaltation the effect of his humiliation.” (p. 166) Daille says that Christ would have received the same reward for his humiliation even if the Father had not made such promises to Him, due to God’s good nature to bless those who do good. (p. 167)
However, in opposition to Romanists, Daille argues that the proposition that Christ, properly speaking, merited this reward, “cannot be proved by Scripture,” (p. 167) and he gives several arguments to this effect. “…they do not prove that He [God] had regard to it [Christ’s work of humiliation] in his justice, in such a way as that He could not have given Him less without being unjust.” (p. 168)
Dickson, David – on Phil. 2:9 in Phil. 2 of An Exposition of All St. Paul’s Epistles… (London, 1659)
Dickson does not directly address the issue, but seems to lean towards the view that Christ’s reward was a revealing of his divine nature consequent upon his earthly work. Dickson does not mention the Covenant of Redemption in this section. He does not appear to address the specific issue in his Therapeutica Sacra.
Fergusson, James – Doctrines 1-5 on Phil. 2:9-11 in A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul… (1659; London, 1841)
Fergusson does not explicitly mention the issue, though he seems to lean to the view that Christ’s reward was a revealing of his divine person. He does mention the Covenant of Redemption explicitly.
Taylor, William – Sermon 15, ‘Christ’s Exaltation’, pp. 237-239 on Phil. 2:9 in Puritan Sermons (London, 1845), vol. 5
Taylor says that some divines held that Christ was “Even as a prince, who though he hath right to a kingdom by inheritance and succession, yet he will accept of it as a reward of his obedience and conquest over its enemies.” (p. 238)
Yet he says that understanding the connective particle of Phil. 2:9 as conveying the connection between an antecedent and consequent “is that to which most our Protestant divines do incline.” (p. 238)
Taylor also cites Daniel Featley and Anthony Burgess as giving the judgment that “there need be no controversy about this thing [the interpretation of ‘wherefore’ in Phil. 2:9]; for the particle dio notes order; but, whether the order of causality or antecedency, or both, may be consistent with the analogy of faith.”
Section 11 of #29, ‘Of the Humiliation & Exaltation of Jesus Christ’ in Select Shorter Theological Works, ed. Kuyper (Amsterdam, 1882), p. 200
On Book 5, Ch. 9, cols. 629-631 of Animadversions on the Second Controversy of Robert Bellarmine, of Christ the Head of the Whole Church, in Theological Works, vol. 2 (Geneva, 1607)
Alting and Voet place Junius in the middle.
Altingius – Part 1, Problem 43, ‘Whether Christ Merited Anything to Himself’ in The Scriptural Theology of Heidelberg, vol. 2, Theological Problems: Theoretical & Practical (Amsterdam, 1646), pp. 176-178
According to Vitringa, Alting answers that Christ did not properly merit for Himself, but improperly He may be said to have merited.
Leydekker, Melchior – Of the Truth of the Reformed, or Evangelical, Religion (Utrecht, 1688) Exact reference unlocated.
Yes, in English
Zanchi, Jerome – Ch. 11, Section 15, pp. 70-71 of Confession of Christian Religion (Cambridge, 1599) This may be found in the Latin in his Works, vol. 8, cols. 502-503. Voet and others say that Zanchi makes reference to this same teaching in the Preface to this work (on p. 477 in the Latin), though we have been unable to locate that reference.
“XV. The Fruits of the Obedience, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ
And we believe that Christ by his perfect obedience deserved eternal life, not only for Himself but also for us: by his passion and death He satisfied for our sins in his flesh… and by his resurrection and ascension into heaven He obtained also for us both the resurrections, (as John speaketh, Rev. 20:5) the first and the latter: and that in our name He took unto Himself possession of the heavenly inheritance: and sitteth at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20), that is, hath taken to Himself power over all things in heaven and in earth…”
Rutherford, Samuel – Part 2, ch. 6, Argument 10: ‘From the Work of Christ, and the wages, which a Covenant Calls for’ in The Covenant of Life Opened (Edinburgh, 1655), pp. 299-300 Rutherford is arguing that there is an eternal Covenant (of Redemption), because there is work as the condition, and a promise to that work.
“Christ complains, Isa. 49:4, “Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain”: there’s work. Shall He have nothing for his work? He adds, “Yet surely my judgement is with the Lord, and my work with my God.” v. 6. He receives an answer of a full reward for his work…
And as One who laboured for us, so He craves his wages, though the Jews pay him unworthily. Zech. 11.12, “Then I said, if ye think good, give (Me) my price, and if not, forbear; pay Me, or pay Me not: Yet the Lord paid Him. Phil. 2:7, “He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant,–and became obedient to the death, the death of the cross.” Here is work: followeth his wages, call it merit, or what else, it’s a reward and the end of his suffering, which Christ both desired and intended, as the fruit of his labours. v. 9, dio [??], “Therefore God highly exalted Him, and gave Him a Name above every name”… Isa. 53:10, “When He shall make his soul an offering for sin (which was work hard enough) He shall see his seed (which was his soul’s desired wages) He shall prolong his days, the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in hand: 11. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. 12. Therefore will I divide him (a portion) with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong”: that is an ample reward.
Follows his work, because “he hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Hence, his care to finish the work of Him that sent Him, and to do his will, Jn. 4:34; Jn. 17:4; Jn. 8:29, and as the Father loved, so He rewarded the obedience of his Son, not by necessity of nature, but by a voluntary compact, but He loves his obedience, Jn. 10:17, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.”…”
Gillespie, Patrick – Ch. 4, ‘…the Covenant of Redemption; or of the Commands, Conditions and Promises thereof’, pp. 82-112 of The Ark of the Covenant Opened: Or a Treatise of the Covenant of Redemption… (London, 1677) See especially pp. 90 & 104.
Witsius, Herman – Economy of the Covenants, Book 2, ch. 3, sections 28-34
Witsius argues that Christ merited by way of Covenant. In particular, in the last section on p. 265, he gives an important possible translation of a Greek word in Phil. 2:9.
Edwards, Jonathan – ‘The Excellency of Christ’ , point 5, p. 579 in Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738 (WJE Online, vol. 19)
“And He suffered from the Father, as one whose demerits were infinite, by reason of our demerits that were laid upon Him. And yet it was especially by that act of his subjecting Himself to those sufferings, that He merited, and on the account of which chiefly He was accounted worthy of, the glory of his exaltation. Philippians 2:8–9, “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death; …wherefore God hath highly exalted Him.” And we see that ’tis on this account chiefly, that He is extolled as worthy by saints and angels in the context; “Worthy,” say they, “is the Lamb that was slain.…” This shows an admirable conjunction in him of infinite dignity, and infinite condescension and love to the infinitely unworthy.”
See also: Craig Biehl, The Infinite Merit of Christ: The Glory of Christ’s Obedience in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards Buy (Pilgrim’s Rock, 2014)
Smeaton, George – End of Section 14, point 4, on Phil. 2:9, pp. 295-296 in The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by the Apostles… (Edinburgh, 1870)
Bavinck, Herman – Reformed Dogmatics (Baker, 2006), 3:432-436
“…given the teaching of Scripture, no other answer is possible. For over and over it presents the state of humiliation as the way and the means by which alone Christ can attain his exaltation (Isa. 53:10-12; Mt. 23:12; Lk. 24:26; Jn. 10:17; 17:4-5; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 2:10; 12:2)… Especially the Letter to the Hebrews repeatedly puts a heavy accent on this meritorious connection between Christ’s humiliation and exaltation (1:3; 2:9-10; 5:7-10; 10:12; 12:2)…” – p. 434
Vos, Geerhardus – Ch. 5, ‘States’, #43, p. 218 in Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3, Christology (Lexham Press, 2014)
“43. What is the connection of the exaltation of the Mediator to His humiliation?
The connection of legal consequence. Christ is Mediator not as a private person but as an official person, as Head of His members. Hence He must receive the fruits of His merits in Himself. And as He did not suffer for Himself, so too He was not glorified for Himself.”
Moek, Greg – ‘Westminster Larger Catechism 39 ff. Merit, Christ’s Human Nature And The Law – Parts I & II’ Handout to the second lecture, being Part II.
Moek is a Ruling Elder at First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, CA. Elder Moek argues that Christ strictly merited all of the blessings or rewards involved in his exaltation by a strict justice, due to the infinite worth of his divine person’s actions in the flesh.
Yes, in Latin
Turretin, Benedict – Corollary: ‘Whether it is Able to be Rightly Said that Christ Merited to Himself?’ in Theological Positions on Christ the Savior, that is, Why & by What Reason He is the Savior (1614) in Johannes Cloppenburg, All the Theological Works (Amsterdam, 1684), vol. 1, p. 305
B. Turretin (1588-1631) was a pastor and a professor of theology at Geneva. He was the father of Francis Turretin.
“By this particle, dio, ‘wherefore’, the apostle notes the merits of Christ, whereby he hath merited his own exaltation and our salvation.” – col. 122
Theological Theses, vol. 3 Ref place 25 ff. Confer the notes to ch. 16, section 32, p. 281 ff. This volume appear not to be online.
Explication of the Symbol [Apostle’s Creed] Not able to find on the net.
End of Section 1, pp. 230-231 in Disputation 22, ‘Of the Merit of Christ and its Efficacy’ in Gomarus, Arminius, Trelcatius, Jr. – A System of Theological Disputations, in the Academy at Leiden (Rotterdam, 1615)
‘Whether the Remission of Sins maintains the entire Justification of the Faithful before God unto Life Eternal?’ on Luke 1:77 in The Illustration of Select Places in the Gospel of Luke (chs. 1-2) in All the Theological Works (Amsterdam, 1644), vol. 1, pp. 230-235
30th Theological Disputation of the Cycle, ‘On the Merit of Christ & his Benefits toward Us’ (Leiden, 1599) It does not appear that the question of Christ meriting for Himself is addressed in this disputation.
Rivet, Andrew – pp. 836-837 on Isa. 53:11 in An Explication of the Prophet Isaiah, Ch. 53 in Theological Works (Rotterdam, 1652), vol. 2
Cloppenburg, Johannes – Sections 13-21 of Locus 8, 4th Disputation on the Obedience and Merit of the Mediator and of his Anointing in Exercitations on Theological Common Places in All the Theological Works (Amsterdam, 1684), 1.887-889
Burman, Francis – ch. 15, ‘Of the Surety of the Covenant of Grace’, sections 13-15, pp. 492-494 in A Synopsis of Theology, and especially of the Economies of the Covenant of God… (Utrecht, 1671), vol. 1, Book 2, Locus 11, ‘Of the Constitution of the Covenant of Grace’
“Since this exaltation was due the Son in terms of the pact, his obedience and submission was of the nature of true merit strictly so called, and it came first for his own glory not only antecedently, as some would have it, but also meritoriously.” – Section 14, trans. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 19.5
Burman argues that this meriting by ‘pact’ may be called a condign merit, not in that the work and reward are strictly equal, but in that there was a proportionality between his righteous work and the reward given.
Nicolaus Arnold – Heinrich Echardi, Lutherani, scopae dissolutae seu Fasciculus ejus controver siarum succincte refutatus et Quadraginta publicis disputationibus in Academia Franekerana dissolutus Ref (Franeker, 1654; 1676), ch. 7, question 2, p. 154
Arnold (1618-1680) was a reformed professor of theology at Franeker.
Voetius, Gisbert – 7th Problem, ‘Whether Christ Merited to Himself Anything?’, pp. 265-267 in Disputation 16, Problems of the Merit of Christ, part 3 in Select Theological Disputations, vol. 2 (Utrecht, 1655) See in general the five disputations on the Problems of the Merit of Christ, Disputations 14-18, pp. 228-286
Ravensperger, Herman – Inquiry 3, ‘Of those things which Christ Fore-Merited to Himself’ in A Bouquet of Theology, that is, Sacred Disputations (Offenbach, 1612), pp. 169-170
Ravensperger (1586-1625) was a German reformed professor of theology.
Van Mastrict, Theologia – Book 5, ch. 14, ‘Of the Exaltation of the Mediator in General, Phil. 2:9’, section 7 in Theoretical and Practical Theology (Utrecht, 1724), p. 671
Van Mastricht (1630-1706)
Heidegger, Johann – Ch. 18, ‘Of the State of Jesus Christ’, section 39 in A Body of Christian Theology, Exhibiting True Doctrine, which is according to Godliness (Tigur, 1700), vol. 2, p. 56
Rodolph, Johanne Rudolph – Sections 3-4 of ch. 5, ‘Of the State of Christ’s Exaltation in General…’ in Christian Theology (Bern, 1714) book 4, pp. 367-368
Rodolph (1646-1718) was a reformed professor of ethics, Hebrew, catechetical theology, and theology at Bern.
Marck, John – ch. 21, ‘Of the Two-fold State of Jesus Christ…’, section 3 of A Compendium of Christian Theology, Didactic and Elenctic (Amsterdam, 1696; 1722), p. 421
de Moor, Bernard – end of section 17, p. 600 of ch. 18, ‘Of the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace’ in vol. 3 of A Perpetual Commentary on John Marck’s Compendium… (Leiden, 1765)
Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – Thesis 115 of Ch. 21, ‘Of the Time Period of the Fulfillment of the Promises made to the Fathers, or of the Testament of Grace Opened’, ‘Of the Twofold State of the Messiah’, ‘Of Christ’s State of Exaltation’ in The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms (Leiden, 1773), vol. 5, pp. 585-589
Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722) was a professor in Franeker and a Hebraist and gives a rather full bibliography on the subject from the different traditions in Church history.
Yes & No Both/And
See also William Taylor in Non-Committal above.
Ross, Alexander – Footnote on p. 158 on ch. 19.6 of Johannes Wolleb, The Abridgment of Christian Divinity, ed. Alexander Ross, 3rd ed. (London, 1660), pp. 158-159
Poole, Matthew – pp. 186-187 of ‘Of the Merit of Good Works’ in Dialogue Between a Popish Priest and an English Protestant (Philadelphia, 1843)
Poole argues that Christ purchased his glorification in respect of his human nature, though He inherited it with respect to his divine nature. He also says that Christ’s divine person gave a dignity to his human actions which made them proportionable to the glory He received (whereas this is not the case with us).
The Westminster Standards
The following excerpts were taken from Moek’s handout above.
Note that the standards never mention ‘merit’ with respect to Christ, nor that Christ had a motive to his own human glory in his salvific work. Also, no amount of obedience fulfilling justice, even for Christ in the flesh it seems, can positively, of itself, merit a reward from God: Lk. 17:7-10.
Though Larger Catechism #38 says that Christ’s divine nature gives a special worth and efficacy to his sufferings and obedience, yet it is not clear that this can be conceived of as merit, especially as this special significance to his sufferings and obedience derives from his hypostatic union, before any works took place, and as the Union was from grace alone.
It thus appears, that while the Standards speak to a number of correlative themes surrounding the subject, yet they do not speak to the exact issue in question, allowing both sides to affirm the whole of the confessional teaching.
5. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.
[Note that the last clause speaks of a purchase for Christ’s people, but not for Himself.]
5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.
Q. 38, Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.
[Notice that the last clauses only respect Christ’s people and not Christ’s own ends for Himself. Note also that the Catechism does not speak of an infinite worth, but only that some worth and efficacy (otherwise undefined) are provided to Christ’s obedience and sufferings due to his divine person.]
Q. 39, Why was it requisite that the mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.
Q. 48, How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A. Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.
Q. 52, How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?
A. Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his church, for their justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.
[Note that even a satisfaction and fulfilling of divine justice does not of itself entail a merit to positive blessings: Lk. 17:7-10; that must come by way of a covenantal promise.]
As quoted by William Taylor, Sermon 15, ‘Christ’s Exaltation’ in Puritan Sermons, vol. 5, p. 237 Taylor does not give a source.
“The humiliation of Christ is the meritorious cause of exaltation; and his exaltation is the reward of his humiliation.”
On the Middle Ages
Muller, Richard – ‘Meritum Christi’ in Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms
Anselm – Book 2, Ch. 19 of Cur Deus Homo [Why God Became Man] (London & Sydney: Griffith, Farran, 189?), pp. 104-107
Anselm (c.1033-1109) was an Italian Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury.
“Anselm said that by his non-obligatory and totally voluntary death, Christ indeed merited a reward but that, since He Himself already possessed all things, He had relinquished it to his own.” – Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3.432
Hugo St. Victor – Question 6 on Philippians, col. 578 in Migne, PL 175
Hugo (c. 1096-1141) was a Saxon canon regular and a leading theologian and writer on mystical theology.
“It is asked whether Christ merited anything? Solution: For us He merited, not for Himself.” – col. 578
Dubious Writings sometimes attributed to Hugo St. Victor – pp. 887-888 in Allegories on the New Testament in Migne, PL 175
“It is able to be conceded that Christ merited immortality, that is, He exhibited such obedience as deserved such remuneration. It is asked whether Christ merited for us in all of his works equally?…”
Lombard, Peter – Book 3, Distinction 18, ‘If Christ Merited to Himself & to Us, & what to Himself & What to Us?’, cols. 792-795 of The Sentences in Four Books in Migne, 192
Lombard (c.1100-1160) was a scholastic theologian, Bishop of Paris, and author of Four Books of Sentences, which became the standard textbook of theology, for which he earned the accolade ‘Master of the Sentences’.
Aquinas, Thomas – Summa, 3, quest. 19, article 3; quest. 48, article 1; question 49, article 6
Bonaventure – Breviloquium, 4.7 and Sentences 3, distinction 18
Bonaventure (1221-1274), born Giovanni di Fidanza, was an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also Cardinal Bishop of Albano.
For a summary of Bonaventure’s view in English, see: Thomas Swadin, pp. 189-190 of The Scriptures Vindicated from the Unsound Conclusions of Cardinal Bellarmine… (no place, 1643)
Scotus, John Duns
Scotus Academicus, or the Universal Dogmatic Theology of the Subtle Doctor, vol. 7, Of the Incarnation of the Divine Word (Rome, 1901)
1st Tract, 1st Disputation, 3rd Article, ‘Of the Causes of the Incarnation’
Scotus (c. 1266–1308) was a Scottish Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian. He is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham.
Wycliff, John – ch. 14, p. 305 of A Tract on the Church (London, 1886)
Wycliff (c. 1320’s–1384) was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, Biblical translator, reformer, priest, and a seminary professor at the University of Oxford. He became an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century and is considered an important predecessor to Protestantism.
See Bavinck for a summary
Bellarmine, Robert – Controversies, vol. 1, book 5, of Christ the Mediator, chs. 9-10, cols. 583-586
Opposes Calvin on this.
Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3.433
“…the Lutherans could not speak of any reward and exaltation for Christ. For according to them, the human nature of Christ shared in the divine attributes of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence already from the moment of the incarnation. It therefore first received these attributes not as a reward for the mediatorial work done in the state of humiliation but already before hand, in virtue or its union with the divine nature, and also kept them throughout, be it that in his humiliation Christ did not make use of them, at least no public use. The exaltation was not a true and real exaltation, but only a matter of using, or publicly using, that which He already possessed from the beginning. It was not the outcome of an antecedent human development but merely a glorious manifestation of what He already was and possessed in secret.ª
ª J. Gerhard, Loci theologici, ed. E. Preuss, 9 vols. (Berlin: G. Schlawitz, 1863-75), IV, 329; J. Quenstedt, Theologia, III, 324; D. Hollaz, Examen, 748; J.F. Buddeus, Inst. theol., 787.”
As quoted in Robert Franks, A History of the Doctrine of the Work of Christ (Wipf & Stock, 2001), Part 3, ch. 6, p. 425
“The eighth question is, whether Christ by his obedience merited anything for Himself. Here Quenstedt attacks Lombard, Thomas, Socinus, and others, That Christ merited only for us follows not only from the dignity of his Person, but from the communicatio idiomatum, whereby his human nature (except so far as our redemption required) lacked nothing. Besides, if He merited worship for Himself, how then could He have been worshipped in his earthly life? Moreover, as his merit and satisfaction are really one, if He merited for Himself, then He also satisfied for Himself. As to the name above every name, He had it already by right. Quenstedt repeats against the Romanists the argument of Calvin, that they confound the relation of antecedent and consequent with that of cause and effect. To the Socinian argument, that if Christ did not merit for Himself He could not merit for us, he replies that He could do this, just because He was not mere man, but God.”
Schmid, Heinrich – Section C, ‘The States of Christ’, pp. 386-387 of Part 3, Ch. 2 of The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Verified from the Original Sources, 4th ed., rev. (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1899)
Schmid quotes David Hollaz (1648-1713) for ‘No’ on Phil. 2:9 and then summarizes the numerous, detailed arguments of John Gerhard (1582-1637) for the same position.
Walchius, Christian William Francis – Section 17, pp. 85-86 of A Commentary on the Active Obedience of Christ (Gottingen, 1755)
Walchius answers ‘No’, as most Lutherans.
As quoted in J.V. Fesko, ‘Socinus & the Racovian Catechism on Justification’ being ch. 13 in Michael Parsons, Aspects of Reforming: Theology & Practice in Sixteenth Century Europe (Paternoster, 2013)
“Calvin rules out this interpretation with sufficient clarity when he denies that Christ gained merit for Himself, and censured the Scholastics who taught that He did. Calvin’s censure would have been completely unwarranted if Christ could have merited reward for Himself in any way at all. He felt that it was enough to show that Christ could not merit reward for Himself as God for God, or as man for man. Calvin just takes it for granted that one nature could not merit reward for the other. And rightfully so.”
The History of the Issue
Reformation & Puritan Era
Campos, Junior, Heber Carlos – Part III, Ch. 7.3, ‘The Person of Christ in Relationship to the Law’ in Johannes Piscator (1546-1625) and the Consequent Development of the Doctrine of the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience PhD diss. (Calvin Theological Seminary, 2009), pp. 250-285
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”