It is not merely according to covenantal promise, forgiveness and imputed righteousness that we receive our inheritance in Christ but as justified sinners who by grace have been adopted in union with the Son. Believers are fitted for heaven because of all the entailments of union with the last and faithful Adam who as Son is very God of very God. Accordingly, it is in Christ we are justified and sons of the Most High.
Let’s consider afresh the relationship of pactum merit with respect to Adam in the covenant of works and how that relates to strict merit in redemption. With respect to Adam the reward of living forever would have been disproportionate to the finite work performed.
In other words, the justice of life-eternal would not have been according to strict justice but rather according to a sovereignly imposed covenantal compact to over reward Adam for obedience; a pact of sorts was at play. That is to say, the value of Adam’s obedience would not have been of intrinsic worth as it relates to the meritorious reward of unending life.
I do find, however, that in the economy of redemption our reward, though received by grace alone, is according to principles of strict justice. Where we might locate the appropriateness (or congruity) of the forever-reward is the question.
Framing the issue:
Let me try frame the dilemma and then try to offer a solution by drawing from the ordo salutis. In so doing, I’ll try to address the easier part first, having to do with strict justice as it relates to Christ’s passive obedience and our demerit.
The one time sacrifice of Christ was sufficient to satisfy God’s strict justice, render God propitious, and reconcile God to the elect in Christ. Although Christ is the kinsman redeemer, Christ’s divine nature was necessary for redemption accomplished and for there to be intrinsic worth as it relates to Christ’s mediatory work. Our demerit needed the incarnate Son of God to pay for our sins, for one thing to keep the human nature from sinking under the wrath of God. Christ could render God propitious and provide full satisfaction for the sins of many because Christ is both God and man. That’s the more obvious part. No issues there I trust.
The passive obedience part of redemption, which for our purposes narrowly deals with sinners’ demerit and payment for sins, is more obvious perhaps. Yet when it comes to what positively fits redeemed sinners for heaven, I find that to narrowly focus on Christ’s active obedience as a human being is to overlook the broader ground upon which the reward of everlasting life and inheritance can be found.
The eternal Son eternally assumed the terms of the covenant of works that offered disproportionate reward of life for work done as a human being. So, regarding the active obedience part, pactum merit cannot be avoided and strict justice obtained if what fits us for glory is predicated solely on Christ fulfilling the original terms of the covenant and we grant that those original terms were according to pactum merit. That would appear to be the implication of a position that limits our standing before God to that which we receive only by the active and passive obedience of Christ. If the Son took on the terms of the original covenant of works and if those terms offered disproportionate reward via pactum, then it stands to reason that what fits us for glory is not according to what is strictly congruous but only according to pactum unless something beyond the merit gained through the last Adam’s obedience is included.