Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Resurrection and Justification

Paul, in Romans relates justification by faith to Christ’s resurrection from the dead:

It [righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, who was delivered for our offences and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:24 & 25.)

Christ’s resurrection as well as his death is related to justification by faith. In justification, God forgives sinners and imputes to them the righteousness of Christ on the basis of his obedience (5:19) and death (3:24 & 25.) This righteousness is received by faith alone.
Jesus was “raised because of our justification” in this sense:

Just as Christ’s death was a demonstration of God’s righteous judgement on the sin of the world, visited on him as the means of propitiation, so his resurrection was the demonstration and proof of the acquitting righteousness of God (H.N. Riddberbos, Paul an Outline of his Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, p. 167).

God condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh (Romans 8:3). He was “delivered for our offences”. By raising his Son from the dead, God was declaring that his sacrifice was accepted and that he was righteous. Christ was “justified in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16). God vindicated his Son whom the world had rejected , when he raised him from the dead.

Believers are justified by Christ’s resurrection, because the risen Christ is the object of justifying faith (Galatians 2:16 & 20). A dead Christ, who himself remained under the curse of death could justify no one. It is as the risen Lord that Christ is the righteousness of God for his people.

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies, who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and furthermore is risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:33 & 34.)

Paul’s concern here is for a person’s right standing before God: Who can bring a charge of guilt or condemnation against God’s elect? Christ has died for his people, bearing their sins; he has been raised from the dead, vindicating his sacrifice. He is at God’s right hand interceding for the people of God on the basis of his finished work. “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“New Perspective” scholars (see N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, Lion, 1997, p. 113-133) see justification as a matter that concerns the question, “Who are the people of God?” The classic Protestant understanding is that justification addresses the question “How can I be right with God?”

When justification is related to the resurrection of Christ, Paul’s preoccupation is with a person’s standing before God, their offences and condemnation, not primarily their membership of the people of God, as “New Perspective” scholars suggest.


Chris Tilling said...

Hi Guy,
Really interesting blog.
Just a couple of comments on this post.
1) Is it not possible to see the resurrection of Christ as the first-fruits of the fulfilment of the promises of God and new creation? If so, understanding justification as related to the social cohesion between Jew and Gentile in the covenant of God is integral to resurrection.
2) The question 'who are the people of God?' is precisely a question of a persons 'right standing with God'. They need not be exclusive categories. But New Perspective (NP) readings do suggest that 'individuals being right with God' isn't the full scope of justification.
3) But then again, salvation never was limited to individuals (Rom 8:21).

I'm thinking through this NP at the moment (haven't reached a definite conclusion as yet), and have blogged on it a few times. So thank you for your thoughts. And so I'd also be interested to hear your response to these comments and those on my blog.
All the best,

Guy Davies said...

Hi Chris,

My concern with the NP is that justification is first and foremost a legal declaration whereby God declares the ungodly righteous by faith alone. A justified sinner is by definition a member of the people of God. But membership of the people of God is an implication of justification, not part of justification itself.

I think that NP expands the scope of justification so much that it becomes a general category like salvation. In the NT justification is related precisely to the legal aspect of salvation, the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of Christ's righteousness (Romans 3-5, 8).

I agree with your emphasis on Christ's resurrection as the first-fruits of a new creation. The resurrection of Christ and its theological significance tends to be downplayed in evangelical theology.

A good book to read on NP issues is "The Great Exchange" by Philip H Eveson, Day One Publications. If you enter "Eveson Wright" into Google you can follow the links to view a couple of chapters online.