INTRODUCTION...………………………………………………………………………………1 JUSTIFICATION IN PAUL………………...................................…………………………….... 2 The Concept……………………………………………………………………………….3 The Aspects………………………………………………………………………………..4 THE RISEN CHRIST……………...……........................……………………………….….….....6 Salvation in Christ................................................................................................................8 Evangelical Readings.........................................................................................................11 THE JUSTIFIED CHRIST………...……........................……………………………….….…...13 The Scriptural Basis...........................................................................................................14 The Deeper Magic…..........................................................................................................17 CONCLUSION....…………………………………………………………………………….….19 BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………………..21


The doctrine of justification by faith was a central concern in the early reform efforts of Martin Luther.1 Others who followed him also upheld the importance of the doctrine. John Calvin called justification by faith the “hinge of all religion.”2 In the Regensburg Colloquy (1541), representatives from both the Roman and Protestant sides came to a basic agreement on the subject. Their efforts, however, would fail to unite the two sides.3 Some five hundred years after the Reformation, in 1999, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed by Roman and Lutheran representatives.4 The document and the papers published in Evangelicals and Catholics Together5 sought to bind Christians together. Others were quick to point out remaining serious disagreements, such as on justification.6 The divide was not just between Roman and Protestant Catholics. If we look closely, even selfconfessed Evangelicals are not agreed on certain points in the doctrine of justification.7

Alister E McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 234-5, 257. Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Library of Christian Classics v. 20-21 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 3.11.1. For the story, see Anthony N.S. Lane, “Twofold Righteousness: A Key to the Doctrine of Justification? Reflections on Article 5 of the Regensburg Colloquy (1541)” in Mark Husbands and Daniel Treier, Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 205-8. David Aune, ed. Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006). Charles Colson and Richard Neahaus, Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission (Dallas: Word Pub, 1995).
6 5 4 3 2


R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, See Husbands and Treier, Justification: What's at Stake, 7-13, for an overview of the issues.


2 Given the surrounding confusion, we therefore feel a little perplexed at the prospect of exploring the relationship of Christ’s resurrection to the justification of believers. Perhaps a proper first step is to settle the definition of the doctrine of justification before we relate it to the resurrection. But a common consent among the churches is not forthcoming.8 Without that consensus, we shall start below with a working definition of justification common among Evangelicals. (The present writer considers himself as one who belongs to the Evangelical camp, who aims for catholicity and prays for Christian unity.) As we proceed, we will add some concepts to our working definition, concepts we believe are biblical and important to a full-orbed understanding of justification. We shall then proceed to examine the role of the resurrection of Christ in the doctrine of justification. In standard Evangelical treatments of justification, the role of Christ’s resurrection does not seem to get the deep theological development it needs. This state of things needs to be amended. The resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. Without it, says Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, believers are still in their sins – unjustified and condemned, without hope and, undoubtedly, the people most to be pitied. We seem to readily see the role of the cross in our justification. But what role does the resurrection play? Our desire is to contribute something to giving a clear answer to that question. In this paper, we hope to show that the justification of believers rest as much on the empty tomb as on the cross. But what is the inner Pauline logic? It is this: The resurrection is the justification of Jesus Christ. Ungodly believers share derivatively in Jesus’ resurrection-justification by being united through faith in the risen Christ.

A.E. Mcgrath, “Justification,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 523.



The Concept The home of justification language is the Hebrew lawcourt.9 Two parties in dispute, the accuser and the accused, come before the judge. After examining the evidence, the judge will give a judicial sentence. If he finds the accused guilty, he pronounces a sentence of condemnation. If he finds otherwise, he “justifies” him. That is, the accused is acquitted, declared innocent, “righteous” and “not guilty” in the eyes of the law. He then receives those benefits due him as prescribed in the law. J.I. Packer that compactly elucidates the concept: The biblical meaning of “justify” (Hebrew, sadeq; Greek, LXX, and NT, dikaioo) is to pronounce, accept, and treat as just, i.e., as, on the other hand, not penally liable, and, on the other, entitled to all the privileges due to those who have kept the law. It is thus a forensic term, denoting a judicial act of administering the law – in this case, by declaring a verdict of acquittal, and so excluding all possibility of condemnation. Justification thus settles the legal status of the person justified. … The justifying action of the Creator, who is the royal Judge of this world, has both a sentential and an executive, or declarative aspect: God justifies, first, by reaching his verdict and then by sovereign action makes his verdict known and secures to the person justified the rights which are now his due. What is envisaged in Isa. 45:25 and 50:8, for instance, is specifically a series of events which will publicly vindicate those whom God holds to be in the right.10 God requires human judges to judge rightly. He expects them to justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.11 But the Pauline Gospel teaches that God justifies the wicked.

N.T. Wright, “Justification,” in Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright, eds. New Dictionary of Theology, The Master reference collection (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 359. J.I. Packer, “Justification,” in Walter A. Elwell, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001), 593-4.
11 10

Deuteronomy 25:1; Exodus 23:7.


4 We may see in Paul that the Hebrew lawcourt is a kind of miniature of the judicial aspect of God’s relationship with man.12 The Creator God is Judge over all and, Paul informs the Athenians, the Father has turned over the activity of judging to Jesus Christ. In his letter to the Romans, Paul shows the legal dilemma of the human race. Jew and Gentile alike are unrighteous, held guilty before God, and therefore subject to condemnation and wrath. But, says Paul, there is a way out. The person who believes in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is justified by God. There is no distinction: whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, young or old, God declares righteous the individual who puts his faith in Jesus Christ apart from works. The believing sinner is forgiven, acquitted of all legal charges and liabilities, and has peace with God. No condemnation awaits him anymore. His future is no longer one of death and wrath, but glory, resurrection glory.13 Thus, in the Pauline biblical Gospel, God justifies the ungodly. This sounds unjust and unacceptable, but it is only so if God bases his judgment on the sinner’s own merit, moral goodness and godly performance. In God’s scheme, however, God views the believing sinner in the person and company of His Son, Jesus Christ. God forgives the sinner on the basis of Christ’s death and counts him righteous for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Aspects Some might object to our formulation above in that it tends to be merely and strictly legal. We deny that it is. Justification does pertain to man’s legal standing before God, but it does not exhaust Paul’s rich concept of salvation. In the wider orbit of salvation, Paul also talks about adoption, our reception of the Spirit, sanctification, life, peace and glorification.14

There are several aspects/perspectives to the divine-human relationship. See Millard J Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 968.
13 14


Romans 1:18-5:1; 8:1-30. Read for instance Galatians 3:1-4:7 and Romans 5:1-5 and 8:1-17.

5 One helpful scheme to relate salvation’s manifold benefits together is to view man in terms of his legal, existential and situational aspects.15 The legal aspect pertains to his judicial standing before God. Is he a condemned sinner, or a person accepted by God to be in the right? The existential perspective refers to man’s internal condition, his existential make-up. Does man have a deathly, wicked heart and a corrupt nature, or is he internally alive, pure and clean? The situational perspective concerns his social-covenantal environment. Does man enjoy the fellowship and fatherly presence of God, or is he outside of God’s home and loving communion? Correlating our scheme to Pauline language, we may say, firstly, that the believing sinner is justified before God, in the right with God. This is his legal standing in the presence of the Divine Judge. Secondly, the believing sinner is adopted by God, a child of the Father. This is his familial situation, his “social-covenantal” environment. Thirdly, the believing sinner is sanctified, his nature is being transformed from corruption to glory. This is his existential condition. The believer is all three at the same time from different vantage points. He is a justified, adopted, (being-) sanctified sinner. He is all three in the wholeness of his person. We think our threefold schema approximates Paul’s thought very well. In Galatians, he links justification, (the Spirit of) sonship, and new creation (life). In Romans, especially in the eighth chapter, he brings together “no condemnation”, walking in the Spirit in holiness, and praying as children of God. So we have justification, adoption, and sanctification (life and glorification in the Spirit): we may distinguish these three aspects, but we cannot separate them. They interpenetrate and are involved in one another. They do so in the believer in the wholeness of his being in salvation, derivatively. Foundationally, they cohere in the person of the risen Christ.

Here we are borrowing from See John M Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, N.J: P & R Pub, 2006), 200-1.



Theological Vision and Devotion Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ turned him around from the fiercest persecuting foe of Christianity to the most zealous teacher, defender, and propagator of the faith. We trust Luke’s historical reliability.16 What he reported was not only factual; they came from Paul and accurately capture his own thought and perspective. After his blindness and baptism, Paul right away preached that Jesus is the “Son of God” and the Christ, God’s anointed Messiah.17 Paul’s first recorded message to his fellow Jews informs us of several things.18 First, Paul saw that God’s relationship with the patriarchs and Israel reached its climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Second, the resurrection fulfilled God’s covenant promises. And third, through this crucified-risen Man, a person obtains forgiveness of sins and the justification that one cannot get Moses’ law. Luke’s summary faithfully reflects the substance of Paul’s theology, as a perusal of the latter’s letters show. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul argued that Christ came to fulfill the covenant promise to Abraham. In Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike are justified by faith and not by the works required by the Mosaic system. In his letter to the Romans, Paul taught that the Gospel about Christ was according to the Hebrew Scriptures. In this Gospel, God’s righteousness is revealed for the justification of everyone who believes. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul told

John R. W Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible speaks today (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 21-5.

Acts 9:20, 22. Acts 12:13-41.



7 his respondents that once they were separated from the covenant promises and God’s household. But now in Christ, the Gentiles are co-heirs with the Jews by faith. To the Corinthians, Paul affirmed that all of God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ. He reminded them that Christ’s death and resurrection are at the heart of the Christian faith, in accordance with the Scriptures. The Israelites of old were baptized into Moses. Similarly, the Corinthians and other Christian believers have been baptized into Christ in one body. We may conclude that in Paul’s reworking of his Jewish belief, we have at least these three basic data: (1) The risen, crucified Jesus is “God’s Son,” the Christ. (2) Jesus’ person and work flow out of God’s covenantal relationship with Abraham and the Israelite nation, as described and defined by the Hebrew Scriptures. (3) Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith in the risen Christ. All three interact and interlock. All who would reconstruct Paul’s theology may not neglect any one of these three. Together they hold and redefine Paul’s vision of God, reality and ministry. In this Pauline vision, the center is occupied by the risen Messiah, who was crucified but now reigns over all as Lord.19 We miss the substance of Paul’s theology if we do not speak of his Christ-centered devotion. “There is a christocentricity to Paul’s understanding of the gospel,” says Gordon Fee, “that goes beyond mere historical reality or theological insight.”20 Indeed, and Fee is right to connect this to God’s saving activity in Christ.21 Paul, too, was a recipient of God’s love and salvation in Christ. He wrote the Galatian believers that the Son of God loved him and gave Himself for him. To Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul recalled that he was “formerly a

Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 25. Gordon D Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 197.
21 20


Ibid., 198-9.

8 blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man, but I obtained mercy…And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”22 When the risen Christ stopped the rampaging Paul on his tracks, Paul realized, it was because Christ loved him with a love he did not deserve.

Salvation in Christ In our preceding paragraph, we have moved from Christology to soteriology. We do not want to bind Paul to our theological categories. Instead, we strive to follow the Pauline mind that was subject to Christ. Still, the logic and conceptual categories are there present in Paul. Paul did speak of people receiving and experiencing salvation (soteriology); he did affirm that God calls people to receive the gift of forgiveness and new life. Paul did say that God does his saving activity in Christ (Christology). “God was in Christ reconciling the world.” We need to point out, however, something very important from the last statement we quoted from Paul. When we speak of Christ and salvation, our tendency is to divorce our experience of possessing salvation from our devotion to Christ himself. Paul did not conceive things that way. While it is true that Paul saw God as saving through Christ (instrumental), he also saw that God saves in Christ (locative). We tend to see Christ as merely the means of salvation, and not the “location” and “embodiment” of salvation Himself. Instead, the Pauline perspective is that the former flows from the latter. Christ saves because He is salvation. When Christ gives salvation, He gives Himself. He is the Giver and the Gift. This is, we believe, what Paul meant when he viewed believers as being “in Christ,” or “united to Christ,” or “in union with Christ.” One cannot have salvation outside of Christ. Of God “we are in Christ Jesus, who


Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 2:13-14. The Holy Bible, New King James version throughout.

9 became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” “What did not exist before – righteousness, holiness, and redemption,” comments David Garland, “now exists in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). These three are not bestowed on believers so that these things now belong to them; they share in these things by virtue of belonging to the crucified Christ…”24 Paul’s concept of the union of believers with Christ, according to Alister McGrath, was important in Luther and Calvin’s doctrine of justification.25 It is particularly very clear and explicit in Calvin. He taught that we would not benefit from the salvation Christ wrought for the whole world if we were not united to Him by faith.26 Out of this mystical, Spirit-gifted faithunion, the believer receives the twin grace of sanctification and justification.27 We think Calvin is on the right track when he saw the believer’s justification as a derivative blessing from the primary gift of his union with Christ: united to Christ, therefore justified. Present-day scholars also recognize the centrality of union with Christ, and that justification flows from that union.28 James Dunn’s study is instructive. For Dunn, Paul connects “union with Christ” (Dunn’s nomenclature is “participation in Christ”) with the gift of the Spirit, with the “ongoing process of salvation,” with baptism and with the church.29 Dunn quotes

23 24 25 26 27 28

1 Corinthians 1:30. Garland, 79. McGrath, Iustitia Dei. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.1. Ibid., 3.11.1.

Among others, James D. G Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1998), 390-412; Richard B Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1987), uses the expression "solidarity.” We are not sure if Fee’s “salvation in Christ” (Fee, Pauline Christology, 482-3) denotes what we mean here.

Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 395.

10 passage after passage from Paul showing the pervasive presence of the “in Christ/in the Lord” phrase. Dunn concludes that the “in Christ/in the Lord” motif is a “fundamental aspect” of Paul’s “thought and speech.” The phrase and the “perspective it embodied had become an integral part of the warp and woof both of his theology and…of his living and relationships.”30 Union with Christ also encompasses the thought and reality Paul conceives in his use of similar terminologies, such as “with Christ, “into Christ,” “the body of Christ,” “through Christ,” and “of Christ.”31 What are the results of being in Christ? Dunn lists four: (1) the “fact” that we died and were raised with Christ two thousand years ago in his death and resurrection, but that “fact” was “actualized” in our experience of faith; (2) that we are incorporated in Christ’s body the church and in his eschatological role as the second Adam; (3) that we are transferred from the lordship of sin to the lordship of Christ, enabled for holiness; and (4) that we are involved in a cosmic, eschatological renewal, the “new creation.”32 By way of summary, we offer these propositions: • • • • God has accomplished salvation through Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection. One receives salvation by being united through faith with the risen, living Christ. United to Christ, believers participate in his death and resurrection, and thereby experience the salvific power and benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. One of those benefits is justification.

Perhaps we can put our conception of Pauline soteriology and, in particular, justification, this way: Christ risen (clothed in the Gospel) offered faith-union with the risen Christ participation in his death and resurrection
30 31 32


Ibid., 399. Ibid., 401-7. Ibid., 410-12.

11 The last two arrows in the diagram above signify “causal” and “logical,” not temporal, connection. Through faith, we died and were raised with Christ. Through faith, God justifies us by virtue of our being united to Christ in his death and resurrection. Faith is the instrument of our justification. The basis is our co-death and co-resurrection with Christ, founded on his historical death and resurrection. This, we suggest, is the inner logic of Paul’s doctrine of justification.

Evangelical Readings From our schema, we see immediately that justification (and all the other aspects of an undivided salvation) flows from the person/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ. The whole person and whole work of our Lord Jesus Christ bring us the whole of a complete salvation. It appears though that the role of Christ’s resurrection has been underemphasized in Evangelical treatments of salvation, and justification in particular. For instance, Erickson devotes one part of his systematic theology on the work of Christ, but his focus is on the atonement. He discusses the resurrection of Christ briefly and just has one or two statements on its salvific role: the resurrection “symbolizes the totality” of Jesus’ victory over sin.33 Wayne Grudem devotes more space to the cross than to the empty tomb. He links the resurrection to our regeneration and justification. The resurrection shows/declares God’s approval of Christ’s work on the cross. When we believe in Christ, we are raised with him. In union with Christ, we partake of his approval from the Father. “In this way,” concludes Grudem, “Christ’s resurrection also gave final proof that he had earned our justification.”34 This is an improvement over Erickson’s work. What Grudem says is right, but his focus seems to be resurrection’s confirmatory value on Christ’s cross-work.

Erickson, Christian Theology, 794.

Wayne A Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 615.


12 J. Rodman Williams sees the resurrection of Christ as providing the climax of our salvation. He writes, “Justification, the free gift of righteousness, is the very heart of salvation and is made possible through the death of Christ. But unless Christ had been raised, justification would literally have been a dead matter. Hence through the resurrection of Christ our salvation has been completed.”35 Notice that the weight is once again on the cross. More helpful along the trajectory of our paper are the statements of Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest. They list ten reasons for the significance of the resurrection, several of which are relevant to our subject. Those relevant are the following:36 • • • The resurrection of Jesus Christ validates his claims, both for his person and work. The resurrection reveals that his sacrifice was accepted by the Father. The resurrection certifies that believers have peace with God because of the present reality of justification. • The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures believers that their future justification at the Day of Judgment is secured. • The resurrected Christ is the last Adam who grants the gift of life and righteousness (justification) to all who trust Him. • • The resurrection marks Christ as the One who will make the final judgment. The resurrection secures Christ’s continuing presence among His people.

The Evangelical statements in this section are all helpful and true. We hope to incorporate their insights in subsequent sections of this paper.

J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1996), 389.


Bruce A Demarest, Integrative Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich: Academie Books, 1987), vol. 2, 468-70.


In this final part of our paper, we shall integrate the themes we looked at above. We propose that the integrating thread is this: the resurrection of Christ is the justification of Christ. God justified Jesus Christ in the resurrection. When the Father raised Jesus from the dead, He made a judicial statement. He declared that Jesus is in the right. The resurrection was God’s declarative action constituting Christ to be the Righteous One. Jesus’ justification in the resurrection is the rock upon which the justification of sinners is built. Douglas Moo objects to the use of justification language in reference to Christ because justification pertains to the ungodly, and Christ is not ungodly.37 We sympathize with his concern. We need to point out however two things. First, the Scriptures do not shy away from using the language. The mystery of godliness, according to the Paul and the early church, includes the justification of Christ in the Spirit in his resurrection from the dead.38 Second, the justification of the ungodly is a derivative use. The original, primary use of justification, as we saw in its Hebrew lawcourt environment, is that the one in the right be declared just. For these two reasons, we affirm and proclaim that the risen Jesus Christ is preeminently the justified one. It is in Him – in His very person – that resurrection and justification meet and embrace, unbreakably, irrevocably. It follows that – in irresistible biblical logic – those who are united to Him by faith receive and experience in Him their justification and resurrection.


Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 378. 1 Timothy 3:16.



14 The Scriptural Basis Two Pauline texts combine to underline the justified status of the risen Christ. In 1 Timothy 3:16, we read that Jesus Christ was “manifested in the flesh” and was “justified in the Spirit.”39 Romans 1:3-4 states that God’s Son, “Jesus Christ our Lord,…was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The two passages are parallel. Two things relevant to our subject stand out. First, the passages affirm clearly that God’s eternal Son entered and took our weak fleshly existence in the incarnation. He then entered and took a powerful Spiritual existence in the resurrection. Second, the passages teach that the resurrection was Jesus’ justification. That is, it was God’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God with power. The passage in Romans is usually taken to show the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ.40 It is better to see it as referring to two subsequent kinds of human existence for Jesus Christ – one of weakness, from the cradle to the tomb, and one of power, from the empty tomb onwards.. The first form of Jesus’ human existence is life in the old aeon (in Paul’s two-age redemptive-historical outlook) characterized as fleshly because it is subject to sin, weakness, decay and death. But in his resurrection, Jesus began the second and final form of human existence: life in the new aeon, life in the Spirit, characterized by righteousness, power, vitality and glory. By His resurrection, Christ has inaugurated the new age.41 The resurrection of Christ marked the transition from the old age to the new, from weakness to power, from fleshly to Spiritual, from death to life. What this datum implies is that

Raymond F Collins, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: A Commentary, 1st ed., The New Testament library (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 106-9, explains well the resurrection point of the phrase. John Stott’s exegesis is representative of this tradition. See Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 49.
41 40


Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 50.

15 the transition took the form of a reconstitution in Christ’s very person. Jesus was “disrobed” of his “fallen nature” and was clothed with a new, glorious human nature. Jesus was transfigured when God raised Him to life. Consequently, we may say that the resurrection as justification was not a mere legal declaration. It was also a transfiguration. The resurrection was both a judicial statement and an existential transformation. Christ is the Justified and Glorified One. Thus far, we have considered the judicial and existential aspects of the resurrection. We now come to the third aspect, the situational (social-covenantal) environment. As we have mentioned, Christ’s resurrection opened up a new environment, which is the new creation in the Spirit. The old creational order was condemned and is under God’s wrath.42 But in the new creation, the prevailing environment is the Father’s love and pleasure.43 This new creation is the kingdom of light of the Son of God’s love, the kingdom of God’s adopted sons and daughters.44 Paul saw the cross as God’s curse on Jesus who took on the sin of humanity. Jesus was stripped of the privileges, honors and love due a good son. On the cross, Jesus was abandoned, rejected and disinherited by God. But in the resurrection, God received him back and lavished him with all the benefits of a son. The old Adam was a son of God, not God’s “natural” son, but God’s “adopted” son. He forfeited his adoption by distrusting God. He was sent out of God’s garden-house and was deprived of God’s fatherly fellowship. Jesus followed Adam in the far country, dying his curse and experiencing his abandonment. But in the resurrection – where Paul saw Jesus as the new Adam – God reinstated humanity to sonship. God adopted humanity again. If death signifies disinheritance, then resurrection to life signifies adoption into the familial love of God. Viewed

Romans 1:18; 3:5, 19, 25; 5:12-19. Romans 8:14-29. Colossians 1:12-13.



16 from this angle, it may not be farfetched to see that in the resurrection, Jesus was not just judicially declared and constituted as God’s Son, but that he was also adopted as God’s Son. The resurrection therefore engaged Jesus in his whole threefold human existence. He was justified, pronounced to be judicially in the right with God. He was glorified, receiving an immortal, incorruptible existence. He was adopted, receiving the powers and privileges of sonship. Because all these pertain to the divine Son of God in terms of His incarnate state, we suggest that the Pauline concept of the “risen Jesus as the new Adam” best captures the whole schema. The risen Christ is the last Adam justified, glorified and adopted. We note that Paul associates the Spirit with the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Timothy 3, Christ was justified in the Spirit. In Romans 1, Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness. In 1 Corinthians 15, Christ became a life-giving Spirit. For Paul, the risen reigning Christ and the Spirit are closely linked. The person who has the Spirit of Christ belongs to Christ.45 Believers are transformed into the image of the Lord Christ by the Spirit of the Lord.46 To be baptized into Christ is to drink of the Spirit. 47 Christ was raised into the age and realm of the Spirit. At the very least, all these biblical data lead us to think that the Spirit is involved in Jesus’ justification, glorification and adoption. Paul sees the Spirit as the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of adoption/sonship. It may not be off to say that the Spirit is the Spirit of justification as well. After all, in Galatians 3, receiving the Spirit and being justified are both through faith. The promise of the Spirit is integral to justification by faith.48 The Spirit is the power of Jesus’ resurrection-justification.

45 46 47 48

Romans 8:9. 2 Corinthians 3:18. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. Galatians 3:1-9.

17 The Deeper Magic Our discussion shows once again that the legal, existential and situational aspects of human personhood overlap and are involved in each other. The Scripture seems to indicate that the judicial aspect holds a logical priority. We recall Packer’s words: “God justifies, first, by reaching his verdict and then by sovereign action makes his verdict known and secures to the person justified the rights which are now his due” (p. 3 above). This divine action is reflected in ordinary human judicial proceedings. First is the forensic declaration, then the sanctions follow. For instance, freedom follows acquittal, while imprisonment follows a guilty sentence.49 When it comes to the case of Jesus, God – speaking from our finite human sight – first reached a positive verdict “in His mind” and, then, He resurrected Jesus. The action pronounced without equivocation that God finds Jesus to be in the right. The resurrection both declares and constitutes through the Spirit Jesus’ own justification. It is a divine judicial statement, but included in that statement is Jesus’ own glorification and adoption in the Spirit. God justified Jesus because Jesus Himself is righteous and just. The Bible does not allow us to think that Jesus’ righteousness is merely legal. He indeed submitted to all the jots and tittles of the Torah. But His submission was not that of a slave. It was the obedience of a faithful son,50 who delights in loving God with his whole being and in loving others with generous exuberant love. His righteousness mirrored that of the overflowing goodness of the Father. When He went to the cross to provide for the forgiveness and reconciliation of the whole world to God, His heart was beating in one with the Father’s.

Paul also follows this progression: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Richard N. Longenecker, “The Foundational Conviction of New Testament Christology: The Obedience / Faithfulness / Sonship of Christ,” in Joel B. Green and Max Turner, eds. Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament Christology (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994), 476-83.


18 The Father-son relationship of trust, love and obedience forms the heart of God’s covenantal dealing with humanity.51 It started with Adam and Eve, continued through Abraham and Israel and David, and climaxed in Jesus Christ. Morna Hooker wrote, “Israel should have been obedient to God; this obedience has now been fulfilled, so Paul argues, in the person of Jesus Christ.”52 It was a son’s disobedience that wrecked the world. It was a son’s obedience that brought righteousness and life back to the world. So says Paul in Romans 5. Divine righteousness rejoices to forgive, to save and to do good to others.53 In Jesus, we find divine righteousness perfectly imaged in human form. This human righteousness is true and good and beautiful altogether.54 It is the reality God has meant man and creation to be. The good Father “found” the right Son in Jesus. When He raised Him from the dead to declare Jesus’ justness, His fatherly heart was singing and rejoicing. In that resurrection-justification event, God was making a new creation and a new humanity - a new Adam arose, from whom a new Eve-bride-church will be formed (2 Corinthians 5:17). And it was all very good. God’s righteousness, perfectly imaged in the exuberant love of the Son for Him and for sinners, is the magic deeper than the law. The law cannot justify the unrighteous. But God justifies those who put their faith in His Son – and He delights doing so, demonstrating His righteousness.55 Through faith He raises them up with Him, and sings over them (Jesus and them) with joy, with all His heart and soul. In all this, God is acting rightly and justly.

51 52

The Trinitarian love, of Father and Son in the Spirit, reflected in the divine and human relationship.

Quoted in N. T Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), 61.
53 54

Isaiah 11:4-5; 42:6; 45:8, 13, 19; 46:13; 51:5-8; 61:3, 10-11.

The reflections in Stephen Westerholm, Preface to the Study of Paul (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1997), 20-31, 43-4, has led me to appreciate the true, the good and the beautiful in the biblical concept of divine and human righteousness.

Romans 3:21-26.


We shall conclude by clarifying other concepts related to justification. The main burden of this paper has been to show that resurrection is at the heart of justification because the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Spirit was His very own justification. In other words, we have reworked and reconceived justification Christologically. In biblical thought, the Christ is never alone. He is inextricably related to His own people. What is true of Him is true of the people united to Him, and vice versa.56 Their sin was “his” sin. His death was their death, and His resurrection-justification is their resurrection-justification.57 “This concept of corporate resurrection,” wrote Thomas Torrance, “of our being raised together with Christ and being begotten anew in him, is found with particular force in the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians.”58 Believers are justified because they are united, by faith and in baptism, to the Risen Justified Christ. Justification is thus found only in the very person of the Risen Christ. It cannot be possessed apart from Him. It can only be had by trusting Him (thus sola fide), in fellowship with Him (entailing love and obedience). Justification, therefore, is deeply covenantal because it involves a personal, obedient relationship with the Risen Christ. While it is based on Jesus’ faithful, joyful, loving obedience to the Father, justification involves our loving and obedient

N.T. Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 46.

It also follows that Christ’s “adoption” and glorification in his resurrection in the Spirit belongs to those who belong to Him. As we saw in Dunn, believers-raised-with-Christ has two moments: at faith-conversion and at final-day-resurrection. In their conversion, believers are through faith justified, adopted and sanctified in the Spirit. In resurrection day, the fullness of their co-resurrection with Christ is realized. Thomas F. Torrance, Space, Time, and Resurrection (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), 34. He cites Colossians 2:12, 13 and Ephesians 2:5, 6.



20 commitment as well. We need to restate the point: Our justification is a spin-off of our being raised with Christ through faith. Raised with Christ, we enter the new creation He began, lived out in God’s household, the church. Thus, justification coheres with loving the brethren and with involvement in the church’s life and task. The basis for the justification of believers is the same basis that Jesus had for his justification: His perfect righteousness. The Spirit is recreating the image of Christ’s perfect righteousness in believers; but this work of the Spirit is not the basis of our justification. The righteousness we mirror is always broken, imperfect and incomplete. Judged by it, we will fail. But by faith we are raised with the Justified One, by whose perfect righteousness we are clothed.59 In this clothing, our imperfect works are accepted by the Father. Thus it will be on the Day of Judgment. Jesus’ resurrection-justification mirrors for the believer his own resurrection-justification on the Last Day. Thus the believer looks forward to that day. It is not a day of dread, but a day longed for because the Judge of that day is the One raised for the justification of the believer. Christ risen as firstfruits means that the harvest will be in.60 Christ risen means Christ ruling and interceding and powerfully working for the final justification of those who trust Him. He and the Spirit will not fail. Christ will have His crown. The Father will have His beloved children. God will raise to life the justified ones. They will be glorious, without blemish or stain.

Given the framework of Christ-solidarity we developed here, the debate on “justification by the imputation of righteousness” among Evangelicals needed to be worked out within the concept of “incorporated righteousness.” See Michael F. Bird, “Incorporated Righteousness: A Response to Recent Evangelical Discussion Concerning the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness in Justification,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47/2 (June 2004) 253-75. The resurrection of the believer is inevitable. Cf. Gordon D Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1987), 746-9.



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22 Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament Christology. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994. Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2004. McGrath, Alister E. Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. The new international commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996. New Dictionary of Theology. The Master reference collection. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2006. Sproul, R. C. Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1995. Stott, John R. W. Romans: God's Good News for the World. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994. ———. The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World. The Bible speaks today. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994. Torrance, Thomas F. Space, Time, and Resurrection. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976. Westerholm, Stephen. Preface to the Study of Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1997. Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1996. Wright, N. T. The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology. 1st ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992. ______. Paul: In Fresh Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.

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