Christ Was Justified by What He Did By His Death, Christ’s Death Resulted in His Resurrection
1 Timothy 3:16 “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”
If you are going to have two kinds of righteousness, it certainly would make sense to have two kinds of justification. NT Wright does have two. He has a future justification based on what his politically active self will do. But there is only one justification, and it is based on Christ’s death alone.
I Timothy 3:16 is a very interesting verse to think about. Christ was justified. Now, how was Christ justified? Certainly not by becoming born again. Christ was justified by satisfying the righteous requirement of the law for the sins imputed to Christ. Christ was justified by His death. Christ needed to be justified because Christ legally shared the guilt of His elect, and this guilt demanded His death. Christ was not justified because of His resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was Christ’s justification, and that declaration was because of Christ’s death.
Romans 6:9–“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
So Christ was justified by His own righteousness. Christ was declared to be just, not simply by who He was as an incarnate person, but by what He had done in obedience and satisfaction to the law. Remember that “imputed” has two senses, one which is legal sharing and the other is declare. No righteousness was shared from somebody else to Christ, because Christ had earned His own righteousness by His own death.
The justification (vindication, if you want) of Christ is God’s declaration (in the resurrection) that Christ was just on the basis of what Christ did in His death.. Christ was imputed as righteous. Christ was justified. Romans 4:24-25 –Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.
We do need to say that the justification of the elect sinner is different from the justification of Christ. The legal value and merit of Christ’s death is shared by God with the elect sinner, as Romans 6 says, when they are placed/baptized into that death.
So only one righteousness. In Christ’s case, no legal sharing. In the case of the justified elect, that same one death is legally shared, and this one death is enough, because counted to them it completely satisfies the law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4)
Romans 6:7–“For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”
I submit to you that Romans 6:9 is saying exactly the same things as “justified in the Spirit” is saying in I Tim 3:16. Gaffin (also Darby and Edward Irving) is wrong to think of justification as being a result of resurrection and “union” with the resurrected Christ. Fesko is right to think of resurrection as the declaration of justification.
The Norman Shepherd (“federal vision”) problem creeps in when people begin to think that since Christ was justified by what He did, then the elect also must be justified by what they are enabled to do. But there are NOT two justifications, one now by imputation, and another in the future, where we will be justified like Christ was. We are ONLY justified by what Christ did, and NOT by what Christ is now doing in us. Christ alone was justified by what HE HIMSELF DID . Christ is not to be justified by what Christ WILL DO, because Christ has already been justified by what HIS DEATH DID. .
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