Only Christ Was Justified by Producing Righteousness
There are two kinds of justification, but only one kind of righteousness that God will accept. God justifies Christ not because of His resurrection, but because of Christ’s full satisfaction of divine law. Christ’s resurrection is God’s justification based on Christ’s obedience even unto death. We call this satisfaction of law Christ’s righteousness.
Christ’s righteousness is the only kind God accepts. So the second kind of justification is the kind in which God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the elect.
I Timothy 3:16 is a very interesting verse to think about. Christ was justified. Now, how was Christ justified? Certainly NOT by the work of the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ was NOT justified after 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 judicial 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 satisfaction to the law. No righteousness was imputed or shared from somebody else to Christ, because Christ had earned His own righteousness by His own death.
God’s declaration (in the resurrection) that Christ (God the Son) is righteous is on the basis of what Christ did in His death..
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.
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. This is NOT the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ. Nor is it Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit.
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.”
Fesko is correct in thinking of resurrection not as the basis but as God’s 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 is only kind of justification for sinners like us, and it’s by imputation. It’s not in the future. And we will never be justified the same way 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 did. Only Christ could be (and was) justified by producing righteousness.