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.

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8 Comments on “Only Christ Was Justified by Producing Righteousness”

  1. MARK MCCULLEY Says:

    The Bible sometimes has justification (imputation, counting) without any transfer. For example, Psalm 106: 30-31 tells us that “Phinehas stood up and intervened and the plague was stayed and that was counted to him as righteousness.” Nobody replaced Phinehas or did his killing work for him, nor is the idea that something not really righteous got counted as righteous.

    God counted Phinehas killing the two people as righteousness because it WAS righteousness, not to justify him but as sufficient cause to stop the plague against Israel. The story of Phinehas is not gospel, because it has no transfer to or from Jesus Christ.

    God is righteous always and God imputes righteousness for what it is.

    It’s not only the gospel which talks about a “transfer”. The law also talks about a “transfer”.

    When the sin of Adam is transferred to every human person (not when they are teenagers but when they are born), this transfer of guilt is not good news. God does not transfer the guilt of Adam to us because we are united to Adam in sharing the same nature.

    Because we are united to Adam by his guilt transferred to us, we share Adam’s nature. To make “union” something in us prior to the guilt begs several questions. Unless we begin by insisting that a transfer of guilt is unjust, we have no reason to define our union with Adam in metaphysical terms about the organic essence of the one and the many.

    Transfer of guilt is union, and results in depravity and death. This depravity is not for the elect alone, because the guilt of Adam is not for the elect alone.

    The gospel has a glorious transfer, but It is not a transfer of depravity. Christ was not imputed with the depravity of the elect, but with their guilt. Even though depravity is part of the punishment for imputed guilt, Christ was not imputed with depravity but with guilt.

  2. Calvin Says:

    Where does the scripture state that God justifies Christ “because of Christ’s full satisfaction of divine law?”

    Before Christ ever began his ministry John the Baptist pointed him out as the Lamb of God.

    Christ needed not fulfill any law in order to be the sinless spotless lamb. Christ obedience to death was had nothing to do with his keeping any law. When the Old Testament lamb was slain there was no law for that animal to keep prior to being sacrificed. And we should know that that sacrifice and that lamb typified what Christ would do.

    I have heard people state many times that Christ needed to fulfill some law to satisfy God but the scripture clearly states the following:

    Romans 3:20 … by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    It doesn’t say that by man’s deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    Christ needed not keep the law for Christ could not break the law!

    I give the example of a bridge being built and pressure being put on the bridge in a tangible way after the building. The pressure isn’t applied to bridge to see if the bridge will collapse but the pressure is applied to prove it won’t collapse!

    Christ did state the following:
    Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

    This wasn’t speaking of him keeping every law written in the Old Testament but this was a fulfillment of what the law and prophets testified to regarding his work on the cross.

    If I am incorrect in my assessment please feel free to correct me.

    Thank you!

    • markmcculley Says:

      Here’s the correction.

      you: Before Christ ever began his ministry John the Baptist pointed him out as the Lamb of God.

      mark: But there would be no salvation if the Lamb of God has not been violently killed. This is what I mean by “satisfaction of law”. The wages of sin is death. I am not an advocate of defining Christ’s righteousness as vicarious law keeping, which is sometimes called “the active obedience”. Some people speak of the death as some other thing than “the righteousness”, but Christ’s death is His righteousness. We need both person and work. But the work of Christ is to die. A lamb who does not die has no efficacy for the remission of sins, because there would be no satisfaction of the law.

      you: Christ needed not to fulfill any law in order to be the sinless spotless lamb. Christ’s obedience to death had nothing to do with his keeping any law. When the Old Testament lamb was slain there was no law for that animal to keep prior to being sacrificed.

      mark: The main issue here is not Christ keeping the law “prior” to His death. The issue is that Christ’s death is what satisfies the law. Romans 8:3-4 By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. ” If you don’t agree that Christ’s death “in the flesh” is what satisfies the “righteous requirement of the law” by God’s imputation (crediting) of Christ’s death, then you will end up with a false gospel in which supposedly God helps you to fulfill the law. The law cannot be bypassed.

      Romans 6: 5 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…. 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.” By law, Christ was condemned for the sins of the elect imputed to Him, and only by His death was Christ then free from the law which condemned Him. By law, those identified with Christ (imputed with His death) are no longer under the law.

      Machen: I have been crucified together with Christ, which almost immediately follows. The law, with its penalty of death upon sins (which penalty Christ bore in our stead) brought Christ to the cross; and when Christ died I died, since he died as my representative. The death to the law… the law itself brought about when… Christ died. Since He died that death as our representative, we too have died that death. Thus our death to the law, suffered for us by Christ, far from being contrary to the law, was in fulfillment of the law’s own demands. Notes on Galatians, p. 159

      This doesn’t mean that Christ’s obedience to the law prior to His death is of no consequence. II Corinthians 5:21 explains that “he made him to be sin who knew no sin” . This assumes that Christ kept the law before His legally being put under the law for the sins of the elect imputed to Him. Even before His death, Christ “knew no sin”. So that’s not unimportant. But the penal satisfaction for the elect comes by Christ’s death which is what the law satisfies.

      You: I have heard people state many times that Christ needed to fulfill some law to satisfy God but the scripture clearly states the following:
      Romans 3:20 … by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

      mark: I agree that no sinner will be saved by their law-keeping. But the elect will be saved by Christ’s death satisfying the law. I would not call this “deeds of the law”. Indeed, Romans 5 speaks of “one act of righteousness”, and that one act, His death, is what brings Christ out from under law (and in time, all those who are united to Christ.)

      you: Christ needed not keep the law for Christ could not break the law!

      mark: I would invite you to question me back, but honestly, your statement makes no sense, has no logic to it. Why not say instead: Christ kept the law because Christ could not break the law?

      you: I give the example of a bridge being built and pressure being put on the bridge in a tangible way after the building. The pressure isn’t applied to bridge to see if the bridge will collapse but the pressure is applied to prove it won’t collapse!

      mark: if you are talking about Christ’s impeccability (His inability to sin), then I agree. But Christ became incarnate in order to die under the law. Galatians 4:4
      But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

      you/me —If I am incorrect in my assessment please feel free to correct me.

      • Calvin Says:

        Your first point clarifies your position.

        Where you state my point has no logic was me writing how I was speaking and produced misunderstanding.

        Thanks for taking time to respond!

  3. Calvin Says:

    Luke 2:29-32
    King James Version (KJV)
    29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
    30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
    31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
    32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

    What was Simeon looking at? A Baby!

    Christ is the Lamb of God Slain Before The Foundation of the World.

    The Blood Flowing Through The Veins of Christ As A Baby Was Efficacious Enough To Save His Elect People From Their Sins without the necessity of keeping one law!

    • markmcculley Says:

      If the baby had not grown up and DIED, there would have been no efficacy to save. The law demands death, and “blood” seen only as “life” is not that which saves the elect. There is no magic in “the blood”. The good news is Christ’s death and resurrection.

      • Calvin Says:

        Good points in first response.

        Rather than assume I thought it be better to pose points and allow you to elaborate.

        Thanks again!

        Keep writing!!!


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