Justification: Basis (Distinction of the Atonement) – Pt. 2

Part One: http://tterzek.tumblr.com/post/33477911835/justification-basis-pt-1

The Redemptive Work of Jesus Christ

Notwithstanding the impossibility, divine intervention provides redemption. Yes, and thirdly, the cross of Jesus Christ answers how it is possible for a righteous God to justify unrighteous people without compromising His nature. Justification apart from the cross of Christ would be “unjustified, immoral, and therefore impossible.”[1] Paul makes it clear in Romans – justification is by Christ’s blood, sacrifice and act of righteousness (Romans 5:9,18). Humanity “pays nothing to receive God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:24). The freedom of justification, however, involves a cost on God’s part, for it was…accomplished in Christ”.[2] Pausing, in Romans 4:25, Paul states that Christ was ‘raised for our justification’, and this has generated some debate among scholars. The decisive clarification is whether the single act of Christ’s death accomplished justification – that is to ask: was Christ’s death, resurrection, or both collectively purposed for man’s declaration of righteousness? Thomas R. Schreiner splendidly provides a launch-point to the matter adhering to the context of the passage in Romans 4:

“Nowhere does Paul say that Abraham believed in the resurrection of Jesus. The element of continuity is that both believed in the God who resurrects the dead and in a God who could fulfill his promises.”[3]

However, the true folly is in the manner of questioning. One ought not draw a needless and harmful separation between the cross of Christ and His resurrection. Certainly, that was not Paul’s intention, since he indicates repeatedly throughout his ministry and epistles that Christ’s blood was indeed the charge of deliverance (cf. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; with 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23). It was not as if Paul sought to portray the crucifixion and resurrection “as effecting quite separate results”; therefore, “the distinction… is purely rhetorical.”[4] Subsequently, James D.G. Dunn superlatively expresses the positive and actual intention of Paul in his mention of the resurrection in regards to justification.

“The link between justification and Jesus’ resurrection… further underscores its point – that the justifying grace of God is all of a piece with his creative, life-giving power…Faith knows it is accepted precisely because its acceptance is the same effective power which raised Jesus and which will also give life to these mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11) in the final reckoning.”[5]

The power of God is alive and well, not merely fixated in the past. The context depicts Paul using this truth to move the reader unto his great treatise of hope in the Christian life (Romans 5:2), not as the basis of justification.[6]


 

[1] Stott, Romans, 112.

 

[2] Schreiner, Romans, 190.

 

[3] Ibid.,242. “The resurrection inaugurates the new world promised to Abraham.” See Schreiner’s note on how Christ’s resurrection was most importantly the demonstration of God’s fulfillment of his covenant promises to his people, hence Paul’s implication in chapter four of Romans. (Pgs. 39-45)

[4] Dunn, Romans 1-8, 241.

 

[5] Ibid., 241

[6] It should be noted that Paul emphatically uses ‘hope’ to launch into justification and its results in chapters 5-8 in Romans. Moreover, ‘hope’ creates an easily seen theme that bridges chapters 9-11 of Romans – that is, it continues the thoughts on God’s free security in relation to His sovereignty. Douglas Moo speaks well of this encouraging ‘circle of Hope’. Douglas J. Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans: a Theological Survey (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002), 91-93.

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