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Monday, September 26, 2005 

Parsing Justification

Reading: S. Dempster's Dominion and Dynasty
Enjoying: Nothing. I guess I'm too busy lately. There's always the weekend.
Listening: "Talk the Walk" with Todd Friel on AM 980 KKMS. Listen Online

Though it is technical and exacting and difficult, if we are to be biblically, confessional, and Reformed, we must speak of more than simply justification by faith.

Did I get your attention?

In all seriousness, to be thoroughly biblical and Reformed, we need to get specific. To take in the whole counsel of God as revealed in Scripture, as well as the breadth of Reformed confessions, we must believe, teach, and preach that we are justified by Christ meritoriously, we are justified by faith instrumentally, and we are justified by works evidentially.

Christ's Meritorious Life
To say that we are justified by Christ meritoriously is simply to agree that II Corinthians 5:21 really means what is says. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Christ was made to "be sin" - despite the fact that Christ, in His sinless life, did not "know" sin - in order that we might be made the righteousness of God. In recent years, it has become vogue to deny this meaning of the text. This alternate reading has been furthered most effectively by one N. T. Wright, the bishop of Durham (at my last check, which may show how outdated I am). He has moved that the "our" in II Corinthians 5:21 refers not to Christians in general, but Paul's apostolic band. Also, while the text may show that our sin is imputed to Christ, the latter part of the verse is ambiguous as to time, nature, and extent.

I realize not everyone has this advantage, but the best man at my wedding, Haddon Anderson, has soundly put such Wrightian argumentation to rest. With the assistance of Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (the standard in Greek lexical studies and exegesis), he shows that grammatically, whatever sin is imputed to Christ, the exact same dimensions and properties apply to the imputation from Christ to His believers. Ask, and ye shall receive a copy of Haddon's work. His diagram and accusative object/complement induction is tremendous. Regardless of your theological commitments, you must bow the knee to the grammar. (I love it when the grammar backs "my" theology.)

Finally, Romans 5 asserts that Christ, as a second "Adam," acts as a federal head. All who are under His care - His jurisdiction - receive His benefits. Since Christ lived a perfect life, we are blessed to receive His blessings as members of His federal headship. This protects us from saying that our faith has merited anything (which the Bible denies). When we say that we are justified by Christ meritoriously, the merit - worth - that justifies us, is Christ's merit. We did not do anything good to merit justification, including believing. Our belief, or our faith, in Jesus is not what merits our justification. While we are called to believe, and when we do put our hope in Jesus, we are being obedient, our justification depends on our regeneration. Christ's merit is the only ground our justification has.

As the faithful Son of God, and as the persevering federal representative of the Covenant of Redemption, Christ has merited the salvation of all who believe in Him. He is our only source of righteousness, blessed be His Name.

I'll detail the other two senses of justification in following posts.


Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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