how the resurrection justifies us

Thank you all for your insights on how we are justified by Jesus’ resurrection.  I don’t have much to add, except to point to I. Howard Marshall’s fine chapter on this topic in his recent book, Aspects of the Atonement (Milton Keynes, UK:  Paternoster Press, 2007).


Marshall observes that the average Christian tends to think that the work of justification was accomplished on the cross and that the resurrection merely serves as Christ’s greatest authenticating miracle.  Many theologians go further and note that the resurrection expresses the Father’s vindication of his Son, accomplishes his victory over evil, and enables the Son to ascend to heaven where he intercedes on our behalf. 


But Marshall goes even further, and, by planting Rom. 4:25 in its Pauline context, argues that the resurrection justifies us because by it Jesus “is now just and experiencing the new life that God grants to those whose sin has been taken away; this is happening representatively to Christ so that believers may share in this new life” (90).  Marshall observes that Jesus is our substitute on the cross (he died instead of us) but our representative in his resurrection (he was raised with us, 91).  The resurrection “representatively justified” Jesus so that we who are baptized into his death may also share in his new life (97).


Here’s how I see it.  On the cross Jesus bore our penalty of sin and death (2 Cor. 5:21).  If there was no resurrection, then Jesus would continue to bear the penalty of our sin.  He would remain guilty.  He would not be justified, and so neither would we.  The resurrection is the Father’s vindication of the Son, whereby he releases Jesus from the guilt and penalty of our sin.  The resurrection restores Jesus to life, freed from the punishment of our sin, and us with him.


And one important application.  In Romans 6:3-4, Paul says that the way we identify with the cross and resurrection of Jesus is through baptism.  Baptism is where the cross and resurrection of Jesus become our story.  If we refuse to be baptized, we are telling God that we don’t want the cross and resurrection of Jesus to count for us.  There are far too many people in our Bible and Baptist churches who have never come around to being baptized, and this Sunday would be an excellent opportunity to remind them of its importance (there is a reason why the early church celebrated its baptisms on Easter morning).  I wonder what Paul would make of the many unbaptized believers in our churches.  I doubt that he would consider it an optional “step of obedience.”


another Easter thought

This came up yesterday in class:  Romans 4:25 says that Jesus was “raised for our justification” and 1 Corinthians 15:17 says that if Jesus is not raised then we are still in our sins.  Paul seems to have more in mind here than the resurrection merely provides proof that Jesus is God or that his atonement on the cross took.  Somehow the resurrection has legal implications:  it is essential for our being declared righteous before God (yes, I don’t think the New Perspective has proved its case against the traditional Reformed understanding of justification).

I have thoughts on this, but before I share them, I wondered what you think.  In what sense is the resurrection as important as the cross for our justification?  I think that we usually say that the cross took care of our sin problem and the resurrection defeated death.  So what does Paul mean when he says that the resurrection defeats sin?

a thought for Sunday

I just finished this RBC devotional last week, and though it isn’t quite ready for prime time, I thought that its content might provoke some thoughts in a sermon this Sunday, or at least give you something to preach against.  Easter is the one Sunday I have never been able to preach, as most pastors don’t take that Sunday off, but at least I can give ideas to others.  

faith and fear

read > Matthew 14:27-29

But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage.  I am here!”  Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  “Yes, come,” Jesus said.


Death scares me.  I love my life and I don’t want it to end.  There is also a part of me that wonders what the afterlife is really like.  What if it’s different from what the Bible says? 

        Some people might think that my fears are unchristian and a threat to my faith.  On the contrary, I think that they are not only normal—who honestly isn’t afraid of the great beyond?—but also they play an important role in my faith.  Fear doesn’t prevent me from having faith; fear actually presents the possibility for great faith. 

        It would be no great shakes for Peter to walk on land, but to lower himself over the side of the boat and splash through whitecaps toward our Lord—that took faith.  Of course, we can be overwhelmed by fear and lose our faith.  But we can also channel our fear into Peter’s desperate cry as he began to sink, “Save me, Lord!”

        Faith does not mean that we’re not afraid, but it is the courage to stand tall and to hang on in the middle of our fears.  And the greater our fears, the stronger our faith can become.

        We place our faith in Jesus whose resurrection has defeated death.  If we minimize death and claim that it’s no big deal, then we inadvertently also cheapen Christ’s resurrection which conquered it.  But if we honestly admit that death is the enemy that terrifies us, then we can begin to appreciate the unparalleled power of the resurrection.

        Faith doesn’t suppress fear and pretend that everything is okay.  But with shaky knees and sweaty palms, faith swallows hard and clings to God’s promise that we will live again.  Death is frightening, and for that reason it provides the ultimate test of our faith.—Mike Wittmer


more > But thank God!  He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).


next > In what sense is faith the opposite of fear?  Do faith and fear cancel each other, or is it possible to have both at the same time?

everything is dummer in michigan

Yes, I misspelled that on purpose.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably live near me.

Today’s Grand Rapids Press contained an article on the difficulty of walleye to thrive in the Muskegon River.  I’m sure there is more to it than this, but the article describes how every spring the Michigan Department of Natural Resources descends on the Muskegon River to collect “millions of walleye eggs” to distribute to “dozens of lakes and rivers across Michigan’s Lower Peninusla.” 

This year the DNR was accompanied by scientists who are trying to discover “one of the most vexing ecological mysteries in the Muskegon River:  Why can’t walleye successfully reproduce in one of Michigan’s healthiest rivers?  ‘There are a number of potential causes, such as invasive species and water temperatures,’ [a researcher] said.  ‘We hope to figure out exactly what’s happening.’”

I’m no expert, but might the “invasive species” not be that DNR guy with the buckets of walleye eggs?  Every spring they take millions of eggs from the Muskegon River, and they really can’t figure out why the walleye aren’t making it?

Bavinck on the exclusivity of grace

Herman Bavinck includes this important footnote in his Reformed Dogmatics, 3:491-92.  It comes from Max Müller in a speech he gave at the turn of the twentieth century. 

“I may say that for 40 years, as at the University of Oxford I carried out my duties as professor of Sanskrit, I devoted as much time to the study of the holy books of the East as any other human being in the world.  And I venture to tell this gathering what I have found to be the basic note, the one single chord, of all these holy books—be it the Veda of the Brahmans, the Purana of Siwa and Vishnu, the Qur’an of the Muslims, the Sendavesta of the Parsis, etc.—the one basic note or chord that runs through all of them is salvation by works.  They all teach that salvation must be bought and that your own works and merits must be the purchase price.”

“Our own Bible, our sacred book from the East, is from start to finish a protest against this doctrine.  True, good works are also required in this holy book from the East, and that even more emphatically than in any other holy book from the East, but the works referred to are the outflow of a grateful heart.  They are only the thank offerings, only the fruits of our faith.  They are never the ransom of the true disciples of Christ.  Let us not close our eyes to whatever is noble and true and pleasing in those holy books.  But let us teach Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims that there is but one book from the East that can be their comfort in that solemn hour when they must pass, entirely alone, into the invisible world.  It is that holy book which contains the message—a message which is surely true and worthy of full acceptance, and concerns all humans, men, women, and children—that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

a good book on the good book

I just spent my morning reading a splendid summary of the contemporary debates surrounding Scripture, and I like it so much that I’m going to use it as a textbook for my class on prolegomena.  The book is Ancient Word, Changing Worlds:  the Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age, by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt (Crossway).

Nichols and Brandt explain the modern and postmodern controversies surrounding biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation.  Each issue receives two chapters:  one which introduces us to the history of the debate in winsome and readable prose, and another which presents selections from the most important primary sources on the topic.  Even though I was already familiar with most of the material in this book (the chapter on inerrancy is a fine complement to chapter 11 in Don’t Stop Believing), it was helpful to me to have it all in one very accessible place.  It will be even more valuable to my students or anyone who is encountering these issues for the first time.

I especially like the tone of this book.  While clearly in the conservative camp (yeah!), Nichols and Brandt treat opposing views with respect.  They appropriately appreciate and critique both modernity and postmodernity, both modern fundamentalism and postmodern postliberalism, and leave us with a postmodern conservatism which, in the spirit of Kevin Vanhoozer, seems exactly right. 

I don’t want to blog through this book (I wish bloggers wouldn’t do this, and so spoil the joy and need of reading the book for ourselves), but I will tell you that if you want to understand how evangelicalism got where it is and where we might be headed, then in the name of Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, you need to read this book.

now I see

In Joe Stowell’s excellent talk on Monday, he distinguished between the Greek terms for good, agathos and kalos.  He said that agathos meant something like moral purity and kalos meant acts of service.  He illustrated the difference by saying that if you pass by a pornographic shop on the street, that is agathos good works, and if you give $5 to a panhandler, that is kalos goodness.

When I wrote to thank him for his speech, I jokingly asked whether giving $5 to a panhandler is really a kalos deed, or have you just bought that fellow a drink?  Joe responded back in kind, saying that Jesus healed a blind man without wondering whether he would use his newfound sight to stare at women.

Joe meant it as a joke, but it got me thinking.  I have never considered what it would have been like to be tempted in the very area that I was healed by Jesus.  Would a former blind man think twice before using his redeemed sight to sin?  If it was me, I think I would.

Then it struck me that I am that blind man.  We read Augustine in class this morning, and he said that our vitiated nature has been restored by Christ.  Just as it would be unthinkably inappropriate for a healed blind man to use his restored sight to lust, so it is wrong for us to use any of our redeemed members for sin.  As Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, “you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”