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.”



Add yours →

  1. Somewhere I think we need to bring 1 Cor. 15 into the discussion as Paul seems to indicate that Christ’s resurrection has direct implication for a believer’s resurrection. In fact, Paul states that Jesus is the “first fruits.” As I see it Jesus’ resurrection brings with it the paradigm of all creation, begun with Jesus at the empty tomb and continuing on to the fruition of our re-creation.

    While the resurrection did proves Jesus’ sacrifice to be acceptable to God it also signifies the in breaking of a “new age” of which we now enter into. God’s plan of total recreation of the cosmos is begun in Jesus at resurrection.

  2. God calls the shots. How could it be possible for Jesus Christ to be God and there not be a resurrection? If so, Nietzsche would have been correct – God is dead. But Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

  3. As you already know, I grew up in a Bible church that doesn’t practice water baptism. Since becoming a part of a Baptist Church here in GR I was baptized but my heart goes out to the church I grew up in and to the many other churches in the ‘Grace’ movement who only see baptism by the Spirit as the only baptism. On a couple occasions now, you have expresssed the importance of baptism. On a few occasions already I have sent written letters to my home church giving support for water baptism and I have basically gotten the response: “let’s agree to disagree.” I find this response unacceptable especially since they did not respond specifically to the points I raised and the scripture I used to support those points. I truly believe they look down on me and do not take my warnings and concern seriously. Is this a matter or disagreement that needs to be “established by two or three witnesses.” Would it help if one of the profs (possibly you) from GRTS interceded on my behalf and encouraged both my home church and Grace Bible College to take my concerns seriously and ask them to do some study on the issue. Also, should a time be opened up for a meeting? I am just conflicted with the seriousness of this disregard for baptism by my home church and at the same time the lack practical, intercessory support I have received from those I would see as my Elders/Spiritual Leaders at the Seminary.

  4. “Would it help if one of the profs (possibly you) from GRTS interceded on my behalf and encouraged both my home church and Grace Bible College to take my concerns seriously”?

    As a GBC alumni (though not one especially in line with the Grace movment theologically) I have to say that no, it would not help, and as institutions neither GBC nor the denomination as a whole will give your concerns a real hearing.

    That is by no means an attack on those in Grace churches and schools, I have much respect for many of those whom I know personally. That said, it’s just not going to happen that they will reconsider their stand on baptism.

    I say this because the stand on baptism is not a individual doctrinal point for them, it is the outworking of their specific doctrine take on Mid-Acts Dispensationalism. The only way they could reconsider baptism that I see is if they were to step away from the very Mid-Acts Dispensationalism which defines their movment.

    If indeed they did so there would be no reason for the Grace movment to exist as that distinction is the only significant reason they are a unified body, and without it GBC and most Grace churches would just end up being vaugely Baptist.

  5. Mike g/Mason, Mid-Acts Dispensationalism is a new one to me. Who has the authority to pick and choose which elements of the Great Commission can be waived?

  6. Mason/Yooper,
    I agree with you Yooper. I find their view of Scripture antithetical to history and reality. The church always saw it’s beginning at Pentacost. This idea that there are different plans for the Jews and for Gentiles today runs totally against the whole thurst of many of Paul’s letters which argue that the barrier between the two has been removed by the Gospel of Christ. (see Ephesians). But, in response to Mason, I never want to presume that a group of people are unwilling to change. I think we are to continue to make efforts to engage and sharpen people on their doctrine. Sometimes it takes time to be convinced and other times (like in the case of Paul) we have to be knocked on the ground by the Spirit in order for us to be broken of our stumborness. I am only a 26 year old single and I thought that maybe if I had some people who were more of their peers seek to reexamine these views that they might be more willing to honor their request to review these views which seem so out of sink with the overarching redemptive story of Scripture.

  7. Mike, I appresiate where you are coming from here, and I agree that is disengenous to assume people are unwilling to change.

    What I was trying to say is that while some individuals may change their position here, the Grace institution really can’t, anymore than the Reformed church can give up Calvinism or Catholics can give up Papal athority.

    The mid-Acts thing is their defining identity marker as a denomination/fellowship, so if they abandoned it and the related stance on baptism (neither of which I agree with by the way) then they would cease to exist as an organization. There are to many vested interests to take that step I think.

  8. Mason,
    Sadly, you’re probably right. I wish though that they would at least be open to some type of reassessment by some people who are their peers (like profs at Calvin or GRTS). It kind of sounds like they are Pharisees or Saducees when you speak of “vested interests.” Wasn’t that one of the reasons they totally missed Jesus, because he wasn’t about their interests??? I would still be iterested to see if some GRTS profs would be bold enough to consider confronting the Grace establishment; I truly believe they have the historical and theological footing in the area of baptism while I believe Grace does not.


  9. I’m not sure if I would go so far as to say that the resurrection of Christ itself “justifies” us. Paul specifically and the NT writers in general, in agreement with the “Scriptures” (the OT), link the resurrection with Christ’s ascension and enthronement as the King/Priest. In reading Acts 2, Paul’s writings and the book of Hebrews (especially chapters 9-10), it seems that it is Christ’s act of presenting the sacrifice (Himself!) before the Father in the heavenly “Holy of Holies” that “justifies” us–as the fulfillment of the typological role of the high priest under the law who once a year presented the sacrifice before God in the physical Holy of Holies as a type of “atonement”.

    Christ’s resurrection really is meaningless without his ascension and enthronement where he as the royal King/Priest presents His sacrifice to the Father. As the OT type shows us, it is in this act of atonement (the presenting of the sacrifice) that our justification resides. I think the NT writers see the ascension and enthronement of Christ as the purpose of the resurrection and therefore are looking to this when they speak of the resurrection. We have life in Him and are justified before God not simply because Christ was raised from the dead, but because in His being raised from the dead, He ascended as our High Priest presenting Himself before the Father as the sacrifice and then took His seat on the throne of His “father” David as King of Kings.

    At least this is how I understand it. Any comments?


  10. What if we were to take Schaeffer’s view of a tri-part salvation and apply it to the resurrection?

    Before doing so, I must say that I completely agree that without the resurrection, we are not justified. This is the completion of justification. If He had remained dead, He would be a hero, but still dead and we would be dead in our sins.

    Thus, it seems that we find justification (have been saved) in the cross and the resurrection. We find our sanctification (being saved) in the life of Jesus and the power of the resurrection. We find our glorification (will be saved) in Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

    As for the Baptism issue, it seems that the above are all missed without believer’s baptism. Not that baptism saves us, but it certainly says quite a bit. If we take the Didache to be an authentic description of the early church, then we see an importance placed upon baptism. The person was to be placed in flowing water (to resemble the cleanliness we now experience) and dunked three times; once in the name of Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Holy Spirit. If no water was available, they were to have three jars of water poured over them (so much for sprinkling!).

    It just seems that there’s quite a bit there in baptism. Not necessary for salvation, but needed to living a fulfilled life as a Christian.

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