June 21, 2010

Can We Speak of the Righteousness of Christ?

In recent debates over the Reformation doctrine of Justification, the phrase "the righteousness of Christ" has come under heavy criticism.  The doctrine of Justification asserts that a person is justified, or declared righteous, before God only because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed or reckoned to that person through faith in Christ.  The controversy comes because the specific Greek phrase dikaiosunē Christou (the righteousness of Christ) does not appear in the New Testament.  Thus, the argument goes, it is inappropriate to say that the Bible speaks of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.  Any response to this challenge in favor of the traditional Reformational formula faces a dual task.  First, it must be shown that the language of righteousness is used with regard to Christ such that there is a righteousness that is uniquely his.  Second, it must be shown that the New Testament speaks of this unique Christ-righteousness as being shared with, or reckoned to, human beings.  

With regard to the first task, it may well be the case that the specific phrase "the righteousness of Christ" is not found in the scriptures.  It is also the case, though, that the scriptures speak of the justification of Christ.  First Timothy 3:16 says clearly that Christ was "justified in the Spirit."  This action is referring to Christ's resurrection where God overturned the verdict of the human courts and declared Jesus to be justified before the heavenly court.  One who is justified is righteous.  So, even though the precise phrase "the righteousness of Christ" is not in the New Testament, the scriptures certainly speak of the resurrection as constituting the verdict that Jesus is indeed uniquely righteous.     

With regard to the second task we turn to those passages of scripture which speak of the believer being united with Christ in his death and resurrection.  One such passage is Romans 6:5, "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."  The language of "union" here is the language of covenant.  With his death and resurrection, Christ inaugurated a new covenant, of which the benefits become ours when we are united to him through faith.  Thus, if we are guaranteed final resurrection by virtue of our union with Christ, because what is true of him is true of those who are united with him, then we are guaranteed the final declaration of justification by virtue of our union with Christ.  His resurrection guarantees our resurrection and our final justification.  Present justification by faith is an anticipation of that future and final justification.  This should not be thought of as two verdicts, by the way, but the one verdict of the future realized in the present through faith.  The point is that the unique righteousness that belongs only to Christ by virtue of his resurrection is shared with those who have faith-union with him such that they too can be said to be righteous or justified.  And what is the basis of this justification?  It is nothing other than the declaration of righteousness granted to Christ at his resurrection because of his obedience unto death which is then transferred to believers through union with him.  And what is the word used to describe this covenantal transfer of righteousness by virtue of faith-union with Christ?  It is nothing other than imputation. 

To summarize the argument, we can say that we are justified through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because Christ's resurrection constitutes the verdict of God that Christ is indeed justified, or righteous.  Through faith-union with Christ, his unique righteousness is granted to believers precisely because we share all that is his in union with him.  Our resurrection from the dead will be the ultimate realization of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.  This is why Paul can write that Christ was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).  Christ was justified in his resurrection.  Insomuch as we are joined to him, the verdict of righteous that is his in the resurrection is imputed to us through faith. 

All this is phrased with excellence in the final verse of Charles Wesley's hymn "And Can it Be that I Should Gain."  The emphases are mine, of course.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
Alive in him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

22 comments:

Nick said...

In my study on this topic of imputed righteousness, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular lexicon here is what it is defined as:

—————-
QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”
http://tinyurl.com/r92dch
—————-

The lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:
——————-
Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
——————-

Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
This cannot be right.

So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such. This is confirmed even more when one compares another similar passage, Hebrews 11:4, where by faith Abel was commended as righteous.

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, this was simply an amazing post; boldly scrutinizing cherished reformation doctrines, and the emerging debate surrounding them, against the Bible. Some might say, you're opening a can of worms by entering the fray, but just imagine the fish you might catch with those worms!

Here's two questions Matt; Why does man need to have righteousness imparted to him in the first place?

Given that Biblical righteousness, is acceptance before God; How exactly does one impart the righteousness of one, to someone else?

These questions may seem obvious to those who are familiar with the debate, but please be patient, for it is possible to show that some of these theological concepts themselves, are decidedly anti-Biblical.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your researched response to my post. Here are a few points to consider.

1. Let me begin by saying you've moved a bit beyond the frame of the original discussion. I wasn't making a claim about the imputed righteousness of Christ based on the texts in which logidzomai is used. I was making a case based on the fact that scripture does speak of Christ as having been declared righteous (1 Tim 3:16) and that believers have been granted covenantal union with Christ which means that what is true of him becomes true of those who have been joined to him. One way of describing this covenantal/juridical status is to use the language of "imputation." So, you haven't really responded to my original argument and have raised an issue beyond the scope of the original argument. That said, I'll provide a few things to think about with regard to your argument on the use of logidzomai.

2. Logidzomai does not necessarily refer to that which is actually the case. It can refer to something which is contrary to fact. An example comes with the second time logidzomai is used in the letter to the Romans. Paul says in 2:24 that the uncircumcised are "logidzomai" as circumcised. So, here you have the status of circumcision credited to those who have not actually been physically circumcised. Given that this use of the word comes early in the letter, it is likely to provide shape to other uses of the word later in the letter.

3. I'm not sure you are picking up the nuance with which Paul uses "logidzomai". For example, in Romans 4:4 Paul introduces two distinct senses in which the word can be used. There are those whose wages are "reckoned" as something due and those whose wages are "reckoned" as a gift. Those who work have their wages "reckoned" as what is owed them while those who do not work have their wages reckoned as a gift not owed to them nor deserved by them. Paul is contrasting different senses of logidzomai here. The question is this: In which sense is logidzomai to be understood with regard to those whom God has justified. The answer is that what is reckoned to the one justified by faith is reckoned as a gift not as a wage. Paul clearly says that gift to the justified comes not because of works. Thus, it comes not as something due, not as a wage. It is reckoned as a gift contrary to what is really the case (see point 2 above). Faith should not be understood as that of which justification is deserving but as the instrument by which justification is received. The instrumental use of "faith" with regard to justification is indicated by the dative in 3:28, "A man is justified BY faith."

To conclude, I would say that you are committing the fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer, which means you are claiming that logidzomai means the same thing each time it is used. It is clearly used in different senses. It would be wise to begin with the text rather than the lexicon. Lexicons are the result of a persons work to interpret and summarize the meaning of a word, and they are not always right and must be approached critically. You may well argue against a lexicon based on the use of the word in the text. The author of the lexicon may have missed it.

What "popular lexicon" are you using anyway? The standards in the field are LSJ and BDAG. BDAG indicates the range of logidzomai as including 1. to determine by mathematical process, 2. to give careful thought to a matter, and 3. to hold a view about something. It doesn't say that the term refers to an actual status of something. So, I'm skeptical of the reliability of your lexicon. My skepticism is only compounded by your reluctance to name the source. As a rule of thumb, its preferable to begin with the text so that the interpretation of the lexicon does not cloud your exegesis.

Thanks for your comment and the push-back.

Matt

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi ekklesia,

Thanks for your comment. Let me say first that I wouldn't want to use the langauge of "imparted" righteousness with regard to justification. Something imparted could be said to inhere within a person. And justification is not about inherent righteousness but about the righteousness of another, namely Christ Jesus.

With regard to your first question, we need to be declared righteous (dikaiosune) becasue we are unrighteous (adikia, Rom 1:18).

With regard to your second question, the declaration of righteous is granted to us by virtue of our union with Christ. Once joined to Christ, all in him becomes ours from justification to glorification, the declaration of righteousness to being raised from the dead.

Matt

ἐκκλησία said...

Thanks Matt,

1. We are unrighteous indeed; but how were we created? Or put another way, from the perspective of God's eternal purpose, is it natural for us to be unrighteous, or righteous? When exactly is man declared righteous? On judgement day?

2. The second question was essentially, if one who is justified (or found acceptable before God) is righteous, than how can that acceptance be transferred?

Framing your answer in simple terms, your answer seems to be that God's acceptance of Christ is extended to include believers through their union with Christ.

But then here is the first pitfall. What exactly does that mean? Is some commodity possessed by Christ, transferred over to the believer, or does the believer simply 'join' the group that already includes Christ (in which case nothing has been transferred at all)?

Though Christ is unique in that he is both God (who justifies) and man (who is found acceptable), as a man, Jesus' acceptance (or rejection) by God was according to the same standard God employs on us all. In that sense, Christ, as man, was not in any sense unique. [Eze 24:14][Eze 36:19][1 Cor 11:31][Rev 20:12-13] That standard God used and uses is according to our deeds.

Another way of saying this is; Do we judge ourselves and does our faith cause us to be obedient?

So the question then becomes If we are all judged by one standard, and it is the same standard applied to Christ, how can there be any difference between our righteousness and Christ's if we are justified before God (since he has but one standard)?

ἐκκλησία said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt O'Reilly said...

ekklesia,

Certainly we were created in right relationship with God and legally righteous before him. Humanity was intended to be righteous but has become unrighteous. Thus the need for justification. Justification in the present is an anticipation of the verdict on judgment day.

I certainly don't want to speak of righteousness as a commodity to be passed around. That sounds too much like N.T. Wright's caricature of a reformation understanding of righteousness as a gas to be passed across a courtroom. Righteous is not a substance or commodity; it is a declaration, a judgment. Indeed, Christ's righteousness is inherent. He was justified (or vindicated/resurrected) b/c of his obedience. But the righteousness which is inherent to Christ is external to us and thus must be reckoned/credited/imputed to us. If it is external to us, then it is not inherent. If it were inherent, we would not need Christ's righteousness accounted to us.

It is difficult for we modern folks to understand the biblical concept of covenant representation or solidarity. But this is exactly what is going on. The sin of Adam was imputed to all humanity b/c he was our covenant representative. We need a new representative. This is Christ and his inherent righteousness b/c of his obedience is credited to us by faith.

Matt

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, thanks for your comments above.

Christ's righteousness and justification is worth exploring a bit further. What makes you think that justification is not about an inherent righteousness?

Can you agree that the debate about righteousness and justification are really people's perceptions of the creation's relationship to its Creator? Then people who do not understand how God perceives His creation cannot understand justification and righteousness right?

Justification is nothing less than God looking upon his created man and seeing that he is 'good'. Christ is different in that He was both God (who does the looking), and man (who is looked upon). Questions about Christ's righteousness must then focus on Him as a creature, not as our Creator, for we ourselves are 'creatures'.

[Gen 1:31] says that God saw everything that he had made and saw that it was very good. To be seen as good by God is be found acceptable, without blemish and to be found righteous. Again, [Ecc 7:29] says that man was/is created upright (righteous) but falls away from this default state because of the devices of his own heart.

Upon final judgement, justified man will not be 'new', he will be 'renew'. For justification is not anything different from God looking upon his creation as He intended it. God purposed that all creation be 'righteous' by default because he gave over creation to Christ (who is righteous) and anything Christ creates will only ever be righteous itself. If anything is NOT righteous, it is not righteous because of sin, and away from its default created state.

This means, in terms of your debate, that Jesus (our creator), saturated all creation (including the non-justified) with righteousness from the beginning. When Christ first created you he made you good, and imparted to you His righteousness then! In that sense Jesus is the source of our righteousness. However, the role Jesus (the man) plays by having lived a life of undiminished righteousness, is not that he gives us a new source of righteousness, but that he restores to us what we already possess.

Thus when we are justified before God, our righteousness will be Christ's since all creation was made by Him. Contrary to your previous claim however, it IS inherent since it is already inherent in creation by default. Jesus himself inherited that same righteousness when he was created a man, except that it was not lost in him due to sin.

Because of this Christ is doubly suited to restore you to righteousness because he is both your creator (as God) and the propitiation for your sins (as man). We do not inherit Adam's sin, or even his own unrighteous state. What we inherit from Adam is that ability to fall away from our eternal state, but we also inherit from Christ the ability to return.

If people debate these things, it is because they don't understand God's eternal purpose or share his (eternal) perception of creation. Do you not agree?

ἐκκλησία said...

One additional thought:
If we used simply words like “accepted by God” instead of righteousness, and “restoration” instead of justification it is doubtful we would spend more time debating than understanding.

Nick said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your comments.
I did not mean to go outside the parameters of this general discussion.

You said: "Logidzomai does not necessarily refer to that which is actually the case. It can refer to something which is contrary to fact. Paul says in 2:26 that the uncircumcised are "logidzomai" as circumcised."

I think this requires some clarification: Out of the 40 times logizomai is used in the NT, this is the closest passage that comes to an "exception" to the overwhelming usage. That said, in this case it is not so much something counted to be the opposite of what it truly is (e.g. a law-breaker counted as a law-keeper), but rather saying "X has the equivalency of Y" (which is one of the definitions the lexicon gives). The context is important here, verses 25-27 show the person granted the status of circumcised kept the law's requirements, they just never had the opportunity for physical circumcision. The point here is not that any given person, much less a grave law-breaker who is uncircumcised is graciously granted the status of circumcised. This latter case is what the "alien righteousness" folks are claiming. So I wouldn't consider this enough for me to change the Biblical evidence and trend I see in examining how Scripture uses logizomai.

You said: "Given that this use of the word comes early in the letter, it is likely to provide shape to other uses of the word later in the letter."

I think you're going to run into serious problems if you approach your study of Scripture like that. I've analyzed all the other occurrences in Romans and the rest of Scripture and that proposition doesn't hold true. If you look at my original post, I list FOUR examples from Romans which goes directly against your suggestion, including an example straight from Romans 4. (I could list more examples, if people need more proof, I limited it to 4 to be brief)

You said: "in Romans 4:4 Paul introduces two distinct senses in which the word can be used."

I'm not sure I follow your argument in this paragraph. The term is used once in 4:4, so if you're suggesting logizoami is given two different meanings here, that's a problem. Paul would be flip flopping between different definitions. Paul is saying if the Boss owes someone a wage for their work, that wage is reckoned as debt - and rightly so.

You said: "To conclude, I would say that you are committing the fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer, which means you are claiming that logidzomai means the same thing each time it is used. It is clearly used in different senses. It would be wise to begin with the text rather than the lexicon."

While this is good advice, I can assure you I'm speaking from personal, critical study of how Scripture uses the term logizomai. I have examined all 40 occurrences of the term in the NT and see a clear trend. Have you done so yourself?

So, if I'm striving to be faithful to Scripture, as we all should be, I cannot in good conscience accept definitions that have no genuine Scriptural warrant, especially in contexts where major doctrines are built from.


You asked: "What "popular lexicon" are you using anyway?"

The lexicon I'm using is clearly linked in my original post, I assure you, I'm not trying to hide anything. The link is to one of the most popular Bible study webpages on the net, and this is what it says for its source: "Greek lexicon based on Thayer's and Smith's Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament." These files are public domain." Your quote from the BDAG fits perfectly with what I've said.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Nick, thanks for the response. My apologies for missing the hyperlink.

With regard to Romans 4:4, the verse reads, "Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due." While logidzomai is used once here, two senses are introduced. First, in the case of the one who works, wages are reckoned as something due. The negation implies the positive. That wages are not reckoned as a gift implies that something could be reckoned as a gift which leads to the second sense. Second is the implied alternative. In the case of the one who does not work, the reckoning is as a gift. The second is the sense in which Paul uses logidzomai in v. 5 saying, "To the one who WITHOUT WORKS trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned for righteousness." So, v. 4 is the counter example to v. 5. The reckoning in v. 4 is to one who works. The reckoning in v. 5 is to one without works. Paul is not flip-flopping. He sets out two ways the word is commonly used and rejects the sense in which he does not intend it to be used. Perhaps that clarifies.

Matt

ἐκκλησία said...

You wrote that justification is about the reality of the judgement of God against sin, and therefore it is primarily about God's perception of our legal standing before him.

This is not incorrect, but it is not entirely correct either. You don't address the point that prior to sin entering the world, we were created righteous, and enjoyed a perfect legal standing before God from the onset. Adam, himself, casually walked and talked with God in the garden of Eden prior to the fall!

Justification (as you describe it) after final judgement results in a legal standing before God that we've already previously enjoyed (prior to sin entering the world).

But realize that by saying man was originally created righteous, or that righteous is man's default state, is not to deny that man is not righteous now and needs the atonement of Jesus. That sin remains after a man accepts Christ only shows that sanctification, that process that restores us to our orginal Christ-like state is a process, and not a snap-of-the-finger. Man is absolutely unrighteous now, but this current state contrary to God's eternal purpose is only temporary and it is not representative of how God created us; which means that something new is not being established in Christ's atonement.

You have not shown (final) justification to be distinguishable from God's perception of His creation before the fall. Which means that our status after final justification is exactly like our status after initial creation before the fall.

Given your assertion that man's default state was not intended to be righteous, how do you explain that God created a creation that was entirely very good? How do you explain that man was righteous initially? How do you explain that God's final purpose for man, is exactly like it was in the beginning which will be again, or how a righteous Christ could create an unrighteous creation?

Biblically, it cannot be done, which is why any theology that tries to do so is un-Biblical. As a general rule Calvinists rather than Arminians are not able to see creation beyond its current but temporary sinful state and focus theology almost entirely on only ONE (the current) state of man. This is not however true of all reformers. As one who is quite familiar with John Wesley, you should make a point of becoming more familiar with one of his influences, Thomas Boston, who wrote Human Nature in its Fourfold State

If justification is manifestly not God looking upon human beings and seeing that they are Good, then why did He send Christ to atone for man's sins, so that he could do exactly that?

You need to rethink the theological position you are defending above.

Matt O'Reilly said...

We've moved well beyond the bounds of the original question, which was whether the bible speaks of the righteousness of Christ. So, let me try to be brief.

I agree that humanity was right with God prior to the entrance of sin. I would say, though, that the default state of man changed after the entrance of the fall. We are now, by default, guilty. The difference between pre-fall and final justification is the reality of sin. God made man good and his right standing was inherent. But with sin that has forever changed. Throughout out eternity we will stand before God only on the basis of the merits of Christ, which are external to us. There will of course be good fruit that comes from union w/ Christ. But that is not the basis of our justification, neither present nor final. We will be saved on that day on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross and nothing else.

I would actually want to say that God's ultimate purpose in the resurrection will be greater than the pre-fall reality. Adam was able to sin. In the resurrection, I do not think we will be able to sin as Adam was, because we will be unable to die, and the wages of sin is death. Sin and death will not be a potentiality as they were for Adam. So, new creation is not only a restoration of the original creation but an improvement on it.

You wrote: If justification is manifestly not God looking upon human beings and seeing that they are Good, then why did He send Christ to atone for man's sins, so that he could do exactly that?

Christ atoned for man's sins precisely b/c we are not good. Justification involves the affirmation that we are not good and grants right standing to us on the basis of the work of another, namely Christ. Transformation is a product of justification. But we must not confuse the two. You may be mixing forensic and transformative categories here. Not sure?

Again, though, much of this is far beyond the scope of the original question.

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, there is much you write that is agreeable and Biblically justifiable, but to say things like "with sin that changed forever" is simply not.

Sin is the human contribution to creation. Sin cannot then be permanent or eternal. Man cannot ultimately forever change something created by God, and so with sin, it can only be 'temporary'.

If God's purpose is eternal, without shade or variation, and he created what he intended to create, the end result will be the same as the initial (with all trace of sin removed).

Likewise, to speculate that man will be incapable of sin after judgement (because he will live eternally) is mere speculation, without Biblical suppose.

Nonetheless it is interesting. Biblically, the first man was able to sin .. and did, though he was created righteous. It seems reasonable to speculate that post-judgement redeemed man, will likewise still be able to sin, but won't.

To restore creation, God doesn't need to deny man the ability or choice to sin, he merely needs to show him the consequence of it. Adam, sinned because he did not believe God. Post judgement man will not sin, because he will believe God completely, having had first hand experience, not because God has made changed his nature, or denied him ability.

To say that man's nature will have been changed after judgement is to deny that God looked upon all that he created and saw that it was Good. God has but one eternal unchanging standard of Good.

Lastly, you say that man precisely is not Good and that Christ was sent to atone for that fact. Christ was sent to atone for the fact that we are not good NOW, but that is not how we were created.

Christ's atonement then, is restorative - which makes complete sense given that he created everything in the first place.

Christ as God is also unchanging, and without variation. Thus when he restores creation, he is going to do so IAW his original creation.

Nick said...

Hi Matt,

I wont bug you anymore after this (brief) response.

We might be saying the same thing, but I can't fully tell. Are you saying Paul is assigning two different *definitions* to the word logizomai in the same context? If so, that would mean he used logizomai-1 in v3, switched to logizomai-2 in v4, and switched back to logizomai-1 in verse 5. I don't expect such equivocation from an Apostle.

I believe he is using one definition of logizomai in each successive verse, but I think where the hang up is is understanding what the analogy is.
In verse 4, logizomai applies to the *type* of the wage/gift.

If I work, the boss owes me $10. That $10 is seen (reckoned) by the boss as a debt. It is reckoned as a debt precisely because the Boss owes the wage. The $10 is not a free gift in any sense, so it would be wrong to reckon it as a gift.

The way the negation works in 4:4, that would mean: If you did *not* work and yet were given $10, that $10 would be reckoned by the boss as a gift. It is reckoned as a gift because it is in fact a gift.

So in each case, the actual *nature* of the wage/gift is being reckoned for what it really is. Thus, logizomai corresponds to looking at what is the reality.

Matt O'Reilly said...

While sin will not always be present with us, it will always be a part of our past. That cannot be changed. Even the resurrected Son of God himself bears on his body the marks of human sinfulness, that of others and not his own. While the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable and immortal (and, by implication I think, incorruptible) corruption and death will have been a part of our past. We are not moving backwards to the original creation; we are moving forwards to a new one. And at the center of that new creation will always be the lamb that was slain for the sins of the world.

These issues are far to complex to be sorted out in this venue. Thanks for your charitable and thoughtful comments.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Nick,

I think we're getting at the same idea - reckoning as due vs. reckoning as gift. This is what I meant by two senses of "reckoning." Justification is, of course, said to be reckoned as a gift rather than what is due.

Matt

Larry said...

Matt, for those of us who are not linguistically inclined or exegetically proficient, could you give us a few bullet points for your argument to help us understand it. We want to be careful not to misquote or misrepresent you in our preaching and teaching. Thanks for your good work and dedication.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Larry,

Thanks for your question. Here's a summary:
1. The reformation articulated its doctrine of justification (or declaration of legal righteousness) as being on the basis of "the righteousness of Christ" reckoned to the believer.
2. The problem is that the specific phrase: "the righteousness of Christ" does not appear in the NT. Opponents of the reformational articulation of justification regularly cite this problem chalking it up systematics influencing biblical interpretation.
3. So my question is: Can we speak biblically about the righteousness of Christ.
4. 1 Tim 3:16 speaks of Christ having been "justified (dikaioo) in the Spirit" (referring to his resurrection) Anyone who is justified has the status of righteousness.
5. If beleivers are indeed united together with Christ (Rom 6) such that what is true of him is true of them, then the verdict of righteous extended to Christ in his resurrection is extended to believers as well. This is one importance of the "in Christ" langauge so pervasive in Paul.
6. So, Christ having been justified in the Spirit, can biblically be spoken of as having the verdict of "just" or "righteous," which means we can biblically speak of "the righteousness of Christ." If indeed we are joined to Christ, then his righteousness is reckoned/imputed/accredited to us.

Hope this helps.

Matt

ἐκκλησία said...

You wrote: While sin will not always be present with us, it will always be a part of our past. That cannot be changed.

Not so. It can be changed if time is made obsolete because where there is no time, there is no past.

Remember that prior to sin, Adam was an eternal being, and therefore outside of time.

Time enters creation the same time death does.

Matt O'Reilly said...

You may not be surprised to find that I disagree with you here. The concept of time appears first in the fifth verse of the Bible and a total of five times before the creation of Adam. The world into which Adam was created is a world ordered by time, evenings and morning which make days. Regardless of one's approach to Gen 1-2, it remains the case that God created a world with time and called it very good. Thus, I suggest that time is part of God's good creation and, as part of God's good creation, is awaiting its liberty from bondage to decay.

Further, the vision of the new earth in Rev 21-22 indicates that time is carried forward into it. The tree of life yields its fruit 12 times a year (22:2). I'm not saying that our experience of time in the new earth will be exactly as we experience it now. Like all of new creation, there will be both continuity and discontinuity with creation as it is presently. There does appear to be linearity or some measure of time in new creation, which makes sense if time was part of God's original good creation, as I have argued above. Scripture gives no vision of creation without time, whether the original pristine creation, the present fallen creation, or the coming new creation.

So, I stand by my original claim that sin will always be a part of our past. Jesus will bear the marks of the cross in his body throughout out eternity. He is and always will be the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We will always and only stand before God because of his death for us and for our salvation. We will always and only stand before God because we share in his righteousness and his resurrection. Yes, there is transformation, but this never changes the fact of what Christ has done for us.

Grace and peace,
Matt

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, your point is well made.