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Thomas Goodwin :: Section Two :: Chapter One

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CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Two :: Chapter One

CHRIST, THE OBJECT AND SUPPORT OF FAITH FOR JUSTIFICATION, IN HIS DEATH

How not Christ’s person simply, but Christ as dying, is the object of faith as justifying.

Who shall condemn? Christ has died.—Romans 8:34

To come now to all these four particulars of or about Christ, as the object of faith here mentioned; and to show both how Christ in each is the object of faith as justifying; and what support or encouragement the faith of a believer may fetch from each of them in point of justification, which is the argument of the main body of this discourse.

First, Christ as dying is the object of justifying faith, “Who shall condemn? Christ has died.”

For the explanation of which, I will:

  • 1. Give a direction or two.
  • 2. Show how an encouragement, or matter of triumph, may from hence be fetched.

1. (1.) The first direction is this, that in seeking forgiveness or justification in the promises, as Christ is to be principally in the eye of your faith, so it must be Christ as crucified, Christ as dying, as here he is made. It was the serpent as lift up, and so looked at, that healed them. Now this direction I give to prevent a mistake, which souls that are about to believe do often run into. For when they hear that the person of Christ is the main object of faith, they thus conceive of it, that when one comes first to believe, he should look only upon the personal excellencies of grace and glory which are in Jesus Christ, which follow upon the hypostatical union; and so have his heart allured in unto Christ by them only, and close with him under those apprehensions alone. But although it be true, that there is that radical disposition in the faith of every believer, which if it were drawn forth to view Christ in his mere personal excellencies, abstractly considered, would close with Christ for them alone, as seeing such a beauty and suitableness in them; yet the first view which a humble soul always does, and is to take of him, is of his being a Saviour, made sin, and a curse, and obeying to the death for sinners. He takes up Christ in his first sight of him, under the “likeness of sinful flesh,” Romans 8:3, for so the gospel first represents him, though it holds forth his personal excellencies also; and in that representation it is that he is made a fit object for a sinner’s faith to trust and rest upon for salvation; which in part distinguishes a sinner’s faith while here on earth, towards Christ, from that vision or sight which angels and the souls of men have in heaven of him.

Faith here views him not only as glorious at God’s right hand (though so also), but as crucified, as made sin, and a curse, and so rests upon him for pardon; but in heaven we shall “see him as he is,” and be made like unto him. Take Christ in his personal excellencies simply considered, and so with them propounded as a head to us, and he might have been a fit object for angels and men even without sin to have closed further; and what an addition to their happiness would they have thought it, to have him for their husband! But yet so considered, he should have been and rather is the object of love, than of faith or affiance. It is therefore Christ that is thus excellent in his person, yet farther considered as clothed with his garments of blood, and the qualifications of a mediator and reconciler; it is this that makes him so desirable by sinners, and a fit object for their faith, which looks out for justification, to prey and seize upon, though they take in the consideration of all his other excellencies to allure their hearts to him, and confirm their choice of him.

Yes I say farther, that consider faith as justifying, that is, in that act of it which justifies a sinner; and so Christ, taken only or mainly in his personal excellencies, cannot properly be called the object of it. But the formalis ratio, the proper respect or consideration that makes Christ the object of faith as justifying, must necessarily be that in Christ, which does indeed justify a sinner; which is, his obedience unto death. For the act and object of every habit or faculty are always suited, and similar each to other; and therefore Christ’s justifying must necessarily be the object of faith justifying. It is true, that there is nothing in Christ with which some answerable act of faith in us does not close; and from the differing considerations under which faith looks at Christ, have those several acts of faith various denominations: as faith that is carried forth to Christ and his personal excellencies may be called uniting faith; and faith that goes forth to Christ for strength of grace to subdue sin may, answerably to its object, be called sanctifying faith; and faith as it goes forth to Christ, as dying for justification, may be called justifying faith. For faith in that act looks at what in Christ does justify a sinner; and therefore Christ considered as dying and rising does in this respect become the most pleasing and grateful object to a soul that is humbled; for this makes Christ suitable to him as he is a sinner, under which consideration he reflects upon himself, when he is first humbled. And therefore thus to represent Christ to believers under the law, was the main scope of all the sacrifices and types therein. “All things being purged with blood, and without blood there being no remission,” Hebrews 9:22.

Thus did the apostles also in their sermons and so Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, seemed by the matter of his sermon to have “known nothing but Christ, and him as crucified,” 1 Corinthians 2:2, as Christ above all, so Christ as crucified above all in Christ, as suiting their condition best, whom he endeavored to draw on to faith on him. Thus, in his Epistle to the Galatians, he calls his preaching among them “the preaching of faith,” Galatians 3:2. And what was the main scope of it, but the picturing out (as the word is) of “Christ crucified before their eyes”? Galatians 3:1. So he preached him, and so they received him, and so they “began in the spirit,” Galatians 3:3. And thus also do the seals of the promises (the sacraments) present Christ to a believer’s eye; as they hold forth Christ (as was in the former direction observed), so Christ, as crucified; their scope being to “show forth his death until he come,” 1 Corinthians 11:26, the bread signifying Christ’s body broken in the sufferings of it; and the cup signifying the sufferings of his soul, and the pouring of it forth unto death.

And hence likewise, as faith itself is called “faith on Christ,” as was before observed, so it is called “faith on his blood,” Romans 3:25, because Christ, as shedding his blood for the remission of sins, is the object of it. So the words there are, “whom God has ordained to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” And look how God has ordained and set forth Christ in the promise: under that picture of him does faith at first close with him. And one reason similar to the former may be grounded on the Romans 3:24, “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ.” And as I showed before, in the reason of the former direction, that all promises hold of his person, as being heir of all the promises; so the special tenure upon which forgiveness of sins does hold of him is by purchase, and by the redemption that is in him. So that, as the promise of forgiveness refers to his person, so also to this redemption that is in him. Thus, both in Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” his person gives us title to all the promises, and his blood shows the tenure they hold on; a purchase, and a full price, ἀντίλυτρον and adequate price, 1 Timothy 2:6. And as sin is the strength of the law, and of the threatenings thereof, so Christ’s satisfaction is the strength of all the promises in the gospel. In a word, a humbled soul is to have recourse to that Christ who is now alive and glorified in heaven, yet to him as once crucified and made sin. He is to go to Christ now glorified, as the person from whom he is to receive forgiveness, but further to him as crucified; as through whom, considered in that condition he then was in, he is to receive all.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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