CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Three :: Chapter Five
The second branch: How Christ’s representing us as a common person in his resurrection, has an influence into our justification, made forth by two things: (1.) How Christ at his resurrection was justified from our sin; (2.) That we were all then justified in him as a common person.
2. Now, then, to come to the other branch of the demonstration, namely, how this relation to us as a common person representing us in his resurrection, has a real influence into our justification. And this is the point I drive at, and for the clearing of which that large and general discourse by way of digression in the former chapter was but to make way for.
I shall absolve and dispatch this branch by showing two things:
(1.) That Christ himself was justified, and that at his resurrection.
(2.) That he was justified then as a common person, representing us therein, as well as that he rose as a common person; and so that we were then justified in him and with him; and by this means it is that by that act then done to him, our justification is made irrepealable forever.
(1.) For the explicating of the first: as Christ was in his death made sin for us, and so sustained our persons in his satisfying for sin by his death (which is the matter of our righteousness), so in and upon his resurrection he was justified and acquitted from our sins by God, as having now fully in his death satisfied for them, which I make forth by these three things put together:
[1.] First, in reason, if that Christ were made sin for us, and satisfied for it, there must then some act pass, whereby Christ should be pronounced acquitted of our sins, and fully clear of them, and so be himself formally justified in respect of those sins, for which he undertook to satisfy. For according to the course of all proceedings, if a charge of guilt be formally laid, there must be as formal an act of acquitting, and of giving a quietus est. There is no man but for his own discharge and security would desire it; nor is there any wise man that pays a debt for which he is legally sued, that will not have, upon the payment of it, as legal an acquittance. Paul, when he was cast into prison by a public act of authority, he stood upon it to have a public act of release from the same magistrates, and would not go forth of prison privily, though themselves sent to him so to go out, Acts 16:37. Now God himself did “lay the
iniquities of us all” upon Christ, Isaiah 53:6, and “had him to prison and judgment” for them, Isaiah 53:8. There must, therefore, some act passed from God, legally to take them off from him, and declaring him discharged, to deliver him from prison and judgment.
And, de facto, it is evident that there was some such act passed from God for, as we read, that Christ, while he lived, and also in his death, “was made sin,” and “did bear the sin of many,” as the phrase is, Hebrews 9:28. So we read in the very next words, that “he shall appear the second time without sin,” which must necessarily be spoken in a direct opposition to his having borne our sins, and appearing then with all our sins laid to his charge. He appeared charged with them then, but now he shall appear, as apparently and manifestly to be without those sins, for of our sins it must necessarily be meant, and so to be discharged of them as fully as ever he appeared charged with them. For it is said, “he shall appear without sin;” and therefore to the judgments of all it shall be made manifest, that God who had once charged him with them, has now fully discharged him of
them. The apostle speaks of it as of a great alteration made in this respect between Christ while on earth, and Christ as he is to appear the second time, and is now in heaven. And this alteration or discharge must necessarily be made by God, for he is the creditor who followed the suit, and therefore he alone can give the acquittance.
[2.] Now secondly, from hence it will follow that there must be some time when this alteration was first made and discharge given, when Christ from being sin as he was made, should become without sin, through God’s acquitting of him; and this say I was at his resurrection. It is not deferred as then to be first done, when he is to appear the second time, though then it appears indeed, but it is really done before; for he comes then to judge others for sin. Now in reason when should this acquittance or justification from our sins be first given to Christ and legally pronounced on him, but when he had paid the last farthing of the debt, and made his satisfaction complete? Which was then done when he began to rise; for his lying in the grave was a part of his humiliation and so of his satisfaction, as generally orthodox divines hold. Now, therefore, when he began to rise, then ended his humiliation; and that was the first moment of his exaltation. His acquittance therefore bears date
from thence, even from that very hour.
[3.] Hence thirdly we read, as that Christ was “condemned,” so that he was “justified.” Thus in 1 Timothy 3:16, God is said to be “manifest in the flesh,” and then that this God-man was “justified in the Spirit.” That is, whereas God was manifest or appeared in flesh to condemn sin in the flesh, as in Romans 8, that same God-man was also justified in the Spirit from all those sins, and so “received up to glory,” as it follows there. And not to go far, the very words of this my text, “it is God that justifies,” are taken out of Isaiah 50:8-9, and as there they are first spoken by Christ of himself, then, when he “gave his back to the smiters,” in his death (as in the verses before), and was put to death as a “condemned” man. He comforts
himself with this, “He is near that justifies me; who shall condemn?” And when was that done or to be done, but at his resurrection? So the phrase in Timothy imports, if you compare it with another in 1 Peter 3:18, “Being put to death in the flesh, and quickened in (or by) the Spirit.” Paul, he says, “justified in the Spirit;” Peter, he says, “quickened in the Spirit;” both mean one and the same thing. By Spirit is meant the power of his Godhead and divine nature, whereby he was at once both raised from the grave, and from under the guilt of sin together. He was at once both quickened, or raised, and justified also. And that by Spirit they mean his divine nature, the opposition in both places evidently implies; for it is opposed to his flesh or human nature.
Now because he was quickened or raised by the power of the Godhead, and at that raising him he was justified also by God, and declared justified by that resurrection, as he had been declared condemned by his death; hence, to be justified is put for his resurrection; for that was his justification, to declaration of all the world, that he was justified from all the sins laid to his charge. And that other place I cited out of Isaiah has the same meaning also; for Christ there comforts himself against the Jews condemning him and putting him to death, with the hopes of God’s justifying of him, when he should have gone through that work. And Christ’s meaning there is this, “God will raise me up and acquit me,” though you condemn and kill me. In the other prophets you shall find Christ still comforting himself against his condemnation at his death, with the thoughts of his resurrection, which he foresaw as shortly to follow after it; as here, in Isaiah, he comforts
himself with these hopes of his being justified after their condemnation of him. For instance in Psalm 16:9, “My flesh shall rest in hope: thou will not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer your Holy One to see corruption.” Which words you know Peter, in the Acts, does twice interpret of Christ’s resurrection. In like manner here in Isaiah, against his death and condemnation, he comforts himself with the hopes of God’s justification of him at his resurrection, “He is near who justifies me (and he shall help me); who shall condemn?”
And further, to confirm and strengthen this notion, because his resurrection was the first moment of this his justification from our sins, therefore it is that God calls it his first begetting of Christ, “This day have I begotten thee,” speaking manifestly of his resurrection, Acts 13:33. And the reason of his so calling it is because all the while before he was covered with sin, and “the likeness of sinful flesh;” but now having flung it off, he appears like God’s Son indeed, as if newly begotten. And thus also he [Qu. “there?”-ED.] comes to be the fuller conformity between Christ’s justification and ours. For as our justification is at our first being born again, so was Christ’s also at this his first glorious begetting. He was under an attainder before; here was the act of restitution first passed. And as at our conversion (which is to us a resurrection) we “pass from death
to life,” that is from an estate of death and condemnation, unto justification of life. So did Christ also at his resurrection, which to him was a re-begetting pass from an estate of death and guilt laid on him, to an estate of life and glory, and justification from guilt. And so shall he “appear,” as the word is in Hebrews 9:28 (as he does now in heaven), “without sin;” for he came to be without sin from that very moment. Thus I have shown how Christ was justified at his resurrection.
(2.) Now then, in the second place, I am to show that this his justification and pronouncing him without sin, thus done at his resurrection, was done to him as the “first-fruits,” and as to a common person bearing our persons, and so in our names. From whence will necessarily follow, as the conclusion of all, that the persons of all the elect believers have been justified before God in Christ as their head, at or from the time of his resurrection; and so that act of justification to have been so firmly passed as it cannot be revoked forever. Now this is proved,
First, by the very same reason or respect that he was said to be the “first-fruits of them that sleep,” as representing the rest in his resurrection, which I showed at large in the former chapter; upon the same ground he is to be so looked at also in this his justification pronounced upon him at his resurrection, even as the first-fruits also of them that are justified. And so in the same sense, and by the same reason that we are said to be “risen with Christ,” in his resurrection; we must also be said to be “justified with him,” in this his justification at his resurrection.
And indeed (to enlarge this a little), as there is the same reason and ground for the one that there is for the other, he being a public person in both, so the rule will hold in all other things which God ever does to us or for us, which are common with Christ, and were done to him; that in them all Christ was the first-fruits and they may be said to have been done in us or to us, yes, by us, in him and with him. Yes, whatever God meant to do for us and in us, whatever privilege or benefit he meant to bestow upon us, he did that thing first to Christ and (some way) bestowed the like on him as a common person, that so it might be by a solemn formal act ratified, and be made sure to be done to us in our persons in due time, having first been done to him representing our persons. And that by this course taken, it might (when done to us) be effected by virtue of what was first done to him. Thus God meaning to sanctify us, he sanctifies Christ first, in him as a common person sanctifying us all;
“For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through your truth,” John 17:19. He sanctifies the human nature of Christ personal, (that is his body) and him first, as a common person representing us, that so we, being virtually and representatively sanctified in him, may be sure to be sanctified afterwards in our own persons, by means of his sanctification.
And so in like manner for our sakes he was “justified in the Spirit;” because we were to be justified, and so to be justified first in him, and with him as a common person. Now this rule holds in all blessings else bestowed; for Paul pronounces of them all that “God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 1:3, which God did so order that, as he speaks of ordaining salvation to be by faith in Romans 4:16, that all those “blessings might be sure to all the seed.” For this formal investiture of estating us into all blessings by such solemn acts done to Christ as our head and representative of us, makes what he intends to bestow sure beforehand, by an irrepealable act and sentence, which has its warrant in all laws of men, as I have shown, and shall anon again urge. And,
Secondly, by the equity of the same law that in Adam we were all condemned, Adam being a type of him in this by the same law, I say we were all justified in Christ when he was justified, else the type was not therein fulfilled. Now the sentence of condemnation was first passed upon Adam alone, yet considered as a common person for us; therefore also this acquittance and justification was then passed towards Christ alone, as a public person for us. Yes, in this his being justified. Christ must much rather be considered as a common person representing us, than Adam was in his condemnation. For Christ in his own person, as he had no sin, so he had no need of any justification from sin, nor should ever have been condemned. And therefore this must be only in a respect unto our sins imputed to him; and if so, then in our stead. And so herein, he was more purely to be considered as a common person for us, than ever Adam was in his being condemned. For Adam, besides his standing as a common person
for us, was furthermore condemned in his own person; but Christ in being justified from sin, could only be considered as standing for others. Thus in Romans 5:18, “Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so (or in like manner) by the righteousness of that one man Christ, the free gift came upon all men (namely, in Christ) unto justification of life.”
He parallels both with a so, only with this difference between Adam’s being a common person for us, and so between the ground of our being condemned in him, and Christ his being a common person for us, and our acquittance in him that the “condemnation came upon all” by a necessary, natural covenant, for by such a covenant was Adam appointed a common person for us; but Christ his being appointed thus a common person for us, it was by a “free gift” of grace. And therefore in like manner by a free gift of grace it is that the imputation of that which he did, or was done to him, is reckoned ours. As then “in Adam all died,” when he sinned, as the apostle speaks, so in Christ “were all justified,” when he was justified. For as in his death Christ was a public person for us, and in all that befell him; so in his resurrection, and in all that was then done to him, and so in this his being then justified. And as when he died, “the just
was put to death for the unjust” (as Peter speaks), so when he arose and was justified, the just that needed no justification was justified for the unjust, who else had been condemned; and so we were then justified with him.