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Thomas Goodwin :: Section Three :: Chapter Six

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CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Three :: Chapter Six

How our faith may raise from hence just matter of triumph about our justification. An explication how we are justified by faith, although justified in Christ at his resurrection.

And hereupon is grounded this triumph of faith here, from Christ’s resurrection, “Who shall condemn? It is Christ that is risen.” The meaning whereof is, that he was justified at his resurrection (justified in the Spirit and quickened in the Spirit being all one), and “we in him.” Yes, and a rather is put upon this, rather than put upon his death. For this act was a solemn discharge from all sin and condemnation; it was a legal acquittance given to Christ for all our sins, and so to us also considered as in him. His death was but the satisfaction and payment; but this is the first act of absolution. Yes, and this is the original act, which is upon record between God and Christ. And our justification and atonement (when we are justified by faith in Christ) is but a copy fetched from this roll, and court sentence then pronounced.

And such a way and course to ratify and make acts good and legal, even to have them done by another representing one’s person, is common among men, as those instances I formerly gave do show. An attorney at law receives a debt, or an acquittance for a debt, paid or given for another man, and it is as legal as if the man himself or creditor had done it, and the debtor had received the acquittance himself. Yes, acts of the greatest and highest concernment are often not otherwise transacted, as the marriages of princes are by proxy solemnized, their ambassadors representing their persons, and contracting and marrying their wives in their stead; which acts are thereby made as irrevocable, and irrepealable, as if themselves had in person done them. And so if we were justified when Christ did rise and was justified, our justification then cannot be reversed, but stands as legal and warrantable as any act that God or man ever ratified or confirmed. And who shall condemn?

Only, for farther explication’s sake, lest there be a mistake, let me add this, that it is necessary that we be justified in our own persons by faith, (notwithstanding this former act thus legally passed) whereby we lay hold upon what God did thus before for us in Christ, to the end that God upon our believing may, according to his own rules, justify his justifying of us unto all the world; which until we do believe, he could not do. For according to the revealed rules of his word, which he professes to proceed by at the latter day, there is a curse and a sentence of condemnation pronounced against us, under which we stand until he shall take it off by giving us faith; unto which he has, in the same word, made the promise of justifying us in our own persons, as before he had done in Christ. Yet still notwithstanding, so as although, when we first believe, then only justification is actually and personally applied to us. Yet at Christ’s resurrection and in his being then justified, this act and sentence was virtually pronounced upon us; and so does necessarily require and exact at God’s hands, the bestowing faith upon us; that so by virtue of this former act passed, we come to be actually justified in our own consciences, and before all the world.

And so our justification, which was but secretly wrought and passed upon us in Christ, is never made void but stands irrepealable; and so ratified, that our personal justification by faith does always infallibly second and succeed it. And (to illustrate it a little) our condemnation in Adam and this our justification in Christ, do in this hold parallel together, that as in Adam we were all virtually condemned, “in Adam all die.” And that legal enough too, for thereupon came out that statute-law, statutum est, “It is appointed” that all should die, and yet we are not actually in our own persons condemned until we are born of him, nor do we personally die until we lay down our flesh. Even so it is in the matter of our justification that it was done virtually in Christ, and afterwards when we believe, is actually passed in and upon ourselves. Now I call this former but a virtual justification, even as by the sentence of condemnation passed upon a malefactor, he is called a dead man; that is, he is so virtually and in law (as we say), though naturally he died not many days after, but in that respect may be still alive. So by Christ’s being justified, we are all virtually and in law justified, through a secret yet irrepealable covenant between God and Christ, who only did then “know who were his.”

And for a confirmation even of this also, that God accounts all the elect justified in his justifying of Christ, we shall not need to go any further than the words of this text, if we do but diligently compare their standing here with that of theirs in that place out of which they are taken, and where we find them first recorded and spoken, namely in Isaiah 50:7-8, “He is near that justifies me; who is he that shall condemn?” Now there (as interpreters agree, and as the context shows), those words are spoken by Christ himself, for in Isaiah 50:5 he speaks of God’s “boring his ear” to do his will (the same expression that is used of Christ in Psalm 40:6), and farther says, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that pulled off the hair, and I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (all of which you may read in Christ’s sufferings in Matthew 26:67 and Matthew 27:26. And he spoke before in Isaiah 50:4, of God’s having “given him the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that is weary,” which you may read done by Christ in Matthew 11:28.

Now those words were spoken by Christ, to comfort himself against the Jews condemning him, as considering that God would justify him, as at his resurrection you have heard he did. Now mark it, those very words which Isaiah brings in Christ speaking as of himself alone, those very words Paul here boldly applies in the like triumph, to all the elect of Christ, “Who shall condemn? It is God that justifies.” And this because Christ is dead, and risen, and acquitted by God. Christ spoke those words as a public person in the name of all his elect, whom he in his death and in his justification represented; and for that very respect Paul speaks the like words over again, of all elect believers, as being as truly and really intended of them, when spoken by Christ, as of himself, and of his own person. “He is near that justifies me; (says Christ) who shall condemn?” namely, me or mine elect, whose persons I sustain. And “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” says Paul. “It is God that justifies; who shall condemn?” for Christ has died and been condemned for them, and Christ was justified from that condemnation, and they in him. And because the justification of himself, which Christ spoke of, as looked for from God, was to be made at his resurrection as has been said, therefore Paul here puts a rather upon his resurrection.

And farther to establish this, as you heard before out of Romans 6:11, that in respect of sanctification we were dead with Christ, even then when he died; so in Colossians 2:13, we are said to be “risen with him,” in respect of our justification, which is the thing in hand. The words are, “And you being dead in your sins,” namely the guilt of your sins, “and the circumcision of your flesh,” that is in respect of the power of corrupt nature, “has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all your trespasses.” See here, the forgiveness of our sins or our justification, is called a “quickening” or a “raising up of us” (as Colossians 2:12 has it), “together with him,” in a conformity and relation to that justification from our sins, which at his resurrection he received in our names. His meaning is that he was justified then, and in our names; and so we are now justified through the virtue of that our communion with him therein. For if you mark the connection of the words with what follows, you will find this “forgiving of their trespasses (Colossians 2:13) through their being quickened together with him,” not only to have been done when they believed, and so when they had that justification personally first applied to them, of which it is true, the words in Colossians 2:12 are to be understood, but also then to have been done; “when he having (as it follows in Colossians 2:14) blotted out the handwriting of ordinances which was against us, nailing it to his cross, and having spoiled principalities and powers,” and got the victory, namely in his rising again, “had made a show of them openly” (in his ascending to heaven), “triumphing over them ἑν ἁυτῷ in himself” (as the margin has it); of which words I shall farther speak in the next head. So as then when Christ did this in himself, then were our sins forgiven, then were we acquitted with him and triumphed with him, he doing all this in our stead, representing us.

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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