I find Gorman’s definition of justification in terms of the restoration of right covenant relations less than convincing, mainly because, though he recognizes a legal/forensic aspect to the language of justification ( Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology , 54) he minimizes it in Paul. Justification is, as Gorman says, closely linked with reconciliation, nearly identical in some passages, but justification still retains the connotations of the courtroom. It highlights the judicial dimension of reconciliation, God’s judgment against sin and His judgment in favor of His people, a judgment that is necessary for the achievement of reconciliation.

Gorman does recognize the wide-ranging consequences of taking ” pistis christou ” subjectively, as the faithfulness of Christ in the cross rather than as the human response of faith to the gospel message. If the subjective genitive is correct, then passages in Paul that have been traditionally taken as “application of redemption” passages are actually “accomplishment of redemption”; passages often used for ordo salutis are really abut historia salutis . As Gorman says, it implies that “Christ’s faithful death embodies the righteousness of God (Rom 3:22), constitutes the means of justification (Gal 2:16; 3:22; Phil 3:9) as well as the mode of justification (Rom 3:26), and somehow even provides the manner of living in the present (Gal 2:20)” (59). The cross is not merely the foundation of justification; it is the accomplishment of justification. Justification - for Gorman, the restoration of right covenant relations, God-ward and man-to-man - happens on the cross. We share in that justification - that restoration of right covenant relations - by union in Christ’s death and resurrection, by sharing in the justification accomplished by Jesus on the cross.

Gorman’s conclusions regarding pistis christou seem to work even if we emphasize the forensic dimension of justification, though it’s necessary to stress more fully the role of the resurrection in justification. What happens on the cross is the condemnation/judgment of sin (Roman 8:1-4); in the resurrection God and His Messiah are vindicated/justified. That act of “justification” takes place extra nos , and we share in it by union with the crucified and risen Messiah.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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