What seems to have happened is that Western theology has allowed itself to be dominated by a legalistic view of sin and a forensic model of atonement which leaves little room for resurrection. When the atonement is thought of chiefly in terms of merit and the law, the cross becomes central, but the resurrection drops into the category of subjective redemption. [This] idea of atonement does not have much room for resurrection which can go almost unmentioned because it is not required ((Clark H. Pinnock, “Salvation by Resurrection,” Ex Auditu 9 (1993): 2.))

That charge came from the pen of Clark Pinnock. It is no secret that Pinnock departed over the course of his life from numerous tenets of evangelicalism. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear his voice among the myriad of self-proclaimed evangelicals attacking penal substitutionary atonement.  However, before dismissing the attack too quickly, we should at least acknowledge an element of truth in these words.  I do not mean that there is truth in the claim that a forensic understanding of the atonement leaves no room for the resurrection.  I aim in this article to argue otherwise.  But there certainly is truth in the claim that the resurrection “can go almost unmentioned” by those of us who proclaim the gospel and understand the atonement as an act of penal substitution.
As a pastor who asks every potential member to share with me the gospel, I can actually ratchet up the charge made by Pinnock.  In my experience, the resurrection does indeed “go almost unmentioned” on occasions, as people seem to tack it on to their explanation of Christ’s death for sinners as our hope of salvation.  But just as often, it goes unmentioned altogether.  While interviewing numerous college students for membership at our church (college students who come in large measure from solidly evangelical homes), I have lost count of the number of times I have had to ask, “Now did Jesus stay dead?” after a potential member had shared the “gospel.” ((A friend and fellow pastor, David Carothers, has shared with me a similar discovery when he worked at a leading evangelical university and interviewed students prior to sending them out on mission trips.  He asked each of them to write down the gospel and turn it in to the campus ministries office. He noted that so many of these “gospel” presentations left out the resurrection entirely that he gathered the entire group of students so that he might teach the content of the gospel prior to sending them out on their mission trips.))
Without exception, the candidate for membership has answered that question by affirming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  However, the fact that this element of the gospel message (without which, Paul affirms, we would still be in our sins—1 Cor 15:17) is so easily neglected must lead us to pause and ask why the resurrection is so easily ignored in our presentations of the gospel.  The answer, I believe, is that though all of these students believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and understand the need to affirm this truth, they (and numerous other evangelicals) do not grasp why Christ’s resurrection was necessary in a salvific sense.  Consequently, failing to see the saving significance of the resurrection, they forget this crucial element of the gospel when describing Christ’s saving work.
The logic of this “gospel” message seems sound, coherent, and complete, without making note of Christ’s resurrection.  God is holy.  Man is sinful.  Therefore, man stands under God’s condemnation and coming wrath, as sinners before a holy God.  However, God the Son took on flesh and came to live the perfect life of obedience we never could.  Moreover, he died on the cross for us.  Bearing the penalty for our sins by his death, Christ appeased God’s wrath and bore the condemnation we deserved as he gave himself up in our place.  Because of Christ’s saving work, then, all who repent and believe in him will be credited with Christ’s perfect obedience and receive forgiveness of their sins, as Christ’s death counts as the complete payment for our sins and removes God’s condemnation from us.
The problem, of course, is that without mention of the resurrection a gospel message is no gospel at all, and Scripture will not allow such an empty proclamation to be called “good news.” Rather, Paul declared, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor 15:17-18). ((Concerning 1 Cor 15:17, Gaffin rightly notes, “His point here is surely not that they are in their sins only in some respects, say as sin’s corrupting and death-dealing consequences continue, while others, like the guilt incurred, have already been removed by [Christ’s] death.  Rather, he can only mean ‘still in your sins’ entirely, unrelievedly.” Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “By Faith, Not by Sight”: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2006), 28-29.))
In light of the possibility (and occasional tendency ((Jerry Bridges, for example, has written in his otherwise excellent work, “The good news of the gospel is that Jesus paid for all our sins on the cross and we are thereby forgiven.” The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 25-26.)) ) of proponents of penal substitution to articulate a “gospel message” without noting the crucial and necessary element of Christ’s resurrection, opponents of penal substitution have suggested that evangelicals need to rethink their understanding of Christ’s atoning work. ((For example, Gregory A. Boyd, “Christus Victor Response,” in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (ed. James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006), 99; Steve Chalke, “The Redemption of the Cross,” in The Atonement Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Theology of the Atonement (ed. David Hilborn, Justin Thacker, and Derek Tidball; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 39; Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 148; Tom Smail, Once for All: A Confession of the Cross (London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1998), 96; Paul S. Fiddes, Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christian Idea of Atonement (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1989), 100.)) That is, if an understanding man’s problem before God and Christ’s atoning work on their behalf can be articulated in such a way that the resurrection is not “required” (as Pinnock’s attack claims), then surely we must abandon these forensic categories, especially in regard to Christ’s atoning work.  To abandon penal substitution in light of the biblical teaching in support of this crucial doctrine (see especially Rom 3:21-26; 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13), ((For an extended argument that these texts support and argue for penal substitutionary atonement, see Lee Tankersley, “The Courtroom and the Created Order: How Penal Substitution Brings about New Creation (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), 107-79.)) however, is no better than ignoring the resurrection.  What is needed is not for evangelicals to flee the doctrine of penal substitution but rather consistent and faithful teaching that shows why penal substitutionary atonement not only leaves “room” for the resurrection of Christ but actually demands that Christ be raised, if man is to be justified by Christ’s work.  Such is the purpose of this article as I aim to show that not only can Christ’s resurrection be reconciled with penal substitution but is actually the necessary consequence of penal substitution if indeed Christ’s work is to serve as the basis for man’s justification before God.


Union with Christ

In order to understand the connection between penal substitution and Christ’s resurrection, one must consider the representative nature of Jesus’ work.  Some have attempted to place the concepts of representation and substitution in separate and exclusive categories, ((See, for example, Morna D. Hooker, From Adam to Christ: Essays on Paul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 26-41; idem, “Interchange in Christ,” JTS 22 (1971): 358; Christopher D. Marshall, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 61; Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 177.)) but Scripture allows no such division.  Believers are said to have “died with Christ” (Rom 6:8) and are told that “Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  Thus, Christ represents believers in his high-priestly work (Heb 5:1), yet because he is their substitute, they do not have to bear the wrath of God in their own persons.  When explaining Christ’s atoning work, then, Richard Gaffin rightly notes that “we must account for both the exclusive or strictly substitutionary and the inclusive or representative aspects, both the ‘for us’ and the ‘in him’ and ‘with him’ of Christ’s death.” ((Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Atonement in the Pauline Corpus: ‘The Scandal of the Cross,’” in The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives (ed. Charles E. Hill and Frame A. James III; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 145.))  One must see Jesus as a “representative substitute” ((Packer, “What Did the Cross Achieve?,” 21.)) for believers and his atoning work as that of “inclusive substitution.” ((Gaffin, “Atonement in the Pauline Corpus,” 144-45.  Gaffin notes that he borrows the term “inclusive substitution” from Jürgen Becker, though he uses it differently.  See Jürgen Becker, Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles (trans. O. C. Dean, Jr.; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993), 409.  I’m using this term differently than Becker.))  The combination of these two elements is crucial because unless the representative element of Christ’s work is acknowledged alongside that of substitution, the resurrection will seem to have little connection to a forensic atonement.  The reason for this is because what Christ accomplishes in both his death and resurrection is appropriated to believers via their union with him.

Union with Christ has been noted as the “central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation,” ((John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 161.)) and this is for good reason.  Salvation is pictured throughout Scripture in terms of those blessings which believers experiences by their union with Christ.  Thus, when Paul writes of believers experiencing no condemnation before God, it is a reality for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1).  Nor is this reality of the blessings of salvation being experienced through union with Christ rare in Paul’s letters.  Bruce Demarest has noted that expressions such as en Christō, en kuriō, en Christō Iēsou, and en autō occur 216 times in Paul’s letters, in addition to the twenty-six times in John’s writings. ((Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 315.)) It is no exaggeration to say that without union with Christ, there is no salvation.  But what is the nature of union with Christ?  In order to answer this question, one must consider the relationship Scripture portrays between Adam and Christ.


Adam, Christ, and Representative Union  

The identification most important for understanding the nature of union with Christ is that of Jesus as the second/last Adam.  Paul links Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 45, and 47.  In Romans 5:14, Adam is referred to as a “type” ((For a thorough study and helpful explanation of the nature of typology in Scripture, see Richard M. Davidson, Typology in Scripture: A Study of Hermeneutical Tupos Structures (vol. 2 of Andrews University Seminary Doctoral Dissertation Series; Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1981).)) of Christ, minimally indicating that there is similarity between these two individuals.  In addition, in 1 Corinthians 15:22, Paul parallels the notions of individuals being “in Adam” and “in Christ.”  Thus, the clearest indicator of what Paul means by “in Christ” is found in understanding the parallel phrase “in Adam.”  That is, understanding the way in which Adam relates to mankind or the manner in which man is “in Adam” should be indicative of the manner in which men are in union with Christ or “in Christ.”  What, then, is the relationship between Adam and mankind?

The answer according to Romans 5:12-21 is that Adam is in a “representative union” with mankind, so that what Adam did affected all those “in him.”  That is, as Adam lived in the garden, he did not live his life as a private and lone individual but represented mankind before God.  This is clear in Romans 5:12-21 as Paul consistently shows Adam’s one action affecting all those “in him.”  Therefore, as Paul notes Adam’s disobedience in the garden, he logically moves from the condemnation Adam brought on himself to the condemnation of all men for whom he was a representative (Rom 5:16, 18).  Thus, what Adam does (disobeys) and receives (a verdict of condemnation) is determinative for those whom he legally represents. ((It is common to find claims that what Adam does is determinative for those “in him.”  However, the language that what Adam “receives” is also determinative for those “in him” is not as common.  Yet this notion must be upheld in the parallel “in Christ” if one is to understand fully the legal declaration and transformative result of justification through union with the resurrected Christ.))
It is not surprising, then, that Paul speaks of Christ’s work as determinative for those whom he legally represents.  Paralleling the theme regarding Adam’s representative action, he notes that Christ’s “one act of righteousness leads to justification resulting in life for all men” ((This translation reflects my understanding of dikai,wsin zwh/j as a genitive of result, indicating that justification results in life.  See also Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996),341 n. 126; Seifrid, Christ Our Righteousness, 71; C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, (vol. 1; ICC; Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 289.)) and that by his “obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:18-19).  Where Adam is called the “first” man/Adam, Christ is called the “second” and “last” man/Adam (1 Cor 15:45-47).  This implies that Adam and Jesus are unique; none other affects the world as these two.  Gaffin’s comments here deserve to be quoted at length:

Adam and Christ are identified as representatives or key figures in solidarity with others.  The order of Paul’s outlook here is such that Adam is “the first” … there is no one before him.  Christ is “the last” … there is no one after him… But Christ is not only “the last,” he is also, as such, “the second” … there is no one between Adam and him.  In other words, and this is particularly important for us here, the sweep of Paul’s covenant-historical outlook, the overarching hierarchy of his concerns here, is such that no one comes into consideration but Adam and Christ—not David, not Moses and the law given at Sinai, not even Abraham as the promise-holder, not Noah, nor anyone else… As Paul is looking at things in this passage, no one between them “counts.” ((Gaffin, “Atonement in the Pauline Corpus,” 159.))

Therefore, just as the first Adam lives with his actions and the result of those actions as determinative for those whom he represents, so Christ lives with his actions and the result of those actions as determinative for those whom he represents.  What, then, does Christ do so that those united to him are affected?  Answering this question, too, causes one to reflect on the work of Adam.


The Nature of Christ’s Work  

When one considers Christ’s work against the backdrop of Adam’s, it is clear that the crucial issues to be addressed (and overturned) are disobedience/sin, condemnation, and death.  What Paul highlights concerning the work of Adam in Romans 5:12-21 is Adam’s disobedience, the condemnation that follows, and the manifestation of that condemnation in a reign of death.  The fact that Adam’s “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Rom 5:18) indicates the demand for absolute obedience, as one sin is sufficient to bring about condemnation on Adam and all those whom he represents before God.  Recognizing this demand for obedience, Adam’s sin highlights the need for one to obey where he failed and to remove the condemnation that he brought upon mankind if individuals are to be justified and live.

This is precisely the nature in which the Bible presents Christ’s work.  As man’s representative, Christ must obey perfectly as well as bear condemnation on man’s behalf.  Thus, both Christ’s “active” and “passive obedience” ((For discussion on the use of these phrases, see J. V. Fesko, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), 146-64.)) are necessary for overturning the effect of Adam’s sin. ((Fiddes has argued that proponents of penal substitution are “perplexed” and “confused” about the place of Christ’s active obedience in salvation, but this claim is unfounded (Fiddes, Past Event and Present Salvation).  Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach, rightly note that Fiddes demonstrates “grave misunderstandings of the doctrine of penal substitution.” Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity, 2007), 212.))

When Jesus comes into the world, he comes as a representative for those “in him” to undo what Adam did as humanity’s first representative.  It is, therefore, not by accident that the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry is a time of temptation.  Also noteworthy is the manner in which this temptation appears in Luke’s gospel.
Luke writes of Jesus’ baptism in 3:21-22, ending with the Father’s declaration, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).  He then instantly moves into the giving of the genealogy of Jesus.  Whereas Matthew’s genealogy goes back to Abraham, though, Luke’s concludes with reference to Adam, whom he describes as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38).  Then, immediately upon concluding Jesus’ genealogy, Luke turns to the account of Jesus being tempted by the devil.  Again, interestingly, Satan’s first temptation begins, “If you are the Son of God . . .” (Luke 4:3).  The connecting point between these three seemingly unrelated events or topics (i.e., baptism, genealogy, and temptation) is the identity of the true son of God, the one who would obey God in the face of temptation.  Luke is establishing Jesus as the last Adam, the true Son of God, the one who would obey where Adam failed. ((Beale correctly notes, “Instead of beginning with David and Abraham and working down towards the time of Jesus like Matthew, Luke’s genealogy begins with the time of Jesus and works back to Adam, with which it ends: ‘the son of Adam, the son of God’ (Luke 3:38).  The purpose is to identify Jesus as the Last Adam . . . as an end-time Adam, the true Son of God, resisting the temptations to which Adam and Eve succumbed.” G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, (NSBT, vol. 17; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 172.))  Therefore, Jesus “relives Adam’s life” ((Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions, 134.)) and experiences the temptations Adam faced, but where Adam failed, Jesus remained righteous.
The Bible also portrays Jesus as bearing the wrath of God in his death.  Just as Jesus comes to obey where Adam failed so he comes to bear the condemnation brought about by Adam’s sin.  In his death, however, the New Testament continues to emphasize Jesus’ role as representative.  The author of Hebrews picks up this imagery most clearly, showing that Jesus is a priest in the line of Melchizedek, so that he might “act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb 5:1-9). ((This statement that the priest  acts “on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins” is spoken of a high priest generally in Heb 5, but the author makes clear through the remainder of that chapter that it is in this role that Jesus fulfills his sacrificial ministry.  Concerning Jesus’ high priesthood in the order of Melchizedek, see Heb 7:1-25.)) Jesus’ incarnation, then, is crucial so that he might “become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).  Thus, Hebrews sees Jesus as a representative for the people of God so that he might offer a sacrifice to turn away God’s wrath from them. ((Whether or not i`la,skesqai is understood to include the idea of propitiation in 2:17, one can affirm that the effect of Christ’s sacrifice (referenced in 2:17) was to turn away God’s wrath from his people.  This is evident from the language of Heb 10:26-31, where if one turns from faith in the sacrifice of Christ as sufficient, what awaits him is “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries . . . punishment . . . [and] vengeance.” Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 121-22.))  One key difference between Jesus and the former high priests, however, is that Jesus is both the priest making the sacrifice on behalf of God’s people and the substitutionary sacrifice that is offered.  Just as the lamb without blemish was slaughtered and its blood shed instead of the firstborn during the Passover, so Jesus offers “himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14).  He appeared “once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26).
Therefore, though God’s people were the objects of God’s wrath because of their sin (Rom 1:18-3:20; Eph 2:1-3), Christ bore God’s wrath and condemnation for sinners in his death on the cross.  This reality is seen both in Jesus’ struggle in the garden and in the nature of his death.  Prior to the cross, Jesus prays in the garden, “Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).  In light of the cup symbolizing God’s wrath in Scripture, this is the clearest meaning of “cup” in this text. ((See, for example, Ps 11:6; 75:8; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15; Rev 14:10; 16:19.))  Jesus anticipates going to the cross so that he might bear the condemnation of God’s people—the wrath of God.  Then, the scene at the cross itself shows that Jesus undergoes condemnation, bearing God’s wrath toward sinners.  He is handed over to die, cries out, asking why God has forsaken him, and the earth is shrouded in darkness—all signs that he is bearing God’s wrath. ((That these are signs indicating Christ as bearing God’s judgment, see Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, (NSBT, vol. 18; (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 52-54, 126-33.)) Therefore, when Jesus dies on the cross, he dies as the righteous Son of God bearing the condemnation of the Father for those who had sinned against him.


Union with Christ and His Work  

Union with Christ, then, is the believer’s union with one who has lived a perfectly obedient life before God and died, bearing the condemnation for man’s sin. ((Noting that believers alone are united with Christ is crucial because one is united to Christ only as he or she believes.  Therefore, though Adam represents all of mankind, Christ represents only those who have, do, and will believe in him.))  Both of these elements are crucial in explaining the concept of penal substitutionary atonement.  Having lived a righteous life as the representative for the people of God, Jesus dies as their substitute, paying the penalty for their sin.  Bruce Demarest’s definition of penal substitution concurs:

In love Jesus Christ, our substitute, in his life perfectly fulfilled the law and in death bore the just penalty for our sins.  Expressed otherwise, on the cross Christ took our place and bore the equivalent punishment for our sins, thereby satisfying the just demands of the law and appeasing God’s wrath. ((Demarest, The Cross of Christ, 158-59 (emphasis original).))

This explanation of the nature and effect of Christ’s death, however, again elucidates why some have claimed that those holding to penal substitutionary atonement make the resurrection unnecessary.  Gregory Boyd, for example, notes, “If the main problem needing to be addressed by Christ was that God’s wrath needed to be appeased, and if the main solution to this problem consisted of God slaying his Son on the cross, one naturally wonders what could possibly be left to be done once this is completed.” ((Boyd, “Christus Victor Response,” 99.)) If man’s problem is that he bears God’s condemnation because of his sin and so God’s wrath hangs over him, why is any more needed than for Christ to bear the condemnation for man’s sin on the cross and, as his substitute, appease God’s wrath toward man by paying man’s penalty?
Moreover, the apparent sufficiency of Christ’s obedient life and penalty-bearing death is seen when one compares the role of Adam and the role of Christ.  If one considers that Adam disobeys and brings about condemnation that shows itself in death, then it seems that Christ’s work parallels this sufficiently to undo what Adam did and to produce forgiveness of sins and life for those united to him.  The logic of this parallelism is displayed in the following illustration comparing the work of Adam and Christ:

Adam → disobeys → is condemned → condemnation evidenced in death

Christ → obeys → bears condemnation → bearing of condemnation evidenced in life

In this sequence it seems logical that Christ’s obedient life and penalty-bearing death are sufficient to bring about justification to the believer, a justification which shows itself in life.  Each aspect of Adam’s work that results in death appears to be matched sufficiently by an aspect of Christ’s work that results in life.  The problem, however, as noted earlier is that the New Testament simply will not allow this to be seen as a sufficient paradigm.  Rather, Paul declares, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17-18).  That is to say, there is another necessary element in Christ’s work if the believer is to be justified and have life—the resurrection of Christ.  To see precisely why this is the case, one must understand the nature of Christ’s resurrection.


The Resurrection of Christ

The necessity of the resurrection must be seen against the backdrop of the fact that Christ died as the condemned one. ((That Christ in his death is the condemned one is the logic of Christ dying to bear the penalty for man’s sin.))  If Christ’s death is the last “word” on that Friday, then it is a judicial declaration that Jesus is accursed of God.  For Jesus to remain dead would be evidence that the one who appeared to be the perfectly obedient Son was something less than perfectly righteous.  Moreover, since believers are united with Christ in such a way that what is true of him is true of them, if Christ remains under the condemnation of God then believers are condemned as well.  After his death, then, Jesus must be justified, vindicated as the righteous Son.  This is precisely what happens in the resurrection. ((That Christ’s resurrection is his vindication/justification, see Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1930, reprint, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994), 136-71 (esp. 151-52); N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 18-34 (esp. 28); Mark A. Seifrid, Christ Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification, (NSBT, vol. 9; (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 46-47.))  As Geerhardus Vos explained, “Christ’s resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just.  His quickening bears in itself testimony of his justification.” ((Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 151.))

A return to the argument of Romans 5:12-21 reinforces this understanding, particularly Paul’s antithetical parallelism between Christ’s work and Adam’s work.  As Paul notes that Adam sinned and brought condemnation that resulted in death, so he writes, “One act of righteousness leads to justification resulting in life for all men” (Rom 5:18).  The unspoken reality paralleled in the work of Adam and Christ is that each received a legal sentence. ((Hooker, From Adam to Christ, 29-31.)) That is, the judgment following Adam’s one trespass brought condemnation to all men (Rom 5:16, 18) precisely because this was the very sentence that was pronounced on Adam, who served as a representative for all mankind in union with him.  That legal sentence of condemnation is then manifested in the reign of death.  In like manner, Christ’s obedience “brought justification” (Rom 5:16) to all in union with him because this was the very sentence pronounced on Christ.  And that legal sentence of justification is manifested in life.  This parallelism is illustrated in the following revised diagram:

Adam → disobeys/sins → is condemned → condemnation evidenced in death

Christ→ obeys → (bears condemnation) → is justified → justification evidenced in life

This diagram better reflects the reality that life is founded upon the legal sentence of justification received by Christ. ((“Since the condemnation of the many results from the condemnation of Adam, the logic of the argument suggests that the acquittal of the many depends on the acquittal of Christ.  This acquittal, which leads to life for the many, would have taken place at the resurrection, an act of vindication which established his righteousness.  Just as men share Adam’s condemnation and death, so now they share Christ’s vindication and life. . . . Christ’s death and resurrection lead to ‘justification’ for many precisely because he himself is ‘justified’ by God and acknowledged as righteous.  The disobedience of Adam led to condemnation for him and for all men . . .  because they are ‘in Adam’; the obedience of Christ led to vindication for him and for all those who are ‘in him’, and the consequence of his acquittal is life.” Hooker, From Adam to Christ, 29-31.)) How is it, though, that Christ’s resurrection reveals that he has received this sentence of justification?  Utilizing Vos’s language, how is it that Christ’s “quickening bears in itself the testimony of his justification?”  The answer lies in the connection between righteousness, justification, and life illustrated above.  If one can say that death is a demonstration that one has been condemned, so one may equally say that life is a demonstration that one has been justified.  Consequently, when Christ is raised from death to life, it is a demonstration that he is justified.  The transformation to life is the evidence of a legal sentence of justification.  This is what Vos was claiming as he wrote, “Christ’s resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just.  His quickening bears in itself testimony of his justification.”  If one can only have life as a result of being justified, then the resurrection of Christ to life is proof he has been/is justified. ((One can also affirm more than Vos does here as one considers the juxtaposition of the terms de facto and de jure.  If de facto denotes a reality that exists regardless of whether or not it exists legally or by right (e.g., English is the de facto official language of the United States whether or not any legal document declares it so simply because it is the language spoken), then one is right to affirm that the resurrection is Christ’s de facto justification.  The mere presence of life declares justification.  However, if de jure denotes a reality that exists by legal right (e.g., The King James Bible is the de jure official version of the Bible read in a church because the bylaws legally declare that it is so), then one may also affirm that the resurrection is Jesus’ de jure justification since justification cannot rightly (indeed, legally) be withheld from him in light of his perfect obedience/righteousness.  Therefore, one should affirm that the resurrection of Christ was his de facto and de jure justification.  See Fesko, Justification, 323.))
Scripture confirms this conclusion as well.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16 that Christ has been “justified by the Spirit,” ((This reflects my own translation of evdikaiw,qh evn pneu,mati.)) which most agree is a reference to Christ’s resurrection carried out through the agency of the Spirit. ((See, for example, I. Howard Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 78; Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 280; William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, (WBC, vol. 46; (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 227; Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 184-85;  Michael F. Bird, “Justified by Christ’s Resurrection: A Neglected Aspect of Paul’s Doctrine of Justification,” SBET 22, no. 1 (2004): 86.  Also, compare the Spirit’s role in the resurrection in Rom 1:4, where Paul writes, “[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”))  Moreover, if Christ’s resurrection is needed to justify him because he had died as the condemned one, then it should be apparent that the resurrection was a necessary act precisely because of the nature of Christ’s atoning death.  Because Jesus was the righteous Son of God (the obedient second/last Adam), he could not remain under the wrathful condemnation of the Father, which he bore in his death.  Thus, far from being disconnected from the resurrection, it is Christ’s penal substitutionary death which demands the resurrection.  Furthermore, because the resurrection is a demonstration of the legal verdict of righteousness pronounced on the incarnate Son, the resurrection itself (like the atonement) is fundamentally forensic in nature.


Justification, Resurrection, and the Believer

Because of the believer’s union with Christ, however, that which Christ does and receives does not affect him alone.  As established earlier, the representative union that exists between Christ and believers declares that what Christ does and receives is credited to those “in him.”  Therefore, if Christ’s resurrection proves the legal declaration of his righteous status, then believers should expect to see Christ’s resurrection bringing about their own justification.  And this is precisely what one finds in Romans 4:25.

Paul writes in Romans 4:25 that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”  The first half of the verse highlights Jesus’ identification with believers in their condemnation—Christ pays the penalty for their sin.  The second half underscores the connection between Christ’s resurrection and believers’ justification. The details of this connection become apparent as one understands that Christ’s resurrection means that Christ has received a legal sentence of justification.  The resurrected Christ is nothing less than the one who has received the legal sentence that he is righteous.  Therefore, if believers are united to Christ in such a way that what Christ does and receives is determinative for them, then one may conclude that as Christ’s resurrection displays that he has received a declaration of righteousness, so believers receive a declaration of righteousness as well as they are united with the resurrected Christ by faith. ((“By virtue of our union with Christ, God’s declaration of approval of Christ is also his declaration of approval for us.” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 615.)) This explains the logic of Romans 4:25Christ is raised, and (because he is in representative union with believers) it is for our justification. ((For support of this explanation of Rom 4:25, see I. Howard Marshall, Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurrection in the Reconciling of God and Humanity (Colorado Springs: Paternoster, 2007), 80-97; Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Justification and Eschatology,”in Justified in Christ: God’s Plan for Us in Justification, (ed. K. Scott Oliphant; Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2007), 6.))
This understanding of Christ’s resurrection and the benefit for believers also makes sense of Paul’s claim in 1 Corinthians 15:17:  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  Because Christ’s death was one in which he bore the condemnation brought about because of Adam’s sin, if Christ is not raised then he is under the condemnation of God.  Furthermore, because believers are in union with Christ so that what Christ does and receives is determinative for them, then if Christ is not raised they are in union with one who remains under the condemnation of God.  Thus, if Christ were not raised, they would remain in sin and under condemnation.  This is the precise argument of 1 Corinthians 15:17.  If believers are justified via their union with Christ, it is not only necessary that Christ dies on the cross, bearing the penalty for man’s sin, but that he is also raised up so as to be under condemnation no more and receive his justifying verdict.
Were one to stop with believers receiving a justifying verdict, however, it would do injustice both to the connection between righteousness, justification, and life revealed in Romans 5 as well as the full nature of Christ’s own justification.  Romans 5:12-21 and the nature of Christ’s resurrection each serves to remind the believer that the justification of the believer necessarily includes both a judicial declaration of his righteousness in this life and a public demonstration of that justifying verdict in life.
Again, this reality is evident from the connection drawn in Romans 5:12-21.  As verse 18 reminds the reader, Christ’s righteousness results in justification which results in life.  The connection between Christ’s righteousness and the legal sentence of justification manifested in life is no less certain than the connection between Adam’s sin and the legal sentence of condemnation manifested in death, which is witnessed to daily in our lives. ((Thomas Schreiner rightly notes, “Verse 17 functions as the ground of verse 16 (gar, for).  What is the evidence that all are condemned through Adam and all are righteous in Christ?  The evidence for universal condemnation is the reign of death over all people by virtue of Adam, and the evidence for the gift of righteousness is the reigning in life that becomes a reality through Jesus Christ.” Romans, (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 285-86.)) Therefore, just as Romans 5:12-21 leaves no possibility of one falling under condemnation and not being affected by death, so it leaves no possibility of one being justified and not experiencing eternal life—that which is fully experienced only in resurrection.  Consequently, all who receive a verdict of justification necessarily will manifest that justification in eternal life (both as a foretaste in this age and in its fullness in the age to come).
Second, if indeed salvation is experienced in terms of union with Christ so that what Christ does and receives is determinative for those “in him,” then one should consider the justification of believers in light of Christ’s own justification.  In Christ’s resurrection, the judicial declaration of his justification is evidenced in the reality that he is raised to die no more.  Christ’s resurrection signaled not only his justification but served as an eschatological demonstration of that justification as his body was raised from the dead.  Therefore, if what Christ receives is determinative for believers, then believers’ justification must be evidenced in bodily transformation as well.  Christ must not only be the first to be raised in evidence of his justification but “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29).



The claim that penal substitution makes no room for the resurrection because it is not required in a system of salvation that necessitates forensic atonement is without warrant.  Rather, it is precisely because the incarnate Son dies as the condemned one in his substitutionary role for sinners that his resurrection is required.  If Christ is not raised, then believers are united with one who lies in the grave, accursed of God.  Consequently, because salvation is founded in union with Christ so that what is true of him is true of those united with him, if Christ lies condemned in the grave, then so do all whose faith rests in him.

The justification of sinners requires the removal of condemnation and a verdict of righteousness.  Because these salvific blessings are communicated to believers via their union with Christ, these realities must be experienced by the incarnate Son of God.  This is what is experienced in the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ.  After living a perfect life, Jesus dies on the cross as the condemned one, bearing the penalty for all sinners who have trusted and will trust in him.  However, because he is the perfectly righteous Son, he must receive a verdict of righteousness.  That he does indeed receive this verdict is manifested in his resurrection to life because even as the reign of death in this world is evidence of the verdict of condemnation that has come upon mankind through Adam’s sin, so resurrection life is the evidence of a verdict of justification.  When Christ was raised so was manifested the Father’s righteous verdict on his obedient Son.  And because Christ lived, died, and was raised as our representative substitute, his perfect obedience is credited to us, his penalty-bearing death counts for us, and his justifying resurrection is the Lord’s approval of all of us who trust in the righteous Son.  That is, both penal substitutionary atonement and a justifying resurrection—two forensic acts—are necessary for our salvation.  He “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25).