Justification once Again…

Fr Aidan Kimel has this great post on justification over on his blog. I respond to it (copy below):

Ruminating Romans: Is Justification Forensic?

Posted on 18 August 2013 by Fr Aidan Kimel

But now, quite apart from the law (though the law and the prophets bore witness to it), God’s covenant justice has been displayed. God’s covenant justice comes into operation through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, for the benefit of all who have faith. For there is no distinction: all sinned and fell short of God’s glory—and by God’s grace they are freely declared to be in the right, to be members of the covenant, through the redemption which is found in the Messiah, Jesus. God put Jesus forth as the place of mercy, through faithfulness, by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his covenant justice, because of the passing over (in divine forbearance) of sins committed beforehand. This was to demonstrate his covenant justice in the present time: that is, that he himself is in the right, and that he declares to be in the right everyone who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus. (Rom 3:21-26)

N. T. Wright’s construal of the Pauline teaching on justification by faith hinges on one key claim: namely, that when the Apostle employs the “righteousness” words, say in Romans 3, that his usage is ruled by the metaphor of the Hebrew law court. To be declared “righteous” by the court is to be vindicated by the court in reference to the specific charges that have been brought by the plaintiff against the defendant. It is not a declaration of ethical uprightness but of legal status:

For the plaintiff or defendant to be ‘righteous’ in the biblical sense within the law-court setting is for them to have that status as a result of the decision of the court.

How does this work out? Let us take the plaintiff first. If and when the court upholds the plaintiff’s accusation, he or she is ‘righteous’. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is good, morally upright or virtuous; it simply means that in this case the court has vindicated him or her in the charge they have brought.

It is the same with the defendant. If and when the court upholds the defendant, acquitting him or her of the charge, he or she is ‘righteous’. This again, doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is good, morally upright or virtuous; simply that he or she has, in this case, been vindicated against the accuser; in other words, acquitted. (What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 98)

This forensic interpretation of dikaiosyne, dikaioo, and dikaios has long been popular in Protestant exegesis of Romans and Galatians, and an increasing number of Catholic exegetes have followed suit. Thus, for example, Joseph Fitzmyer: “When Paul speaks of Christ Jesus justifying the sinner, he means that because of the Christ-event the sinner stands before God’s tribunal and hears a verdict of ‘not guilty.’ … The sinner is pronounced dikaios (Rom. 5:7) and stands before God’s tribunal as “righteous, acquitted” (“Justification by Faith in Pauline Thought,” in Rereading Paul Together, p. 84). I confess that I am not 100% convinced that the law court is semantically determinative for Paul. Is the meaning of the dikai- words so defined by legal usage that when the original auditors heard them they immediately thought of the mechanics of the juridical setting? Chris VanLandingham has raised questions about the interpretation of these terms in his book Judgment & Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul. After surveying how the words are used in the Septuagint and intertestamental literature, he offers this conclusion:

None of the dikai- group of terms is intrinsically forensic. The verb, however, is always forensic in classical Greek, but with the meaning “treat justly” or “give justice to” and most often with the sense of “condemn” or “punish.” Since Paul never uses the verb in this sense, one is forced to look elsewhere for a sense in which Paul used the verb. Still, a survey of Jewish and Christian usage of this verb yields thirteen different meanings, a few of which may be possible in Paul: to be righteous, to be proven righteous, to be acquitted, to be made righteous/pure/free, or less likely, to have been made to appear righteous. … With much of the scholarly attention focused on the verb, it is important to note distinctions among the various senses since these distinctions are important for understanding Paul. In general, he believes that the person of faith moves from being a sinner to being righteous (Roman 5), indeed, even “to be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). Significantly, dikaioo alone can mean “to make righteous,” since there are five occasions where the term means this (Ps 72:13; Luke 18:14; Jas 2:21, 24, 25). Dikaioo is neither intrinsically eschatological nor intrinsically forensic, especially since it only sometimes has the sense in Jewish and Christian literature that it does in classical Greek literature. Even when used in a judicial context, the varioius possible nuances or definitions of the term within that context make inconsequential the notion that dikaioo is forensic. (pp. 271-272)

I lack the competence to adjudicate this controversy. I have not read reviews of VanLandingham’s book nor have I read any scholarly research that has been done on this topic since the book’s publication. But VanLandingham’s analysis does put a question mark besides the lexical claim that “to justify” must mean “to acquit” or “to confer a status of innocent.” VanLandingham also quotes a passage from J. A. Zeisler which is important for us: “Moreover, even if the legal background is pressed, the legal system in question was less concerned to pronounce innocent or guilty than to put wrongs right and to restore people to their proper place, no more and no less, in the covenant community” (p. 255). We immediately recall J. Louis Martyn’s preference for the English rendering “rectify” to translate dikaioo. He does not believe that the courtroom is determinative, at least not completely, for the interpretation of Pauline righteousness. “The subject Paul addresses,” he comments, “is that of God’s making right what has gone wrong.”

Douglas Campbell makes a helpful distinction here. Campbell agrees with the classical forensic construal of dikaioo, but points out that

judicial verdicts are both indicative and performative. They usually comment on a given state of affairs, recognizing something about those—that is, that someone is “in the right” or not—and so function indicatively, but in so doing they also effect a further state of affairs, and so function performatively. A person pronounced “in the right” by a human court may receive damages or be exonerated or perhaps be set free from prison. Thus, things happen as a direct result of this action and are in fact enacted by this verbal act. And in an eschatological setting, these enacted consequences are especially important. In pronouncing his verdict, God actualizes either heaven or hell for those who have just been judged! To pronounce someone “righteous,” or “in the right,” in the final judgment qualifies and effects eternal life for that person—or the converse—as in fact Romans 2 clearly suggests. (The Deliverance of God, p. 659)

If the goal of Hebrew justice is restorative, rather than just retributive, then the verdict, especially if it is the verdict of God, will be performative and reparative. It will seek to redress the harm that has been suffered and to restore the righteous to their previous state of wholeness. Justice is hardly served if it is reduced to mere declaration of legal status.

As noted agove, Fitzmyer agrees with most exegetes that dikaio? has its home in a forensic setting. But he then goes on to ask,

Does the Pauline verb dikaioo mean “to declare righteous” or “to make righteous”? One might expect that dikaioo, being a verb belonging to the —o? class of contract verbs, would have the causative or factitive meaning typical of such verbs: deloo (make clear), douloo (enslave), nekroo (mortify). Thus it would mean “to make righteous.” Normally in the Septuagint, however, dikaioo has a declarative, forensic meaning: “declare righteous.” At times, the declarative sense seems to be, indeed, the meaning in Paul’s letters (Rom 2.13; 3.4, 20; 8:33). Some of these cases are quotations of or allusions to the Greek Old Testament, but others are simply ambiguous. The effective sense of the verb seems to be supported by Romans 5:10 …: “through the obedience of one [man] the many will be made [or constituted] righteous.” Those who so argue often quote the Old Testament idea of God’s effective or performative word in Isaiah 55:10-11. Moreover, if Kasemann’s idea about dikaiosynê theou connoting God’s “power” is correct, it might be invoked to support this effective sense of justification. (pp. 84-85; Byrne and Matera follow Fitzmyer here)

This effective or transformative sense of dikaioo is supported by both Eastern and Latin patristic readings of Paul. St John Chrysostom, commenting on Rom 3:24-25, declares: “What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He does also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores of sin suddenly righteous” (Hom. Rom. 7). All who come to Christ in faith are rectified through his regenerative power.

The transformative reading of dikaioo was powerfully stated in the 19th century by Anglican John Henry Newman:

God’s word, I say, effects what it announces. This is its characteristic all through Scripture. He “calleth those things which be not, as though they are,” and they are forthwith. Thus in the beginning He said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Word and deed went together in creation; and so again “in the regeneration,” “The Lord gave the word, great was the company of the preachers.” So again in His miracles, He called Lazarus from the grave, and the dead arose; He said, “Be thou cleansed,” and the leprosy departed; He rebuked the wind and the waves, and they were still; He commanded the evil spirits, and they fled away; He said to St. Peter and St. Andrew, St. John, St. James, and St. Matthew, “Follow Me,” and they arose, for “His word was with power;” and so again in the Sacraments His word is the consecrating principle. As He “blessed” the loaves and fishes, and they multiplied, so He “blessed and brake,” and the bread became His Body. Further, His voice is the instrument of destruction as well as of creation. As He “upholds all things by the word of His power,” so “at the Voice of the Archangel, and at the trump of God,” the visible world will dissolve; and as His “Voice” formerly “shook the earth,” so once more “the Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter His Voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shall shake.” [Joel iii. 16.]

It would seem, then, in all cases, that God’s word is the instrument of His deed. When, then, He solemnly utters the command, “Let the soul be just,” it becomes inwardly just;… On the whole then, from what has been said, it appears that justification is an announcement or fiat of Almighty God, which breaks upon the gloom of our natural state as the Creative Word upon Chaos; that it declares the soul righteous, and in that declaration, on the one hand, conveys pardon for its past sins, and on the other makes it actually righteous. That it is a declaration, has been made evident from its including, as all allow, an amnesty for the past; for past sins are removable only by an imputation of righteousness. And that it involves an actual creation in righteousness has been argued from the analogy of Almighty God’s doings in Scripture, in which we find His words were represented as effective. And its direct statements most abundantly establish both conclusions; the former, from its use of the word justification; the latter, from its use of the word just or righteous; showing, that in matter of fact, he who is justified becomes just, that he who is declared righteous is thereby actually made righteous. (Lectures on Justification)

Newman’s reading of God’s justifying deed has proven influential in 20th century ecumenical discussions. But as far as I can tell, Tom Wright has not entertained it. He is convinced that a close reading of Paul within his first century Jewish worldview leads one to the conclusion that Paul’s righteousness language can only be understood properly within the courtroom metaphor: when God declares someone justified, he confers upon them a legal status within the covenantal life of Israel. According to Wright’s reading of Paul, justification addresses the question “Who constitutes the people of God?” The Apostle’s answer—those Jews and Gentiles who have converted to Christ Jesus the Messiah by faith. Wright’s interpretation escapes the criticism frequently advanced against Protestant construals of imputation, as there is no legal fiction involved: Christian believers truly do belong to Israel. But one ends up with the feeling that Wright’s construal has reduced justification in Christ to something much less interesting and substantive. Michael Gorman has recently protested Wright’s minimalist reading: “It is misguided, however, to find the sole or even primary meaning of justification to be the welcoming of Gentiles qua Gentiles into the covenant community. Their inclusion is a necessary dimension of a proper understanding of justification, but it is not the totality” (Inhabiting the Cruciform God, p. 54 n. 41). To be incorporated into the Church is to be incorporated into Christ himself and thus to share in all of his salvific benefits. Ecclesiology and soteriology cannot be separated.

It’s difficult to know where to draw the line between a purely historical reading of Paul and a theological and canonical reading. Yet I do want to advance a point that I believe is often overlooked in Pauline exegesis. Wright has correctly insisted that we must do the hard work of trying to identify the worldview and Jewish meta-narrative, the “big story,” that shaped and informed the Apostle’s understanding. How else can we read Paul within his historical context? But Paul was not just a Jew. He was a Jewish-Christian. He belonged to communities that baptized converts and united Jews and Gentiles in the sacrificial meal of the risen Lord’s body and blood. Although we have limited information about the liturgies, rituals, prayers, and ascetical practices of the first century churches, I propose that we cannot accurately exegete the Epistles of Paul without at least attempting to read them in light of the sacramental and ascetical experience of the Church. Hence when I read the verse “But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24), I immediately interpret “justification” in terms of the totality of Paul’s soteriology. I immediately think of baptism and Holy Eucharist. I find it implausible to think that Paul restricted his employment of dikaioo to declaration of covenant membership, as if induction into the new covenant community had not also effected, so Christians believed and confessed, a dramatic change not only of their legal status but of their spiritual condition and identity. To be justified is to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. To be justified is to die with Christ in his crucifixion and raised to new and eternal life. To be justified is to be reborn and regenerated in the Holy Spirit. To be justified is to partake of the Lord at his heavenly banquet. And all of this happened and happens “apart from Torah.”

Am I guilty of reading back into the first century the theological and sacramental convictions of the patristic Church? Perhaps. But that’s my metanarrative and I’m sticking to it.

My comment:

Thanks for this helpful post. I have argued in multiple places now that Protestants (and others) need to lose their fear of justification as an effective, transformative divine declaration–a “deliverdict,” as the PCA theologian Peter Leithart calls it. This applies to conservatives as well as NPP people like my good friend Tom Wright. Vanlandingham is right, but I would go a step further. Modern linguistics tells us that a word’s sense is conveyed in large measure by its context–how it is actually used, not its etymology. I contend that Paul reinterprets justification in light of the life-giving death and resurrection of Jesus as the restoration of right covenantal relations with God and others through co-crucifixion with the Messiah. It is justification by co-crucifixion and, paradoxically, because it is a transformative declaration and act of God, it is, as Paul says at the end of Romans 4, in fact a resurrection from death to life.

9 Responses to “Justification once Again…”

  1. When dealing with a forensic metaphor for God’s act of setting right what is wrong, it is helpful to distinguish between (say) a criminal court and a family court. In recent centuries, the criminal model tends to get more attention, almost overlooking the family court’s mission.

    A family court’s purpose is to restore productive/peaceful relationships among parties. Criminal court is more concerned about determining culpability (or not) and exacting an appropriate penalty.

    No single metaphor, forensic or any other imagery, is adequate to communicate all that God the Father has achieved in Christ for covenant-people-of-God formation through the Holy Spirit.

    May I suggest that the Holy Spirit’s contribution (or work) for bringing about our justification/sanctification favors a change in searching for an “either-or” answer for whether justification is essentially a forensic declaration to a “many-and” explanation?

    The Spirit’s agency in conferring justification in close connection with the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:11; 1 Tim 3:16) seems more encompassing than a declaratory pronouncement. Bestowal of birth-from-above/adoptive children, freedom, renewal, union/communion with Christ, and ongoing transformation are current, Spirit-enabled realities.

    The Spirit of Truth as God’s present , indwelling agent for the believing community conveys God the Father and Christ as present even during the present age (“we will come to him and make our dwelling with him,” John 14:23).

    In contrast to those who have not come to knowledge of the truth and remain children of wrath, the cosmic impact of divine action on, within, and for believers goes beyond a formal, divine pronouncement that “logically” occurs at the beginning of faithing into Christ or conversion.

    Given that God justifies/acquits and Christ judges/condemns (Romans 8:33), will the Father make the declaration of justification or is this pronouncement the Son’s responsibility? Of course, Father, Christ, and Spirit of Truth mutually participate in our salvation, reconciliation, justification. Too strong a concentration on declaration, forensic or not, diminishes the combined collaboration of Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in effecting justification.

    Rather than expanding on declaration of justification, New Testament writers more frequently draw attention to the new-creation calling of believers as blessed, saints, sons/children of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

    The Father has graciously and lovingly acted in what Christ-incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and exalted-has definitively and universally accomplished for all humankind. The Spirit of Christ and of God particularly confers justification and other salvation-bringing acts completed in Christ Jesus without constraints of history, culture, and geographic location. See Anthony C. Thiselton, The Holy Spirit-in Biblical Teaching, through the Centuries, and Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013), p. 404.

    Spirit-enabled movement from self-sufficiency, sin, death to trust, righteousness, and life in Christ Jesus constitutes a divine rescue and profound change of relationship. This for me is dynamic good news in contrast to static declaration of God’s setting right what is wrong.

  2. MJG says:

    Thanks, John. Well said. You ought to read Justification in the Spirit and anything else by Frank Macchia.

  3. John Andrew Kossey says:

    Hi, Mike,

    I wanted to confirm that Frank D. Macchia’s *Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God* (2010) and another title in the same Pentecostal Manifestos series by Steven M. Studebaker, *From Pentecost to the Triune God* (2012), are indeed worthwhile and beneficial.

    Among the 19-pages of excerpts I made from *Justified in the Spirit*, the following paragraph stands out:

    “As Welker notes, sin is not just a moral wrong but an idolatry that alienates one from the very life force that brings people into relationship with God and others and that causes life to flourish as God intended. . . . ‘Sin issues in the destruction of the foundation of regeneration’. Therefore, pardon for sin can never be a mere clean slate or a declared word from a distant court but rather deliverance and new birth through a divine embrace at the very core of our existence. Miroslav Volf says that forgiving is a form of divine self-giving. Justification or rightwising can never be a mere legal declaration or an enabling for the attainment of virtues. It is a reaching into the alienation and hopelessness of the hell into which creation has fallen in order to bring that hell into the divine presence and embrace–so as to restore true life and hope. Only the truly repentant can enter in, only those who ride the stream of the Spirit toward letting go of the idolatry that binds and alienates, so that all that is left is a cry for mercy that can press through to liberty.” (Macchia:150)

    Steven Studebaker makes a three-fold categorization for the creative-redemptive work of the Holy Spirit: liminal, constitutional, and eschatological.

    Liminal refers to boundary-crossing/freeing enablement. One example is divine “transfer” from the condition of mortal existence in Adam to imperishable, resurrection life in Christ through the Spirit (e.g., Romans 5:17-18; 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:22). The Spirit that God in Christ “has been given to us” (Romans 5:5) has a “liminal” role in bringing about the reality of becoming free from the law of sin and death–no condemnation–to those who become united to and co-crucified with the Lord Jesus.

    I recently read Christian Mostert’s essay, “Salvation’s Setting: Election, Justification and the Church” in Ivor J. Davidson and Murray A. Rae, (eds), *God of Salvation: Soteriology in Theological Perspective* (Farnham, Surry & Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing: 2011). Christian Mostert recognizes a distinction between the *metaphors* of justification, reconciliation, and redemption (among others), and the *doctrine* of justification:

    “The *doctrine* of justification, though having its basis in the Pauline *metaphor* of justification, is more comprehensive and more fully (trinitarianly) articulated. Its centre is the death and resurrection of the incarnate Son who, though without sin, was made to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Its framework, however, is the divine economy, the work of the three persons of the Holy Trinity for the reconciliation of the world with God. Robert Jenson sees it as ‘a triune event, a mode of the divine persons’ mutual life. Every work of God is begun by the Father, accomplished in the Son, and perfected in the Spirit, having its unity in their *perichoresis*’”(p. 131).

    In the same monograph, John Webster contributed a superb essay, “‘It was the Will of the Lord to Bruise Him’: Soteriology and the Doctrine of God.” John Webster sees salvation in the fullness and plenitude of God as Father, Son, and Spirit. In this context, Justification by grace through faith is truly of the Father’s self-giving plan, the Son’s gracious enactment, and the Spirit’s perfecting fulfillment. Variations and shortcomings of trust/belief at the human level are not barriers to justification.

    Thanks very much for pointing me to Frank Macchia’s published works.

  4. MJG says:


    Thanks for all this. I think a distinction between the Pauline understanding of justification and a larger theology of justification is in order, but I would also argue that Paul’s own understanding of justification is itself transformative, Trinitarian, etc.

  5. John Andrew Kossey says:


    I fully agree with you that Paul’s understanding of justification is fundamentally transformative. Union with the risen Lord Jesus could be described, I think, as an “onto-Christic” or onto-cruciform, transformative relationship through the Holy Spirit.

    Metaphors that Paul uses for justification are interconnected and mutually informing–as you nicely describe in *Inhabiting the Cruciform God*.

  6. MJG says:

    It’s good to see us on the same page!!

  7. Erick Ybarra says:


    I came across this website through learning of Michael Gorman. I am looking forward to reading his work on justification and theosis.

    I think that one small place that sometimes gets passed over in the corpus of Paul is in Galatians 2:17-19 . “But if when we seek to be justified by Christ we ourselves are also found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin”.

    Obviously Paul is talking against the background of the judaizers convicting the apostle Peter of sin by associating with the uncircumcised, but the fact that Paul can allude to the fact that we are not found sinners while being justified by Christ, has an implicit hint towards the transformative aspect of Justification .

  8. John Andrew Kossey says:

    We can understand justification by/in Christ as both coherent action of one true God and collaborative work of the same God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s also consider that the Father’s declaratory action associated with justification primarily occurred at the resurrection of Jesus.

    Justification by grace through faith (in the Spirit; not always explicitly stated) is a multifaceted relational metaphor that embraces the “Word-Gift,” in whom God the electing Father mercifully and gratuitously effects his plan of salvation for humankind and all creation (Eph 1; Rom 8).

    The prime declaration of being in right relationship is God’s proclamation that Christ Jesus is “Son of God by an act of power that raised him from the dead” (Rom 1:4; Phil 2:9–11). Those whom God elects and calls are justified by divine action of becoming united with the incarnate, crucified, and, resurrected Lord Jesus (Rom 4:24; 8:32; 1 Tim 3:16).

    Justification is Spirit-enabled transformative joining—faith-union—with God’s Son. Personal justification means sharing in Christ’s accomplished vindication through the Spirit.

    Jesus, crucified and resurrected, is the personal pivot and locus of justification. Christ Jesus is the living epitome of divine grace and wellspring of forgiveness, authentic faithfulness/trust, and reconciliation to God. Participating in such benefits is the result of being transformatively joined to the Lord Jesus in faith.

    The Holy Spirit—the Life-Giving Truth-Leader that the Father sends through his risen Son—actualizes justification in Christ to the praise and glory of God by:

    Freeing and rescuing sinners from alienating condemnation and sin’s malevolent tyranny to a new life of “not guilty any longer” peaceful relationship with God in Christ
    Igniting and sustaining faithfulness/trust as free response to proclamation of the Gospel
    Bestowing divine adoption, filial fellowship, fruitfulness, holiness, and self-giving solidarity
    Empowering participation in the new-covenant household of faith as witnesses and ambassadors for Christ
    Assuring everlasting vindication and “hoped for” righteousness in union with the Lord Jesus on the Day of final judgment (2 Cor 1:21–22; Gal 5:5)

    Becoming transformatively joined with Christ through the Spirit binds believers to the Lord Jesus’ life of definitive faithfulness to God. Christians need not rely upon the frailty of creaturely faith. As with co-resurrection, co-crucifixion and co-vindication, those who are faithing into Jesus Christ actively share in his cruciform faithfulness through the indwelling Spirit.

    In justification and as a result of justification, believers experience oneness with the Son as well as belonging to the Son, who belongs to God (1 Cor 3:23; Gal 3:26–29).“Ordered belonging” and being identified as Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16–17) reinforce the importance of Spirit-enabled transformative union with Christ. Becoming transformatively joined to Christ in the Spirit also produces oneness with the Father (John 17:21, 23).

    Justification is always God’s collaborative work in Christ through the Spirit, never ours to earn as created human beings. The concept of becoming transformatively-joined to the Savior through the Spirit helps center justification on the crucified, resurrected, and vindicated Lord Jesus, not an abstract doctrinal proposition.

    Much as glorification is the future completion of justification (Moltmann), a personal, judicial aspect of justification is particularly appropriate for final eschatological judgment. God the Father’s declarative action in raising Jesus from the dead also has cosmic courtroom overtones.

    The overall work of the electing Father, the reconciling Son, and the actualizing/perfecting Spirit comprehensively collaborate to effect justification. One action; three inseparable, distinct, divine contributions.

    Justification—Spirit-enabled transformative joining to Christ—is part of a rich matrix of biblical metaphors, such as redemption, reconciliation, adoption, access, sanctification, and sacrifice, that collectively illuminates God’s saving sovereignty as Father, Son, and Spirit to fulfill the divine purpose of bringing salvation:

    So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it (Isa 55:11 NAB).

  9. John Andrew Kossey says:

    Hello, Mike,

    Here are refinements to my post in March:

    Spirit-instituted transformative joining with Christ describes divine implementing action more clearly than Spirit-enabled transformative joining.

    By being joined and bonded to Christ through the Spirit, each believer actively participates in the Son’s death, life, and history.

    Those who are faithing into Christ are justified—transformatively joined to him—by God’s unmerited grace-gift accomplished redemptively in the faith/faithfulness of the crucified-and-risen Jesus and instituted person-by-person through the freeing–bonding agency of the Holy Spirit.

    Being transformatively joined to Christ through the liberating–bonding of the Holy Spirit helps explain how co-crucifixion and co-resurrection are new-creation realities in which every believer participates. The “no longer I” of Galatians 2:19–20 died with Christ in co-crucifixion. The “now living I” is resurrection life that believers share with the risen Christ
    (Romans 6:6, 8, 11; 8:1–2).

    Karl Barth wrote in Church Dogmatics of the unifying, bonding action of the Holy Spirit:

    “The work of the Holy Spirit . . . is to bring and to hold together that which is different . . . to co-ordinate them . . . and therefore to bind them into a true unity. . . The threefold parousia of Jesus Christ opens up the time during which his Spirit engages in these binding actions” (IV/3.2, p. 761).

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