For the Christian, condemnation is no longer possible. Not only are we pardoned, but we’re counted righteous in Christ. This is for now and through the judgment on the last day. Praise the Lord, Christ’s righteousness is judgment proof on the last day!
When we think about our justification, we often (and rightly so) talk about the death of Christ, but we hear comparatively little about the resurrection of Christ. We should hear more. The resurrection is essential to our understanding of the doctrine and the experience of the assurance it brings.
In Romans 3–4, the Apostle clarifies that justification, the act of God declaring a sinner righteous in his sight, is a gift of his grace and not a result of any works of the law. This gift is to be received by faith, which by its very nature is non-contributory. At the end of the chapter, he hammers the tent peg in thoroughly to make it clear that this status of righteousness is certain and fixed because it’s tethered to our resurrected Lord.
…who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).
The Justification of Jesus
What does Jesus’s resurrection have to do with our justification? To get the full sense, we need to go in the back door. We have to look at a couple of passages.
The first is 1 Timothy 3:16, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
This was likely a hymn or a confession of faith in the early church. What’s interesting here is what we find in the middle: vindicated by the Spirit. This is referring to Christ, and the Holy Spirit does the act.
What does it mean then that Jesus was vindicated or, perhaps more shockingly, “justified” by the Spirit? The word translated “vindicated” is the same word translated as “justified” or the act of being declared righteous.
You might be thinking, Why would Jesus need to be justified? He’s sinless. He is sinless, for sure. What Paul is referring to is the fact that he is who he said he was. He is the righteous one. He is a law-fulfiller (Matt. 3:15). He is the Son of God (John 5:25). He is the one who always did what was pleasing to his Father (John 8:29). The Holy Spirit vindicates or justifies Jesus in the sense that he declares that Jesus is, in fact, the righteous one. In the Old Testament, the prophets trained their readers to anticipate this concept of the suffering servant being vindicated or justified after his suffering (Is. 50:4–9).