Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 17

JUSTIFICATION THROUGH NEW CREATION The Holy Spirit and the Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls


ustification by grace through faith alone has become for many Protestants the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiaethe article by which the church stands or falls. Martin Luther never used this phrase, although it does capture the importance that he gave the doctrine. Luther wrote, "We must learn therefore diligently the article of justification, as I often admonish you. For all other articles of our faith are comprehended in it: and if that remain sound, then are all the rest sound."1 Without going into the technical problems involved in discerning what Luther meant by this statement, I quote him here only to note the importance that justification has been granted in the Lutheran tradition and, to an extent, in other Protestant traditions as well. In the light of this importance, many welcomed the signing of the recent Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (31 October 1999) by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation with the hope that a renewed, ecumenical understanding of the doctrine could be achieved. Some, however, have been somewhat disappointed that the Declaration did not proceed much beyond negotiating sixteenth-century conflicts. In particular, the Declaration reveals the lack of a role for the Holy Spirit in justification beyond the limited confines of the individual life of faith, despite the affirmation of a trinitarian foundation for the doctrine in Article 15. If justification is to offer a liberating word in an increasingly graceless world, the doctrine must be reworked precisely at its point of neglect, namely, at the relation-

Frank D. Macchia is Associate Professor of Theology at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA and author of Spirituality and Social Liberation: The Message of the Blumharts in the Light of Wuerttemberg Pietism (1993). Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (Philadelphia: Quaker City, 1874), 364.


Justification through New Creation


ship between justification and the work of the Spirit as the giver of new life. What follows is an attempt at outlining the directions that such a rethinking of justification may take to open the doctrine to the full breadth of the Spirit's work in and through Christ to make all things new.

Luther was a child of the Middle Ages, convinced that God burned with holy wrath against sinful humanity. The gracious God seemed out of reach for Luther, because the reality of sin was inescapable, even for believers. How can believers escape God's wrath? The answer came from Christ as mediator who provided the basis on which God would accept sinners. Luther stated the fundamental problem at the base of justification in this way: For God cannot deny his own nature; that is, he must needs hate sin and sinners: and thus ... does of necessity, for otherwise he should be unrighteous and love sin. How then can these two contradictions stand together: I am a sinner and most worthy of God's wrath and indignation; and yet the Father loves me? Here nothing comes between except Christ the mediator.2 As a person still burdened with sin, Luther sought assurance in the face of judgment in the word of pardon through Christ alone. There would be nothing in himself that could account for this word because he was a sinner. Rather, he found his justification before God extra nos (apart from ourselves) through the alien righteousness of Christ that was imputed to him by grace through faith alone. We thus have Luther's unique contribution to the history of theology in the west: We are simul Justus et peccator (simultaneously just and sinner). We are sinners whose justification is dependent exclusively on Christ's imputed righteousness that overcomes God's wrath and wins God's favor for us. For example, Luther disagreed with the "Papists" who reasoned out of Aristotle that "righteousness is essentially in us," responding that grace is outside of us "in the grace of God only and in his imputation."3 Are we to assume, therefore, that Luther held to a notion of justification that was unrelated to our actual transformation as sinners toward the righteous and holy life? Not at all. In the sense that Luther still regarded himself as a sinner in need of Christ's perfection, his translation to the kingdom of Christ's righteousness is something "separate from us" and imputed to us. But Christ's righteousness imputed to us is not wholly outside the actual experience of the believer in the here-and-now for Luther. He wrote in Article 23 of his Disputation Concerning Justification, "For we perceive that a man who is justified is not yet arighteousman, but is in the very movement or journey toward righteousness."4 This "journey
Ibid., 320. Ibid., 319. 4 Martin Luther, "The Disputation Concerning Justification," in Luther's Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1960), 34:152.
3 2


Theology Today toward righteousness" obviously includes a foretaste of new life and the victory over sin and death in the here-and-now. Indeed, this justification won by Christ alone sustains and heals us throughout life until final righteousness is achieved beyond this earthly life. As Luther wrote, "Daily we sin, daily we are continually justified, just as a doctor is forced to heal sickness day by day until it is cured."5 As the Finnish interpretation of Luther has shown us, the living Christ in union with the believer by faith is the cause of justification as an eschatological reality in which we presently participate by the grace of God.6 Luther himself stated, "So Christ, living and abiding in me, takes away and swallows up all evils which vex and afflict me. This union or conjunction, then, is the cause that I am delivered from the terror of the law and sin, am separate from myself, and translated into Christ and his kingdom."7 In Christ, we are slain in order to be reborn with his righteousness by faith. In Luther's words from Articles 29 and 30 of the Disputation Concerning Justification, Christ's ultimate and perfect righteousness "slays the whole world," which means that it is "too great to allow any reckoning or consideration of our work."8 Faith must therefore involve God's act of imputing Christ's righteousness to us, "for, after faith, there remain yet certain remnants of sin in our flesh."9 In faith, "we have the first fruits of the Spirit, but, because faith is weak, it is not made perfect without God's imputation."10 In other words, the imputation of Christ's righteousness is required to bring about justification because the down payment of the Spirit and the corresponding act of faith are penultimate and fall short of Christ's ultimate perfection and glory. Christ's righteousness imputed to us serves as a bridge for Luther between participation in Christ through the life of faith, which is still weak and imperfect, and the ultimate justice and perfection as an eschatological reality. This final righteousness, which Christ has won for us and which is imputed to us, is connected implicitly for Luther with the final, new creation "in which righteousness shall dwell." He stated concerning our eschatological existence as justified sinners, "In the meantime, as long as we live here, we are carried and nourished in the bosom of the mercy and long-sufferance of God, until the great day. Then shall there be new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness shall dwell."11
Ibid., 191. See the essays in Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). See also Veli-Matti Krkkinen, "Deification and a Pneumatological Concept of Grace: Unprecedented Convergences between Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and Pentecostal-Holiness Soteriologies" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Springfield, MO, March 1998). 7 Luther, Galatians, 267. 8 Luther, "Disputation," 156. 9 Luther, Galatians, 315. 10 Ibid., 316. 1 Martin Luther, Lectures on the Romans, ed. Hilton C. Oswald, in Luther's Works, ed. Helmut T. Layman (St. Louis: Concordia, 1972), 25:263.
6 5

Justification through New Creation


Luther's understanding of justification begs for greater exploration into its accomplishment ultimately through the Spirit's final work in new creation on a broad cosmic scale. Such an exploration needs to exploit Luther's understanding of justice as redemptive justice that God's victorious reign will establish through the transformation of creation brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ. As Gustaf Auln has shown, this "classical" understanding of the atonement that upholds Christ as victor over sin and death was at the heart of Luther's understanding of salvation.12 Luther, however, was not entirely free from the passion of Anselm to view the justice won by Christ as merited favor and escape from wrath. This latter view of justice reflects the priorities of the secular Roman understanding of distributive justice, which, as Allster McGrath has noted, was unable to capture the theological depth of redemptive justice, or justice won by the actual deliverance of creation from the victimization of sin and death.13 Luther's understanding of the justice won by Christ is complex, and one could argue that his view of redemptive justice was not adequately explored in subsequent Lutheran theology, leading to an understanding of forensic justification as a legal acquittal detached from the redemption of creation by the Spirit of God. This forensic theory that came to dominate later Lutheran confessions and subsequent evangelical theology needs to be questioned.14 The picture it supports is of an impartial judge who must regard us as guilty but whose wrath is turned away by the work of Christ, which merits favor in our stead. Where in this doctrine of forensic justification is the God of Scripture who functions as an injured party pursuing us relentlessly in love? Where is the biblical sense of justice that is not fundamentally punitive but redemptive? Most of all, where is the Holy Spirit in this forensic model of justification, the Spirit who serves as the agent by which God makes things right for, and with, fallen creation? Does Jesus satisfy God's righteousness through meritorious deeds, or does he inaugurate it for all of creation in the power of the Spirit? There is some promise for correcting the rather one-sided forensic doctrine of justification in the Catholic response to the Reformation in the Councils and Decrees of Trent. There one finds much that had been missing from the shallow well of the forensic model. Here was an attempt to see justification as something God does (and not merely declares or imputes). God makes us right with the divine life by a justice that redeems and heals. Naturally, this is a dated document with obvious limitations and
12 Gustaf Auln, Christus Victor: A Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement (New York: Macmillan, 1969). 13 Allster E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 2:33^. 14 I appreciate Clark Pinnock's effort as an evangelical to augment a forensic notion of justification with a richly pneumatological understanding of salvation as a journey by the Spirit through Christ toward union with God. But Pinnock chooses not to use his understanding of salvation to forge a new understanding of justification (Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996], 155ff.).


Theology Today shortcomings. Mention of our merits before God made possible by the grace of God reveals a somewhat skewed understanding of righteousness. The elaborate theology of grace and infused qualities was unlike Luther's emphasis on the miraculous work of the Spirit in pouring out God's love into our hearts. One misses the sharp focus on justification as a judgment of God heard in faith as assurance in weakness, which is the real power of the forensic model, despite its one-sided and distorted presentation of justification. Finally, Trent's focus on penance and the subjective response of faith and love revealed an anthropocentric focus on the role of pneumatology in justification. Yet, the fact that most of the framers at Trent had little direct exposure to the writings and responses from Reformers causes one to wonder how applicable Trent was to the complexity of their thoughts, and the fact that Trent did not name the Reformers but merely cautioned against erroneous ideas revealed a certain willingness on the part of its framers to keep the door open to further dialogue. These facts hold great promise for ecumenical exchange today.15 More recent ecumenical efforts have focused on bridging the typically Protestant, forensic understanding of justification as a declaration of our righteous standing and the Catholic understanding of justification as a transformation whereby we are made just. The Catholic theologian Hans Kng, in his classic dissertation on the doctrine of justification in the theology of Karl Barth, argued that God's declaration of our justification also transforms because it is God's declaration. God's declaration creates the reality it proclaims.16 Justification is thus both declarative and transformative, a view shared by Lutherans and Catholics today in ecumenical discussion, culminating in the recent signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Other bilateral dialogues have worked toward similar conclusions. It is noteworthy that the international CatholicMethodist dialogue did not reject forensic categories, claiming that believers are "regarded and treated as righteous" but that this treatment culminates in their participation in the divine.17 Yet, such ecumenical agreements still tend to be individualistic, confining what little emphasis exists on the Spirit to the life of faith in relation to works. What is still needed, however, is a fresh focus on the foundational role of the Holy Spirit's work in new creation in understanding the holistic nature of justification. Robert Jenson's remarks on the need to attempt a trinitarian doctrine of justification may be helpful toward this end. Jenson

Erwin Iserloh, "Luther and the Council of Trent: The Treatment of Reformation Teaching by the Council," in Justification by Faith: Do the Sixteenth-Century Condemnations Still Apply?, ed. Karl Lehmann, Michael Root, and William J. Rusch (New York: Continuum, 1999), 161-73. 16 Hans Kng, Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981), 213ff. 17 Harding Meyer, "The Text 'The Justification of the Sinner' in the Context of Previous Ecumenical Dialogues on Justification," in Justification by Faith: Do the Sixteenth-Century Condemnations Still Apply?, ed. Karl Lehmann, Michael Root, and William J. Rusch (New York: Continuum, 1999), 82.

Justification through New Creation


describes three different views of justificationthe Pauline, the Protestant, and the Catholicand parallels them with the work of the Triune God. According to Jenson, the Pauline understanding of justification centers on the issue of how God the Father maintains divine righteousness in the midst of redemptive acts. The Protestant view of justification focuses on the word of grace in Christ that is heard and embraced in faith, while the Catholic understanding emphasizes the transformation of the person through the Spirit.18 It would be interesting to pursue how pneumatology can inform all three understandings of justification mentioned by Jenson and so contribute toward a multidimensional view of justification as a work of the Spirit in new creation while avoiding discussion of pneumatology within the limited confines of the believer's subjective response of faith. Promising toward this end is Jrgen Moltmann's suggestion that the doctrine of justification must be developed christologically and eschatologically.19 More promising still is Moltmann's shift under Christoph Blumhardt's influence from a "works-centered" to a "victim-centered" view of justification as accomplished by therighteousnessthat comes from the breaking in of the kingdom of God and the deliverance that this brings to those victimized by sin and injustice, as well as to those who victimize.20 In what follows, the pneumatologically barren notion of forensic justification will be challenged and replaced by a view of justification as a work of the Spirit in the risen Christ toward the renewal of all of creation.

The Hebrew understanding of the righteousness of God is saving righteousness, namely, a righteousness that is revealed in God's redemptive acts among the people of God. Brevard Childs asserts that righteousness in the Old Testament "consists, above all, in acts of the saving deeds of redemption by which God maintains and protects the divine promise to fulfill the covenant obligations with Israel."21 Righteousness in the Old Testament is a new "creation event" that sets thingsrightfor creation and between creation and God.22 The sense of forensic judgment is not absent from the Old Testament. God declares in advance what God will do, and these words sustain people in faith, even in absence of sight (Isa 46:10).
Robert Jenson, "Justification as a Triune Event," Modern Theology 11 (1995), 421. Jrgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 149. 20 Jrgen Moltmann, "Was heisst heute 'evangelisch?' Von der Rechtfertigungslehre zur Reich-Gottes-Theologie," Evangelische Theologie 57 (1997), 41-6. 21 Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 488. 22 With regard to the Old Testament, Hans Heinrich Schmid can state: "The establishment of justice and righteousness is nothing less than a creation event" ("Rechtfertigung als Schpfungsgeschehen: Notizen zur altestamentlichen Vorgeschichte eines neutestamentlichen Themas," in Rechtfertigung: Festschrift fr Ernst Ksemann zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. in Johannes Friedrich, Wolfgang Plmann, and Peter Stuhlmacher, [Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1976], 406).


Theology Today Also, as Thomas Finger notes rightly, the legal implications of forensic justification in the Old Testament are highly metaphorical. He points out that God's forensic judgment takes place in the midst of "clashes among political and cosmic forces and of God's righteousness as a power which overcomes them in concrete reality."23 This promised righteousness achieved by God as therighteousjudge in the midst of redemptive deeds extends to the deliverance of the poor and downtrodden. It also reaches, according to Childs, to all of creation, to a "cosmic order" that spans law, wisdom, nature, and politics. The cosmic goal of righteousness suggests an eschatological dimension to justification. Childs notes that in the late postexilic and Hellenistic periods, "the eschatological longing for the manifestation of God's righteous salvation increases in predominance."24 By the time we reach the New Testament witness, justification is ultimately defined as the justice or righteousness that God's final act of redemption will create by the Spirit in the resurrection of the faithful and in the transformation of creation. This Old Testament and ancient Jewish understanding of justification has carried over into the New Testament. As Childs states, "clearly the New Testament usage stands in the tradition in continuity with the Old Testament in emphasizing, not God's revenging justice but [God's] saving righteousness."25 Ernst Ksemann noted that the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic backgrounds inform Paul's reference to the saving righteousness of God as both a gift and the redemptive power by which God manifests God's eschatological saving activity toward creation. According to Ksemann, Paul was convinced that justification would be achieved through Christ's death and resurrection, which set in motion an eschatological hope of a cosmic restoration that has already appeared as a present reality to be grasped in faith.26 As Ksemann wrote, "To be justified means that the creator remains faithful to the creature, as the father remained faithful to the prodigal son, in spite of guilt, error, and godlessness; it means he changes the fallen and apostate into new creatures."27 As Karl Barth claimed, justification is God's self-vindication as Creator and Redeemer of creation against all denials and charges to the contrary.28 Justification is also God's act of faithfulness to the covenant promises to creation, establishing justice for creation by delivering it from sin, oppres"An Anabaptist Perspective on Justification," in Justification and Sanctification in the Traditions of the Reformation: Prague V, the Fifth Consultation on the First and Second Reformations, Geneva, 13 to 17 February 1998, ed. Milan Opocensky and Praic Ramonn (Geneva: World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1999), 57. ^Biblical Theology, 488-99. 25 Ibid., 494. 26 "The Righteousness of God in Paul," in New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), 168-82. 27 "Justification and Salvation History in the Epistle to the Romans," in Perspectives on Paul (London: SCM, 1971), 74-5. 28 The Doctrine of Reconciliation (Church Dogmatics All) (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1958), 562.

Justification through New Creation


sion, and death, and, at the same time, setting things right between creation and God. Through the work of the Spirit in Christ, there is justice for the victimized and the possibility of pardon and righteousness for the victimizer. Justification is thus inconceivable apart from such concepts as reconciliation and sanctification. One must wonder why such insights from the Bible have had such little effect on ecumenical documents on justification, which tend to lack an appreciation for the work of the Spirit beyond the narrow confines of personal faith and works, or the preaching and sacramental ministries of the church. A greater appreciation is needed for the Spirit as the breath of God in creation (Gen 1:1) and in the coming kingdom of God, which fulfills all righteousness by setting free those who are oppressed (Matt 12:28), raising the dead, and renewing the entire creation (Rom 8:18-25). Part of the reason for the neglect of such a broad pneumatology at the base of justification has been the gradual neglect in the west of the essential role of the Spirit in creation and the kingdom in Jesus' work as Redeemer. Historically, the gradual victory of logos christology over the typically Jewish spirit christology involved the danger of eclipsing Jesus' humanity, including his need of the Spirit and his history of openness to the Spirit. From the foundation of a logos christology, the possibility existed of neglecting the Spirit's essential role in the church's understanding of Christ's redemptive work. Protestant theology has tended, including Wesley, to confine justification to the cross as the event in which God's justice and wrath were satisfied and the basis of justification of the sinner objectively established. Where is the Holy Spirit in this understanding of Christ's redemptive work for our justification? Since the New Testament witness clearly establishes the resurrection of Christ as an event of the Spirit (Rom 8:11), the resurrection was thus reserved for the basis of our subjective faith response to a justification "objectively" won in the cross. It is then sanctification that has its basis in the resurrection. The cross justifies by satisfying God's justice while the resurrection sanctifies with new life. The end result is that the Spirit has nothing directly to do with the origin of justification. Joseph Fitzmyer thus complains that the resurrection as an event of the Spirit was viewed as "an appendage or even as an exemplary confirmation of Jesus' death, which was considered to be the real cause of forgiveness of sins and justification."29 If the cross, and not the resurrection, is the real basis for justification, what is one to do with Rom 4:25, which states that Christ was "raised for our justification"? There are commentators who have gone out of their way to avoid the implication that Rom 4:25,
^Romans (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 389. I am grateful to Lyle Dabney for originally drawing my attention to the significance of Rom 4:25 and the resurrection of Christ for justification; see his "Justified in the Spirit: Soteriological Reflections on the Resurrection" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Orlando, FL, November 1998).


Theology Today especially in the light of 8:11, clearly makes Jesus' resurrection by the Spirit of God the very basis of our justification. For example, Charles Hodge regards the reference of Rom 4:25 to the resurrection as the mere "evidence" that justification through the satisfaction of the cross has been accomplished.30 Others would play with the text so that it has Christ being raised "with a view to" our reception of justification by faith, although this interpretation has little support from the language of the text.31 In what almost seems to be a protest against this text, Everett Harrison in his commentary on Romans states, "It may be helpful to recognize that justification, considered objectively from the standpoint of God's provision, was indeed accomplished in the death of Christ and therefore did not require the resurrection to complete it."32

"Jesus was the justified Son of God precisely as the Person of the Spirit, a justification that was fulfilled in his resurrection, and we are justified in him as bearers of the Spirit, an experience that will culminate in our resurrection.'
Calvin disagreed. He interpreted Rom 4:25 to mean that justification through the resurrection was a "renovation" from the old creation to the new.33 One looks in vain, however, for a systematic development of this thought in his Institutes. Aquinas called Christ's resurrection and ascension "the cause of our justification, by which we return to newness of justice."34 The basic thought of this gospel is clear: Christ took our place on the cross to bear our trespasses and death and, by the Spirit in the resurrection, to inaugurate redemptive justice for us and all of creation. Christ was the holy and elect Son of God through his conception by the Spirit in Mary's womb (Luke 1:35). He took the place of sinners in his baptism "to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt 3:15) and was endowed with the Spirit toward this purpose. By the Spirit, he set at liberty those who were oppressed (Luke 4:18), which was the beginning of God's redemptive justice in action. The fulfillment of all righteousness initiated at Christ's baptism and endowment with the Spirit and promoted in his liberating ministry occurred in the cross and the resurrection. According to Heb 9:14, he offered himself by the eternal Spirit on the cross to take our place as sinners and to bear our sin and death. He was raised by the Spirit to inaugurate the just creation (Rom 8:11). Indeed, Christ was "revealed in
Charles Hodge, Epistle to the Romans, 9th ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 129. Everett F. Harrison, Romans, vol. 10, The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 54. 52 Ibid. 33 John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 186. 34 Aquinas, Ep. Ad Romanos 4:3; cf. Fitzmyer, Romans, 390.
3 30

Justification through New Creation


the flesh and justified in the Spirit" (1 Tim 3:16). The Spirit's work in the justified new creation inaugurated in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection will one day be realized in the resurrection of the just and the new heavens and new earth. As Wolfhart Pannenberg states, only in the final new creation will God's verdict of "goodness" over the creation be justified.35 It is interesting, however, that Pannenberg does not view this final new creation under the category of justification. Rom 4:25 should, therefore, be connected to Rom 8:22, which associates our future resurrection with our "adoption as children of God," implying that our justification is ultimately fulfilled only when the Spirit fully duplicates in us what the Spirit has done in the resurrected Christ as the new creation and, as such, as the decisive act of redemptive justice. Rom 8:15-16 locates our current experience of adoption as an experience of the Spirit, which allows us to claim our adoption before it is fulfilled in end-time resurrection. Such verses imply that the work of the Spirit through Christ, which culminated in his resurrection from the dead, is the very basis of our justification as adopted children of God in covenant relationship. The Pauline notion of justification is not implying that the Spirit merely "applies" the work of Christ for our justification to the life of faith and obedience. No, what is maintained here is that Jesus was the justified Son of God precisely as the Person of the Spirit, a justification that was fulfilled in his resurrection, and that we are justified in him as bearers of the Spirit, an experience that will culminate in our resurrection. The Pauline texts to which I have just referred suggest that the work of the Spirit in Christ is at the very basis of justification.

Paul's entire insistence is that justification does not come through the works of the law but through God's saving act in Christ and the Spirit, experienced now through the gift of the Spirit and culminating in the resurrection of the body and the new creation. Paul assumes, for example, in Romans 7-8, that new creation through Christ and the Spirit, and not the law, represents the locus of God's savingrighteousness,for "what the law could not do, God did by sending God's Son into the world" (Rom 8:3). The law is "holy, just, and good" (Rom 7:12), but it is not the means by which God's new life in the Spirit is realized. Paul is not working with some abstract notion of divine justice that cannot be satisfied or merited among us by the works of the law, with the result that Christ had to merit it for us. The point is, rather, that the Spirit, not the law, brings the new life that will be fulfilled in the achievement of final justice through new creation and that we grasp already now in faith. The presence of the living Christ through the Spirit among us allows us to experience this justification as belonging to us already in faith. The importance offinalrighteousnessin new creation brought by the Spirit as
Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:645.


Theology Today an eschatological reality is the reason why faith, and not the works of the law, is the means by which this new creation lays claim to us in the here and now. In Galatians, this theme of justification as new creation is present through the gift of the Spirit received in faith. The major point behind Paul's discussion of his gospel of justification in Galatians 1-2 is that the presence of the Spirit of new life is grasped in faith and not works of the law. The major point involving justification is given clearly in Gal 3:2: "The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by believing what you heard?" The blessing of Abraham is indeed justification (3:6-7), but Paul also defines this blessing as the gift of the Spirit: "In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit by faith." Justification and the gift of the Spirit are both defined as the blessing of Abraham, because the new life of the Spirit received in faith is the means by which thefinaljustification, as savingrighteousnessand new creation, lays claim to us in the here and now. In Chapter 5, Paul contrasts works of the law with the walk in the Spirit that fulfills the law. The law cannot bring thefinalrighteousnessas new creation, but such new creation and its foretaste in our walk in the Spirit will fulfill the law. The justice of the law is fulfilled in new creation, not by meritorious works (6:15). Righteousness is "reckoned" to us in faith in Rom 4:3, not because Christ's "merits" have been transferred to us, but because the new creation to be experienced in the resurrection has already laid claim to us in our present state through the presence of the Spirit and our corresponding response of faith. Paul states in 4:24 that righteousness will be reckoned to us who believe "in him who raised Jesus from the dead," and he then follows in 4:25 that Christ "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification." The righteousness that is reckoned to us in faith is not defined as meritorious works transferred to us from Christ, but as the new life of the Spirit unleashed in the resurrection and yet to be fulfilled in new creation. The Reformers were correct in insisting that faith is the means by which the gift of justification is received. Catholics were also right in insisting that faith will involve love present in us as a result of the love of God poured into our hearts through the down payment of the Spirit (Rom 5:5). Trent made this point quite well. Luther was not opposed to the integral role of love in the fulfillment of justification, so long as this love is understood as God's love poured into our hearts by the Spirit and not the loving response of the creature.36 The refusal of many within Reformation traditions to include our loving response in the means by which we receive the gift of justification was rooted in the fear that such an admission might open the door to the belief that our pious acts bring justification. This
36 See Simo Peura, "What God Gives Man Receives: Luther on Salvation," in Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 76-95.

Justification through New Creation


concern is legitimate, but, as Karl Rahner noted, if the love involved in our reception of justification is understood as a gift of grace, a pelagian implication is avoided.37 Kng notes that justification is received by faith alone, but that this faith has the seed of our love already in it.38 If faith is the first step of obedience to God, and if such obedience is motivated from the start by love, faith must include love as a gift of grace and cannot be conceived, even theoretically, without it.

"The formal distinction between justification and sanctification cannot occur in such a way as to prevent justification from involving the life of the Spirit and the new creation to come."

I do not wish to deny that justification brings a word of pardon and forgiveness of sins, for Paul states in the context of a discussion of justification, "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven" (Rom 4:7). The word of pardon comforts us in weakness and guilt and creates faith in the absence of sight. But this word of pardon in justification is integrally tied to our participation as bearers of the Spirit and as people of faith, hope, and love in Christ and, through him, in our own future eschatological existence. This existence is reconciled existence delivered from both the guilt and the power of sin. God's favor and pardon are tied to the final justice that both Christ and the Spirit have won for us and is now attributed to us by grace as a people in need of deliverance from sin and death and as a people requiring pardon and deliverance from promoting such oppression among others. Some may wish to view this discussion as confusing justification with sanctification, or as subordinating the former to the latter. One might even suggest that I am opening the door to "moralism," allowing justification to be based on works. To counter this danger, an emphasis has been placed on justification as the work of the Spirit in the Christ-event and then, through Christ, in all of creation. In the light of justification as the trinitarian act of God, one could view the discussion above as advocating a transformative model of justification that makes sanctification integral to God's fundamental acts of redemptive justice. The major point here is that the formal distinction between justification and sanctification cannot occur in such a way as to prevent justification from involving the life of the Spirit and the new creation to come. Even a "logical" distinction between these concepts can reveal a narrow and inadequate understanding of
37 Karl Rahner, More Recent Writings, vol. 4, Theological Investigations (New York: Crossroad, 1982), 203. Kng, Justification, 256.


Theology Today justification that neglects its true essence as redemptive justice won by Christ and the Spirit and participated in by us through faith, hope, and love. A careful examination of Paul's understanding of justification will not allow this. Those who disagree are left with the difficulty of explaining how justification is theologically integral to sanctification. The discussion thus far suggests that sanctification is the means by which the Spirit achieves justification in the person of Christ and then, through Christ, in all of creation. As important as faith, hope, and love are to our participation in the justified life won for us by God, justification, particularly in its pneumatological dimension, cannot be confined to the life of the believer. Justification is a trinitarian act of cosmic proportions that is based in the Father as the one who creates and elects, in the Son as Redeemer, and in the Spirit as the giver of life. By refusing to define election as an abstract and eternal "absolute decree" (decretum absolutum), Karl Barth opened the door to an understanding of election and justification as worked out in the actual history of Christ and the Spirit toward the redemption of creation.39 As G. C. Berkouwer stated, the absolute decree and its timeless metaphysic, which Barth rightly rejected, "plants the kiss of death on eschatology, and on the way of salvation, and on the doctrine of justification as well."40 In particular, by basing justification in both the crucifixion and the resurrection, Barth came close to challenging the removal of justification from the work of the Spirit and from its trinitarian foundation. Barth would only say that the Spirit in the resurrection "proclaims" the justification established in the cross.41 He discussed the Spirit in justification solely within the context of our subjective appropriation of justification in faith. Had Barth replaced his emphasis in pneumatology on revelation with a dominant focus on new creation, he would have recognized that the work of the Spirit in Christ's resurrection did a great deal more than proclaim justification. Rather, the resurrection inaugurated justification as redemptive justice. A full trinitarian understanding of justification would not confine the Spirit's role to the subjective or even interpersonal dimension of the life of faith. In this regard, I am intrigued by Wilhelm Dantine's refusal to limit the Spirit's role to such narrow confines. Dantine wants to take advantage of the Spirit's work in all of creation in order to open up the doctrine of justification beyond anthropocentric limitations. He refers to the "forensic structure" of the Spirit's work in creation as advocate, intercessor, and witness.42 Although Dantine does not proceed beyond this interesting expansion of the forensic model of justification, his suggestion does provoke deeper thinking. The Spirit's involvement as advocate and intercessor for creation is implied in the Spirit's groaning in and through us for
^Barth, Church Dogmatics 2/2, 115. } Faith and Justification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 156. l Barth, Church Dogmatics All, 514. 1 Justification of the Ungodly (St. Louis: Concordia, 1968), 116-8.


through New Creation


the suffering creation (Rom 8:26). The divine will and judgment to justify and redeem may be seen as a response to an advocate and an intercessor already present in all of creation. If the "Father's" will to justify is expressed in the divine will to send the Son, and the Son's will is expressed in the willingness to be sent, the Spirit's will would therefore be in the cry from creation to receive the gift that will be sent and in the cooperation with the Son in the shaping of the christological answer. Trent was correct in insisting that the Spirit prepares one to receive justification by faith, but it was shortsighted in not viewing this preparation as a cosmic phenomenon that gains unique focus as a preparation for faith. This preparation is the call to which the church attempts to respond in its missionary life.

Krister Stendahl and others have drawn our attention to the fact that Paul wrote of justification as an ecclesiological and social phenomenon. Justification by the Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus breaks down the wall between Jew and gentile and makes them one in Christ (Ephesians 2). Stendahl offers the compelling thesis that the rise of hostility toward Judaism in the life of the early church helps to explain the near absence of the doctrine of justification in the writings of the early church fathers. When this Pauline doctrine emerges again in St. Augustine in thefifthcentury, it lacks Paul's sharp focus on justification as a force of reconciliation between parties that are alienated from each other.43 The fundamental issue for justification is, actually, not the church but Christ, the Spirit, and how the saving righteousness of God brings the new creation and the final justice through them and not through law or anything else. In this regard, the efforts of scholars such as . T. Wright to make justification a doctrine, not of salvation, but of the vindication of one's legitimate place in the ekksia of God is valid to a degree but shortsighted.44 Stendahl and Wright are correct in assuming that justification is realized in the present situation, not only in transformed lives of individuals, but in justice and reconciliation in the midst of transformed communities that live from diverse spiritual gifts. These gifts {charismata, a term related to "grace" [charts]) may be viewed as "individuations of grace" in the church.45 The church affirms and lives as a justified community through a diversity of gifts, including the ordained clergy who are chiefly responsible for nourishing this community in its foretaste pf justified existence by the preached word of God and the celebration of the sacraments.

43 Krister Stendahl, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963), 199-215. **N. T. Wright, "Justification and the Church," What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 113-33. 45 Ernst Ksemann, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 344.


Theology Today If God defined final justice historically through the Spirit's work in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, justification has far-reaching ethical implications. If saving righteousness gained its substance and direction as a work of the Spirit in the liberating story of Jesus, justification as the word of the gospel proclaimed today resists racism, sexism, and any form of living that seeks to destroy or oppress God's creation. Such human forms of oppression and denials of life fall under the judgment of what God is accomplishing and will accomplish through justification as saving righteousness. Jan Milic Lochman notes that God's righteous judgment in justification overturns all penultimate social judgments concerning the value of human beings and the creation. All one-dimensional views of humanity, along with any attempt to exploit humanity and the creation, fall under the judgment of God's justifying grace.46 Human communities and creation have their own value and dignity before God apart from our judgments concerning them. They are not dependent on us for their existence and destiny. We therefore have no right to define humanity and creation according to our self-serving purposes. We can only conclude, then, that the mission of the church consists in preaching the gospel and seeking to be channels of God's new life in the world, as Jrgen Moltmann has shown.47 Such savingrighteousnessat the source of this new life seeks to bring human life and all of creation toward the fulfillment of God's covenant promises. According to the gospel, such new creation is the only way that final justice and righteousness will be fulfilled. The current tension involved in the relationship between the gospel of justification and the responsibility of the church to be agents of social liberation implies a pneumatologically empty understanding of justification. For if justification is the fulfillment of divine justice and righteousness through new creation, a proclamation of this gospel is nonsensical in the context of a church that refuses to be agents of new life and justice in the here and now. When justification is understood as merely a word of pardon that relieves us of the need to merit favor from God, its connection with the social mission of the church becomes questionable. In fact, the compartmentalization of justification and sanctification found in mainstream Protestant theology may carry over into the same lack of integration and holism in the relationship between the kerygmatic and the social missions of the church. In the church's social witness, it will encounter other communities of faith that seek peace and justice. In the church's witness to the gospel of justification toward such communities, there can be no illusions of selfrighteousness. Apologetics that center on the moral or spiritual superiority
J. M. Lochman, "Die Rechtfertigungsbotschaft und der gesellschaftliche Auftrag der Kirche," Zeitschrift fr Evangelische Ethik 18 (1974), 302-4. Note also J. M. Lochman, "The Doctrine of Justification in a Society of Achievers," Reformed World 35/5 (1979), 205-14. 47 Jrgen Moltmann, "Pentecost and the Theology of Life," in Pentecostal Movements as Ecumenical Challenge, ed. Jrgen Moltmann and Karl-Josef Kuschel (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), 123-34.

Justification through New Creation


of Christianity are disallowed from the beginning. Our witness is not to Christianity but to God. If the path to justification in resurrection and new creation is the cross, the church cannot make any claims for itself in its witness. Our witness is exclusively to God's redemptive justice or saving righteousness in Christ through the Spirit. Such a witness will humbly engage in dialogue with communities of faith outside the church that signal in their own unique ways the redemptive justice of God established by the Spirit in the resurrection of Christ. There can be no compromise on the resurrection of Jesus as the locus of the Spirit's work toward justification. Justification itself will prevent the church from thinking that it alone signals this redemptive justice of God in the world. Such forms of self-justification contradict the gospel and prevent the church from incarnating the gospel message. Our gospel is centered on God as Trinity, but it is by no means ecclesiocentric. Though we incarnate the good news as a reconciled community, we do not make our community the object of our mission. The "full gospel" must certainly point us away from ourselves to the saving activity of Christ in the world through the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Toward this end, the church gives of itself completely, and in this humble self-giving discovers its true self-affirmation.

ABSTRACT Despite significant ecumenical discussion on justification, what is still needed is a trinitarian understanding of the doctrine that is filled out by the Holy Spirit's work to bring about justice through new creation. This view seeks to move beyond the preoccupation with meritorious works indicative of the forensic model of justification and to concentrate instead on the lifetransforming righteousness of the kingdom of God. Both Luther and Paul support the idea of justification as achieved through the Spirit's work in the death and resurrection of Christ to deliver the oppressed and to make all things new, thus fulfilling redemptive justice for all of creation and between creation and God. Such righteousness is reckoned to us in faith as bearers of the Spirit of new life and is lived out in the here and now as the church seeks to be agents of new life in the world.

^ s
Copyright and Use: As an ATLAS user, you may print, download, or send articles for individual use according to fair use as defined by U.S. and international copyright law and as otherwise authorized under your respective ATLAS subscriber agreement. No content may be copied or emailed to multiple sites or publicly posted without the copyright holder(s)' express written permission. Any use, decompiling, reproduction, or distribution of this journal in excess of fair use provisions may be a violation of copyright law. This journal is made available to you through the ATLAS collection with permission from the copyright holder(s). The copyright holder for an entire issue of a journal typically is the journal owner, who also may own the copyright in each article. However, for certain articles, the author of the article may maintain the copyright in the article. Please contact the copyright holder(s) to request permission to use an article or specific work for any use not covered by the fair use provisions of the copyright laws or covered by your respective ATLAS subscriber agreement. For information regarding the copyright holder(s), please refer to the copyright information in the journal, if available, or contact ATLA to request contact information for the copyright holder(s). About ATLAS: The ATLA Serials (ATLAS) collection contains electronic versions of previously published religion and theology journals reproduced with permission. The ATLAS collection is owned and managed by the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and received initial funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The design and final form of this electronic document is the property of the American Theological Library Association.