Is the Cross a Legal Fiction? No, Because the Resurrection Changes Us

Many people criticize Penal Subsitutionary Atonement on the basis that it makes justification into a legal fiction. I suppose such a criticism might be valid if a simplistic explanation of PSA was all that happened because of the cross. We have already seen that is not the case. But, more than that we must not think that nothing actually happens to us at conversion. No, we are united with Christ and a real change happens to us — we are born again. This rebirth is explictly linked to the resurrection. Justification is no mere legal fiction, for when God declares something to be the case, He also causes it to become the case. We need to be united with Christ in his death and resurrection. It is only as we become added to Christ that the benefits of His death and resurrection are applied to us.

  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
  • “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)
  • “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)
  • “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)
  • “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:38-39)
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