2 Corinthians 5 and Romans 5 – Two Critical Passages on Justification

Today I want to share how John Piper brings two passages to bear on the justification debate. The quotes are all from his new book, The Future of Justification, and come from pages 170-180. The two passages are Romans 5 and 2 Corinthians 5. Piper is responding to Wright’s slightly odd way of speaking about them. If you are interested in seeing an example of this, there is an article by Wright on 2 Corinthians 5:21 that I must say I found wholly unconvincing. This is what John Piper says about these passages:

Justification . . . happens to all who are connected to Christ the same way condemnation happened to those who were connected to Adam. How is that? Adam acted sinfully, and because we were connected to him, we were condemned in him. Christ acted righteously, and because we are connected to Christ we are justified in Christ. Adam’s sin is counted as ours. Christ’s “act of righteousness” is counted as ours.

Copyright Tony S. Reinke, 2007. . . his being made sin is consistent with his being in himself free from sin; and our being made righteous is consistent with our being in ourselves ungodly. What is so illumining here is specifically the parallel between Christ’s being “made sin” and our “becoming righteous.”

George Ladd brings this out with its crucial implication for imputation. Christ was made sin for our sake. We might say that our sins were reckoned to Christ. He, although sinless, identified himself with our sins, suffered their penalty and doom—death. So we have reckoned to us Christ’s righteousness even though in character and deed we remain sinners. It is an unavoidable logical conclusion that men of faith are justified because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them.

[Piper goes on to quote Hodge.] “There is probably no passage in the Scriptures in which the doctrine of justification is more concisely or clearly stated than in [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Our sins were imputed to Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us. He bore our sins; we are clothed in his righteousness. . . . Christ bearing our sins did not make him morally a sinner . . . nor does Christ’s righteousness become subjectively ours, it is not the moral quality of our souls. . . . Our sins were the judicial ground of the sufferings of Christ, so that they were a satisfaction of justice; and his righteousness is the judicial ground of our acceptance with God, so that our pardon is an act of justice.” (Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, pp. 150–151, cited in John Piper, The Future of Justification, p. 180.)

Book photo courtesy Tony S. Reinke, The Shepherd’s Scrapbook. Used by permission.

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About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, and a writer. Since 1995 he has been a member of Jubilee Church London. Adrian serves as part of Jubilee's leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.
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