Have you ever known any official verdict pronounced by judge and jury that only applied to the person over whom the verdict was announced if he or she received it by faith?
When God condemns the wicked is that verdict received by faith?
The whole idea of receiving a forensic declaration “by faith”–if that is all we know about the situation–destroys the very idea of a forensic justification.
So how can justification be God’s judicial act and yet be received by faith?
Union with Christ is the only thing that keeps these two together.
God doesn’t pronounce an audible sentence every time a person is converted. Rather, he publicly justified Jesus by raising him from the dead. (1 Tim 3.16; Romans 8.1ff; See more here.)
All people who entrust themselves to God through Jesus–who confess that Jesus is Lord and believe God raised him from the dead–belong to Jesus and share in the verdict pronounced over Jesus.
Jesus got the verdict he deserved after suffering a condemnation he did not deserve so that we might receive a vindication we don’t deserve and escape a condemnation we do deserve.
Jesus is the incarnation of God and, by his resurrection, the incarnation of God’s verdict, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
All who are joined to Jesus (which is by faith alone) have his status as pronounced by his resurrection.
- John Murray on Justification by Union with Christ
- Ridderbos on the justification of the ungodly in union with Christ.
- Peter Leithart, John Calvin, and Westminster on justification as a legal benefit of union with Christ
- Real Union or Legal Fiction? John Williamson Nevin’s Controversy With Charles Hodge Over the Imputation of Adam’s Sin (with a Comparison to Robert L. Dabney)