Forensic Friday: Vos Weighs In


To [Paul’s] view the resurrection with all that clusters around it, has behind it a still more potential principle, a principle from which in fact it springs, and in whose depths it lies anchored. And this deeper principle is that of the acquisition of righteousness, a forensic principle through and through, and yet no less than the resurrection a transforming principle also. It is especially by considering the nexus between Christ and the believer that this can be most clearly perceived: in the justification of Christ lies the certainty and the root of the Christian’s resurrection. For the supreme fruit of Christ’s justification, on the basis of passive and active obedience, is nothing else but the Spirit, and in turn the Spirit bears in Himself the efficacious principle of all transformation to come, the resurrection with its entire compass included. (The Pauline Eschatology, p. 151)

In our opinion Paul consciously and consistently subordinated the mystical aspect of the relation to Christ to the forensic one. Paul’s mind was to such an extent forensically oriented that he regarded the entire complex of subjective spiritual changes that take place in the believer and subjective spiritual blessings enjoyed by the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification. The mystical is based on the forensic, not the forensic on the mystical. (“‘Legalism’ in Paul’s Doctrine of Justification,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., p. 384)

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51 Comments

  1. dgh
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Matt, I don’t think I have any objection to your understanding of union as communion or fellowship between God and man. But don’t you think that is a fairly novel use of union? I agree that communion between God and his people is the big idea of Scripture and in that setting justification finds pershaps a smaller canvass. But when folks go to WLC 66-69 or WSC 29-31 and look at union in relation to faith, effectual calling, etc., are they really using union in the sense you describe?

    Again, it would be really helpful of advocates for the import of union could come up with a glossary, let alone an ST that incorporates the doctrine adequately.

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