The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How does Jesus's resurrection make people righteous?


LLC, I asked what you make of the NT apostles view, and you seem to cite how you interpret the OT as teaching something else. For me that’s a backwards hermeneutic to the NT. It’d be like Jesus saying, “You’ve heard, ‘An eye for an eye,’ but I say” different, and the Pharisees respond by saying, you can’t mean that, the OT says, '“An eye for an eye.” It would be irrelevant to the challenge that Jesus asserts

So e.g. if Rom. 8:1-4 asserts that in Christ, the Spirit now can set us free to meet the requirements of the Law by how we live, and you responded by saying No, the OT really means all that was already fine without Christ, it might be good Judaism, but it wouldn’t change what Paul was claiming.

Thus e.g. when you seem to interpret Gen 1:7 as teaching that the “new covenant” already operates, and thus the apostles can’t say that Jesus inaugurates it, I find you contradict both Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s assertion that it is a future hope, as well as the apostles’ plain indications that Jesus indeed is the one who brings this which is better. I don’t even see a reference to the new covenant in Gen. 1, etc.




Right from the Book of Concord, which is possibly the most influential text in western Christianity:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that sentiment from fellow Christians. And it’s not like they got the idea out of nowhere. It’s pervasive in the NT.

Eph 2:8

Rom 5:1

1 Tim 2:5-6

Melanchthon in the Apology comments, “how will Christ be Mediator if we do not use Him as Mediator in justification, if we do not hold that we are counted righteous for His sake?”

Rom 3





Thanks qaz,

I cited numerous texts stating that we are judged and justified according to our righteous works (or lack thereof), and that the apostles’ claim that Jesus death and the work of the Spirit makes such a righteousness possible.

Your response is texts that the competing tradition sees as countering that. But I’ve not denied that justification is also said to be through faith, or said that our works merit forgiveness, or that they are simply our own doing, etc. Indeed, I argue the opposite, and affirm those things.

What your response doesn’t do is engage or answer any texts I presented. Thus it appears we have a classic example of dueling texts, where the two sides never meet. It does seem the devil is always in the details :wink: My sense is that what is desired to be most compelling is an interpretation that does justice to both side’s texts. But unless the texts I presented are explained differently, I see no choice but to maintain that they support the conclusions I presented. Again, a key work that seeks at length to do justice to both strands of texts and the messy details of exegesis Is that of today’s most prominent evangelical NT scholar, N.T. Wright.


Bob, do you think any of the texts you’ve cited show that unbelievers who do righteous works are considered righteous? If do, which ones? I think the standard Christian explanation would be that when the NT seems to say that righteous works justify people, it’s only talking about believers who do righteous works. Which brings us back to my question of how Jesus’s death and resurrection make people righteous. If there are two people who perform the same righteous actions (clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick), with the exception that one is a Christian and one is an unbeliever, why is the Christian the only one justified?


But nothing is said in the sheep-and-goats parable that necessarily identifies the sheep as believers. Some say that since the sheep addressed Jesus as “Lord,” it follows that they are believers. But the goats also addressed Jesus as “Lord,” so. . . .



So all that shows is that some Christians are not righteous; faith AND works are required. I’m just having a hard time seeing why Jesus had to be murdered to complete the equation.


Pretty much on the money…


No, that’s not what it shows, and that’s not the reason why I responded as I did. In the post above that I responded to, you said, “I think the standard Christian explanation would be that when the NT seems to say that righteous works justify people, it’s only talking about believers who do righteous works.” But, the sheep-and-goats parable shows that righteous works were done by people who were not identified as believers. They may have been believers, but nothing in the parable necessarily identifies them as such.



The parable doesn’t need to identify the sheep as Christians because it can be gleaned from other statements in the NT like…

John 3:18
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Mark 16:16
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.


The point is, relevant to what I am trying to show here–nothing more, nothing less–the parable does not identify the sheep as believers. And you agree that it does not: “The parable doesn’t need to identify the sheep as Christians. . . .


That’s a great controversial, but apt, question! :slight_smile: All of the NT is focused on and to believers and their status, so this is only indirectly addressed. But I lean to “Yes.” As Lancia suggests, Jesus’ righteous “goats” appear to not be conscious of having served Jesus. And many such texts are like 1 John’s statement that, ‘ALL people who love know God,’ which at the least don’t specify that this criterion is limited to believers, or that no others can love. And in Acts it is said about the Gentile Centurion, that those who do good everywhere are accepted.

A text that especially influences me here is Romans 2:14’s: “When Gentiles (pagans), who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

As I said, all the focus is on how faith is a vital help. But raising the possibility here that unbelievers’ righteous acts can “defend” them seems to open the door to the possibility that those who don’t even know of the formal Gospel can be judged according to the same principle Paul often applies to believers: Did they display some of this essential obedience to what they were able to recognize as righteous? I suspect this may even correlate with chapter one’s observation that in some sense, even those who have not heard, are able to “know God,” and thus have potential to gratefully respond to that sense that Someone else gets credit for what we have and can do. I.e. without a specifically ‘Christian’ understanding, their life can still emanate from a kind of ‘faith’ in God and from the recognition that this is all the gift of God’s grace. That would seem just to me, and of course only God can know one’s heart and the measure of obedience used to properly evaluate which of us needs more sanctification before being finally fully justified.

In candor, when I argued this in a paper for my traditional Bible prof in 1969, he gave me an F, saying that all Paul wanted to do is see that everyone who doesn’t know about Christ is condemned :frowning: Oh well, it’s hardly the only place I tend to be an iconoclast!


Bob, everything that the New Testament teaches can be found in the Old Testament.
As John 1:1 says in the beginning was the Word. In Genesis, God commands man to be fruitful and multiply. One cannot be fruitful unless he is living in or following the Spirit of God/Word, as this is what produces fruit.

Genesis 1:22 Joseph is a fruitful bough by a well. His branches run over the hill."
Genesis 1:38 "and Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”
Genesis 26:12 “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold and the Lord blessed him.”

From these verses, both Isaac and Joseph were following the Spirit of God/Word and producing fruit.

Genesis 26:5 “because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept my charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”
These were NOT the laws and commandments written in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, etc. since they had not yet been written. This was the “new covenant” as it says in Galatians 3:8 that the gospel was given to Abraham.

Deut. 32:9-13 For the Lord’s portion is his people ; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He encircled him, He instructed him. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him and there was no god with him. He made him ride in the heights of the earth…"

Again, these were God’s people who were living in the Spirit.

1 Cor.10:2-4 “All were baptized into Moses in the cloud ( the Holy Spirit)” Those coming out of Egypt were given the “bread of heaven”. This was NOT physical food. It was the same bread of heaven(spiritual food) that Jesus was giving to the people to eat.
1Cor 10:2-4 “All ate the same spiritual food. All drank the same spiritual drink for they drank of the Spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ.”

You mention that it says in the Old Testament, an eye for an eye. This is part of the “law of sin and death” that was established by man, not by God. Lev. 19:18 says “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”
Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.”
Proverbs 25:21 “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”

You seem to be suggesting that the Holy Spirit didn’t start working until after Jesus. I believe the Holy Spirit has always been working and continues to work. To say that no one ever loved God or loved his neighbor as himself, or followed the Spirit of God that was in his heart and mind until the time of Jesus, makes no sense to me.


Bob, if people can be justified by following their consciences, I don’t think the Bible would say all unbelievers are condemned. Nor would there then seem any need for Jesus to die a horrible death.


Which reinforces what I brought up previously, on this thread - on inclusivism - at


The point is, relevant to what I am trying to show here–nothing more, nothing less–the parable does not identify the sheep as believers. And you agree that it does not: “The parable doesn’t need to identify the sheep as Christians. . . .”

Aren’t sheep symbolic of Christians like “my sheep hear my voice” or “I am the Good Shepherd.” If Jesus is the Good Shepherd wouldn’t he be shepherding his followers and didn’t he say he would lay down his life for his sheep?


Steve, IMO the parable of the sheep and the goats + statements in the NT saying unbelievers are condemned = faith AND works are required to justify a person.


Steve, IMO the parable of the sheep and the goats + statements in the NT saying unbelievers are condemned = faith AND works are required to justify a person.

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Yes i agree, Paul said “God is looking for a peculiar people zealous for good works.”


I know you don’t see why Jesus died. But that does nothing to explain away the texts that I argued say that Christ can justify those whose limited faith remained ignorant of the historical Jesus.


I am not seeing how the difference in the Testaments confirms anything near that (three of my papers on this site develop what progresses).

No one’s argued the Spirit has not always been at work, but I accept the broad Christian consensus that Jesus brought a much fuller revelation of God of which the OT was mere shadow, and that Pentecost also brought new blessings of the Spirit. It’s interesting you perceive otherwise.