Richard Rawlin

Printable PDF Version


Resurrection of Christ as the Proper Foundation of our Faith

To show how we come to have an interest in this righteousness; and how this righteousness, which is originally and subjectively without us, comes to be made ours, and we to have an interest therein, so that we may say in the style of the text, “in the LORD have I righteousness;” {Is.45:24;} to which I answer in general, that this is done by Imputation. God mercifully and graciously imputes and reckons it to the believer, and so we come according to the tenor and constitution of the New Covenant to have a real and pleadable interest therein. Not that he reckons we wrought it out in our own persons, so that the individual obedience and sufferings of Christ are judged to be our obedience and sufferings, for this destroys the Imputation of that which is done by Another for us, and is not according to the judgment of truth; nor that he takes it from Christ, and transfuses it into us, so that we become the seat and subject of it by way of inherency, and this righteousness an inherent quality in us, for that is impossible in the nature of things; but the meaning is, that he graciously accepts it for our pardon and justification, as if we had personally wrought it out ourselves and as it was performed in our room and stead, by a proper Substitution of Christ to bear the guilt and punishment of our sins, and as such he considers it in his Law, and deals with us accordingly, and all the benefit and advantage of it by the constitution of the New Covenant redound unto us. This is what we mean by Imputation and such in general is the way in which we come to have an interest in this righteousness; and in this very sense, or in a sense that has a near relation to it, we find the word used in Scripture. That God the Supreme Judge is fully satisfied with the Righteousness of Christ as a proper provision for his own honor, and accordingly hath declared his acceptance of it; and this lays a yet farther ground for the Imputation of it to us. The honor of God is fully provided for therein, and he can now be a just God and a Saviour; just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. There is no dispensing with the honor of the law, no receding from the sacred rights of justice. The righteousness which Christ fulfilled as the Surety of his people, is just such, as the Law and Justice of God required it to be. And accordingly God hath all manner of ways declared his acceptance of it. Christ loved the church, “and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Eph.5:2. God smelled, as it is said of Noah’s sacrifice, {Gen.8:21,} a sweet savor of rest in the sacrifice of Christ. From an unconceivable eternity he was in this view the great Object of the Father’s delight. “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” {Pv.8:30} With what pleasure does he speak of him in prophecy long before his appearance; “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” {Is.42:1} When he was actually receivemanifested to the world, and going forwards in his great work, with what solemnity does God proclaim, “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” {Mat.3:17} And when he had laid down his life in an accursed death, which was all that the law could insist on, how does God himself knock off the fetters of the grave, throw open the prison door, and in his resurrection, give him a public and solemn acquittance? As the Prophet observes, “that he was taken from prison and from judgment.” {Is.53:8} Released and discharged from the prison of the grave in full evidence that he had paid the whole debt which he had taken upon himself, and that God had accepted the payment at his hands; as the Apostle makes a particular remark upon this; “whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” {Acts 2:24} Not possible as it is not just or righteous that the prisoner should be kept longer in prison who hath fully satisfied every demand that the law hath upon him. The resurrection of Christ therefore, was an open and authentic acknowledgment, that God, considered as the Supreme Rector and Judge of the world, acquiesced in the death of Christ, as a full, proper, and perfect satisfaction for sin; and in this light the Apostle considered it, as being the immediate foundation of our justification, or the virtual and fundamental justification of all the elect, as some have properly enough called it. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” {Rom.4:25} And this, I conceive, gives us the proper sense of that expression, where Christ, who was God manifest in the flesh by his dwelling among us in our nature, is said to be “justified in the Spirit,” {I Tim.3:16,} being openly and solemnly acquitted and absolved as the Head of the church, and as having made full and complete satisfaction to Divine Justice, in his resurrection, which was performed by the powerful agency and operation of the Spirit. “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” {Rom.1:4} And this with regard to his having received such full satisfaction to his justice, and accepted the atonement in the death of Christ that God is represented as acting under the peculiar character of a God of peace in his raising Christ from the dead. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” {Heb.13:20} The words of John Owen upon this passage are very remarkable. “Christ, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, was brought into the state of death by the sentence of the law, and was then led, recovered and restored by the God of peace. The law being fulfilled and answered, the sheep being redeemed by the death of the Shepherd, the God of peace to evidence that peace was now perfectly made, by an act of sovereign authority brings him again into the state of life, in a complete deliverance from the charge of the Law.” What a delightful view does this give us of the resurrection of Christ! A risen Saviour and a reconciled God! How safely may we trust in the one, and with what humble hope apply to the other for pardon and every blessing? As the Apostle argues, when pointing us to the resurrection of Christ as the proper foundation of our faith. “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” – “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” {I Cor.15:17,20} He is risen, and our faith may rise with him in the assured and joyful expectation of every blessing, that as the Surety of his people he purchased in his death for them; whereas had he continued under the arrest of death, what sufficient foundation could we have had for our faith in him, or indeed what foundation at all? Finally, as God raised him from the dead, in evidence that he had fully satisfied his justice and perfected the work of our redemption, so he received and welcomed him to glory, and this completes the evidence hereof. For Christ, when he went to Heaven, entered it as the Surety and Redeemer of his people, must therefore enter it upon the foot of his having done all that was necessary for their redemption and salvation. And in consequence hereof, how was he as Mediator crowned with the highest honor and invested with the fullest power, that he might be in every capacity to perfect the designs of his grace? And this leads us into the true meaning of that remarkable text, where Christ promises his Spirit, to convince of righteousness because says he, “I go to the Father and ye see me no more.” {Jn.16:10} In Christ going to the Father; that is, in his ascending and being welcomed into his immediate presence in glory, the Spirit convinces not only of the righteousness and innocency of Christ’s Person, but that there is in him a perfect and sufficient righteousness for the justification of his people, such as the Father approves of, and does, and will eternally acquiesce in; and when 'tis added, “ye see me no more,” that clause seems to have a peculiar emphasis in it, and to direct us to that sense of the foregoing words which I have mentioned. The high priest under the law, when he had finished his work, slain the sacrifice, carried the blood of it into the holy of holies, sprinkled it towards the mercy-seat, and so made the fullest expiation for sin, which that dispensation would admit of, was seen again; for he came out of the holy of holies, and upon the return of the year was seen to go in again. But our Jesus, our great High Priest over the house of God having by the one oblation of himself, made full atonement for sin, and been accepted of God in it, was seen no more; he did not, as he needed not, return to add anything to the one sacrifice of his death, to make it more complete and perfect than it was; for “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.” “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. {Heb.10:12,14} As the Apostle in the foregoing chapter, when showing the superior excellency of the priesthood of Christ to that of all the priests under the law, represents his entering once into Heaven, as an evidence of the complete virtue of his death for the expiation of sin, and the redemption of his people, “but Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” {Heb.9:11,12} And this is of so much importance to establish our faith in the sufficiency and acceptance of the one sacrifice of the death of Christ, that he brings it over again in the most express manner in the 24th, 25th, and 26th verses of the same chapter. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” I would add hereto, that I cannot but think, that this is what the Apostle designed to suggest, when describing the priesthood of Christ, as having everything in it that was of necessary use in the priesthood under the law, {Heb.8:4,5,} for he adds, that if he were on earth he could not be a priest seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law. Not that we are to confine Christ’s priesthood to what he transacts in Heaven, in exclusion of the great and important acts of it, which were completed in the oblation of himself upon the cross; as the Socinians do, {the whole weight of our controversy with the Socinians upon the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction, hinges here; for they will readily grant, that what Christ did in his sufferings and death was for our good, for our benefit and advantage, and that the effects thereof might some way or other extend to us; but I think we are able to prove with the clearest evidence out of the scriptures, that his obedience and sufferings were not only for our good, but strictly and properly on our behalf, and in our room and stead,} who denying the doctrine of Satisfaction, own no oblation of Christ, but what is made in Heaven; for we must shut our eyes against the most glaring light of scripture, to exclude Christ’s shedding his blood upon the cross from being a part of his priestly office; but when the Apostle says, that if Christ were on earth he should not be a priest, his meaning is, either, that if he had always remained on earth without going to Heaven at all, we should have wanted one great evidence, which we now have, that he had offered up a perfect and acceptable sacrifice to God, conformably to what was done by the priests under the Jewish dispensation; or else, that he could not have entered upon the full discharge of his priestly office, one branch of which lies in making intercession for his people, as it was a known part of the ministry of the high priest, when he carried the blood of the sacrifice on the great day of atonement into the holy of holies, to sprinkle it before the ark, and so to offer it up with the prayers of the people, and to intercede for them. But now being entered into Heaven he hath, as the Jewish priests had under the law, something to offer; for what is Christ’s intercession but the presenting or exhibiting the merit of his death and sacrifice on the behalf of his people? And as the prevalence and success of Christ’s intercession depend so much upon the excellence and efficacy of his sacrifice, what a clear and evident proof is this, that the death of Christ was a proper and perfect satisfaction for sin and that God accepted it as such, for otherwise would it be the ground and plea of his intercession? And thus every blessing, which the believer enjoys in the virtue of Christ’s intercession, will at the same time be an evidence of the value and efficacy of his death, and of its acceptableness to God; and so the Apostle, in the seventh chapter of this epistle, where he represents Christ as a priest of a superior order to Aaron, not made after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life, a priest, as he calls him, forever after the order of Melchisedec and that hath an unchangeable priesthood, what neither needs nor admits of a successor. When he comes to give us the proper inference from these several representations, he does it in establishing his complete and absolute all-sufficiency to save. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” {Heb.7:25} The priesthood of Christ drew into it everything that was valuable and important in the priesthood of Aaron and Melchisedec, and in some things differed from them both, particularly in this, that “he offered up himself,” as the Apostle farther observes, “who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's; for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” {vs.27} He was himself both priest and sacrifice and such a sacrifice offered up by such a priest, and whose virtue is renewed, as it were, in his intercession, how acceptable must it be with God, and how effectual for the expiation of sin, and for the perfected salvation of all that apply to God in and through him? He may ask what he will, he can ask nothing but what he hath purchased, and shall never be denied. In short, by Christ’s sacrifice offered up upon the cross, atonement was made; and by Christ’s sacrifice presented to God in Heaven, the atonement is applied and made effectual for all the purposes for which it was designed. Hence the Apostle, when speaking of the security which the elect have in the death of Christ from condemnation, puts a ‘much rather’ upon it, when he comes to look to his resurrection, ascension, and intercession, “who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” {Rom.8:34} I have been the more particular in tracing out the Apostle’s way of reasoning, when representing the efficacy and acceptableness of the death of Christ for our pardon and justification, because the more we examine into it, the more forceful and beautiful it will appear; whilst we shall see at the same time, how the securing and perfecting these blessings was uniformly carried on, with the full acceptance of God, through all Christ did and suffered on earth, and is still doing in Heaven. And now, to bring what has been offered upon this head to a point; has God, considered as the supreme Lord and Judge of all, so many ways testified his acceptance of Christ’s righteousness, as a full provision for his own glory, and every ways effectual for the purposes for which his children want it, what a firm and sure foundation must this lay for it’s being imputed to us, and for our receiving the full advantage of it? If it were not accepted of God, in vain do we plead it, and trust in it; but God’s acceptance and approbation concurring, the believer has as full a claim in it, and it is as much his for his pardon and justification, as if he had himself wrought it out. Richard Rawlin {Christ the Righteousness of his People – Sermons preached at Pinner’s Hall, London, 1741}


Home Page

Index of Authors

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle
and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. Hebrews 3:1