Jesus' Blood and Righteousness

Brian Vickers is Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and the author of last year's Jesus' Blood and Righteousness, a book tackling the hot topic of imputation published by Crossway. This is not a book for those who simply want the "right" answer spoon fed to them. The issue is too important to treat superficially. In the Introduction Brian writes,

The discussion strikes at the heart of what it means to be right with God. Core biblical themes like forgiveness, sacrifice and union with Christ are woven into the doctrine of imputation. There is more at stake than merely continuing a debate. What is the connection between Adam and the human race? How did Christ fulfill the role of the second or new Adam? How can the "ungodly" stand before a righteous God? Is faith itself, or the object of faith, the foundation for righteousness? These are but a few of the questions related to the topic of imputation. At the center of of the debate of the imputation of Christ's righteousness is the interpretation of key Pauline texts. (pp. 15, 16 )

And that is the goal of the book; to examine Pauline texts that have been historically linked to the subject of imputation.

Chapter One lays out a history of the doctrine of imputation by focusing on the key texts in the debate and their interpretation throughout the centuries. This allows us to see the various emphases in the perspectives of both the classic and current theologians. It proves to be a very helpful chapter, not only in seeing where particular theologians are coming from, but also in understanding that "There are 'views' of imputation, not a general concept of imputation." This means in the discussion about imputation some are often using the same word with a different meaning, while others avoid the word altogether when discussing the biblical passages and interacting with the ideas.

Chapters Two, Three and Four are Brian's treatment of the key texts themselves. I found them to be fair, satisfying and enlightening.

Chapter Five is a synthesis of these key texts. Brian writes, "Read individually none of the three texts analyzed above presents the whole story of how a person may be right with God. When read together, however, these texts give a fuller perspective on God's gift of salvation through Christ." His synthesis is convincing and leads to the conclusion that "the righteousness that counts before God and is by faith can be nothing other than the Christ's righteousness." Though his conclusion may be scoffed at as "traditional" by some, it really does come across that the conclusion is derived from the evidence, and not a desire to protect tradition.

Chapter six is a helpful recap and conclusion in which he asserts that the only hope for sinners is "Jesus' blood and righteousness."

By this I mean that Christ's fulfilling of all righteousness - his obedience to the Father's will and command in his role as the Second Adam, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection that vindicates the cross and ushers in a new eschatalogical era - becomes ours by faith in union with him. It is on this basis that a believer is reckoned righteous. (p. 237)

I strongly encourage all pastors to read Jesus' Blood and Righteousness, and would expect that seminary students will be required to read it in when covering soteriology. The book is small, but is very rich and requires thoughtful reading. For those who want a quicker read and something easier to digest on the same subject pick up John Piper's Counted Righteous in Christ.