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In Jesus' Blood and Righteousness, Brian Vickers investigates the key Pauline texts linked historically to the topic of imputation. Though Vickers spends a good deal of time on the particulars of each text, he keeps one eye on the broader biblical horizon; like any doctrine, imputation must be investigated exegetically and synthetically. This book, and its conclusion that the imputation of Christ's righteousness is a legitimate and necessary synthesis of Paul's teaching, is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate on imputation.
"Vickers's work is sure to be one of the most significant contributions to the ongoing discussion of the nature of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. For the sake of one's own soul, and for richer biblical and theological understanding, I recommend to Christians that they read with care this excellent work."
-Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, Senior Associate Dean, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
|Format: DRM Free ePub|
Publication Date: 2010
Brian J. Vickers (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of New Testament interpretation and biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the assistant editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He is actively involved in leading short-term mission trips and teaching overseas. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Institute for Biblical Research.
Vickers book is divided into five main sections, and a conclusion. He begins aptly by tracing the loose trajectories of the discourse on imputation through theological traditions. He begins with Luther and traces the arc of discussion to 20th century German liberal theology, the New Perspective on Paul, and those who are solidly Reformed in their soteriology but for various reasons do not hold explicitly to the doctrine of the imputation, to the believer, of Christs righteousness in perfectly obeying the Law. In fact, one criticism against this book would be the lack of space devoted to the idea of Christs perfect obedience counting for the believer.
Aside from that minor criticism, the book more than ably wades its way through the deep waters of rich justification texts, namely three: Rom 4:3-8, Rom 5:12-21, and 2 Cor 5:21. He begins with Abraham and the reckoning of righteousness. His main points here are (1) that faith is not itself the righteousness but rather the instrument that unites the believer to the object of faith, and that object is the only source of righteousness (p. 111), and (2) forgiveness is one aspect of Pauls doctrine of justification, not synonymous with it. This is a point that he emphasizes as he seeks to unfold the comprehensive nature of the biblical doctrine of justification. In the section on the foundation of righteousness, he concludes that the ground for the status righteous had to be attained before it could be applied (p. 157). Easily the longest chapter in the book, it goes into great detail on Rom 5:12-21, dissecting the Adam-Christ complex and confirming the word for being made in the Greek refers to status, not personal actions (p. 156). This status is conferred upon a believer because of the representational nature of Christ for all those who are one with Him.
The provision and imputation of righteousness make up the final two chapters. In the former, he examines the OT background of the phrase made to be sin in 2 Cor 5:21. He concludes that it refers to a sacrifice for sin because of its relation to the language and concepts concerning sacrifices in the OT (pointing to the LXX translations of Lev 4:3 and 5:6 and how hamartiacan be used for both sin and sin offering), the greater context of reconciliation (again Leviticus cited as support for the concept of reconciliation in sacrificial contexts), and the context of 2 Cor 5:21 (which focuses on the vicarious nature of Christs deathone died for all, v. 14, and not reckoning their sins to them, v. 19, and the perfection of His sacrificewho knew no sin, v. 21). He also tackles the debate over the phrase the righteousness of God. While examining and overturning various exegetical options, Vickers deals at length with the view that this concept refers to the covenant faithfulness of God. He concludes, It is more accurate to say that Gods covenant faithfulness is an expression of this righteousness, or that it manifests his righteousness, rather than being his righteousness (p. 182). He also states, The forensic element of 2 Corinthians 5:21 argues forcefully against the covenant faithfulness view (ibid). In the final chapter, the author examines, in synthetic fashion, the common threads in the three major imputation texts he has already studied. Upon concluding this examination, he takes up the discussion on the active and passive obedience of Christ. He states that all obedience contains both elements, and that Christs obedience was passive in that He voluntarily accepted Gods wrath against sin and active in that He willingly bore the just penalty for sin (p. 197). All this to say that the obedience of Christ to God on the Father, supremely demonstrated (or culminating) in His death on the cross includes both the provision for the forgiveness of sins and a positive standing before God on the basis of the Lords perfect obedience, not just in death, but in life as well.
Vickers nicely ends his book tackling several other key objections to the traditional Protestant doctrine of justification. He tackles the arguments that this doctrine amounts to nothing more than a legal fiction, that it is a systematic not a biblical idea, that Christs positive obedience is nowhere specifically stated as being imputed to the believer, and that imputation leads to antinomianism. In a short space, he ably refutes these objections and defends the traditional understanding of justification. His refutations themselves are noteworthy demonstrations of blending rigorous exegesis with theological synthesis and harmonization of various texts and doctrines.
Overall, Vickers book has taken the exposition of the doctrine of justification one step forward in our current times where it is being undermined by the New Perspective on Paul. The frightening reality that its eclipse is being ushered in and greeted by conservative evangelical theologians should not draw us out of the battle for truth, but determinedly back into it; armed with the Bible and with volumes such as this one, we are equipped with exegetical and theological insights that appeal not to theology and confessions and creeds but to the Word of God itself in the original languages. It is an academic piece, one that requires patient, methodical reading/engagement. The payoff of being enriched once again by the great justification truths emanating from some crucial portions of Scripture more than validates ones time with the book. Jason Park, Christian Book Previews.com
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