This post has been adapted with permission from Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics, published by Lexham Press.
There is a causal connection between the justification of Christ and that of those who belong to him, between the making alive of his soul and the regeneration of the children of God, between his resurrection and their resurrection.
1. The justification of Christ is a justification of the head, and to that extent of all the members who are in this head. By the resurrection, the judgment is pronounced that the body made up of the elect is righteous before God. Therefore it is said that Christ was given up for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom 4:25), and that were Christ not raised, we would still be in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). What comes to pass with the individual believer in his justification is nothing other than the personal realization of this justification of the surety. We hope to come back to this point in connection with the doctrine of justification.
2. The enlivening of Christ is an enlivening of the head, and to that extent of all the members who are in the head. In it resides not only the legal ground for the regeneration of the elect, but in a certain sense its active cause as well. It is not as if there had been no regeneration before the mediator rose from the dead, for the saints of old also received the grace of regeneration on the basis of the merits of Christ. But since the exaltation of Christ has taken place and the outpouring of the Spirit has followed it, this regeneration must be seen as an implanting into the body of Christ. Earlier, the Spirit operated in a more separate manner in each individual and not directly from Christ as glorified mediator. Now it is the Spirit of the one body who from the head acts upon the members. Scripture in fact views the regeneration of believers as a consequence of the resurrection of Christ; Ephesians 2:4–5, “But God who is rich in mercy, through his great love with which he has loved us, even when we were dead through trespasses, has made us alive with Christ”; Romans 6:5, “For if we have become one plant with him, planted in the likeness of his death, so will we also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” Baptism as the bath of regeneration points to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Rom 6:4; 1 Pet 3:21).
3. In a similar way, the resurrection of Christ functions instrumentally for the resurrection of the body of believers. He has become the firstfruits of those who are asleep (1 Cor 15:20). As death is through one man—namely, has been brought about for us causally by Adam—so the resurrection of the dead through one man (1 Cor 15:21). The first man, Adam, has become a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. All these statements appear in 1 Cor 15 (vv. 20–21, 45), where the apostle speaks specifically of the resurrection of the flesh. And in Romans 8:10–11, he says, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, so will he who has raised Christ from the dead also make alive your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Finally, in John 5:25–26, the savior himself says, “Truly, truly I say to you, the hour comes and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who have heard it will live; for as the Father has life in himself, so he has also given to the Son to have life in himself” (cf. vv. 28–29). The raising of the body of believers, therefore, stands in connection with the resurrection of the body of the mediator, and it is the Spirit of Christ who effects this connection. One must, however, note that it is not the resurrection as a bare fact that is referred to here, for that occurs as well for those who have died outside Christ. They, too, will leave the grave at his voice. It is rather the resurrection as re-creation of the psychical (cf. 1 Cor 15:44) body of believers into a pneumatic body—the change from the corruptible into the incorruptible, from dishonor into glory, from weakness into power—that is to be viewed as a fruit and consequence of the resurrection of Christ.
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