At the conference one scholar challenged N.T. Wright’s interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21 which reads, “He became sin who knew no sin that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.
N.T. Wright maintains a distinction between “God’s righteousness” and “our justification” and we should not confuse the two.
The phrase “God’s righteousness” is God’s own righteousness as the Judge. The Judge is a “just” Judge not because he is morally perfect (though obviously God is), but because He judges Rightly, i.e. He is a righteous Judge. So God’s righteousness is his own ability to judge rightly, and in that sense it would be silly to suggest that the Judge (i.e. God) could impute, impart, bequeath et cetera his own “righteousness” onto the defendant.
The phrase “to be justified” is a declaration from the Righteous Judge (assuming He judges rightly). It is not a declaration that someone is morally perfect (“no one is righteous, no not one”), rather the Judge finds the defendant, based on the case and evidence at hand, to be justified. The evidence in a believer’s case that God looks for is whether or not he/she is a follower of Jesus the Messiah.
So God’s righteousness is His own as Judge and refers to His judging rightly. The defendants “justification” is a declaration made by the just Judge that he is acquitted of the crime of which he is accused of in that particular case. So the Judges “righteousness” is distinguished from the defendants “justification”.
So what about 2 Corinthians 5:21 which Paul distinctly writes that in Christ we become the “righteousness of God”. How can the defendant become the Judges own righteousness?
Cannot and does not this text support the traditional view that the believe becomes (i.e. is imputed) God’s own righteousness? I struggled with Wrights interpretation of this text (see my struggle here and read under the heading, “What About God’s Righteous Judgment”) and my struggle came into focus after Wright was challenged on this point and before he responded. I remember talking with a friend after the challenge was made and we bantered around ideas and wondered how Wright will respond.
It is his answer to that challenge which will be the focus of the next post.
CAN YOU GUESS WHERE DEREK IS SITTING IN RELATION TO WHERE N.T WRIGHT IS SITTING?