Justified from Eternity
Faith in Christ is the evidence and manifestation of our justification, but not the cause of it. God’s elect were justified in Christ from eternity. Justification is one of those “all spiritual blessings” with which God’s elect were blessed before the worlds were made (Ephesians 1:3). Christ stood as our Surety in the covenant of grace from eternity. In that covenant the Son of God voluntarily engaged to pay the debts of His elect and make full satisfaction for them. God the Father accepted Him as our Surety. “Thenceforward,” wrote John Gill, the Father “looked at Him for payment and satisfaction, and looked at them as discharged, and so they were in His eternal mind.” As soon as one person becomes surety for another, the debtor is freed and the surety is accepted. Thus all God’s elect were justified in eternity, as soon as Christ became our Surety (Romans 8:30).
Our justification did not commence in time, but in eternity. Paul, speaking of God’s eternal decree of predestination, declares that all God’s elect were justified in His eternal purpose of grace (Romans 8:30). John Gill wrote, “God’s will to elect is the election of His people; so also His will to justify them, is the justification of them.” From all eternity, God has looked upon His Son as our Substitute, and looking upon us in Christ, we are, and always have been, righteous in His sight. Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). God set up His darling Son as our Surety, our Substitute, and our Redeemer before the world began; and as such, in His own mind, He looked upon Christ as having been slain for us from eternity.
Because God looked upon Christ as one already sacrificed for us before the world was, all the blessings of grace were given to us in Him (Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 1:9). The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that “all spiritual blessings” were bestowed upon all God’s elect in Christ before the world began. All the blessings of salvation and grace were irrevocably given to us in Christ our covenant Surety in eternity, according to the purpose of God in election. Astonishing grace! Adoption, acceptance with God, redemption, forgiveness, and an eternal inheritance in Christ, all were given to us in Christ, because He agreed to pay our debt and became totally responsible for all our obligations as our Surety in eternity. Thomas Goodwin wrote. “We may say of all spiritual blessings in Christ what is said of Christ Himself, that ‘His goings forth are from everlasting.’ In Christ we are blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). As we are blessed with all others, so with this also, that we were justified then in Christ.” Goodwin goes on to say that God the Father, in that everlasting transaction of grace with His Son, “told Him, as it were, that He would look for our debt and satisfaction from Him and He did let the sinners go free. So they are in this respect justified from all eternity.”
In addition to the plain statements of Holy Scripture, two facts compel us to look upon justification as an eternal act of God. 1st Had it not been for the fact that God looked upon His elect as being righteous and justified in Christ from eternity, He would have destroyed our race as soon as Adam sinned. Just as the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were preserved for Lot’s sake, so the human race is preserved for the sake of those the Father has chosen and justified in his Son from eternity. 2nd The Old Testament saints were justified by Christ, just as we are today. Their justification was just as full, complete, and perfect as ours (Hebrews 9:15, 22; Romans 3:25). If they were justified before Christ came, it could not be upon any grounds except the fact that they, like us, were justified by the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the earth.