Calvin: Righteousness was Renewed and Restored by His Resurrection

Next follows the resurrection from the dead, without which all that has hitherto been said would be defective. For seeing that in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, nothing but weakness appears, faith must go beyond all these, in order that it may be provided with full strength.

[A]lthough in his death we have an effectual completion of salvation, because by it we are reconciled to God, satisfaction is given to his justice, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid; still it is not by his death, but by his resurrection, that we are said to be begotten again to a living hope, (1 Pet. 1: 3;) because, as he, by rising again, became victorious over death, so the victory of our faith consists only in his resurrection.

The nature of it is better expressed in the words of Paul, “Who (Christ) was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” (Rom. 4: 25;) as if he had said, By his death sin was taken away, by his resurrection righteousness was renewed and restored. For how could he by dying have freed us from death, if he had yielded to its power? how could he have obtained the victory for us, if he had fallen in the contest?

Our salvation may be thus divided between the death and the resurrection of Christ: by the former sin was abolished and death annihilated; by the latter righteousness was restored and life revived, the power and efficacy of the former being still bestowed upon us by means of the latter. Paul accordingly affirms, that he was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection, (Rom. 1: 4,) because he then fully displayed that heavenly power which is both a bright mirror of his divinity, and a sure support of our faith; as he also elsewhere teaches, that “though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God,” (2 Cor. 13: 4.)

In the same sense, in another passage, treating of perfection, he says, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection,” (Phil. 3: 10.) Immediately after he adds, “being made conformable unto his death.” In perfect accordance with this is the passage in Peter, that God “raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God,” ( 1 Pet. 1: 21.) Not that faith founded merely on his death is vacillating, but that the divine power by which he maintains our faith is most conspicuous in his resurrection.

Let us remember, therefore, that when death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection, as often as it is used apart from death, everything peculiar to death being included. But as, by rising again, he obtained the victory, and became the resurrection and the life, Paul justly argues, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins,” (1 Cor. 15: 17.)

Accordingly, in another passage, after exulting in the death of Christ in opposition to the terrors of condemnation, he thus enlarges, “Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,” (Rom. 8: 34.) Then, as we have already explained that the mortification of our flesh depends on communion with the cross, so we must also understand, that a corresponding benefit is derived from his resurrection. For as the Apostle says, “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” (Rom. 6: 4.)

Accordingly, as in another passage, from our being dead with Christ, he inculcates, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” (Col. 3: 5;) so from our being risen with Christ he infers, “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God,” (Col. 3: 1.) In these words we are not only urged by the example of a risen Saviour to follow newness of life, but are taught that by his power we are renewed unto righteousness.

A third benefit derived from it is, that, like an earnest, it assures us of our own resurrection, of which it is certain that his is the surest representation. This subject is discussed at length, (1 Cor. 15.) But it is to be observed, in passing, that when he is said to have “risen from the dead,” these terms express the reality both of his death and resurrection, as if it had been said, that he died the same death as other men naturally die, and received immortality in the same mortal flesh which he had assumed.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.13 (emphasis mine)

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