Note how John Owen is careful to note that the law did indeed need to be fulfilled, but on our behalf, not as if we actually performed the deeds. Justification is therefore grounded in grace, but a grace that procured the righteousness of the law in Christ on our behalf. In other words, we are not judged to have actually done those things that Christ did, but rather are made the recipients of that righteousness that Christ secured on our behalf. Owen wraps all of this up in the “mystical union” we have in Christ. It is therefore technically not an actual credit into our account of Christ’s obedience, but rather our union with Christ that makes us recipients of His righteousness by faith through grace. This is how the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us…by faith. I could be wrong, so I would gladly welcome the feedback of Owen scholars. Here’s Owen’s quote:
If the righteousness that is imputed be the ground and foundation of our justification, and made ours by that imputation, state it how you will, that justification is of grace, and not of the law. However, I know not of any that say we are accounted of God in judgment personally to have done what Christ did ; and it may have a sense that is false, — namely, that God should judge us in our own persons to have done those acts which we never did. But what Christ did for us, and in our stead, is imputed and communicated unto us, as we coalesce into one mystical person with him by faith; and thereon are we justified. And this absolutely overthrows all justification by the law or the works of it; though the law be established, fulfilled, and accomplished, that we may be justified (John Owen: The Doctrine of Justification by Faith. Joseph Kreifels, S. 222).
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