The Dynamics of Grace, Part 4
INTRODUCTION – Justification defines our relationship with God. Justification involves the application of the benefits of Christ’s life, death and resurrection to the believer (Rom. 5:8-11). By Christ’s work, we are brought into relationship with God. Justification becomes the basis for our adoption, acceptance, favor and sonship.
Justification is forensic in nature and relational in its result. Justification removes every barrier to eternal fellowship with God. As our Substitute, Christ took upon Himself all of the dis-relatedness, the enmity and the alienation caused by our sin. He became our curse and our guilt. He willingly assumed the temporal and eternal consequences of our iniquity.
Here is the great scandal of the cross. It frustrates natural human reason to think that by God’s own hand the Son of God should be bruised, crushed, tormented and excommunicated. The most righteous man that ever lived was by God’s own plan, crucified by evil rebels and hateful cowards. Christ was brought to abject weakness, agony and shame. He was forsaken to die in ignominy and abandonment.
The cross, the greatest breach in human justice in history, became the greatest satisfaction of divine justice in time and eternity.
Christ became our dereliction of fear. He became our separation, our dereliction and our dis-relatedness. The dis-relatedness of non-being (the exp. of being cut off from God) fell full strength upon His Person. On Calvary He experienced the loss of all well being -- He became the embodiment of man in hell.
As our suffering Substitute, He removed the barriers to fellowship with God. And as our Substitute, He established the foundations of perfect fellowship with God.
Christ not only became a curse for us, He also is the believer’s right-relatedness to the Godhead. His perfect obedience to God, His perfect love to God, His perfect relatedness to the trinity is OURS BY IMPUTATION!
Christ is not only the revelation of God, He is our RIGHT-STANDING with God. He is meeting place, altar, covenant, eligibility, access and living way (Heb. 13:15; Is. 42:6; 49:8; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 3:12; Heb. 10;20).
He is our eligibility for an unbroken flow of divine love and blessing. In removing the barriers of dis-relatedness, He spanned the infinite moral gulf between God and man. Justification is an infinitely gracious exchange. He gives us His own right relatedness to the Father. He takes upon Himself our wretched dis-relatedness.
The right standing we now have in Him is only by union with Him. He is the sole source of our favor, acceptance and sonship. By God’s grace, we have His moral perfection by imputation and by union with Him.
In justification, there is a radical dealing with everything that produces dis-relatedness. Justification is relational grace. It is the ground of our reconciliation. It is the basis for perfect fellowship, for belonging, for oneness, for immutable love. It is by abiding in this divine love that we are transformed (1 Jn. 4:16-18).
As we “preach the gospel to ourselves every,” we are enabled to surrender to God in obedience and adoration. “Gospel reasoning” enables us to take delight in God and to abandon ourselves to Him (Rom. 12:1,2). Justification is of great practical value!
JUSTIFICATION CHANGES OUR WHOLE RELATIONSHIP TO GOD’S HOLINESS.
Through Christ, the justified man has become “rightly adjusted” to God’s person, character and attributes. The justified man is “rightly adjusted” to the claims of God, the government of God and the law of God. The justified man has beenlegally severed from the reign of the Adamic nature (Rom. 6:5,6; Col. 2:11-13). The justified man has a new Master – Christ and righteousness (Rom. 6:16,18,22).
Therefore, sanctification involves taking one’s justification seriously. Sanctification is the process of receiving the word of justification repeatedly and of receiving it in new areas of our being. To the degree that grace truths permeate the believer’s thoughts, values and conclusions, he is transformed by them. That is growth in grace, living in the light of these truths and seeing oneself and one’s relationships in light of these truths (Gal. 2:20).
Application – Study the imagery in Revelation 3:15-21 (“blind, poor, naked, wretched, miserable, needing nothing…”). Contrast the negative description of the Laodicean church with the promised blessings of Christ. In what ways does this contrast provide a picture of self as an ineffective “source” versus Christ as Source Person? (See 2 Pet. 3:18; Eph. 4:15,16; Col. 2:19.)
SANCTIFICATION INVOLVES BECOMING AS WE ARE REGARDED (2 COR. 6:14-7:1).
“Sonship is the motive and meaning of gospel holiness” (Lewis Sperry Chafer). Justification established our status as sons and daughters of God. The bestowal of sonship is completely gracious but our sonship is joined to moral imperatives (Matt. 5:44,45; Rom. 8:12-17; Eph. 5:1,2ff.; 1Jn. 3:9,10).
ROMANS 6 IS THE TRANSITION CHAPTER OR “BRIDGE” THAT JOINS OUR JUSTIFICATION TO OUR SANCTIFICATION.
“The gospel does not command us to do anything to obtain life, but bids us live by that which another has done” (H. Bonar). The soul’s rest in the life-giving truth of the gospel is the root of all true labor.
“In receiving Christ we do not work in order to rest, but we rest in order to work” (Jerry Bridges). Believers work from a position of pardon. Realized forgiveness is the joyful motive for obedience. Justification is the ongoing foundation for all progress in sanctification. “The sinner’s legal position must be set to rights before his moral position can be touched” (H. Bonar).
Romans 6 opens with the federal fact (Christ’s federal rep. of us) -- that Christ’s death was a representative union. (All the legal liabilities and responsibilities of His people rest upon Him.)
Christ’s death was not only “on behalf of” (huper) our sin, but “unto” (eis) sin. Here Paul brings the federal fact to light. Not only was Christ’s death intended to redeem His people from their sins, (Rom. 3-5) it was also intended to change His people’s relationship toward sin (Rom. 6-8). Our federal solidarity with Christ brings not only forgiveness of sin but also freedom from sin’s dominion! Thus, we may affirm “Christ died for us and we died in Him.”
In Romans 6, Paul joins the previous theme – salvation from sin’s penalty, with deliverance from sin’s dominion. Remember, Romans 5 established that the penal consequence of Adam’s sin was that mankind was delivered over unto the legal reign of sin. The great revelation of Romans 6:10 is that Christ died unto sin on our behalf. By reason of our federal union with Him in His death, we died as well to the legal reign of sin (Rom. 6:6-11).
“We could not take one step in the pursuit of holiness if God in His grace had not first delivered us from the dominion of sin and brought us into union with His risen Son” (Jerry Bridges).
THE FACT THAT WE DIED TO SIN IS NOT IMMEDIATELY EXPERIENTIAL.
“Our old self was crucified,” is a revealed truth that is addressed to faith (Rom. 6:6). The positional truth of co-crucifixion and union with Christ is not perceived primarily by experience, it is apprehended by faith.
If we “consult” our unmortified desires, we may conclude that we have not died to sin. Our indwelling sin seems to testify to the contrary that we are dead to sin. Our natural desires, passions and reasonings are not a reliable standard for our behavior (“[We] do not live by the standard set by the lower nature, but by the standard set by the Spirit” Romans 8:4b – Wms. Transl.).
THE FACT THAT WE DIED TO SIN IS A TRUTH EXPERIENCED BY FAITH. Paul affirms that the death of the old self in Christ’s death was necessary in order to “do away with our body of sin.” The Greek word for “do away” in this context means to annul or put out of business (kartegeo). By our co-crucifixion with Christ, all the legal rights of sin are gone. Christ’s work applied to the believer has the net effect of annulling the power of indwelling sin.
The ramifications of co-crucifixion with Christ are carried into practical living by means of faith. The believer is called upon to reckon a fact that appears contrary to experience, namely that he is dead to sin (6:11). To “consider” or “reckon” is an imperative or command in the Greek (Rom. 6:11-13).
Application – The benefit of Christ’s death to sin is the rightful property of His people. Here lies the incumbent challenge of preaching the gospel to ourselves daily. Our experiences of indwelling sin seem to contradict the federal fact of our death to sin. The difficulty resides in believing the astounding revelations of Romans 6. The old self causes trouble and we are immediately tempted to leave off the way of faith (expressed in reckoning) and turn back to carnal reasoning (fleshly strategies for coping with judgment).
The fact that we shared in Christ’s death to sin and that we are alive unto God in Him must be believed. There is no other path that establishes our souls and causes us to rest in Christ (Heb. 4:11).
Our “fruit unto sanctification” turns upon the daily presentation of ourselves to God (an activity born of reckoning) (Rom. 6:22).
SCRIPTURE JOINS THE RECKONING OF OURSELVES IN CHRIST “POSITIONALLY” WITH OUR BEING MADE HOLY “PRACTICALLY.”
In justification, God preempts all of the individual’s efforts to commend himself to his Creator. Status, favor, and acceptance are granted by a gracious divine donation. As a result, the pursuit of sanctification is liberated from every legal effort to enhance standing and acceptance before God. Only in this way can sanctification be all of grace (Rom. 4:3-8,16; 1 Cor. 1:30).
Efforts in sanctification that are completely divorced from the cross belie a carnal confidence that the flesh is perfectible (Note the Galatian error addressed by Paul). Scripture keeps justification and sanctification joined in the Person of Christ. The believer’s federal union with Christ is central in both doctrines. All advances spiritually are grounded upon faith in God’s Word. When the believer reckons the benefits that flow from his solidarity with Christ, God is glorified because Christ is the source Person, not self (Gal. 2:20).
Application – For passages that affirm that progressive sanctification is by faith, see Rom. 6:19,22; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 2:20; 5:16-26; Col. 2:6,7; 3:1-11; 2 Thess. 2:12,13; 1 Tim. 6:12; Heb. 3-4; 6:11,12.
SCRIPTURE KEEPS JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION DISTINCT BUT INSEPARABLE.
The three “tenses” of salvation (I was saved, I am being saved, I will be ultimately saved) are also true of sanctification. (Justification and sanctification are bound together, one never occurs without the other.)
The three tenses of sanctification:
1.) I was set apart for God at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:10).
2.) I am living a life that is continually separated unto God that progresses in practical holiness (Rom. 6:22; 2 Cor. 7:1).
3.) When I am glorified, I will be absolutely set apart from sin, experiencing complete sanctification (Phil. 3;20,21; Rom. 8:30; Eph. 5:26,27; 1 Thess. 5:23).
Errors that result from separating or confusing justification and sanctification:
1.) PERFECTIONISM (Gal. 3:1-3) – This error stresses that the flesh is perfectible. Supposed “progress” in sanctification is given as evidence that man can be perfected by the flesh (supra-biblical standards are often used to measure progress). The “higher life” version of this error is commonly seen in “holiness” denominations. They stress a second work of grace. Sanctification becomes divorced from faith in the Person and finished work of Christ. Justification is devalued as sanctification becomes a new sought after “plane” of existence grounded upon human performance. (See also Quietism.)
2.) ANTINOMIANISM (Jude 4; 2 Pet. 2) – This deadly error denies the need for personal holiness. It turns the grace of God into an excuse for sinful expression. It produces both a false security and a false sense of “freedom.”
3.) SUBJECTIVISM (experience oriented Christianity – Col. 2:18,19) – In this error, religious experience becomes a badge of spiritual superiority. Private revelations, ecstatic experiences and sign gifts are paraded about and turned into a sacrament. Experience becomes the mark of the “spiritual.” In the process, justification is devalued. Union with Christ is de-emphasized.
4.) LEGALISM (Col. 3:16,17; 1 Tim. 1:7) – Legalism is closely associated with perfectionism. False religion is nearly uniformly legalistic, for it seeks to establish merit before God in a man-centered fashion. Perfectionism is more subtle than legalism. Perfectionism is the most common symptom among true believers who separate justification and sanctification.
Application – Discuss how the “narrow way” is a fitting metaphor to describe the biblical salvation path that steers clear of both legalistic perfectionism and carnal antinomianism. (Example - Like the relationship between the two natures of Christ in the doctrine of the hypostatic union, justification and sanctification are distinct yet inseparable. Where there is true salvation, justification and sanctification will be distinct yet inseparable.)
Gal. 2:20 -- We are justified because of union with Christ, not because of our conduct. BUT justification should affect our conduct. For Paul, justification is not merely a past event, but a present reality which he experiences everyday of his life. Peace with God, forgiveness, and acceptance belong to believers because of the righteousness of Christ – thus Paul lived by faith in the righteousness Christ. Though justification is a point in time past event, Paul brings justification into the present in Galatians 2:20. We work, serve and obey from the perspective that Another has performed for us, we live by faith in Him.