Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Friday, August 26, 2005

JUSTIFICATION: Part IV - Once and For All

5) In justification, Christ’s righteousness counts as our own, by way of our faith.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22)

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (Romans 5:18)

And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness... (Romans 4:5)

That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord... (Romans 4:22-24)

Last time, we examined how our sin is laid on Christ. Today, we look at how His righteousness is counted for us. Christ lived the perfect, blameless life that we could not. God demands perfect sacrifices for sin, and Christ was the only man who fit the bill. When we put our faith in Christ, His perfect life, His obedience of the law, is "transferred" to our account. Under His blood, not only is our sin stripped away, but we are counted as obedient and perfect before God, due to Christ’s work.

So, not only does God remove the negative side of our account with Him – our sins – but He even counts Christ’s righteousness on our behalf! To use an analogy, not only does God pay our debts, bringing our balance to zero, but He gives us an undeserved grant that puts our account balance "in the black." This is grace.

6) Justification is a one-time declaration, not a process.

Note that it is a "free gift," from God through Jesus Christ, that brings justification. It’s from God – not from or by us, in any way. Not actions, or good deeds, or righteous living on our part.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus... (Romans 3:23-24)

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. (Romans 5:16)

Justification is once and for all - it only happens once in a person’s lifetime. Paul says in Romans 8:30 that those God "justified he also glorified." Notice here that Paul equates justification and glorification. They aren’t the same, but they are linked - if the one happens, it is always accompanied by the other. "Glorification" is eternal life in heaven, and so we see that justification leads directly to eternal life.

Paul says, clearly, that the same people who are justified are also glorified. Only those who are justified have eternal life, and all of those justified have eternal life. None - not one - of those who are justified will not attain eternal life! And so, from this we understand that justification is a one-time event.

Remember, our sins were "transferred" to Christ’s account, and He was punished on the Cross for them. As we stand before God, our sin does not count against us only because it has already been punished in Christ. God does not punish sin twice – to do so would be unjust! Think about it - if a person were justified, and then was not saved, this would mean that:

a) The sinner is now suffering in hell after being declared righteous by God; and
b) The sinner is now suffering for the same sins and sinfulness that were laid on Christ, meaning that both Christ and the sinner were punished for the same sin. In short, Christ suffered for no purpose, and God's declaration of righteousness proved to be wrong.

So, again, we see that justification can only be a one-time event. Everyone who is justified, whose sins are paid for by Christ, will attain eternal life.

Let me stress, one more time, for clarity: since justification is an act of God, occurring outside of ourselves, taking Christ’s performance into account instead of our own, our behaviour, performance, and obedience of God’s Law has nothing to do, at all, with justification. It’s not by works!!!!

It’s important, then, to understand that justification is an event, not a process. Very often, Christians confuse it with that process by which God conforms us to His likeness, making us more like Christ – that is sanctification, which I’ll cover next time. The two, like justification and glorification, are linked, but they are not the same. Justification occurs outside of a person – being a declaration by God about us. Justification is objective. Sanctification is subjective – it is the work of the Holy Spirit within a justified believer, by which, over time, a believer becomes more and more like Christ. Justification is the legal basis of salvation; sanctification follows – is subsequent to – justification. It has to be - otherwise, salvation would be dependent upon behaviour and personal performance.

Make no mistake, though - this is not to be taken as permission for a Christian to do "whatever he wants" after he puts his faith in Christ. Everyone who is justified, will be sanctified. This is why a person who professes faith in Christ, but shows no evidence of Christ in their life or behaviour, may very well not be justified at all. Remember what James said - "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18) A Godly, holy, sanctified life is the fruit of, and evidence of, justification.

That sums up my (lengthy) look at justification. The next word, coming soon, will be "sanctification," now that we've already had a brief look at it.


Anonymous Mike Jones said...

These two events jumped out at me upon reading your article:

1) The justified tax collector:

Luke 18
13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

This is compelling evidence of the once-for-all justification by Christ's sacrifice. Jesus gives no other condition for justification. God is faithful to forgive, and answers the simple cry to God for salvation.

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10:13, Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32.

If we suggest this man then had to 'work' to be justified, then we call Jesus a liar: Consider the next point:

2) The criminal on the cross

Luke 23
39One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

This man had NO opportunity for good works. None. He did nothing good - he died immediately after his cry to Christ for salvation. If justification was not instant, and needed to be worked out, then he is lost, for he had no opportunity. Furthermore, if this man was saved WITHOUT works, but we claim we need to be continually "re-justified" now, then there is a double standard for people: This man got a free ticket in, while those still alive worked for it. And we know that cannot be true, "For God shows no partiality." (Rom 2:11, Acts 10:34).

All are equal and deserving punishment, and all who call on the name of Christ are freely justified - once for all - so that we can NOW do good works:

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:8-10

5:29 PM  

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