Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Further thoughts on Justification and Sanctification...

Over the past year I've had the opportunity to lead two studies in our church - one on the Epistle to the Romans 1-8 and the other on the Epistle to the Galatians. Personally, it has been a rich and rewarding time. My understanding of God's act of "mere mercy" has grown due to, not only to the words of Scripture, but the excellent commentaries of John Stott, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, as well as several articles from Modern Reformation Magazine.  Here is what I'll simply call some further thoughts on justification and sanctification...
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is such that upon hearing and trusting in its message sinners are completely set free from all penalties and demands of the Law pertaining to sin and righteousness.  For on the cross Jesus Christ took upon himself our sin, our guilt, and the penalty of God’s just wrath.  He suffered and died willingly in our place for our sins.  This is the love of God. Thus through repentant faith we have been drawn by God to look away from our wretched selves unto Christ only, having received as a free gift of God’s grace the complete forgiveness of all our sins and the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law, our righteousness before God.
This is our justification. 

    But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:5)
… that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26b)
    For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28)
    … nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Gal. 2:16)
    He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21)
    Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.(Rom.8:1).

And by this faith which looks to Christ alone, the Gospel not only frees us from any and all demands of the law required of us (which we could never perform) - no longer, through works, needing to attain or earn merit of righteousness before God - but also in this Gospel we have been delivered from the dominion of sin and death to that of righteousness and life. We are no longer under law but under grace. And this is the transforming ground upon which we stand and walk as believers.  Having become recipients of such immense mercy,  we are freed to look away from self's concerns to that of others, embracing the righteous direction of the law.  And this most especially occurs as we bear the burdens of one another, fulfilling the law of Christ - to love thy neighbor as thyself. Though we never love without imperfection (still beset by the remnant of sinful flesh) yet this spiritual service of grateful obedience, led by the Spirit, is acceptable to God by grace through faith. - The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom. 8: 16)
This is our sanctification.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Gal. 5: 6)     
    For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5: 13)
    For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Gal. 5: 14)
    But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Gal. 5: 18)
    If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5: 25)
For all who are being led by by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. (Rom. 8: 14)
    Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfil the law of the Christ. (Gal. 6: 2)
    And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6: 16)

The Vertical and the Horizontal: Faith without works looks heavenward away from self unto Christ alone and passively receives undeserved justification.  This same faith also looks away from self to one’s neighbor to serve him by bearing his burdens, actively working through love born of the Holy Spirit.  This latter sanctifying faith flows from the former justifying faith and yet they are inseparable.  The justified sinner, who for freedom was set free by Christ, is led of the Spirit into the sanctifying path of loving his neighbor as himself.  Through the power of the Spirit he takes up his cross in grateful obedience as a servant of both God and others;  to the end that the one who believes might be conformed to the image of His dear Son. (Rom. 8: 29)

    But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Rom. 6:22)
[all Scripture verses from the NASV]

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