Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Joined to Another...

A Roman Catholic commenter in the ongoing discussion at Green Baggins attempts to explain the nature of a believer's relationship to Christ and how that relationship is affected when a believer sins, at least according to Rome.  He begins:
When we are baptized, we are united to Christ in His death (per Romans 6:3). From there, we are initiated into Christ and we need to develop our relationship with Him. This is similar to a husband and wife on their wedding day. Their relationship isn’t completed on that day, it’s just beginning from that day forward, a couple needs to nurture and foster their relationship and grow in love. So it is with us and God. We need to foster our relationship with God from the day of our Baptism until the day we die.
This analogy breaks down almost from the beginning. When a man and woman are married they are indeed fully married (assuming consummation). Nurturing that relationship does not make them more married or, if they fall short of the standard of love, suddenly single. From day one, they are completely “married” before God and man as if they had been married faithfully for forty years. Yes, they learn to love each other more and more and grow more fully into the purpose of marriage. But even a violation of that marriage covenant by one or the other doesn’t, in and of itself, negate the marriage, nor end that bond.

He continues:
By living a “Life in the Spirit” we will be justified. However, if we choose our will above God’s will. If we reject what the Spirit is asking us and say, “no thanks, MY way is better… “ Then we are living in a spirit of rebellion. We are NOT living a life in the spirit and we lose our justification for we are no longer “In Christ.” At that point, we need to return to the Body of Christ and ask for forgiveness. We need to acknowledge our sins and enter back into the Body of Christ and continue living a Life in the Spirit for it’s only in Christ that we are saved. Outside of Him, there is no salvation.
As with marriage, likewise with our union in Christ. We were sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit, “joined to another.” Our sinning doesn’t sever that union, nor remove us from the body of Christ. For the ground or basis of our union in Christ is the provision of his sacrifice for our sins, by which we are justified through simple trust, receiving it as a free gift. He has removed the basis for our guilt through His blood.  If left to our ability to "live in the Spirit" as a means of justification we would then have no answer to the dilemma at the end of Romans 7:
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner  of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from  the body of this death?   
Thus the exclamation of Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”
Having been united to Christ through faith in His finished work of redemption, we are no longer under law but under grace, i.e. joined to another, our Savior. To put that burden back on us, would make redemption no longer a gift of grace, but a work of law.  As Paul writes:
Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. (Rom. 4:4-5)
So then, our sin doesn’t sever us from Christ, for that would undermine God’s very purpose of reconciliation, in that it would remove us from the very cure of our disease, Christ crucified:
Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
Be reconciled to God. How? By putting all our trust for removal of sin and the acquiring of righteousness in His Son alone, who was “made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”  Not just initially upon first believing for our justification, but continually in our sanctification, we are to look to the blood of Christ for cleansing from sin.

Our marriage bond to the Lord is based solely on the finished work of God’s reconciliation in Christ. He chose us. He sought us. He paid the price for our redemption. He called us. And by His Spirit effected faith and repentance in us, joining us to Himself. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”  In other words, do not devise a man-made system of reconciliation which, in effect, would separate believers from the good news of God's reconciliation of sinners in Christ Jesus.

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