Justification and Sanctification

Two fancy sounding words that get thrown around a lot in theological discussions are “justification” and “sanctification.” Both of these words appear in scripture and they work together to paint a beautiful picture of the Christian life.

“Justification” is a legal term that conveys the idea of being judged to be righteous. To be justified before God means that we are acquitted of the crimes of which we are accused. Our relationship with Him is restored and we do not have to bear the punishment that fits our crime. In fact, as far as the imputing of guilt is concerned, it is like we never committed the crime at all! A good part of the Bible to read in order to learn more about justification would be Romans, chapters 3 through 5.

“Sanctification” means being made holy. While justification takes full effect the moment we put on Christ in baptism, sanctification is a process that we grow in day by day. It is the process of being conformed to the image of God’s Son, and this process is taking place in us as long as we live on this earth. Our sanctification’s completion will only become evident when Jesus returns at the last day. A good place to read about sanctification would be Romans, chapters 6 through 8.

Both of these elements are present in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that when we walk in the light, God does two things for us: He forgives our sings (justification) and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (sanctification).   The word here translated as “cleanse” is where we get the English word “catharsis,” and it indicates a purging or removal of that which does not belong.

John makes sanctification sound pretty easy. All we have to do is walk in the light and God will sanctify us completely! But John does acknowledge that we will not always be perfect as we go through this process. In the following verses he states: “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

John talks about justification, then sanctification, and then he goes right back to justification again, reminding us that while our path in life is one of pursuing purity, it is only because of the forgiveness that we have received – and that we continue to receive with each passing day – that this process is even possible.

Understanding these two concepts and how they relate to each other allows us to see the gospel for the simple and beautiful truth that it is.

Many in our world are so eager to emphasize the free gift of justification that they are uncomfortable with emphasizing the truth that God’s children cannot live in sin. They miss out on the fact that salvation does not just mean forgiveness, it also means transformation.

Others fail to grasp the fact that our justification truly is a free gift that covers our sins, and as a result they try to earn their own salvation apart from God’s grace through a system of guilt- and shame-based sanctification projects.

What do you think about these two concepts? Do you see how they both fit together into one cohesive and fantastic gospel? If you want to see these concepts play out in scripture or learn more about what they truly mean, then be like the Bereans who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Tradition!

Many in the church today seem to have a negative view of the word, “traditions,” and perhaps in some instances they should.

In Mark 7, Jesus told the religious leaders of his day: “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition,” or as Matthew 15:3 and 6 record, why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?… You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

This statement of Jesus followed His quoting to them from Isaiah 29:13, which states: “this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus said they were “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

But are traditions all bad?

Paul told the Thessalonians, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) He also told the church in Corinth, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2)

Just a few verses later in the same chapter, when Paul was instructing the women of Corinth to cover their heads while praying, he referred to this instruction with the Greek word “sunétheia,” which indicates “a custom, habit, or practice,” something that becomes “intimate” or “customary” through repeated usage.

So how are we to judge which traditions are valuable and which should be thrown out?

Notice from the verses that we have listed that the Bible does not exalt or denounce ideas and practices based simply on whether they are “old,” or “new,” but rather on whether or not they are conducive to godliness and in line with Biblical doctrine.

  • If the keeping of a tradition requires us to set aside God’s word, it must go.
  • If observing a particular tradition causes us to break God’s commandments, it must be abandoned.
  • If the process of learning our traditions “by rote” has resulted in heartless, mechanical worship, something must change.
  • If we are teaching our traditions as though they were the very words of God, we must stop.

On the other hand, if our traditions call us to godliness, enrich our spiritual lives, and bring honor to God, all without violating His revealed will, they are to be cherished and prolonged.

But what if a particular tradition is not causing any harm, and violates none of God’s commands, but some find it pointless and wish to abandon it while others think it continues to be useful?

A similar situation occurred in Romans 14.

Old dietary and holiday traditions still existed among new converts form Judaism to Christianity. Disagreements arose about the usefulness and validity of these old traditions now that the Christ had come. But Paul did not exactly pick sides. Instead, he seamed to confirm to them that either position was potentially acceptable: “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”

To see more of what council the church in Rome was given, read through Romans chapter 14.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Creation”

Our church is embarking upon a weekly study, with a particular word being the focus of each week.  The second word we devoted our attention to was: “creation.”

We have had several requests to make the scriptures and brief notes from these studies readily available online.  Hopefully this can be a helpful resource.

Creation
Genesis 1:1 – in beginning God created
Genesis 1:27 – man created in God’s image
Genesis 2:3 – God rested after He created and made
Genesis 2:4 – in the day that God made earth and heaven
Genesis 2:7 – man formed from dust of ground
Genesis 2:22 – woman made from man’s rib
Genesis 4:51-52 – Ephraim born second
Genesis 5 – genealogy indicates time since creation?
Genesis 6:7 – God sorry He made man and animals
Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a clean heart”
Psalm 102:18 – a people not yet created will come
Psalm 104:20 – “you send forth your Spirit, and they are created.”
Isaiah 20:46 – “see the One who created all these stars”
Isaiah 43:7 – God creates people for His glory
Isaiah 45:18 – God, as creator, has authority and deserves glory
Isaiah 48:7 – things created now, and not long ago
Isaiah 65:17 – I create a new heavens and new earth
Isaiah 65:18 – I create for rejoicing and gladness
Jeremiah 31:9 – Ephraim referred to as firstborn
Ezekiel 28:11-19 – Origin of the Devil?
Amos 4:13 – God as creator has authority and glory
Malachi 2:10 – God created us all, so we ought to live in harmony
Matthew 1 – genealogy helpful for chronologies
Matthew 1:17 – “14 generations” and the way Jews did genealogies
Matthew 19:4 – Male and Female an important part of creation
Mark 16:15 – preach the gospel to all creation
John 3:3-8 – born again of water and spirit
John 8:58 – “before Abraham was, I am”
John 17:5 – Jesus was there before the kosmos
Romans 1:20 – we learn of God by His creation
Romans 1:22 – professing to be wise, they became fools.
Romans 1:24-25 – worship and serve creature or creator
Romans 5:12, 18-19 – Sin entered when Adam sinned
Romans 6:1-4 – saved people still need to be told not to sin, why?
Romans 8:18-25 – creation itself to be set free?
Romans 8:29 – conformed to image of His Son
Romans 8:37-39 – no created thing can separate us from God
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 – our new bodies will be spiritual
1 Corinthians 3:1 – mere babies in Christ still live carnally
2 Corinthians 5:17 – old has gone, new is here
Galatians 6:15 – being a new creation matters, not circumcision
Ephesians 2:10 – created for good works
Ephesians 4:24 – new self is created by God
Colossians 1:15 – He is the firstborn of all creation
Colossians 1:16-17 – all things created by Jesus, and FOR God
Colossians 3:10 – we are renewed according to the image of Him who created us
1 Timothy 2:13 – Male leadership reflected by creation order
1 Timothy 4:3 – God created food to be gratefully shared
1 Timothy 4:4 – everything God created is good
Hebrews 12:25-29 – created things that can be “shaken” will be removed
1 peter 2:2 – the new creation is a newborn who must grow
2 Peter 3:4 – “all things will go on like they have since creation…”
2 Peter 3:10 – creation to be burned up
Revelation 3:14 – Jesus is beginning (meaning?) of the creation of God
Revelation 4:11 – all things exist because of God’s will
Revelation 5:13 – every created thing blessed God and the Lamb

Why did God create the universe?
Isaiah 43:7
– for His glory
Colossians 1:16-17 – for Himself
Isaiah 65:18 – for rejoicing and gladness
Ephesians 2:10 – for good works
1 Timothy 4:3 – for grateful sharing
Revelation 4:11 – because of His will

Did God use evolution?
Science has not demonstrated macroevolution, because there is no viable means for adding new, meaningful information to the genome.
Gen 1:27 – Man is made in God’s image, not through unguided, chance processes.
Genesis 2:7, 22 – describes process and does not mention common ancestry and gradual change.
These verses are used as basis of Biblical doctrines throughout the New Testament.
Romans 5:12, 18-19 – Sin of Adam
Matthew 19:4 – Male and Femaleness and marriage
1 Timothy 2:13 – Male leadership reflected by creation order and because Eve was deceived

Literal 24 hour days?
Compare Genesis 1:5 to Genesis 2:4 interlinear (Hebrews word depends on context)
Genesis 1 – Notice, there was no sun by which to judge a day.
Genesis 2:3, God rested on seventh day, Jews also. We worship every seven days.
The Hebrew word itself is ambiguous, but the context of “evening and morning” lends credence to 24 hours being a natural reading, and why posit another period of time? What agenda does that advance?

How long ago was the creation?
Genesis 5
– genealogy/ Matthew 1, focus on verse 17 (in the thousands of years since Adam)

Is Jesus created?
Colossians 1:15
– look at context and at Greek
Genesis 4:51-52 and Jeremiah 31:9 – firstborn indicates preeminence
Revelation 3:14 – look at Greek
Romans 1:24-25 – distinction between creation and creator, as highlighted by placing Jesus in the beginning, before heaven and earth, and before the kosmos – John 17:5
John 8:58
– before Abraham, “I am”
Mark 16:15 – preach gospel to all creation (preach it to Jesus?)
Romans 8:37-39 – no created thing can separate us from Christ
Revelation 5:13 – all created things bless God and Lamb

Will creation be destroyed or renewed?
Isaiah 65:17
– new heavens and new earth
Romans 8:18-25 – creation to be set free? Similar to how Christians will – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 the natural becomes spiritual
2 Peter 3:4, 10 – last time it was a flood, this time it will be fire
Hebrews 12:25-29 – created things that can be “shaken” will be removed

Is Satan created?
Ezekiel 28:11-19
– Origin of the Devil?
1 Timothy 4:4 – everything God created is good

Did God create evil?
1 Timothy 4:4
– everything God created is good

What does it mean for a saved person to be a new creation?  Why do they still sin?
2 Corinthians 5:17
– old has gone, new is here
Romans 6:1-4 – yet they still need to be told not to sin, why?
John 3:3-8 – born again of water and spirit
1 Corinthians 3:1 – mere babies in Christ still live carnally
1 Peter 2:2 – the new creation is a newborn who must grow

Can science explain creation without God?
When scientists try, their answers increasingly converge on God but just insist on using another name.
You have a being that is: eternal… immaterial… present everywhere and constantly, powerfully active… filled with meaningful information… containing a fundamental consciousness… etc.
Stephen Hawking say that the universe can and will create itself from NOTHING! – Romans 1:22

Making a Change

We noticed last week in our study of the prophet Hosea that Israel seemed to have an ongoing problem with worshipping statues of calves. We know this problem started all the way back in Exodus 32 when the people made two golden calves to worship even while Moses was still up on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments from God.

Hundreds of years later, they were still stumbling in the same old ways:

“With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, That they might be cut off. He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, ‘My anger burns against them!’ How long will they be incapable of innocence? For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.” (Hosea 8:4-6)

“And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver, All of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” (Hosea 13:2)

For that matter, many have remarked that the entire Old Testament reads like a roller coaster ride with the morality and corresponding prosperity of God’s people going up and down, up and down, over and over again as the people fail to learn their lesson.

But is that not human nature? In 2 Peter 2:22, we are told that it is a “true proverb” that “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” We fail time and again in the same exact ways.

So what are we to do about our recurring sin problems? The scriptural answer is that we must have our minds totally renewed.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A common saying goes that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The alternative, of course, is to do something new in your search for new and different results.

What will you commit to doing something this week that is new or different from what you normally do? What change can you make that will invite God to be your king, friend, and mentor like never before? Will you commit to making some change in your routine? To giving something up in order to focus more on Him? What about stepping out of your comfort zone in a new way? Or talking to someone about a part of you that has long been hidden? When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, and make us new.