Scriptures and Thoughts on Justification

What does “justification” mean?

 To say a word in your own defense.
(Job 32:2) But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God.

To show yourself as innocent.
(Genesis 44:16) So Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.”

Do deliver a verdict of innocence.
(1 Kings 8:31-32) 31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and he comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.

To pronounce innocent, to reconcile.
(Isaiah 53:11) As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

To have the charges brought against you silenced.
(Romans 8:31-34) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Results in reconciliation with God.
(Romans 5:1) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be given the identity of an innocent person, rather than a criminal, and to grow into this new identity.
(1 Corinthians 6:11) Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

How is it related to righteousness?

Same Greek word. Appears throughout Romans 3.

(Romans 3:19-26) 19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

(Romans 3:27-30) 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

If I am justified, is it “just as if I’d never sinned?”

(Galatians 3:27) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

(Galatians 6:7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

(Romans 7:15-20) For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

How does someone become justified?

(Romans 2:12-13) 12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

(It would seem that someone could become justified by keeping the Law, but as Paul goes on to demonstrate in Romans 3, none of us can actually be justified this way because none of us has kept it perfectly!)

Thus clearly, not by perfect law keeping:

(Galatians 2:15-17) 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 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.

(Luke 18:11-14) The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Romans 4:2-8) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

(Titus 3:4-8) But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

(Luke 16:14-14) 14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Can someone lose their justified status?

(1 Peter 3:7) You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

(Hebrews 6:4-6) For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

What does it mean that justification is a gift?

(Romans 3:24) “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”

(Romans 5:15-17) 15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

How does justification relate to sanctification?

(Matthew 12:37) For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 (James 2:20-26) But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

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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.”

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Holiness”

What does holiness mean?
The common answer to “what is holiness” is: to be set apart. This is accurate. Holiness also carries the specific connotation of being different or distinctive, and of being consecrated for a particular use.

(Leviticus 20:26) You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Hebrew:
Qodesh – sacred, consecrated, set apart, distinct
The furnishings of the tabernacle were holy because they were set aside for only that purpose. They were consecrated to the Lord’s service.

Greek:
Hagios – holiness, distinctiveness, full dedication to the Lord. Also translated as “saint” and as “sanctification.”

Can a person be holy, or only God?
People are repeatedly called holy in the Bible. Holiness does not necessarily mean perfection, but distinctiveness and consecration to a particular use.

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17) Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

We are called to this holiness:

(1 Peter 1:15-16) But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We must have it:

(Hebrews 12:14) Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Of course, God is more holy than us because He is perfectly good and we are not, and because even when we are perfected into the image of His Son, He will still possess qualities and identities, such as being the creator or having omnipotence, that we will not.  He is holy on a whole other level.

(Revelation 15:4) “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” 

Why is God’s word called the Holy Bible?
(Romans 1:2) which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

It is certainly unique and distinctive:

(2 Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

(Isaian 40:8)“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

 What is a saint and how is this concept related to holiness?
A saint literally is a “holy one.” The same definitions and connotations associated with holiness should describe a saint.  (And all Christians are referred to as saints, see question about people being holy.)

Are Christians “holier” than their neighbors?
Yes, Christians should be different, peculiar, in a way that their non-Christian neighbors are not.

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

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

But remember, holiness in an indication of being consecrated, but not necessarily of being perfect.

(Romans 3:23) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

(Romans 3:27) Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

A typical “holier than thou” attitude us boasting in better behavior. Instead, we ought to humbly acknowledge the special status that God gives those who respond to His invitation.

(Luke 18:11-14) “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 How can I fight for and grow in holiness?
(Leviticus 17-26) These chapters are called the holiness code. And while they do contain a lot of “don’ts” they also contain a lot of positive admonitions to be productive and godly.

(Luke 11:24-26) “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ “And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. “Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

(Romans 12:2) 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.

(Philippians 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.

(John 17) “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth”

 Can a person be holy and still relate and connect to the world?
God was holy, yet He pitched His tent with the wayward Israelites.
Jesus was holy, yet he walked among the spiritually sick.

(John 17:15-19) “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” 

What does holiness look like in the real world?
One who abstains from what is impure, even when it is not popular.

(2 Timothy 2:21) Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

(James 1:27) Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 7:1) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must have an attitude that makes the Spirit welcome. Since the Holy Spirit is He who makes us Holy.

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17) “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

(Ephesians 4:30) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(Psalm 51:10-12) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
 

 

Are Christians Better than Other People?

One common complaint raised against Christians is that “you think you are better than everyone else.” The typical response, often offered preemptively before this objection is even raised, is that “I do not think I am better than anyone else just because I am a Christian. I am just as bad as you are. The only difference is that God looks on Christ’s righteousness instead of my sins.”

So is it true? Do Christians really think they are better than other people? And should they? Are they actually better than other people?

That depends on what you mean by “better.”

Does a Christian have more intrinsic worth in God’s eyes than a non-Christian does? The Biblical answer is “no.” We derive an objective value from being a soul created in God’s image, whether Christian or not (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:6, Acts 17:28).

Does God love a Christian more than a non-Christian? If love means wanting what is best for a person, and acting in their best interest, then once again, the Biblical answer is a resounding “no.” Contrary to the conclusions of some Calvinist theologians, God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”  He illustrates this love by the story of a father who runs out to welcome home his rebellious son (Luke 15:11-31). After all, Jesus died for sinners (Romans 5:8), not people who were already holier-than-thou. (Mark 2:17)

Does a Christian deserve God’s grace more than a non-Christian does? If the key word is deserve, then the answer is “no,” yet again. A Christian is not someone who has earned their salvation. It is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23). This fact led Paul to conclude, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all” (Romans 3:9). When it comes to deserving our salvation, we are not better than anyone else.

But there is a real sense in which Christians are better than other people. Or at least, we sure ought to be.

A chief aspect of God’s work in the life of a Christian is to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). There is no reasonable way to understand the concept of “being conformed to the image of Christ,” through a process of “transformation by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1) that does not include becoming a better person.

Ephesians 4:22-24 states it plainly: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

If you have not become a better person since becoming a Christian, something is seriously wrong.

In conclusion: Do Christians have more intrinsic worth than others? No. Does God love Christians more than others? When love is understood as an unconditional, active desire for the wellbeing of another, clearly not.   Do Christian’s deserve to be saved more than others? No.

But do Christians behave better than others? The answer had better be “yes.” We ought to be a people unusually full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We ought to be a people unusually forgiving, unusually meek, unusually pure and upright and gracious and harmonious. Shame on us when we are not.

May we be growing in holiness in a way unlike anything that we experienced before our conversion. May we look more like our God every day. In that sense, may we be better than we were prior to our conversion.

What do we Know about the Holy Spirit?

We MUST have the Holy Spirit

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

God Gives the Spirit to us

Those who ask:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

Those who repent and are baptized:
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38)

Those who obey Him:
“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32)

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points… so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:15-16)

“…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” (Romans 8:26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

True Freedom

Paul asked the Romans in the sixth chapter of his letter to them: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

Many in today’s world would not agree with Paul. They would definitely agree that those who submit themselves to God’s will are pitiful slaves who miss out on all the fun, but they would not agree that those who choose not to submit to God are also slaves, and in a much worse sense.

Most in today’s world believe that there is true freedom in following our own hearts and being our own people at all costs. That, as David Bentley Hart puts it, “freedom – conceived as the perfect, unconstrained spontaneity of individual will – is its own justification, its own highest standard, its own unquestionable truth.”

In other words, to be truly free is to have no one tell me what I can or cannot do with my money, my body, or my life, and this is the goal of all of life.

Maybe Khalil Gibran was commenting on this mindset when the speaker in his book, The Prophet, declared, “I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom, even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them… I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.”

The Biblical truth that Paul is suggesting and that these writers are echoing is that the truest freedom we can ever have is found not in doing what we want regardless of what God or anyone else thinks, but in becoming what we are meant to become by submitting to the nature of reality. It means that when God and I disagree on what I should or should not do, God wins and I submit.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)

What are You Thankful For?

This is the time of year when millions of Americans place a special focus on thankfulness.  Perhaps this is a favorite celebration for many because its focus has the potential to be so enriching for us emotionally and spiritually.  Indeed, even secular psychologists acknowledge what the Bible also indicates, that pausing each day to think about what we are grateful for has a positive effect on our wellbeing.

1 Corinthians 4:7 is a powerful verse on thankfulness because it reveals that not only is thankfulness healthy, it is also the only sensible response to the good things in our lives.

“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

What good thing do you have that God has not given you?  James 1:17 tells us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

If it is good, God gave it to you.  Thankfulness, therefore, makes sense.  Alternatively, boasting about having something that someone else gave you out of their own charity seems rather silly.

But what is particularly thought provoking about the context of our verse in 1 Corinthians 4, is that Paul is not actually talking about physical possessions.  I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 3:18 – 4:7 some time for context.  You will find that the Corinthians were being tempted to boast about their own spiritual wisdom, and their own connections to well know spiritual leaders.  They were perceiving themselves as exceptional Christians.

It was in response to this pride that the Corinthians were warned: “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

The implication is this: we are not only indebted to God for our possessions, but also for our knowledge of the truth, and our relationships with the “Pauls, Apollos’S and Cephas’s” that first taught us about Christ.

In fact, the Bible indicates that we are indebted to God for our very righteousness itself: 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 Corinthians 5:21)  Also consider Romans 3:21-26 for more scriptural support.

What do we have, that was not given us by God?

Houses?  Cars?  Pantries full of food?
Relationships with other Christians?
Righteousness?

Eternal life?

We have nothing to boast about except the cross. (Galatians 6:14)  And yet, we have more to be thankful for this season than anyone else.

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