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.”

No Room for Boasting

Is the church basically just a group of people who think that they are better than everybody else, because they hold themselves to a bunch of traditions and rules that they think makes them superior?

Perhaps unfortunately that is sometimes the way churchgoers actually feel, but the Bible itself does not describe Jesus’ church that way. In fact, the book of Romans takes pains to make it abundantly clear that the righteousness of the church is NOT about how good they are as people, but rather how kind God has been to pour His grace out on those who will put their faith in Him.

The book of Romans gives us principles such as these:

“There is none righteous, not even one… There is none who does good, There is not even one.”

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”

The point is that people in the church are not naturally “better people” than those outside. Rather, they are clothed with the goodness of Jesus. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Church is all about Jesus, and His goodness.

These principles led Paul to say these words in 1 Corinthians 4: “To me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself… Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

In other words, Paul was saying that the job of the church is not to figure out who is the best Christian and who is the most lousy, or to brag about how good we are. Instead, judgment belongs to God, and we rest in His promises for those who are faithful.

And yet, while the church is not obsessed with being “better than” other people or figuring out who is the holiest, it is still true that the church strives for moral excellence. In the fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians, The church in Thessalonica is commended for walking as they should, with the instruction “that you excel still more.” Again in the same chapter they are complimented for the love that they have for one another, yet they are told, “but we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”

And in an odd way, it is the very fact that the church is justified by faith rather than by works that enables the church to grow spiritually. Because of Christ’s sacrifice and the words of scripture, we can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and this frees us from negative thinking and constant fear of punishment or failure, so that we can walk down the path of holiness with confidence and joy. We can also be free from the pettiness of comparing ourselves to those around us. It has been said, “it is amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.”

The church is not simply a place for “good people” who make all the right decisions in life. It is a place for broken people to find justification by faith, to rest in God’s promises, and to follow Him as well as they can on the pathway of righteousness.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Grace”

What is grace? What is so amazing about it?
11 – Hebrew
hên – favor shown by one person to another
Greek
charis – a favor or a gift of benevolent goodwill.

 12 – “The wide span of meaning that this word has then makes it imperative that one give special attention to any particular passage that he is dealing with that makes use of that word. Otherwise, he may be attributing to the writer and idea that the writer did not have in making use of that word.” – Jack Lewis

 Romans 6:23 – 13 – Grace is amazing because of its scandalous generosity, going beyond what we deserve to give us what we most need.

 What does it mean to be saved by grace?
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 14 – a gift, not a result of works, no reason to boast
Romans 11:6 – 15 – not on the basis of works
Romans 3:23-25 – 16 – Jesus paid the price on our behalf so that we could receive a gift that we could not afford

 If we are saved by grace, is right living technically necessary?
Romans 6:1-4 – 17 – A theology of grace that diminishes the seriousness of sin is flawed
Romans 6:16-18 – 18 – an understanding of grace that does not include freedom from sin is inaccurate
Romans 6:20-23 – 19 – we are saved by grace precisely because we are freed by grace from slavery to sin and its outcome, death.
Romans 8:12-13 – 20 – if you living according to the flesh you must die (spoken to saved persons)
Hebrews 10:26-27 – 21 – if we go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice – yes, God’s grace is contingent upon our future actions!

 If we are saved by grace, is baptism really necessary? How would that not be “works based” salvation?
Epehsians 2:8-9 – 14 – not a result of works
Romans 11:6 – 15 – not on the basis of works
1 Peter 3:21 – 22 – baptism now saves you
Acts 2:38 – 23 – baptism is for the forgiveness of sins
How do we reconcile these passages?

John 3:5-8 – 24 – you must be born again by the spirit
Romans 6:1-4 – 17 baptism is a new birth
Titus 3:5-7 – 25 – the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit – baptism is associate with a new birth and with receiving the holy spirit

Could it be that baptism is the means by which we enter into the condition that we could not possibly earn, merit, or deserve?

Galatians 5:2-6 – 26 – Is there a difference between seeking justification through circumcision and seeking it through baptism?

Revelation 1:5 – 27 – Jesus blood takes away our sins
Revelation 7:14 – 28 – saints wash their robes in the blood of the lamb
Hebrews 9:13-14 – 29 – we are washed by Christ’s blood
Acts 22:16 – 30 – baptism is a washing away of sins

Could it be that baptism is coming into contact with Christ’s saving blood, which cleanses us in a way in which we could never cleanse ourselves, while circumcision is a denial of Christ’s blood in favor of another method of atonement altogether?

Think of the illustration of a new car that your parents buy for you, all you have to do is get a ride to the dealership and pick it up. Does this requirement of your physical action to receive the car nullify their sacrifice? Does getting a ride to the dealership, getting the keys, putting them in the ignition, etc. mean that you are trying to earn/deserve/merit the car and nullify your parents’ gift?

Christians who believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation are not trying to “save up enough good deeds” to cash them in for a ticket to heaven. After being baptized they do not feel they have earned the right to brag about some great feet they have done. They simply understand the Bible to teach that the water of baptism is the place where we receive the gift that we could never have purchased.

There is a real distinction between deserving, earning, meriting, boasting, etc. and simply accepting what has been given to you through some necessary physical act.

 When and how can I receive God’s grace?
The word grace simply means a gift or an unmerited favor.
1 Peter 3:7 – 31 – simply by being alive you are receiving grace!
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 14 – when you have faith, you receive God’s grace
Acts 4:32-33 – 32 – living as a Christian is a life full of grace
Acts 22:16 – 30 – in baptism our sins are washed away, this is by God’s grace!

 What is the concept of “irresistible grace” and is it taught by scripture?
John 6:37-40 – 33 – Jesus will keep all who the Father will give Him
Titus 3:5 – 25 – He saved us according to His mercy
Do either of these indicate that man has no say in his destiny?

Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 – 34 – we were dead, and He made us alive together with Christ
John 1:12-13 – 35 – born of the will of God, not the will of man
God’s will is certainly the deciding factor in our salvation, without His will being to save us, we would have no hope. But does that mean we are incapable of resisting Him?

Hebrews 3:14-15 – 36 – do not harden your hearts
John 3:20-21 – 37 – everyone who is evil does not come to the light, he walks in truth comes to the light
These passages seem to indicate that it is possible to resist the good news, that we have a say in the matter of whether we respond favorably.

2 Peter 3:9 – 38 – If God is not willing that any should perish, then why is the way narrow that leads to eternal life? If God’s grace is irresistible and He wants all to be saved, why will all not be saved?

 Is it possible to fall from grace? If so, how?
Galatians 5:2-6 – 26 – we fall from grace when reject it in favor of earning or meriting that which in reality we must accept humbly as God’s free gift.
Hebrews 10:26-27 – 21 – if we go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice – yes, God’s grace is contingent upon our future actions!

 If grace is something that no one deserves, how is it fair that some people will benefit from it and other people will not?
Romans 6:23 – 16 – the wages (what we earn) of sin is death. It is fair any time we sin and receive death.
Matthew 20:8-16 – 40 – it is right for God to give our just wages to us, and it is His to do what He wants with the salvation that is His alone to give, and which none of us has earned. The fact that anyone will be saved at all is the part where God goes BEYOND what is fair to what is generous.

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)

Do Not Be Arrogant

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, he had to spend a good deal of effort helping the Jews to overcome the pride and arrogance that could blind them to the true beauty of Christ. It was an unfortunate irony that their rich heritage of religious practices and the cherishing of scriptures might actually work against their ability to obey the gospel.

For one thing, many of the Jews thought that simply being Jewish guaranteed them God’s favor. This led Paul to ask two specific questions designed to help them realize the important distinction between a) conditions favorable to spiritual growth and b) inherent spiritual superiority.

The first question, found in Romans 3:1 is this: “What advantage has the Jew?” and the answer given is “Great in every respect.”

The second question, in verse 9, is this: “What then? Are we better than they?” and the answer given is an emphatic “not at all.”

Notice the specific differences in the wordings of these two questions, for within their subtleties lie the unraveling of the Jew’s false sense of superiority.

The first question, “what advantage has the Jew?” asks simply what special and unique blessings have been enjoyed by the Jewish people. And indeed, there were a great many blessings that the Jews had received. As Paul states in verse 2, “they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” That is to say, that the typical Jewish person grows up hearing and memorizing God’s prophecies concerning His Son and His cosmic scheme of redemption.

The second question, “Are we better than they?” asks not simply what special blessings the Jews have received, but whether or not they are inherently more valuable to God or more worthy of His grace.

The implication is clear, Jews have been favored by God in the sense that He has blessed them with conditions favorable to spiritual growth, but He has most certainly not favored them in the sense of making them ethically, morally, or spiritually superior simply for being a Jew.

Now apply this to your own situation. Perhaps God has blessed you with conditions favorable to receptivity. We a individuals have been blessed with some or all of the following:
• Living in a country with religious freedom.
• Living in a country where Christianity is common.
• Having access to a Bible.
• Being born into a Christian family.
• Being reached out to and taught the gospel by a Christian.
• Attending a church that studies the Bible thoroughly.
• Having a heritage in the Restoration Movement.

We must not make the same mistakes that many of the Jews were making.

We must not, for instance, assume that simply because our church has its roots and heritage in the Restoration Movement, that God will accept us regardless of our specific individual and congregational actions and decisions. Simply having “Church of Christ” on a sign guarantees us nothing. Actually being Biblical in practice is essential.

We must also realize that we are not Biblical Christians because we are just so much wiser or more spiritual than the billions of other people on this earth, but in large part because God has blessed us with conditions that are favorable to our spiritual growth. Had we been born in another country, or another family, or another century, we might not have received the blessings that have brought us to the understanding of the truth that we have today. This realization should result in humility, not arrogance.

An Outline of the Book of Romans

Colosseum in Rome
The following is an overview of Romans based on our weekly Sunday Morning Bible Study at Mankato Church of Christ from June-July, 2015.

Introduction.
Paul addresses himself to the Romans and expresses a desire to come see them. (1:1-17)

 No one is justified by works.
The world is a dark place, spiraling downward into sin. (1:18-32)
Even “good, moral people” fall short. (2:1-29)
Being a Jew does have some advantages, but NO ONE has the ability to justify himself to God based on his own merits. (3:1-20)

We are justified by grace through faith in Jesus.
Salvation is made available to us through Jesus Christ. (3:21-5:21)
It is a gracious salvation, it is not deserved. (3:21-5:21)
We access it by faith. (3:21-5:21)
Faith is a trust in God despite discouraging circumstances, and is completed and evidenced by obedience. (4:18-25, James 2:14-26)

We are not only justified, but also sanctified.
This salvation is not merely forgiveness, so that we may continue in sin that grace may abound. It is also comprised of a transformation, as we die to sin and are set free from our slavery to it. (6:1-23)

How and why the Old Law has been done away with.
How can Jews simply lay aside the Old Covenant law code? Because they died to it when they died with Christ, that the law of the Spirit might replace it. (7:1-6)
Are we saying that the law is bad? Not at all, but that sin has used it to ruin us. We are in desperate need of Jesus Christ, not merely the law, to solve this problem. (7:7-25)

Sanctification by the power of the Spirit.
It must remain amply clear that living according to the flesh still leads to death, even under this new covenant. (8:1-13)
Walking not according to the flesh but in righteousness is achieved by following, setting the mind on, and being indwelled by God’s Spirit. It is a matter not merely or rule keeping, but of inward change. (8:1-8:27)

What a glorious plan God has made, that He should justify us to Himself, that Christ Himself would not condemn, that having given us His Son, God would also give us all that we need. (8:26-39)

God is not breaking any promises to Israel.
God always knew that not all Hebrews would be saved, and that the Gentiles would come in, and has spoken accordingly through the prophets. (9:1-33)
The invitation is certainly open to all Jews, since Christ is the fulfillment of Judaism. (10:1-11:6)
Gentiles ought not to be arrogant about this, for though God may use them to make the Jews jealous, He can just as easily remove them from the plan if they display unbelief. (Romans 11:7-36)

Therefore, give your life to God.
In light of this doctrine, your service and your sacrifice to God is to give your life to Him. (12:1-2)

Your relationships with fellow Christians should be mutually edifying. (12:3-13)
You should treat your enemies with kindness rather than revenge. (12:14-21)
You should be in subjection to your government. (13:1-7)
All of your relationships are to be governed by the law: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (13:8-14)

Do not judge your fellow Christians over matters of personal opinion. (14:1-12)
Avoid causing a brother to stumble by your actions, even if those actions are not inherently sinful. (14:13-23) 

Closing thoughts and reminders
Accept and edify each other. (15:1-12)
Paul’s expression of personal joy at the success of the congregation and the salvation of the gentiles (15:13-21) and reaffirmation that Paul wants to visit. (15:22-33)
Warning about those who cause divisions. (16:17-20)

Greetings to many diverse Christian brethren. (16:1-16, 21-24) 

All glory to God through Jesus Christ. (16:25-27)