Tag Archives: justified

A RIVER OF CONSEQUENCES

A RIVER OF CONSEQUENCES

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5.

It has happened. We have been justified. It is a cut-and-dried fact!

Not only that, but justification releases a river of consequences. The first one is peace with God. The war is over. God and man have been reconciled. God and we have “smoked the peace pipe” and there is no longer any reason for Him to be at odds with us. The solid ground of peace with God is that the reason for the war has been removed. Where once the broken law was the issue, it no longer exists. Jesus has satisfied God’s holy standards by living a perfect life and then doing away with the law as a standard of judgment by setting up a new law that encapsulates the old perfectly.

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23

Jesus has become God’s standard of judgment and, because we are now “in Him” through faith in Him, we wear His righteousness as a covering for our sin. Justification, and the peace with God which follows, is our legal standing before Him. We can approach Him without fear, look Him in the face and receive His smile of approval because there is nothing left to condemn or separate us from Him.

Through Jesus, we have been given access into God’s grace – all His resources of love, strength and enabling that we need to live our lives in and for Him. We have a standing in grace – we are surrounded with His favour as David experienced:

“Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with favour as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12.

Another consequence flows from justification – the hope of the glory of God. What does this mean? When Adam sinned, the whole human race was plunged into darkness – selfish and self-centred living that brought chaos and conflict into the world because everyone was looking out for number one. Jesus died in our place, not only to deal with our sin but with our sinfulness as well. That means that, through the power of the Holy Spirit we are being and will be restored to God’s original intention, to be replicas of Him in our nature and behaviour.

But how does this happen? Strangely enough, the very hardships we experience, which we so often use to accuse God of not loving us, or of punishing us for something we have done wrong (which cannot be because God has already punished Jesus for all sin, ours and everyone else’s), are God’s way of knocking off the rough edges so that we begin to understand and share in the hardships of others instead of being self-absorbed and self-centred.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? …They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7; 9-11.

Three more consequences flow from our training to reflect God’s glory: perseverance, character, hope. Have you ever noticed how God’s children who have suffered much have been mellowed by it and are full of hope for their future in the life to come? Paul says, “Revel in it! There are indescribably great things up ahead.”

These consequences go full circle – they begin with God’s great love for us and they work in us until God’s love is poured through us to touch the lives of others who, in turn, follow the same pattern, over and over again and on and on. Justified; peace; grace; perseverance; character; hope; love, and it all flows out of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Power Of The Cross – We Have Been Justified By His Blood

THE POWER OF THE CROSS

WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY HIS BLOOD

When Adam and Eve chose to believe the devil’s lies over God’s truth, little did they know just how much damage they would do to themselves and to the human race by their choice. We have already examined a number of aspects of their lives that went wrong, that they passed on to the human race, and that needed the intervention of God to put right. They became slaves to sin; they were estranged from God, they lost their oneness and fellowship with Him; they were guilty and condemned to death and under God’s wrath – and so we can go on.

Without divine intervention, they were doomed to be separated from God forever, in the torment of knowing what could have been had they but heeded the Father’s instruction. Guilt, shame and fear would drive their consciences day and night, living in the terrible regret of “if only”. Even if people refuse to own their guilt or understand the reason for their torment, is that not what puts many a person in a psychiatric hospital?

In the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gave him, Paul had the answer that everyone desperately needs to hear.

Since we now have been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him. (Rom 5: 9)

What does “justified” mean? In the simplest legal terms it means to be declared, “Not guilty”. But how can God do that seeing that we are all guilty of transgressing His laws?

Let’s look at it this way. Say you are accused of a committing a crime. You are arrested and put in prison awaiting trial. All the evidence is gathered and the trial date is set. You have a defence lawyer whose task is to prove that you are not guilty, while the prosecutor’s job is to secure a “guilty” verdict based on the indisputable evidence that you did it. It is his job to see that you get the punishment you deserve if you are found guilty.

Both sides present their evidence and their conclusions, and it is now up to the judge or the jury to decide whether the evidence is conclusive enough for them to reach a verdict. All the forensic and circumstantial evidence points to you. In the end, your guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The judge passes sentence and you are fined an appropriate sum of money or sent to prison as an appropriate punishment. You have been proven guilty and there is nothing you can do about it. The law has spoken. You must serve your sentence without complaint.

But what if the judge is your father? What if you have an older brother who loves you so much that he chooses to take your punishment for you? He steps up to the judge and pays the fine, or he takes your place in the prison cell so that you can go free. What if he chooses to be executed in your place so that you do not have to die?

Are you still guilty of your crime? No, because you have been “justified”. You were guilty – you were sentenced – but the sentence has been carried out by your brother. Your father, the judge, is satisfied that the crime has been paid for. He can declare you “Not guilty” because it is illegal to demand punishment for the same crime twice.

That is exactly what Jesus did to secure our release from guilt. God decreed that the appropriate punishment for transgressing His laws was death. He gave the first pair one command – “Don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.” Why? Was it because the fruit of that tree was poisonous? No (and, by the way, the Bible does not say that it was an apple tree). It was a simple test to determine the reality of Adam’s love for God. Jesus said:

If you love me, keep my commands. (John 14: 15)

Adam was deceived because he believed that God was withholding something good from him. Satan’s trap was very subtle. God created man in His image – he was like God in his nature so that he could have fellowship with Him. Satan suggested that he needed something different to be like God – the right to independence; the right to make his own rules. What he did not tell Adam was that he aspired to be Lord and, if Adam listened to him rather than to God, it would prove that he was, in fact, in charge.

Adam fell for his lie, disregarded God’s instruction and brought the whole superstructure of God’s intention crashing down on his head. Only another man, made in the likeness of the first Adam, without sin, could set it all right by willing to be sentenced in Adam’s place. He did it and we are now free – justified; declared not guilty.

There is a consequence to Jesus’ obedience to the Father. Paul said: How much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.

We were not only saved from death, but God’s wrath against sin was satisfied. He is no longer angry with the sinner. We are now the objects of His favour. Did you get that? He is no longer angry with anyone – not even those who reject Him and refuse to obey the truth.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5: 8)

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Who Needs A Guardian?

WHO NEEDS A GUARDIAN?

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave not free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:23-29.

Interesting how Paul wove Jewish history and Roman culture together to help his readers understand why they were not obligated to obey the Law of Moses! Having explained that the law was given for the purpose of teaching God’s people what sin is, that He is a holy God, and they could not approach Him without sacrifice and a mediator, he went on to explain how the law acted as a guardian until Christ came.

In a Roman household, little children were cared for by a paidagogos, a slave whose task was to care for and teach the children until they reached the age when the sons were “adopted” by the father and the daughters by the mother. The sons would don the toga virilis, the toga of manhood, and take his place at the father’s side to learn the father’s business. For the Jewish son, it was his bar mitzvah which was his rite-of-passage to manhood.

The law acted as a custodian for the people of God. They were like spiritual children who needed rules and regulations to spell out how God wanted them to live. Rules are what children understand best, even if they don’t obey them. Another way to understand the law is to see it as a boundary fence, so that those who live inside the boundaries are safe. One does not open the gate for a toddler to play in the street. He does not understand how to keep himself safe in a dangerous place

When Christ came, instead of boundaries, God gave His children direct access to Himself through Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who lives within the believer as a personal Paidagogos, a companion and guide, steering the believer from within to live in the safety of God’s ways. The law was only meant for immature children, to keep them from destroying themselves. When a person reaches maturity, he no longer needs the do’s and don’ts of the law because he is mature enough to make the right choices through his childhood training.

An immature child is nothing but a slave, but when he reaches maturity, he sheds his slave status and becomes a son. So it is with us. When Jesus came, He rescued us from being slaves to the law and restored us to being sons and daughters in God’s family. When we receive Him by faith, He moves us from slavery to sonship and puts the Spirit of sonship into our hearts. He transfers us into a new family that is made up of people from every group on earth, Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free.

That means that no one is better than anyone else. All are on the same level and have the same status – children of God. Why, then, should Gentiles be forced to accept circumcision as a pre-requisite for faith in Jesus and entrance into God’s family? In fact, why should any requirement except obedience to Jesus’ commands – to be baptised and to remember His death – be a requirement for participation in the family of God?

The argument is futile and foolish and based on a complete misunderstanding of the gospel. The gospel is good news about Jesus, what He had done to set us free from every “yoke of bondage” that demands that we need to obey rules to gain God’s acceptance, and to be yoked with Him because He did it all for us.

Children in a family do not have to perform to gain their father’s love and approval, He loves them because they are his own flesh and blood. We are Jesus’ “flesh and blood” because He bought us back from Satan and made us His own again.

“In bringing many sons to glory it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect though suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of one family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Hebrews 2:10, 11.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Either Or, Not Both And…

EITHER OR, NOT BOTH AND…

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3:10-14.

The Judaizers were trying to convince Gentile believers that salvation was a “both and…” situation. In order to have Christ, they had to obey the law as well. “No way!” said Paul. It is not “both and” but “either or” because they are mutually exclusive. You cannot have law and grace because they are opposing principles. The one automatically cancels out the other.

Let’s see why. Those who rely on their own attempts to obey God’s law perfectly (and anything that is less than perfection is automatically disqualified), and fail, are under a curse and have to pay the penalty for disobeying God’s law. Since death is the penalty for sin, and everyone is born into the world with a dead spirit – unable to connect with God’s Spirit because of his sin nature, everyone comes into the world already under a curse.

No amount of trying to satisfy God’s righteous standards will make them alive because they all begin with a spoiled record before they ever choose to sin. Sinning is automatic. Take the two-year-old who throws a tantrum because he can’t get his own way. What is that? It is the self-demanding to be in charge. He doesn’t even need to choose. He just does it because it is in his nature to rebel. No amount of trying will cancel the sin already present from birth.

There is only one way to get rid of the penalty of sin – if someone else pays the debt who has no debt of his own. That’s where Jesus comes in. He is the only alternative because He was placed under a curse by being executed on a pole (a euphemism for being put to death as a criminal), as a substitute for every sinner who deserves to die because he is already spiritually dead.

Now the alternative is – not trying to keep God’s commandments because it doesn’t work, but trusting in Jesus because God is satisfied with what our Substitute did. What is the outcome of Jesus’ sacrifice? God restored the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Jesus. Why do we have to have the Holy Spirit resident in us? Because, without Him we have not link with the Father.

God breathed His breath into Adam in the beginning and gave him life, that is, a connection with Himself that made him fully human and therefore fully alive, able to have fellowship with God because he was one with Him. When Adam rebelled, the Spirit of God withdrew and Adam died to any connection with God. He was on his own, just as he had chosen to be, and he had to make up his own rules. We know the result.

Only when rebellion was dealt with and we are reconciled to God through the death of His Son, can God give the Holy Spirit back to us. We are reinstated as His sons and daughters with a new nature of loving submission to the Father.

Who wants to keep on trying to please God by fruitless keeping of rules when He offers a free pardon for our sin, a new nature and all the benefits of being His children simply by accepting His gift? How foolish to think that we can do both!

It’s no wonder Paul became angry with the Judaizers for their poisonous teaching. It was like telling the Gentiles to go back to jail after being given a free pardon just to make sure that justice has been served.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

One Small Step Backwards…

ONE SMALL STEP BACKWARDS...

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law because, by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15, 16.

This sounds like a bit of a tongue-twister, doesn’t it? What is Paul saying?

Peter and his fellow disciples, in their association with Jesus, had experienced a rude awakening. As part of a religious system that relied heavily on their performance for acceptance with God, they thought that their law-keeping was what He demanded to satisfy His requirements. Jesus taught them that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was actually their Father, and that He was calling them into a relationship of intimacy with Him as their sons, just as Jesus was His Son, and the model of sonship they were to follow.

Sin had alienated them from the Father, and no amount of trying to do the right thing by observing rules and carrying out rituals could undo their sinful behaviour or change their sinful nature. They were not “sinful” Gentiles, those who worshipped idols and engaged in depraved behaviour but that didn’t make them any better than those who did. Everyone fell short of God’s perfection and they could do nothing about it.

Jesus’ untimely death on a cross, which they thought was a terrible tragedy, turned out to be the opposite. It was God’s pre-ordained way of dealing with the sin they could not get rid of by rule-keeping. Jesus died in the place of sinners to satisfy God’s righteous demand for the payment of a huge debt. He died as an atoning sacrifice for all people for all time so that God could accept as not guilty everyone who submitted to Jesus as their rightful Lord.

What, then, was Peter thinking when he slipped back into his old pattern of behaviour, thinking he was better than the Gentile believers and withdrawing from fellowship with them? It was a backward step, and would have serious repercussions if it was what he really believed. Even his temporary lapse into the fear of man affected his standing before God.

Everyone who takes the step from confidence in his own efforts to satisfy God’s holy requirements to trusting in Jesus for acceptance with God, has a standing in God’s grace which enables him to approach the Father with confidence. Because of Jesus, he has been declared “not guilty”. His sin has been removed; he has been washed clean of sin’s pollution and he had been given a new nature, one that makes him a son, not a slave. He is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and, through Him, has been restored to oneness with the Father and able to call Him “Abba”.

One small step backwards for Peter was actually a huge fall from standing in the grace of God to standing in his own righteousness which God declared was like filthy rags in His sight. The great Apostle Peter was unwittingly in danger of disqualifying himself by being afraid to stand up for what he believed.

Thank God for Paul’s boldness and for his clear understanding of the gospel. Without it we would not have the letters his wrote to the Roman and Galatian churches which give us a clear explanation of what God did through Jesus Christ to reconcile us to Himself. It was through trial and error, struggle and debate that the truth of the gospel began to emerge in the early church. We are blessed to share in the great heritage passed down to us from the church of the past.

Thank God we learn from our failures as much as from our successes. Peter must surely not have forgotten the lesson, and become stronger for it. Of course it all depends on whether he received Paul’s rebuke or not. We have a clue to his attitude in his second letter which we have preserved for us in the Bible. He obviously held Paul in high esteem because he wrote this:

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 2:15, 16.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.