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Archive for the ‘justification’ Category

It’s important to rightly relate these truths – ‘I am in Christ’ and ‘Christ is in me’ (see this older post and this one).

If I put “Christ in me” first then I fall for a Catholic doctrine of infusion.  God infuses His grace into me so that I begin to live the righteous life.  Eventually I might be declared righteous.  If a person gives priority to “Christ in me” they may have Personalised the grace which God gives (which is an improvement on the Catholic doctrine) but we’re still travelling along the same route.

The gospel is “I in Christ” – that is, through a gracious marriage union with Christ I immediately have His name.  Therefore righteousness is a status instantly imputed to me as a gift in Jesus. The rest of my life involves a communion with Jesus in which I gradually exhibit more and more of His nature.  But that is not my hope.  My hope is not me living Christ’s life (by His power within me).  My hope is Christ living my life (with me hidden in Him).

This morning I was reflecting on the nature of the sacraments and how they teach this fundamental truth.  I am baptised into Christ.  This is the beginning and foundation of my Christian life – I in Christ.  But regularly I am fed by Christ and take Him into myself – Christ in me.

To put it in Passover terms, I am saved once and for all by the Lamb’s blood applied externally – I’m hidden in the Lamb.  But I am nourished for the journey out of Egypt by the Lamb’s flesh – the Lamb in me.

And incidentally this is the basis of the Christian sexual ethic too.  The once-for-all one-flesh union first, the regular one-flesh communion afterwards – the two utterly united and the former given absolute priority.

Mix them up and you get into all sorts of trouble, in all areas of life!

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John 3:18 is emphatic – humanity is condemned already for its unbelief in Jesus.  The verdict is already handed down, the sentence is already passed, the human race is already lost.  The gavel has fallen, court is adjourned.  There’s no higher Judge, no appeals process, no loopholes, no going back, no ifs, no buts.  Condemned.  Perfectly, completely, irreversibly condemned.

Are you human?  Are you flesh and blood?  Then you are condemned.  Condemned already.

You want a retrial?  Stiff bickies, as they say in Australia.

But let me tell you why it’s good news that we’re condemned already.

It means I’m not crushed under the weight of determining my eternity!  I don’t stand at a crossroads with heaven and hell depending on my wise and moral choices.  Neither am I walking a tightrope – one wrong step and I plunge to my doom.  No, no.  Thank God the pressure’s off.  I’m condemned already.

It means that none of my past sins have condemned me to hell and none of my future sins ever can.  That betrayal, that abortion, that infidelity, those years of rebellion will not take me to hell.  My sins and my works just don’t have that power.  They don’t even come into this equation.  They are only the fruit of a condemned tree, the symptoms of a condemned condition.  Reality is, I’m condemned already.

It means that both the problem and the solution lies in the realm of my being not of my doing.  I’m not expected to summon up the strength for a 5-point plan of salvation.  All that nonsense is irrelevant.  I’m condemned already.

It means I don’t need to worry about judgement day as though that will have the decisive word on my destiny.  Judgement day is not about presenting my good works or my right confession of faith (as though we’ll be in the queue nervously rehearsing our confession “Please let me in because of the blood of Jesus shed for me”).  Nothing hangs in the balance. And no-one hangs in the balance. Judgement day will only confirm what we are and therefore what we have chosen.

It means that hell is God’s pronouncement upon those who remain in unbelief: ‘have it your way.’

And it means that Jesus is my only hope.  There’s nothing in me that’s not sunk in perdition.  Therefore my eyes are taken off myself.  I must look to a Saviour completely outside myself because I’m condemned already.

In evangelism it means that we do not address religious consumers with their capacities for choice.  Instead we address condemned criminals with news of a pardon.  We do not treat unbelievers as mighty decision-makers with eternity in their hands.  They are lost.   And we do not preach judgement simply as something hanging over them but as something in which they are already sunk.

Do you think we give enough emphasis to the already-ness of humanity’s condemnation?

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Why is it that faith saves?  What’s so special about faith that it brings such benefits?

Because here’s how the whole deal is usually set up:

First we insist that God does not save us by our works.  No sir, we believe in ‘justification by faith alone.’  Therefore it’s not that God is armed with a clipboard and some binoculars waiting for an external moral act in order to flick the ‘justification’ switch.  How ridiculous.  No, no.  Instead we imagine God (with clipboard and brain scanner) eagerly seeking for a certain mental act within us.  And then He’ll zap righteousness into our account.

Yeah.  That’s much more reformed…

But honestly, for many, that is the doctrine of justification by faith alone in a nut-shell.

Yet for the thoughtful who’ve been reared on such teaching it raises big questions.  Like, why faith?  Is it just that ‘faith’ keeps us humble and God simply wants to remind everyone who’s Boss?  In which case why give us Christ’s righteousness at all?  Why not just leave us in a sort of righteousness limbo forever – that’d keep us humble right?  And what’s the link between this act of mental assent and that imputation of saving stuff??  It all seems so arbitrary.

And it would be completely arbitrary so long as we keep Christ out of the discussion.  But once Jesus is central – and by that I mean the Person of Jesus (not just the Provider of a Perfect Righteousness) then things start to fall into place.

Because faith is receiving Jesus Himself (John 1:10-12).  He gives Himself to the world in life and death, He pledges Himself to us (marriage style) in the gospel.  When we hear the gospel rightly we are swept off our feet by such a proposal and find ourselves saying “Yes.”   That is faith.  And by faith we are united to Christ.  In that union we have our salvation because salvation is all in Jesus.

So there’s nothing at all arbitrary about the connection between faith and salvation.  Because there’s nothing arbitrary about the link between a marriage vow and marriage union. Once we are united to Christ by faith, then of course we instantly have His name, His wealth, His family connections.  Of course then instantly we have the righteousness of Christ imputed.  But it’s not an impersonal imputation in response to an impersonal faith!

Justification by faith does not mean “being zapped because of mental assent.”  But we’ll never get that unless we put union with Christ at the centre.

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This righteous

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You who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ  (Gal 3:27)

I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you  (Gal 4:19)

Christ put on me

Christ formed in me

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Christ surrounding me

Christ birthed in me

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Christ already

Christ progressing

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Christ: My status

Christ: My stature

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I in Christ

Christ in me

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