OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
MESSAGE ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-EIGHT
THE BELIEVERS—THEIR PRESENT
In this message we shall see that, as redeemed ones, the believers have been justified and then reconciled to God in the first step. Because we have been bought, forgiven, freed, washed, and sanctified, we have no problems before God. Thus, God is fully positioned to justify us.
f. By Being Justified
For us to be justified by God means that we are approved by God according to His standard of righteousness. No matter how righteous we may be in ourselves, we cannot be approved by God according to our righteousness. Our righteousness will never justify us before God. We may justify ourselves according to our standard of righteousness, but this does not enable us to be justified by God according to His standard. However, when God justifies us, we are approved by Him according to His standard of righteousness.
The believers are justified by God both objectively and subjectively. To be justified objectively is to be justified outwardly and positionally.
(a) Freely by God’s Grace
through the Redemption in Christ Jesus
Romans 3:24 says, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” Here we see that we are justified freely by God’s grace. Grace is something freely given of God or done by God, and it is the expression and manifestation of God’s love. By His grace God has freely justified us. Hence, justification is a free gift.
Although we are justified by God’s grace, we are justified through Christ’s redemption. This means that because God is righteous, He must have a proper ground to justify us by His grace. Apart from Christ’s redemption, God would not have the ground to justify us. For this reason, Christ’s redemption is needed. God’s love caused Him to have grace on us, and His righteousness caused Him to accomplish redemption for us through Christ. Therefore, our being justified is a matter both of God’s grace bestowed on us and God’s righteousness accomplished for us. Justification, then, is the grace of God to save us according to His righteousness.
God can justify us, approving us according to the standard of His righteousness, because the work of justification is based on the redemption of Christ. When the redemption of Christ is applied to us, we are justified. If there were no such redemption, it would be impossible for us to be justified by God. Christ’s redemption is the basis of God’s justification.
God’s righteousness has been shown to the New Testament saints in His justifying them because Christ has paid the price for our sins and has accomplished the full redemption to meet all of God’s requirements. Because of Christ’s redemption, God, in order for Him to be just, must justify us. On God’s side justification is by His righteousness; on our side justification is by His free grace as compared with justification by the work of the law. To be justified by the work of the law we need to work, but to be justified by the redemption in Christ there is no need of our work, for it is freely given by His grace. We do not deserve it, but God is bound by His righteousness to justify us because of the redemption of Christ, which meets all His requirements.
(b) By the Faith of Christ,
That Is, by Believing in Christ
The believers are justified by the faith of Christ, that is, by believing in Christ (Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:26, 28, 30). Although Christ died to accomplish redemption and God has the ground to justify us and is ready to forgive us, we cannot be justified unless we believe in Christ. Just as a child needs to eat the food prepared by his mother, so we need to receive all that God has prepared for our justification. We receive this by believing in Christ.
Galatians 2:16 says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but through the faith of Christ Jesus; we also have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by works of law, because by works of law no flesh shall be justified.” Under God’s New Testament economy, we are not to keep the law. On the contrary, we are to be justified by faith in Christ. No flesh, no fallen human being, can be justified by works of law. The requirement of God’s law is perfect, but the works of man are imperfect and defiled. Therefore, no one can be justified according to his own works. However, the redemption of Christ is entirely according to the requirement of the law, and Christ’s redemption also satisfies the requirement of the law. This means that the redemption of Christ enables us to be justified by God. Because the works of the law are not dependable, but the redemption of Christ is dependable and sure, justification must not depend on our works but upon the redemption of Christ. In order for us to depend on the redemption of Christ, we must believe in Christ and His redemption. In other words, we must receive Christ and His redemption. This is to be justified by faith in Christ.
Romans 3:26 says, “For the showing forth of His righteousness in the present time, that He should be just and justify the one who is of the faith of Jesus.” Verse 28 goes on to say, “We reckon that a man is justified by faith without works of law.” Verse 30 says, “Since it is one God who shall justify the circumcision out of faith and uncircumcision through faith.” Faith is the source for the circumcision to be justified by God, so it is out of faith. But for the uncircumcision to be justified by God, faith is the way, so it is through faith. These verses clearly reveal that the believers in Christ are justified by faith.
i) The Faith of Christ Being Christ Himself
Entering into the Believing Ones
to Be Their Believing Element and Ability
Romans 3:22 speaks of the faith of Jesus Christ, and verse 26, of the faith of Jesus. Some Bible students say that the faith of Jesus Christ refers to our act of believing in Jesus Christ, and others claim that this refers to the faith of Jesus, that the faith of Jesus becomes ours. I prefer to say that genuine believing is to believe in the Lord Jesus by His faith, even by Him as our faith. Our faith is actually the Lord Jesus believing within us. Therefore, the phrase “through faith of Jesus Christ” means believing in Jesus Christ by His faith.
The faith of Christ is actually Christ Himself, the One who has entered into the believing ones to be their believing element and ability. Such faith is reckoned to the believing ones as righteousness by God (Rom. 4:22-24). This means that God considers this kind of faith a righteous act. In ourselves we are sinners and do not have any righteousness before God. But if we take God’s word, stand on it, and obey it, and if we believe in His Son Jesus Christ, God will count our believing in His Son according to His word as righteousness. We can have this righteousness easily. We simply need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. God will regard this as the highest righteousness, and we shall be justified with this righteousness. The more we believe in Christ, the greater will be our sense that God is pleased with us. This is a matter of the righteousness of God being reckoned to us as the issue of our faith in Christ.
When Christ comes into us as the believing ones, He becomes our faith. Then God reckons our faith as righteousness. In this way we have faith and righteousness, both of which are actually Christ Himself. Christ is the faith by which we believe in Him, and He is also the righteousness which God reckons to us.
ii) Believing in Christ Being the Way to Be Justified
Believing in Christ is the way to be justified. Acts 13:39 says, “From all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses, in this One everyone who believes is justified.” “This One” is the Lord Jesus, the One who was resurrected to be our Savior. Actually, the One by whom we are justified is Himself in resurrection as our justification. Now the way for us to be justified is to believe in Him.
(c) To Receive the Righteousness
of God, Which Is Christ
When we are justified by God objectively we receive the righteousness of God, which is Christ. Romans 3:22 speaks of “the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ.” The righteousness of God is what God is with respect to justice and righteousness. Whatever God is in His justice and righteousness constitutes His righteousness. Furthermore, all that God is in His righteousness is actually Himself. Therefore, the righteousness of God is God Himself, not merely a divine attribute. Although we are justified with the righteousness of God (Phil. 3:9) and have received this righteousness, we actually have Christ as our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). God has made Christ, the embodiment of God Himself, our righteousness. Therefore, the righteousness which we have received is Christ Himself. The very person of Christ is the righteousness by which we have been justified by God.
i) By the Resurrection of Christ
The fact that we have been justified by God is evidenced by the resurrection of Christ. Romans 4:25 says that Christ “was delivered because of our offenses and was raised because of our justification.” The death of Christ fully satisfied God’s righteous requirements so that we may be justified by God through Christ’s death. His resurrection is an evidence that God is satisfied with His death for us and that we are justified by God because of His death. In the resurrected Christ we are accepted by God. Therefore, Romans 4:25 says that Christ was raised because of our justification.
The proof of God’s justification is the resurrected Christ. Suppose Christ had died for our sins and was buried in the tomb but was not resurrected by God. If this were the situation, we could not believe that His death was accepted by God and that it satisfied God’s righteous requirements. However, Christ is not in the tomb. God raised Him up from among the dead as an evidence that God has accepted His death for us and that His death satisfied God’s righteous requirements.
Romans 10:9 is a further proof that we are justified in and by Christ’s resurrection: “That if you confess with your mouth, Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from among the dead, you shall be saved.” Do you believe that the Lord died for you, or do you believe that God has raised Him from the dead? Of course, you believe in both. However, you may be surprised to know that not one word in the Scriptures says that we ought to believe that the Lord has died for us. Rather, we must believe that God has raised Him from the dead; for we may believe that the Lord has died and yet not believe that He was raised from the dead. If you believe that the Lord has been raised from the dead, this surely implies your faith in His death. Everybody believes that the Lord died, but revelation is needed to believe that the Lord has been resurrected. In Him, the resurrected One, we are accepted before God. Romans 4:25 says that He was raised because of our justification. Justification includes the fact that God has resurrected Christ, accepted Him, and that God has been satisfied with His redemptive death.
ii) By the Ascension of Christ
The believers’ being justified by God is also evidenced by the ascension of Christ. In John 16:10 the Lord Jesus said that the Spirit will convince the world “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father.” This indicates that the Father has been fully satisfied with the Lord’s redemptive death and has accepted Him in His resurrection. The proof that the Father is satisfied with Christ’s redemption is that the Father resurrected Him from among the dead and exalted Him to His right hand. Hence, the resurrection and ascension of Christ are the evidences proving that His redemption has satisfied God and has met all the demands and requirements of God for our justification. Therefore, the Lord Jesus was released from death to he exalted to the heavens at the right hand of God. One of our hymns speaks of this:
“Father God, Thou hast accepted
Jesus as our Substitute;
Judged the Just One for the unjust,
Couldst Thou change Thy attitude?
As a proof of perfect justice,
At Thine own right hand He sits;
He, as Thy full satisfaction,
Righteously Thy need befits.”
Thus, the ascended Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, is an evidence that we, the believers in Christ, have been justified by God.
We have seen that the believers have been justified objectively, that is, outwardly and positionally. Now we need to see another aspect of God’s justification, and this is the subjective aspect. To be justified by God subjectively is to be justified by Him inwardly and dispositionally.
(a) By Receiving the Divine Life
through the Positional Justification
The believers are justified subjectively by receiving the divine life through the positional justification. Being justified objectively gives us the position to receive the divine life. This is the reason Romans 5:18 speaks of “justification of life.” Because we have been justified objectively, we have been brought up to the standard of God’s righteousness and now we correspond to it. Hence, we are justified unto life spontaneously. In Adam we were condemned unto death, but in Christ we are justified unto life. Justification is for life. Justification changes our outward position and life changes our inward disposition. Now we have both justification for our position and life for our disposition.
Justification issues in, results in, life. We have received the divine life, and this life is now working in us to make us righteous in many things. This is an inward, subjective justification. Through such a subjective justification, our being and living are justified by the divine life within us. Therefore, God justifies us not only objectively from without but also subjectively from within.
(b) By Christ in His Resurrection
We are also justified subjectively by Christ in His resurrection (Rom. 4:25b). As the resurrected One, Christ is in us to live for us a life that can be justified by God and is always acceptable to God. The resurrected Christ is now living in us a life that is absolutely righteous, a life that can be justified by God. This is not outward justification through Christ’s redemption; rather, this is inward justification by Christ’s life. Christ’s redemption gives us objective justification by faith, but His resurrection life within us gives us the subjective justification by God. Now God is positioned by Christ’s blood to justify us outwardly, and He is also positioned by the resurrected Christ to justify us inwardly.
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