by Mike Ratliff
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)
Not long ago I had an offline “discussion” with a fellow who was Hindu. He did not grow up as a Hindu, but in a Christian family. However, he forsook his parents’ faith because he believed that those professing Christians all around him were nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. Since I didn’t know the people he was referring to I did not interject anything into the “discussion” about that, but instead, I kept pointing Him to the finished work of Christ on the cross and I explained how Christians are not Christians because they choose to be, but because God the Father gave them to the Son who reconciled them to the Father through His death on that cross. God regenerated them so that they would believe and repent and be justified by faith. He would not “hear” it though. He insisted that Free Will is the center of all genuine religions and it is through the exercise of that Free Will to obey one’s religious “deity” that causes what we refer to as “salvation” or “justification.”
This was my first encounter with any discussion along these lines from the perspective of any “religion” other than some form of professing Christianity. I found myself totally amazed at the similarity between Hinduism and many forms of Christianity when it comes to Man’s Free Will being the center and the determining factor in who is justified and who is not. In Hinduism the people exercise their Free Will to line themselves up with its tenets in order to progress through the various levels in order to eventually attain Nirvana. But the only way a person can make that progression is through exercise of their Free Will in order to do more good works than bad works, et cetera. Does this sound familiar?
True Christianity is nothing like this. We know from Sacred Scripture that the saved are not justified according to their own merit, but according to the merit of another who is Christ. Also, Paul tells us in the book of Ephesians that His people are saved by Grace through Faith and that not of themselves, it is a gift from God.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
As we saw in this post, God did it this way for His glory. He saves His people as His monergistic, sovereign work in such a way that only He gets the glory. We also teach that the only part of our salvation that is synergistic is our sanctification. However, even though our justification is a declaration, we do turn in repentance and believe because we are new creations. God regenerates us so that our faith becomes alive and then we see the truth about our utter lostness. Then we see that Christ is our only hope. Because of this, we repent of our sins and believe in Christ as our Lord and Saviour. We receive Him and are then declared righteous by God as He imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to our account.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20 ESV)
When we say we have union with Christ, we are actually summarizing our redemption. We are elected by God (Ephesians 1:4,11), justified (Romans 8:1), sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2), and glorified (1 Corinthians 3:19) “in Christ.” When a sinner is saved, he or she becomes a Christian, a new creation. Regeneration begins the believer’s spiritual union with Christ. Those who are “new creations” are actually participating in the Kingdom of God because they have a spiritual union with the Messiah Himself. The believer is no longer a citizen of this lost and dying world, the little kingdom, but is now a citizen of God’s Kingdom. All of this is from God. The plan of salvation including the whole history of redemption is God-centered. We err when we reverse this and make salvation all about people. Genuine salvation is not. We learn from God’s Word that it is from Him, through Him, and for His glory alone (Romans 11:36).
All genuine believers are already reconciled to God from an eternal sense. However, Christians’ reconciliation is renewed with God each day (Matthew 6:12; 1 John 1:9) as they confess their sins and walk in repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
Who is the “our” and “we” referring to in this passage? These are Christians only and no one else. We know this by looking back to v17, which tells us that the group being reconciled to God are those “in Christ.” Who is the “he” and “him” referring to? This is Jesus Christ. We see this by looking back one verse to v20. Therefore, we know that God, for the sake of Christians, made Christ to “be sin.” He was sinless. We see that in the next phrase, “who knew no sin.” This act of making Christ to be sin did not make Him guilty of any of His own sin for He had none. No, He took the blame for my sin and your sin and for all who are “in Christ.” He was assigned the responsibility of our sin. Since He is both God and Man, He could represent all of those for whom He died as the second Adam. The first Adam, the federal head of the entire human race blew it. He sinned and caused our entire race to be guilty before God as sinners. However, the second Adam came as a Man and never sinned. Therefore, He is the spotless Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice to atone for the iniquity of all who will believe, which is exactly what happened at the cross.
When God gives a person the gift of faith, he or she believes and repents. They are then imputed with Christ’s perfect righteousness so they can then be reconciled to God eternally. He justifies them, sanctifies them, adopts them, and glorifies them. The ministry of reconciliation is Christ’s. Each of those whom He has reconciled to the Father partakes in this ministry every time he or she shares the gospel with a lost person. Therefore, let us obediently do this my brethren. We save no one, but God uses the foolishness of preaching to make the general call of the gospel to everyone. Those whom He gives to the Son will believe and be justified as they are regenerated. Our part is to preach the truth not being concerned about offending people with the reality of the cross and why it was necessary, but sharing our faith out of love and eternal gratitude for our own salvation.
Soli Deo Gloria!