by Mike Ratliff
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)
In my younger days when I was working on my undergraduate degree, I had a professor who used to work in a major manufacturing company in the US. He used his experiences there in analogies pertaining to the management topics we were studying. He used one of his former co-workers there as an example, a bad example, as he taught us how we should work together toward our common goals, et cetera. This fellow’s nickname at that company was ‘Yeah-but.’ He told us that it never failed that in meetings when someone had a solution to an issue or a concept of a better way to do things, this fellow would always interrupt and start his diatribe against it with the words, “Yeah, but…!” In the many years this blog has been online I have had many encounters with “religious yeah-buts.” Most of those had to do with posts on our Justification by faith alone. Their responses usually went something like this, “Yeah, but what about those sins you have committed since God saved you?” It did not matter how I replied to them, they were convinced that, yes they were saved by grace through faith, but it was their obedience, et cetera, that kept them there. If they sinned, they lost their salvation and had to be re-justified I suppose. Is this “justification restart” biblical?
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
1 Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 2 διʼ οὗ καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐσχήκαμεν [τῇ πίστει] εἰς τὴν χάριν ταύτην ἐν ᾗ ἑστήκαμεν καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ. 3 οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ καυχώμεθα ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν, εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται, 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ δοκιμήν, ἡ δὲ δοκιμὴ ἐλπίδα. 5 ἡ δὲ ἐλπὶς οὐ καταισχύνει, ὅτι ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκκέχυται ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου τοῦ δοθέντος ἡμῖν. Romans 5:1-5 (NA28)
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ 2 through whom we also have access we have had by faith into this grace in which we stand and boast on hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in the afflictions, knowing that the affliction produces patience; 4 and patience character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
What brings us peace with God (εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν)? We have bee justified by faith (δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως) through our Lord Jesus Christ (διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ). In v2 we see how this actually took place. It was through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand… (διʼ οὗ καὶ τὴν προσαγωγὴν ἐσχήκαμεν [τῇ πίστει] εἰς τὴν χάριν ταύτην ἐν ᾗ ἑστήκαμεν). The key to this justification in which we stand firm is that it came by faith, τῇ πίστει. In Ephesians 2:8 we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Here is the Greek for v8, “Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·” All in Christ are so because they were saved by grace (τῇ γὰρ χάριτί) through faith (διὰ πίστεως). This saving faith is the conduit of our justification and it came to us by God’s grace. All who have been brought to this state of justification have peace with God (εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν).
What is this peace (εἰρήνην)? This peace denotes rest in contrast with strife. It is a state of untroubled, undisturbed well being. In this context, it is referring to God’s mercy towards those He has justified according to his grace. He has granted them deliverance and freedom from all the distresses that are experienced because of sin. This is not to say that our sin does not cause us grief, but that we who are in this state of justification are secure in our salvation because it is based on the righteousness of another, our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this, we can glory in our afflictions that come because God is using them to purify us and build Christ’s character in us. The word used here telling us that we are justified is δικαιωθέντες. This is a legal term in which a person is declared righteous by a decree of some sort. Paul is telling us in v1 that because we have been declared righteous, then v1-11 is true for us as well. He gave us these truths in Romans 1-4 and is now giving us the implications of our justification by grace through faith. All in Christ are no longer under God’s wrath, but are now under His Grace. Instead of fearing God’s judgment when we sin, we have a joy in the midst of tribulation because of what God produces through it. We have assurance of God’s love and joy in Him.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NKJV)
The NKJV states this beautifully here. Our justification is entirely according to God’s grace. We did nothing to deserve it. We were ungodly and outside of His grace, we would be unregenerate and subject to His wrath. However, He loves us and sent Christ to bear our sins in His death on the Cross (Romans 3:25). Those in Christ have been justified by His blood and saved from the wrath of God. How then should we live my brethren?
We who have been justified by grace through faith are no longer “of this world.” Why then do so many who call themselves Christians live as friends “of this world?” Our role in the Kingdom is to love God, obey Him, and be beacons of light that God may use us to draw others out of the darkness to salvation. The goal of being a Christian is not to see how religious we can be. It is not to be good church members. It is to be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ who have died to self and live for Him as we carry our crosses in self-denial. How’s that going for you?
Soli Deo Gloria!