Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 2
In the first part of this series, we essentially laid the groundwork and introduced the subject related to the fact that in Christ, we are righteous. We’ll certainly cover this in-depth in this series. Christ Himself is righteous and His righteousness has been and continues to be imputed to our accounts because of our faith in Him and His redemptive work.
One thing I failed to mention last time is that many volumes have been written on the subject of “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) and whether or not a true Christian can lose salvation once it has been granted. I know right off the bat that I am not going to settle the question for everyone. Instead, what I’m merely trying to do in this short series is outline my beliefs on the subject and how I arrived to those beliefs from Scripture. Each person is entitled to disagree or agree with me as they choose. They’re also invited to take up any discrepancies they believe exist in my reasoning with God Himself. I invite you to ask Him on my behalf to correct me if I am in error.
I believe – for the most part – authentic Christians want to live lives that please God. For those who truly and earnestly seek to understand our unique, supernatural, spiritual relationship we have with God because of and through Christ, the desire is there to be more like Him because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Unfortunately, too many Christians today believe they are left trying to figure that out for themselves. It might be due a lack of applying themselves to read and study Scripture for themselves in order to learn just exactly what God says about being a Christian. It might also be due to the fact that they’ve been on the receiving end of the type of preaching that makes people believe that there is always something to do, always something to aspire to be, and always something we must work at creating within ourselves before we can arrive to a point where God will take us seriously in our endeavors.
Long before this country – America – was settled, in the early days just after the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived, they promoted a holiness style of living. The problem was that, though their intents were good, it may be that they went about it the wrong way because much of their holiness seemed to be external. They would constantly attempt to “put on” (or “take off”) the things they believed kept them from being more Christlike, in almost ritualistic fervor. As one reads about the lives of some of these sincerely godly people, it is difficult to come away with a sense of freedom in Christ of which Paul speaks in various places. Galatians 5:1 is probably one of many verses that comes to your mind.
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. (NET)
Certainly, we have been freed from all sorts of things in Christ, but returning to a life of slavery to sin (or trying to fulfill the law), is not one of them. But how is it possible to live a life of freedom without it becoming a chain around the neck that simply makes one miserable, by constantly pointing out faults, foibles, and failures?
Answering that question is important, but just answering it isn’t good enough. Each Christian will have to come to a place of truly internalizing the truths related to our new life in Christ. No other person can do that for another person. Each is responsible for seeking God, learning His truth, and applying them.
All of this ties together with our salvation and whether or not our salvation is forever (actually eternal), or whether there is something we can do that would negate or remove our salvation. Logically speaking, it cannot be classified by God as “eternal” if there is something we can do to lose it, but let’s see what we can do to break it down.
Several things happen when we receive our salvation. Let’s take a look at John 3 to get the bigger picture first.
In John 3, Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a religious leader of Israel during Jesus’ day. Jesus was attempting to explain spiritual truth to this religious leader and Nicodemus just wasn’t getting it. Certainly, he was a very bright man, a man whom others looked to for advice and religious instruction. But when it came to the very basics about salvation, Nicodemus could not process what Jesus was saying to him. Here’s John 3:1-8.
Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, 2 came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Before we start to castigate Nicodemus, let’s realize that he understood things from the tapestry presented through the Old Testament – Moses, the Prophets, the Writings, and the Psalms. While there is imagery that attests to what Jesus is speaking of there, it isn’t as obvious as one would think. In this section, Jesus also highlights the “brass serpent” that was lifted up in the desert for the Israelites. This is astounding imagery that points to the eventual sacrifice and propitiation of Jesus on Calvary’s cross, but no one steeped in Old Testament Law would have necessarily understood that without God-given illumination.
Moreover, for someone like Nicodemus – a Pharisee – his views relied on the externals just like many of those people within what we might call the “holiness movement.” Old Testament Jews were required to jump through many, many hoops. These hoops were not to gain salvation (that was always done via faith in God), but it was the way God determined that He should be approached, whether a person had or did not have salvation. Because those with the Old Testament mindset were caught up in focusing on externals, many times they were completely unable to appreciate the spirituality that connects us to Jesus.
Clearly, Nicodemus was curious and I would dare say that he was actually concerned about his own spirituality. He took the chance to come and see Jesus “at night” because he was very afraid of the other Pharisees and what they would think if he was caught having an actual discussion with Jesus. In other words, his curiosity and his own spiritual need pushed him to contact Jesus and try to figure things out. He was spiritually hungry and believed Jesus could give him spiritual food, or he would not have taken the chance to speak with Him.
Jesus tried to help Nicodemus understand that the Messiah would also be “lifted up” as was the serpent in the wilderness during Moses’ day. He was trying to get Nicodemus to see that He (Jesus) clearly connected to the Law, the Prophets, and many of the things that Moses did. Jesus also took the time to point out how great was God’s love for the world, so that He gave His Son. In fact, it is clear God actually provided propitiation for the entire world. However, this does not mean that salvation is automatic for everyone. Each person still needs to appropriate God’s provision for themselves.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God, (John 3:17-19).
Note Jesus is still talking to Nicodemus here and is opening the door to Nicodemus. Jesus is attempting to help Nicodemus understand the connection between Moses, the Law, and the Messiah, who would not only fulfill all aspects of the Law, but would offer the supreme sacrifice of His own life that all who would believe in Him would escape condemnation. This is what is placed before each and every person in some form. It is available. Each person must choose life.
That is the first part of the equation of once saved, always saved (OSAS). It causes us (or should), to ask the question, what are we saved from and how does that happen? Notice Jesus says that anyone who does not believe in the Son is already condemned? That literally means, God’s condemnation remains or continues to rest on that person. Jesus is saying that position is the automatic position of every person, a person everyone is automatically born into. There is no such thing as Universalism, whereby it is alleged that all people will ultimately be saved. Jesus is very clear here in stating that in order to come out from under that condemnation that automatically exists on each and every person, that person must exhibit something: belief in the Son’s Name.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, (Hebrews 11:6).
That is the very first step in gaining what God calls eternal salvation (otherwise known as eternal security or simply, salvation). We must believe that we are already condemned and need Someone outside of ourselves to provide what we lack. Once we express our faith in God’s propitiation (via His Son), which can be as tiny as the faith shown by the thief on the cross who died next to Jesus, as Jesus died, God grants salvation. It is still not based on anything we have done because God has already made salvation available for all. We cannot earn it. Our faith in God allows Him to apply it to our lives.
That is the first step. We look to God. We believe in what He, through His Son accomplished on our behalf, and God grants the salvation that He made possible. Next up, we’ll talk about the things that God does when He applies salvation to our lives.