Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 5
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1 – NET).
The above verse is merely one sentence from Paul (as he was moved by the Holy Spirit), indicating to us the truth that those who are “in Christ Jesus” are no longer under any condemnation at all, for anything, for all time. This ties into our legal standing before our Holy God. We are no longer condemned. In our most recent installment in this series – Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 4 – we discussed our legal standing before God and how it happens.
We noted that our faith in Jesus and His finished work on Calvary’s cross is that allows God to legally and permanently declare us “righteous.” If you have not read that installment, please go back and do so. It is a wonderful thing to have salvation (which is to have a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ)! There is no equal alternative. To be declared righteous by God because of our faith in Christ’s finished work on our behalf is to gain eternal life and the first stage of that is to be declared righteous in God’s court of Law.
But in reality, the process starts with that declaration. It does not end there. It simply begins. We must recognize that extremely important distinction. Too many people have been taught that we merely have to give mental ascent to Christ’s substitutionary death and we gain eternal life. First, mental ascent is not the same as having faith in Christ’s work. Mental assent can be nothing more than somewhat of an understanding regarding the situation. But that mental assent is not necessarily enough to save a person. That requires actual faith or belief in Jesus’ substitutionary work on our behalf. That type of belief or believing creates action.
Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, (Galatians 3:6).
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith, (Hebrews 11:7).
And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him, (Genesis 7:5).
Faith is always accompanied by action. It is proof that we believe. Abraham believed God and obeyed God. He first left Ur in the Chaldean area of the world and went to a place that God showed him that He would give to his descendants (Genesis 12, 15, 17). Abraham also obeyed God when God told him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise (Genesis 22). Though Abraham had no way of knowing, the intended sacrifice of Isaac was a word picture of God the Son coming to this earth, living a life of obedience and ultimately, offering Himself as a propitiation for the sins of humanity. Abraham could not have understood it, but he did understand that God would provide the sacrifice in place of Isaac, or God would raise Isaac from the dead once Abraham sacrificed him on the altar.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:2-5 NIV; emphasis added).
Note Abraham’s belief in God. Abraham’s faith in God caused him to obey without question, knowing that God would provide. Faith without adjoining action is no faith at all.
Noah was told to build an ark because a day of God’s wrath was coming where the fountains of the deep and the clouds in the sky would pour forth water that would flood the entirety of the earth, destroying all life. Only those within the safety of the ark would be saved from perishing. Noah’s faith in God’s command prompted him to obey.
In both cases, obedience sprung from faith. Faith was firmly anchored in God. It was that faith in God that allowed Him to declare both Abraham and Noah as righteous. Their actions following their faith confirmed their belief in God Almighty. The two go hand in hand.
As we read through the lives of both Abraham and Noah, we can clearly see that though they did sin after they were both individually declared righteous by God, they were never again declared unrighteous. In short, there was nothing they did that removed God’s declaration on their lives as being fully righteous. The same exact thing applies to everyone who believes in Jesus as Savior because of what He accomplished regarding the work of redemption on our behalf.
If you believe God for salvation, you are declared righteous as well, a label that can never be destroyed or sullied. If that is the case, then why does it seem that so many Christians do not live as though they actually are righteous? The answer is simple. There is a huge disconnect in the way too many Christians think today. They go to either one of two extremes.
Christians fail to recognize our legal standing before God. Because of that, these same Christians live in abject spiritual poverty, falling down here, there, and everywhere. They fail to grasp the reality that is our relationship with Jesus. They fail to comprehend that our faith in Christ has made us whole and that we no longer have to live under the false notion that we are condemned. Moreover, we no longer have to live as though we are defeated and condemned.
The other reason, which ties to this same one just stated, is that we fail miserably to understand that we do not understand that because our legal standing before God has been changed from “condemned” to “righteous,” that is only part of the equation. The other part of the equation has to do with our daily walk with God, our actual relationship with Him and the full ramifications of that relationship.
While it is absolutely true that in Christ we are no longer condemned from a legal standpoint, shouldn’t this very fact spill over into our daily walk with God, what we often call fellowship with Him?
While it is also absolutely true that there is nothing we can do to change our legal standing before God once He declares us righteous, there are things we can do that cause our fellowship with Him to be broken. This happens when we sin, when we adopt a rebellious attitude, when we do things that bring Him dishonor. These things break our fellowship with God and will remain so until we come to a point of recognizing our sin and in contrition, admitting it to God. It is only at that point can fellowship with us be restored. Short of that, we live outside of fellowship with Him, though we continue to be legally declared righteous.
I mentioned this before in a previous article and it is well worth understanding. Authentic Christians – people who have placed their faith in Christ’s completely atonement – are declared righteous by God the Father, who is our Judge. This is the legal aspect of our new birth, allowing God to apply God the Son’s righteousness to our account. That never changes. From that moment, we are also brought into direct fellowship with the Father as Jesus enjoyed on earth and continues to enjoy now. This is true fellowship with God.
However, that fellowship is what can and does change and we Christians need to guard against that happening. That part is up to us and we are responsible for how we maintain (or don’t) that fellowship with God. In one sense, we should delight and glory in the fact that God is the One who declares us righteous and nothing whatsoever can change that fact! Aren’t you glad? It does not depend upon you!
What does depend upon you is how your fellowship with God is maintained. This is the flip side of the same coin called salvation. Let me close this article by quoting again from Romans 8:35.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Paul has an answer for his question.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,k neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What can separate us from God’s love? Nothing. Not one thing. Nada. Zilch. The authentic Christian cannot ever be, in any way, even for a second of time, separated from God’s love. To do so would mean falling again under God’s condemnation (because there are only two alternatives, His love or His wrath), something that cannot ever touch us. Amen?
By the way, I have heard people who believe that salvation can be lost also quote the above verses and add, “But it doesn’t say that I cannot walk away from Him!” Yes, in point of fact, that is absolutely implied in what Paul is stating. NOTHING means you are not strong enough to break that bond with God so that you will once again come under His condemnation. People need to stop adding to His Word.
That said, we need to ask, will God condemn some of the things I do, think, and say as an authentic Christian? Absolutely, and we’ll talk about that next time!