Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 6
We are moving along in this series and ironically, though I wasn’t sure initially if we were going to go much further than one or two articles in this series, it’s probably clear to you by now as it is to me, that this series is not going to be short. This is currently our sixth installment and we have a ways to go yet. Even so, we will not cover all aspects of this subject thoroughly, so be warned ahead of time about that, all right?
Beyond this, even if I could cover the subject conclusively, you might not believe I’ve done that. Ultimately, what this means is that you – and you alone – are responsible for what you know (or don’t). You can’t say, “Well, Dr. Fred didn’t cover it thoroughly enough so it’s on him!” That won’t work when you stand before God.
Don’t worry, I’ll have my own issues that will come under God’s microscope and will be burned up in His purifying fires of judgment when I stand before Him at the Bema Seat. That’s on me. But you are solely responsible for you. What that means as it’s related to this set of articles (or anything else I write or you read), is that it is up to you to be a Berean when it comes to reading and studying God’s Word (Acts 17). You read what I say, then you compare it to God’s Word to see if I’m right. If I’m right, then you have an obligation to take it to heart. If I’m wrong, then you have an obligation to reject it.
We’ve talked about the fact that salvation is eternal. Anything less than that means it depends upon us. However, as far as salvation is concerned, it doesn’t depend upon us at all. I suppose one could argue that it does only in the sense that in order to gain it, I must believe in God in Christ. But that believing is not a “work” necessarily. It is a full acceptance of truth, much more than simple mental ascent.
God has done all the heavy lifting. He has taken care of everything we need in order to gain eternal salvation. All that is needed on our part is to exercise even the smallest amount of faith in Him and His work, and salvation – eternal salvation – is ours, forever.
We’ve covered several aspects of how God applies salvation to us, whereby He initially sees us as condemned, but then, because of our faith in Christ’s completed redemptive work, is able to declare and see us as fully righteous, without a hint of sin in us and no longer condemned. Remember, this is the legal aspect of our salvation where God the Father acts as Judge and based on evidence of Jesus’ atonement and our faith in that atonement, is able to take Christ’s righteousness and literally apply or impute it to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is all very legal, where every “t” is crossed and every “i” dotted. God never skirts the Law, but always fulfills it.
However, as important as these truths are (and they are extremely important!), in our daily walk with God, something we call fellowship, we have ample opportunities to fail and unfortunately, this failure is too often what categorizes the lives of too many Christians. Are you one of them? If so, you are also constantly tempted to think that you have lost your salvation too, right? You need to understand that these are separate issues. Though without salvation, we cannot have fellowship with God, we can actually be out of fellowship with God and still have salvation.
Gaining and keeping salvation does not depend upon you. It is not something that you do. That is God’s department. You (and I) are responsible for keeping and maintaining fellowship with God at all costs! That is your job and mine and it is one that too many Christians take lightly today for one reason or another.
God smacked me over the head with this recently and I wrote about it in a previous article titled “Today I was Reminded that I Have a Sin Nature.” If you have not read it, please do, as I lay myself bare in some respects. It was a terrible day, but absolutely necessary for my growth and His glory. I find myself returning to that article often as a reminder of what God accomplished in me that day that created within me a true separation point between what I understand to be my salvation (His job) and my fellowship with Him (my job). That my knowledge of this was so limited before is due to the fact of my own limitations in fellowship. I get that now and I endeavor to fan it into flame so that God is able to enlarge my understanding there.
My being labeled/declared righteous by God (salvation) removes me from underneath His condemnation or wrath. Because I am declared righteous by Him, I will never experience His wrath in any form. We need to understand that “wrath” here is not simply anger. It is forever tied to His eternal judgment by which He declares people unfit for heaven and reveals why they’re going to hell. That is His wrath. He will also pour out His wrath during the final seven years of man-led history that is still in the future. That entire period is defined by His wrath – ending in eternal judgment for many.
When I was growing up, there were numerous times my parents became angry with me for whatever reason. There were even a few times that my dad resorted to spanking me on my bottom. It was deserved. However, though I understood he was angry with me and I deserved my punishment, I was never in any danger of being rejected by either one of my parents. Their anger was due to their love and concern for me and wanting to see me make correct choices. My choices created problems and literally put me out of fellowship with my parents for a time. Corrective measures were needed and I was on the receiving end of them.
The punishment was designed to get me back on the correct path and stay there! This is the unique relationship that parents and children have whereby, due to parental love, discipline is exercised over the child in order to refine that child and help them grow in correct ways. When properly done, the child lives a life that pleases the parent and actually brings praise and glory to them. Others see the children and think the parents did a fine job of raising their kids. By the same token, children who are allowed to do whatever they want to do become brats and ultimately can become criminals, which also reflects on the parents. A wise parent works to keep this from happening.
God wants us to live lives in keeping with our salvation. Because He has declared us righteous due to our faith in Christ, we are also adopted into God’s family as heirs of salvation (Romans 8:15; 9:26; Galatians 3:26). Because we are now children of God, we have the right to call Him “Abba, Father,” (Romans 8:15). This is not just a label. It means something immense. It means that we are now treated as dearly beloved and this also gives the Father the right to chastise and discipline us because He loves us on a personal level. Before we were saved, God still loved all in the world, however, we were objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Now saved, we are His children and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). No one can break that seal, by the way, including puny man with his visions of “free will.” We were bought with a price and fully “owned” by God (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Remaining as “children of wrath” means God would have done with us what He is planning to do with the devil and his angels. We would have been tossed with them into the Lake of Fire. That is the only option for all creatures that remain under His condemnation. But since we have been declared righteous, we enter into a new and different relationship with Him, one that allows us to have fellowship with Him, and also allows Him to discipline and chastise us (because of His personal love for us based on our personal relationship with Him through Christ), instead of pouring out His wrath on us. This also grants Him the power to remove us from this life “early” if we continue to rebel against Him after we become saved (1 Corinthians 11:30).
Salvation removes from us the label “condemned” so we are no longer under God’s wrath (His righteous anger leading to the second death (Revelation 20:14), for all who reject His salvation). As stated though, my salvation also presents me with some very clear responsibilities and Paul (as well as other New Testament writers) spends a good amount of time outlining those responsibilities to me…and you.
But I’d like to be clear that the responsibilities Paul and others outline and discuss have to do with our fellowship with God; how we not only enter into it, but how we are to maintain it. I believe though the emphasis is on our fellowship with God, too often Christians misunderstand these concepts and truths to apply them wrongly to our salvation. Therein lies the confusion and I believe it is often why too many Christians tend to give up, they stop struggling out of frustration and even anger and even appear to fall away from Him. They stop going to church, stop worshiping with other Christians, and they live a life similar to that of the Corinthians where their lives are marked by carnality instead of the fruit of the Spirit. They fail to realize that Paul is not talking about whether or not we can lose our salvation. He is presenting guidelines and responsibilities we have as people who already have salvation (and have it permanently), as it relates to our fellowship with God on what should be a daily, moment-by-moment basis.
In short, we can go in and out of fellowship with God often (too often!), but that does not change the state of our salvation, which is based on God’s legal declaration and includes being judged righteous by God. The sins of Abraham did not affect his salvation (his legal standing before God). The sins of Noah had no effect on his salvation (legal standing before God). The sins of David did not affect his salvation (legal standing before God). However, let’s be very clear here…the sins in each of those men absolutely and without doubt affected their fellowship with God. Moreover, their sins created consequences that God chose not to set aside. This is extremely important for us to comprehend! I’m not sure we can actually comprehend the full force of that, but we should try by asking God to help us broaden our understanding of it.
Salvation has always been by grace through faith. It was the same in the Old Testament as it is today. It has never changed. What has changed is how God chose to be approached and everyone in Israel had to approach God with the blood of sacrificed animals routinely. It looked forward to the sacrifice of Jesus. Today, we look back to that same sacrifice and because His sacrifice was perfect and once for all, we do not need to approach God with the blood of animals. However, we approach Him with the perfect blood of Christ (which infinitely surpasses any and all previous sacrifices of animals because of their inherent imperfections), which is how God is able to legally justify us (from His side of the equation).
We have just begun looking at our responsibilities as Christians with respect to entering into and maintaining our fellowship with God. We have salvation because of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf and our faith in Him. But whether or not we have faith in Him, His sacrifice was and remains perfect and unassailable. Our faith is what connects us to Jesus so that God can impute Christ’s righteousness to our account, fully replacing our filth and unrighteousness with His. That allows us to “enter into” an actual, living, vibrant relationship of fellowship with God the Father. The quality of that fellowship (aside from the legal ramifications) is completely up to us.
Before we move on, I need you to understand that it is God who grants us salvation. Christ’s sacrifice opens the door and through faith, we invite Him in through that door to take hold of and gain permanent salvation, which God freely gives to those who believe in Him (Revelations 3:20). Salvation also opens the door to fellowship with God and the quality (or lack) of fellowship is totally up to us. He yearns to enter into fellowship with us (Revelation 3:20). While the state of our salvation can never change, our fellowship is dependent upon us and how much we desire to fellowship with Him.
We’ll talk more about that next time.