Righteousness and Sanctification
The object of these papers is to set the more advanced truths of the gospel before young believers in a simple and practical way. In doing this, we go over well-trodden ground and must not, therefore, look for much that is new, but rather that a consideration of these blessed truths may be to the increased glory of God, both in the praises of our hearts and in the tenor of our lives.
The Word of God, in speaking of the work of Christ and what it has done for us, says, not only “being now justified by His blood” (Rom.5:9), regarding Christ as the great Paschal Lamb, but also “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once” (Heb.10:10), looking at Him as the great burnt offering, the One who died to fulfill God's will.
Forgiveness, Justification, Sanctification
Now all Christians believe that their sins are forgiven. Many, however, do not know that they are perfectly justified before a righteous God, and still more have never heard that they are now perfectly sanctified by the same work that put away their sins. It is difficult to account for this, seeing that all are equally revealed in Scripture, but still it is the fact. This ignorance would not matter so much did the words mean pretty much the same thing; but not only are they distinct in themselves, but still more do they differ in their results. A man may owe a large debt; if this debt is forgiven, he is free from all penalty; if another pays it, he is justified from it. All this, however, does not fit or entitle him to enter the mansion of his creditor on familiar terms. But the work of Christ has done all these three things: by it we are forgiven, and thus saved from hell; by it we are justified, and can thus stand before a righteous God; and by it we are sanctified, and thus fitted to enter the presence of a holy God.
A Righteous and a Holy God
“Righteousness” is spoken of in Romans, “sanctification” in Hebrews. The scene in Romans is the throne, and a righteous God; in Hebrews, the sanctuary and a holy God. In Romans the point is the guilt of the sinner; in Hebrews, his defilement; while, with regard to the sacrifice of Christ (of which both speak), Romans sets before us its perfection as meeting the righteous claims of God; whereas in Hebrews we get its eternal character in being offered once for all.
On these two foundations our peace rests. Christ's work must be perfect that we may have a standing at all, before a righteous God. It must also be of eternal efficacy that this standing may never be lost.
God's Will, Christ's Work, the Spirit's Witness
Justification and sanctification alike stand on a threefold basis:
In Romans we are justified by the grace of God, by the blood of Christ, and by faith the operation of the Spirit (Rom.3:24; 5:1-9).
In Hebrews we are sanctified by the will of God, the work of Christ, of which the Spirit is the witness (Heb.10).
Righteousness and sanctification are both the combined work of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the Father's will and grace gave the Son, the Son's blood and work accomplished our redemption, and faith and the witness of the Spirit cause us to accept this work, and without which all were in vain.
God's Righteousness, Not Mine
The righteousness is divine, not human. The righteousness of works had been sought for in vain for four thousand years, from the Gentile, the heathen philosopher, and the Jew (Rom.1-3); but both the Jews, who had the law, and the Gentiles, who were a law unto themselves, had failed, and the trial is finally summed up in these words: “Therefore by the deeds of the law (lit.) (that is, by works of any kind) there shall NO FLESH be justified in His sight.” And now a new righteousness, apart from law (of every kind) is manifested, a righteousness not of man but of God. This new righteousness is not on the principle of works at all, neither our own nor the works (or law-keeping) of another put to our account, for then would righteousness still come by the law, and Christ would be “dead in vain” (Gal.2:21). It is most important to be clear on this. Righteousness comes to me through Christ's death and resurrection, not through His spotless life. Indeed, it is only in dying that He takes up my cause as my Substitute. It is here I am first connected with Him. So truly is this the case, that through all the epistles we hardly hear of the life of Christ before the cross at all. I believe there are but ten verses in all that speak of it, and of these, five are the merest allusions (Rom. 15:3,8; 1 Cor.11:23; Gal. 4:4; Heb.5:7). The only two passages that really speak of it are Philippians 2:7,8, and 2 Peter 1:16-18; and in neither of these is there any question of Christ as our substitute, but it is Christ as our example!
God is Just and Justifies the Sinner
Righteousness is twofold in Romans 3. God's forbearance and grace had been shown in the remission (or passing over) of the bygone sins of Old Testament saints, in spite of His own words that the soul that sins shall die; but His righteousness had not been manifested (3:25). He now shows, therefore, the righteousness of His own character by the cross of Christ, both in His past forbearance, and in now freely justifying the believing sinner. This last act is said to be the righteousness of God upon all them that believe. Hence, we get two things: first, that God Himself is just; and the next, that He is the Justifier of him that believes (3:26). The finished work of Christ on the sinner's behalf, accepted by God as seen in His raising Him from the dead, has set Him free to show His grace in righteousness. Mercy and truth, and righteousness and peace, have thus met together at the cross for the first time (5:1), and God no longer forbears with the believing sinner, but justifies him freely by His grace (3:24).
A Wonderful Contrast
The full perfection of the believer's standing is seen by comparing these two passages:
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Rom.3:23.
“We have peace with God… and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1,2).
The perfection of Christ's work enables every believer to rejoice in the absolute certainty of entering that very glory from which he was hopelessly excluded by nature.
Standing and State
But so far we have only spoken of the believer's standing before a righteous God; and if we say nothing now of the state that must accompany it, as treated of in the following chapters, it is not because we undervalue the importance of practical righteousness, but because we must reserve this great question for future consideration.
Seven Eternal Realities
In turning now to Hebrews 9 and 10, one thing that strikes us is the words “eternal” and “for ever.” We get in these chapters seven divine assurances of the eternal value of Christ's work. We find that Christ's offering was once forever, and that therefore He is seated forever; hence we have eternal redemption, and are perfected forever (9:12; 10:10,12,14). We also read that there will be NO MORE offering on Christ's part, NO MORE remembrance of sins on God's part, and hence NO MORE conscience of sins on our part (10:2,17,18). On these seven eternal realities our faith rests. Now the sanctification spoken of here, like the right eousness in Romans 3,4, and 5, is perfect and complete, abso lutely independent of our state, so that even the Corinthians, who were in anything but a holy state, could be addressed as “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Of practical sanctification, as of practical righteousness, we hope to speak, but not here. Let our souls first fully enjoy and enter into the work of Christ for us. Let us glory in our perfect justification and holiness in Him who of God is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor.1:30).
Compare here, as in Romans, two passages, and see what a testimony they give to the value of Christ's work.
“The way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (9:8).
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way” (10:19,20).
The worshiper, who in Old Testament times was rigorously excluded from God's presence, is now made, by the infinite value of the work of Christ, so holy, that he is able to come right into the holiest of all, standing in Christ without a spot.
Let us then glory in the work of Christ; nay more, let us boast in Christ Himself, through whom we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; and above all, let none of us ever harbor even for a moment a wretched unbelieving thought of His perfect work. Doubts and fears are impossible for the one who understands for himself the full meaning of the truth of Hebrews 10. Never, never allow a doubt of a salvation in procuring which you have had no part, but which from first to last is the perfect work of the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
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