Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Romans 5:1-5 Righteousness Imputed and Imparted

KEY TEXT: Rom 5:1-4 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 

KEY THOT: Paul affirms that we have been justified—acquitted as in a court of law—“through faith”. So, when we believed/accepted Christ’s sacrifice as sufficient to pay for our sins, God released us from the sin-debts we owed Him because Jesus paid them by His blood. So we now have “peace with God” (reconciled to God). But that is not the end of the story. Paul goes on to say that “through (Christ) we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (v.2). Some grace-preachers over-emphasize the first part—“justified through faith” but ignores the second part—“access by faith into this grace”. But what does the second part mean? It means that because we have now made peace with God, his grace (unmerited favour and power) is now accessible/available to us—again “by faith”. From start to finish, we are “saved by grace through faith”. Not only justified by grace (declared righteous) through faith but also sanctified by grace (being made righteous) through faith. 

The grace of God has two parts: the saving part and also the sanctifying part. And both parts are accessed by faith. It’s not good to say “I’m justified” at the end of a court session and then return back to our own sinful lifestyle. The most common excuse I've heard is: "After all, we are all still sinners”. That is a travesty of the gospel. Once we are justified, Scripture no longer call us "sinners" but “saints”—sanctified ones (Read Rom 1:7; 8:27; 1 Cor. 6:1-2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:4; Jude 3, etc.). Paul explains that it is in this sanctifying grace that “we now stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” 

[Caution: Below is my personal view and does not reflect any denominational teaching.] 
This sanctifying grace is a continuation of the justifying grace working itself out in our life through faith to produce a godly character: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (v.3-4). So the goal of this sanctifying grace is to produce in us through suffering the godly qualities of endurance, character and hope. And all this transformation is possible because “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (v.5). 

The Holy Spirit has been given to us to complete the work of salvation--transforming us into Christlikeness, to prepare us for heavens. We cannot enter heavens if we are still practically sinners: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you (Galatian believers), as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:19-21). I feel that we have lost the concept of personal holiness is our rush to "popularise" the Gospel. The Gospel tells us that God saves us in order to purify us to prepare us for heaven. Those who choose to continue to live like sinners will be excluded from God's kingdom like sinners. 

In theological parlance, justification is “imputed righteousness” (Christ’s righteousness transferred to our credit) and sanctification is “imparted righteousness” (Christ’s righteousness forming in us through the indwelling Spirit). Once we are justified, we are not sinners but saints.Saints have access to God’s grace through the Holy Spirit. The Cross has done its work in justifying us as sinners. Now the Spirit is doing His work in sanctifying us as saints. 

The idea of personal responsibility leading to personal holiness has been lost in the current over-emphasis only on God’s saving grace but not enough on God's sanctifying grace. The Gospel is not just God saves but also God sanctifies. Otherwise, why does God bother to give us His holy Spirit if justification is the end point of salvation? We need to teach the whole counsel of God: "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27).

We need to take responsibility for our behavior, but this is not “salvation by work” but this is called “access by faith into his grace”. Now that we have the new nature received by faith, we need to practice godliness so that the new nature may become second nature in us.

Father, we thank You that You justified us in order to sanctify us. You did not leave us as sinners when You justified us by faith. Instead, You have made us saints through Your sanctifying Spirit. Amen.

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