KEY TEXT: Jeremiah 31:33-34 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
KEY THOT: The key difference between the Old and New Covenant is the locality of the Law. In the Old Covenant, the Law was written on stones and parchments and has to be read, obeyed and internalized. Under the New Covenant, the Law is written "on their hearts"--it is not only imputed righteousness but also imparted righteousness in the heart through the Holy Spirit: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezek. 36:26-27). The Holy Spirit is the Law within our hearts.
For NT believers, the Holy Spirit is the imparted righteousness of God. God's righteousness is not only imputed through the Cross i.e., we are "saints" only externally because we are covered by Christ's righteousness but still sinners internally, This "imputed righteousness" is called justification--we are justified by Christ's righteousness credited to our account and so we are "debt-free". On account of the Cross, our sin-debts are canceled. We receive the gift of forgiveness because Christ's righteousness has been credited to us.
But that's only half the Gospel (Good News). The other half of the Gospel is that Christ's righteousness has also been imparted to us through the Holy Spirit. We are no longer sinners on the inside but have become saints of God (sanctified ones) through the indwelling Spirit. Christ's righteousness not only cover us as sinners but Christ's righteousness is also being transferred to us by His Spirit, to remake us in His image. This process is called sanctification. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in order that Christ's righteousness may be imparted (not just imputed) to us. The difference between justification and sanctification is this: justification is getting a bank account opened in our name with the Bank of Heaven; sanctification is getting to spend the money in our account to make us richer and better spiritually.
That's why when the Jews asked Peter on the Day of Pentecost, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37), his reply is couched in the dual promise of imputation and impartation: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (imputed righteousness), and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (imparted righteousness)" (Acts 2:38). The gift of forgiveness of sin (justification) is half the Gospel; the other half is the gift of the Holy Spirit (sanctification). Sadly, this is often neglected in our church teaching and preaching.
If we think in terms of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, justification happens in the outer court where the altar of burnt offering and laver are. Here we receive forgiveness (altar of sacrifice) and cleansing (laver). But that is only half the story of the Tabernacle. We are not meant to stay in the Outer Court. Or maybe worse, return to the entrance and leave the Tabernacle because we are only interested in forgiveness of sins.
The twin blessing of justification (forgiveness of sins and cleansing) is only preparatory; it is to prepare us to enter into the Holy Place and right into the Holy of holies where God's glory dwells. To be contented with the Outer Court experience of justification is to believe in a self-focused Christianity: "I'm okay because I'm justified. That's all I'm concerned about."
But Christianity is not about us, but about God. God justifies us in order to bring us to himself: the journey has only just begun in justification. Sanctification requires us to press inside the Holy Place where the lampstand (Holy Spirit) is: it is the only light source for the priests ministering inside. The Holy Place also contains the table of showbread, a place of fellowship among believers. And then there is the altar of incense (prayer and praise) which draws us right into fellowship with God ithe Holy of holies where God's glory is manifested over the ark of the covenant.
The journey into the Holy Place is a metaphor for the sanctification process (imparted righteousness). It requires us to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit, having fellowship with other believers, and offering of our prayer and praise to God in worship. Sanctification is a very God-centred experience, because the goal is God's glory. But it starts with the Holy Spirit (lampstand) as He brings life and light to the Holy Place. The Holy Spirit like the lampstand is God's law within our hearts to guide us in our fellowship with other believers (table of shewbread) and our fellowship with God (altar of incense).
So, some Christians are like the Emperor without clothes: we have taken off our old dirty clothes and covered by the invisible garment of Christ's righteousness (visible only to God). But in the meantime, we remain naked under the garment of Christ (visible to the world). We have not been taught that remaining naked does not magnify grace, only our sin. Some have been encouraged to even rationalize our sins by declaring loudly we are "still sinners". But the unbelieving world will not be won over by our theology--only by the reality of a transformed life.
The goal of justification is sanctification -- transformation into Christ-like character: "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Glorification does happen only after we die; the process starts even before we die at the moment of our spiritual rebirth: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). No transformation is possible without the Holy Spirit.
Let's not remain Outer-Court Christians. Let's press into the Holy Place to become Holy Place-Christians so that the unbelieving world may behold the glory of the Lord among us. Amen.
Abba-Father, thank You that through the Cross, we have been justified by faith. But You did not leave us as orphans. Through Your Spirit You have also sanctified us. Thank You for the Law within us (Spirit). May the Law within work out the righteousness of Christ in us. Amen.