Called to a Knowledge of God

John Calvin, in his Institutes, states the following about God:

We are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. For the Lord manifests himself by his powers, the force of which we feel within ourselves and the benefits of which we enjoy.

We would all do well to meditate on this thought. And let it “take root in our heart”.

 

 

Our Identity in Christ

 

What does it mean to find our identity in Christ? How do we live our daily lives with the knowledge that our identity is to be found in Christ? It is a deep question with an answer that must be biblical for it to be truthfully and fully complete. Jerry Bridges, in his book, Who Am I, Identity in Christ , states

“We must remind ourselves that God loves us, not because we are lovable, but because we are in Christ, and the love which the Father has for his Son flows over to us because we are in him.”

Bridges raises two important points here. First, we are “in Christ”, which describes our union with him through his death, burial, and resurrection. We will look at this later in more depth. Secondly, the Father’s love for us comes to us through his son. This is another important point to understand. We have done nothing to earn God’s love. Just as faith is provided to His elect to believe (Eph. 2:8-9), we cannot earn anything from God.

Our acceptance by God comes to us because of Christ’s sacrifice. We have a good description of this in I Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” All of humanity is “in Adam” because of the Fall. And, with Christ’s sacrifice, those whom God chooses, are “in Christ”. All humans, in God’s eyes, are found in one of the two Adams.

Again, in the same chapter, Paul adds to this thought,

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

Those who are “in Christ” find themselves the recipients of Christ’s life giving spirit. Remember the quote above, “…not because we are lovable, but because we are in Christ.”

This being true, how was it accomplished? Once again, Paul describes how we are “in Christ” in Romans 6:5-11

For if we have been united with him in death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The word used for “united” in these verses means that we were “born together with”, or have “a joint origin”. This is how the Bible describes our union with Christ, both in His life and death. In his Romans commentary, John Murray makes an important statement regarding this verse

The death of Christ was not a process and neither is our conformity to his death a process. We are in the condition of having become conformed to his death.

As we see in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…”. Justification of our life in Christ is immediate, while sanctification is an ongoing, daily relationship with Christ, through His Spirit. It is our continuing in the Spirit, via our union with Christ, that both provides us with our new identity, and confirms our salvation. We have been delivered from who we were, in Adam, to who we are now and forever, in Christ.

Much more can and has been said on this topic, but this is a simple answer to a very important question. Who am I?

 

Theological Tuesday

Our term for today is glorification.

Our appreciation of God’s grace will be increased if we understand glorification in relationship to the other aspects of our salvation. The salvation Christ won for us is applied to us in stages, rather than all at once. The first stage is effectual calling, when God, through the preaching of the gospel, inwardly and successfully summons the elect to faith. Effectual calling is given together with regeneration, the act of the Holy Spirit whereby He changes our sinful hearts into hearts that love and cherish Christ. Regeneration thus enables and causes the elect to respond to the Father’s call, and they do so in faith and repentance. God then, at the moment the elect believe, justifies them. Justification is a legal act of God in which He forgives our sins, gives to us the righteousness of Christ, and declares us righteous in His sight.

It is important to understand that in justification we are declared righteous, but not made righteous. He declares us righteous on the basis of what Christ did, not on the basis of any good thing that is in us. The aspect of our salvation in which we are continually made more and more righteous is called sanctification. Whereas justification is an instantaneous act of God in which we are declared righteous (rather than made righteous), sanctification is a process–a process in which we are actually made righteous.

At death God completes our sanctification, and so removes all of our sins from our hearts and makes us perfectly holy. But even though our sanctification is complete at death, our salvation is not yet complete because we are still without our glorified resurrection bodies. These are given in the final stage of the application of our salvation, which is glorification. Then our salvation will be fully applied to us, and we will live forever in the new heavens and new earth as glorified saints, enjoying all of the benefits of salvation that Christ won for us.
Our bodies will one day be raised! Christianity does not teach the immortality of the soul only–the belief that our bodies are like prisons, and thus death is a great blessing to liberate us from these prisons so that we can continue living forever as disembodied spirits. Rather, Christianity teaches the resurrection of the body. As the apostle’s creed says, “We believe in the resurrection of the body.” Our bodies are not prisons, but are part of who we are. Of course our souls will live forever. But they will live forever in our bodies, not apart from them.
This resurrection of our body will occur when Christ returns. We know this from the way Paul explains to us the marvelous event of glorification in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

What a great promise we have. What a great eternity is before those who are Christ.

Theological Tuesday

Our term today is redemption. The word is derived from a Latin root meaning “to buy back,” thus meaning the liberation of any possession, object, or person, usually by payment of a ransom. In Greek the root word means “to loose” and so to free. The term is used of freeing from chains, slavery, or prison. In the theological context, the term “redemption” indicates a freeing from the slavery of sin, the ransom or price paid for freedom.
In the OT the object of God’s redemption is generally the people as a whole, or nation, rather than individuals. We see examples of this in Deuteronomy 15, and Exodus 6.
Christians believe that in Jesus we see the fulfillment of the OT redemptive concept. He was the substitutionary sacrifice for us on the cross. He was the sin offering(Romans 3). Redemption is by the giving of his life (Acts 20:28) for a purchased people (1 Pt 2:9; also 1 Cor 7:22–24; 2 Cor 5:14–17).
In other words, He was given as an atonement for our sin. He accomplished this by being born and living perfectly under the law, so that He would be the perfect sacrifice for us. His death, and our redemption, could not have happened unless He had first lived perfectly under the whole law. In this way, He was able to redeem His people.

Theological Tuesday

Our theological word for the day is “imputation”. I will let the Westminster Confession of Faith define the term of the day.

Those whom God calls, He freely justifies “by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith” (WCF 11.1)

In other words, our righteousness is an alien righteousness. It comes from outside of us through Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Paul wrote well on imputation in Romans 5, where he compares Adam and Jesus:

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.(v.19)

Our salvation and our righteousness come from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We have nothing that we contribute to either in any way. However, there is an additional part to this salvation and this righteousness. Our sins our imputed to Christ when we are called to Him. Here is what Peter says in 2 Peter 2:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.(v.24)

Our sins our His, and His righteousness is ours. This is the gift of the cross. We receive eternal salvation, and our given Christ’s own righteousness. We have much to be thankful for through our savior’s life, death, and resurrection.

 

Theology Tuesday

Our word for today is “sanctification“. Sanctification can mean two things:
1. To consecrate, or set apart for a sacred use or purpose
2.To purify, or make holy

The Shorter Catechism (Q. 35) gives a lucid definition: “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (see Westminster Confession of Faith, chap. 13).  Sanctification is a work of grace that is gradual and progressive. It relates to the conflict with and the victory over indwelling sin. There is a dying more and more unto sin and a living more and more unto righteousness.
Sanctification and justification differ in the following:
1. Their nature. Justification is a relative change in state; sanctification is a real change of the whole man.
2. Their order. Justification precedes sanctification, for imputed righteousness precedes implanted and inherent holiness.
3. Their matter. The matter of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed. The matter of sanctification is an inherent righteousness communicated.
4. Their form. Justification is a judicial act by which the sinner is pronounced righteous. Sanctification is a moral act, or rather a series of acts, by which a change is effected in the qualities of the soul.
5. Their properties. Justification is perfect at first and is equal in all believers. Sanctification is imperfect at first and exists in different degrees of advancement in different individuals.
6. In justification we receive a title to heaven. Sanctification gives us a capacity of enjoying it.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of the spirits of just men made perfect. As just men they went to heaven. There they were made perfect. So we see sanctification is completed at death. Christ is at the heart of sanctification. In Galatians 2:20 we see this clearly:

“…the life which I now live I live I live by faith in the Son of God.”

And Paul says the same thing in Romans 6 when he says we are to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness, according to our position in Christ. It is when we are able to understand this, and live in Christ, that true holy and sanctified living is possible.

Theology Tuesday

The term this week is justification. It is a foundational term in the christian faith, and therefore the best place to begin our series.

The word itself is a legal term that comes from the Greek word “dikaioo”, meaning ‘to acquit’, or ‘declare righteous’. Here we find the answer to the question how can sinful man be found right with God.

The word “justification” appears only a few times in the Bible. Usually we see the word, justified, or justify. Here are two well know verses in Scripture(ESV):

Galatians 2:15–16:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of
the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have
believed in Christ Jesus,in order to be justified by faith
in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works
of the law no one will be justified.
Romans 5:1:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Justification brings us into relationship with Christ. The key is understanding that it only comes by faith in Christ. There are many who believe in a justification by works. This is also known as a “works righteousness”. Works righteousness teaches you must earn your own righteousness in order to be justified, or declared righteous by God.

The Bible is clear throughout that we can only be declared righteous by our faith in Christ. And, most importantly, this righteousness is an external righteousness that comes from Jesus. Justification is by faith and grace alone.

And it is because of Christ’s sacrifice for His elect on the cross, as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Even Abram, in Genesis 15 believed and was counted righteous. God’s grace to His children is shown throughout all of scripture, and we are recipients of that grace.