The moment we believed on
Christ we were brought into a vital saving
relationship with Him. Faith is the means by which
this vital union with Christ is established and
maintained. Our salvation, life and blessings all
come from Christ. They become ours only as we are
identified with Him by faith.
The apostle Paul declared
"Christ who our life" (Colossians 3:4a) lives in us
and we in Him.
The closeness of relation
between Christ and the believer is almost beyond
description. Paul pushes language to its limits
stressing the closeness of a living relation with
Christ. He dwells in us and we in Him. We die to sin
in Him. We have been crucified with Him. We have
been made alive in Him. We are baptized into Him and
into His death. Christ is the head and believers
constitute the body. He is the foundation and His
people the building. He is the husband and His
people the wife. Paul's life is so identified with
Christ that his life is a manifestation of the very
life of Christ.
Paul describes this vital
union with the living Christ as a union with God.
The import of this union with Christ is that in Him
we come to know God with all that is humanly
possible on this earth. It is a decision between
knowing God in Christ or not knowing Him personally
(Acts 4:12; John 14:6). This union with Christ takes
place in the realm of personal spiritual experience
(John 3:3). Without spiritual regeneration there is
no life in Christ.
Our vital union with
Christ centers on the question of how we can be
received into God's favor. Is it on the ground of
what we do ourselves, or only on the ground of what
Jesus Christ does for us? If we expect to have a
right relationship with God based on what we do
ourselves it is called justification by works.
However, if we are seeking a right relationship with
God solely on the foundation of what Christ has done
for us it is called justification by faith.
Justification by faith
means we look to Christ and to Him alone for
salvation. We as guilty sinners go pleading Christ's
death and righteousness as the only ground of our
hope of receiving God's favor and eternal life. We
as evangelical Christians believe that salvation is
by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
It means pleading the merits of Jesus Christ alone
before the throne of grace instead of our own merits
of good works, virtue, character, etc.
God has made a perfect
provision whereby He can judicially acquit the
There is no justification
for sinful men except by faith. Justification is
being pronounced righteous by God. Where can a
sinful man get works that are as righteous as God?
He definitely cannot from himself. The works, even
good works, of a sinful man can lead only to
condemnation because all his works are as sinful as
he is. Sinful man must go out beyond himself to find
works that can offer righteousness to God. There is
only one place to find such righteousness and that
is in the person of Jesus Christ.
"If we are to be
justified at all, it must be on the ground of the
merits of Another, whose merits can be made ours by
faith. And that is the reason why God sent His Only
Begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should
not perish but have everlasting life. If we do not
believe in Him, obviously we must perish. But if we
believe in Him, we shall not perish but have
everlasting life. That is Justification by Faith.
Justification by Faith is nothing other than
obtaining everlasting life by believing in Christ. .
. And there is none other name under heaven, given
among men, wherein we must be saved . . . " (B. B.
Everything about us as
believers is centered in this great teaching of the
Scriptures. Through God's grace we are provided with
an open door into the presence of God. We have
access into His grace. Only those who have believed
in Christ have entered into the door into God's
presence. We have access by faith into this grace
(Romans 5:2). It gives us standing before God.
The wonderful thing the
apostle Paul stresses is that we are not only saved
by grace, but we now stand in grace. This is our new
position in Christ. The believer in Christ is
ensphered in divine grace. It surrounds us every
moment in every situation in life. The same grace
that saved us now sustains us.
Because of this legal
standing before God we are vitally united to the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because of this
vital union with Christ, the believer partakes of
all that Christ is. He has "blessed us with all
spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
Among the various ways
our vital union with Jesus Christ is illustrated in
the Scriptures is in a legal or judicial position in
a court of law.
EVERY PERSON IS GUILTY
The Bible confronts us
and declares that all mankind has sinned and has
come short of the glory of God. The entire world
stands guilty before God. No one can answer back to
God. There is no individual who is not a sinner and
who has not "become accountable to God" (Romans
3:19). The apostle Paul declared ". . . there is no
distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of
the glory of God . . ." (vv. 22b-23). We have all
experienced personal sin. We are guilty in the eyes
of God and before a watching world.
God infinitely abhors
sin. We are all guilty sinners before a righteous
and holy God. He is holy and He cannot look upon
sin. He cannot tolerate our sin. We stand guilty and
condemned in His sight.
God sees the unbelieving
Lost (Matthew 18:11; 2
Guilty (Romans 3:19)
Alienated from God
His enemies (Romans 5:10;
Children of wrath
Condemned (John 3:18)
Therefore, the age-old
question is how we can stand right before God.
NO ONE IS JUSTIFIED BY
The Bible tells us, " . .
. by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified
in His sight; for through the Law comes the
knowledge of sin" (3:20). Then the apostle Paul
tells us the righteousness of God has been
manifested apart from the law (v. 21).
He makes it very clear in
Galatians 2:16 where he writes, " . . . a man is not
justified by the works of the Law but through faith
in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ
Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in
Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the
works of the Law no flesh will be justified." He is
rather emphatic in his statement. He repeats the
negative statement three times just in case we miss
the point. He writes, "a man is not justified by the
works of the Law," "not by the works of the law,"
"by the works of the law no flesh will be
justified." We can't miss it, can we? The reason why
is because "the Scriptures has shut up all men under
sin" (Galatians 3:22). It locked us up in prison and
threw away the key because we are guilty. It can't
set us free. It can't even give us power to overcome
sin. All the Law can do is make us more and more
conscious of our sin and guilt.
All we sinners can
produce is more sinful works. Therefore, we are not
right in the sight of God.
Not our merits
Not our virtue
Not our character
Not our faithfulness to
Not our baptism or
Not our church membership
Not our religious
How can a righteous and
holy God, therefore, justify the sinner without
justifying his sin? How can God save the sinner from
the legal penalty and save Himself from compromise?
God's own holiness demands the execution of the
penalty of sin. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans
6:23a). "The soul that sins will surely die"
(Ezekiel 18:4). God's love and tender mercies longs
to rescue sinful, guilty men and at the same time
His righteousness demands man's execution because we
THE BELIEVING SINNER
IS JUSTIFIED AS A GIFT OF GRACE.
A. W. Tozer correctly
said, "A real Christian expects to go to Heaven on
the virtue of another."
The believing sinner is
justified as a gift of God's grace based upon the
death of Christ for our sins. We are "justified as a
gift by His grace through the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a
propitiation in His blood through faith" (Romans
God can't just wink His
eye and say "boys will be boys, everybody does it."
In our day the expression, "we are all sinners" is a
popular excuse to go on sinning. For many people
there is no contrite conviction in those words. They
are nothing more than an excuse for more sinning.
Everybody does it so why can't I?
In order for God to
acquit us of all guilty charges He must first deal
with His own righteous standards. He cannot deny
Himself and continue to be God. The apostle Paul
tells us God can deliver us from the guilt of sin
because Jesus Christ paid the debt in full for us on
our behalf. Christ is our "propitiation in His
blood." It is His bloody sacrifice on the cross that
turns away the wrath of God. He bore our death
penalty on the cross. The death penalty for our sins
was paid in full at the cross. Christ paid it in
full by dying on our behalf, and now the wrath of
God is completely satisfied against the believing
The basic idea of
salvation by grace through faith in Christ is the
substitution of Christ for the sinner before the law
of God in His Supreme Court. God sent Jesus Christ,
His own Son, to satisfy the penalty of our sins and
turn the wrath of God away that we may be justified
freely by His grace through faith in His blood.
John R. W. Stott
eloquently states: "Jesus Christ came into the world
to live and to die. In His life His obedience to the
law was perfect. In His death He suffered for our
disobedience. On earth He lived the only life of
sinless obedience to the law which has ever been
lived. On the cross He died for our law-breaking,
since the penalty for disobedience to the law was
death. All that is required for us to be justified,
therefore, is to acknowledge our sin and
helplessness, to repent of our years of
self-assertion and self-righteousness, and to put
our whole trust and confidence in Jesus Christ to
save us" (The Message of Galatians, p. 62).
The law was fully and
completely fulfilled in the perfect obedience of
Christ and His vicarious suffering death for our
sins. Christ satisfied the just demands of the law
of God and the moment the sinner put his faith in
Christ God judicially acquitted that sinner. In so
doing God does not compromise His holy standard of
justice and righteousness. Therefore, Paul says God
can remain "just and the justifier of the one who
has faith in Jesus" (v. 26). Then he adds, "For we
maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from
the works of the law" (v. 28).
Grace repudiates all
self-effort in our search for salvation. Grace makes
all self-effort foolishness in the sight of God.
How are we declared
acquitted? "The righteousness of God through faith
in Jesus Christ for all those who believe . . .
being justified as a gift by His grace through the
redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God
displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood
through faith" (vv. 22-25).
Justification by faith in
Christ is our legal standing before God. God
declares the believing sinner just in His right. The
unjust, believing sinner, is accounted and treated
as just or righteous before God. Because of the
sacrifice of Christ on our behalf on the cross a
just and holy God can remain perfectly just and holy
and at the same time judicially acquit the believing
sinner and give him a right standing before God.
Galatians 2:16 also
positively states our justification three times.
Paul wrote, "A man is . . . justified . . . through
faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in
Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in
Christ . . ."
Faith in Jesus Christ is
a personal act of commitment. We have literally
believed into (eis) Christ Jesus.
Justification means to be
declared righteous, to be pronounced right in the
sight of God. It is the process by which a man is
brought into a right state in His relationship with
God. It is a legal and formal acquittal of all guilt
by God who is our Judge. He pronounces and treats,
accounts or reckons the guilty, believing sinner as
righteous in His relationship with God. God acquits
the believer based upon his accepting on his behalf
the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans
3:9-20; Galatians 2:16; 3:10-11, 25-26; 5:1, 4).
In fact, over thirty
things occurred the very moment we put our faith in
We were born again or
regenerated (Titus 3:5; John 3:5, 6; Ephesians
We were baptized by the
Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
We were indwelt by the
Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
We were sealed by the
Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).
We received spiritual
gifts for ministry (1 Corinthians 12:11).
Because of what Christ
has done for us we can now enter into a
life-transforming relationship with Him. This vital
living union with Christ radically transforms us. We
are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).
We actually share with the Son of God a unique life.
OUR JUDICIAL ONENESS
Everything in the
Christian life depends upon this vital judicial
legal union with Christ.
God sees every Christian
as being "in Christ." We have this new position in
Christ because of our justification by faith. We are
in union with Christ and identified with Him in His
death, burial, resurrection and exaltation. This new
relationship with God applies to all believers.
We are in Christ;
He is in us.
We are crucified with
Christ (Galatians 2:20).
We are dead with Christ
We are buried with Christ
Made alive with Christ
We are raised together
with Christ (Colossians 3:1).
We are sufferers together
with Christ (Romans 8:17).
We are glorified together
with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Romans chapter six makes
it clear that "There has been on the part of every
believer, a death unto sin; and a burial with Christ
in the sepulchre; and that death and burial are
expressed, confessed and symbolized in baptism,"
write A. T. Pierson. This standing can be understood
only in judicial terms.
"We are all of us
conscious of no such actual identification with
Christ in death and burial. We have never yet really
died or been laid in the grave. The only way to
interpret these words is to interpret them, not as
expressing a historical fact, but a judicial act,
something counted or reckoned or imputed to our
account by the sovereign mercy and grace of God."
God reckons the believing
sinner to be one with Christ and His obedience is
imputed to the sinner as his own. God reckons to the
believing sinner, as his own the results of the
atoning suffering of Christ as the satisfaction for
the death penalty for sin.
Therefore, we have died
to the law. By dying with Christ, we died under the
law's penalty. All of the law's demands were
satisfied in Christ. It no longer has a hold on us.
The dominating control of the fallen nature has been
"There is therefore now
no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"
The believer is in
Christ, in the sight of God and is therefore judged
and acquitted as clothed with His righteousness.
That is our standing with God based upon the
righteousness of Christ.
We have received imputed
righteousness on account of faith in Jesus Christ.
The ancient Jewish patriarch Abraham believed God
and it was accounted to him as righteousness.
Similarly, we believe on Christ and God reckons up
righteousness in His sight (Rom. 4:3ff, 22-25).
As a result of
justification by faith we have peace with God
(Romans 5:1). All controversy between the believing
sinner and God is over! Our enmity has been done
away with by our acceptance of Christ's death. The
verb tense in the original means a once-for-all
completed transaction. We have been declared not
guilty once and for all.
When God justifies the
sinner He actually counts them righteous when they
are not. He does not impute sin where sin actually
exists, and does impute righteousness where it does
"He [God] made Him [Jesus
Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so
that we might become the righteousness of God in
Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
A. T. Pierson wrote, "The
believer counts God able to make him alive with His
own life and holy with His own holiness. God in turn
counts the sinner now dead in sin to be dead to sin
and alive to God, counts him as righteous, and then
proceeds to make him what he at first only reckons
him to be (Romans 4:4-8, 17, 21, 22."
The old Puritan John
Bunyan testified: "Suddenly, this sentence fell upon
my soul, "Thy righteousness is in heaven." . . . I
saw, with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's
right hand. . . It was glorious to me to see His
exaltation and the worth and prevalency of all His
benefits. . . . By this also was my faith in Him, as
my righteousness the more confirmed in me, for if He
and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His
merits mine, His victory also mine. Now I would see
myself in heaven and earth at once; in heaven by my
Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life,
though on earth by my body or person."
No longer is our life
self-centered. The Lord Jesus lives out His life in
us day by day as we maintain total dependence on Him
In summarizing the secret
of great Christians who lived Christ-like lives V.
Raymond Edman wrote in They Found the Secret, p.
152, the following:
Life is not achieved by
longing for a better life and lingering at the
cross. There must be appropriation by faith of the
Holy Spirit to fill life with the presence of the
Lord Jesus. That obtainment is by faith, and not by
works. Inquires the Scripture: "This only would I
learn of you, Received the Spirit by the works of
the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians
3:2). Just as salvation is by faith, so also is the
exchanged life. Just as we accept the Lord Jesus by
faith as Savior, so by simple faith we receive the
fullness of the Holy Spirit. Just as we took the
Lord as our sin-bearer, we take the Holy Spirit as
our burden-bearer. Just as we take the Savior as our
penalty for sins that are past, we take the Holy
Spirit for power over indwelling sins that are
present. The Savior is our atonement; the Holy
Spirit is our advocate. In salvation we receive
newness of life, by the Holy Spirit we find life
more abundant. In each case the appropriation is by
faith, and by faith alone, wholly apart from any
feeling on our part.
Baptism by immersion is
the most beautiful symbol of this vital faith-union
with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection
with risen power. We go down into a watery grave, as
Christ did, expressing our faith in following Him in
His death, burial and resurrection. "God reckons us
to have died and been buried when He died and was
buried. Judicially it is true, for what happens to
our Great Representative is true of all whom He
represents," notes Pierson.
All believers in Christ
died when Christ died, but the personal
appropriation of their death with Christ came later
in time when they put their personal trust in
Christ. Our baptism is a beautiful picture of our
funeral as we are solemnly consigned to our death in
Christ. The marvelous message is that we do not
remain dead, but we rise with Him from death and
even in this world experience the power of His
resurrection as men who have already died and risen
There are great
applications of this great truth to our relationship
with God. Faith in Christ makes us one with Him, so
that, "in God's sight, what is literally and
actually true of Him, becomes judicially,
representatively, constructively, true of us. We
died when He died; we were buried when He was
buried; and as many of us who have been baptized
into Christ has been baptized into His death, that
is, our baptism was the confession of our identity
with Him, and our symbolic putting on of Christ"
Charles G. Trumbull
speaks vividly of this new life in Christ: "The
resources of the Christian life, my friends, are
just––Jesus Christ. . . . I realized for the first
time the many references to Christ in you, you in
Christ, Christ our life, and abiding in Christ are
literal, actual, blessed fact, and not figures of
speech. . . Jesus Christ does not want to be our
helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us
to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work
through us, using us as we use a pencil to write
with––better still, using us as one of the fingers
of His hand."
Here are some more
studies on justification by faith in Christ. Romans
3:21-26; Galatians 2:16 Our Perfect Union with
Life in Romans