One of my son’s is a sprinter in high school. His coach reminds the sprinters from time-to-time that the race starts when they explode off the blocks, but that’s not where the race ends. They have to “put out” all the way to the finish line. In fact, he wants them to save some “kick” for the finish line. You know, lean in and push even harder as you cross the line.
In 1 John 3:4 we read the definition of sin: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” For there to be sin there must be a law as shown in the diagram below. The result of sin is death, “For the wages of sin is death. . . “ (Romans 6:23, KJV) and death, eternal death, is separation from God. This is the state, before Christ’s atoning sacrifice that we are all found it because as in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (KJV).
However, because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice we are justified. Justification in God’s court on high is the legal act of declaring that one is righteous, not free from sin, not changed into a perfect, sinless being, but righteous. Christ’s righteousness is imputed onto the sinner. We see this in Philippians 3:8-9, “. . . so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,”. This process of justification is illustrated in the following diagram.
However, justification is not automatic and not all are justified. Justification flows from or is a product of our faith. This is probably most obvious in Galatians 2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (KJV).
Notice in my diagram above, justification is way around the law. Romans 5:1-2 teaches us the same, “ 1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” (NIV, emphasis added).
By now I hope you are wondering what all of this has to do with my son, the sprinter. Exploding off the blocks is the beginning of the race. For us having faith and then witnessing that faith through baptism is the same. I’m afraid the too many Christians don’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification my two “ions” and fall into the trap of thinking that the race is over when the confess Christ, when the race has really just begun.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (KJV). What’s up with Paul? He has been preaching faith, repentance, baptism, justification, and grace and he is worried about becoming a castaway? I don’t think he was worried about losing his justification or salvation, because that comes from grace, but rather sanctification and glorification. He was worried about losing his inheritance.
We need to back up a little now to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where Paul said, “24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (NIV).
Justification isn’t the prize, it’s a gift. I think that we get some hints about the “prize” that Paul was worried about in his letter to the Colossians: “1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. . . . 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” (Col 3:1-4, 23-25, NIV).
Justification is a free gift, well free that is as long as we have faith in Christ. Our inheritance on the other hand will be determined by what we do and how we live, by what kinds of Christians we really are. Have you ever wondered about the Judgement Seat of Christ? After if we are saved by faith alone, justified by our faith in Him, then why a judgement?
Let’s go take a look at what Paul had to say one last time, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10, NIV). What we do after faith, repentance, and baptism really do matter. Our actions, the way we live our lives, matter. So dear monks and friends, let’s not lose sight of the reward and run our race so that we can say, as did Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Tim 4:7, NLT).
My prayer today is that all of us may be united one day, together, in the Kingdom of God as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Bro. Dave, Abbot
St. Brendan’s Celtic Christian Monastery is a non-denominational, online monastery without wall that accepts Christians, female and male, of all religious traditions who are on a contemplative path to God into the order. To learn more about Our Monastery please visit us.