Galatians 2:15-4:31-Paul Explains the Old Testament Basis of Justification by Faith (continued)
Galatians 3:1-5-The Process of Justification by Faith Continues
It is important for us to understand the meaning of two key theological terms.
Question: "What is justification? What does it mean to be justified?"
Answer: Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ's own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God's demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous—He justifies us.
Question: "What is progressive sanctification?"
Answer: The word translated “sanctification” in most Bibles means “separation.” It is used in the New Testament, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, of the separation of the believer from evil, and it is the result of obedience to the Word of God. Progressive sanctification is what gradually separates the people of God from the world and makes them more and more like Jesus Christ.
Sanctification differs from justification in several ways. Justification is a one-time work of God, resulting in a declaration of “not guilty” before Him because of the work of Christ on the cross. Sanctification is a process, beginning with justification and continuing throughout life. Justification is the starting point of the line that represents one’s Christian life; sanctification is the line itself.
Sanctification is a three-stage process – past, present, and future. The first stage occurs at the beginning of our Christian lives. It is an initial moral change, a break from the power and love of sin. It is the point at which believers can count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God” (Romans 6:11). Once sanctification has begun, we are no longer under sin’s dominion (Romans 6:14). There is a reorientation of desires, and we develop a love of righteousness. Paul calls it “slavery to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
The second stage of sanctification requires a lifetime to complete. As we grow in grace, we are gradually – but steadily – changing to be more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). This occurs in a process of daily spiritual renewal (Colossians 3:10). The apostle Paul himself was being sanctified even as he ministered to others. Paul claimed that he had not reached perfection, but that he “pressed on” to attain everything Christ desired for him (Philippians 3:12).
The third and final stage of sanctification occurs in the future. When believers die, their spirits go to be with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Since nothing unclean can enter heaven (Revelation 21:27), we must be made perfect at that point. The sanctification of the whole person—body, soul, and spirit—will finally be complete when the Lord Jesus returns and we receive glorified bodies (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:35-49).
God’s work in sanctification involves all three members of the Trinity. God the Father is constantly at work in His children “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). He changes our desires, making us want to please Him, and He empowers us to do so. Jesus earned our sanctification on the cross and, in essence, has become our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30) and the “perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The Holy Spirit is the primary agent of our sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), and He is the one who produces in us the fruit of sanctification (Galatians 5:22-23).
Our role in sanctification is both passive and active. Passively, we are to trust God to sanctify us, presenting our bodies to God (Romans 6:13; 12:1) and yielding to the Holy Spirit. “It is God's will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and God will have His way.
Actively, we are responsible to choose to do what is right. “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thessalonians 4:4). This involves putting to death the “misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), striving for holiness (Hebrews 12:14), fleeing immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18), cleansing ourselves from every defilement (2 Corinthians 7:1), and making every effort to supplement our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11).
Both the passive role and the active role are necessary for a healthy Christian life. To emphasize the passive role tends to lead to spiritual laziness and a neglect of spiritual discipline. The end result of this course of action is a lack of maturity. To emphasize the active role can lead to legalism, pride, and self-righteousness. The end result of this is a joyless Christian life. We must remember that we pursue holiness, but only as God empowers us to do so. The end result is a consistent, mature Christian life that faithfully reflects the nature of our holy God.
While Paul is dealing with justification…he knows that the continuing process of justification in a believer’s life is sanctification. Paul’s point is that the work of justification that took place when they were saved was done by the power of the Holy Spirit…not by their keeping the Law. Why would they think that now they can do what it previously required the Holy Spirit to do? What makes them think that they can accomplish sanctification?
Galatians 3:6-9-The History of Justification by Faith (the promise given to Abraham)
Paul is showing that Justification by Faith was the very means by which Abraham (the father of the Jews) was made righteous. He then makes it clear that it is this same means by which all people will be saved when he quotes Genesis 12:3, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” In other words, this is the same way that people of all time will be made righteous. It was also important that he show that this was true so that they will recognize that this means of being made righteous predated the Law.
Galatians 3:10-21-The Guide for Justification by Faith (the promise guided by the Law)
Paul makes it clear that no one will ever be made righteous by the Law…because in order to do so the Law would have to be kept totally, 100%, without error…and that is impossible. Then he reminds them that even the Old Testament never said that we could be made righteous by keeping the Law. In fact, it said that the means was faith (:11,14). The purpose of the Law was not to save us fro sin…but to reveal sin to us. The more we know and practice the Law…the more effective it becomes at revealing our sin. Christ redeemed us from the curse (the penalty) of the Law by bearing the price of our sin and paying for it with His life on the cross. In doing so, He became cursed (punished) for us (:13).
Paul explains Genesis 22:17,19 to them. In those verses, Abraham is told that the promise of justification would be accomplished through his “seed”. The point that Paul is making is that the Hebrew word “zara” is singular. The promise would only come through one seed, one individual and that is Jesus Christ. Paul then gives them a little history lesson. He reminds them that the promise to Abraham was made 430 years before the Law was given. The giving of the Law does not make the promise invalid, or nullify it (:17). If that had been done then righteousness would be based on the Law, not the promise (:21).
Galatians 3:22-29-The Provision for Justification by Faith (the promise accomplished through Jesus)
So then, if the Law was not meant to provide salvation…what was its purpose? The purpose of the Law was to reveal the depth of our sin to us so that we would realize the need for a Savior, Jesus Christ (:23-24). Now that Christ has come (“faith has come”-:25)…He has fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning His mission and we are aware that He is the one who provides justification when we believe in Him. This means of justification applies to all people.
Prayer: Lord, it is so easy for my old, human nature to slip into law-mode...to want to do something on my own, and for myself. Please forgive me. Don't let me ever take satisfaction in the flesh...but always, to live by faith and to give You glory.