The Grace of God: Justifying Grace – the Rest of the Story

graceWe began this series by understanding how God’s redemptive grace is available to absolutely everyone. We have followed the path of redemption by the grace of God from prevenient grace to convincing grace and finally last week justifying grace – the grace that makes us “just-as-if-I” never sinned. Justifying grace frees us from the guilt of sin and the penalty of sin. Unfortunately, there are many who believe justification is all that is required and “once saved, always saved” or in similar thinking that justification is the end goal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two sides to the coin of justifying grace – justification and new birth. These two states of grace are inseparable and occur simultaneously. Only sinners can be justified and only sinners need to be justified. Once a person has received the justifying grace of God he/she is changed, the old has died and the new is born. Remember the discus-sion Jesus had with Nicodemus, “‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a sec-ond time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.’” (John 3:3-5). We all experienced natural birth involving water, but those who would enter the kingdom of God must experi-ence a second birth through the Spirit of God.

Justification is what God does for us. New birth (or sometimes “regeneration”) is what God does in us. Justification removes the penalty of sin, new birth gives the presence of the Holy Spirit. Justification gives us peace, new birth gives us power. The new birth gives the individual power over sin, but not freedom from sin. There remains the propensity to sin and turn from God, as the hymn says, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Prior to justification, sin wins far too many times in our lives, after the new birth, sin becomes the rare exception and the individual is immediately repentant. Before justification and new birth a person has the faith of a servant, afterwards the faith of a son or daughter of God. The servant obeys laws and commands out of fear of God, the son or daughter conforms his/her life to the will of God out of love for Him.

The new birth is an apt description. There is not just a quantitative change in the person, he/she does not become a little bit better after experiencing this aspect of God’s grace. There is a qualitative change, the old has died and the individual is a new creation in Christ Jesus. This change cannot be accomplished by any human means, only through the supernatural work of God.

We are not adults at birth. There is a process of learning, growing, and maturing that takes time. Likewise, at the new birth we are not fully mature, totally holy, completely conformed in the image of Christ. The new birth is the starting point for this process to begin. Our physical, natural birth began the process that leads to justification and new birth. New birth begins the process that leads to complete sanctification, a process that for most of us takes a lifetime.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Scot

The Grace of God – Justifying Grace

gracedoveWe began this series by understanding how God’s redemptive grace
is available to absolutely everyone. We have seen how God touches every
single person without exception with His prevenient grace. We connected
free will with grace and realized beginning with convincing grace a person can always say “no” to God. Last week we looked at the relationship of convincing grace, repentance and works evident of repentance. The one who cooperates with God through convincing grace obeys God in accordance with the grace received. He/she stops doing evil things, forgives others, and does good. But convincing grace leaves one under the law and a person only knows God as the ultimate judge. It takes another work of God to move a person further. That work is justifying grace.
Justifying grace is associated with the terms “being saved” and “new
birth” and “being born again.” Justifying grace is the work of God alone, He
decides when and where. It is the free gift of God. Justifying grace is a work
God does for us that is only possible by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ
on the cross. Christ alone was able to pay the price for our sinfulness. Justifying grace removes the penalty for all past sins, it is “just-as-if-I” never sinned. We do not believe in the notion of “once saved always saved.” To go on willfully sinning after experiencing God’s forgiveness is to make a mockery of Him. As Paul wrote, “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” (Rom 6:1-2).

Wesley refers to justifying grace as the first liberty of the Gospel. In being pardoned of our past sins, we are freed from the power of guilt. In one of his sermons, Wesley wrote, “And being saved from guilt, they are saved from fear.” Justifying graces frees us from the penalty of past sins, the power of guilt, and the fear of the wrath of God. Before receiving justifying grace, a person has the “faith of a servant,” a faith marked by fear. A
servant knows the will of the master, but service is by compulsion. A servant is bound to his/her master and so lives in a” spirit of bondage.” Justifying grace changes our relationship with God. We receive a “spirit of adoption,” we are no longer servants in the household of God but are adopted as sons and daughters of God. We have the witness of the Holy Spirit within us, the assurance that we have been truly forgiven. We no longer fear God’s wrath, we only fear disappointing God.

Even though John Wesley was raised in a Christian household (his father was a minister) and he had been an Anglican missionary to the British colonies in Georgia, it was not until he was almost thirty-five years old that he experienced God’s justifying grace in his own life. Wesley described what occurred one evening at a Bible study in this way, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Justifying grace involves both our head and our heart. It is more than knowing that Christ died for our sins, it is having the assurance in your heart that Christ loves me, that He died for my sins, even mine, and has saved me. Justifying grace changes our relationship with God, frees us from the penalty of sin, and allows an inner peace that was never before possible. But this is just part of the story.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

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