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

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