God initiates the relationship with us. He makes it possible, paving the way so that we can have fellowship with Him. Through this relationship, which He made possible through the gift of His Son, He desires to develop trust in us. Without that gift, without that expression of His love, the relationship never would have begun.
God is also the one who keeps the relationship going. If He did not do this, we would not have enough faith to trust Him, just like the Israelites of old. We would be too impatient, and we would not believe what He said. Obedience, loyalty, and devotion to Him would never be produced.
So, God keeps forgiving us. He keeps extending the hand, beckoning us to come back to the relationship. This is so clearly seen in the way God dealt with Israel in the Old Testament. Over and over, He forgave her and opened the way for her to come back. He deals no differently with us.
The key element in our salvation is this fellowship, which has been initiated through the death of Jesus Christ so that, through the relationship, we can begin to conform to the image of God by being permitted into His presence. If we do not do what is necessary on our part, giving our time and attention to the fellowship—to the relationship—nothing will happen.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Emotional Dimension
Verse 10 says, "We shall be saved," in the future tense. Thus, we now have access to the Father, to the Tree of Life, and to a relationship to build upon which should lead to everlasting life. But God has willed that our development must take place within the world, not the Garden of Eden.
Part of God's solution clears us of guilt of past sins; this is referred to in the Bible as "justification." Justification by faith in Christ's blood is only a partial solution because it neither changes the nature nor the character that is the cause of our needing justification through Christ's blood. It does clear us of indebtedness due to sin, and that in itself is a major blessing—an enormous gift—but by itself, it does not change the behavior that was responsible for us being indebted in the first place. It does open the door to that change, and thus verse 10 says, "We shall be saved by His life." This phrase implies help to enable us to be saved. Help is available to fulfill our part because Christ is alive to assist us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year
We are justified by faith in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ's life was worth more than all the rest of humanity combined, His death paid the penalty of the sins of the whole world. Through faith in His suffering and death, we receive forgiveness of sins and are brought into a right relationship with God.
The scripture states that "we shall be saved from wrath through Him." "Justified" does not mean "saved"; nor does it mean that we have eternal life. It simply means that our guilty past has been wiped clean because Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Once justified, we can proceed to the next step in the process of salvation.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation
Two points are noteworthy about Paul's comments. In verse 10, Paul states, "We shall be saved by His life." As wonderful a gift as God's merciful forgiveness is, merely being forgiven through Christ's blood is not sufficient for salvation. Justification must be seen for what it truly is: It is essential, but it is only the beginning of the salvation process. Throughout the process, we are saved by the continuous flow of grace upon grace from our High Priest.
The other important point is that perhaps nothing regarding God's spiritual creation demonstrates God's gracious and generous freeness—His total lack of obligation toward us—as does His justifying of sinners rather than morally meritorious saints.
The Christian doctrine of God justifying by faith rather than by works truly set the religious Jews of the apostle's day on an angry edge. To them, it made no logical sense. They perceived it as simply another invitation to sin because it seems so easy, or perhaps they also saw it as God ignoring their sincere efforts to please Him.
This charge is true—if one perceives justification carnally, isolating it so that it appears to occur completely apart from God's entire purpose for salvation rather than seeing it for what it truly is. Justification by grace through faith is a necessary part of the whole of being created in Christ's image.
Why is it necessary that our justification be by grace through faith? It must be this way because, if we earn justification through our works, it opens the door for human pride, not just to enter our relationship with God, but perhaps even to drive the relationship. If one is justified by works, a person could then honestly claim that God chose him, and his works, because he was good.
This is not good because pride is such a strong influence against God. Remember, Satan's pride rising in him initiated this entire earthly mess. Consider carefully what his pride did to his relationship with God. Justification given because of works alters the positions within the relationship, making God obligated to us as if we had earned a relationship with Him. Pride attempts to put a person on an equal footing with God or even in charge of the relationship, and this ultimately results in us creating ourselves.
It is dangerous to unleash pride in thinking more of ourselves than what is truly good for our character development. We are not the creator but the creation, subject to the designs and purposes of the Master Creator. For our good, then, justification must be received as a freely given, unearned gift.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)
Sanctification and justification are not the same. They are, however, different processes within the same purpose, and they are definitely related issues. They both begin at the same time: when we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God's law that in turn permits us into God's presence. We will never be any more justified than we are at that moment; justification does not increase as we move through our Christian lives.
Some believe that Jesus Christ lived and died only to provide justification and forgiveness of our sins. However, those who believe this are selling His awesome work short. As wonderful as His work is in providing us with justification, His labors in behalf of our salvation do not end there. Notice that verse 10 says we are "saved by His life." Jesus rose from the dead to continue our salvation as our High Priest. God's work of spiritual creation does not end with justification, for at that point we are far from complete. We are completed and saved because of Christ's labor as our Mediator and High Priest only because He is alive.
Sanctification unto holiness continues the process. Hebrews 2:11 states that Jesus is "He who sanctifies," and those of us who have come under His blood are called "those who are sanctified." Note these verses carefully:
» John 17:19: And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
» Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.
» Colossians 1:21-22: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. . . .
» Titus 2:14: . . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Sanctification has a definite purpose that is different from justification. In one respect, justification—as important as it is—only gets the salvation process started. Sanctification takes a person much farther along the road toward completion. It occurs within the experiences of life generally over the many years of one's relationship with the Father and Son. How long did God work with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and the apostles to prepare them for His Kingdom? By comparison, will our perfection be achieved in just a moment?
Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us. Notice His promise, made on the eve of His crucifixion, in John 14:18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Moments later, when asked by Judas, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (verse 22), Jesus replies, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (verse 23). These clear statements show that Jesus would continue His work with them following His resurrection.
As our High Priest, He continues that work in us after our justification. He not only washes us of our sins by means of His blood, but He also labors to separate us from our natural love of sin and the world. He works to instill in us a new principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life. This makes possible a godly witness before men, and at the same time, prepares us for living in the Kingdom of God.
If God's only purpose was to save us, He could end the salvation process with our justification. Certainly, His purpose is to save us, but His goal is to save us with character that is the image of His own.
Notice Hebrews 6:1: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." This verse and those immediately following confirm that, at the time of justification, we are not perfect or complete. Justification is an important beginning, but God intends to complete the process of spiritual maturation that He began with our calling. When sanctification begins, our Christian walk truly begins in earnest.
Sanctification, then, is the outcome of God's calling, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, justification, and our becoming regenerated by God through receiving His Spirit. This combination begins life in the Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8:9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
At this point in Christian life, the principles of Christianity must be practically applied to everyday life. At this juncture, it might help to recall what righteousness is. Psalm 119:172 defines it succinctly: "My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness." The apostle John adds to our understanding in I John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Both rectitude and love concisely characterize the same standards, the Ten Commandments, and we are required to labor to perform both.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)