“The man who is really living in union with Christ cannot be morally indifferent.” -Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine
Tim Keller offers these implications of the biblical doctrine of justification. As a reminder, justification teaches that we are simultaneously sinner and saint before God. Both at the same time. On the one hand, we are sinners who are forgiven because of the atoning death of Christ. On the other hand, we are saints/righteous in God’s sight because Christ’s perfect righteousness has been credited to us. This forgiveness and righteousness are ours not by works, but through faith alone. Here are a couple practical implications of this doctrine:
- It changes your self-image. Ordinarily, a person can be bold and lacking appropriate humility or a person can be humble but lacking boldness. Justification brings both of these together. As sinners, we are humbled. As those declared righteous in Christ, we have boldness. This makes it possible to be bold without being arrogant, and humble without being spineless.
- It changes how you view suffering. The book of Job serves as a foil. If you are seeking to earn a righteousness before God, you will also make the mistake Job’s friends made by saying, ‘my suffering must be payment for my sins’ or ‘I’m suffering because I must have offended God, somehow.’ OR if you have no grasp of your sin, but just hold on to your acceptance before God– “God loves me, of course he would, I’m wonderful!”– then when suffering comes you’ll think what Job’s wife thought: “curse God and die” because this acceptance and love from God has given me so much less than I think I deserve. Justification reminds us that as sinners, we actually don’t deserve anything good out of life. We deserve wrath and curse. It also reminds us as those justified and accepted in Christ, that our suffering isn’t payment for ours sin. It’s a third category. It’s fellowship in Christ’s sufferings, and God will bring good out of it because we are his children.
- It changes how you approach confrontation. If you only see your acceptance, not your sin, then confronting others is like going on the attack because you lack sufficient self-awareness to see that you have problems, too. But if you only see your sin, and forget your justification before God, then when others sin against you or you sin against them, you will withdraw and avoid, because you feel like the real truth about you has been exposed. Justification, as a sinner and saint, makes it possible to face sin truthfully and graciously, yet also with the confidence needed to address the actual problem.
from Tim Keller’s sermon “Justified Sinners” available here: http://www.gospelinlife.com/justified-sinners-5981.html
“But here Paul does not stop with his death. In the matter of Christ’s work that is pertinent to our justification, he does not punctuate his reference to Christ’s death with a period. ‘More than that…’ he continues [Romans 8:34]. Is more than Christ’s death, past and definitive as it is, integral to our justification and even necessary for it? ‘Yes’ is Paul’s apparent answer, for he goes on to speak of his resurrection with its enduring consequences. He points his readers to what is presently the case, and in this passage at least that is where his emphasis lies: on the continuing intercessory presence of the resurrected Christ at God’s right hand ‘for us.’
For Paul, justification is bound up with this ongoing intercessory presence, in the sense that our remaining, infallibly, in ‘the state of justification’-our not being separated from the love of God in CHrist, not even by death or whatever the future brings (vv.38-39)–depends upon this continuing and unfailing intercession. Christ, exalted to God’s right hand, is the exhibition of that finished and perfect righteousness that is ours as it is reckoned as ours. So, his presence in that place of ultimate and final judgment, as the righteousness which he ‘became for us…from God’ (1 Cor. 1:30), is the permanently effective answer to any charge brought against already justified believers–that ‘answer,’ it should not be missed, that is provided by God the Father out of his great love for the elect.”
Richard Gaffin, By Faith, Not by Sight, pg. 122