Ultimately, our understanding of the security of the believer will be shapedout of our understanding of the general nature of salvation.While God is altogether just and holy, he is also loving and kind. While hisholy nature dictates that sin must be punished, he himself provided the wayfor sin to be punished and sinners to be saved. God himself, without ceasingto be God in any sense whatsoever, became a real human being, just like us,except that he did not have a sinful nature, and he never sinned. He died onthe cross and took the guilt and the consequences of our sins — we receivethe benefits of what he did, not by following a set of rules but simply bytrusting in him and what he did for us.Before we can truly place our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must takefull responsibility for our sins; we must recognize the guilt that is ours,because it is we who have chosen to commit those sins of our own will, andnobody forced us to do them. We must confess that we deserve to suffer theconsequences of our sins both in this life and in the world to come, andthat whatever comes our way is less than what our sins merit. We mustsincerely choose to turn from those sins to God, even though the fruit ofthat choice will never be perfect in this life.In the gospel we understand that our Lord Jesus Christ took on himself allof the curse and condemnation due for our sins, having become a curse for usas he took both the guilt and the consequences for our sin. “Christ redeemedus from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” (Galatians3:13.) What does it mean that Christ became a curse for us? It means that hefully bore the just consequences of our actions, the curse and judgment of aholy God. We receive the benefits of what he did for us by means of faith;we are justified by faith, by faith alone, but by a faith that is neveralone.What is justification? It is a legal declaration, not unlike what happens ina court of law; it has to do with our legal standing before God. As somegodly pastors and teachers put it so well over three centuries ago:”Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all oursins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousnessof Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” (_The WestminsterShorter Catechism_, Answer 33.)Justification is not that God makes us good and then declares what he hasdone. Rather, God declares sinners righteous solely on the basis of whatChrist did for them: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8.) This gracious declaration is without any reference to anythingin me. This is what the Apostolic Church has ever maintained: “For wemaintain that a man is justified (declared righteous) by faith apart fromobserving the law.” (Romans 3:28.) We can NEVER come under condemnation,regardless of what we do. Yet, in spite of this absolute, impeccable,imperishable, irrevocable standing that we possess before God, which is inno way subject to the vacillation and vicissitudes of our personal walk –as an expression of our gratitude, we strive to keep the law because we havebeen embossed with the restored image of God in Jesus Christ — after webelieved, when we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. (Ephesians1:13, 14.)Those who have been born again do reflect this in a changed way of life.They have not been saved because they live a new life; they live a new lifebecause they have been saved. Dead sinners are effectually called by theHoly Spirit working through the preaching of the gospel. The moment thesesinners believe, their sins are forgiven, having been fully paid for byChrist, and Christ’s perfect obedience — the very righteousness of Godhimself — is put to their account. Just as our credit card charges andpayments are reflected in a monthly statement, so Jesus takes our wholedebt, and he credits us with his completely righteous record. But, as Isaid, believers are also immediately sealed with the Holy Spirit who beginsthe life — long process of changing them into the restored image of God,making them more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ, a process notcompleted until death. As Paul says, “In whom you also trusted, after youheard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also afteryou believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, who is theearnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession,to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13, 14.)There will always be the fruit of a changed life in everyone who believes –always imperfect, but always there. “No one who is born of God practicessin, because his seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is bornof God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil areobvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor theone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:9, 10.) In other words, aperson who is born again can fall into serious sin, even adultery or murder,and never lose his salvation: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceiveourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8.) But a born again personcannot live on and on in sin without turning away from it and back to God.Why? Because the Holy Ghost will not allow a born again person to live insin. He convicts us, and if that doesn’t produce repentance, he disciplinesus — gently at first, then more severely if necessary. If all else fails,the Holy Spirit will take us home to heaven.Yet all who believe are fully righteous in God’s sight the moment theybelieve: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from worksof the Law.” (Romans 3:28.) “But to the one who does not work, but believesin him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckonsrighteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds havebeen forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whosesin the Lord will not take into account.'” (Romans 4:5-8.) And, “There istherefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans8:1.)As I said, ultimately, our understanding of the security of the believerwill be shaped out of our understanding of the general nature of salvation.Is our salvation based on what we do or on what God has done for us in JesusChrist, or is it a blend of both? I would submit that salvation from firstto last is God’s work. We have seen that it is God who initiates salvationin its accomplishment. But the Bible is clear that it is also God whoinitiates salvation in its application.When it comes to our response to the gospel invitation, all Christiansaffirm that grace must precede our response. That is the Roman Catholicposition, as well as that of the Orthodox, Lutherans, Arminians andCalvinists.Saint Paul said, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and ofthe ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in thosewho are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifyingthe cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his greatlove for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even whenwe were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.”(Ephesians 2:1-5)Our Lord said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drawshim . . .” (John 6:44.)In the biblical understanding of that prevenient grace is the affirmationthat with regard to the elect there is a grace that always accomplishes itspurpose: “All that the Father gives me will come to me . . .” (John 6:37.)Rooted then as salvation is in the sovereignty of God’s grace in JesusChrist, with an absolute guarantee that every single one of God’s elect willcome to Christ, we have the wonderful assurance of our Lord: “And whoevercomes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37.) Or, as Saint Paul putit:”Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry iton to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6.)I hope that helps.Cordially in Christ,Bob”Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which hepardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteousin his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but onlyfor the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed tothem, and received by faith alone.” (The Larger Catechism, 70)Robert Benn Vincent, Sr.Grace Presbyterian Church4900 Jackson StreetAlexandria, Louisiana 71303-2509Tutissimum Refugium Sanguinis Christi80 Hickory Hill DriveBoyce, Louisiana 71409-8784318.445.7271 church318.443.1034 fax318.793.5354 firstname.lastname@example.org://www.rbvincent.comhttp://www.grace-presbyterian.orghttp://www.gcsla.orghttp://www.rbvincent.com/reformedcharismatic.htm
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