The Three Stagesof Justification (1)
of justification is not
for our salvation, but for
In Romans 3 Paul tells us we are justified “once-for-all” by faith in Christ. This is the objective fact of justification, which is for our salvation:
…Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
— Romans 3:24,28
Yet, while chapter 3 shows us the fact of our justification, it does not show us the purpose for which we were justified.
That is in the next chapter, Romans 4, in which Paul goes on to deal with our subjective experience of justification. And what he shows us here is that this experience is not for our salvation; we already have that. Rather, it is for us to carry out God’s purpose.
How can we say this? Because the example Paul uses in Romans 4 to illustrate our experience of justification has nothing to do with sin. Rather, he uses the example of Abraham having a son.
Abraham was the very first one God called out of fallen mankind, back to Himself. His purpose in this calling was for Abraham to produce a son so that, through him, He could have His kingdom on the earth. In Romans 4 Paul shows us that, as Abraham followed God according to this purpose, he was justified by God.
In the very same way, God today has called us out of fallen mankind and forgiven our sins though our faith in Christ; praise the Lord for that! However, we must not stop there, for, like Abraham, God did not call us just to forgive our sins. Rather, His purpose is to bring us fully back to Himself. Then we, with Abraham, the father of faith (4:11,16), will become the heirs of the world for the sake of God’s kingdom on the earth (4:13).
And for this we must enter into the experience of justification.
Unfortunately, almost all Christians today are satisfied with the objective, once-for-all fact of justification; they do not press on to enter into the experience of it, and so God has no way to carry out His purpose through them.
To understand this we must realize that, in contrast to the fact of justification, our subjective experience of justification is not once-for-all. Rather, the New Testament shows us that it is in three distinct stages.
And that is what we will go on to consider in our next Note in this series.
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— 20 April 2022 —