The "Justification" of Christmas
Dear Beloved in Christ,
At the heart of the Reformation was the returning to a biblical view of how a person can be righteous before a holy God. The theological doctrine that taught us how we can be righteous or just before God was justification by faith alone. At Christmas, we as Christians should be thankful to God for justification based solely on Christ's righteousness alone, and that this biblical doctrine was articulated and taught in the Reformation and by God's grace has been preserved for us to this day.
Yet sadly in many evangelical churches the doctrine or theological teaching of justification by faith alone is disregarded, unimportant, or misunderstood. Some have not been introduced to this biblical teaching, and some cannot understand why theology would be important anyway. But this is the article upon which the Church stands or fall (Luther), and the hinge on which the door of the Reformation swung open to reveal heaven for poor sinners (paraphrase of Calvin).
Do you know what justification by faith means? Can you articulate it to others? Are you able to seek to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:3-10) by knowing that you understand how you are to be righteous before a holy God today, but especially at the Final Judgment Seat of Christ? Will you be telling Jesus all you have done for him, proudly wearing your WWJD bracelet, or will you be saying humbly: "God have mercy upon me a sinner, I have only the righteousness of Christ to claim before your holy throne an in your awesome presence"? Do you understand justification by faith alone? Does every member of your family? It is extremely important, literally a matter of eternal life and eternal death!
This Christmas, I offer to you the "justification" of Christmas. The following is an acrostic based on 'CHRISTMAS' that I hope will help you to know what justification means for yourself and for others you love!
CHOSEN IN CHRIST- Ephesians 1:11-14: In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory.
HE IS OUR HOLINESS- I Corinthians 1:30: It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. / All the benefits of Christâ€™s perfect life: living 33 years in perfect conformity to Godâ€™s Law, loving God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength are given to the believer. All the benefits of Christâ€™s perfect death: dying on behalf of sinners as a ransom, taking the wrath of God as punishment. God credits this â€œactiveâ€ and â€œpassiveâ€ obedience of Christ to his Elect.
RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST IMPUTED- Iustia Alienum Romans 4:5-8: However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." / Justification is forensic. We are declared, counted or reckoned to be righteous when God imputes the righteousness of Christ (an â€œalien righteousnessâ€) to our account.
INCARNATION- Hebrews 2:14-18: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
SOLA FIDE- â€œBY FAITH ALONEâ€ (not â€œbecause ofâ€ faith)- Ephesians 2:8-10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. / Faith is the instrumental cause of justification in that faith is the means by which the merits of Christ are appropriated to us.
â€œTHEOLOGICAL ARTICLE UPON WHICH THE CHURCH OR INDIVIDUAL STANDS OR FALLSâ€: â€œARTICULUS STANTIS ET CADENTIS ECCLESIAEâ€ - MARTIN LUTHER- Galatians 1:6-12: â€œI marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another (gospel) only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but (it came to me) through revelation of Jesus Christ.
MESSIAH-THE LAMB OF GOD- John 1:29: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! The Substitutionary atonement of Christ- Romans 3:23-26: ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
ACCOMPLISHMENT OF CHRIST IN ETERNITY AND THE APPLICATION OF HIS WORK BY THE SPIRIT- Ephesians 1:4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: Titus 3:4-7: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
â€œSIMUL IUSTUS ET PECCATORâ€- â€œJUSTIFIED, AND AT THE SAME TIME SINFUL- MARTIN LUTHER / Eternal life is Christ dwelling in his righteouness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinners comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Fatherâ€™s pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter.