“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children of wrath as the others were also.”
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”
“He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” Ephesians 2:1-10
We learn from this passage that God, while we were still dead in our transgressions, loved us enough to not let us continue in an inner uncertainty and desperation pursuit for forgiveness and justification, filled with temporary victories followed by mistakes, guilt and shame. He bought us back by a high cost, the cost of His son. Jesus Christ suffered the punishment we deserved because of our sins and lived the life we were by design created to live. Now in Him we find forgiveness and justification that leads to true life and joy.
Forgiveness means that we do not have to pay for the wrong we have done. Forgiveness is to get out of jail.
Justification means that we do not have to pay for the wrong we have done but we have rights or credentials that we do not deserve. Forgiveness is to not only get out of jail but to be invited to join the judge’s room/parliament.
Justification in Christ eliminates our inner uncertainty of acceptance and validation. A justified person does not only have the forgiveness that comes from Jesus payment on the cross, but also has all the credentials that Jesus has. Jesus is not a merely good person who paid for our sins, but Jesus is the son of God, He defeated death, He is victorious over sin, He is at the right hand of The Father, He is brave, He lives with a clear purpose and He lives it perfectly. The good news is not that we are free from the punishment of our sin only, but that we are given Jesus’ credentials.
It is important for believers to have a clear understanding of complete forgiveness and justification in Jesus Christ. Christ believers are not only forgiven but justified as well. If one understands forgiveness but do not understand justification, the same will know what is good and what is bad, will work hard to live a good moral life, but will never take up Jesus’ offer to carry His credentials and privileges. This person will continue to live a tormented life, with many of the up and down season, choosing to obey God’s commands sometimes but failing to do so some other times, continuing to add guilt and uncertainty inwardly. This a person who had never fully received and trusted Jesus’ offer. This person is still depending on his or her own strength and performance to be accepted by God. That’s why Paul says “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast”.
And the intensity of our labor for God is not the problem at all. The problem sits in the heart. Why are you laboring so hard? Is that for God or is that for yourself? See, there are two type of people. Both are laboring really hard to be a good person, to follow God’s commandments, to follow the steps of Jesus. However, one is ultimately doing for God and the other is doing for himself. How can someone labor hard to do the things God told us to do and be doing that for himself? This is a great question. If someone does not have certainty that his sins are forgiven and his justification is now in Jesus Christ, this person’s motivation to what is right is to save himself and not ultimately for God. The person who is certain of his forgiveness of sin and is certain of his justification in Jesus Christ, all that this person does from now on is worthless, it will never count any credit to himself when it comes to being saved and justified, therefore, all that this person does is an act of thankfulness to God.
Now, many are concerned about those who profess to believe and are certain of their salvation and justification but live their lives according to their rules and desires. The answer to this situation is that these people most likely have never been saved. The heart of man is fully known only to God; therefore, it is not for us to define who is saved and who is not. At the moment of salvation, a person’s heart is immediately inclined to please God, however, sin is not removed from this person. Now with an inclined heart to God, this person will progressively be sanctified by the Spirit of God.