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Justification and Sanctification through Redemption

{From Redemption Truths by Sir Robert Anderson, chapter 7}

A CONVERSATION with a brother barrister one morning long ago brought, very vividlychurch-history-graphic before my mind the difference between the theology of Christendom and the truth of Christ on the doctrine of Justification. My friend began by taking me to task for preaching. He charged me with “usurping apostolic functions.” Having my Testament at hand, I showed him from Acts 8:1–40 that, in the Stephen persecution, the Jerusalem Christians “were all scattered abroad, except the Apostles,” and that “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” The Apostles, therefore, were the only Christians who did not, at that time, go out preaching.

Baffled and silenced on this point, he tried to make a diversion by declaiming against Protestant misrepresentations of his Church’s teaching, for he was a Roman Catholic. “You think,” he said, “that we believe in salvation by works, whereas the Church teaches salvation through Christ.  But Christ died for the whole world. How is it, then, that some are saved and others not? The Church and good works merely put people into the right position to get saved through Christ.”

To which I replied, “There is one great truth of Christianity of which your Church knows absolutely nothing.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“Justification by grace,” I answered.

“You mean justification by faith,” said he.

“No,” I said, “I mean justification by grace.

After a little fencing, he told me plainly that he did not understand me; and, with frequent interruptions on his part, I went on to explain what I meant.

Between justification by faith and salvation by works, as explained by my friend, there is, in theory at least, no necessary antagonism. But the whole position is absolutely inconsistent with justification by grace. For if a sinner has a claim of any kind for blessing or mercy, there is no room for grace.  Therefore it was that grace could not be revealed till Christ came. Till then, men held relationships with God, based either on creation, or on covenant, or on promise. But relationships are in their very nature two-sided; and as the Cross of Christ outraged every claim which God had upon man, it destroyed every claim which man had upon God. The whole world now stands on a common level of sin and wrath. For neither Church, nor sacrament, nor personal effort, can avail to establish a difference, since God has declared that there is no difference. The Cross has leveled all distinctions, and shut men up to judgment; this is the dark background on which “the grace of God, salvation-bringing to all men, has been manifested.” (Titus 2:11)

And the grace of God is not, as some seem to think, a kind of good influence imparted to the sinner to fit him to receive Divine blessing. It is the principle on which God blesses sinners in whom He can find no fitness whatsoever. And grace has now been manifested. In the Old Testament it was implied, indeed, but veiled; in the New, it is an open revelation. Grace was behind the promises. But neither in the case of God nor of man, is it grace to fulfill a promise. There is no grace in bestowing favor upon one who has a claim to favor, whether that claim depend upon promise or upon relationship. But when men became “the betrayers and murderers” of the Son of God, every promise was forfeited, every relationship sacrificed; sin reached its climax, and a lost world was shut up to judgment, stern, relentless, and terrible.

But now, judgment waits on grace. For all judgment has been committed to the Son; and He has been “exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins.” All amnesty has been proclaimed, and during this day of grace the judgment throne is empty. GRACE is reigning through righteousness unto eternal life, by our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 5:24; Acts 5:31 (cf. 11:18); Romans 5:21)

The sinner, then, is “justified by grace” because God can find no reason, no motive, save in His own heart, for blessing him at all.

He is “justified by faith,” because this is the only principle of blessing consistent with grace.

And, thirdly, he is “justified by blood,” because the stern facts of Divine righteousness and human sin make blessing impossible, save on the ground of redemption.

And justification by blood is to be explained, not by the rites of ancient paganism, but by the teaching of the Divine religion of the Old Testament.  For Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture. This caution is needed; for some men speak of the blood in such a way as to provoke the taunt that Christianity is “a religion of the shambles.” In the symbolism of Scripture, “blood” means death applied. Therefore it is that we are said to be justified by the blood of Christ. Were it said to be “by His death,” it would be true of every child of Adam. Such, therefore, is its scope in Romans 5:18, where the justification has reference to what theologians call “original sin.”  As wide as are the effects of Adam’s “one offense,” no less wide are the effects of that “‘one righteous act,’ the death of Christ viewed as the acme of His obedience.”

The distinction here noticed is very marked in the ninth and tenth verses of this same chapter. The “justification” is, as we have seen, by the blood of Christ, for it is only for those who by faith become one with Him in His death. But “reconciliation” is by His death, for reconciliation was accomplished at the Cross, and is “received” by the sinner on believing.

And the believer is not only justified, but sanctified, and on the same ground. Sanctification by blood is a lost truth. Not only in popular preaching and teaching, but even in our standard theology, the verb “to sanctify” is generally used to express only a progressive change in the Christian’s life; and yet it is never once so used in the New Testament.

Christ is made unto us both righteousness and sanctification; and the Corinthians, to whom these words are written, are addressed by the Apostle as “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints.” Not “called to be saints,” but saints by their calling. To become a saint is the effort of the religionist; but the redeemed sinner is a saint in virtue of his redemption. The struggle of the religionist is to become what he is not; the aim of the Christian is to realize what he is — to “walk worthy of the calling wherewith he is called.” “Saints and sinners” is an ignorant and false antithesis; for every saint is a sinner, though every sinner is not a saint.

The Reformation has taught us how false is the teaching of the religion of Christendom as to justification; but seemingly we have yet to learn that its doctrine of sanctification is no less erroneous. The Divine grace which freely justifies a sinner, and then teaches him to live righteously, also sanctifies and teaches him to live holily. He does not live righteously ill order to become justified, but because he has been justified; neither does he live holily in order to become sanctified, but because he has been sanctified.

And as he is justified, so also is he sanctified, by the blood of Christ. Or, to drop the language of the types, when the sinner, on his believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, becomes one with Him in His death, “the merits” of that death are his, and he stands before God both righteous and holy in Christ.  This is not a mystical theory, but a glorious Divine fact. And in keeping with it, “saint” is the characteristic title usually given to the Christian in the Epistles.

And as with justification and sanctification, so also with redemption. “The redemption of the world” is a theological expression which has no sanction in Scripture. Most true it is that Christ “gave Himself a ransom for all“; but redemption includes not merely the payment of the ransom but the deliverance of the ransomed. Hence the language of Scripture, “In whom we have redemption through His blood.” Not that we would set limits to the Gospel of the Grace of God. That Gospel is “preached in all creation under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) The great amnesty is for all. But while the reconciliation of the world is a Divine truth, the redemption is only for those who “have received the reconciliation.”

But this is somewhat in the nature of a digression, for salvation by grace is here my theme. And there is no truth which the natural mall, whether Christian or pagan, so resents. If “there is no difference” in God’s sight between one man and another, what is the use of “religion”? The Pharisee is in as bad a case as the publican. Yes, so it is. Indeed, the Book says he is in a worse case. Not because there is any merit in the publican, but because he acknowledges his condition and throws himself on Divine mercy.

If, as in effect Paul said to the Athenians, men would but use their brains, they would understand that the God “who made the world and all things therein” cannot stoop to receive any-thing from men. (Acts 17:23–25.)  He is the One who gives. But the great GIVER is “the unknown God” — unknown not only to Athenian idolaters but to multitudes who call themselves Christians.

A lady of my acquaintance, well known in the higher ranks of London society, called upon me one day to ask for police help, to relieve her from certain annoyances. Her evident distress at my inability to give her the protection she sought, led me to remark that the peace of God in the heart was a great antidote to trouble. “Ah,” said she, “if I was only like you!”  “If it depended on merit,” I replied with real sincerity, “it is you who would have the peace, not I.” Presently her manner changed, and with tears in her eyes she told me something of her spiritual struggles. If she could be more earnest, more devout, more prayerful, she was sure that God would accept her.

“I was greatly interested,” I remarked, “by what I heard about the supper you gave the tramps last week. Did they offer you anything for it? Of course, they had no money, but they might have brought you some of their coats or shirts.”

“If you had only seen their coats and shirts!” she exclaimed with a smile. “Filthy rags they were, I’m sure,” said I, “and what you don’t believe is that in God’s sight ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags!’”

But no, people will not believe it. And so they put from them the blessing that awaits every sinner who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith,” the Gospel declares.

“Faith, yes; we must get faith “; this is the very last plank to which the sinner clings in his struggle to assert himself in some way. What good works are to the Roman Catholic religionist, faith is to the Protestant not, of course, a ground of salvation, but a means by which a sinner can raise himself above the common level, and thus obtain the good offices of the Savior. But “it is of faith, that it may be by grace.” (Romans 4:16)  Faith is not something which the sinner gives to God, but merely the receiving what God has got to give to him.

“By grace are ye saved, through faith.” But error is so insidious and so vital that the Scripture does not stop at a positive statement of the truth, but adds the words, “and that (salvation) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”

To speak of earning a gift would be a contradiction in terms; but though a gift cannot be earned by works, it may be deserved on that ground. Men’s gifts, indeed, are seldom bestowed upon the undeserving. Therefore it is that they so often give ground for boasting. But salvation is not only unearned, but undeserved; it is not only a gift, but a gift by grace. And so, in the passage already cited, words are piled up to describe the sinner’s ruin and doom. By nature we are —

“Children of wrath,”

“Dead in sins,”

“Without Christ,”

“Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,”

“Strangers from the covenants of promise,”

“Having no hope,”

“And without God in the world.”

And mark the contrast: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ, for He is our peace.’” In ourselves nothing but evil, and absolute and utter ruin; in Christ all that we can need, and all that God requires.

Work Cited

Anderson, Sir Robert. “Justification and Sanctification through Redemption.” Redemption Truths, Kregel Publications, 1982, pp. 81-92.

Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

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