The Dynamics of the
Everlasting Gospel

By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 6 – Righteousness by Faith

In studying Chapter 3, we defined the gospel and looked at salvation mainly as an objective fact, what God has prepared and provided for sinful mankind in Jesus Christ. That study showed us that in Christ salvation full and complete has already been prepared or obtained for all humanity; that is to say, Christ’s life, death and resurrection has provided salvation from the guilt and punishment of sin, salvation from the power of sin, and salvation from the curse of sin. This we called the objective gospel, which gospel we looked at in detail in our studies of the two Adams and the cross of Christ.

Beginning with this study, we will now turn our attention to the subjective aspect of the gospel, or salvation as a personal experience. The gospel can only become living reality to us when we experience its power in our lives. In other words, what God has prepared and provided for all mankind in Christ must become real in our experience if the gospel is to be of any value to us.

Without that experience, the truth or the objective facts of the gospel only remain as a theory to us and not as the power of God unto salvation. Not only did Jesus says that we shall know the truth but He also added, “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32); and it can make us free only when we believe or receive the truth of the gospel in our hearts (Mk. 16:15, 16; Romans 5:17).

When we studied the objective gospel, we looked at the everlasting gospel from God’s point of view. However, when it comes to studying the subjective gospel, we shall look at the everlasting gospel from man’s point of view. In considering the gospel from God’s point of view, we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), and Christ is our righteousness. But when we consider the gospel from the human-response point of view, we are saved by or through faith, and the righteousness of Christ becomes ours by faith alone. The subjective gospel in other words is making real in experience by faith the objective facts of the gospel, and therefore faith becomes the key word in the subjective gospel; which word we must now look at in detail.

Genuine Faith

Faith is our human response to the objective facts of the gospel, or Christ our righteousness. This response, in order to be genuine faith, must always be motivated by love or a heart appreciation of the gospel. John 3:14-16 makes it absolutely clear that faith is man’s heartfelt response to the love of God in His gift of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Once we have clearly and fully understood the objective facts of the gospel, and especially the truth concerning the cross of Christ, then as the apostle Paul declared, “The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The fact that Christ was willing to say good-bye to His eternal life forever in order that we might live in His stead can only fill us with love and adoration. This is genuine faith which worketh by love (Galatians 5:6), and which produces genuine worship.

Every believer must realize that the great enemy of souls, the devil, has prepared one or more counterfeits for every objective truth of the gospel by which and through which he deceives God’s people. The counterfeit for the righteousness of Christ, for example, is self-righteousness, a righteousness that may look good or even genuine but is not of the gospel (Romans 10:3-4); and therefore in the eyes of God is equated with filthy rags (Isa. 64:6; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16). Genuine faith also has its counterfeit, which is egocentric faith or faith that is motivated by self-interest. Like the genuine faith, the counterfeit or egocentric faith also professes to be in Christ, but it originates from the flesh which is dominated by self-concern and therefore does not belong to the gospel of Christ, and hence is void of power. This is the kind of faith the Christians that the apostle James wrote to had (James 2:14-16); which faith is condemned by God, since it is void of works. Such faith has robbed the Christian church of its power today.

In contrast to this egocentric faith, the three angels’ message (which is the everlasting gospel) offers us the faith of Jesus which is able to produce a people who have the patience of the saints and who keep the commandments of God (Rev. 14:12). This faith of Jesus, described in the Laodicean message as gold tried in the fire (Rev. 3:18; see also 1 Peter 1:7), is the faith Jesus had, which He demonstrated in His earthly life and which was victorious on the cross. His was a faith which was motivated only by agape love and was therefore able to withstand the fiery test of the second death.

In contrast, we see the faith of His disciples before the cross experience, a faith which was motivated by self, and consequently a faith which failed so many times (Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). So then, the first thing we must know and realize about true faith is that it is our human response to the gospel which is always motivated by love or a deep heartfelt appreciation of Christ.

One reason why so many Christians today fail to demonstrate the power of the gospel is because they possess or are motivated by self-centered faith, and this in turn is because they have failed to understand or are ignorant of the true facts of the objective gospel which is Christ our righteousness. If one is given to understand that salvation, full and complete, has not been already obtained in Jesus Christ, that ultimate salvation depends to some degree on our behavior, such as keeping the law or being good; then naturally the faith generated by such an individual will always be polluted with self-concern.

Where justification by faith is not clearly understood, there is insecurity; where there is insecurity, there is fear; and where there is fear, there can be no love but self-concern, for “perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment” (of the judgment, 1 John 4:17, 18). The idea that one has to be good, or the feeling that I am not good enough to qualify for heaven, is one of the great stumbling blocks that has hindered God’s people today from experiencing genuine faith, which is motivated by love. As a result the church today is spiritually bankrupt (Rev. 3:17). For this reason, it is of utmost importance that we understand the objective facts of the gospel, the truth as it is in Christ, without which we can never experience genuine faith which worketh by love (Galatians 5:6).

Saving Faith

Not only must our faith be motivated by love in order to be genuine faith; our faith must also be a saving faith if we are to experience the power of the gospel. There are too many Christians who believe and teach that saving faith is trusting in Christ for salvation in the same way one would trust an insurance company for material security. Again, this is a counterfeit faith, since the trusting is founded on self-interest. Genuine saving faith on the other hand involves more than just trusting in God or Christ for salvation. While faith includes absolute trust in God, the two Greek words in the New Testament (elpizo and peitho), translated by the word “trust” in our English Bibles are never equated or synonymous with faith.

Three important elements are always to be found in true saving faith which is motivated by love: (i) a knowledge of the truth, as it is in Christ; (ii) believing the truth, as it is in Christ; and (iii) obeying the truth, as it is in Christ. Let us briefly consider each of these elements:

1. A Knowledge of the Truth

The apostle Paul made it very clear to the Roman Christians that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). The context of this text (vss. 15, 16) indicates that the source of faith is hearing the gospel of peace, the truth as it is in Christ. Jesus Himself made it very clear that a knowledge of Him is essential to saving faith. He declared, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36). Again, the apostle John records these words spoken by our Lord in prayer: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3).

Many other texts may be cited which clearly indicate that a knowledge of the true gospel is a necessary and essential element to having a saving faith. At the heart of the Jewish problem is this very fact: “I bear them record,” said Paul, “that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:2-3). It was for this reason Christ gave the great commission to His disciples: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). It is in this context that we are to understand the words of our Lord: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14; see also Rev. 14:6). For this reason also we must earnestly seek to know more fully the truth as it is in Christ; for the knowledge of the gospel is a saving knowledge that will increase and deepen our faith. (Ephesians 4:11-15).

2. Believing the Truth

The second element to be found in all genuine faith is believing the truth as it is in Christ. The Bible is clear that a mere head knowledge of the truth does not save. For example, Jesus made it clear to His disciples: “He that believeth [the gospel] and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). In the Greek the words faith and belief come from the same root word, because faith involves belief. But not only must one mentally believe the gospel, but this belief must come from the heart; this is most important.

Speaking to the Roman Christians, Paul said: “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). What was it that made their faith outstanding? The answer may be found in Romans 6:17: “But God be thanked, that ... ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine [the gospel] which was delivered you.”

In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 15, 18-23), Christ illustrated many kinds of believers who have responded to the Word, but the only ones whose faith is of any value and bears fruit are those who have understood clearly the gospel and have made a heart response to it (vs. 23; read also Acts 8:36-38).

In this day and age there are many reasons why one may respond positively to the gospel. To some (especially in the Third World) it may mean cheaper or free education; to others it may mean a job, or clothes, or food; again there are others who join the church because of family or peer pressure, or emotional security, etc. But in all these, such faith is not genuine and will never be able to bear good fruit or stand the test of trial or persecution. Only those whose faith is founded on a heartfelt response to the gospel truth may be said to have a genuine saving faith.

The reason why Mary’s act of faith was highly commended by Jesus (Mk.14:3-9) was because it proceeded from a grateful heart. Her faith was not self-centered, like that of the disciples or of Simon the leper, but was as a result of a deeper heartfelt appreciation of Christ’s saving grace (Lk. 7:36-50). At the cross the self-centered faith of the disciples was finally destroyed, and after the resurrection it was replaced by genuine faith; it is my prayer that the study of the objective gospel, especially the cross, may also destroy our self-centered faith and replace it with genuine faith which worketh by love (Galatians 5:6).

3. Obeying the Truth

Finally, saving faith includes total submission or surrender to the objective facts of the gospel. Here above all is the element that makes faith an instrument through which the power of the gospel can be experienced.

But unfortunately it is here that many go wrong; for true saving faith goes beyond a mere mental assent to the gospel. This was the concern expressed by the apostle James: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (2:19). In studying the objective facts of the gospel we discovered many things about us that were realized in Christ’s holy history. For example, we discovered that when Christ died to sin on the cross, we also died in Him. Thus, in saving faith we identify ourselves with that fact so that we too must say goodbye forever to our old life of sin which we inherited from Adam. Only than are we qualified to be resurrected and to live with Christ (2 Tim. 2:11). Genuine saving faith requires us to surrender to all the facts of Christ and Him crucified.

Now we all know that we do not die to sin personally in and of ourselves when we believe, and therefore we still possess the old sinful nature. Consequently we have discovered that even though we are Christians we are totally unable to live the life God demands. However, if we obey or surrender to the truth as it is in Christ, the truth that in Him our natural sinful life has been crucified, or put to death in Him, then faith means our submission to that fact, and this motivates us to allow Christ to live in us.

To put it in Paul’s words, to obey the gospel means: “Likewise reckon [or consider] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:10-11). Then immediately we are living on the plane of faith, and therefore our old life is no longer in control since it is crucified; but it is the resurrected life of Christ that dominates and controls us through the indwelling Spirit, and such a life will always be pleasing to God (Galatians 5:22-24) because it is the life of Christ (John 15:4-8).

It was this element of faith, this total surrender to the truth as it is in Christ, that Paul had in mind when he declared to the Galatians: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith [total surrender] of the son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

It is this continual attitude of complete submission or surrender to the truth as it is in Christ (the objective facts of the gospel) that makes faith an instrument or channel of saving power through which we stand justified and the character of Christ is reproduced in us. So then, to live by faith alone means above all to live a life that is totally surrendered to Christ. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Hence, we conclude that Christ our righteousness made real in our lives by faith becomes righteousness by faith.

That is to say, Christ’s righteousness becomes our personal experience by faith. This in fact is what Jesus was saying to His disciples in John 15:5: “He that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” To abide in Christ simply means that we submit or surrender ourselves to our position in Christ (that is, you in Christ). This being so, then to abide in Christ is the same as living by faith or walking in the Spirit, which in turn makes it possible for the life of Christ, or Christ in you, to “bear much fruit.”

So then, it is through faith that the life of Christ (which each believer possesses through the indwelling Spirit) is given perfect freedom to fully express itself through our human bodies, just as Christ living by faith alone, totally surrendered to His position in God, allowed Him to do the work and fully reveal Himself through His humanity. “I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John 14:8-11; 5:19,30; 8:28; 1 Tim. 3:16). Likewise, we must also by faith alone, total surrender to Christ, allow Him to fully reveal Himself through us (John 6:56, 57; 14:12).

This, in fact, is what Jesus meant in Matthew 11:28-30 when addressing “all ye that labor” He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me ... for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” The yoke of Christ is the yoke of total surrender to our position in Christ as He totally surrendered to His position in the Father. Saving faith, therefore, involves much more than trusting in Christ for eternal security. Further, saving faith means more than depending on Christ for help to aid us in keeping the law or being good. The formula for Christian living is always “Not I but Christ.” God will never help the flesh (self-life) to be good, for the flesh (which is Satan’s domain) and God are enemies (Romans 8:7; Galatians 5:17). Hence, saving faith demands that we maintain a humble attitude of complete submission and surrender to our position in Christ crucified; so that He and not our self-life may live in us and manifest Himself through us.

This is the true significance of righteousness by faith. We will discover that active faith, thus understood and practiced, amounts to the same thing as “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41), or, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Lk. 18:1, 8), or “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is how we live by faith alone.

Consequently, it is not only by faith alone that we stand justified, but it is also by faith alone that we are sanctified, and the life of Christ we possess is manifested in us. That is why, the moment we step off this platform of living by faith alone, the flesh or this self-life we naturally possess immediately takes over and the result is that sin will overtake us; so that instead of the good we want to do we find that we are doing the very opposite, the experience of Romans 7:15-24. True righteousness by faith therefore includes both the joys of justification as well as the experience of sanctification.

The Place of Faith

The next thing we need to know and understand about faith is its place in our salvation. There are some Christians who believe and teach that it is our faith that saves us; this is wrong. Faith in and of itself can save no one. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that we are saved because of our faith, or on account of our faith. If our faith saves us, then it becomes a form of works and we can boast about it. In other words, I can say, “I am saved because I believe in Christ. I have done something!”

The Bible, on the other hand, clearly teaches that we are saved by faith or through faith. This means that faith is only the instrument or channel through which we receive Christ as our righteousness. But it is Christ, His life, His death, and His resurrection, that saves us.

The function of faith is to unite or link us to Christ. Just as a tow-bar unites a broken-down car that has lost all ability to move by itself to a wrecker that has great power, so also faith, like the tow-bar, unites us who are dead in sins and can do no righteousness in and of ourselves (Romans 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:1,5) to Christ who has conquered, condemned and triumphed over sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3).

Jesus said: “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). All power belongs to Christ, who is able to save us to the uttermost, from both the curse of sin as well as our total inability to do righteousness. Paul declared: “I can do all things through Christ which strentheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Through faith Christ can produce in us the very righteousness of God (Romans 8:4; Hebrews 7:25; Rev. 14:12).

Faith, in other words, must always have an object, and the object of genuine faith is always Christ; and nothing must take the place of Christ, not even our faith. By faith we become one with Christ so that His righteousness is counted as our righteousness and His power is made available to us. This is what it means to be standing in grace (Romans 5:2).

Besides, faith is a gift of God and not something we have or can generate ourselves (Romans 12:3). How can man believe the gospel, that is, produce faith in and of himself, seeing that the gospel is foolishness to the natural mind? (1 Corinthians 2:14). He cannot, without the influence of the Holy Spirit.

So then, the one who is saved by faith is one who is resting entirely on Christ as his righteousness, both in reference to his standing before God in the judgment, as well as in his personal day-by-day Christian experience. This is the true significance of the sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:2-3), and the foundation upon which the doctrine of righteousness by faith is built (Philippians 3:9-11).

Works of Faith

It is of vital importance that we understand what is meant by “works of faith” and how this differs from “works of the law.” While works of faith genuinely belong to the gospel of Christ and are a necessary part of it, on the other hand, “works of the law” are a counterfeit and a subtle deception of the devil.

Once we have grasped the true significance of saving faith and its place in our salvation, it is not hard to see that anyone who possesses a genuine saving faith in Christ will at the same time manifest in his or her behavior the indwelling life of Christ which the Bible describes as the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). The apostle James identifies these fruiths as works of faith (2:14-26). According to him, many Christians in his day equated faith to a mere mental assent or a verbal agreement to the gospel, a problem which unfortunately still exists today.

In correcting this false view of faith the apostle points out that faith involves more than a superficial or egocentric acceptance of the gospel; he makes it very clear that faith without works is dead (2:17, 20, 26). In other words, faith must manifest itself in our lives, otherwise we really do not have faith at all. So then, true faith is something dynamic, because it unites us with Christ, and therefore must produce works which works are the righteousness of Christ produced in the believer by the indwelling Spirit of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18).

Now how does all this differ from “the works of the law” which the apostle Paul so earnestly opposes in his epistles (Romans 3:20; 9:30-33; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9)? (The original Greek says “works of law”). Clearly, Paul is not contradicting James, but the two inspired writers are in full agreement, since Paul too upholds works of faith (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8; Hebrews 10:24).

It must be remembered that the New Testament writers did not have a word in the Greek language that was equivalent to our English word “legalism.” Consequently they used the phrase “works of law” to signify salvation by works or legalism. The difference between “the works of law” and the works of faith is a very subtle one, for it does not lie primarily in the works itself, but rather in the origin or source of these works. Let me explain:

Externally, works of the law appear to be keeping God’s commandments or doing His will. In works of faith the law of God or His will is being fulfilled in us. On the surface there seems to be no difference between the two; since the ultimate goal of both “works” is to do the will of God as expressed in His law. But it is only when we look at the matter more deeply to find the source and motivation of these works that we discover that there is a world of difference between “works of faith" and “works of law.”

All works of faith originate from the indwelling life of Christ when the believer is living by faith alone. On the other hand, or in contrast, works of the law always originate from the flesh (one’s own natural life), when the sinner attempts to keep the law or imitate the life of Christ through effort which is in reality self-concern. The person doing “works of the law” may pray to Christ for help or even plead with God for the power of the Holy Spirit, but at the center of all his works and activities is the natural strength of the soul. This in fact was the heart of the Galatian problem. Those Galatian Christians were born of the Holy Spirit (had received the life of Christ), but the devil had deceived them into trying to perfect their characters through the flesh (Galatians 3:1-3). Sad to say, many of God’s people today have fallen into the same subtle trap.

At the expense of repetition, may I remind the reader once again that the formula of the gospel is, “Not I but Christ.” Where there are works of faith there you will find no energy of the flesh, or natural strength used. For “the work of faith” is simply Christ living in me by faith (Galatians 2:20). Behind all such works love is always the motivating factor, since Christ is love. Hence love (Christ’s agape in us) becomes the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; also 1 John 4:7, 12).

On the other hand, works of law originate from our self-concern and therefore will always be motivated or polluted by self, no matter how good the works may appear to us or to others. This in fact is the sin of the Laodicean church; she has unconscously substituted works of the law (motivated by self-concern) for works of faith (a heart-felt concern for Christ; Rev. 3:17). We may therefore conclude that performing “works of the law” is a subtle or unconscious form of rebellion against God, since all such works are really independent of God. For this reason, God will condemn all such works in the judgment, equating them with iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23; Lk. 13:25-28).

May I make two things absolutely clear. First, under no circumstances will God have partnership with the flesh (i.e., our self-concern); for the flesh belongs to Satan and therefore must be crucified (Galatians 5:24). Second, only God can produce godliness or geniune righteousness; and He will do so in us if we have lost all confidence in the flesh (that is our own natural ability) and are living by faith alone (Philippians 3:3-9). God did not give us His only begotten Son so that we may copy or imitate Him, but that we might receive Him into ourselves with all our heart (John 3:16). It is only as we surrender ourselves totally to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us that our lives can become well pleasing to God (John 15:1-8). We must clearly understand that God is not looking at us to see how good we are or how hard we are trying to keep His law. No! There is only one thing that God looks for in each believer and that is how much of His Son does He see in us.

Before proceeding to the next point, it would be well to say a word here about walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:1-4). The life of Christ indwells every believer through the presence of the Holy Spirit, for this reason “Christ in you” is equated to “the Spirit in you” (Romans 8:9-10). Hence, the life of Christ is referred to as the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).

We have already seen that Christ's life becomes meaningful to us only when we understand the gospel and live by faith in a prayerful attitude of absolute surrender to Christ our righteousness. Since in Scripture, Christ’s life is identified with the indwelling Spirit of God, living by faith is the same as walking in the Spirit. In both cases our self-life is rendered null and void (dead) by the cross of Christ, so that the life of Christ or the Holy Spirit has complete control over us, our thoughts, our desires, our feelings, our motives and our actions (compare Romans 13:14 with Galatians 5:16). All this is in contradiction to walking in or after the flesh, which is the basis or formula for works of the law. Chapter 9 will study in detail the work of the Holy Spirit.

Justification and Sanctification by Faith

Having defined what genuine saving faith is and having seen what part it plays in our salvation, we will conclude our study of this chapter by taking a look at the two main divisions, namely justification by faith and sanctification by faith, which together go to make up this doctrine of righteousness by faith. There is some confusion today concerning these two aspects of righteousness by faith which needs to be clarified so that we may have a clear picture and understanding of this most important doctrine.

There are two facts concerning the doctrine of righteousness by faith about which we must be clear: (1) Both justification and sanctification are founded or built upon the objective gospel, or what Christ has already prepared and provided for the fallen human race in His holy history. (2) Both are received or experienced in the life of a believer through faith alone. I cannot over-emphasize these two facts concerning righteousness by faith.

We must now ask ourselves, what really is meant and involved in justification and sanctification by faith, and in what respects do the two differ? Bearing in mind that both are founded on the objective facts of the gospel, we may describe justification by faith as the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us as a natural consequence of accepting or being united to Christ by faith; and sanctification by faith is the righteousness of Christ being imparted to us as a result of living by faith.

The legal justification effected at the cross is not something we experience, but something we receive or “believe” as a free gift by faith, while sanctification is something we personally experience as we walk by faith. And that something we receive and experience is the righteousness of Christ. Justification is therefore the gift of the gospel which legally declares the sinner righteous before God, while sanctification is the provision of the gospel which actually produces righteousness in him. The one qualifies him for heaven, while the other makes him fit to live in heaven. Thus, the gospel fully satisfies man's need.

We have already discussed the fact (Chapter 3) that justification is simply the objective gospel applied to the believer who has put on Christ through faith. By this is meant that when a person accepts the gospel and by faith is united to Christ, becoming one with Him, immediately all that Christ has prepared and provided for us as our substitute and surety is made effective, so that the history of Christ now becomes lawfully the history of the believer, who is now in Christ by faith.

Consequently, no longer is such a person under condemnation but has passed from death to life (John 5:24; Romans 8:1). God looks at him (the justified believer) as if he has met all the demands necessary to qualify for heaven and eternal life. Hence, justification by faith can be described as the work of a moment, a heart response to what Christ already accomplished.

On the other hand, sanctification is an hourly, daily, and a lifetime experience realized by a justified believer who continues to walk by faith. Not only does the gospel give us the righteousness of Christ freely in order that we might be delivered from the condemnation of the law, but much more, the gospel gives us the righteousness of Christ as a personal experience, so that we might actually reflect the character of Christ. Therefore any person who thinks he can stop at justification by faith and make it everything, has received only half of the gospel even though this half has all through history qualified believers for heaven.

God did not send His Son only to legally deliver us from sin so that He might declare us righteous. Much more, Christ came in order that He might set us free from the prison of sin, and restore in us the image of God. And this work of restoration which includes sanctification by faith is part and parcel of the good news of the gospel even though it will not be fully realized until the close of probation when His people are finally sealed (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 2:7; Rev. 7:1-4; 14:1-5).

It is God’s purpose that His Son be manifest in the community of believers now, in this present world (Ephesians 4:11-15), so that His people fully display the character of Christ to a perishing world. Thus only can God demonstrate to a lost world the power of the gospel, which power in Christ Jesus has already proved itself superior to the power of sin and the devil. So then, it is in these dual or double facts, the receiving of Christ’s righteousness through justification by faith and the experiencing of Christ’s righteousness through sanctification by faith (sometimes referred to as the fruits of justification), that we get a true and complete picture of the doctrine of righteousness by faith.

The main differences, therefore, between justification and sanctification by faith are:

  1. Justification by faith makes effective our legal or forensic standing before God, while sanctification by faith has to do with our daily personal experience as Christians.

  2. Justification by faith is meritorious, i.e., it qualifies the believer for heaven, now and in the judgment, while sanctification by faith is demonstrative, i.e., it manifests what we already have in Christ through justification by faith.

  3. Justification by faith is the work of a moment, though it remains effective all our believing life, while sanctification by faith is a work of a lifetime which has to be experienced daily through a living faith. But apart from these three differences, justification and sanctification by faith are closely related and cannot be separated since in both, the righteousness of Christ is the key factor, and both are realized by faith alone. For this reason, the doctrine of justification by faith, understood in its broadest sense, includes the experience of sanctification or holiness of living. (Note, for example, James’ argument in James 2:21-24).
Before we conclude this important subject, a word or two must be said about certain misunderstandings taught by many. The first is the misconception that justification by faith refers only to the forgiveness of our past sins. It is true that one important truth about justification is the forgiveness of our past sins, but far more than that is involved in this truth. The righteousness of Christ, as we saw in studying the objective gospel, involved more than the fact that Christ died for our sins. Besides meeting the just demands of the law on behalf of all our sins, past, present and future, Christ also positively kept or fulfilled the whole law on our behalf. All this becomes ours at the moment we are justified by faith.

In other words, justification by faith gives man all of Christ’s righteousness which He prepared and provided for us, so that nothing more is left or required of us to qualify for heaven. In this, every Christian must be absolutely clear, otherwise we will still be victims of self-concern and be constantly afraid about our eternal security, a condition which makes it impossible to have a real heart appreciation for Christ’s cross and without which we cannot experience genuine sanctification by faith.

It is true that forgiveness is the most wonderful thing for us sinners, but glorious as it may be, forgiveness is still a negative thing, for it only takes care of our sins so that we are acquitted or counted not guilty. However justification by faith is both a negative as well as a positive truth; while it does include the forgiveness of all our sins, it goes beyond that, for it declares us positively righteous, and does change the heart. In justification, the very righteousness of Christ is put to our account so that we stand perfectly righteous before God now and in the judgment. This is the super-abundant gift of the gospel of Christ (Isa. 54:17; Acts 13:39; Romans 10:4).

Sad to say, the devil has deceived many into believing that justification by faith does not fully qualify them for heaven; that something else is required of us, that is to say, the keeping of the law or doing good works. As a result, a great majority of sincere Christians have been trapped into a subtle form of legalism and are therefore living in constant fear and insecurity; a condition that has robbed the church of power and the real joy of Christian service. which should be motivated by love. This was at the heart of the Galatian problem and which caused Paul to write that stern epistle.

Another misunderstanding among many has to do with this familiar expression, “Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” Many interpret this statement to mean that it takes a lifetime or more to reach the goal of sanctification.

Such an interpretation of this expression is a great error and another deception of the devil. On the contrary, Christians who are not living a Christ-filled life are living a sub-normal life. After only a few years from being converted from rank heathenism, the apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian Christians for still remaining babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). The normal Christian life is Christ living in me by faith.

Anything short of this is falling short of God's ideal for every believer. However, due to the fact that the sinful flesh is very much alive in us and is constantly seeking to push up its ugly head, sanctification by faith is only possible as we continually and constantly believe, and therefore watch and pray. It is this that makes sanctification a work of a lifetime. Just as eating is a work of a lifetime, in order to maintain physical life, so also sanctification is the work of a lifetime, if Christ is to continually live through and in us.

This then is what righteousness by faith is all about. It is making real the very righteousness of Christ through faith. First, by imputation, which justifies us or puts on to our account everything that is true of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:5-6; Hebrews 10:14). Second, by impartation, so that we are growing in Him daily (being sanctified) reflecting more and more His righteous character.

“In Christ” we are perfect in every respect, in character or performance, in justice and legally; this is what Christ has obtained for us by His life, death and resurrection (Hebrews 9:12); and this is the basis of our being justified. But in practice, we often fall short of perfection. The Christian life of sanctification is the experience of becoming in character or practice what we already are “in Christ” through justification by faith. The following texts show us what our position or standing is in Christ through faith and the corresponding practice or life we follow after by faith:

What our standing is in Christ by faith
(Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 10:14)

What our experience becomes in Christ through faith
(Ephesians 4; Colossians 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:17; Hebrews 13:20-21)

1. Dead to sin
(Romans 6:2-10; Colossians 2:20)
1. Give no place to sin
(Romans 6:11-15; 13:14; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 Peter 2:24)
2. Alive to God
(John 5:24; 20:31; Romans 6:11; 8:10; 1 John 5:1)
2. Live unto God
(Romans 14:8; 2 Cor. 5:15; Galatians 2:19, 20; Titus 2:12)
3. Legal righteousness
(Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; 4:1, 6; 5:17; 1 Cor. 1:30; Philippians 3:9)
3. Live righteously
(2 Tim. 2:22; 1 John 3:7; 1 Cor. 15:34; Philippians 1:11; 1 Tim. 6:11)
4. Adopted as children of God
(Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:1; Romans 8:16)
4. Act like God’s children
(Ephesians 5:1, 8; 1 Peter 1:13-14)
5. God’s claimed possession
(Ephesians 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:19)
5. Yield or surrender to God
(Romans 12:1; 2 Tim. 2:19-21)
6. Not of this world but citizens of heaven
(John 15:19; 17:14-16; 1 John 5:19)
6. Love not the world but live like citizens of heaven
(1 John 5:4-5; 2:15; Colossians 3:1-2; James 1:27)
7. Crucified to the world
(Galatians 1:4; 6:14, 15)
7. Avoid worldly practices
(1 John 2:15-17; Ja.1:27; 4:4; Romans 12:2)
8. Become slaves of God
(1 Cor. 7:22, 23; Romans 6:22)
8. Serve joyfully as God’s slaves
(Romans 6:17-19; 12:11; Hebrews 12:28)
9. Have new life
(2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 6:15)
9. Walk in newness of life
(Romans 6:4; 7:6; Ephesians 4:24)
10. Made obedient to the law
(Romans 10:4; 3:31; Philippians 3:9)
10. Keep fulfilling the law
(Romans 8:4; 1 John 5:2,3; Rev. 14:12)
11. Light to the world
(Matt. 5:14; 1 Thes. 5:5)
11. Walk as children of light
(Matt. 5:15,16; Ephesians 5:8)
12. Cleansed
(John 15:3; 1 John 1:7,9)
12. Cleanse yourselves
(2 Cor. 7:1; Philippians 4:8)
13. Made holy
(Ephesians 1:4; 1 Cor. 3:17; Hebrews 3:1)
13. Live holy lives
(1 John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 3:14)
14. Free from sin’s slavery
(John 8:32-36; Romans 6:18; 8:2)
14. Do not let sin rule you
(Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:1,13, 14; 2 Cor. 3:17-18)
15. Made secure in Christ
(1 Peter 1:5; Romans 8:1; John 10:27-28)
15. Enjoy that security
(2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 Thessalonians 1:5)
16. Spirit indwelt and led
(1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19, 20; 2 Cor. 6:16; Romans 8:9-10)
16. Yield to the Spirit’s control
(Galatians 5:16,17,25; Ephesians 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19)
17. Spirit-gifted
(Romans 12:5-6; 1 Cor. 12:4, 12; Ephesians 4:7-13)
17. Use your gift
(Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:11)
18. Empowered for witnessing
(Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 4:7; Ephesians 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:7)
18. Witness that power
(1 Cor. 2:4; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 3:10; 4:13)
19. Given possession of Christ’s love
(Romans 5:5; 1 Cor. 12:31; 13:1-13; 1 John 2:5; 5:1)
19. Love as Christ loved
(John 13:34,35; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:18,23; 4:7,12)
20. Legally in Christ
(1 Cor. 1:30; Ephesians 1:3-6,10; 2:5, 6, 13)
20. Joyfully abide in Christ
(John 15:4-7; 1 John 2:6, 28; 3:6)

It is clear from the above study that the life God expects from every believer is the life of His Son. Every provision has already been made for us in Christ. While we are not justified by faith plus works, true justification by faith always produces works (John 14:12; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5, 8). Therefore, “Whosoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

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