- Category: The Church: The Higher Calling
Theme Text– 'But now [after the advent of Christ], apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness, is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe' (Romans 3:21-22)
1) We studied earlier that the Bible says we cannot save/justify ourselves in our fallen flesh, and hence we need to repent (change our mind) from that mindset and turn to God for a Savior. ‘Who will set me free from death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.’ (Romans 7:24-25 NASB) - Declaring Jesus as our Savior, Paul goes on to say that even after redemption, our flesh still remains a slave to sin! But… wasn’t that our state before too? What’s the difference now?
Paul answers next - “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2 NASB.
There was condemnation before i.e. people were unjustified because of their sins. But after Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ as they have been set free from the law of Sin and Death. That’s the difference!
The flesh is still in sin, but because of Jesus, now there is no condemnation! We are justified!
But… how is that possible?
2) How did Jesus accomplish our justification?
Paul explains – ‘For what the Law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit’ - Romans 8:3-4. Yes, Jesus remained sinless during his life on earth, offered himself as a sacrifice for us on the cross, and fulfilled the Law for our sake.
A Different Kind of Righteousness “Credited”
3) But how can we attain justification by his actions?
When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, his fulfilment of the Law - i.e. his righteousness – is credited to us by means of our faith in him, and our sins are covered. Paul explains this –
‘But now [after the advent of Christ], apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness, is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith’ - Romans 3:19-25.
‘For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed -- a righteousness that is by faith’ - Romans 1:17.
Yes, those who believe are deemed righteous, not because they are sinless, but because of their faith in Jesus. Sola Fide! By Faith Alone!
4) But how can justification be free? Sounds too good to be true… Don’t we have to earn it instead?
No, we don’t earn anything. It is purely by God’s grace. Sola Gratia! By Grace Alone! We have literally nothing to boast about.
As a matter of fact, it is credited to us as a free gift!
Paul emphasizes this - ‘Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. What then shall we say that Abraham discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him asrighteousness.”
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.’ - Romans 3:27, 4:1-8, 24, 5:1-2.
5) But would we still be sinful in the flesh even after believing in Christ?
Indeed. Some say sinlessness comes to them with maturity and age. But an 80-year old John writes –
‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.’ - 1John 1:8-10.
Yes, whenever anyone claims to have become sinless, he/she isn’t saying the truth!
A Need to Seek Forgiveness Daily – As Taught by Jesus Christ
6) 1John 3:6, 9 and 5:18 in the KJV seem to indicate we can stop sinning. Is that correct?
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not known him. Whosoever is born of God doth not commitsin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God - 1John 3:6, 9 KJV. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not - 1John 5:18 KJV.
Is John saying a Christian doesn’t sin at all? Didn’t the same John write a little earlier that no one can be without sin? Self-contradictory? Of course, not. The NIV translates these verses better –
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has known him. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning - 1John 3:6, 9. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin - 1John 5:18.
Yes, a man born of God will not continue in sinful state i.e. he will not go on sinning without seeking forgiveness. He will seek forgiveness, and get cleansed because of Jesus’ sacrifice, as John explains -
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1John1:9.
7) But isn’t seeking forgiveness supposed to be just a one-time thing when someone accepts Jesus?
It’s not! When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, he told them to pray for forgiveness daily –
‘Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our sins.’ - Matt 6:11-12 NIRV.
He didn’t add any footnote like, ‘Say that line only if you had sinned that day’. Some might respond, “Ha, but I haven’t sinned. I didn’t lie, murder or fornicate. I don’t need forgiveness”. Would that be correct?
- Well, to explain what sin really is, Jesus cites an example – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” - Matthew 5:27-28. Yes, Jesus says you commit adultery even when you just look at a person with lust! Can someone claim to live up to that standard in the fallen flesh?
- And the Law has 613 commandments. We might think wearing polyester cotton is not a sin. But the Law says it is, and the Law is what defines sin. So it is indeed a sin.
Yes, all of us sin daily as we break some commandment of the Law every day. We should never forget that! When we seek forgiveness daily, we don’t continue in the sinful state, but are cleansed.
Is Christ really the End of the Law?
8) If righteousness is only by faith in Christ, has the Law really come to an end after Christ?
Yes, Paul declares that Christ has set aside the Law –
For he himself is our peace, who has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the Law with its commands and regulations. - Ephesians 2:14-15.
But a statement made by Jesus seemingly contradicts Paul’s writings. People quote it against Paul.
'For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven' - Matt 5:18-19.
But does Jesus say here that the Law will never end?
No, he actually places a condition for that to happen – ‘until everything is accomplished’.
When was everything accomplished?
Jesus himself answers - After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” …when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. – John 19:28-31 NASB.
Yes, as we saw earlier in Romans 8, Jesus fulfilled the Law and gave up his life for us, thereby accomplishing everything for us. Paul declares plainly –
For Christ is the End of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes - Romans 10:4 NASB.
9) But Jesus did say ‘whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven'. How could we do that if we were not keeping the Law but rather relying on our faith in Christ?
Paul answers superbly -
'Do we, then, nullify the Law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the Law.' - Romans 3:31.
Yes, our faith in Jesus fulfills the Law and upholds it.
- Even those who try to follow the Law cannot follow all of its commandments.
- But we, by our faith in Jesus, fulfill all of them, because Jesus fulfilled the entire Law for our sake.
And thus it is only we - the believers - who uphold the Law!
What about the Ten Commandments?
10) Some agree Christ ended the Law, but say the Ten Commandments are not ended. Is it so?
- No. Paul openly tells us there’s no need any more to keep the Sabbath, one of the Ten Commandments –
'Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.' - Colossians 2:16.
So the Ten Commandments aren’t more special than other commandments of the Law.
- Even those Christians who reckon to keep the Ten Commandments don’t keep the Sabbath, as it’s supposed to be kept on Saturdays, not Sundays.
- And the Sabbath has strict rules that no one obeys, not even those who keep it on Saturdays.
- Moreover, as we saw earlier, Jesus cited adultery, one of the Ten Commandments, as an example to explain how no man can ever claim to keep it, as you’ve broken it even if you just think about breaking it.
So if someone claims to keep the Ten Commandments, they’re just fooling themselves.
11) Does the Bible directly say anywhere that the Ten Commandments are now obsolete?
Paul writes to the Corinthians - 'You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of hearts. He has made us ministers of a New Covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?' - 2Corinthians 3:3-8.
Paul declares that the tablets of stone, i.e. the Ten Commandments have been replaced by a New Covenant. The Law Covenant has become obsolete. We know our flesh is a slave to sin, but we have forgiveness in Christ’s name and thus our justification is intact. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. - John 14:6. Yes, faith in him is the only way!
The Million Dollar Question
If the church's calling is not to struggle against sin, does it mean we do nothing to prove our faith? What are the faithful supposed to do as followers of Christ? Read further.