On Justification

The whole debate with Rome on justification was not whether we obtain the righteousness of Christ, but how that righteousness was obtained, whether by an infusion of grace (Rome), or by imputation (the Protestant position). In other words, did justification, in and of itself imply renovation and thus good works done by a Christian, or was justification something that happened totally externally to the person? To quote Turretin, the latter we affirm, the former we deny.

Justification is a courtroom term that refers to a declaration that God makes. It is a declaration not that someone is already a Christian, or a member of the household of God, but that the sinner’s guilt has been erased by Christ’s blood, and that the sinner is now an heir of eternal life, because Christ has earned it for him. This happens at the exact same point in time as the sinner’s union with the risen Lord.

Resurrection is key to this whole picture, since it is faith-union with the resurrected Lord that is the instrument of our justification. It is *not* faith itself that is imputed as some kind of act of righteousness. Anyone who thinks this way has forgotten what the nature of faith is: it is a receiving, empty hand. Faith is defined not by itself, but by the object of it. Therefore, we receive Christ when we come into union with him.

What we receive in justification is pardon and an inheritance. The pardon we receive is because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sins. But that is only the half of it. If it was only the case that our sins were forgiven, that would not necessarily entitle us to everlasting life. For that there must be a perfect obedience. Therefore, Christ’s perfect obedience is imputed to the believer for our inheritance, the down-payment of which is the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

Justification and Sanctification must be closely related. For justification does not mean that we are free to sin. Justification and Sanctification are inseparable, and yet distinct aspects of God’s saving work. Justification takes care of the guilt of sin, as well as the necessary obedience for eternal life. Sanctification makes the inside of the book look more like the outside of the book. Sanctification is that life-long process, often painful, where God cleanses us of dross, and purifies the gold that remains. These two must never be separated. And yet the must never be confused. This is the error of the Roman Catholic Church. They include sanctification in justification. But the righteousness of Christ is not ours by infusion, but by imputation in justification. Only in sanctification is the Holy Spirit infused into us.

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Esau, the Great

Genesis 36

It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? No matter how hard you work, no matter how honest you are, no matter how much you come to church, the unbeliever seems to do better. He is often dishonest, lazy, impious, and a complete jerk, and yet he prospers and you don’t. What is God thinking, you say. Well, there are several things that God might be thinking. Our passage, with its long list of names, actually has something to say about this issue. Why do the wicked seem to prosper, while God’s people suffer hardship?

First of all, we need to get our bearings here. We have finished the section dealing with Jacob, and are about to embark on the Joseph story. We saw the same kind of thing happen right before the Jacob story. After we had finished with the Abraham story, Moses gave us the genealogy of Ishmael. And now, after the Jacob story, but before the Joseph story, Moses again gives us the genealogy of the rejected family line of Esau.

But why is this genealogy here? It would seem to have absolutely nothing to do with us. It is not even the genealogy of the promised son Jacob. So why is it here in Scripture? It must have some use, since all of Scripture is inspired and is useful for instruction. First of all, it shows the glory of God. It would eventually take quite a bit of power from God in order to defeat this nation of Edom. Edom was so strong that only God could overpower it. The same is true of our own spiritual battles: only God is able to overcome.

The second reason this passage is give to us is that we learn an important lesson about our spiritual enemies: know them! Moses wrote this for the Israelites who were about to go into the promised land. Not only were the Edomites close relatives (the Israelites were told at the time not to harm the Edomites, since they were kinsmen), but also they would become bitter enemies of Israel. It is important to know one’s enemies. In our case, we must know how Satan works in order to be able to stand against him by the power of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we should study his ways in order to become fascinated by them. That is very dangerous. But every general in combat learns about how his enemy thinks, so that he can make his move, and be sure that that move will accomplish what he wants it to do. In the same way, we must not be ignorant of how Satan tempts us, or we will have a very hard time resisting him. He will have all the trump cards. There have been two books written on the subject that extremely helpful in this regard. The first is called Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. In that book, Lewis has a senior demon write letters to his “nephew” demon, telling him how to tempt a human being. The writing is often funny, but more importantly, it gives us a good picture of how Satan tempts. C.S. Lewis is very careful not paint Satan in good colors. There’s no doubt who the bad guy is. This idea has been updated in a more recent book by Randy Alcorn, entitled Lord Foulgrin’s Letters. This is an equally helpful book, though I do not agree with everything in the book. It has a story to go along with the letters, and the story makes the spiritual battle very real. As Alcorn says, in this spiritual warfare in which we are engaged, most of us are pacifists. We should not be.

The third reason this passage is given to us is that we can see here God’s Providence working in the lives of His people, even with regard to foreign nations. Notice what happens in verses 6-8: Esau finds that the land will not hold him, and so he moves to Edom, to the hill country of Seir. He had been in the promised land, but now he moves out. This indicates that Esau really did despise his birthright, which consisted of the land of Canaan. But now the whole country is left wide open for the people of Israel to come in and take possession of it. God’s providence is further evident in verse 43, where the text says that it was the land they occupied. That word there means that God had commissioned them to occupy the land of Seir, and not the land of Canaan. God clears out a place for His people, in order that they might truly inherit the land. That happens with us as well. Jesus said that He is preparing a place for us. As it were, He clears away the ground, rids it of pests and worms and enemies, and makes the place livable for us. Such will be the new heavens and the new earth. We will not inherit it until Christ comes back. However, He is even now preparing that place for us. But it is not because of our own power and numbers that God prepares that place for us. As Deuteronomy 7:7 says: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and choseyou, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” God does not love us because we are so lovable. God loves us while we were still enemies of Him. While we were still enemies Christ died for us. That is the measure of God’s love for His people.

Notice in verses 20 and following that we have the genealogy of the Horites. They were the people that the Edomites drove out in order to possess the land of Seir. So there we see God’s providence in making a people for the Edomites to drive out, so that they would leave the Promised Land, so that Israel could inherit the Promised Land. God’s providence goes back even another layer to the people that the rejected people would drive out! That should amaze us.

Even though Esau was the rejected son, nevertheless, God had promised that Esau would become a mighty nation. God promised that Esau would throw off the yoke of his brother Jacob. In order to do that, he would have to be a mighty nation.

Eventually, we come in history to the Herods, who were Edomites. Herod the Great, who persecuted Jesus and tried to kill him, was an Edomite. He was a representative of the seed of the serpent. As we have seen in Genesis the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman constantly are fighting with one another. It is spiritual warfare, often physical, though now it is only spiritual.

So you look at other people, wicked people, and see them prospering. It makes you mad. What we have to remember when that happens is that our land that we will inherit is far better than what they will acquire. They may get land on earth, but they will not inherit heaven. They will not inherit the true Promised Land, the new heavens and the new earth. That is only for those for whom it has been prepared. We must be patient and realize that God is bringing it about. It may not happen on the time-table that we would like. However, it is happening.