Reconciliation: Removing the Barrier
Ephesians Lesson #074
July 12, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we’re thankful for the way You provide for this congregation, for the way You take care of us and supply our every needs. We’re thankful above all that we have Your Word, that we have in our hands our own copies of Your Word in very good translations which communicate the basics of Your Word clearly to us.
“We’re thankful that we have a complete and sufficient revelation from You, just as Your grace is complete and sufficient and Christ’s work is complete and sufficient. That we can go to Your Word to find guidance, help, solace, and comfort as we go through many challenges.
“As we look around and survey the scene in our world today with so many nations shut down, so many countries not allowing anyone to travel, so many jobs, careers, livelihoods at risk. Father, we pray that this would be a great opportunity for us to be a faithful witness through our lives and especially through our lips as we communicate the gospel and give the answer for the hope that is within us.
“We pray now, as we study Your Word that we can focus and concentrate on what You have to teach us this morning, and may God the Holy Spirit make the truth of Your Word very clear to us. In Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 2. We are wrapping up our study of this section in Ephesians 2:14-18 and will summarize the implications of what Paul says in Ephesians 2:16. We are looking at reconciliation—removing the barrier between God and man—specifically laid out in Ephesians 2:16-18. By way of reminding us, we will review what we have studied.
Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace …” This is not talking about our peace with God, but our peace between Jew and Gentile.
I have made it a point through our study from Ephesians 1 through Ephesians 2 that you have to pay attention to the pronouns. When Paul says “you,” it’s not “you Ephesians;” he is talking about “you Gentiles.”
That becomes very clear in a number of passages. For example, Ephesians 2:11, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh …” Throughout the contrast is between “you” as Gentiles and “we” or “us” as Jews. With “we” or “us,” you have to carefully look at the context.
- In a few places early on, Paul used “we” or “us” to refer to “we Jews who were first saved;” they are Jewish background believers.
- In other places, when he uses “we,” for example, in Ephesians 2:3a, “among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh,” he is talking about “we Jews before we were saved.”
- The third way He uses “we” is when He talks about what we now have together as Jews and Gentiles.
Ephesians 2:14–15, “For He Himself is our peace—Jew and Gentile—who has made both—Jew and Gentile—one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace…”
From the mention of peace in Ephesians 2:14 is an inclusio—a literary device where we get our word inclusion—where a word is used at the beginning and the same word used again at the end of a section of literature to give you the idea that this is one section. What’s important is what lies between the two. Peace here is the making of both one, abolishing the enmity and creating in Himself one new man from the two.
The chart shows the first barrier that is broken down
Ephesians 2:14 describes what Christ did: He made the both one and He broke down the wall of separation. That wall of separation is defined in Ephesians 2:15 as the Mosaic Law, “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”
What He did was to make both one. How He did it was He abolished the law, a very clear passage that the Law of Moses is no longer applicable to anyone. When it was applicable, it was only applicable to Jews and was never applicable to Gentiles. There’s not anything that is said in condemning Gentiles in the Old Testament that is directly related to the Law.
For example, when Israel was disciplined and taken out of the land. They were disciplined for a number of things, one of which was they broke the Sabbath law. They broke the law related to the sabbatical year every seven years. Now the land is going to have rest; they were taken out of the land for 70 years to account for 70 years when the sabbatical law was not obeyed. They were held accountable for their disobedience to the Law.
They were also held accountable for their idolatry. Gentiles were accountable for idolatry. The first three covenants of the Bible, the Creation Covenant, Edenic Covenant, and the Noahic Covenant are implicitly based on trusting God, obeying God, and are against idolatry.
Idolatry is defined as rebellion against the one true God and worshiping something else. Jew and Gentile are both held accountable when they commit idolatry, but that’s not unique to the Mosaic Law.
He abolished the Law on the Cross. Why did He do it? Here we have two purpose clauses:
- Ephesians 2:15, “that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,” that is, between Jew and Gentile.
- Ephesians 2:16, “that He might reconcile them both to God.” We’re focusing today on these two purposes. First, He created in Himself one new man from the two: this new body, the church which is us, where there’s no racial distinctions, no ethnic distinctions.
In terms of our spiritual life none of these distinctions apply. There are no distinctions in relation to gender or in relation to economic status, whether you’re slave or master. According to Ephesians 2:16 everybody now has access by one Spirit to God. In the Old Testament under the Law that was not true.
Ephesians 2:16, “that He might reconcile them both—now they’re a unit, they’re one new body—reconcile them both to God in one body—the church—through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
In Ephesians 2:15 we have “enmity:” there He abolished in His flesh the enmity. At the end of Ephesians 2:16 He puts to death the enmity. That’s another inclusio. It brackets this section so that the enmity is eradicated by abolishing the Law with the result that He made the two one new man, one body, making peace between them and reconciling them both to God.
This is the focus. The word for reconcile is interesting. It doesn’t have a lot of different shades of meaning. Some words that we’ve studied have a wide range of meaning. LOGOS is translated “word” in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word …”
LOGOS has a huge range of meanings. There are probably 30 or 40 different nuances that have been identified for that one word, so you have to be careful with the context.
But reconciliation is not such a complex word. It is APOKATALLAXE in the Greek. The root word is KATALLASSO, which means reconciliation. The prefixes will intensify that particular meaning.
Reconcile means to restore peace or harmony between people or between God and man, especially to restore peace or harmony when a state of hostility or enmity has existed. It’s very important to understand that. I’m going to insert that definition by way of paraphrase later on, and it’ll give us a greater understanding of what reconciliation means when we look at it that way.
If we chart this graphically, we have God who is separated from man by sin. There is enmity between God and all human beings, and there is enmity between Jew and Gentile. By this we know the state.
In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about this first barrier: Gentiles and the Jews are separated. There is a state of enmity based upon the Law.
That is abolished by the Cross.
A second barrier exists between all humanity and God, which we’re identifying as the sin barrier.
That sin barrier is going to be dealt with at the Cross through reconciliation. Man is reconciled to God at the Cross. Does that mean everybody is saved? No because there are two aspects, two reconciliations:
- At the Cross the actions of God were man-ward, so that with the payment of the sin penalty, that barrier is eradicated, but it doesn’t mean that people are automatically saved.
- Romans 5 and 2 Corinthians 5 are both key passages on reconciliation. Both passages talk about two aspects.
The first aspect is man-ward where at the Cross, man is reconciled to God. God is not reconciled to man. Man is reconciled. The change comes to humanity because of the legal work of Christ on the Cross. The change is not directed toward God. The change directed towards God because of the Cross is propitiation. Propitiation is God-ward, reconciliation is man-ward, and the Cross takes care of it.
That doesn’t mean we’re saved because as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, we are, as ambassadors for Christ, given the message of reconciliation to people: be reconciled to God. There is the legal change that takes place because of the Cross that changes our status from enmity to reconciled, as a group. But each individual has to accept what Christ did on the Cross in order to be reconciled.
Turn in your Bibles to Romans 5:1–2, then skip down to Romans 5:10.
Romans 5:1–2, New King James, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
It begins with “therefore,” which tells us he’s drawing a conclusion from what he said in Romans 4, a central passage on understanding justification—that we are all born as sinners, spiritually dead and lacking righteousness. Because we lack righteousness, we have to be given the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He who knew no sin was made sin for us that the righteousness of God might be found in us.” That’s imputation.
What he describes in Romans 4 is on the basis of Genesis 15:6, where Abraham believed God and it was accounted or imputed to him as righteousness; therefore, he was justified. That pattern is the same in the New Testament.
Romans 4 gave us the instructions on justification, so Paul says in Romans 5:1, “having been justified …” Actually, this is a casual participle and should be translated, “Therefore because we have been justified …”
Romans 4, we are justified by faith alone. When someone trusts in Christ they’re declared just— the classic Protestant doctrine recovered by Martin Luther, and kicked off the Protestant Reformation, that justification is by faith alone.
The Latin phrase was sola fide is one of several different slogans that characterized the Reformation:
Sola Fide, by faith alone
Sola Gratia, by grace alone
Sola Scriptura, by the Scriptures alone—which was a statement against the use of tradition.
“Therefore because we have been justified from faith…”
I won’t take the time, but we have some interesting prepositions all through this section, and I’ve been taking a lot of time to try to understand these, because by the time of Koine Greek these prepositions were almost interchangeable.
The Greek preposition that we frequently talk about, EN, by the fourth, fifth, sixth century in the Middle Ages, had become so fluid in what became Modern Greek, that they quit using it because it could mean anything. It had lost its precision. Here we have the Greek preposition “from” indicating source—from the source of faith.
Romans 5:1, “because we have been justified from the source of faith, we now have peace …”
This is a present tense verb. I only get into grammar if it’s really significant for understanding the text. The participle is aorist. That’s one of two past tenses in the Greek, and when an aorist participle is linked to a present tense verb, then the action of the participle comes before the action of the verb.
That tells us because we have been justified, we now have peace. So it tells us that justification logically precedes the peace that we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now normally we expect EN here, but Paul uses EK. The preposition for “through” is DIA. They both indicate means, but what I’ve noticed, which is of great interest to me and anybody who knows the language, but not so much to people who don’t, is that about 80% or 90% of the time, whenever Paul talks about Christ or the Cross or what happened at the Cross, he uses DIA rather than the others.
Some Greek scholars will debate over this and say, “Well, there’s got to be a different meaning because it’s redundant to use these two prepositions if they both indicate means.” But what I’m seeing is that Paul tends to use this to indicate the ultimate or the distant or original foundation of means, which is the Cross.
Then when he’s talking about the more immediate means or what we do, he uses a different preposition if he’s using both of them in the same sentence. You don’t need to pay attention to that if that goes over your head, but it’s interesting the way in which Paul is consistent in doing that.
He says we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and when he says that it entails all of the work of Christ on the Cross. We just observed in the Lord’s Table that it is through His substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross, when He is separated from God the Father during those three hours. He who knew no sin was made sin for us: the sin of the world was imputed to Christ. We will come back to this in a diagram. Because we have been justified, we now have peace.
“Peace,” has several different meanings:
- The absence of physical conflict
- The absence of mental conflict: worry, anxiety or distress
- The absence of conflict between Jew and Gentile, Ephesians 2:14, we now have peace
- The absence of personal conflict
- The absence of spiritual conflict—the enmity, hostility that existed between God and man.
We now have this peace: there is no state of enmity or hostility between us and God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:2, “… through whom also we have access by faith into this grace …”
“Through whom” refers to Christ; that is, what He did on the Cross. We “have access;” also used in Ephesians 2:18, “we both have access by one Spirit.” That refers to the baptism by the Holy Spirit which every Christian receives at the instant of salvation.
Romans 5:2, “through whom also we have access—PROSAGOGE, admission—by faith into this grace …”
We’re standing in this state of grace; that is the same as being in Christ. Last time we went through all the different passages related to baptism by the Holy Spirit: that we put on the new man, we have put on Christ. This is our new state before God.
“… through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand—and the result is—we rejoice in hope …” We rejoice in hope because this hope is a confident expectation and it is focused on “the glory of God.”
We’ve studied this phrase many times. It’s an idiom coming out of a Jewish background that often they would use “glory” to refer to all of God’s essence.
Another phrase, used in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—all of His essence, all of His glory, all of His person.”
Romans 5:2 “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” because we have access by grace. It is not based on anything that we do.
Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies—again talking about that state that everyone was in before salvation, hostility to God—if when we were enemies—there he is talking about before the Cross, just as he uses that term in Ephesians 2—we were enemies—that was the status of all mankind prior to the Cross. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son …”
Pay attention. It’s not talking about our personal realization of that reconciliation. It is talking about the objective reconciliation that takes place when Christ died. That’s the basis for our personal regeneration.
“…when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Salvation is used in three phases in Scripture:
Phase 1: the salvation that comes when we trust in Christ and we’re saved by faith. Happens in an instant when you trust in Christ.
Phase 2: is as we are saved from the power of sin in our lives as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“… we shall be saved by His life.” His life is not redemptive in the sense of bringing Phase 1 salvation, but His life is an example to us of how we should live.
Romans 5:11 Paul goes on to say, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
- There is one aspect of reconciliation that is accomplished at the death of Christ on the Cross
- The second aspect is when it is applied to us when we receive the reconciliation.
KATALLASSO, meaning the restoration of a relationship where previously enmity and hostility had existed.
I want to paraphrase Romans 5:10 for us using this definition for reconciliation instead of the word for reconciliation.
Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son …” Paraphrasing that in the second line, “For if when we were enemies, we were restored to our previous position through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That previous position is that the sin penalty now is paid for. It’s dealt with on the Cross.
We see both aspects here:
- Reconciliation to God through the death of His Son: God performed the action of reconciliation at the Cross.
- We must receive the reconciliation, Romans 5:11.
Turn to 2 Corinthians 5:19. If you’re memorizing Scripture, this is a great chapter to memorize; the whole chapter is just loaded with significant verses
2 Corinthians 5:18 for the context, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ—who performs the action of reconciliation there? God does. Who does He reconcile? Us. Reconciliation is man-ward. He does it through Jesus Christ, that is, through His work on the Cross and then He—has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
You may ask, “Well, if we’re reconciled, why do we have a ministry of reconciliation?” Because we have to understand there’s a legal positional event that occurs on the Cross where the sin barrier is removed, so that sin isn’t the issue.
Maybe you’ve heard somebody give the gospel, who spent a lot of time talking about what a sinner you are. Sin isn’t the issue; sin’s been paid for; it’s been dealt with. That’s not the issue anymore, and this is talking about it being dealt with by Christ on the Cross.
2 Corinthians 5:19, “that is—indicates he’s explaining 2 Corinthians 5:18—that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them …”
To whom did God impute our sins? He imputed them to Christ on the Cross, that is, so Christ could pay for those sins. They’re dealt with, so sin isn’t the issue at the gospel. You have to know you’re a sinner so you know you’re spiritually dead, so it’s not like you don’t mention sin.
But the issue isn’t, “how many sins did you commit? How many times did you do this? How many times that you do that?” You hear that from some evangelists. Sin is taken care of at the Cross. The only issue related to sin that is important in giving the gospel is so people understand they’re incapable of saving themselves, but Christ paid the penalty.
“… God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them—not crediting it to them—and has committed to us—the message, LOGOS, the Word or—the message of reconciliation.”
There’s a bit of a double entendre here: he is saying the word or message of reconciliation. But he uses LOGOS because Jesus is the LOGOS and Jesus is the means of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then— as a result of what happened at the Cross in AD 33—we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us.”
You ever think about when you are giving the gospel to somebody that God is pleading through you for them to accept the gospel? You’re not just doing it on your own. God is working through us when we give the gospel, He is pleading through us.
“… we implore you on Christ’s behalf—we urge you on Christ’s behalf to—be reconciled to God.”
Notice that last line. See, on the one hand, we were reconciled as a group, as a class, as all mankind, sin is dealt with. Reconciliation took place at the Cross, so that we can have the message of reconciliation, that if you trust in Christ, then you personally will be reconciled to God and have peace with God.
We need to understand the barrier; an illustration many of us are familiar with. I have synthesized this down. Instead of five or six blocks in the barrier, this is a simpler and more basic structure of the barrier between God and man.
All humanity, Jews and Gentiles, are on one side of the sin barrier, and God is on the other side. We have a barrier between God and man, which is composed of these three elements:
- The penalty of sin. It’s all sin, but there are different aspects to it. The penalty of sin is spiritual death. Because as Paul says in Ephesians 4:18, we are alienated from the life of God. We are born dead in our trespasses and sins, so man is born with enmity and hostility toward God.
- We lack righteousness; we are unrighteous. Because we are unrighteous God, who is perfectly righteous, cannot have a relationship with His creatures because of sin. God is totally incompatible with sin, so He is separated from us.
- No life. We’re alienated from the life of God. We are physically alive, but we’re spiritually dead. We are in many ways like when you plug a fan in. You see the fan is alive, if it is plugged into the source of power, the blades spin. But when you unplug it from the wall, the blades don’t stop instantly, they keep spinning for quite a while sometimes.
That is a picture of us. We’re physically alive, we look like we’re really alive, but what Scripture says is we’re the walking dead. We are spiritually dead. We’re not plugged into the source of life, we’re alienated from the life of God; and therefore, we have no hope and no future.
Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The word for sin simply means to break the rules, to miss the mark, to go out of bounds in both Hebrew and Greek. They are the words that would you use if you’re watching a football game and somebody fumbles, that would be HAMARTIA, that would be a sin. If you’re watching a baseball game, and somebody commits an error, that’s a sin. They are just everyday words.
We have made sin a technical theological word, so some people say, “Oh! I’ve never sinned.” They have restricted their concept of sin to what they think is some horrible, heinous act that they would never do. Maybe it’s some act of racism or genocide or sexual abuse or something they think is really horrific.
God says that sin can be any act that doesn’t conform to His character or doesn’t measure up to His standards:
- It can be a mental attitude sin of anger or hatred or resentment or bitterness.
- It can be a sin of the tongue, such as gossip or slander or something else of that nature, or telling a lie.
- Or it can be an overt sin, such as a physical attack on somebody or a physical act of breaking the law, which is both a sin as well as a criminal offense.
God says everybody’s committed sin. The most minor things that you think of, a little white lie that is a sin; that is missing the standard of God. And we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.
This first began in the Garden of Eden, where we learn about the penalty of sin. There is a legally assigned penalty from the Supreme Court of heaven that is first articulated in Genesis 2:17. God put Adam in the garden before He created Eve. Adam is the head of the race, so Adam gets the instructions, and then it’s his responsibility to pass those instructions on to Eve after she was created.
That instruction was the one prohibition, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat—God says—for in the day that you eat of it …” It’s not poison It’s not something that’s toxic physically, but it was the act of disobedience to God that was toxic spiritually—in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
It’s an expression in the Hebrew that is an extremely strong emphasis: it’s certain the day, the time, the instant you eat of it. It’s not talking about his physical death, which was 930 years later, but that he is instantly separated from God because he has broken one of God’s laws; he has disobeyed God.
Let’s face it folks, if you were to list the worse things you could possibly do, eating a piece of fruit would not be on the list. It is the act of disobedience that is significant, not the act of eating the fruit. As a result of that, there is a separation.
What happened? We all know the story in Genesis 3. When God came to walk in the Garden with them, they heard the sound of God, they were afraid, and they ran and hid. Then they tried to cover it up and then they blamed each other for the sin.
Adam blamed the woman—he is really blaming God because he says, “the woman You gave me,” then she blames the serpent. They started the whole pattern that nobody wants to take responsibility for their own failures.
Spiritual death enters the world; this is articulated again in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world—that one man is Adam—and death through sin—that’s spiritual death—thus death spread to all men because all sinned.”
Ephesians 2:1, the passage we’ve been studying, “And you He made alive—referring to that spiritual salvation—He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” We’re born that way: we’re physically alive, but we’re spiritually dead.
Colossians 2:14, “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us—that’s just all the sins.”
There is this list indicated by the phrase “consisting of decrees against us.” What did Christ do? He canceled it; He blotted it out; He removed it. When did He do that? “… He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” “He canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross—literally.”
When did He nail it to the Cross? Did He nail it to the Cross when you believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior? No. He nailed it to the Cross in AD 33. He nailed it when He was paying the penalty for it.
That wipes it out. I’m just reinforcing that Scripture after Scripture after Scripture says that sin is obliterated. That issue between us and God is obliterated at the Cross. It is the penalty of sin, and that’s taken care of by what Christ does on the Cross.
We don’t have anything to do with it. Whether we accept it, whether we reject it, our attitude toward that at this point is not relevant. That was an objective act that Jesus Christ did, a legal act where He paid the penalty as our substitute.
Just like the Passover lamb was sacrificed at that first Passover in Egypt, and the blood of the lamb was then applied to the doorpost. We studied the blood of the Lamb, the blood of Christ. It’s not just a reference to death, it is a reference to a death that is applied. It’s not just an abstract blood of Christ, but just as the blood of the lamb didn’t count until the blood of the lamb was applied to the doorpost of the house at that first Passover, then God passed over the house, and the firstborn did not die.
Sin, the first element, is dealt with objectively by Christ on the Cross.
Second problem is righteousness. We all think that we’re pretty good. Some of us think we’re a lot better than anybody else, and we probably are, or we may be. The issue in righteousness isn’t are we better or worse than other people, the issue in righteousness is are we as good as God intended us to be, as we must, be measuring up to God’s righteous standard. “Righteousness” relates to having a standard.
Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament states—notice he uses the word “we,” “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all of our righteousnesses are—not all of our unrighteousnesses, but—all of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind have taken us away.”
Away from what? Away from God. Sin separates us from God. Romans 3:10, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’ ”
When it comes to a barrier between us and God, the problem is we lack righteousness. For us to have a relationship with God and have eternity with God, we must possess righteousness. So God had to solve that problem, which He did at the Cross.
Romans 5:6–8, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” That means every human being. “For one will hardly die for—that is, in the place of or as a substitute for—a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone might dare to die. But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
I Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
That establishes the principle of substitution.
We have a righteous God. He is absolute righteousness, so that is the standard, but we fall short of it. He is absolute justice, so He has to legally punish those who fall short of His righteousness.
Isaiah 64:6, “… all of our righteousness deeds are like a filthy garment.”
At the Cross Jesus is perfect righteousness, but our sins, our unrighteousness, are imputed to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made him who knew no sin—perfect righteousness—to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Our unrighteousness is imputed to Christ. When we trust in Him, His righteousness is imputed to us, and God declares us righteous.
Here we have His righteousness; it’s like we’re dressed in rags. We’re not changed. He doesn’t change our rags into something glorious. We put on a robe of righteousness, so that God doesn’t look at the rags underneath, He looks at the righteous robe of Christ that we have, and on that basis, declares us to be righteous. Because we’re not morally changed; we’re still sinners. We’re still going to disobey. But we legally possess the righteousness of Christ.
He declares us to be righteous, and He blesses us. That is a description of what it means to be justified by faith alone.
Paul uses Abraham as the illustration in Romans 4:2–3, “For if Abraham was justified by works …” Did God justify him because He did good things? He didn’t even have to obey the Law because the Law wasn’t given for another 400 years!
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God’—it’s not his works, it is his faith. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ”
Galatians 2:16, which I recite every Sunday morning, “because we know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
We can’t work our way to Heaven. We can’t be good enough; we can’t be nice enough; we can’t be wonderful enough. We have to trust in Christ.
Romans 4:4–5, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but his debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
The first issue is resolved by what Christ did on the Cross: the penalty is paid for. The reason we’re not automatically saved is that the only way to get righteousness is to trust in Christ. We believe in Him and God credits us with righteousness.
But what about this issue being spiritually dead?
Ephesians 2:1, we “were dead in our trespasses and sins,” which means, according to Ephesians 4:18, we’re “alienated from the life of God. “
God created mankind, humanity, with a physical body; He created us with a soul, our self-consciousness, we know who we are. You look in the mirror, you identify yourself. You think, you have a mind and intellect. You have a conscience. You know what you ought to do and what you should not do, and you have volition to determine what you will do: whether you will do what you ought to do or not.
In Adam’s original state, he had a human spirit, which enabled the self-consciousness, the mentality, the conscience, and the volition to function in reference to God. But when Adam sinned, that human spirit was gone. We’re spiritually separated from God. We are still physically alive. We have intellect, mind, self-consciousness, conscience, and volition, but it doesn’t function toward God. We’re alienated from God.
When we trust in Christ as Savior, then something is born again, and that is the human spirit. Now we are alive to God, we can learn about God, and we can walk with God.
Ephesians 2:4–5. The original state is we’re dead in trespasses and sins, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
He is the One who makes us alive, but when we believe.
In John 3:3–4, Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, the top and best Bible teacher in Jerusalem, “ ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God’.” Nicodemus says, “How is this possible to enter into your mother’s womb again and come back? I don’t understand.”
John 3:5–7, “Jesus answered … ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water—that is, physical birth—and the Spirit—that is, by means of the Holy Spirit—he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” ’ ”
Titus 3:5 is talking about this, it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
How does that happen? When we trust in Christ, that is when God the Holy Spirit regenerates us.
Those three problems are dealt with by the Cross. The first one is dealt with objectively at the time of the Cross. We are given the righteousness of God. We are made alive again when we trust in Christ.
That is what it means to be reconciled. One is taken care of at the Cross objectively, but the other two we have to trust in Christ. Then we receive the righteousness of Christ, and we are born again.
Paul is talking about this in Ephesians 2:16, “that He might reconcile them both—Jew and Gentile—to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word and to be refreshed by it. To be reminded of our salvation, all that You have done for us on the Cross, all that has been accomplished for us, that Christ paid the penalty so that reconciliation was accomplished on the Cross.
“All we need to do is trust in Christ, and we receive that reconciliation. The penalty has been paid for. We trust in Christ, and His righteousness becomes our righteousness, we are declared justified, and we are born again. We are given new life in Christ; we are a new creature in Christ.
“Father, we thank You for the gospel, that it is so simple, that it is not based on anything that we do, but it is based solely upon what Christ did on the Cross. We pray that if anyone here, anyone listening today or in the future is confused or doesn’t understand how to have eternal life, that it is very simple: it is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His substitutionary work on the Cross, and you will be saved.
“Father, we pray that You will challenge us with what we have learned today, for it is the foundation for our spiritual life to encourage and motivate us to continue to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray this in His name, amen.”