At Issue Index
by Arnold Valentin Wallenkampf
7. Security in Christ
By trusting the control of his will to Jesus, and having been put into a right relationship to Him through justification by faith, the believer is "married" to Christ; he has entered into a covenant, or contract relationship, with God on the basis of love. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul uses marriage as an illustration of a persons relationship to his Saviour. He says, "I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband." The gospel prophet Isaiah uses the same figure of speech to portray the relationship existing between the believer and his God; he says, "For your Maker is your husband" (Isa. 54:5). As a faithful husband loves his wife, so Jesus loves the believer and the church (see Eph. 5:25, 29).
In Romans 7:1-3, Paul again uses marriage as an illustration of a persons relationship, first to sin and then to Christ. The unconverted person, who has not been justified by faith or put into a right relationship with God, is under the dominion of the law and sin. He is married to sin, as the believer is married to Christ. It is impossible for him to obey God. To him, law and sin are inseparable and can almost be used as synonyms. But the person who is wedded to Christ abides in Christ and is constantly guided by the Holy Spirit. He is no longer married to sin and thus under its dominion, nor is he under the condemnation of the law. Justified by faith, married to and remaining in Christ, he stands in a right and life-giving relationship to God.
The believer and Christ are united in a covenant of love, and love is a decision to keep another persons best interest always in mind. It calls for one to think, feel, and act in behalf of the others well-being under all conditions and circumstances. The relationship between God and the believer is defined by this agreement. The believer was prompted to enter into this relationship with God because of Gods gracious acts previously performed on the sinner s behalf. As his superior, God has defined the obligations resting on the believer in this covenant relationship, just as a medieval suzerain, or landlord, defined it to his vassal or serf.
Using another metaphor, God is like a suitor who has proposed repeatedly to his sweetheart. For a long time he has wanted to marry her, but she has refused his marriage proposals. One day she does accept, and she becomes his bride. Their marriage depended on her decision, not his.
In the same way, justification by faith does not depend primarily on Gods decision. Like the suitor, He has for a long time wanted to justify and redeem every sinner. But an acceptance of Gods proposal by the sinner is also needed. As the suitor, God would long ago have accepted the sinner as His bride if the sinner had been willing to respond to His overtures in love, faith, and trust. The ground of justification by faith is Gods love for the sinner, manifested in the death of Christ for his salvation. But the sinner is justified unto salvation only when he accepts Gods gift of love and chooses to believe in Him and commit himself to Him as his Saviour.
Like a marriage, justification by faith is a union of two parties on the basis of their free choice. We who are married got married by our own volition. And before we married, we gave our intended mates our hearts. The same is true of our marriage to God—justification by faith. Therefore Gods generic plea to every person is: "My son, give me your heart" (Prov. 23:26). "God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place."1 Personal justification is justification by faith in contradistinction to universal temporary (or forensic) justification, which is impersonal.
By accepting the repentance granted by God (see Rom. 2:4) and believing in Jesus as our personal Saviour, you and I as sinners actively participate in justification by faith. We must be personally involved in order that salvation might be ours. We respond to Jesus by trusting ourselves to Him and personally and voluntarily accepting His love to us through the Holy Spirit. By doing so, we personally accept His righteousness as His free gift. By our own choice, we invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and make the decision that we will no longer follow capricious, sinful impulses and fleeting desires. Rather, we will think and act in accordance with Gods will at all times.
In this way, we are dressed in the garment of Christs righteousness. Many suitors have bought and presented dresses to their lady loves, particularly after they have accepted their marriage proposals. Suitors generally do not present dresses to girls who turn down their marriage proposals. So also Jesus, the heavenly suitor, clothes in the garment of His righteousness not those who spurn His marriage proposal but only those who accept Him as their Saviour. He does not give the garment of His righteousness to rebels and enemies.
At the Passover feast Jesus said to the disciples, "You are clean" (John 13:10). And everyone who accepts Jesus is clean. "If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christs character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned."2
Through justification by faith, the sinner is both accounted and made righteous. It is just like a poor person marrying a rich person. After their marriage they are both rich. Through their marriage the riches of the one become the riches of the other. This richness lasts throughout their marriage.
Through our justification by faith—our marriage to Jesus —Christs righteousness becomes and is our righteousness. His riches are now our riches. Our sinful poverty is left behind. As Christians we are rich through Christs riches; we are righteous through His righteousness. "The moment we surrender ourselves to God, believing in Him, we have His righteousness."3
Through marriage the two parties become one flesh. As close as is the union between two people in marriage, so through our marriage to Christ we are one with Him. When the Father looks at you and me, He sees us through His Son and accepts us as He accepts Him. "Christs relation to His Father embraces all who receive Him by faith as their personal Saviour."4 "In this union the hope of man must rest alone."5 Luther wrote: "Faith ... unites the soul with Christ, like a bride with the bridegroom, and from this marriage, Christ and the soul become one body, as Saint Paul says (Eph. 5:30). Then the possessions of both are in common, whether fortune, misfortune, or anything else; so that what Christ has also belongs to the believing soul, and what the soul has will belong to Christ. If Christ has all good things, including blessedness, these will also belong to the soul ... He takes possession of the sins of the believing soul by virtue of her wedding ring, namely faith, and acts just as if He had committed those sins Himself.... Thus the soul is cleansed from all her sins by virtue of her dowry, i.e., for the sake of her faith. She is made free and unfettered, and endowed with the eternal righteousness of Christ, her bridegroom. Is not that a happy household, when Christ, the rich, noble, and good bridegroom, takes the poor, despised, wicked little harlot in marriage, sets her free from all evil, and decks her with all good things? It is not possible for her sins to damn her, for now they rest on Christ and are swallowed up in Him. In this way she has such a rich righteousness in her bridegroom that she can always withstand sins, though they indeed lie in wait for her."6
By our physical birth we are carnal and belong to Satans family. But through our marriage to Jesus, through justification by faith, we become members of Gods family. No longer are we orphans; we now belong to God. Justification is founded on Gods free grace. Again the words of Paul: "They are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). Or translated in a different way: "By the free gift of Gods grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus" (TEV).
An acquaintance of mine has a female cousin who lived, without benefit of marriage, with a male friend for several years. During the time she lived with him, she was constantly afraid that someday he would leave her. She enjoyed no security or peace of mind because there was no true or binding relationship, as there is in marriage. She knew there was little that held them together except her magnetic feminine pull and constant allure. She also knew that when she was in curlers her attractiveness was greatly reduced; when she was sick it was almost entirely gone.
Mae—my wife—and I do not live in such a state of constant fear. We know that even though we disappoint each another at times, neither of us will forsake the other. Through marriage we have established a relationship that enables us to live in a state of security and peace of mind with each other. We do not live in constant fear of desertion.
A certain woman told me that when she was first married she was fearful after occasionally disappointing her husband. She knew that he loved her; he readily forgave her and reassured her of his love whenever she said that she thought she had annoyed him. But still, fear lingered in her mind during the early months of their marriage. But as they got better acquainted in marriage, this fear disappeared. She became confident of her husbands ready forgiveness, whole-hearted acceptance, and constant love for her.
Possibly a young Christian may at times feel about God like this young wife did about her husband. But as we become better acquainted with God and His compassion and love, fear of His disapproval should disappear, as it did in the case of this young wife. Remember that you are married to Jesus through justification by faith. Jesus chose you to come into this special relationship to Him because He loves you. He loves you even when you stumble into sin and disappoint Him. After you have stumbled into sin or made mistakes and disappointed Him, tell Him, as did this young wife, that you are sorry for what you have done. As you do this, He "will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7). At times we may all disappoint Him. But "if in our ignorance we make missteps, the Saviour does not forsake us."7 He vows: "I will never fail you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5).
Do we realize that we are married to Jesus through justification by faith? We are accepted by God not because of our goodness but because Jesus is good and worthy. We place ourselves trustingly in His hands, and we know He will hold us securely (see John 10:2 7-29). He knows and calls everyone by name. He says, "I have redeemed you" (Isa. 44:22). This is something about which to rejoice and shout.
I know a family in which the wife and mother strayed away from the family unit. She became intimate with another man, and by him she became pregnant and bore a child. Despite this injury to love, this breach of loyalty, the husband forgave her and was willing to adopt his wifes baby. The older children likewise were willing to follow their father in his love and forgiveness of their mother. Such is Gods love for us, in spite of our unfaithfulness.
Through justification by faith, a relationship of peace and security between God and us, which was broken by sin, has been reestablished (see Rom. 5:1). The divorce that was caused by rebellion is ended. A life-giving relationship with God, affording security in His love, has been entered into through faith. Thus we do not live in constant fear that Jesus will forsake us, although at times we inadvertently stumble and fall, as do toddlers. We are wedded to Him. This relationship will last as long as we choose to maintain it by loving and obeying Him.
"Sinful man can find hope and righteousness only in God, and no human being is righteous any longer than he has faith in God and maintains a vital connection with Him"8
Our hope of being admitted into heavenly society rests on our marriage to Christ. In ourselves we have nothing either to fit us for or to admit us to heavenly society. Jesus provides the wedding garment. In the parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:1-14), the king offered a wedding garment to every invited guest. Those who accepted it and wore it were welcome at his sons wedding feast.
We are utterly unable to provide our own wedding garment. But Jesus is rich. He offers it to everyone. Our salvation depends on our accepting it. In the parable of the wedding feast, those who disdained and despised the kings gift and refused to wear it were thrown out. Our only hope of salvation rests on the gift of salvation—the garment of Christs righteousness. This the heavenly Groom alone can provide.
Having accepted us and married us, Jesus will never divorce us. He vows, "Him who comes to me I will not cast out" (John 6:3 7). If there is going to be a divorce between us and God, you and I must initiate it. God will never do so. Jesus gave His life so that we might be His for eternity. The restored relationship of peace and harmony between God and the justified sinner will be retained through our constant loyalty and obedience. "In order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul."9
The girl with the live-in boyfriend lived in constant fear that her companion would forsake her if she did not appear attractive and alluring at all times. So every professed Christian who bases his hope of salvation on the flawlessness of his own behavior will live in constant fear before God. Every time he falls into sin, his own self-conceived basis for his acceptance and approval by God is gone. Consequently, his professing Christian life becomes an endless journey of fear and often of pitiful despair.
The Christians security and certainty of salvation must never rest on his own moral or ethical attainment, irrespective of how far advanced he is in his development of Christian maturity. His only true basis for peace of mind and security of salvation will always rest on Gods acceptance of him. For even a willing servant of God, there is no deck of self-righteousness underneath his feet. Our loyal willingness and right motives do not always ensure commensurate performance. "Mans obedience can be made perfect only by the incense of Christs righteousness."10
The apostle Paul was far advanced along the path of Christian maturity.
Still, his hope of eternal salvation centered not in his Christian attainments, but in the
redemption purchased for him by Christ on the cross. Thus he exclaims, "But far be it
from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been
crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). Our only hope of salvation and
security rests on Jesus, the Rock of Ages cleft for you and me. To Him we are married
through justification by faith.
1 White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 366. [back]
2 _________, Steps to Christ, p. 62. [back]
3 _________, in Review and Herald, July 25, 1899. [back]
4 _________, in Signs of the Times, Aug. 16, 1899. [back]
5 _________, in Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892. [back]
6 Quoted by William M. Landeen in Martin Luthers Religious Thought (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1971), pp. 142, 143. [back]
7 White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), p. 249. [back]
8 _________, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 367. [back]
9 _________, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 366. [back]
10 _________, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., (1911), p. 532.
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