"Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, [justification],
and sanctification, and redemption [deliverance]."
—1 Cor. 1:30.—
SINCE God's dealings with his creatures recognize their wills, the first step in his dealings with them, therefore, is to give them knowledge, or "wisdom," as it is translated in the above Scripture. It is for this reason that preaching was the first command of the Gospel age. To the worldly minded the preaching of forgiveness on account of faith in the crucified Jesus did not seem the wise course. To them it would have seemed better for God to have commanded something to be done by them. But, as Paul says—"It pleased God to save those who believe by [knowledge imparted through what the worldly consider] the foolishness of this preaching."—1 Cor. 1:21.
(1) Knowledge of the greatness and absolute justice of the God with whom we have to do. This knowledge was prepared for by the Mosaic Law, which was a "schoolmaster," or pedagogue, to lead men to Christ. And Christ, by his obedience to that law, magnified the Law and showed its honorableness, its worthiness; and thus honored God, the author of that Law, and showed his character.
(3) Knowledge of how the entire race of Adam fell from divine favor and from mental, moral and physical perfection, through him, was also necessary. Without this knowledge we could not have seen how God could be just in accepting the one life, of Christ, as the ransom price for the life of the whole world.
(4) Without knowledge as to what is the penalty for sin—that "the wages of sin is death"—we never should have been able to understand how the death of our Redeemer paid the penalty against Adam and all in him.
(5) Knowledge, in these various respects, was, therefore, absolutely necessary to us, as without it we could have had no proper faith, and could not have availed ourselves of God's provision of justification, sanctification and deliverance through Christ.
Most heartily, therefore, we thank God for knowledge or wisdom concerning his plan. And we see that this wisdom came to us through Christ; because, had it not been for the plan of salvation of which he and his cross are the center, it would have been useless to give the knowledge, useless to preach, because there would have been no salvation to offer.
(2) That, in view of our unworthiness, God had in some manner arranged that Christ's righteousness should stand good for "us," and thus give "us" a standing before God which we could not otherwise have because of our imperfections—our unrighteousness.
(3) This scripture does not imply that Christ's righteousness covers every sinner, so that God now views every sinner as though he were righteous, and treats all as his children. No, it refers merely to a special class of sinners—sinners who, having come to a knowledge of sin and righteousness, and having learned the undesirableness of sin, have repented of sin, and [R3279 : page 436] sought to flee from it and to come into harmony with God. This is the particular class referred to in this scripture—"who of God is made unto us justification," or righteousness.
(4) How God has arranged or caused Christ to be our "righteousness," or justification, is not here explained; but what we know of divine law and character assures us that the principle of Justice, the very foundation of divine government, must somehow have been fully satisfied in all of its claims. And other scriptures fully substantiate this conclusion. They assert that God so arranged as to have the price of man's sin paid for him; and that the price paid was an exact equivalent, a ransom or corresponding price, offsetting in every particular the original sin and just penalty, death, as it came upon the original sinner and through him by heredity upon all men. (Rom. 5:12,18-20.) He tells us that this plan of salvation was adopted because by it "God might be [or continue] just, and [yet be] the justifier of him [any sinner] that believeth in Jesus"—that comes unto God under the terms of the New Covenant, of which Christ Jesus is the mediator, having sealed it, or made it a covenant, by his own precious blood.—Heb. 13:20,21; 10:29.
(5) While the benefits of this gracious arrangement are only for "us," for "believers," for those who come unto God by Christ—under the provisions of the New Covenant—these benefits are, nevertheless, made applicable to all; for God's special provision for the whole world of sinners is that all shall "come to a knowledge of the truth," that they may, if then they will accept the conditions of God's covenant, be everlastingly saved. A knowledge and a rejection of error—of false doctrines which misrepresent the divine character even though they be mixed with a little misconstrued truth—will not constitute grounds for condemnation; but a knowledge of the truth and a rejection of it will bring condemnation to the Second Death. The Greek text states this much more emphatically than our common English translation. It says, "come to an accurate knowledge of the truth."—1 Tim. 2:4.
(6) The provision made was sufficient for all men. Our Lord gave himself [in death] a ransom—a corresponding price—for all; he was a "propitiation [or sufficient satisfaction] for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2.) As a consequence, he is both able and willing "to save unto the uttermost [i.e., to save from sin, and from divine disfavor, and from death, and all these everlastingly] all that come unto God by him." (Heb. 7:25.) And inasmuch as God's provision is so broad, that all shall come to an exact knowledge of the truth respecting these provisions of divine mercy under the terms of the New Covenant;—inasmuch as the provision is that all the sin and prejudice-blinded eyes shall be opened, and that the devil, who for long centuries has deceived men with his misrepresentations of the truth, is to be bound for a thousand years, so that he can deceive the nations no more; and that then a highway of holiness shall be cast up in which the most stupid cannot err or be deceived; and in view of all this provision God declares that all men will be saved from the guilt and penalty incurred through Adam's sentence. Because, when all of these blessed arrangements have been carried into effect, there will be no reason for a solitary member of the human family remaining a stranger and alien from God's family except by his own choice or preference for unrighteousness, and that with an accurate knowledge that all unrighteousness is sin. Such as, of their own preference, knowingly choose sin, when the way and means of becoming servants of God are clearly understood by them, are wilful sinners on their own account, and will receive the Second-Death sentence as the wages of their own opposition to God's righteous arrangements.
The world's salvation will be complete the moment all have come to an accurate knowledge of the truth concerning God's great plan of salvation; because then they will know that by accepting Christ and the New Covenant which God offers to all through Christ, they may have life everlasting—salvation to the uttermost. Whether they will hear (heed) or whether they will forbear (refuse to heed) will not alter the fact that all will thus have been saved from Adamic sin and death—will have had a full salvation tendered to them. Thus, the living God will be the Savior of all men—especially or everlastingly, however, the Savior of only those who accept his grace and become "his people" under the New Covenant.—1 Tim. 4:10.
(7) It is only to "us" that Christ is made justification or righteousness. Though all men are to be saved in the sense of being brought to the knowledge and opportunity of salvation, none have Christ as their justification, the covering of their imperfections, imputing his righteousness to them, except "us"—the household of faith. "Unto you, therefore, which believe he is precious." (1 Pet. 2:7.) He of God is made unto us justification, righteousness, covering and cleansing from the unintentional weaknesses and shortcomings of the present, as well as from the original sin and its sentence. Who is he who condemns us? Will that Anointed One who died; and still more who has been raised, who also is at the right hand of God, and who intercedes on our behalf? Nay, he has been made our justification; it is the merit of his great sacrifice that speaks our justification.—Rom. 8:34.
Justification signifies to make right, or whole, or [R3280 : page 437] just. And from the word "whole" comes the word "(w)holiness," signifying soundness, or perfection, or righteousness. None of the fallen race are either actually or reckonedly whole, sound, perfect or just by nature. "There is none righteous [just, sound, holy], no, not one; all have sinned." But all who come unto God by Christ, whom he has accepted as the justification or righteousness of all who accept the New Covenant, are from that moment accepted and treated as sound, perfect, holy. Although we are actually unholy or imperfect, we are made "partakers of God's holiness;" first, reckonedly, in Christ, and, second, more and more actually by the eradication of our sinful tendencies and the development of the fruits and graces of the Spirit, through chastisements, experience, etc. (Heb. 12:10.) God not only begins on the basis of holiness, imputing to us Christ's merit to cover our demerits, but he continues on the same line, and ever urges us to "be holy [to strive after actual soundness and perfection], even as he is holy." (1 Pet. 1:15,16.) And he promises the faithful strivers that they shall ultimately attain absolute holiness, soundness, perfection—in the resurrection, when they shall be made actually like Christ, as now their wills are copies of his. For "without holiness [thus attained] no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. 12:14.) Hence, "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [Christ] is pure"—seeking to be as much like him as possible now, and by and by to be fully in his image.—1 John 3:3,2.
Many make the serious error of supposing that God is sanctifying the world,—sanctifying sinners. As a consequence of this error, many are seeking to copy Christ's example, and thus be sanctified before God, while they repudiate the doctrine of the ransom, or justification by faith. They confound sanctification and justification in their minds, and suppose that if they consecrate or sanctify or set apart their lives to God's service and to deeds of kindness they are thereby justified.
This is a serious error. Justification is entirely separate and distinct from sanctification; and no one can be sanctified in God's sight, and in the Scriptural sense, unless he has first been justified or cleansed from all sin.
Consecrating a person or thing to God's service does not cleanse that person or thing. On the contrary, God always refuses to accept anything imperfect or unclean. This is distinctly and repeatedly shown in the typical arrangements of the Law given to typical Israel. The priests were obliged to wash themselves and put on new, clean linen garments before consecration to their office and work as God's typically set apart, or sanctified, priesthood. Their cleansing and new clothing represented justification, the appropriation of Christ's righteousness instead of the filthy rags of their own unrighteousness, as members of the fallen race.
The seal or mark of their consecration was a totally different one, and followed the cleansing ceremony, as consecration should in every case follow justification. The sign or mark of consecration or sanctification was the anointing with the holy oil, which symbolized the holy Spirit.
The anointing oil or symbol of consecration was poured upon the head of the High Priest only, but the under-priests were represented in the members of his body, even as Christ is the Head over the Church which is his body, and all together constitute the Royal Priesthood. So the holy Spirit given without measure to our Lord and Head applied to us (his body) through him. The Father gave the Spirit to the Son only: all of the anointing oil was poured upon the Head. At Pentecost it ran down from the head to the body, and has continued with the body ever since, and whoever comes into the "body" comes thereby under the consecrating influence—the spirit of holiness, the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ, the spirit of the Truth.—Acts 2:4.
But in consecrating the typical priests the blood was not ignored. It was put upon all, upon the tip of the right ear, upon the thumb of the right hand and upon the great toe of the right foot, thus showing that the hearing of faith, the work of faith and the walk of faith must all be touched and made holy by an appreciation of the precious blood of atonement—the blood of Christ—the blood of the New Covenant. And then the garments of all the priests—their clean linen garments—were sprinkled with a mixture of the blood and the oil, implying that both justification through the blood and sanctification through the possession of the spirit of holiness are necessary in our consecration.
Some would be inclined to answer: To live without sin, to practice the graces of the spirit, to wear [R3280 : page 438] plain clothing and in general to live a rather gloomy life now, hoping for greater liberty and pleasure hereafter.
We reply, This is the common but mistaken view. True, God's people do seek to avoid sin; but that is not the object of their consecration. Before consecration, they learned the exceeding sinfulness and undesirableness of sin, and saw Christ Jesus as their sin-bearer and cleanser. Consequently, they had fled from sin before consecration. When consecrated they will still loathe and abhor sin, and that more and more as they grow in grace and in knowledge; but we repeat that to seek to live free from sin is not a proper definition of consecration or sanctification.
It is true, also, that our consecration may lead to plainness of dress, and bring upon us sufferings for righteousness' sake, in this present evil world (age); but, we repeat, these are not the objects of our consecration. They are merely incidental results.
The object of God in calling out the Gospel Church, and providing for the consecration or sanctification of its members, is a grand and worthy one; and when once clearly seen by the eye of faith it makes all the incidentals which it will cost, such as self-denials in dress, loss of friends and companionships, and even persecution for the Truth's sake, etc., to be esteemed but light afflictions, not worthy to be compared to the glorious object of our consecration, which is that we may become "partakers of the divine nature" and "joint-heirs with Christ," and together with him bless the world during its day of judgment—the Millennium—as we will show.
God in his wisdom and foreknowledge knew that sin would enter this world and bring its blight,—sorrow, pain and death. He foresaw that after their experience with sin, some of his creatures would be, not only willing, but anxious, to forsake sin and return to his fellowship and love and the blessing of life everlasting. It was in view of this foreknowledge that God formed his plan for human salvation.
In that plan Christ Jesus our Lord had first place, first honor. As he was the beginning of the creation of God, so he was the chief of all God's creatures thus far brought into being. But God purposed a new creation—the creation of a new order of beings different and higher than men, angels and archangels—higher than all others, and of his own divine essence or nature. The worthiness of any one accepted to that great honor should be recognized not only by God himself, but by all of his intelligent creatures. Hence God, who knew well the character of his first-begotten Son (our Lord Jesus), decided to prove or test his well-beloved Son in a manner that would prove to all of his intelligent creatures, what they all now recognize in the new song, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive [R3281 : page 438] power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing."—Rev. 5:12.
But the exaltation of our Lord, who already was the chief of all creation, was even less remarkable than another feature of the divine plan, foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:4); namely, that he would make to some of his human creatures (of the race sentenced as unworthy of any future life, but redeemed from that sentence by Christ's sacrifice) an offer of joint-heirship and companionship with his beloved Son, in the order of the new creation (of the divine nature), of which he has made the worthy Lamb the head and chief, next to himself.—1 Cor. 15:27.
This offer is not made to all of the redeemed race, but to many—"Many are called." The called are only those who in this age are justified by faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice. Unbelievers and scoffers are called to repentance and faith; but none are called to this high calling of participation in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) until they have forsaken sin and laid hold upon Christ as their Redeemer.
If the worthiness of the Lamb was necessary to be shown, the worthiness of those whom he redeemed to be his joint-heirs (called also the bride, the Lamb's wife) would also need to be shown, proved, manifested before angels as well as before men, that God's ways may be seen to be just and equitable.
It is for this reason that God calls upon those whom he does call, to consecrate themselves to him—not in dress or word merely, but in everything. It is not a consecration to preach merely, although all the consecrated will delight to use every opportunity in telling to others the good tidings of God's love. It is not a consecration to temperance reform, social reform, political reform, or any other work of reform, although we may and should feel a deep interest in anything that would benefit the fallen race. But our devotion should be as that of a maid to her mistress, or of soldiers to their officers, or, better yet, as that of a dutiful child toward a beloved parent—swift to hear, quick to obey, not planning or seeking our own wills, but the will of our Father in heaven. Just such an attitude is implied in the words sanctified, or consecrated to God. It takes hold of the will, and therefore rules the entire being, except where uncontrollable weaknesses or insurmountable obstacles hinder. And since our call and acceptance are based upon the New Covenant, which accepts a perfect will on the part of those [R3281 : page 439] trusting in the precious blood, and does not demand perfection of deeds, it follows that all of us, no matter how degraded by the fall, may be acceptable to God in the Beloved, and make their calling and election sure.
Nor is this arrangement of the New Covenant (by which those in Christ whose wills and efforts are right toward God are not held responsible for the full letter of God's law, but for the observance of its spirit or meaning, to the extent that they have knowledge, opportunity and ability) a violation of Justice, as some have assumed. God's law was designed for perfect creatures, and not for fallen ones; but under the New Covenant in Christ, God has adapted his law to the condition of the fallen ones without interfering with that law itself or even with its spirit. The perfect law, dealing with the perfect man, demanded a full consecration of his will to the wisdom and will of his Creator, and an obedience to that Creator's Word to the extent of his ability. But since man was created "upright" (and not fallen), in the moral image and likeness of God (and not born in sin and shapen in iniquity), it follows that his perfect will, operating through a perfect body and under favorable conditions, could have rendered perfect obedience; and hence nothing less could be acceptable to God.
How just, how reasonable and how favorable is God's arrangement for us! Yet he assures us that, while he has made all the arrangements favorable for us, he must insist on our wills being just right,—we must be pure in heart, and in this respect exact copies of his Beloved Son, our Lord. (Rom. 8:29—Diaglott.) Of those who learn of and accept God's grace in Christ, in the forgiveness of sins under the New Covenant, all of whom are called to this high calling of joint-heirship with Christ in the divine nature and its honors, only a few will make their calling and election sure (or complete), because the testings of their wills and faith are so exacting—so crucial.
Nor should either of these God-declared facts surprise us: it is not strange, but reasonable, that God should test severely, yea, with "fiery trials" (1 Pet. 4:12), the faith and love of those invited to so high a station. If they be not loyal and trustful to the last degree, they surely are "not fit for the Kingdom," its responsibilities and its divine honors. Nor should it surprise us to be informed by God's Word that only a "few," a "little flock," will gain the prize to which many are called and for which many consecrate. Few are willing to "endure" a great fight of afflictions; partly while being made a gazing stock, both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly as companions of those who are so abused for Christ's sake and his Truth's sake.—Heb. 10:32,33.
In a word, the trial of the justified and consecrated consists in the presenting to them of opportunities to serve God and his cause in this present time, when, because of sin abounding, whosoever will live godly and hold up the light will suffer persecution. Those whose consecration is complete and of the proper kind will rejoice in their privilege of serving God and his cause, and will count it all joy to be accounted worthy to suffer in such a cause, and thus to attest to God the sincerity of their love and of their consecration to him. Such consecrated ones, pure in heart (in will or intention), realizing the object of present trials, glory in tribulations brought upon them by faithfulness to Christ and his Word, realizing that their experiences are similar to those of the Master, and that thus they have evidence that they are walking in the footsteps of him who said, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. Ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."—1 John 3:13; John 15:18,19; Rev. 2:10.
Furthermore, they glory in tribulations because they realize that the Lord will be near them while they endure faithfully, and that he will not permit them to be tempted above what they are able to bear, but will with every temptation provide some way of escape; because they realize the necessity of forming character, and that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope—a hope that maketh not ashamed; and because they realize that all these favorable results of tribulation follow, on account of a genuine consecration in which the love of God has been shed abroad in the heart, displacing the spirit of the world, the spirit of selfishness.—1 Cor. 10:13; Rom. 5:3,5.
"He that committeth sin [wilfully] is of the devil." "Whosoever is begotten of God...cannot sin [wilfully]." (1 John 3:3-10; 5:18.) And we have seen that all of those acceptable to God in Christ were obliged to come unto him under the New Covenant, whose first condition is faith in Christ; and whose second condition is an entire consecration of their wills to God's will and service. Hence, any wilful sin would mean that they had repudiated the New Covenant and were no longer recognized as begotten of the Truth, but under the influence of sin, and hence begotten of the devil—his children.
If any justified and consecrated child of God commit sin it will be, at most, only partially wilful—largely of weakness or deception. He may feel his shame and weep bitterly, as did Peter; but all such [R3281 : page 440] penitence would but prove that his sin was not of the wilful kind that would make him as "of the devil." No: so long as the seed of the Truth, and of his consecration, remains in him, he cannot sin (wilfully). But if any trespass under deception or weakness, and not wilfully, he has an advocate with the Father,—"Jesus Christ the [absolutely] righteous" one, whose merit is applicable for all unwilful errors of such as abide under the shadow of the New Covenant. If he confess his sin, God is just to forgive him—because Christ died. (1 John 1:7,9; 2:1.) But if we should say that we have no sin, no imperfection, we deceive ourselves, make God a liar, and disown the Advocate whom God provided; for we are weak through the fall, and liable to deception and error at the hands of the world, the flesh, and the devil.—1 John 1:8,10.
Having seen what Sanctification is, its object or result and its present cost, we note that Christ by God is made unto us Sanctification—in that we could have no such call and could experience no such work of grace, under the divine plan, except for Christ and the work he did for us;—justifying us before the Law of God, sealing for us the New Covenant and making us fit for this call to "glory, honor and immortality."
Many readers confound the words redemption and redeem, found in the New Testament, whereas they refer to different features of the work of Christ. The word redeem in its every use in the New Testament signifies to acquire by the payment of a price, while the word redemption in its every New Testament use signifies the deliverance or setting free of that which was acquired by the payment of a price. "We were redeemed [purchased] with the precious blood [the sacrificed life, the death] of Christ." We wait for "the redemption [the deliverance] of our body" (the Church) from present imperfections and death. We wait for "the redemption [deliverance] of the purchased possession.—1 Pet. 1:18,19; Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14.
In Christ is our redemption, or deliverance; for so God has ordained. He who redeemed, or bought us with the sacrifice of his own life, gives us, as our Prophet or Teacher, wisdom by his Gospel, to see our fallen state and himself as our helper; as our Priest, he first justifies us and then sanctifies or consecrates us, [R3282 : page 440] as his under priesthood; and, finally, as King, he will fully deliver the faithful from the dominion of sin and death, to the glory, honor and immortality of the divine nature;—for "God will raise up [from the dead] us also, by Jesus." If faithful to our call and covenant, even unto death, we shall at the second coming of our Redeemer, receive "an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us who are kept by the power of God [His Word and Providence] through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."—Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:4,5; Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 4:14.
Truly he is able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.—Heb. 7:25.
In the light of the foregoing, now read a hitherto obscure passage of Scripture: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate must be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover [the class] whom he did predestinate [must be copies of his Son], them he also called [or invited to that honor through the gospel]; and whom he called, them he also [previously] justified [because he could not consistently call to honor and glory those who were under his own sentence of death as sinners]; and whom he justified them he also [previously] honored [by sending to them the gospel message]."—Rom. 8:28-30.
Thus the Apostle continues his argument concerning the favor of God toward the Church, asserting that God had a purpose to fulfil, and that the call of the Church is in accordance with that purpose. (Peter declares the same thing.—1 Pet. 1:2.) And he asserts that all of God's dealings and arrangements correspond with that purpose, and cooperate for its accomplishment. God's predestination was, (1) that he would have a class of beings of the divine nature; (2) that each one of that class must have a fixed character, like that of his ever-faithful, Beloved Son. To get such a class, the Apostle reasons and declares, God must call or invite some (just as we see he is doing), because "no man taketh this honor to himself." (Heb. 5:4.) But whom would God call or invite? None were worthy; all had gone out of the way; none were righteous, no not one. Hence it was necessary that God provide for the justification of those he would call. But he could justify only such as believed in Jesus; and how could they believe on him of whom they had not heard, and without a preacher sent of God? (Rom. 10:14.) Hence it was necessary that these be honored with the Gospel message in this age, in advance of its general revealing to every creature during the Millennial age.—Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 Cor. 15:1.
True, many more were called than will be acceptable—many more than will acquire the likeness of the Beloved Son; and many were justified who did not, [R3282 : page 441] after believing, consecrate themselves, and whose justification consequently lapsed; and many were honored with a hearing of the Gospel who, after hearing a little of it, rejected the message of mercy and favor. But all the preaching, justifying and calling of this Gospel age has been to the intent that the foreknown class of the predestinated character might be selected and made joint-heirs with Christ.—See also 2 Tim. 1:8-10.
"What shall we [who have been so highly favored by God, and for whose successful running of the race every necessary arrangement and provision has been made] say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" And in view of this let each say,—"What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows [fulfil my covenant of consecration] unto the Lord, now, in the presence of all his people." (This will mean, as in our Lord's case, faithfulness dying daily, 1 Cor. 15:31—even unto death, but)—"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his holy ones."—Psa. 116:12-15.