Summary: The ninth article of faith for the Church of the Nazarene. Describes parts of what takes place during the Salvation experience.
This morning, we are going to move to our ninth Article of Faith, which is:
IX. Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption
Here is the description of this 9th tenet of our faith:
We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.
We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a son of God.
We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.
The first thing that you need to understand is mentioned in the final portion of the explanation. That is that all of this (and more) occurs as a simultaneous event that we call Salvation.
The second thing that I should tell you is that this article is one of those that is more theological in terminology than most of the other articles of faith. This article attempts to explain what happens during the conversion experience. For most of us that have accepted Christ as their Savior, we’ll think “wow, all that happened when I invited Him in?”
This morning, we will talk about the things that are actually happening to the new believer when they decide to ask Jesus Christ to be their Savior. We begin with that word justification. The Apostle Paul explains it in Romans 3:21-26
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;
Paul reminds us that everyone has fallen short and has sinned, but we are now justified by His gift of grace because He atoned for us through the shedding of His blood. You’ll also notice that Paul used terminology that the Jews would immediately understand and relate to: he said that God had passed over the sins previously committed. They celebrate Passover every year and intimately understood what that entailed.
Paul also makes it perfectly plain (Romans 4:5) that it is only through faith in Christ Jesus that we are saved and not through any works of our own:
But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
It is also important that we underscore that word reckoned. We are not turned into righteous people. Our faith in Christ causes God to count us as righteous, or reckons us as righteous. Just because you have a backstage pass doesn’t mean that you’re in the band. You are counted as being able to get in because they gifted you that pass. God reckons us as righteous because of our faith in Christ. The act of justification is essentially a declaration from the Creator Himself. It does not signify any particular change in the believer. God simply declares that we are righteous because of our faith in Christ Jesus. It is not something that God sees in us. We are simply covered by the blood of Christ and are therefore pronounced justified, just as Abraham was pronounced as justified, simply because of his faith in God. You could interchange the word reckoned with either pronounced or declared. They are one and the same.
When you got married, the pastor pronounced you husband and wife. Nothing had actually changed within you, but you were declared to be unified. That actual unification process takes years of love and perseverance (probably more of the latter than the former). However, the declaration was the announcement upon which the process would begin.
In essence, justification is the pronouncement by the Judge of all life that you have been found not guilty by reason of association.
Next, we want to look at regeneration. The term born-again Christian became very popular in the early 20th century and, when I was young, was used to differentiate evangelical Christianity from other denominations and sects. Although Catholics believe in regeneration, the term was essentially used to separate evangelicals from Catholics and they didn’t seem to make an effort to curb that differentiation either. However, regeneration was never meant to be a divisive term, other than dividing believers from non-believers.