How to Live the Victorious Life
Let us not be afraid to think in legal categories, for the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures moves in this atmosphere. God is Judge and Lawgiver. He is the God of law and order. Unlike the unpredictable gods of the heathen, we can depend on Him to act in harmony with His own law of eternal rectitude. Justification, that great Pauline word, is a word of the law court. God is not only in the business of saving sinners, but in the business of vindicating His law. Paul argues that our salvation is grounded in law and justice as much as in grace and mercy (see Rom. 3:24-26). Our own consciences demand justice and cannot be pacified unless God's fellowship with us is grounded on justice.
We accept the legal principle in the most sacred of human relationships. A woman who ignores a legal relationship and tries to establish a relationship with a man by experience alone is prostituting a fundamental law of life. In the Revelation of St. John, Babylon (which represents all false religion) is called a harlot (Rev. 17:5). Babylon is every system that tries to establish a relationship with God on the basis of experience. Sanctification is living a life of fellowship with God. Justification is its legal basis, and without justification no fellowship can exist.
It is thoroughly mischievous in its results. If it does not lead to spiritual pride among those who imagine they are out of Romans 7 and into Romans 8, it leads to the Christ-denying notion that a man can be saved from the guilt of sin and yet continue to wallow in its pollution — as if sanctification were optional as far as salvation is concerned.
b. In the Matter of Holiness. It has often been said (and truly) that justification is our title to heaven. We must not forget, however, that the life of heaven begins in the life of holiness here and now. Sanctification is glorification begun. It is the life of heaven in the seed, the first fruits, or down payment, of the immortal inheritance (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14). Heaven is access into God's presence. It is to partake of His holiness and to participate in His life. But this participation in the holiness of God begins here with those who "have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come." Heb. 6:4, 5.
In the Fall man lost all those rights and privileges. A sinner has no right to participate in God's life of holiness. Yet Christ, and Christ alone, has won for man this right of access: "... as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, or privilege [margin], to become the sons of God [to be partakers of His divine nature — 2 Pet. 1:4], even to them that believe on His name. . . " John 1:12. Faith justifies, and being justified, we have legal access (rights and titles) to enter the way of holiness.
Along this route to "the celestial city" many trials lie in wait to purify our faith. There are giants to beat us, nets to catch us, and crafty men to beguile us. And along the King's highway travel such saints as "Ready to Halt," "Little Faith" and poor "Christian," who runs afoul of trouble times without number. In such times of temptation and human weakness, how could we assure our hearts before God unless we could look to our title found in the righteousness of the One who represents us at God's right hand? How easily faith would falter and we would stand disarmed in the midst of our enemies if, being challenged for our right to be traveling the road of sanctification, we put our hand (like"Ignorance") into our own bosom to find some grounds to be among the saints. Happy is the man who, in the hour of test and trial, can look outside to atonement instead of inside to attainment.
Thus, justification is the legal (lawful) basis of sanctification. It makes holiness possible by removing sin's lawful right to rule us and by restoring our lawful right to walk in the way of holiness.