6. Positional Truth
Purpose: It is the purpose of this session to acquaint the disciple with truths relating to standing and state to better grasp the reality of trusting Christ.
1. The disciple will learn the doctrine of justification by faith.
2. The disciple will learn the truth of his sanctification.
3. The disciple will learn that one is clothed with garments fit for heaven.
4. The disciple will begin to learn doctrine that relates to his permanent standing before God.
For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.
1. Prayer and sharing.
2. Discuss questions.
3. Scripture memorization.
4. Discuss new terms.
Standing and State
It is important for every Christian to understand the difference between standing and state. Standing deals with my position with God by virtue of the new birth which I have experienced, John 1:12. This position is one of perfection, since I am justified. (Be sure you understand the meaning of the word justification which is a central doctrine of salvation.) Because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed or reckoned to me, I am just as perfect as Christ in the Father’s sight. As Christ is, so am I in this world, 1 John 4:17. Finally, this standing is one of permanence, Romans 5:2. I don’t “step in and out of grace.” The permanence of my relationship with Christ is spoken of also in Romans 8: 1,38-39.
State is quite another matter. State deals with my condition in this world. It is involved with what kind of a child I am as a member of God’s family. What is the nature of my walk with the Lord? At best, one can say it is imperfect. It will vary from day to day. I may or may not be efficient in my practice of spirituality — keeping step with the Spirit.
State has to do with practical sanctification. The writer of Proverbs states: “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day,” Proverbs 4:18. Hopefully this practical sanctification will bring one’s state or condition to be more consistent with his standing. But the two will never be equal until we experience glorification with the Lord, 1 John 3:2. Then, “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
The following are words that you should learn and understand if you do not know them. They are included in the section Definition of Terms.
1. Standing - position
2. State - condition
3. Justification - a legal declaration that I am innocent and righteous. No direct feelings are experienced when we are justified.
4. Sanctification - positional sanctification is being set apart for God. Practical or progressive sanctification is the process of being made holy.
5. Glorification - a state of perfection involving both standing and state which will become a reality when I am with the Lord.
6. Saint - God calls me a saint when I experience new birth, and through practical sanctification I am learning to live like one.
These are words that occur in theological writings and some of them in Scripture. They are necessary for our understanding of biblical truth that relates to our salvation. You should learn them well.
One of the most basic understandings necessary for effective functioning as a Christian is that which involves the difference between where I am (in Christ) and how I function in the world today. Another way of stating this is how God sees me in the world today as opposed to how I and others see me.
This is a study of positional truth. My position has to do with where I am in the Father’s sight and this is called my standing. __________has to do with how God sees me in this world, and this is central in what we call ____________ truth. What I experience on a day-by-day basis is different, however. This is called my state. _________ relates to my every day experience in the world. It relates to how I see and experience myself in this world. My ____________is how God sees me; my ___________ is how I and the world see me.
Standing and state are usually quite different, at least at the beginning of one’s spiritual journey. The purpose of this session is to help each Christian recognize the difference. This recognition can make the difference between peace in a person’s life, or having great personal anxiety. Understanding these differences can literally set me free.
Let’s first look carefully at the position I have as a Christian. Central to an understanding of this (where I am) is the doctrine of justification. Justification is a key doctrine in understanding my ____________ as apposed to my ______________. The only thing I can do to give me adequate positional relationship with Christ is to ____________, Romans 4:5. When I come to Christ by faith, I become a _________ of God, John 1:12. I can look into His face and call Him________________, Romans 8:15.
In this position as a ___________ of God, I now have many things. Perhaps the most important possession I have is the _____________, 1 John 5:12. We have already seen in a previous study that to have Him is to have __________ ___________, 1 John 5:11. But this is not all I have, however wonderful that might be. There is much more. Not only do I have position in the family of God, I also have a position that is perfect because I have been given the __________________of God, Romans 3:22
His righteousness and life give me a _______________ standing or position, Hebrews 10:14. Because I stand in the righteousness of Christ, I am just as righteous in the Father’s sight as is _____________. For this reason, I can have ______________ in the day of judgment, 1 John 4:17. One whose standing is ______________ need never, never fear_______________, John 3:18.
A final and wonderful truth about my standing or position is that it has been settled forever. Look again at Hebrews 10:14. He has __________ ____ _____ _______ those who are sanctified (being made holy). For how long will this transaction last? For how long am I a son of God in His family? Write in your own words what the words “forever” and “eternal” mean to you.
It is a wonderful thing to understand truth related to my position. I am a child of God with perfect standing and righteousness. I am secure because this is going to continue forever. No charge can ever be laid out against me by an adversary, Romans 8:33. But I am aware that my life in practical ways does not seem to correspond with my position in Christ. I am justified — declared both innocent and righteous. Yet I sin on a daily basis. How am I to understand this seeming discrepancy with what the Scriptures teach about my position. Consider again Hebrews 10:14. “Sanctified” is in the present tense in the original and can just as well be translated b_______ s____________. This is a process that will continue for the rest of my earthly life. It is described in the Old Testament in Proverbs 4:18. Write what this verse says about the process going on in your life, in your own words.
These words are a biblical description of my ______________ rather than my standing or position. It is a description of my day-by-day experience in the world as I do battle with my spiritual enemies. What does 1 John 1:8 say that makes us liars?
Ecclesiastes 7:20 says there is not a righteous man on earth who __________ _________. So we seem to be stuck with being _______________. This means that my condition, in contrast with my perfect standing, might well be seen as im____________. This condition of imperfection has its “ups and downs” on a daily basis. Some days are better than others, but every day is characterized by _________________. In contrast with my perfect standing, my state or condition is highly __________________. It changes from day to day. Remember, the process of helping my state approach my standing is called sanctification, whereby we are being _______________, Hebrews 10:14. This is practical ________________, as opposed to___________ sanctification which makes me a saint. Practical sanctification is a process which begins when ___________________, and continues until I go to be with the Lord,
1 John 3:2. The rest of this discipling ministry has to do with how I can help my state be more consistent with my standing. This should be our earnest desire and basic effort in the world since we are representatives of the King of Kings and have made Him our Lord, Romans 10:9-10.
Questions for Review and Discussion
1. To which does justification relate - standing, state or both?
2. To which does sanctification relate - standing, state or both?
3. To which does glorification relate - standing, state or both?
4. To which does being a saint relate - standing, state or both?
5. How does my condition affect my position?
6. What kinds of things might happen to me if I pay no attention to my state and continue on in a life that never experiences progress in practical sanctification?
7. God declares when He justifies me that I am righteous. How can this be? What does He do?
8. Which is more basic—justification or sanctification? Why?
9. What is the relationship between justification and any future judgment for the believer in Jesus? Romans 8:1,2; John 5:24
10. In your own words, contrast justification and sanctification.
11. React to this statement in relation to the doctrines of justification and sanctification: “That person is really a saintly person; her life is one of Godly concern and faithfulness.”
The Christian’s Foundation to Stability in the Christian Life
The casual observer of Christians and the Christian life is quickly aware of the halting and stumbling of most of us in our Christian walk. It seems we will begin our walk with vigor, only to falter soon and slip into lives that characterize mediocrity. We find ourselves doing battle with our three arch enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. Many become discouraged and fall away.
This brief article is a statement of truth that is basic to the effective functioning of a Christian in this world. It is an effort to develop some basic teaching in a way that makes sense and help it become a part of the stabilizing force that will make one’s walk with Christ more successful. These are the doctrines of justification and sanctification. They are readily recognized as theological axioms, but inadequately understood as far as their place in our lives is concerned.
These truths are not new truths. Indeed, they are as old as salvation itself. Nor are they unnecessary truths. They are practical and important in our experience of Jesus Christ today. They are neither peripheral nor secondary truths. They are as central and important as the doctrine of reconciliation through the blood of Christ. But they are much neglected truths. We need to understand them for our walk with God through a world in which we struggle to be free from the carnage of sin.
What Is Positional Truth?
We have already stated that positional truth is a consideration of the doctrines of justification and sanctification and their impact upon those of us who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me attempt to make this understandable and practical.
Positional truth has to do with the difference between what I have in Christ as a child of God, as opposed to my actual condition in the world. Another way to express this is to say it defines the difference between how God sees me in this world as one of His own, as opposed to how I and those around me see me, and what I experience in the world. For the purpose of this study, these are called my standing and my state. Our first comparison and the primary distinctions of this discussion relate to these two terms. Let’s remember that justification has to do with my position or standing, whereas sanctification has to do with my state or condition.
We first consider the doctrine of justification. This is a cardinal doctrine in the broad scope of salvation and regeneration. Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and in, Romans 3:24, “being justified as a gift of His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Other verses tell us we are not justified by the law or the works of the law, (Rom. 11:6), and of course this doctrine became a focal doctrine in the movement we call the Reformation that initiated Protestantism.
What is the meaning of this doctrine? Why is understanding justification so very central to the body of teaching regarding my position in Christ? Do I experience justification when it happens? These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in this discourse.
First, it is important to understand the nature of justification. This doctrine is not something we experience. It’s a legal term describing what God does. The results of this declaration may have everything to do with how I live. The Father declares that something is true. When this term was first used in Scripture, it was spoken in relation to Abraham because he believed the promise God gave him concerning his son Isaac, (Genesis 15:6).
Some have attempted to make the understanding of the word simple by saying the meaning may be remembered easily if you say “just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.” When we are justified, it is just as if I’d never sinned! Now that would be wonderful indeed. We are all sinners and long for the ability to reverse many of the deeds of our lives. Words have gone from our lips that we can never retract. Works relating to the darkness of this world have been acted out and tears cannot remove them. We are all in the same place as far as our guilt is concerned. Time can never be reversed. But our Father’s remedy for this is in the doctrine of justification. Our God declares that I am innocent when I receive His Son. For me now, it is just as if I’d never sinned! This is part of the glory of His true forgiveness. When God forgives, He does not tuck the record away to be brought out at some distant date to incriminate me again. When He forgives, He chooses to not remember! He casts my sin behind His back...He remembers them no more. I truly am “just as if I’d never sinned.” How wonderful that One who knows everything can also choose to not remember! Psalm 130:3 says, “If you Lord, should mark iniquities (kept a record of sin), O Lord, who could stand?” This certainly implies innocence before Him. But this is not the only truth in the doctrine of justification.
There is another declaration that comes from the Father when He justifies me. Not only am I forgiven--declared innocent, but I am also declared righteous by the Father. This He does as a result of Christ’s resurrection. See Romans 4:25. Because of His resurrection, He can clothe me with garments that are suitable for heaven. I have the righteousness of God, Romans 3:22. The Father literally covers me with His righteousness and gives me perfect standing in His presence. Because of this, I need never fear future judgment. 1 John 4:17b declares, “...we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” And He is altogether righteous!
This truth is vividly illustrated in the Chinese word for righteousness. Many years ago, I was teaching my class in the Vineyard at the First Presbyterian Church in Honolulu on Sunday and was trying to share the meaning of “righteousness.” Somewhere I had heard that the Chinese word for righteousness was two words—lamb over man. I mentioned this that day. It happened that the Professor of Chinese Linguistics at the University of Hawaii was present in that class, and he corrected me. The correct rendering is wounded lamb over me. How personal and how strange and interesting that in a language of a people in darkness—even today, there is a structure that conveys the truth we desire to illustrate in this writing. It is “wounded lamb over me.” It could never be anything else.
The offering of the Savior for sinful man has made it possible for the Father to declare us righteous in His sight, and this is because He sees us through the righteousness of His own beloved Son. His canopy over us is love demonstrated through the offering of His Son and the covering His blood affords. And as the Father sees me now, He sees me through the righteousness of Christ that is my covering. So the Scripture declares, “Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy,” Hebrews 10:14(NIV).
Now let’s look back and review. I have come to Jesus by faith (John 1:12). Because of this, I am made a member of His family. In this position, I am justified. As one who is justified, I am declared innocent and righteous. I am no longer guilty before the Father and He has covered me with the righteousness of His Son. I now have clothing fit for heaven. I probably don’t feel it, but it’s true. I don’t need to feel it for it to be true. I simply need to believe it. And the glory of this is the sufficiency of His work and offering. It is forever! See Hebrews 10:14, once again. His one offering need never be repeated! My salvation is assured. Throughout the Greek text, the word apax is used. This word means “once for all,” and that’s the emphasis of the Hebrews passage. God has perfected forever those who believe. We have perfect standing before Him because we are justified. So justification is a legal declaration by God that I am no longer guilty. I am innocent. It is also a declaration that I am just as righteous as His Son because I am covered with Christ’s righteousness.
To summarize, then, my standing relates to my position as a child of God. That position is perfect. It is also permanent. This summarizes the meaning of the doctrine of justification. It needs to be learned well. It is the most practical basic understanding of a new child of God. It is absolutely necessary to understand for effective living as a Christian.
The Growing Side of Positional Truth
There is a practical side to positional truth. This involves the doctrine of sanctification. This is how the world and I see me on a day-by-day basis. This is the growing part of my life in Christ. The original text says those who are perfected forever are “being sanctified” (being made holy). Although sanctification has a positional aspect—we are set apart for Christ—it has practical aspects as well. I am in the process of being sanctified. Sanctification begins the moment I place my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and it continues on until the day I am with the Lord.
Paul speaks of sanctification in terms of our ultimate glorification, Romans 8:29, and as the process involved in reaching glorification when Christ comes for us. Once again the process of practical sanctification is found in Proverbs 4:18, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”
Think of the typical experience of coming into relationship with God. The description of the “path of the righteous” in the above verse is something like this description. In the beginning, there is joy—joy that is hard to contain—that is different than anything I have ever experienced. The burden of sin is gone. There is understanding that I now have eternal life. It seems that all things are indeed new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Then there is something of a slump and things are now almost as before, though I struggle to keep my joy if I can. And then from nowhere I am hit with the most horrendous trial I’ve ever known. Something that is worse than anything ever experienced as an unbeliever. Needless to say, I don’t understand it. I am now a Christian. Why should I have things like this coming into my life? I am not well enough acquainted as a babe in Christ to understand that it is through the process of trial that I am brought to perfection—that the Father sanctifies me! James is a very practical epistle involving the Christian life and difficulties encountered as a Christian. Trials are the first problem considered in his writings (James 1:2).
What do I learn from this? Could it be that this is one of the ways “God causes all things to work together for good,” Romans 8:28,29? Could it just be that this is the way God is now beginning my process of living a life that will burn brighter and brighter to the bursting of full day? Might this experience produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it, Hebrews 12:11? So I learn—pick myself up—and go on. I discover that although I have been made a new creature in Christ Jesus, this has not exempted me from the trials of daily life. I turn to the Word of God for further understanding and I find myself increasing in knowledge. The Word is sweet to my taste and there is a preciousness about it I have now discovered. It has become “the joy and rejoicing of my life.” I begin to learn how to “walk in the Spirit,” to allow this Heavenly Guest Who lives within me to manage my life. I have not relished the ideas of being controlled by anyone to this point in my life, but now it seems reasonable in the light of confessing Him as Lord, to let Him be my Lord and God. This is new and strange to me, and I must learn how to do this. I learn to acknowledge my sin and confess when I fail Him (1 John 1:9). I am involved in a process when I enter the state of “being” sanctified. This is far different from my standing which is perfect and settled once and for all—it is very unsettled and imperfect.
Therefore, standing and state might take the following form. My standing with the Father is absolute—perfect. My state, my sanctification, is a matter of growth or degrees. It is highly relative. What I am actually involved with is working to bring my state nearer the level of my standing. In the course of these workings, which will take a lifetime, I will have many ups and downs. I will slip and fall, but the Lord upholds me with His hand. I will learn to walk in the Spirit only to make choices that again involve carnality. Hopefully I will learn lessons from each failure that will enable me to follow the Savior more closely. As I make the Scriptures a part of my life, I will be cleansed, John 15:3, Psalm 119:9,11. But at best, my state is characterized by many failures, yet hopefully a gradual movement toward a perfection that will be mine when I am with the Lord. At that point, the process of sanctification and glorification is complete.
Justification is a declaration by the Father that I have perfect standing with Him because He has forgiven me and declared me righteous. He can do this and be just because of the death of Christ for me, and His resurrection, (Romans 4:25). What He has done with regard to this has given me perfect standing forever. I need never fear judgment or any condemnation in the future, Romans 8:1.
My life in a practical sense is different. I have experienced new birth. I am in the process of being sanctified and this is a daily matter of my walk with Him. Central aspects of this include my growth toward spiritual maturity and my ability to learn to “walk in the Spirit.” Because I am a sinner and actually imperfect in my walk, this is an up and down process. Some days my walk is more effective than other days. Until I am with the Lord, my walk will need work in order that it be more consistent with the perfect standing I have in the Father’s eyes.
Finally, there is no truth in theological thought more practical than the truth found in the simple terms “standing” and “state.” Assurance and peace are found in the teaching of this brief writing. And if both of these are necessary in a fruitful walk and a life of victory, there is no way they will sooner be a part of one’s experience than to grasp an intellectual and spiritual understanding of these principles. In the doctrine surrounding standing and state are the mighty and meaty implications of justification and sanctification. Do not let these teaching slip from your grasp. They are basic investments for eternity! Your life will find a stability in the understanding of them.
Key Thoughts and Concepts
The understanding of positional truth is absolutely necessary in building a sound theological base for a person. Therefore it is necessary to understand basic concepts and doctrines that are involved in the teaching.
Positional truth begins with the doctrine of justification. Remember that justification is a legal declaration that one is innocent (including the forgiveness of sin and restoration to Adam’s innocence) and righteous (I am just as righteous as is Jesus, because I am covered with His righteousness, Romans 3:22). It is important to understand and remember these two aspects of justification. It is also important to emphasize that justification is not something felt by us. It is a declaration that relates to my new position in the Lord Jesus and the family of God. Therefore the writer of the book of Hebrews states that I am “perfected forever.”
Justification gives me perfect standing with the Father. Nothing could ever be added that would make it more perfect. It is as perfect as it will ever be for all eternity. I am “in Christ,” a “son of God” in His family, “accepted in the beloved.” Each of these statements relate to my position. My position also relates to my being a “saint.” With positional relationship, I can understand that I am now a saint.
Positional truth must also include the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification – the reality that I am a saint – is also related to my position. A saint, according to Scripture is anyone who has made a covenant with God by blood, Ephesians 2 13, 19. There are positional aspects to sanctification, which have a basic meaning of being set apart for God. Sanctification also relates to my state or condition. In this respect, it is the progressive aspect of positional truth, and is never perfect. The latter part of Hebrews 10:14 says I am “being sanctified.” This is relatively accomplished during my lifetime, and it has to do with my ability to learn to walk efficiently in the Christian life. It will never be fully accomplished until I am with the Lord.
The basic truth that needs emphasizing is that my state does not affect my standing or position. I am perfected forever! This does not mean that I will have no concern of sin in my life. Rather, because I am a child of God forever, I will have every concern that my life might be pleasing to Him.
Glorification has to do with the ultimate movement of my state in becoming equal with my standing or position. When I am with the Lord, the process of sanctification will be complete—position and condition will be equal. I will be glorified and that will be my eternal state.
You may be a mature believer or perhaps you are a new Christian. Wherever you are in your growth, make a list of all the things you can think of that are yours because you have been born from above.
It is important to remember that there is never a time on earth when I can become sinless. It is not a matter of reaching a place where I cannot sin. But Christ has set me free and now I am able to NOT sin. I can choose to not sin in any situation, Galatians 5:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. I sin when I choose to not follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Related Topics: Discipleship