I love the gospel. But sometimes I forget part of it, and I don’t think I’m alone. I meditate often on the new standing that is mine in Christ. Through no merit of my own, I’m counted righteous by faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-26). I am clothed in Jesus’ righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). I approach God in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24). I am treated by God as His beloved Son, just as Christ was treated by God as a loathsome sinner, in my stead (2 Corinthians 5:21). I have access to God in spite of myself because of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22). The truths and implications of the doctrine of justification are precious.
However, my salvation includes more than justification, and I’m prone to forget it. I’m tempted to think of soteriology and the gospel strictly in terms of my new legal standing. But I’m not only a sinner clothed in Christ’s righteousness. I’m also a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yes, I’ve been justified (giving me a new standing), but I’ve also been regenerated (giving me a new nature). I’m not the same person I was before Christ, now pardoned. I’m different. I’ve been born again (John 3:7-9; Titus 3:5). I’ve been united with Christ—spiritually, not only forensically (Colossians 1:27; Galatians 2:20). I’ve been made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)—given God’s DNA, if you will (1 John 3:9)—and it changes the way I live. I’ve been indwelt (1 Corinthians 6:19) and am being enabled (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18) and changed (2 Corinthians 3:18) by the Holy Spirit. So I’m not only forgiven for sin; I’m freed from it (Romans 6:1-14). In this sense, then, contrary to the great song, I’m not only a sinner saved by grace, though I’m certainly that. I’m also a saint; a child of God; a new creation; a partaker of the divine nature—still by grace.
Christian, rejoice in your justification. But don’t forget that it’s only part of the miracle that happened when you trusted Christ. You don’t approach God merely as a groveling sinner. You approach Him as a beloved son, radically changed through the power of the gospel.