The One Way Home

Knowing God involves becoming part of a great cosmic cycle of Death, Burial and Resurrection.

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the center point of all history. 

In Christ the Gate of Flaming Cherubim who Guard the Way Back to the Tree of Life

The Gate is on the East of the Garden, not the West of Eden.

“Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.

And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” —therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.“

(Genesis 3:22-24)

There is only way through the wilderness of this world! It’s by following the Trailblazer Jesus Christ. No one has the authority Jesus has.

“Nor is there salvation in any other,
for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:12)

“I am the LORD, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,  
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other;  
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the LORD, do all these things.’

 “Rain down, you heavens, from above,
And let the skies pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation,
And let righteousness spring up together.
I, the LORD, have created it.

 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!
Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?  

Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’
Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’ ”

 Thus says the LORD,
The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;
And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.  

I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
I—My hands—stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.“ (Isaiah 45:5-12)

The Meaning of Baptism

 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,  knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.“ (Romans 6:3-11)

Six Hours in Eternity on The Cross 

In The Cross

Nekrosis and Thanatos

How Saved are You!

Jesus Saves

How God Saves Us


Wholeness of Person

Our Lives in His

How Justification Leads to Holiness

by  Joe Rigney, Teacher,
October 5, 2021

Does our right standing before God depend on our becoming more like Jesus, or does our becoming more like Jesus flow from our right standing before God? I first began wrestling with that question twenty years ago as a college student.

The Bible uses a variety of terms for what God has done for us in Christ — salvation, regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, election, redemption, glorification. The question I struggled to answer was, How do all of these terms relate to one another? More specifically and personally, when and how and in what sequence will they happen for me?

Historically, my question was about the relationship between justification (being declared righteous before God) and sanctification (the ongoing progressive work by which we are conformed to the image of Jesus). Did justification precede and give rise to sanctification? Or was justification in some way based upon my sanctification?

Resurrection and Redemption

Romans 8:29–30 often sets the tone for the debate: 

For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Here we have a basic order: foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified. The question was how the rest of the saving realities — saved, redeemed, adopted, and sanctified — fit into the picture.

As I wrestled, I came across a book that proved to be a watershed for me: Resurrection and Redemption by Richard Gaffin, a longtime professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. The book is small — around 150 pages — but packs a theological punch. The basic thesis of the book has been profoundly helpful to me in thinking through how to bring the various biblical threads together on all that God has done for us in Christ. 

We Will Be Raised

The book begins with the claim that the unity of the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers runs through the New Testament, citing texts like these: 

1 Corinthians 15:20: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 

Colossians 1:18: “[Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” 

1 Corinthians 15:16–18: “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” 

2 Corinthians 4:14: “[We know] that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” 

Each of these passages expresses the reality that the resurrection of Christ is both unique and necessarily connected to our future resurrection. He is the firstfruits, the firstborn from the dead. He is the pioneer, the inaugurator, the forerunner who leads the way. 

We Have Been Raised

This unity, however, is not merely a connection between Christ’s past resurrection and our future resurrection. The New Testament also stresses that we have already been, in some sense, raised with Christ. 

Ephesians 2:5–6: “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 2:12–13: “. . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Romans 6:3–4: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

These passages teach that we are united to Christ not only in his resurrection, but in the whole of his life and death as well. We have died with Christ. We have been crucified with Christ. We have been raised with Christ. We have been seated with Christ. 

From passages like these, Gaffin draws the conclusion that this existential union with Christ is the most basic element of Paul’s teaching on salvation. 

Inner Man and Outer Man

The personal and existential union between us and Christ is intertwined with being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world as well as being in some sense “in Christ” when he was crucified, buried, and raised in the first century. In other words, while we can distinguish between redemption planned (in eternity past), redemption accomplished (in history two thousand years ago), and redemption applied (in our own individual lives), we can never separate them, since all of them take place “in Christ.” 

Gaffin draws attention to the already-not-yet dimension of redemption applied. In particular, the resurrection of Jesus has been refracted in the experience of the believer. We have already been raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), but we have not yet been raised with Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12–20). 

Gaffin uses Paul’s distinction between the inner man and the outer man to make this point. We have been raised in the inner man, while we await the resurrection of the outer man — that is, the resurrection of the body at Christ’s second coming. Paul makes this point explicitly in 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

What then does this have to do with the order of salvation and the various terms used to describe what God has done for us in Christ? Let me attempt to express the lessons in my own words. 

Five Glimpses of One Reality

When God saves us, the fundamental thing he does is unite us to Christ by faith. 

“When God saves us, the fundamental thing he does is unite us to Christ by faith.”

Union with the crucified and risen Lord Jesus is what salvation fundamentally is. But in order to help us understand the wonder and glory of our union with Christ, God gives us multiple word pictures or metaphors to reveal the significance of what Christ has done for us. Each of these word pictures or images enables us to comprehend the incomprehensible fact of our union with the Lord Jesus. 

Rather than trying to put the different terms into the exact sequence, we can instead see them as multiple ways that God has chosen to reveal the greatness and glory of what he has done for us. 

Five Already-Not-Yet Pictures

More than that, because of the already-not-yet dimension of our salvation, we can see that each of these word pictures contains three distinct phases: a definitive positional phase, an ongoing progressive phase, and a climactic final phase. If we run through the images again, we might say the following:

In terms of the law court, we are guilty and stand condemned, but Christ lives, dies, and is raised on our behalf, and therefore God declares us righteous in him. This is definitive and has to do with a new position and legal status based on the finished work of Christ. As a result, we leave the courtroom and seek to live upright and godly lives, walking in righteousness before God, as we wait for the day when we are publicly vindicated as his people when he bodily raises us from the dead.

In terms of the temple, God is holy and therefore cleanses the impure and sets apart the common for holy use. There is a decisive cleansing and sanctifying work when we trust in Christ (positional), and then the rest of our lives is an attempt to live holy lives, increasingly and progressively set apart from sin and evil, while we await our full and final cleansing in the new heavens and new earth.

In terms of the family, God decisively causes us to be born again, and then we seek to walk faithfully as his children. Or alternatively, he adopts us into his family (that’s conversion), and we now walk as obedient sons, as we wait for the final declaration of our sonship and conformity to the image of his Son when we are glorified.

In terms of slavery and redemption, we were enslaved to sin and death, and God decisively liberates us when he unites us to his Son. From then on, we seek to increasingly and progressively live as free men, since it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, as we wait for the redemption of our bodies on the last day. 

In terms of danger and rescue, God delivers us from the penalty of sin (death), and then throughout our lives increasingly rescues us from the power of sin, all in anticipation of the day when we’ll be completely delivered from the presence of sin in his eternal kingdom.

For Me and Conforming Me

Resurrection and Redemption proved to be a watershed for me because the book resolved the tension over whether my right standing with God (justification) depended on my increasing conformity to Jesus (progressive sanctification). 

“Justification is by faith alone, because faith unites me to Christ, who is my righteousness.”

Gaffin assured me, with Scripture, that my position before God — whether we’re talking about the courtroom, the temple, or the family — was decisively and definitively settled, simply by trusting in Jesus. Justification is by faith alone, because faith unites me to Christ, who is my righteousness. The righteousness beneath my justification is not something worked in me by God, but something accomplished for me — outside of me — by Christ. Union with him — his life, death, and resurrection — puts me right with God, so that God is completely for me.

Then, flowing from this new standing and position before God, God begins to progressively and increasingly conform me to the image of Jesus. The work is often slow, frequently painful. Sin remains, even if the wages of sin no longer hang over me. But my pursuit of holiness and obedience to God is rooted in the finished work of Jesus, both in history and in my life, and I hope for the coming day when God raises me from the dead and publicly displays what he has done for me and in me.

Related Articles

Jesus Plain and Simple

The Choirs of Heaven

Software not Hardware

Forwarding Address


The Exchanged Life

The Wasted Years

Born Again and Adopted  

The Ego Papers

The Exchanged Life

New Bodies  

In the Cross  

God our Healer 

The Normal Christian Life  

Come, Sweet Death  

God and the Quality of Time

Jesus, Judge of All

This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.  If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him,
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.”
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Music: Jesus, The Light of the World

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November 1, 2021