Justification and Work

I’ve been writing about how faith applies to the everyday life of our work. I’m learning, just like the rest of us, how the grand doctrines of grace connect, form, and transform my job. Much has been written on how they transform our hearts, ministry, and even family, but I don’t know how much has been written on how they practically invade our workplaces. These doctrines don’t just live in our hearts, or in our churches, but they exist and are active on the street corners, in the restaurants, in our homes, and in our jobs.1

The Claim

The audacious sounding claim, is that through an act by a Jewish Messiah, humanity in Christ, has been put right before God. We have been “reconciled” (Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:18-20). This reconciliation demonstrates that not only have we as people trusted in this Messiah, but we also have been found “right” in the sight of God (Rom. 4:5), but that even God’s disposition towards us is one of delight, even to the degree that he delights in his own Son, the Messiah (Mk. 1:11).

Is there any room for us to claim any credit in this process?  Happily we say “No!” There has been nothing done on our part to initiate or cause us to be reconciled before a holy God. The claim sounds audacious, too good to be true even. We live in a culture that operates contractually. 50-50. Fairness is the golden rule now. This claim flies in the face of fairness, and is otherwordly because it is made possible through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). We “ran up the bill” so to speak, and Christ “paid the tab.”

The Christ

This is all possible through the work of the Christ.  What was his work? A perfect life lived, a sacrificial death died, and a victorious resurrection. We, as enemies of God, traitors of the heavenly court, stand in opposition towards God. Christ comes and “stands in our place” (Rom. 5:17). He tell us where we failed and put things out of order. Then he overcomes, and puts everything back in order.  This Messiah went down into our valley’s of sorrow, overcame the temptations of glory on the mountaintops, and broke the power of evil that stains this world.

He literally became the wrath-taker. Paul says he was offered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). We have the declaration from God, that in Christ, we not only have been forgiven, but we are invited in to the Father’s arms and home. We are invited to the table of Christ to eat, drink, and enjoy him.

I struggle to discipline myself to remember this declaration by God. I can easily get caught up in how I performed at work, then get caught up in how I performed in church, instead of resting in Christ’s performance on my behalf. Recently I went through a season in which, at work, there were people who seemed against me. We’ve all experienced this. During this time, it was easy to use my own performance to justify myself. Sadly the more I did this, the more pride crept into my heart, and the more I cared about what these people thought. I wasn’t able to respond in grace because I was so set on proving them wrong. However, the Spirit reminds me that my identity isn’t “Collin the banker” or “Collin the church planting resident,” but “Collin, God’s son who’s loved in Christ.” Grasping our justification, frees us up to graciously care and love our co-workers regardless of how we’re being treated.

The Consequence

Consequence is usually viewed in a negative light, but it only means the result of something. The consequence of this declaration of God is freedom from listening to the declarations inside our own head that either justify or condemn us. A final word has been spoken, a declaration has gone out; we are right, loved, accepted, forgiven (not merely excused) in Christ. On the flip side, we are in no place to make justifying or condemning statements about others. It is Christ to condemn and justify.

We are no longer bound to be defined by our circle of friends, the work we do, or society’s valuing of that work, but we are bound and defined, in love, in the fellowship and love of the Trinity. We are, therefore, freed from the work of our hands being used to define, justify, or condemn us.

Now What?

We are free to affirm others in the workplace because we are secure in our affirmation from Christ.

  • We are free to serve others in our workplace because our justification is wrapped up in the servant Christ.
  • We don’t hang on every word or declaration from our employers; our declaration in Christ from the Triune God of the universe sustains us.
  • We can live under the umbrella of the declaration of Christ, when the torrential rain of condemnation comes.
  • We no longer swing from despair (not good enough) to pride (I am good enough) in our work, but fix our eyes on Christ, because of his goodness and finished work.

Now our jobs are no longer empires we are building, but tools to live for Christ’s kingdom.

Be assured, justification means Christ is for us.

Collin Seitz is an almost 30 year old, grateful husband to Allison, father to Hudson and Hannah, learner, and most importantly disciple and lover of Christ and His Kingdom. He enjoys a nice cup of Oolong Tea, reading, playing basketball, and watching his kids grow up. He and his family are currently a part of Austin City Life, and a church planting resident there. He blogs at For Christ, City, and Culture. Twitter: @Collin_Steitz

1. I don’t mean to minimize the good news of Christ to the doctrines of grace. I understand that the good news of Christ as Messiah and King will be deeper and fuller than what I have written here.