On July 4, Hawaii will celebrate its Independence Day. That is, Hawaii will celebrate the fact that on July 4, 1776, the united American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became the United States. The Fourth of July is Hawaii’s Independence Day. We all know this, right?
And yet it’s kind of strange when you think about it. After all, Hawaii didn’t send any delegates to Philadelphia in 1776. Not one Hawaiian signature can be found on the Declaration of Independence, and not one drop of Hawaiian blood was shed to free us from Great Britain.
If all that is so, then why does July 4 have anything to do with Hawaii? Answer: because in 1959 Hawaii joined the Union. She entered into union with the United States, such that our history became her history. When we fought, she fought. When we triumphed, she triumphed. Because of her union with the U.S., our privileges of citizenship have now become her privileges of citizenship. Our army has become her army, and our flag her flag. And on the flipside, her debts became our debts. This is what union with America is all about about.
Something similar is going on with what the Bible calls “justification.”
As Christians, we celebrate the fact that we have died to sin and have been raised to righteousness. We glory in the fact that God has forgiven us of all our transgressions and declared us to be completely righteous. As far as God is concerned, it’s as though we had never sinned and had always obeyed. There is no condemnation. None. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
And yet it’s kind of strange when you think about it. After all, we deserve God’s condemnation. We actually have sinned–often!–and we haven’t always obeyed. Given God’s righteous character and hatred of sin, forgiving our sins seems totally unfair, even reprehensible. As the Proverb says, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 17:15).
If all this is so, then how can justification by God have anything to do with us? Answer: because like Hawaii, we, too have entered a union. Not a union with America, but a union with Jesus Christ, such that his history becomes our history. When he obeyed, we obeyed. When he died and was raised, we died and were raised. Because of our union with Christ, Christ’s privileges of Sonship have now become our privileges of sonship. His righteousness has become our righteousness, and his Holy Spirit our Holy Spirit. And on the flipside, our sin became his sin, and he carried it in his body on the tree. This is what union with Christ is all about.
And this is how we are justified–by being in Christ through faith. “There is now no condemnation”–for whom?–“for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Now that’s a union worth celebrating. And you don’t even have to wait for the Fourth of July (2 Cor. 6:2).