Christian Fellowship 1996-10-15 - Possession vs. Ownership

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.

In Roman Law there is a distinction between Proprium (What you own), and Possessio (What you possess). From the first we get the word property and from the second we get the word possession.

Now this relates very closely with salvation. Our Proprium is sin. This is what we own. Sin and only sin is what we bring to Christ. The Proprium of Christ, what Christ owns, is righteousness. When we come to Christ in faith He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. So Christ who owns righteousness now possesses, Possessio, our sin. And we who own sin, now possess, Possessio, the righteousness of Christ. We do not own the righteousness of Christ rather we possess it by His gift to us.

This makes us both a sinner and righteous. The reformers called it, Simul iustus et peccator , at the same time righteous and a sinner. Luther, early in his ministry, looked at this process as a promise or the substance of things hoped for. We want to take this further and say it is not only that we hope for the righteousness of Christ, but we, in some way, manner, or form, possess the righteousness of Christ. The promise is eschatological in that we do not possess this righteousness as we will in heaven, but yet in some way we do. The cross of Christ is the future glory breaking into us.

So is there any practical implication here? There is in every way. When we came to Christ in faith we brought our sin and were given His righteousness. His righteousness imputed to us. Therefore we are new creatures and ought to live as such. The old things must have passed away and all things are now new.

Calvin commenting on Hebrews 7:1 says, "As the King of righteousness (he) communicates to us the righteousness of God, partly when he makes us to be counted righteous by a gratuitous reconciliation, and partly when he renews us by his Spirit, that we may lead a godly and holy life."

Soli Deo Gloria,