What, then, are we to say about Abraham, our ancestor
in the natural line? If Abraham was justified by anything he had done,
then he has a ground for pride. But he has no such ground before God;
for what does Scripture say? "Abraham put his faith in God, and
that faith was counted to him as righteousness. Now if a man does a
piece of work, his wages are not "counted as a favour; they are
paid as a debt. But if without any work to his credit he simply puts his
faith in him WHO ACQUITS THE GUILTY, then his faith is indeed
"counted as righteousness" (Rom. 4:1-5, N.E.B.).
THE FALL of Adam has entailed great evils for the
entire race. Men are born into a world of sin for which they were not
originally responsible. Men have no choice concerning where to be born or
to live. Man cannot move to another world where sin does not exist. It is
not manís fault that he is born into a world and a state of sin.
Therefore, it appears that it would be quite unjust for
God to leave man in his lost condition and under condemnation, without
providing a way of escape. But to rescue sinners involves great problems
for God, for man, and for the universe. It is not just a matter of
forgiving man and glossing over sin. Sin works two evils in the human
race: it separates the individual from God, and disorders the life in
itself. Both these evils must be overcome in any divine remedy. The death
penalty must be removed. Man must be restored to a right relationship to
God and to a moral and spiritual state of health.
When interpreting the different aspects of Godís plan
of redemption, the Bible uses such terms as justification, born again,
reconciliation, righteousness, and sanctification. All these
terms describe certain realities of Christian experience. In this chapter
we are primarily concerned with the doctrine of justification. The basic
meaning of the Greek word translated "to justify" involves a
judgment made in conformity with a standard of what is right: just
according to the law.
If there be a controversy between men, and they
come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall
justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked (Deut. 25:1).
To justify in this passage means to pronounce a
favorable verdict on the basis of the personís being proved to be in the
right. Condemnation is the opposite judgment. The Bible insists that
judges of men must make only righteous judgments.
He that justifieth the wicked, and he that
condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord (Prov.
Woe unto them . . . which justify the wicked for
reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him (Isa.
In His judgment of men, God says of Himself: "I will not justify
the wicked" (Ex. 23:7).
Three times Job asked the question: How can a man be just before God?
(Job 9:2; 15:14; 25:4.) How could man possibly get an
acquittal before God in view of the fact that he is a sinner? How could
God ever declare man righteous when he is unrighteous? Job could see no
way for this to take place.
The issue is this: Can the verdict of condemnation for disobedience and
sin be changed, and how? Can God reverse the verdict and still remain
righteous in His judgments? And if so, on what basis? Is there any way God
can now take the side of the sinner?
The apostle Paul affirmed that God does "acquit
the guilty." In this issue it appears that Godís own character is
at stake. The reasoning is something like this: According to the Bible,
does not justification rest entirely on a manís moral uprightness, and
condemnation on a departure from it? If God acquits the guilty, is He not
taking sides with sin rather than with righteousness? Is He not Himself an
The Jews believed that God dealt with men merely
according to their own personal obedience to the law. Men were judged and
declared righteous because they were righteous. For the most part, the Jew
accepted no other way of securing a favorable verdict before God. The
judgment of God was based on a standard to be obeyed. Schools of scribes
and rabbis were organized to explain the application of the law to every
conceivable experience of human life. The Pharisees insisted that God can
justify only those who obey the law and not those who break it. If God is
a righteous Judge, then like the righteous judges in the courts of the
land, He can give acquittal only when man actually deserves it. And to
deserve it, man must be righteous and live righteously.
Must not God, therefore, give priority to His law? If
so, there is only one thing for God to do: execute the death penalty on
all sinners. Or can He make an exception just this once and not count the
violation of His law? Granted God has a perfect right to say whether He
will or He will not pardon the sinner. He also has the right to say how He
will do it. But He cannot now proclaim that in the course of pardoning and
restoring sinners, He intends to bypass the principles of justice and
righteousness intrinsic to His own character. It is not possible for God
to offer a general amnesty for five or ten or twenty billion sinners
merely by divine decree, simply for reasons known only to Himself.
God created the universe of a million worlds governed
in righteousness. He created His creatures to live in righteousness. He
instructed them that any departure from righteousness would be considered
rebellion against Him. The penalty would be separation and death.
Consequently, when Christ came to the earth He made it quite clear there
was to be no tampering with Godís law. In the process of saving sinners,
God cannot abrogate His law any more than He can change His character.
Once the sovereignty of the moral law is reduced, so is
the sense of sinfulness. Godís plan of redemption is a recognition that
sinners are under the condemnation of the law and need to be delivered
from it. Any plan that aims to weaken the authority of the law or to
obscure the sinfulness of sin must, at the same time, diminish the urgency
of the gospel and the need for Christ. to bear the sins of men. Therefore
the case for, man as he is, looks hopeless.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no
flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of
sin (Rom. 3:20).
For one thing, obedience to the moral law cannot
justify the sinner from sins previously committed. And second, the natural
man is not able to obey the spirit of the law, which requires a heart that
is in harmony with God. Therefore any appeal to law or to the works of law
has to be abandoned. Before the law man cannot deny the charges. He cannot
How Can Man Be Just Before God?
No other truth is given more emphasis in the New
Testament than the doctrine of justification. The word in its various
adjective, noun, and verb forms is used more than two hundred times. We
are dealing with a truth of great importance in relation to manís
salvation and Christian experience. Paul makes frequent use of the word in
his interpretation of the doctrine of righteousness by faith.
But we know that no man is ever justified by doing
what the law demands, but only through faith in Jesus Christ; so we
too have put our faith in Jesus Christ, in order that we might be
justified through this faith, and not through deeds dictated by law;
for by such deeds, Scripture says, no mortal man shall be justified.
(Gal. 2:16, N.E.B.).
This truth is as important as it is simple and
intelligible. Men are sinful and estranged from God. They are under
condemnation and the penalty of death. In vain do men struggle to free
themselves. In vain do men hope for deliverance by self-righteousness and
self-dependence. ĎSuch men stand in dire need of being acquitted before
the bar of God. Therefore, the all-important question raised by Job must
be answered: How can a man be just before God? How can the sinner secure a
divine verdict in his favor? How can God possibly acquit the guilty and do
it with His righteous character and His divine law?
The gospel of righteousness by faith is good news in
that it would fain restore all men to God and remove all that comes
between the sinner and the Saviour. Thus God has instituted another way of
justifying and acquitting the sinner, by an entirely different way than by
law: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that
is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24).
It is important to get away from any technical idea of
justification. This doctrine takes seriously the action of the divine
Judge in relation to sin. Paul makes this quite clear in the following
For God designed him to be the means of expiating
sin by his sacrificial death, effective through faith. God meant by
this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had
overlooked the sins of the pastó to demonstrate his justice now in
the present, showing that he is himself just and also justifies any
man who puts his faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:25, 26, N.E.B.).
According to this passage God set forth Christ as a
sacrifice for two reasons: one, to demonstrate His justice or
righteousness; and two, to justify "any man who puts his faith in
Jesus." There is a divine and a human side to justification.
In considering the divine side of this truth, Paul
asserts that in justifying sinners, God acts in a way that satisfies the
principle of justice. Divine justice is met in and through Jesus Christ,
not in the sinner. When hope is held out in Scripture that God will acquit
the guilty, the promise takes us beyond any effort of man to make
recompense to God. Justification depends entirely on what God has done in
In the provisions of propitiation two things cohere
and coalesce: the justice of God and the justification of the ungodly.
. . . [This justice of God implied in the expression, "that he
might be just"] shows that it is the inherent righteousness of
God that cannot be violated on any account and must be vindicated and
conserved in the justification of sinners. This shows that the
righteousness contemplated in the demonstration in verse 25, as well
as in verse 26, is the inherent justice of God.ó JOHN MURRAY, The
Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Win. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pp. 118, 119. Used by permission.
Paul speaks in this scripture of the necessity for God
to make a demonstration of justice because "he had overlooked the
sins of the past." Paul argues that during the ages prior to the
coming of Christ, God had actually passed over sin in the sense that He
had never exacted the full penalty of the law upon sinners. For 4,000
years previous to the cross He had manifested only long-suffering and
forbearance with sin. This left God open to the charge of injustice. God
had not executed judgment commensurate with the sins of men. It appeared
that God had been satisfied with something less than perfect obedience to
the law by relaxing the penalty for transgression of the law. In this way
it appeared that God had passed sin by.
Paul goes on to show that in the light of this seeming
passing over sin, it became all the more necessary for God to demonstrate
His justice by a revelation from the Godhead of Their own judgment on sin.
He did this when He sent forth His Son as a propitiation for sin. By this
God provided the righteous basis for acquitting the sinner. The
implication is that God would not have been just if He had acquitted the
guilty sinners without the sacrificial death of Christ.
The passing over did make it necessary for Him to
demonstrate His inherent justice and that by showing. . . that
justification demands nothing less than the propitiation made in Jesusí
blood.óIbid., p. 120.
It was never Godís intention to lead men to believe
that He had relaxed the claims of law and justice; far from it. That God
would perform justice was "witnessed by the law and the
prophets" (Rom. 3:21). Throughout the Old Testament the message of
divine redemption filled the whole perspective of Israel. But until Christ
came God had not provided either the reality of a perfect righteousness
for man or carried out a righteous judgment on the sins of men. The law
had foreshadowed it, and the prophets had foretold it.
Christ saw His death foreshadowed in the Temple
sacrifices, whose blood had streamed for centuries. Every lamb and animal
offered, slain under the knife, spoke to Him of the divine purpose for His
coming into the world. All the fires of the altars, burning night and day
for thousands of years, were waiting for Him, waiting to be fulfilled by
the one great sacrifice, the Lamb of God.
Jesus was perfectly familiar with the Old Testament
revelations of the majesty of Godís law and the horrible nature of sin.
He saw before Him the hour when God would impute to Him the transgressions
of men like the sand of the sea for multitude. On the cross Christ stood
before God. He assumed the penalty that should have come upon all men in
all ages: the sins of those who sleep in the dust of the earth, the sins
of generations yet unborn, the sins committed by all kindreds, nations,
tongues, and peoples. The cross of Christ is the divine judgment that
should have fallen upon men, but is now assumed by all members of the
The death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross on
Calvary was not an accident; it was Godís work. It was God who
"set him forth." . . . It is a great public act of God. God
has done something here in public on the stage of world history, in
order that it might be seen, and looked at, and recorded once and for
everóthe most public action that has ever taken place. God thus
publicly "set him forth as a propitiation through faith in his
blood." óLLOYD-JONES, Romans, p. 97.
No revelation of God exceeds this majestic truth. From
the beginning of the world, the sins never to be forgotten by eternal
justice, recorded in the books of heaven, had been rolling down like great
waves of the ocean towards Calvary. Only Jesus Christ could endure the
dimensions of the divine judgment on sin. On the cross He knew that His
terrible agony was the righteous judgment of the Godhead. He knew that
this judgment must be executed. He voluntarily took this judgment upon
Himself on behalf of all members of the Godhead. He knew that there was a
final death other than sleep. He thereby confessed to all the universe the
meaning of judgment: the separation of the soul from God. In this the
death of Jesus stands alone.
The hosts of the redeemed stand here in anticipation,
the price of their acquittal paid. The eternal hope of reconciliation with
God and restoration to righteousness depended on Him alone. Christ could
have refused to bear the divine judgment on sin. Then all would have been
lost. What wonder then that such an eternal truth runs through all the
Christ went to the cross, not because men turned
against Him, but because the hand of God was in it. . . .Christ died
the death that sinners should have died. . . .He did this by the
appointment of the Father. It was the Fatherís condemnation of sin
that brought the atoning death of Christ, that and His burning will to
save men.óLE0N MORRIS, The Cross in the New Testament (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), p.
221. Used by permission.
There is just one relief to the guilty soul: the
hearing of God from the cross: "Give Me thy sins, receive by faith My
righteousness and My justification." No man who is confronted with
Jesus Christ as the worldís Redeemer should ever refuse to be saved by
the righteousness of Another. There is no middle ground here. There must
be no minimizing of Godís revelation in Jesus Christ.
On the cross the sinless Son of God, in love to man
and in obedience to the Father, entered submissively into that tragic
experience in which sinful men realize all that sin means. He tasted
death for every man.óJAMES DENNY, The Christian
Doctrine of Reconciliation (New York: George H. Doran Company,
1918), p. 278.
Thus the basis for manís acquittal and restoration to
favor with God is found in the merits of Christís righteousness and in
His bearing sinís penalty. The law is honored and the righteous
character of God revealed. At no time or place is there the slightest
tendency to weaken the authority of God. Godís plan of redemption
neither palliates sin nor diminishes the claims of the law of God. The
cross satisfies the justice of the Godhead in dealing with the sin
problem. An earthly judge has no such provision, nor can he do what God
does in giving His Sinless Son that by His life and death He can acquit
Christ bore the penalty for sin, but is no sinner in
doing it. He is the spotless Lamb of God. The Father does not consider His
Son guilty of sin or meriting condemnation. The fact that Christ bore our
sins does not involve Him in the sin itself. On the cross Christ accepted
for all members of the Trinity the inevitable end of manís moral failure
and the judgment he deserved.
Christ bought us freedom from the curse of the law
by becoming for our sake an accursed thing (Gal. 3:13, N.E.B.).
The expiation for sin was not that someone should be
punished, but that sin should be adequately judged by the Trinity within
our sinful world and before the universe. That is why Christ became a man
in order to die. No member of the Godhead could bear the penalty for manís
sin without taking human nature. For divinity cannot die.
All men, good and evil, die as a consequence of sin.
But this is not the penalty for sin that John speaks of as the second
death. (See Revelation 20:13, 14.) Only one Man, Jesus Christ, has ever
borne the penalty for sin. The manifestation of divine judgment on sin at
the cross and the imputation of Christís righteousness in place of manís
unrighteousness do not violate justice. They reveal it.
[Christ] revealed the righteousness of the
reconciliation of mercy and justice. The reconciliation of mercy and
justice did not involve any compromise with sin, or ignore any claim
of justice; but by giving to each divine attribute its ordained place,
mercy could be exercised in the punishment of sinful, impenitent man
without destroying its clemency or forfeiting its compassionate
character, and justice could be exercised in forgiving the repenting
transgressor without violating its integrity.óSelected
Messages, book 1, pp. 260, 261.
What right had Christ to take the captives out of
the enemyís hands? The right of having made a sacrifice that
satisfies the principles of justice by which the kingdom of heaven is
governed. . . . On the cross of Calvary He paid the redemption price
of the race. And thus He gained the right to take the captives from
the grasp of the deceiver.óIbid., pp. 308, 309.
Justification has been satisfied in Christ. How far
then is the believer involved? Is justification something done for the
believer and not in him? Is justification simply a change in oneís
standing with God, or does it include a change in the believerís
The gift of God is not to be compared in its effect
with that one manís sin; for the judicial action, following upon the
one offence, issued in a verdict of condemnation, but the act of
grace, following upon so many misdeeds, issued in a verdict of
acquittal (Rom. 5:16, N.E.B.).
If God is on our side, who is against us? Who will
be the accuser of Godís chosen ones? It is God who pronounces
acquittal; then who can condemn? (chap. 8:31-33).
In these scriptures the emphasis is on Godís
declaring a man just, the passing of a favorable verdict. Obviously the
believer is not made righteous in the sense that he is no more a sinner.
Justification does not restore man to that perfect state as God originally
created him. The justified man is still in a sinful state.*
As a sinner, the believer is no less deserving of condemnation.
Justification does not change the nature of the offense. God does not come
to show the sinner that he has not done wrong. He does not proclaim the
sinner sinless, for that would be a lie.
* [State of sinóThis term has reference to the state
into which all men are born and in which they live due to mans lessened
capacity to respond perfectly to God. Man lacks the insight into the
nature of his own egoism and sinfulness: The heart is deceitful above all
things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9}. This
state of sin, the absence of original righteousness darkens the
understanding, be it ever so slight; perverts even minutely the operation
of the will; makes the conscience unable to discern perfectly between right and wrong.]
Sin does not reign, but it does remain. The Christian
is a justified sinner. He brings to God an attitude of complete trust, not
in his own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ. God regards
him as righteous, as though it were really so. The justified man does not
believe something about himself which is not true. He knows himself an
acquitted sinner. God acquits the guilty, not the righteous. However, the
believing sinner is made right with God.
The great work that is wrought for the sinner who
is spotted and stained by evil is the work of justification. By Him
who speaketh truth he is declared righteous.óIbid., p.
On what basis, then, does God declare the repentant,
believing sinner righteousóas if he had not sinned?
"Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith
was counted to him as righteousness." . . . In the same sense
David speaks of the happiness of the man whom God "counts"
as just, apart from any specific acts of justice. . . . Consequently, he
[Abraham] is the father of all who have faith . . . , so that
righteousness is "counted" to them. . . . Those words were
written, not for Abrahamís sake alone, but for our sake too: it is
to be "counted" in the same way to us who have faith in the
God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead; for he was given up to
death for our misdeeds, and raised to life to justify us (Rom. 4:3-25,
The text states that the righteousness of Christ is
imputed or reckoned to the believer. Abrahamís standing before God was
changed from condemnation to justification. God no longer imputed sin to
him. God put Christís righteousness to his account. So God declares all
believers righteous by virtue of their relationship to Christ, who kept
the law perfectly for them. The verdict of acquittal is reckoned to them
because Christ paid the penalty for sin. God no longer deals with men as
under the law, but as they are in relation to Christ.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them
which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the
Spirit (chap. 8:1).
Acquittal by the imputed righteousness of Christ is not
some fictional transaction. God truly does proclaim the believer free from
condemnation. God does treat him as if he had not sinned. What is central
is the worth of Christís obedience and sacrifice. By the merits of
Christ the believerís status and life are changed.
From the human side, God requires the response of
faith. What change does genuine faith involve in the justified man? To
begin with, faith constitutes the believerís right attitude. This very
attitude of faith makes him right, with God at the center of his life. The
believer has been won back to God. When God sees that kind of trust in
Christís righteousness, He reckons him as righteous. By faith the
believer has already entered upon the way of righteousness.
Faith desires Christís life of righteousness as his
own. He wants what Christ is, and not his own righteousness. He is united
with Christ. He is now the adopted child in the family of God. Thus
justification by faith actually involves the believer in the life of
Christ. A righteous life must follow as the only true witness to being
acquitted before God. This will appear in life, in conduct, and in
character. The Christian has set this goal before himself and has purposed
in his heart to live like Christ. Faith never leaves the believer with the
idea that nothing needs to be done.
Christ through the Holy Spirit is forever putting
Himself forth as the power of God unto salvation. He who commits himself
to Christ opens himself to receive this divine life and becomes a partaker
of it. The life for which faith hungers is bestowed, not as a reward for
obedience, but as the free gift of God.
The sinner who through faith is right with God is
certainly not made perfect in holiness, but the power which alone can
make him perfect is already really and vitally operative in him. And
it is operative in him only in and through his faith.óDENNY, op.
cit., p. 292.
Justification is not automatic. It involves a
reciprocity between God and man. Thus justification anticipates
sanctification. Justification has been satisfied and completed by Christ,
but it does not mean once justified always justified, nor once saved
always saved. A man can apostatize from the faith.
Not for a moment does justification allow carelessness
with sin or with salvation. The gospel requires that we understand the
righteousness of Christ, that we study and believe Godís answer to the
sin problem, that we share in Godís hatred of sin. There is no
mechanical, automatic bringing of sinful men into the kingdom of God. All
willful disobedience is apostasy from God. Justification never ignores the
demand for a righteous life. It is the gateway to a life in Christ.
It is a complete mistake to ascribe to Paul the
idea of salvation as a process that is ended. When a man is declared
righteous, he enters the service of righteousness, becoming, so to
speak, its property; his faith in Godís righteousness is obedience,
and leads to disobedience. . . .The gift of righteousness brings the
believer into the custody of this power. . . . It is righteousness which
gives admission to the state of sanctification. It takes command of
the whole of life as the victor over unrighteousness and sin The
righteousness of God" carries with it the conviction that at the
very moment of justification the believer is admitted into the status
of righteousness in the new life: Justification is the means whereby
he is brought under the creative power of the righteousness of God.óGOTTFRIED
QUELL AND GOTTLOB SCHRENK, Righteousness, pp. 52-54.
Furthermore, true faith is never mere intellectual
assent to Christ and His righteousness. Intellectual assent moves in an
area of unreality. The saving power of the gospel is not based on
religious information and agreement with it. Faith is an active,
energizing, dynamic power by virtue of being united with the living
Christ. In this way the Christian experiences the spiritual and moral
reality that belongs to Christ. It is a reality that is beyond manís
ability to achieve. Morally perfect, man is not; but he has entered upon
that way. He has chosen that type of life.
However, when we speak of new life from God, we are
dealing with the new birth, with regeneration rather than justification.
If we are to retain the Biblical use of these terms, then it is advisable
not to make justification and regeneration the same thing. In Christian
experience they both may occur at the same time. The moment a man is
justified he is also born again. In experience they belong together.
Justification and regeneration are two sides of the same coin. We discuss
them separately in order better to be able to understand the different
aspects of the plan of redemption.
The prodigal son was not only pardoned and forgiven by
the father. In returning to the father the estrangement was removed. He
began a new life. He re-established the right relationship. He was right
with his father in heart and mind. Man does not remain in the "far
country" trying to change his life before returning to the Fatherís
house. Neither does he return home without any intention to change his
life. Otherwise the estrangement would continue as before. It is not
possible to experience justification and acquittal without returning to
God with the whole of oneís being. So justification means both to
declare right and to be set right. The spiritual life begins with
justification and regeneration.
The apostle James made clear the nature of the
involvement when the Christian is justified.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have
works; shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my
faith by my works. . . . But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith
without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works,
when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith
wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the
scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was
imputed unto him for righteousness (James 2:18-23).
James wrote in part to correct the antinomian abuse of
the doctrine of justification by faith, the error of supposing that
because we are not justified by works, we are not bound to perform them.
It is that error of supposing that one can be under grace without honoring
that grace. Let the believer show what the tenor of his life is once he is
justified. Let the proof of his justification be manifest in a life of
The question has been asked: How much of Christ and His
righteousness must be received in order to be saved? Can the believer stop
with the doctrine of justification complete in Christ? The safer question
would be: How much of Christ and His work of redemption may one reject or
ignore, and yet escape eternal loss? A limited or false conception of
Christís redeeming work can lead to deception. Justification is simply
the beginning, not the whole, of the Christian way. Christ does not stop
with justification. There is much that follows.
Justification through Christ is sure to everyone who
believes. To discover personally that God acquits the guilty is the
greatest reason for security, joy, and peace. God has in mind that the
believer should never move from under it, from now until eternity, and
should go on to perfection.
Justification, the acquitting of the guilty, requires
not that God later should dredge the depths of the sea for our sins and
bring them up against us. Every word that we have spoken is recorded as
well as every deed that we have done. One must know that in the ages to
come they will not arise and call us cursed and condemn us. Justification
makes sure that our sins are truly forgiven, that the redeeming power of
God will restore us to righteousness. Justification affirms that our sins
will not any more be imputed to us. The crown of righteousness means that
the worst sinner redeemed will be able to look round the universe and see
no trace of the evil that he has done. All this, justification
It is a natural question to ask how God could possibly
have accomplished this in and through His Son, who was called upon to make
such a sacrifice. The idea that some people have of a good-natured but
weak, doting heavenly Father who cannot find it in His heart to administer
the death penalty is not the scriptural teaching on justification. This
universe would not be worth living in if there was not a righteous God
upon the throne of the universe. Sin would obtain the upper hand and
righteousness be put to everlasting confusion in all the universe.
License to continue sinning and to break Godís law is
not part of Godís character or His government. A terrible judgment on
sin is revealed at the cross of Calvary. God does not acquit the guilty in
a light and careless fashion. He answers Jobís question by manifesting
the principles of His character and His righteousness. Let justification
be so understood and so experienced that Christians may look God in the
face and have His righteousness on their side forever.
Let us understand what God did in Christ. Let us see
Christ fulfilling the law and the will of God in His life. Let us watch
Him write the law and the justice of God in letters of gold across the sky
and in our hearts and lives. As the sinner beholds this wondrous gift in
Jesus Christ, let him realize that upon this ground alone the eternal
Judge justifies the repentant sinner.
Let not men believe for one moment that men are
justified and stay justified regardless of how they live. Let no man
believe he can play fast and loose with the righteousness of God and use
the cross of Christ as a city of refuge every time he sins. The idea that
Christ shed His blood in order that man can be indifferent about his sins
and careless about his obedience to Godís commandments cannot be charged
to Him who said:
"I am not come to destroy [the law], but to fulfil
[it]" (Matt. 5:17). Justification never leads to a life of sin. It is
the beginning of a new life in Christ, a restoration to the image of God.
Within the heart and mind of the Christian who has experienced
justification there is a response of gratitude, love, and obedience that
proves that the marvelous grace and mercy of God have not come to him in
vain. The idea of justification leading to sinful living and disobedience
to the law of God is everywhere contradicted in the Bible. Justification
has never been lightly bestowed. It is one of the most costly things in
all the world. With justification come holiness and obedience. No man is
ever justified except by the cross of Christ. But no man is ever justified
who is not now being sanctified.