When I was a young man, I owned a Porsche that I would store during the long cold Michigan winters. During the winter my registration would lapse, and I was often slow to renew it. One spring I heard of a gathering of luxury sports cars happening in town. I had a temporary paper registration because I was changing my vanity plate. Knowing that I was about to drive my car on expired tags, I took a sharpie pen and changed a “5” to an “8” which made my registration appear current.
I saw the police car do a sharp U-turn. I knew he was coming for me for no reason, but would my penmanship prove better than my luck? It fooled the rookie, but he was suspicious enough to call his sergeant, who shined his flashlight on my artistry. I was busted. Instead of receiving a misdemeanor for driving on an expired registration, I was charged with a felony for forgery. Stupid is as stupid does.
My one appearance before a judge in a courtroom in my life proved a costly lesson, but the semi-merciful judge saved my criminal record and reputation by lowering the charge to a misdemeanor. I paid my fine and moved on with my life…justified, because I had paid for my wrong actions. Everything that happened in the process was legal and just. I was guilty, and I needed to pay for my offense. I did pay, and I was forgiven by the state. Needless to say, I am not given over to forgery today. Lesson learned.
In the twisted sinful world we live in, one stands amazed by the secular state’s rebel defiance against the Law of God. Whether we are discussing the abominable practices of abortion, homosexual marriage, legal assisted suicide, godless government leaders breathtakingly defy Almighty God.
The difference between my criminal actions against the state, and the state’s criminal actions against the Law of God is found in the word “justification.” God has established His Law for humanity, and the Law exposes humanity’s sin and rebellion against God. The Bible even warns us that the Law provokes sinners to sin even more! Every level of American government is practicing lawlessness, according to God’s righteous legal standard. The problem with breaking God’s Law is that the Law makes provision for judgment and punishment. The wages of sin (crimes against God) is death (body and soul).
God is eternal. Sins committed against God take place in time. Time, however, occupies space in eternity. Therefore, our sins are eternal. Unless, an acceptable payment for sins occurs in time, each sin remains on one’s eternal criminal record. The sentence for unpaid sins is eternal punishment. Man underestimates the volume of crimes committed each day against God. The reason is that man is negligent of even acknowledging God’s Law. Negligence of the Law will never be an excuse.
Even if a person confesses his criminal behavior and activity, it is not a solution for the crimes he has committed. There must be a paying of the penalty for sins. Also, the debt of sin must be dealt with in its entirety, for if one sin remains on a person’s criminal record against God, he is guilty. Permanent guilt is incurred by one unpaid offense. One sin against a Holy God is warrant for just judgment and eternal punishment (James 2:10).
What every person needs is a declaration, “not guilty of all offenses.” This is the Christian doctrine of justification. It is essential for us to understand this doctrine, so we can explain to sinners the criminal plight they live under, as fugitive outlaws, trying to avoid God’s legal justice.
First, all have sinned. Everyone has inherited the original sin of Adam, and everyone given a chance to live has practiced sin. Thus, all are under sin. As stated above, sin warrants judgment if God is to remain just. God is just; therefore, he judges sinners with perfect justice, according to Law of God.
Second, judgment comes as God wills to apprehend sinners. Men foolishly continue in sin, not knowing that this may be the day their soul is required of them. It is appointed once for a man to die and then comes the judgment.
Third, release from guilt, through the forgiveness of sins, can only occur with proper payment for sins. Most people do not take sinning against God, seriously, because they do not take God seriously. If a twinge of guilt resides in one’s heart, she may attempt to offset her sins by a self-devised scheme of good works salvation. She reasons, “If I do more good works than sins committed, then I merit salvation.” This is utter foolishness, and it is nowhere found in the Bible. Every person is responsible for his or her sins, but the Bible teaches that no person is able to pay for his own sins. Where does adequate payment for the penalty of sins come from?
Fourth, the righteous Son of God offered Himself to God, as a sacrifice for the sins of His people (Mt 1:21). His righteous offering of Himself, as the sinless Lamb of God, was a just and accepted payment. This transaction occurred on the Cross of Calvary, where He bore our sins in His body (1 Pet 2:24) and shed His precious blood in redemptive payment (1 Pet 1:19). His ransom for many set captives to sin and the Law free from bondage.
We know that God accepted Jesus’ payment because He raised Him from the dead. Christ’s right standing before God is imputed to His chosen people, whose sins are imputed to Him. He who knew no sin became sin for us. God poured out His wrath on Jesus, our scapegoat (Lev 16), our substitute (Is 53). Just judgment was issued for sins. Punishment was endured. Payment of the penalty was made in full.
Fifth, God is satisfied with the Christ’s payment. On its merit, God issues forgiveness of sins, according to the eternal covenant of grace. Sin separates man from God. For man to be reconciled to God, sin must be put away entirely. Christ died once for all. His one-time sacrifice is sufficient payment, for every sin committed by all His people. As our Redeemer, Christ demonstrates His love toward us, through obedience to death on a Cross.
Sixth, justification stands for all eternity. Sin is eternal. Christ is eternal. Redemption is sufficient for all time and for every sin. Christ’s imputed righteousness, meaning our “not guilty” status, remains forever. This is demonstrated by the eternal Spirit of Christ indwelling and marking the regenerate, elect believer (Rom 8:9, 11). We have been bought for a price, and we belong to Christ. He has set His seal, His brand, His tattoo upon us. Nothing can separate us from Him and His love (Rom 8:35–39).
Seventh, justification and adoption, as legal status changes for Christians, also change our relationship. Sinners are criminals. It is their legal title. They are guilty before God and His Law. He will deal with unrepentant, unredeemed sinners in perfect accord with the requirements of the Law. When a person repents of sin and his sinful lifestyle, and trusts in Jesus’ blood atoning sacrifice, then he becomes a child of God by adoption.
Legally adopted into the family of God, and justified by the blood of Christ, he is now treated as a beloved child of the Most High God. He sins against the Law, but the requirements of the Law have been met by Jesus Christ, in His death. He now lives under grace. This is the same grace that justified him. Grace is God’s unmerited favor extended to select sinners. Loving grace provides fatherly discipline from the One he now calls, “Abba, Father.”
Eighth, justification is by faith. Paul wrote to the Romans and explained how Abraham was justified apart from the Law (Rom 4). The error of the Jews was to imagine they were justified by their earnest efforts to keep the Law. Faith, by Old Testament saints, and faith, by New Testament saints, is the same faith.
Faith is trusting an acceptable payment for one’s sins, made by substitution. A person must reject his own ways of justifying himself before God. God is judge. God has made one way for a man to be “not guilty” before Him. Jesus Christ’s payment, with His own blood, is the object of a Christian’s saving faith. We trust not in ourselves, but in His person and works, to accomplish our reconciliation to right standing with God.
Ninth, justification is part of the salvation process. Paul wrote to the church at Rome and established that, “whom He predestined, these He also called; and who He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Rom 8:30).” This verse guarantees our salvation. It also tells us that people who are justified by Christ are called to come to Christ.
The Gospel is preached to all creation, but for a person to respond to the Gospel call, she must first be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in order to respond in faith to the Gospel message. This was ordered by God, in His predetermined plan and foreknowledge, before the foundation of the world. Christ knew who He was dying for, and He knew who the Spirit would effectually call, to come and receive the benefits of His atoning death for justification.
Tenth, justification is not a license to continue in sin. It is common today for perverted people to claim to be “Gay Christians.” To celebrate sin, by identifying oneself as homosexual, is incongruent with naming the name of Christ for oneself. Christians abhor sin and lament sin in their lives. The spirit of antinomianism is behind this abomination.
To claim Christ is to take up arms and armor against every named sin in Scripture. To be truly Christian, one cannot belong to Christ and at the same time belong to sin. “Gay Christian” is an oxymoron. It is an untenable union between holiness and sin. It is a perversion promoted by double-minded men, who hate holiness and subvert the activities of Christ. It is common for their partners in sin to cheer them on. Christians must call these people to repentance.
A final word must be issued against the insidious nature of world religions in promoting a false gospel of good works to merit salvation. No man is justified, “not guilty,” before God by works done in self-determined righteousness. World religions and Christian cults, without exception, forward this method of redemption. We must call it a doctrine of demons and work of Satan because it is diametrically opposed to the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. We join with James in acknowledging that works cannot justify us before God, but good works are the natural manifestation of a justified believer in Jesus (James 2:14–26), who was created in Christ for good works (Eph 2:10), done by the Spirit (Phil 2:13).
In summary, man’s greatest need is to be justified at the legal bar of God. Mountains of sins bring forth criminal charges against all people. We are poor debtors to Almighty God. He has seen His people in captivity to sin. He has sent a Savior, Jesus Christ. Through His active obedience in keeping the Law of God, and by His passive obedience in dying on the Cross, He has brought many sons to glory through His death, where He shed His blood for the remission of sins. His perfect righteousness, through a sinless life and atoning death, has been imputed to His elect people, who have become the righteousness of God, by His resurrection from the dead.
My dear reader, you will never be justified in your sin. Recognize your plight and repent of your sins. Call them what they are, confess them for what they are, and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, you have learned God’s way for you to be declared “not guilty” at His judgment seat. All that is required of you, today, is to believe that Jesus paid it all for you. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Christian, you are forgiven and free to go and sin no more.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 11, 2020