Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Absolved of all Guilt through Jesus

"For we hold that one is justified by faith 
apart from works of the law."
(Romans 3:28)


Justified is not a word that we are very familiar with. It is certainly not a word that is likely to be used in conversation amongst friends even in Christian circles. Because of lack of understanding and use we scarcely plumb the depths of the immensity of this one single word as it appears in sacred Scripture. In this one word sinners are declared to be righteous before a just and holy God. 

Throughout the epistle Paul lays out two ways by which people can be righteous. By works of the law or by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Or to put it more simply by our imperfect works or by the perfect works of Jesus that are accounted to undeserving sinners by God. This is deep, because there is not a single person who is not born with the disposition to work their way into heaven. Even as Christians we must fight against the tendency to be accepted before God through our obedience. And so to grasp this, such that it sinks in, frees us from the works based ethics that we are born with and which we carry over into our relationships with God. 


The Word Justified

The word justified is a legal term. It is a word that sits comfortably within the courtroom and it is from this context that Paul takes the word and applies to sinners and God. In the Greek the word is dikaiousthai. This word as Paul uses it has several important parts to it.

1)All people every where are guilty. There is not a single person who is has escaped the judgement of God as being sinners and deserving of his wrath.

2) A Christian is cleared of all charges that relate to their sins before God who sits as supreme judge over all mankind. Therefore a Christian is declared to be "not guilty" not only for past offences but also for all the offences they will ever commit. This is not because the Christian is not guilty but because any guilt is to born in the person of another.

3) This word entails in it the great declaration that the Christian is righteous. That is all the standards have been met to be right in the sight of God. God can never look upon the Christian as being anything but righteous. This is not because a Christian is righteous in and of themselves but because of one who will account to them his righteousness. 

4) All sentences of "guilty" are removed, the standard of God is achieved on behalf of the Christian and the Christian is elevated to such a status that they are declared to be "the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

5) Since the verdict of "not guilty" has been declared by God no future punishment can ever be exacted against the Christian for the sins they have committed. This is because the punishment has been dealt with once and for all by one who stands in the place of the Christian.

Sadly far too many Christians do not grasp the importance of this word when reading their bibles. And this language has been largely stripped from the pulpit as being "too hard to understand." But this word is at the heart of the gospel. It is the truth that is entailed in this one word which sets the Christian free from the impossible task of trying to reach God's perfect standard in order to be accepted and approved by him. It is this word that takes the shackles from the Christian, places the verdict "not guilty" over his or her life and declares "you are right in the presence of God."

The One who makes us Righteous

The great dilemma we had is that we were not only guilty but we could never meet the high standard of perfect obedience that a holy God requires. It was simply an impossibility for us to escape the guilt that we deserve and the standard that condemned us every single day. On the one hand we could never be right before God, and on the other hand the more we tried the more guilt and condemnation resulted from our efforts. And so when Paul wrote about faith he was pointing us to a faith that is not exercised in our attempts to be right before God but in another's. This faith is not in self but in another whose life and death will make sinners right before God. One who was to be sent into the world as the only one who was without sin and so could fulfil the high standard of perfect obedience that a holy God requires and bear our guilt as the unblemished lamb of sacrifice for our sins. 

Just a few verses before Romans 3:28 we read in Romans 3:21-25:

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

The one who makes us right is Jesus Christ. Therefore to be made right before God is to put our faith in him to make us right before God. This is so simple yet so hard for us to believe. To be made right before God is not to try harder. It is to give up all attempts, to give up our schemes of self righteousness that fall so pitifully short and trust in Jesus. Having said this what can be gleamed from this passage of Scripture that gives the basis for how the Christian is made right before God.

1) A righteousness has been revealed that does not depend upon man's attempt to obey all of God's moral law although the law points a person to it and the Prophets declared it. This righteousness: (a) Is a righteousness that comes from God, and, (b) is a righteousness that is manifested in the person of Jesus Christ.

2) This righteousness is not one that is given to all but is only given to those who have faith in Jesus Christ through whom this righteousness exists and is gifted. The means by which a person is made righteous is faith and that faith is in Jesus.

3) This righteousness is not just a requirement for the "worst" people so that other more "good" people are right before God because of their moral lives. This righteousness is needed by all since all sin and there is no one who reaches the perfect standard God requires.

4) This righteousness of God is a gift of grace. It is not something someone can get. It is not something someone can work towards. It is not something that anyone deserves. It is given freely by God. 

5) This gift of grace justifies. It is able to make a person right before God. It is able to free them from all guilt and to make one who is not righteous, righteous.

6) This gift of grace that justifies comes in the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus justifies by: (a) Redeeming the sinner from the slave market of sin by the cost of his own life. (b) By satisfying the wrath of God for sinners by taking upon himself both the sins and punishment for those sins. (c) The blood shed by Jesus satisfies God's justice towards sinners. (d) Jesus was put forward as the agreement of love between the Father and the Son to save lost. 

7) Access to this righteousness is through the act of faith which is given as a gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8) It consists of: (a) Giving up on all attempts to be right before God and accepting the hopeless state a person has before the high standard of God. (b) Turning from self to God as the only hope to be made right. (c) Believing that Jesus can and does justify all who turn to him so that the sinner is acquitted for all their sin and they have clothed with the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. They are made right in the presence of God. 

8)Because justification is a gift of grace that is accomplished through Jesus those who believe in Jesus can never lose their right standing before God. Though sin is still present the Christian lives no longer under the identity of who they once were but who they now are in Jesus Christ.

Dear Christian you are righteousness because Jesus makes you righteous. You are acquitted because someone else stood in your place and received the punishment you deserved. The verdict has come from the very throne of God and he has said, "not guilty." He says to you this day, "there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) What a wonderful truth that all who believe in Jesus are released without charge, are never to have their sins brought against them again, and are righteous, here, now, so that they are being made into the very righteousness which they already are in Christ.

Dear Christian all your sins were nailed to the cross in the hands and feet of Jesus. Heaven was emptied of all judgement and punishment as it was poured out upon the Son. Why punish yourself for your sins as though Jesus' death upon the cross was not enough? Why fall into despair because of your sins when Jesus has set you free from all condemnation? Jesus did not die so that we could again put ourselves under the verdict of "guilty." His death sets you free from all guilt. The doors of heaven have been flung open to you never to be closed ever again.  

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