Gary: In this segment, Understanding the Scriptures, we continue our exploration of the Doctrine of Salvation, with a special emphasis on the subject of Justification. Again, along with Dave Hunt, here’s T. A. McMahon.
Tom: In our continuing discussion of salvation, we referred to in the earlier segment about justification and this joint declaration between Lutherans and Catholics, but that does bring up “justification.” Dave, you alluded to the fact that Lutherans had one view, Catholics had another, but they’re signing an agreement to maintaining their own view.
Well, the meaning of a word, the meaning of a concept, if it’s going to have its basis in truth, there has to be a biblical meaning. And we have to have a biblical understanding of what that word means. Let me quote a couple of scriptures:
First of all, Romans:5:16, 18, talk about justification. Romans:5:18: “Therefore, as by the offense of one [talking about Adam, right?], judgment came upon all men to condemnation. Even so, by the righteousness of one [that is, Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
What does “justification” mean?
Dave: Well, I don’t have a dictionary in front of me, but from the Bible it means that I’m declared just, as though I had not sinned. The scripture says, in Romans 3—Paul is arguing this. He says, “Therefore (v. 20), by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” But then he says, “Now, the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.”
So, “He is made unto me wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption,” 1 Corinthians says. So, Christ becomes my righteousness. This righteousness is imputed to me.
Tom: “Imputed.” Explain that.
Dave: Well, it is credited to my account. There is no way that I can be made righteous, having once sinned!
Tom: There’s no penance, there’s no things that we can do. We’re already under condemnation.
Dave: Nothing that will purify me, and that will rid me from the stigma of the sin that I have committed. I’m going to have to be forgiven. But there has to be a just basis. So, it says, “The righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace.”
So, if it’s grace, it’s not something that I have earned. It’s not some…merit that I now have.
Tom: And it’s not grace that helps me to pay for the sin…
Tom: We can’t do it.
Dave: No, there’s no way you could do that. This is grace that credits to my account. But it’s very clear: it’s not just…God can’t just be gracious. It’s very clear. It says, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans:3:24). It is only because Christ paid the penalty for my sins that God can forgive me. And it says, “…whom God has set forth to be a propitiation…,” that is, literally, “the sacrifice” that pays the penalty.
Tom: It satisfies the requirement that the Law demands. God’s infinite justice.
Dave: It doesn’t appease God. It satisfies the justice of God. “…to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God [because He didn’t have to do this for us]…to declare, I say, at this time, His righteousness that he [that is, God] might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Now, how can God forgive a sinner? That’s what Paul is arguing. How can He be just? Someone stands before Him and has been found guilty by the Law, and the penalty must be meted out. Now, how could the judge forgive that person? Only if someone else, somehow…well, if it’s a fine, it’s easy to understand. If you owe a hundred dollars to the court, and you don’t have the money, and I pay the hundred dollars for you, it’s as though you had paid it. I have given it…I have paid it on your account.
Now, it’s a little more difficult when you think of, well, “yeah, but suppose you committed murder and the penalty is death? Then why would they put me in the electric chair instead of you?” That’s a little bit more complicated. In fact, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ.” When I accept Christ, I acknowledge the fact that He stood…took my place, and He was punished for my sins. That means that I deserved that. And so, I accept His death as my death. I’m not trying to get around this and get out of it. In fact, “I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Now I’m a new creature in Christ. A whole amazing miraculous transaction has taken place.
And so, this is what He’s saying, “For the remission of sins that are past, to declare, I say, at this time, His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Because Jesus has paid the penalty on my behalf.
Then he says, “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.”
Tom: Right. Trusting completely in Christ.
Dave: It’s good news. The Bible calls the gospel “Good News.” And it’s wonderful news! And I’m going to have to believe, somehow—I don’t know how God has done it. I don’t know how Christ paid the penalty for my sins. I know that the wages of sin is death, and that I would be eternally separated from God. That it would take me eternity to pay this penalty. I could never pay it. I’d be separated from God.
Now, God is infinite. And He could pay the penalty, but it wouldn’t be just, because He’s not a man. So, God became a man through the virgin birth. He didn’t cease to be God; He’ll never cease to be man. He’s the one-and-only God-Man because of who He is. Somehow—I don’t understand it, but He, hanging on that cross, paid the penalty—the infinite penalty that His infinite justice required, and on that…when I believe that, and I believe that on that basis, He offers pardon—justly—and eternal life to me, as an unworthy sinner, and I believe this, and I accept His offer by faith, the Bible says I’m forgiven! I am a new creature in Christ Jesus. I’ve been transformed. I’ve been born again. Many ways that the Bible puts it. It is only by faith. It is all of grace. I cannot merit it. I cannot deserve it. It is a gift, the Bible says. The gift of God is eternal life. You can’t earn a gift. This is a wonderful use of the gospel!
Now, why wouldn’t a person accept that? “Well, it’s too…too good to be true!”
Tom: Some would think, Well, it’s just too easy. But they’re not thinking. In other words, it’s the only way it can happen. If we are totally disqualified because we’re under condemnation, and the scripture says if you’re going to pay for sin, you have to be without sin. Or you pay for your own sins, correct?
Dave: That’s right. You can’t pay for another’s sin…
Tom: …So God…
Dave: …if you have your own to pay for.
Tom: Right. So God had to not only become a man, and be the sacrifice—the only qualified sacrifice for this—but He makes it a gift to us. That’s the only way we can receive it.
Dave: It can only be a gift. But the Bible makes it very clear: if you try to pay for a gift, and I guess, we’ve been over this before, but we have to go over it again and again—if I offer you a birthday present, and you insist on paying for it, what are you doing? You are rejecting my gift! When you try to pay for it, you are refusing to accept it as a gift from me! And when anyone tries to pay for the gift of eternal life—by church membership, penance, wearing some medal or scapular, or prayers—whatever it may be, whatever you offer to God in exchange for His gift of eternal life, you have refused to accept that gift. You are robbing God of the joy of giving you the gift. You are putting a value on that gift. You are claiming that you, in fact, could contribute to it. You could somehow pay at least in part for this, and therefore you are rejecting God’s gift. You’re insulting God. It’s horrible!
And you say, “Well, just because I don’t believe that Jesus died for me, and I don’t accept this as a free gift, then I’m lost forever?”
Well, you’ve rejected the gift, and there’s only one way that this can come. And you can’t subvert God’s justice. You can’t somehow claim that you can pay in part.
And you know, it’s…Tom, it goes to this matter of eternal security as well. There are people who believe, Well, I accept the gift as a free gift. I accept salvation as a free gift. But now, I’ve got to live a good-enough life to keep it.
Well, if that were true, then you could walk the golden streets one day in heaven and say, “Well, it’s wonderful, this grace and love and mercy, and I know that I received salvation as a free gift, but I get some of the credit, too, because I lived a good enough life to keep my salvation.”
And you can’t even do that. There’s no way that any of us can share in the payment for our sins. Only Christ could do that.