The subject we have to look at today is one that has bothered thoughtful people for a very long time.
The Book of Job is possibly the oldest book in the Bible. In it, Job twice poses the same question. In chapter 9 verse 2, he asks, "How should man be just with God?" In chapter 25 verse 4, he raises the query, "How can man be justified with God?" It is our job today to find an answer, indeed the answer, to this very question.
It is sometimes suggested that to be justified is to be made "just as if I’d never sinned." At first, this sounds fine. "Wipe the slate clean." "Cancel all the debt." "Clear the decks completely." "Let me have another go." "Let me start again from scratch." Unfortunately, my own personal experience of life is that such an approach would be no good, certainly for me. Knowing myself as I do, I have to say that if I was given a second chance, the opportunity to start again, make a fresh start, I would undoubtedly go twice as far in the wrong direction, at twice the speed, than I did the first time round. No! it would do me no favors at all to be given a second chance, without the power to respond to God’s proffered way of earning the blessing, if such a thing were possible.
There is no doubt that the fundamental concept in justification is that it clears me of every charge that a holy God can righteously lay against me. That is what I would call the negative side of the very positive truth of justification; the righteous dealing with every valid charge that was previously hanging over me. It is a very good start, but it is only a start. It would be a very sad thing indeed if I was content to enjoy the fact of my being cleared of every charge of sin, but did not progress on to the very positive truth that God has, in a very definite way, pronounced me to have a fully righteous standing before Him.
That I have such a standing is without any shadow of doubt. Listen to what the Apostle John has to say in his first epistle, chapter 4 verse 17: "Herein is love with us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we, in this world." Think about that! The love of God has reached its object when believers on the Lord Jesus Christ are absolutely convinced that they need have no fear in respect of the day of judgment. And why? Because Christ has fully answered to God in respect of every righteous demand that a Holy God can make against sinners. And how do we know that? We have to ask ourselves a vital question.
Where is the Lord Jesus now? In heaven, at the right hand of God. On what basis is He there? We would not dream of questioning the right of Christ to be in heaven now. There is, and can be, no suggestion that there could be any charge that could be laid against the Son of God that could rightly exclude Him from the presence of God. That we can fully and readily understand. But this verse goes further. It says that we have equal title to be in the presence of God as He has. With this difference: He is there, in heaven, because He personally is qualified to be there, because of Who He is. Our right to be there is based upon what He has done on our behalf. Wonder of wonders! Our place in heaven is as secure as Christ’s own place there! As is plainly said, "As He is, so are we in this world." That is, even while we are alive in this life, in this world, we have the full assurance that we are as clear of eternal judgment as Christ Himself is. And none would dare suggest that Christ needs to suffer again for sin. That work will never need to be repeated. Or added to, because He did it perfectly the first time.
The longer I live, the more grateful I am, and ever shall be, that my salvation, my assurance of a place with Christ in heaven, is not dependent in any respect, or to any degree, on anything that I have done, or ever could do. The strength of a chain is governed by the strength of its weakest link. How glad I am, and am entitled to be, that not one link in the chain of salvation is in the least or smallest degree dependent on me or anything I could ever do. This is one of the many things that the truth of justification brings to me. Again, how can this be so? Well, so far I have found nine aspects of this wonderful truth. I will lay them before you one by one. First of all, I will tell you what they are, each of them fully true of those who believe that Jesus died for them, and rose again.
- We are justified by God.
- We are justified by the grace of God.
- We are justified by the precious blood of Christ.
- We are justified by the personal bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We are justified freely from all things that we could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.
- We are justified by faith.
- We are justified by works.
- We are justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We are justified in the power of the Holy Spirit.