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“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:35-36)
“How can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4) — Find the answer to those two questions and you will understand the message of Holy Scripture. How can a holy, righteous, just, and true God forgive a guilty sinner, justify an ungodly man, make an unrighteous person righteous, and an unholy one holy? How can the Triune Jehovah be both “a just God and a Savior”?
The Lord God says of himself in Exodus 34:6-7 that he is “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
Here are four facts revealed in the Word of God, facts that are stated with utter clarity, facts that cannot be gainsaid. Many try to deny them; but these four facts cannot be denied.
1. If you and I enter into heaven, we must be perfect, perfectly righteous, completely free from sin, perfectly holy. — We must “be perfect to be accepted” (Leviticus 22:21). “The unclean shall not pass over” Zion’s Highway (Isaiah 35:8-10). It is written, “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
2. The God of Glory cannot and will not simply pretend that a sinner is righteous and save him. — “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). — “I will not justify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7).
3. God almighty cannot condemn a just man, slay a righteous man, or punish an innocent man. Holiness will not allow it. Justice will not permit it. — That is an “abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). — He will not “condemn the innocent blood” (Psalm 94:21). — The holy, just God will not “slay the righteous with the wicked” (Genesis 18:23-25). Abraham used this as his plea with God for Lot’s deliverance from Sodom.
4. The only possible way for God to save sinners is if God himself, “the God of all grace,” finds a way in mercy and truth to make the sinner perfectly righteous and holy. — “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Proverbs 16:6).
Blessed be his holy name forever, God did find a way of mercy and truth to save our poor souls; and that way is the substitutionary, sin-atoning sacrifice of his own dear Son in our place at Calvary! — He “saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom” (Job 33:24). The gospel of God is the revelation of God’s righteousness (Romans 3:21-31).
Weights and Balances
In Leviticus 19, the Lord God gives a command repeated and enforced by law throughout the Old Testament era. It is a command regarding weights and balances and measures.
“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (vv. 35-36)
In weighing and measuring out dry goods and liquids, in buying and in selling, God required Israel to always use “just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin” (Deuteronomy 25:13; Proverbs 16:11; 20:23).
Why did God, throughout the Old Testament, speak so clearly about just weights and balances? Was he merely teaching us to be honest in business when he gave these commandments? Oh, no! The Lord himself tells us in Micah 6:11 that he was by these things teaching us about his way of bestowing salvation upon chosen sinners in complete and perfect righteousness, justice, and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Doth the Almighty pervert justice?” (Job 8:3) Never. Throughout the Holy Scriptures the Lord God asserts in unequivocal terms that he abhors all injustice. If he saves, he will be “a just God and a Savior” (Isaiah 45:21). If he damns, it will be upon the grounds of strict justice.
He will never use wicked balances or deceitful weights. He has named himself a God who will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7). — “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers” (Job 8:20). — “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15).
Here, in Leviticus 19:35-36, the Lord God shows us his absolute, unbending justice in the exercise of his free, saving grace in Christ Jesus.
Christ made Sin
The Lord God used just balances and weights when he punished his Son as our Substitute at Calvary. — He was doing justice. If we were to be redeemed, Christ had to die in our stead. The Just must die for the unjust, the Righteous for the unrighteous, the Innocent for the guilty, the Holy for the unholy, the Sinless for the sinful. Because the Lord God is holy, just, and true, he could not and would not impute sin to his dear Son and punish him for our sins, except he make him to be sin for us who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). No court on earth can impute guilt where there is none, unless the court itself is corrupt and unjust. The court of heaven is neither corrupt nor unjust. In fact, the Lord God specifically declares, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Proverbs 16:6).
When the Lord Jesus Christ bore our sins in his own body on the tree, he was made sin for us. When he was made sin for us, he became guilty as our Substitute, and our sins were imputed to him, because “He who knew no sin was made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21; Psalms 40:12; 69:5).
Then, the Lord God, the triune Jehovah, cried, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the Man that is my fellow: smite the Shepherd” (Zechariah 13:7). When Christ died at Calvary, he died because he was found worthy of death. That is the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. We could never have obtained righteousness; we could never have been made the righteousness of God in Christ had not the Lord Jesus been made sin for us. Our Lord Jesus was wondrously, mysteriously, profoundly made, caused to be, sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Traditionally, it is said that Christ was made sin by imputation. I have erroneously said that many, many times myself. But the Word of God never says that. There is never a place, not even one, in the Book of God where a legal or forensic term is used with reference to Christ being made sin. It is certainly true that our sins were imputed to our Savior. Had they not been imputed to him, he could never have suffered the wrath of God for our sins. But he was not made sin by imputation. Our sins were justly imputed to him, because he was made sin for us.
The Bible does not say our sins were pasted on him in a legal, ceremonial way. The Book of God says, “He hath made him sin for us.” The Word of God does not say he was treated as though he were sin. It says, “He hath made him sin for us!” The Book does not say he was accounted a transgressor. The Book of God says, “He hath made him sin for us!” And the Holy Spirit does not say that he was made a sin-offering. The Book of God says, “He hath made him sin for us!”
Our Savior had no sin of his own. He was born without original sin, being even from birth “that Holy One” (Luke 1:35). Throughout his life he “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22), “and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). But on Calvary, the holy Lord God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Just as in the incarnation “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), in substitution he who was made flesh “was made sin for us.”
I do not know how God could be made flesh and never cease to be God; but he was. I do not know how God could die and yet never die; but he did (Acts 20:28). And I do not know how Christ, who knew no sin, could be made sin and yet never have sinned; but he was.
The Lord God never plays “Let’s Pretend!” I will not guess or try to explain how God became a man; but I rejoice in and hang my soul upon the reality of the fact that “the Word was made flesh!” And I will not guess or try to explain how the Lord Jesus Christ “who knew no sin was made sin for us;” but I rejoice in and hang my soul upon the reality of the fact that he was! He was made sin for us “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him!”
These things are mysteries beyond the reach of human comprehension. But they are facts of Divine Revelation to which we bow with adoration. Hard as it is for many to realize, our God is “slightly” bigger than our puny brains! Mysteriously, profoundly, wondrously, in a way that defies explanation, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Darling of heaven, who knew no sin, did no sin, and could not sin, was made sin for us!
“Much we talk of Jesus’ blood,
But how little understood
Of His sufferings, so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.
See the suffering Son of God,
Panting, groaning, sweating blood!
Boundless depths of love Divine!
Jesus, what a love was Thine!
Though the wonders Thou hast done,
Are as yet so little known,
Here we fix and comfort take,
Jesus died for sinners’ sake.”
— Joseph Hart
When our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was made sin for us he was forsaken of God. All the fury of God’s holy wrath and justice was poured out and spent, completely exhausted, upon him at once. He was slain. Justice was satisfied. And our sins were put away.
Now, by the grace of God, upon the grounds of justice completely satisfied, upon the grounds of sin put away by the blood of Christ, every sinner who believes on the Son of God is “made the righteousness of God in him!”
“My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.”
— Isaac Watts
Justice could not punish an innocent man. Therefore, Christ Jesus was made sin, that sin might be imputed to him, that he might be justly punished for our transgressions. By the just balances and honest weights of the court of heaven, the Son of God was justly executed upon Calvary’s cursed tree as the sinner’s Substitute. — Wondrous mercy! — Amazing grace! — Incomprehensible love!
To say, as many do, that God treated Christ as though he were a sinner, that he punished Christ for sin though he was not made sin, that he imputed guilt to his Son though his Son was never made guilty, is to declare that the God of heaven “counts us pure with the wicked balances and with the bag of deceitful weights.” — In the redemption of our souls by the substitutionary sacrifice of his dear Son, the Lord God fulfilled his own law, doing justice!
Sinners made Meet
The God of all grace uses just balances and just weights when he makes sinners the righteousness of God in Christ. — He does justice. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ was so completely made to be sin for us that he fully deserved to die under the furious wrath of the holy Lord God, so all God’s elect, all for whom Christ was made sin, all for whom he died at Calvary, are made the very righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our great and righteous God accepts his elect, embraces us, and assures us of everlasting blessedness in heaven righteously and justly.
As all human beings were made sinners by Adam’s disobedience, so all God’s elect were made righteous before God by Christ’s obedience unto death (Romans 4:25-5:2). God does not count us pure with wicked balances and a bag of deceitful weights. He does not bend his law and compromise his justice to save his chosen. And he does not simply pretend that we are righteous.
Rather, by the wondrous works of his grace in Christ, he makes his chosen righteous. By the obedience of his Son as our Representative, we have fulfilled all righteousness. By the sin-atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Substitute, justice has been satisfied in us, for we were crucified with him (Romans 5:19; Galatians 2:20).
In the new birth, God the Holy Spirit makes every chosen, redeemed sinner a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). All who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ have been made “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). That new man created in us is “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27). He is that new man in you “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). That new man is not going to be righteous and worthy of heaven someday. He was “created in righteousness and true holiness.” He is right now born of God and “cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).
Because we have been made righteous by redemption and regeneration, all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). If I am in Christ and Christ is in me, I am really and truly righteous, so perfectly righteous in him that I am worthy of God’s approval, worthy of heavenly glory, worthy of eternal life! Yes, we who live in hope of eternal life have a good hope through grace, a confident “assurance of hope,” because we are worthy of heaven in our Savior!
“With His spotless garments on,
I am as holy as God’s Son!”
Read 1st Corinthians 1:30 and 31, and rejoice. Here we see what the Lord God has made Christ to be to us and what he has made us in Christ in the sweet and blessed experience of his grace. — “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption: That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Paul is talking here about things we experience in Christ. He is talking about every believer’s blessed experience of grace. All true believers, all who are born again by the Spirit of God are in Christ, vitally united to him by a living union of grace. As the branches are in the vine, drawing life from and entirely dependent upon the vine, we are in Christ Jesus. We are in Christ, not by an act of our own free will, but by the work of God’s free, sovereign, almighty grace. Meditate often, children of God, upon this glorious fact. — What does it mean to be in Christ?
To be in Christ is to be blessed of God (Ephesians 1:3-6). In the everlasting covenant of grace, God blessed all his people with all spiritual blessings in Christ before the world began. All with which God can or will bless man, he has freely bestowed upon chosen sinners in Christ from eternity, in infinite fulness, and without measure. All who are in Christ have been blessed of God eternally with all spiritual blessings according to God’s electing love. In Christ, we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and accepted of God. But we knew nothing of this great blessedness until we came to be in Christ experimentally by God’s gift of faith, uniting us to our Savior.
To be in Christ is to be favored of God, the objects of God’s favor and pleasure. With whom is God well pleased? Only Christ (Matthew 17:5). If we are in Christ and one with Christ, God is well pleased with us for Christ’s sake. He cannot be displeased with the body if he is well pleased with our Head. As the smile of the Father is on his Son unceasingly and justly, so it is upon us in him!
To be in Christ is to be complete (Colossians 2:10). In Christ Jesus we are complete, full, lacking nothing, perfect. He is all our Wisdom, all our Righteousness, all our Sanctification, and all our Redemption. All that God requires of us, all who believe on the Son of God have in perfect fulness in him. Being complete in him, there is no lack, no need, and no room. The only way we can put anything else in is to push him out!
To be in Christ is to be free, freed from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13); freed from the yoke of the law (Romans 10:4), and freed from all possibility of condemnation by the law (Romans 8:1). It is no more possible for a believer to be condemned by God than it is for Christ to be condemned again, for we are in him. Because we are in him, because God has made us righteous, the very righteousness of God in Christ, he will not impute sin to us (Romans 4:8), and we can never be condemned. If the Lord God will not impute sin to us, he can never, for any reason, condemn us for sin. We are in Christ!
I repeat, when Paul tells us that Christ is made of God to us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption, he is telling us what transpires in the experience of grace when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our experience of grace does not make Christ our Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption. And our faith in Christ does not make him our Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption. But you will never know that Christ is your Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption until you trust him, until you believe on the Son of God.
That is what God the Holy Ghost tells us when he describes Abraham’s faith as an illustration of saving faith. When Abraham believed the record of God concerning his Son, the Lord Jesus, it was imputed to him (conscientiously) for righteousness (Romans 3:24-26; 4:3-11; 6:11). As our Lord Jesus was “numbered” with transgressors when he experienced being made sin for us, so we are numbered with him when we experience being made the righteousness of God in him.
It is in this experience of grace, as the sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, that all that Christ is is imputed to him consciously.
“The moment a sinner believes
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His blood.
The faith that unites to the Lamb,
And brings such salvation as this,
Is more than a notion or name: —
The work of God’s Spirit it is.
A principle, active and young,
That lives under pressure and load;
That makes out of weakness more strong
And draws the soul upward to God.
It treads on the world and on hell;
It vanquishes death and despair;
And what is still stranger to tell, —
It overcomes heaven by prayer.
Permits a vile worm of the dust
With God to commune as a friend,
To hope His forgiveness is just,
And look for His love to the end!
It says to the mountains, Depart,
That stand betwixt God and the soul;
It binds up the broken in heart,
And makes wounded consciences whole.
Bids sins of a crimson-like dye
Be spotless as snow, and as white,
And makes such a sinner as I
As pure as an angel of light!”
Joseph Hart — (1712-1768)
To say, as many do, that God treats sinners as though they were righteous, but does not actually make sinners righteous by his grace is to declare that the God of heaven counts them pure with the wicked balances and with the bag of deceitful weights. He does not. The Almighty never perverts justice. In saving his people he does justice.
The Lord God will use just balances and just weights when he casts the wicked into hell at the last day. — He will do justice. It is written, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). — “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Be assured, O poor sinner, be assured, the Lord God will not count you pure with wicked balances and deceitful weights! He will judge you in the last day according to the record of heaven. You shall receive wages according to your works when you stand before the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Everlasting hell will be your just portion forever!
Flee away to Christ! Trust the Son of God. He is the only refuge for your soul. — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!” Trust Christ, and the righteousness of God is yours forever. He has made you the very righteousness of God, just as he was made sin for you. God will, with the true balances of his strict justice and the honest weights of his holy law, count you pure in that great day! — In that great day he will do justice!
And our great God, the God of all grace, will use just balances and just weights when he brings his chosen into heavenly glory on the Day of Judgment, saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant;… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21-23). — He will do justice (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; 50:20).
Imagine that! Our eternal salvation in, by, and with the Lord Jesus Christ is the Triune God fulfilling his own law — Doing Justice!