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Sermon #53 — Romans Series
Title: Fourfold Justification
Text: Romans 5:1-2
Date: Sunday Morning — May 10, 2015
Reading: 1 John 3:1-24 or Exodus 33:12-34:10
I want to talk to you again this morning about justification. Our text will be Romans 5:1-2.
(Romans 5:1-2) “Therefore being justified, by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Perhaps the most important fact revealed in Holy Scripture is the one which men most presumptuously ignore, the fact that God is just. — “Justice and truth are the habitation of his throne.” It is not possible for us to understand the grace of God, the judgment of God, or the work of Christ until we have some understanding of the justice of God.
Because the Lord our God is just, he always deals with men upon the grounds of strict justice. The justice of God is the rectitude and righteousness of his character which compels him to deal with all of his creatures in strict accordance with their deserts. Justice and holiness are as essential to the character of God as love and mercy. God can no more put aside his justice in his dealings with men than he can put aside love from his character. Because God is just, the only way he can save a guilty sinner, the only way he can bring a sinner into an eternal union of life with himself, is if he can make the sinner guiltless and sinless in the eyes of his own law and justice.
This act of God’s matchless grace, by which God makes and declares his elect guiltless and sinless is what the apostle Paul calls “justification.” Justification is a legal term. It means that God declares chosen, redeemed sinners guiltless, sinless, and perfectly righteous before his law. And when God declares that a person is guiltless and sinless, perfectly righteousness before him, that person really is in the eyes of God perfectly righteous. Our righteousness before God is not just a merciful supposition, it is a blessed reality in Christ.
Proposition: Every sinner who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ is truly justified, perfectly righteous in the sight of God.
But how is this justification accomplished? This is the great question of the ages. — “How can a man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4). How can God be just and yet justify the ungodly? Find the answer to that question and you have learned the gospel. If you have not found the answer to that question, you do not yet know the gospel.
I have shown you repeatedly that — Because God is holy, just, and true, he demands an infinite satisfaction for sin. No man can ever be saved until he has suffered the just penalty of the law due unto his sins, so that his crimes and offences against the law no longer exist in the eyes of the law. God is as good as his Word. And he said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The Lord forbade Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying, “for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” No sooner did Adam eat of that tree than Adam and all of his race died.
· We died spiritually.
· We began to die physically.
· We came under the curse of death eternally. — Eternal death in hell is the sentence of man’s sin against God, because mortal man can never make an infinite satisfaction for sin.
Not only does God require an infinite satisfaction for sin; he also requires of man perfect righteousness. No man will ever enter into heaven in the eternal bliss of fellowship with God, no man will ever be accepted in God’s presence, no man will ever be brought into union with the eternal God until he is perfectly holy and righteous, even as God himself. God said, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (Read Matthew 5:20 and 48).
(Matthew 5:20) “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:48) “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
God requires total, absolute perfection. He will accept no one who is not perfect in holiness. Unless we render unto him a perfection of heart, perfection of thought, and perfection of life, with never so much as one deviation from absolute holiness, none of us shall ever see his face. If God ever accepted, delighted in, and was satisfied with anything less than absolute perfection, he would cease to be God.
Is man therefore without hope? God requires an infinite satisfaction for sin. We cannot give it. God demands absolute perfection. We cannot perform it. Are we all hopelessly doomed? Must we all perish? Is there no hope for fallen man? — Blessed be God, there is hope for sinners. He says, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty.” The Lord God has appointed One in whom “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
This is the good news of the gospel. God has set forth his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Substitute and Representative. And as our Substitute, Christ Jesus, has done for us what we could not do for ourselves, putting away our sins, bringing in an everlasting righteousness, and accomplishing our justification.
· The Lord Jesus Christ has taken upon himself our nature. He is the God-man.
· The Son of God rendered unto God the perfection and righteousness which God required of men.
· Our Lord Jesus Christ made an infinite satisfaction for sin, by pouring out his life’s blood unto death at Calvary.
· All that he did, he did as the Representative and Substitute of God’s elect; and all that he has done for us, we have done in him.
Every true believer has both rendered perfect righteousness to God and made an infinite satisfaction for all his sins in the Person of our all glorious Christ.
As the result of Christ’s finished work as our Representative and Substitute, it is a perfectly just thing for God to justify all who believe on him. In saving our souls and bringing us to heaven, the Lord God deals with us in exact accordance with justice. He is gives us that which, in Christ, we fully deserve. The fact is, justice cannot allow one of those to perish for whom Christ lived and died and rose again. This is what God the Holy Ghost calls “being justified” in Romans 5.
(Romans 5:1-2) “Therefore being justified, by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Divisions: The title of my message is FOURFOLD JUSTIFICATION. I want show you four aspects of every believer’s justification. Here are four things plainly revealed in the Word of God about our justification in Christ. If we are justified, we are justified by…
1. The Decree of God the Father in Eternity.
2. The Death of God the Son at Calvary.
3. The Declaration of God the Holy Spirit in Conversion.
4. The Display of Good Works before Men.
First, our Justification was accomplished by the decree of God the Father in eternity (Romans. 8:30). In the mind and purpose of God all his elect were justified from eternity. Our justification was actually accomplished by God’s sovereign purpose of grace in eternal predestination before the worlds were made. All God’s elect were redeemed, accepted, justified, and blessed in Christ, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; 17:8; Ephesians 1:3-7). This is not a matter speculation or hair-splitting theological precision; but a matter of unmistakable revelation. Read it for yourself in the Book of God.
(Romans 8:28-32) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (31) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Our justification did not commence in time, but in eternity. Paul, speaking of God’s eternal decree of predestination, declares that all of God’s elect were justified in his eternal purpose of grace.
John Gill was right on the money when he said, “God’s will to elect is the election of his people; so also his will to justify them is the justification of them.”
My friends, God’s act of justification is an act of his grace and an act of his justice (Romans 3:24). It is God accounting and constituting us righteous, through the righteousness of his Son. From all eternity God has looked upon his Son as our Substitute, and looking upon us in Christ we are, and always have been, righteous in his sight.
In the mind and purpose of God, Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and we were justified in him from everlasting (Revelation 13:8; Isaiah 53).
(Isaiah 53:4-10) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (9) And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
God set up his Son as our Surety, our Substitute, and our Redeemer, before the world began; and as such, in his own mind he looked upon Christ as having been slain for us from eternity.
Illustration: Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah
Because God our Father looked upon Christ as one already sacrificed for us before the world was, all the blessings of grace were given to us in him (Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 1:9).
(Ephesians 1:3-7) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
(2 Timothy 1:9-10) “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Thomas Goodwin wrote, “We may say of all spiritual blessings in Christ what is said of Christ himself, that ‘his goings forth are from everlasting.’ In Christ we are blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). As we are blessed with all others, so with this also, that we were justified then in Christ.”
There are two facts which compel us to look upon justification as an eternal act of God.
1. Had it not been for the fact that God looked upon his elect as being righteous and justified in Christ from eternity, he would have destroyed our race as soon as Adam sinned. God spares the wicked for the sake of the righteous (2 Peter 3:9).
Illustration: Lot and Sodom
2. The Old Testament saints were justified by Christ, just as we are today. And their justification was just as full, complete, and perfect as ours (Hebrews 9:15, 22; Romans 3:25). —— Every true believer is eternally justified in the purpose of God.
(Hebrews 9:14-15) “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (15) And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
(Hebrews 9:22) “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
(Romans 3:25) “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;”
Second, we are justified by the death of God the Son at Calvary (Romans 3:24-26). Though Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, he was also slain in time for the redemption of our souls. And though God’s elect were justified by his sovereign decree in eternal predestination, we were also justified by the precious shed blood of God’s dear Son at Calvary.
Listen carefully. — The Bible does not teach that justification was provided, or made possible by the death of Christ. The Bible declares that justification was accomplished at Calvary. If it was merely provided or made possible for us, but is not accomplished until we believe, then our faith would be as much the cause of justification as the purpose of God and the sacrifice of Christ. But that is not the case. The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that when Christ died those for whom he died were justified.
(Romans 3:24-26) “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Spurgeon understood this. He said, “I must hold that, in the moment when Jesus Christ paid my debts, my debts were canceled; in the hour when he worked out for me a perfect righteousness it was imputed to me; and therefore, I may, as a believer, say I was complete in Christ before I was born, accepted in Jesus, even as Levi was blessed in the loins of Abraham.”
When the Scriptures declare that we are justified by faith in Christ, the meaning is not that our faith justifies us, but rather that Christ the Object of our faith justifies us. We are not justified by our act of faith in him, but by his faithful obedience to God for us, as our Representative. — We were justified by “the faith of Christ” and receive justification by “faith in Christ.”
In his life of obedience to the law and will of God, the Lord Jesus Christ worked out a perfect righteousness for us. In him we have obeyed God’s holy law (Daniel 9:24; Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
(Jeremiah 23:6) “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
(Jeremiah 33:16) “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.”
(Daniel 9:24) “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
(1 Corinthians 1:30-31) “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
NOTE: The life of Christ was as necessary as his death.
In his death at Calvary, I died, fully satisfying the demands of God’s law and justice against me for sin (Galatians 3:13; 2:20; Romans 6:6-7; 8:1). — In Christ I died.
(Romans 6:6-7) “Knowing this, that our old man is (was) crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (7) For he that is dead is freed from sin.” — (The one who died has been justified from sin!)
(Romans 8:1) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
(Galatians 2:20) “I am (was) crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 3:13) “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”
Since our Redeemer is both God and man in one glorious Person, all that he has done is of infinite value for all who trust him. He has effectually accomplished the eternal justification of his people.
· He has obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12).
· He has put away the sins of his people (Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 9:26).
· He has perfected forever those who were set apart as the objects of his grace (Hebrews 10:14).
Near, so very near to God,
Nearer I cannot be,
For in the Person of his Son,
I’m as near as He.
In thy Surety thou art free,
His dear hands were pierced for thee:
With His spotless garments on,
Holy as the Holy One.
This is complete, perfect justification. The law can require no more of us than perfect righteousness and infinite satisfaction (Ephesians 2:4-6).
(Ephesians 2:4-6) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid,
Whate’er Thy people owed.
Nor can God’s wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood.
If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured,
The whole of wrath divine:
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.
Do you see this? We were eternally justified by the decree of God the Father before the world began. And we were justified by the death of God the Son at Calvary. By virtue of, and upon the merits of, the life and death of Christ as our Substitute, God is both just and the Justifier of all who believe on his Son. Now, in perfect consistency with his justice, God forgives all the sins of all his people. — “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” In Christ, God both punishes and saves the sinner.
Blissfully lost in the contemplation of God’s matchless grace in Christ, John Bunyan penned these rapturous words – “O Thou Son of the Blessed! Grace stripped Thee of Thy glory; grace brought Thee down from heaven; grace made Thee bear such burdens of sin, such burdens of curse as are unspeakable; grace was in Thy heart; grace come bubbling up from Thy bleeding side; grace was in Thy tears; grace was in Thy prayers; grace streamed from Thy thorn-crowned brow! Grace came forth with the nails that pierced Thee, with the thorns that pricked Thee! Oh, here are unsearchable riches of grace! Grace to make sinners happy! Grace to make angels wonder! Grace to make devils astonished!”
Third, every true believer is justified by the declaration of God the Holy Spirit in conversion (Romans 4:25-5:2). When God the Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner, giving him faith in Christ, as that sinner looks to Christ alone as his Savior and Redeemer, the blessed Spirit of God sprinkles the blood of Christ upon the conscience and speaks like a bailiff reading the verdict in court — “JUSTIFIED!” Thus every believing sinner receives justification by faith in Christ.
(Romans 4:25-5:2) “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (5:1) “Therefore being justified, by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
(Romans 5:1-2 — Young’s Literal Translation) “Having been declared righteous, then, by faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have the access by the faith into this grace in which we have stood, and we boast on the hope of the glory of God.”
Christ has justified us by his great sin-atoning sacrifice; and all who believe on him as Lord and Savior receive the many benefits of his finished work. One of those many benefits which we receive by faith is justification.
I have already dealt with this in part; but I want to be sure you understand it clearly. — Faith does not cause God to justify us. The obedience of Christ has done that. But faith, resting upon Christ alone as Savior, obtains peace with God, the peace of perfect, complete justification. — Faith does not merit justification with God; but faith receives justification. — Faith is not the basis upon which we are justified; but faith is the instrument by which justification is received. — Faith is essential; but it is not meritorious.
· Faith receives Christ; but it does not merit Christ.
· Faith receives the forgiveness of sin; but it does not merit forgiveness.
· Faith receives grace; but it does not merit grace.
· Faith receives justification; but it does not merit justification.
We were justified in the court of heaven by the decree of God the Father and by the death of God the Son. Then, in the experience of grace, we are justified in the court of conscience by the declaration of God the Holy Spirit. Stay with me just a little longer. I want to show you that…
Fourth, all who know Christ in the experience of grace are justified by the display of good works before men (James 2:14-26). You heard me right. There is a sense in which we are justified by works, not before God, but before men. We justify our profession of faith in Christ by our works. Believers do not show their faith by creeds, confessions, and catechisms, but by their conduct. This is what James teaches us in James 2.
(James 2:14-26) “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (22) Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (23) And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
James and Paul are not opposed to each other. In Romans Paul shows us the accomplishment of justification. Here James speaks of the out-working of justification in our lives. If a man is a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he will justify his professed faith and prove its reality by works of obedience to God, even as Abraham and Rahab did. Any faith which does not produce obedience to God is a false faith, a demonic delusion. It is not the faith of God’s elect.
Free grace is not opposed to good works. Free grace produces and promotes good works! What kind of works justify a man and prove the reality of his faith? — Faith always shows itself, but not the way men imagine. Faith shows itself by four things, by four magnificent works, works seen and known only by God himself.
(James 1:2-3) “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”
(James 2:15-16) “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”
3. Faithful Obedience to the Word and Will of God, utter Consecration to the Will of God and the Glory of God (James 2:21-23) — Believers bow to the will of God in providence and obey the revealed will of God in Holy Scripture.
(James 2:21-23) “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (22) Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? (23) And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
4. Self-denial and Sacrifice for the Glory of God (James 2:23-25)
(James 2:24-25) “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”
1. Every believer is eternally justified in the purpose of God by the decree of God the Father.
2. All of God’s elect were fully justified in time at Calvary by the death of God the Son.
3. Every believer receives complete justification by faith in Christ, in the experience of grace, by the declaration of God the Holy Spirit in conversion.
4. Every true believer is justified before men by the display good works.
Our justification is an eternal act of God, accomplished at Calvary, received by faith, and proved by works.
Would you be just with God? Believe on Christ. — Have you been justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus? Prove it by…
I’m justified by sov’reign grace,
By God’s all wise decree;
Yes, justified in Jesus Christ
From all eternity!
I’m justified through Jesus’ blood,
Poured out at Calvary;
Yes, justified when in my place
My Savior died for me!
I’m justified by faith in Christ,
By grace I look to Him;
Trusting His blood and righteousness,
I’m justified in Him!
If justified without my works,
By God’s free grace alone,
Then I must now by works display
My faith in Christ, God’s Son.