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“How can a man be just with God?”
“How can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean [that is] born of a woman?” — 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 any thing 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). — “Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for 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. — “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both [are] 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 that 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: and by the fear of the LORD [men] depart from evil” (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! — “Then He is gracious unto him, and 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 in the salvation of sinners (Romans 3:21-31). It is the revelation of the very glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Substitute (2 Corinthians 4:6).