JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
"How should man be just [righteous] with God?" asked the patriarch Job. It has been the vital question ever since Adam sinned, and lost his righteousness and forfeited his life. The answer of Scripture is:—
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom 5:1 "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph. 2:8, 9.
In the beginning, life and righteousness were the gift of God to man. Only the Creator could bestow the gift at the first; when lost, only creative power can restore it.
Man Cannot Justify Himself
The law of God declares all men sinners. Not only did Adam's posterity inherit of necessity a sinful nature, but every soul of man has wrought sin as the fruit of that nature.
"As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Rom. 5:12.
"There is no difference," Jew or Gentile, bond or free, they are in the same lost condition; "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Rom. 10:12; 3:23.
The sinner finds himself a transgressor, condemned to death by a holy law. He turns to it with the thought, "I will do what it says, and become righteous and win life." But he cannot undo the fact that he has sinned. A holy law can only cry, "Guilty! guilty!" to one who has transgressed it. The law declares righteousness; it cannot give it. As the Scripture says:
"We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Rom. 3:19, 20.
The guilt exists. No deeds that man can do can undo it or cover it from a righteous law. Not only that, but as soon as the law declares what righteousness is, the sinner finds that its demands are altogether beyond the power of his flesh to meet. It calls for a kind of work that fallen human nature cannot so much as approach. Paul cried out, when struggling under conviction, "We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin." Rom. 7:14.
The carnal cannot bring forth the spiritual. But the law demands a spiritual work of righteousness. It is impossible for the carnal mind to undertake it. The Scripture says:
"The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom. 8:7, 8.
But the awakened sinner is yet in the flesh. He finds the law thundering his guilt and condemning him to death. He cannot wash away the past, nor hide it; he cannot obey God's law with a carnal mind, and that is all the mind he has. He is lost, and helpless of himself, but longs for a way of escape. Paul's cry in the same position is the cry of the despairing heart that has not found the Saviour, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. 7:24. Thank God, there is an answer to that cry, for every sinner.
"Plunged in a gulf of dark despair,
We wretched sinners lay,
Without one cheering beam of hope,
Or spark of glimmering day.
"With pitying eyes the Prince of grace
Beheld our helpless grief:
He saw, and, O amazing love!
He came to our relief."
The Free Gift of Christ
Following that despairing cry of human helplessness, "Who shall deliver me?" there came the believer's shout of praise, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." He is the deliverer; for He "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us." Rom. 7:25; Gal. 1:4.
The way of escape and salvation is the gift of God's love. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16.
No sinner has need to plead that God may be willing to forgive him; the Lord's infinite love that gave His Son to die, is pleading with the sinner to believe and accept salvation.
In order to be the sinner's Saviour, the divine Son of God must take man's place before the broken law. He came in human flesh, with all its weakness. "I can of Mine own self," He said, "do nothing." He trusted the Father, and lived a life of perfect righteousness in human flesh. He who knew no sin, bore man's sin in His body on the cross. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." For man's sin He died, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." In Him was met the penalty of the law. But it was a sinless sacrifice. He "through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God." Heb. 9:14. Therefore death could not hold Him. He rose in the power of an endless life to be man's advocate and priest and savior, ministering His grace and righteousness and life to every one who will receive them.
The righteousness that He wrought out for man in human flesh He longs to put into every human heart. As in His own flesh in Judea He walked and lived the life of righteousness, so now, by the Holy Spirit, He walks in human lives today. That means forgiveness, and deliverance from the power of the flesh, and a new life of power, and righteousness and justification wrought within by the divine indwelling Saviour. How may we receive Him with all this great salvation?—By faith; by believing His promises; "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Eph. 3:17.
Christ in all His fulness abiding within,—this is the wonder and mystery of the gospel, "which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." It means an ever-present, ever-living Saviour, able to save to the uttermost.
What abundance of grace is received with His indwelling presence!
Forgiveness.—"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9.
Deliverance from the Flesh.—The cleansing by Christ's indwelling power means that the old life of self is subdued. "Our old man is crucified with Him." Rom. 6:6. "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.... And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Rom. 8:9, 10.
A New Heart.—"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Eze. 36:26.
A New Life.—"Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Eph. 4:23, 24. It is in blessed fact Christ Jesus living the life in the believer by faith, as the apostle Paul says:
"I am 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." Gal. 2:20.
Righteousness and Justification.—"This is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Jer. 23:6. Well does the King James Version print the blessed name in capital letters. It is the great name of salvation to every believer. By faith we receive Him, and by faith His righteousness is imputed unto us. His life of obedience covers all the believer's surrendered life, past and continuous, and in God's sight the life of the believer in Jesus is justified from all sin. It is the triumph of Him who was not only "delivered for our offenses," but was also "raised again for our justification:"
"Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Rom. 5:18, 19.
Christ died and rose again to bring this experience to sinners who have struggled helplessly under condemnation. As Christ Jesus with all His righteousness is received by faith, "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8:1.
Praise the Lord! It is all of Christ, and not of any works that we have done. Therefore it is as sure as the oath and promise of God. We can lose the experience only as we let Christ go out of the life by unbelief. God forbid that we should do this; and help us to be quick to repent and again lay hold of Him by faith if ever we find we have let Him go and have lost the covering of His righteousness.
"Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Mid hosts of sin, in these arrayed,
My soul shall never be afraid."
Christ's righteousness is, of necessity, the righteousness demanded by the law of God. He lives that law in the believer. This is what justification is. "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Rom. 2:13. Justification by faith makes the man a doer of the law by faith, Christ living every one of its sacred precepts in the believer's life. This is what He died to accomplish, to bring the righteousness of the law to the sinner who could never attain to it himself.
"What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8:3, 4.
Christ writes God's law in the new heart: "I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts." Heb. 8:10. It is the rule of His own righteousness. For before He came into the world to work out perfect righteousness for us in human flesh, He said, through the psalmist, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps. 40:8.
It is a perfect righteousness and a full salvation that Christ brings into every believer's heart. In Him all fulness dwells, "and ye are complete in Him."
The wondrous plan of salvation is so deep that only "in the ages to come" will God be able to "show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:7. But thank God, even here below sinners saved by grace may "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge."
"The wonders of redeeming love
Our highest thoughts exceed;
The Son of God comes from above,
For sinful man to bleed.
"He knows the frailties of our frame,
For He has borne our grief;
Our great High Priest once felt the same,
And He can send relief.
"His love will not be satisfied
Till He in glory see
The faithful ones for whom He died
From sin forever free."