Archive for the ‘justification’ Category

Christ’s Death Effects Our Justification with God

Romans 3:21-26

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Justification is a forgotten, or at least a much neglected, necessity of the gospel.  Many speak of God’s forgiveness as though every human being needs it (after all – no one is perfect, right?) and every human being deserves it and every human being has it as his or her birthright.  I would agree that every human being needs God’s forgiveness (but it would be an understatement to say the issue only goes as deep as our “imperfection” – see this previous post).  However, we have no rights before God upon which we can claim his forgiveness or demand his forgiveness.  The scriptures are clear that we have no merits before God.  We are utterly undeserving of any of God’s gifts much more the free gift of his forgiveness.

This is why we should adore and tremble in the truth of Romans 3:21.  “The righteousness of God” – the standard we all must adhere to if we are to be justified before God.  Don’t be misled – because of God’s justice and holiness he does not just forgive sin.  The penalty for sin must be dealt out.  There must be justice.  And this is what makes v. 21 so sweet – because the righteousness of God came outside of the Old Covenant.  It was the righteousness of God that can be ours – not through works, but through faith in Christ.

The testimony of scripture is that we have all sinned and so there is no one who is righteous according to the law.  The imagery is of a courtroom.  The condemned, having been proven guilty, stand before the judge awaiting sentencing.  Imagine in our day a convicted murderer standing before a judge in one of America’s courtroom’s asking the judge to please forgive his murderous ways.  A judge who simply says, “you’re forgiven”, is no judge at all because, as a judge, his job is to deal justly with those who break the law.  Where is the justice in mere forgiveness?  You and I would not stand for such a thing even with our corrupt human standards.

You and I – we have broken God’s law and we stand before the Judge who is infinitely more righteous than any judge in the courtrooms of this world.  If the judges in this deal justly, how much more will The Judge of all the earth deal justly.  There is no sweeping of transgressions under the rug.  Justice must be executed.

The gospel does NOT mean that God merely forgives.  The gospel says that God justifies sinners – he makes us right with himself by pouring out the penalty for our sins upon the Holy One, Jesus Christ.  Sin’s penalty has been satisfied by a righteous substitute, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, those who will look to Christ’s death in faith as the means by which God’s wrath was absorbed (a propitiation) will not only be forgiven of their sins, but will receive the righteousness of God – 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That is justification.  Since God’s wrath is absorbed and the penalty for sins is dealt with in Christ, God is just in forgiving sins.  No one can say that God’s forgiveness granted to sinners is an injustice.  His forgiveness does not contradict his justice.  As Romans 3:26 says, he is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Christ’s death effects our justification.

The Effects of the Death of Death (introduction)

I got John Owen‘s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, for Christmas.  I spent many hours in J.I. Packer‘s introduction to the book and Owen’s note “To The Reader” (where Owen says, “If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again, -thou hast had thy entertainment; farewell!”).  Packer’s intro is very instructive and if you get this book you should definitely get the one that has Packer’s introduction.  I’ll post more from Packer’s intro at at another time, although you can get a taste of it here.

After reading the first couple of chapters – and believe me…it is slow reading, I was just struck by this notion:  If you walked into your local Christian bookstore and went to the best seller rack you would not find as many scripture references in all the books on that shelf combined as there are in Owen’s first couple of chapters.  Every other sentence is straight out of the Bible.  It is remarkable.  What kind of Christianity is being sold to us on the best sellers rack in the Christian bookstore?  You could possibly make a case that it is not a biblical Christianity.

Anyways, back to Owen and his book…In the first chapter he talks about the end and the effect of Christ’s death.  Here are the effects that he lists:  Reconciliation, Justification, Sanctification, Adoption, and Glorification (though Owen does not use the word.  Instead he says it like this: “Neither do the effects of the death of Christ rest here; they leave us not until we are settled in heaven, in glory and immortality for ever.”)

C.J. Mahaney and Hip-Hop and the Cross

I got an iTunes card for Christmas and so naturally I used it to purchase some hip-hop.  I’ve got to admit that I love some old school Run-DMC, but you will not find “It’s Tricky” on my iPod or any other Run-DMC classics.  Instead, after reading some tips from Tim Challies, I purchased some Lecrae, Shai Linne, and Flame.

Shai Linne has a song based on the old African Spiritual, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”  I highly recommend it.  At the end he has sampled an excerpt from a C.J. Mahaney sermon.

Mahaney says, ” Before we can begin to see the cross as something done FOR us, leading us to faith and worship, we have to see it as something done BY us, leading us to repentance.  Only the man or woman who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross may claim his share in its grace.”  That’s good and it’s in a hip-hop song…awesome.

Christianity…just another pointless therapy? (part 3)

I returned from T4G with the goal of bringing clarity to the gospel for every person under my teaching, especially in terms of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.  The meaning of the gospel has become so muddled.  And this is not merely the fault of Christian liberalism preaching the message of “a God without wrath [bringing] men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross” but because of a church culture in American evangelicalism that propagates a message of “a God without wrath [bringing] men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”  Many believe and teach that there is a problem outside of us (family or money or society or our childhood or whatever) and the solution to this problem can only be found within the individual.  In Osteen‘s word, many would have you believe that, “You are not a sick person trying to get well.  You are a well person fighting off sickness.”  When in fact the Bible teaches the opposite of this…The problem is in the individual.  It is within each of us – it is sin.  And the solution to this problem can only come from outside of us.  It is an objective reality outside of the individual that resolves the problem, not a subjective reality within each individual.

Christianity is NOT just another pointless therapy that tells you to look inside yourself for a solution that is not there.  Christianity presents the only real solution to the problem – the gospel.  The gospel is based on objective facts and historical acts of God.  The whole reason we celebrate this time of year is due to the fact that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4-5).”

So let’s clarify the gospel by looking at that three word phrase that became such a theme at T4G and has become such a theme in my reading and study: Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

Penal – meaning penalty.  There is a penalty that you and I deserve because of our sin.  The Bible’s testimony about mankind, and this is proven true in every one of our lives, is that we have all fallen short of the standard that God has put into place.  We have actually rebelled against this divine and objective standard.  We are, in our natural state, hostile toward that standard.  So we are all deserving of punishment.

Substitutionary – God sent his son Jesus Christ, as a substitute, to face the penalty of sin that we all deserve.  God made provision for our sin in the provision of His Son, Christ Jesus – dying on the cross in our place..

Atonement – What is it that makes anyone acceptable to God?  It is that they have trusted in Christ as an acceptable sacrifice in their place, becoming their substitute on the cross to absorb the wrath of God and remove the wrath of God which was upon them.  Christ reconciles us to God by bearing our penalty on the cross in our place to atone for our sin.

2 Cor. 5:19 – …in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them..

Christianity…just another pointless therapy? (part 1)

Back in April, I was privileged enough to get to attend Together for the Gospel where I received many books. We would find 3 or 4 books sitting on our chairs when we entered the conference center for each session. Many of those books were about the concept of penal substitutionary atonement. In particular: The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul, Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, In My Place Condemned He Stood by Mark Dever and J.I. Packer, and The Future of Justification by John Piper. I’ve read some of each of these books and some of these books I’ve read in their entirety. I would strongly recommend Sproul’s book for the less theologically minded person. I would recommend all of these books to pastors, elders, teachers, and lay church leaders. One in particular, Pierced for Our Transgressions – Rediscovering the glory of penal substitution, by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach is especially helpful. There is a section in that book especially dedicated to the biblical foundations of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. In that section they walk through the major texts that deal with the teaching of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross.

Why do they do this? Why did the T4G folks pay so much attention to this issue with the books they gave out and the talks that were given? In the halls of scholarship the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement has been under attack. Men, whom most of us have never heard of, have written books, which most of us will never read, attacking this doctrine. Most of this would fall into the category of Christian liberalism. H. Richard Neibuhr summarized the liberal position like this, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.” Outside of the halls of Christian liberalism, there is an even more subtle yet sinister attack upon the doctrine. Dr. Michael Horton makes this commentary on Neibuhr’s statement –

“Doesn’t this seem to be at least the working assumption of a lot of American Christianity across the board today. Is Christ and His saving work central in your church and its ministry? Is your faith regularly redirected back to Christ or is the church itself distracting you from Christ and Him crucified. More than anything else, the reformation of the church that we so desperately need, depends on the recovery of this message in our churches. Without Christ and his cross front and center, every week, Christianity is just another pointless therapy rather than the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.”