When a baby is born, everyone can see, or thinks he can see the family likeness. That likeness becomes more obvious as the child grows. This is true of the Christian also. “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29).
The Big Break
When a sinner trusts Christ as his Saviour, he is immediately freed from the guilt of sin. He is justified, or declared righteous by God. But because this faith is the result of God changing his heart (called being ‘born again’) it always marks the beginning of a changed life. He begins to love and serve his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in thankfulness to him.
The word “sanctified” means to be made holy or separate from sin and devote to the service of the Lord. When someone becomes a Christian, as well as being forgiven, his life takes on a new direction as he begins to give up his sinful ways. In this sense, the Bible calls every Christian sanctified” or a saint (i.e. one who is holy or separated 1 Peter 1:2, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 1:1 etc).
The Longer Run
Although every Christian is a changed person, he is not perfectly changed. Far from it. Between becoming a Christian and going to Heaven the Christian life is one of imperfect holiness. All his life, the Christian is to seek to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour” (2 Peter 3:18). One feature of this growth is an increasing awareness of sins he hadn’t even noticed before. The conflict between his God-given new nature and the remains of sin is a constant element of the Christian life (Galatians 5:17).
Despite his ups and downs, his failures and falls, the overall pattern of his life will be one of becoming more and more like Christ as the Spirit of God works in him day to day through the Word of God. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
The Finishing Post
When the Christian goes to Heaven, he will the be perfectly free from the power and presence of sin in him. He will be like Christ. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
The Bible does not lay the emphasis on how well a man can say he has become a Christian, but on the evidence of the fact in a changed life. A Christian has changed, is being changed and will be changed. Are you a real Christian or have you just learnt a few well-known words and phrases that Christians use? Christ’s death on the cross as an atonement for sin gives every believer a title to Heaven. But those who have such a title are also being prepared for its enjoyment. Are you being changed “from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18)?
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
A guilty sinner is justified when God declares him not guilty on the basis of what Christ did in bearing the punishment of sin on the Cross of Calvary as his substitute.
God does this when a sinner believes, but what is it to believe? What is faith in Christ?
God’s Word is True- To become a real Christian we must accept that God’s Word is true. Nevertheless, it is possible to accept that God’s Word is true without really trusting in Christ far salvation. A mere theoretical or mental acceptance of the truth of the Bible is not enough.
God’s Verdict is True- We must accept what the Bible says about us. We realty are sinners. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This includes you. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10).
God’s Verdict is Right- “For thy name’s sake, 0 Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great” (Psalm 25:11). David did not think that his sins were trivial and that God should overlook them for that reason. His sin mattered; his sin deserved God’s wrath and he accepted that. Do you? Do you accept that the pains of Hell for ever are no more than your sins deserve? Or are you still arguing with God? Still trying to negotiate with God instead of submitting to the Almighty?
Christ can Save- Christ is “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). He has done all the needs to be done on behalf of sinners to make them accepted before God.
Christ Alone can Save- “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). To believe upon Christ for salvation, every other ground of confidence must be abandoned as grounds of hope and Christ must be seen as the only and complete Saviour of sinners.
Christ Will Save
The Lord Jesus said “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37). Do you believe that Christ will take away your sins if you trust in Him? “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The Word of God gives you every encouragement. Ask and you will receive. Ask for what you realty need, the forgiveness of alt your sins through Christ. God invites you to do so. Saving faith is when we rest on Christ alone for salvation in response to God’s invitation to do so and his promise to receive those who do. “I said not ……. seek ye me in vain; I the Lord speak righteousness, t declare things that are right.” “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; far I am God and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:19 and 22).
“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:33-34)
An Act of God
Justification is something that God does. “It is God that justifieth” says our text. No-one else can do it except God
Opposite of Condemnation
“It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?” To be condemned is to be declared guilty. In a court of law a man can be declared guilty or not guilty. Being declared guilty is condemnation; to be declared not guilty is justification.
“It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again.” God justifies a sinner (that is, declares him righteous) when he reckons all that Christ did on behalf of sinners as belonging to that particular sinner. Christ lived a perfect life and never sinned in thought, word or deed. He kept God’s law completely. Nevertheless, He bore the punishment of sin when he suffered on !he cross. He suffered, not for any sin of His own, but for others.
When God justifies a sinner, he imputes to (or reckons as belonging to) the sinner Christ’s perfect obedience and his bearing the punishment of sin. “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21). There is an exchange here of the individual’s sin for Christ’s perfect righteousness. it is rather like exchanging a filthy garment for one that is spotlessly clean.
Does God reckon Christ’s righteousness to the account of every sinner? No – He is “just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). God’s provided righteousness for sinners is “unto all and upon all them that believe (Romans 3:22).
God’s verdict is final. Everyone of us, even at this moment, is either condemned or justified. God’s verdict will be openly and irreversibly declared before the universe at the great Day of Judgement. But our text emphasises that God has the last word. It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” If God declares us not guilty there is no one else in the whole of existence who can overturn that. The reverse is also true however. If God condemns there is no appeal beyond his tribunal. No higher court exists.
This is why this subject is so important. If Christ is not your saviour, your sins are alt before the face of God. The sentence of eternal condemnation is ready to be put into effect. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” (John 3:18). Only God’s longsuffering stays the execution of judgement, giving you opportunity to seek and find Christ. On the other hand the Bible describes the blessedness of those who have trusted in the Saviour. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1-2).
Perhaps some readers can remember learning the Shorter Catechism when they were young. “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.” (Ans 33)
To have such a clear biblical definition of justification stored in the mind is a good thing but it is not enough. Are you justified? Have you believed in Jesus?
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
Redemption basically means to save or deliver by payment of a price. In the days of pawnshops, to rescue an item that you had pawned you had to pay a price. You had to redeem it or it was lost and gone from your possession. In the Old Testament buying freedom from slavery was called redemption, or a former owner buying back his land. Rescue by purchase sums up the meaning of redemption.
In our text the Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ. The price payed is “his blood” and the deliverance bestowed is the forgiveness of sins. The question naturally arises as to whom this price is paid Is it Satan? No, Satan has no rights that God recognises at any time. Forgiveness brings deliverance from the power of Satan but God does no deals with Satan. The obvious answer to our question is that God himself demands the price as well as giving it in Christ. It is from God that we need forgiveness and our text tells us that forgiveness is possible only because of Christ’s work of redemption.
A Right View of God.
It comes down to a right view of God. Modernistic and liberal churchmen today believe in a god who simply overlooks sin if men are sorry or even though they are not. Their god is different from the God of biblical Christianity. The biblical teaching is that God is holy and always punishes every single sin; not one sin, even those little sins (in our eyes) of our thoughts, will go unpunished. God’s righteous character requires that the demands of His perfect justice be satisfied. He sent Christ to be the substitute of every sinner that puts his trust in Him.
This is why the text speaks of redemption “through his blood”. Sometimes well-meaning Christians can use phrases like “cleansing through the blood of Christ without ever explaining them and non-Christian friends can be quite mystified by these phrases and even regard them as a kind of charm. Familiar phrases can become meaningless phrases if we do not ensure that they are correctly understood. They need to be regularly explained. The shedding of Christ’s blood sums up all of Christ’s suffering on the cross of Calvary. Although much of that suffering was inflicted by men, all was under the control of God. He suffered not only outwardly but inwardly under the sense of loss of the Father’s favour.
This is why he cried “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” All of this suffering was the pouring out of God’s wrath upon Christ as the one bearing the punishment due to sinners. The cross shows the justice and the love of God. It declares God’s righteousness (Romans 3:26) in that God was inflicting the full penalty that sins deserved. It shows God’s love and grace (or undeserved kindness) in that Christ endured it for others. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Christ satisfied the justice of God on behalf of all believers, so that they will not have to bear the punishment of Hell. He paid the price that was due. That is why his death is called a ransom. “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
Christ has done all that is necessary to make sinners accepted before God. Put all your trust in him. “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” (Hebrews 7:25).
“God commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)
U-turns can be dangerous. On fast roads they are often illegal. There is one U-turn, however, that is not only right but absolutely essential. Not only are we allowed to do it but we must. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 30:3).
The word translated “repentance” in our Bible is made up of two words. One of these words means “change” and the other means “mind”. Repentance is a change of mind, a change of attitude, a change of direction. It is a U-turn.
Turning From Sin
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7). This is more than an outward clean-up of the life due to fear of the trouble some sins might bring in this life or Hell in the next. This change reaches to the “thoughts” and it includes a change of attitude towards sin specifically because sin is against God. David, when confessing his sin to God said, “Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4). Sin is every way in which we fall short of what God requires of us in thinking, speaking and doing. A Christian is not perfect in this world but when a man claims to have become a Christian without a basic change of attitude towards sin he is deceiving himself but he will not deceive God. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Turning From Pride
The heart of man is full of pride ever since the devil’s false promise was listened to when he said “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Sinful pride makes men want to be independent of God and nowhere more so than in the realm of salvation. Some deny the existence of God, some deny they have sinned against God, while others admit they are sinners but desperately want to believe they can save themselves. When a man repents he abandons all this futile arrogance and acknowledges himself to be what God says he is – a helpless, guilty and justly condemned sinner.
Turning to Christ
The Apostle Paul preached “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Turning from sin (including self-righteousness in all it’s forms) and trusting in Christ to save us from our sin and guilt are two sides of the same thing. Conversion is turning from sin to Christ. Have you done this? Our opening text makes it clear that God requires you to do so.
“Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 33:11)
A word can be so familiar that it never gets explained. Many hear the word “salvation” or “saved” who do not really understand it.
Our text tells us what Christ saves his people from; “their sins”. The non-Christian has the problem of the guilt of past sin, his addiction to sin in the present and the effects of sin in the future.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came to seek and to save that which was t lost. He bore the punishment of sin in the place of sinners. He paid the price. He accomplished redemption.
The Remedy Applied
What Christ did on the cross for sinners is applied to individuals.
First, the guilt of sin. When a sinner trusts in Christ, alt his guilt is taken away. God declares him ‘not guilty’. We have seen before that the Bible calls this ‘justification’. The justified man is delivered from the Hell he deserved and has a title to a place in Heaven through Christ. This removal of guilt is the basis and guarantee of all that follows. The word “saved” is usually used among us today in this sense of initial conversion to Christ, and the scriptures often use it in that way too. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Second, the presence of sin in the heart and life. Deliverance from this begins at conversion, gradually progresses as a Christian goes on through life and is completed when the soul goes to heaven at death. An earlier article showed that the Bible calls this ‘sanctification’. This is also part of Christ’s salvation. This is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you to both will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Third, the physical effects of sin. Physical death is universal only because sin is universal. “Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Even the physical world was cursed because of man’s sin (Gen 3:17-19). The salvation Christ gives includes the reversal of all this and more. Physical resurrection to glory and a new heaven and a new earth are all part of the inheritance of the people of God (Philippians 3:21, 2 Peter 3:13). This will complete salvation and so we read of the “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5; see also Hebrews 9:28). This takes place when Christ comes again.
The believer enjoys fellowship with God because his sins are forgiven and he has the Holy Spirit in his heart. This enjoyment of God is called the “earnest” of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). An “earnest” is like the first instalment or deposit guaranteeing the full amount in due time.
Have you peace with God through Christ and the peace of God in your heart? Have you the deposit that guarantees all the rest of the blessings of salvation in Christ? Do you know whether you will be among that multitude of the glorified redeemed in Heaven who shall forever worship and ascribe “salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10)?