A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

 

 

Justification

In previous essays we considered the subject of justification as it related to the covenant of redemption. This justification established our righteous standing before God. It was brought about by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus and by God's free and abounding grace. Rom. 3:23, 24 states this principle thus: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

There is more to the subject of justification than just being justified from our sins before God. If we do not follow the biblical rule of II Tim. 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," then we will become hopelessly confused and think the scriptures to be contradictory.

The scriptures teach justification through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ by the free grace of God. The scriptures also teach that we are justified by faith without works. Also the scriptures teach that we are justified by works. Supporting verses for these last two principles are as follows:

1. Rom. 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. James 2:21, 22 "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect. 3. Rom. 3:19, 20 "Now 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."

While there may appear to be contradictions in the scripture, there are no real contradictions. When we make the proper application of the scriptures they will all harmonize. How do we harmonize what appears to many to be contradictions on the subject of justification? Are we justified by God's free grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus alone without any exercise of faith on our part or good works on our part? The answer is yes. Are we also justified by our activity of faith without works? Again the answer is yes. Are we justified by works? Again the answer is yes.

In the next few essays we will attempt to clarify the subject of justification and show the harmony in what on the surface appears to many to be contradictions.

One of the keys to understanding the subject of justification is to understand the meaning and use of the word itself. The word justify means to make or declare righteous. It is a court room term. It is generally used in connection with legal proceedings. For instance, when a person is tried in a criminal court on accusations of committing a crime and he is acquitted by the verdict of not guilty, then he is justified. The word is used in the scriptures to mean the opposite of condemned or condemnation. Thus when you are tried you are either justified or condemned.

To understand how that in one instance we are justified by the blood of Jesus by God's free grace without works or faith on the part of those justified and in another instance we are justified by faith without works and in a third instance we are justified by works, we need to know where the trial takes place and what we are being tried for.

There are three court rooms in the scriptures in which the term justification is used. There is the court room of heaven. There is the court room of our heart and mind. And there is the court room of men's opinions. In the next few essays we will attempt to show how that in the court room of heaven we are justified by the blood of Christ by God's free grace alone. Then we will attempt to show how that in the court room of our heart and mind we are justified by faith in the atoning work of Christ without our works. Afterwards we will attempt to show how that we are justified by works in the court room of men's opinions.


Justification by Grace

As we have previously treated this topic we will only present a brief overview of this subject at this time. For those who wish to consider in greater detail I refer you back to the previous essays on the subject of "Justified."

As we stated previously "justification" is a court room term and means to make or declare righteous. The court room in which we are justified by grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus is the court room of heaven. In this court room we are justified from the charge of sin before God.

First we will establish that there is such a court room by establishing the presence of the elements of a court room. Any court of law is based on the giving and presence of law. If there is no law then there can be no court room! The following verses of scripture declare God to be the "law giver:" Isa. 33:22; James 4:12; Gen. 2:16, 17; Ex. 20:1 17; Gal. 3:10; Heb. 8:10; Jer. 31:31; and Heb. 10:16.

Next, before a person can be tried for breaking the law there must be a penalty for breaking the law. The penalty for breaking God's laws are set forth for us in the following verses: Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:11 14; II Thes. 1:7 9; II Pet. 2:4 9; Jude 6 13; and Matt. 25:46.  Next, the accused must be apprehended and brought to the bar of justice. God is the ultimate apprehender of all sins and all sinners.  This principle is set forth in the following verses: Heb. 4:12, 13; Job 26:6; 42:2; Gen. 6:5; Ps. 94:11; 69:5; 14:2; 53:2; Prov. 15:26; 15:3; Jer.16:17; Matt. 10:26; I Cor. 3:20; and I Pet. 3:12.

Furthermore, God sits as the one and only judge in the court room of heaven. That God is judge is set forth in the following verses: Gen. 15:14; 18:25; Judges 11:27; Ps. 9:4, 8; 10:18; 50:6; 58:11; 67:4; 72:4; 82:1, 8; 94:2; 96:13; Isa. 2:4; 3:13; 11:3, 4; 51:5; Job 21:22; Eccl. 3:17; John 5:30; II Tim. 4:1; I Pet 1:17; 4:5; and Rev. 20:9 15.

In addition it is God that renders judgment as set forth in Rom. 3:19, 20; Matt. 25:41 46; and Rom. 5:12 19.

Moreover, it is God that executes judgment according to Rev. 20; Matt: 25:46; II Thes. 1:7 10; and II Pet. 2:4 9.

If the only basis of God's judgment was our deeds and actions then the judgment rendered would be as follows:

1. Rom. 3:19, 20 "Now 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."

2. Gal. 3:10 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

3. Gal. 2:16 "...for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

Thus if the basis of judgment is our deeds and actions alone, then we come under the condemnation of the law.

Thankfully there is the law of atonement whereby one who is qualified may stand in the place of another for the execution of judgment. It was Jesus who stood in the place of the elect at the cross when God judged their sins. The following sample of verses of scripture set forth this principle:

1. II. Cor. 5:21 "For 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. Gal. 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."
3. Heb. 9:26 28 "...but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself...so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
4. Heb. 10:12 14 "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God...For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Therefore, based on the law of atonement, those for whom Christ died have had God's wrathful judgment executed upon Jesus as our sin bearer at the cross. The execution of wrath for sin is satisfied for them.  They now stand justified before God. The question is asked and answered in Rom. 8:33, 34, "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."

That this justification from sin in the court room of heaven is by God's free grace is plainly set forth for us in Rom. 3:23, 24, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..."

In our next essay we will go into the court room of our mind and heart and see how that we are justified by faith.


Justification by Faith

The scriptures teach three court rooms in which the subject of justification applies: the court room of heaven; the court room of our minds and hearts; and the court room of men's opinions. In our previous essay we considered how we are justified in the court room of heaven by the grace of God through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. In this essay we will consider how we are justified by faith in the court room of our heart and mind.

When we are born of the Spirit, God establishes a court room in our heart and mind. According to Heb. 8:10; 10:16; and 2 Cor. 3:3 God writes his laws in our heart by the operation of the Holy Spirit directly into our heart and mind. In Heb. 10:22 we read where God sprinkles our heart from an evil conscience. Also in 1 John 3:20, 21 we read where our heart serves as the judge to either condemn us or justify us. Rom. 2:15 brings the elements of a court room together showing us that God has written his laws in our heart, our conscience serves as the witness, our thoughts serving as both the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney and our heart as the judge: "Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." Thus all the elements of a court room are present in us once we are born of the Spirit.

The court room of heaven deals with our judicial standing before God.  The court room of our heart and mind deals with how we view ourselves (condemned or justified) before a just and holy God. The judgment in this second court room (of heart and mind) does not effect the judgment of the first court room (of heaven). In other words whether we view ourselves as either justified or condemned in our heart and mind doesn't alter our judicial standing before God. However, how we see ourselves in the court room of our heart and mind greatly effects our emotional and mental state.

The order of proceedings in the court room of our heart and mind is as follows:

1. We are first tried and condemned on the basis of our sins. We are convicted of sin in similar fashion as the publican in Luke 18:13, "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner," or Isaiah who wrote in Isa. 6:5, "Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Being convicted of our sins we see ourselves under the condemnation of a just and holy God and worthy of everlasting judgment.

2. Next, we try to get right (judicially) with God. We are as Israel in Rom. 10:3, "being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish our own righteousness." We try to establish our righteousness through the works of the law. However, "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." We may try to establish our righteousness through good deeds and righteous works only to find that Isaiah wrote "all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" before God. We may even try to hide behind a cloak of religious exercises only to find them as the fig leaves that Adam and Eve tried to hide their nakedness. We find that we are laboring trying to establish our own righteousness while heavy laden with a burden of sin guiltiness. Nothing we attempt to do ever really gives us a feeling of true justification and consequent peace in our heart and mind.

3. It is only when we follow the Lord's admonition in Matt. 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," that we begin to see ourselves justified in the court room of our heart and mind. When we by faith that God imparted unto us in the new birth believe in the finished work of redemption by Jesus Christ, for "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," then we see ourselves justified through the redemptive work of Christ. This principle is stated in Rom. 4:23 25, "Now it is not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for (because of) our offences, and was raised again for (because of) our justification." 

Thus when we believe that Jesus was delivered to redeem us from our sins and was raised from the dead because his work of justification was accepted of God, then God imputes righteousness into the court room of our heart and mind and we by faith in the finished work of Jesus declare ourselves just before God. We are justified by faith in the court room of our heart and mind, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."


Justification by Works

The scriptures teach three court rooms in which the subject of justification applies: the court room of heaven; the court room of our mind and heart; and the court room of men's opinions. In previous essays we considered how we are justified in the court room of heaven by the grace of God through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ and how we are justified by faith in the court room of our heart and mind. In this essay we will consider how we are justified by works in the court room of men's opinions.

How do other people view us in light of our profession of faith? Are we viewed as infidels or hypocrites, or are we viewed as sincere dedicated disciples of Christ? Now we may say that it doesn't matter how other people view us, but it does. We are admonished to "Let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God." Also the true disciples are declared to be the "light of the world."

In II Pet. 1:10 we are told to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure." Now who are we to make it sure to? To God no, He is the one who called and elected us! To ourselves and to others yes, we assure ourselves and others of our calling and election by the good deeds and works we do.

James states in James 2:17, 18, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." The truth, so plainly stated here, is that good works are a manifestation of our faith. Faith cannot be manifested without good works. The evidence of our faith in the eyes of others is our good works. If people do not see good works in our lives what evidence do they have that we are truly people of faith? The question is asked in James 2:21, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" How do we know that Abraham truly believed God? Was it not that he offered Isaac his son  upon the altar? Thus, in our opinion, Abraham truly believed God for the evidence was manifest in his work of offering Isaac up on the altar. So in our opinion Abraham was justified as a man of faith.

Similarly, John the Baptist, was looking for evidence of repentance when he saw many of the Pharisees and Saducees come to his baptism as he said unto them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." John wanted to see evidence (good works) of a repentant life before he would consent to baptize them. Surely this should be the pattern for the church to follow today in receiving someone for baptism.

The scriptures are abundant that warn us about false teachers and false prophets. The scripture also teaches us how that we can identify them.  Matt. 7:15 20 reads, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Thus we are able to identify the false teacher from the true. The true preacher or teacher will be justified in our opinions by the good fruits he manifest whereas the false prophet or teacher will be identified as such by his evil fruits.

In Mark 2:3 5 we read of four who carried a paralyzed man unto the Lord, "And they came unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son thy sins be
forgiven thee." Now the scriptures said that Jesus "saw their faith."  However, what was described to us was that the four friends of the palsied man lifted up the man and his bed to the roof, broke up the roof and let the man and his bed down before Jesus. In other words, their faith in Jesus was demonstrated by their charitable works toward the palsied man. They were justified as men of faith by the works they performed.

Finally, as people, especially God's people, view our lives what do they see? Do they see us as people of faith, as children of God, or do they see us as hypocrites who are playing religion? Our works will either justify us or condemn us in the court room of men's opinions.   Shouldn't we strive to live godly lives that we may glorify our heavenly Father and not bring shame and contempt to that worthy name by which we are called?
 

Primitive Baptist