Author: Ron Graham
—More about “justification”
What God has done for us by his own counsel and will, we could not do for ourselves. We would fall far short. But what God teaches us to do for him, we can and ought to do, not falling short, "not lagging in diligence" (Romans 12:11).
Don't sit back and say, “God has done everything for me, and there is nothing I can do for him”. That is just plain wrong.
We have been thinking, in our last few lessons, about Justification. We have seen how insufficient we are, and totally dependent on God’s Son Jesus Christ for sufficiency if we are to be justified.
We have noted that people have serious misconceptions if they think they can, of themselves, be good enough, or sacrifice enough, or suffer enough, to make up for their sins.
It is astounding that right at this point we find a fourth great misconception. People who have renounced the above misconceptions, who have seen the wonder of God’s grace and the means he provided for our justification, respond in a manner that's extremely strange and puzzling.
1 Right Ideas
People may rightly think that...
- God is willing to count them righteous, not by their own merit which falls short, but by virtue of the perfect sacrifice of Christ (Romans 3:23-24).
- Their every sin can be forgiven, and they need not be punished because Christ suffered for them (1John 2:1-2).
- Although they are unjust and undeserving in their own right, nevertheless through God’s grace and mercy they can be counted worthy and accepted with God through the Lord Jesus (2Thessalonians 1:5).
All that, praise God, is quite true, but suddenly there is a non sequitur. Suddenly they “jump to confusions” and draw a conclusion that plucks out every petal from the lovely flower of justification.
2 Mistaken Ideas
People may wrongly think that...
- Since they rely on the merit and worthiness of Jesus, they themselves need not strive to be worthy.
- Since God looks on the righteousness of Jesus as their righteousness, they need not strive for righteousness in themselves.
- Since God forgives their every sin, they have no reason to strive against the sin in their lives.
These ideas are wrong because they are premised on God tolerating sin. In the Bible doctrine of justification, there is no hint that God tolerates sin. Quite the contrary. If God tolerated sin, justification would be unnecessary.
We must remember always that God was so intolerant of sin, that it took the absolute sacrifice, that of his only begotten Son, to provide for forgiveness of sins. It was God’s intolerance of sin that made salvation and justification necessary. God demanded punishment.
3 Right Response
It befits us therefore to respond with commitment and dedication to justification by grace. If you consider what faith and repentance really mean, you will see that they involve total commitment to Christ and to the fight against evil beginning with ourselves.
"If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation..." (Hebrews 10:26-31).
In other words, if our commitment is insufficient, then our justification is cancelled. This does not mean that justification is merited by personal commitment. Justification is based, as we have repeatedly said, on the righteousness and sacrificial suffering of Christ.
In justification by grace, God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. But he still requires us to do what he enables us to do. His grace "teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-15).
"By the mercies of God, present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1-2). That commitment is within our power since we are empowered by God. It remains our decision at all times. If we lay aside that commitment, God lays aside our justification. And why not? Is that not perfectly just?