Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God, Part 4.

“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.” (Romans 3:21-26).

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous. How then can fallen and condemned sinners (Romans 3:9-20) stand accepted before the just and righteous God of heaven and earth?

The answer can be found in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The Apostle Paul explains in detail what the gospel contains and proclaims in Romans 3:21-26. Four times in this section Paul refers to the righteousness of God. It is a righteousness which He alone possesses and originated. Righteousness is inherent within God’s being but is foreign in the being, nature, heart and soul of fallen mankind.

Therefore, how may God declare a sinner righteous in His sight when the sinner stands condemned before Him? The Apostle Paul sets forth the truth that Jesus Christ alone has bridged the huge gulf which exists between the righteous God and the unrighteous sinner.

Jesus Christ has alone provided justification (Romans 3:24). God can declare the sinner righteous in His sight solely based upon the merits of Christ’s righteousness. As one pastor explains, “God imputed a believer’s sin to Christ on account in His sacrificial death (Isaiah 53:1-5; I Peter 2:24), and He imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to God’s law to Christians (Romans 5:19; I Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). The sinner receives this gift of God’s grace by faith alone (Romans 3:22, 25).”

Jesus Christ not only justifies, He also redeems (Romans 3:24). The image behind the Greek word ἀπολύτρωσις; apoloytrosis comes from the ancient slave market. It meant paying the necessary ransom to obtain a prisoner’s or a slave’s release. While gold of silver could redeem an ancient slave, the only adequate payment to redeem sinners from sin’s slavery and its deserved punishment is “in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:1-61 Peter 1:18–19), and was paid to God to satisfy his justice.

Jesus Christ not only justifies and redeems, Paul also explains that Jesus Christ alone has satisfied all of God’s just and righteous demands for the sufficient payment of sin’s penalty. The word which describes this is propitiation.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Crucial to the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, this word carries the idea of appeasement or satisfaction—in this case Christ’s violent death satisfied the offended holiness and wrath of God against those for whom Christ died (Isaiah 53:11Colossians 2:11–14). The Hebrew equivalent of this word was used to describe the mercy seat—the cover to the ark of the covenant—where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the slaughtered animal on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of the people. In pagan religions, it is the worshiper not the god who is responsible to appease the wrath of the offended deity. But in reality, man is incapable of satisfying God’s justice apart from Christ, except by spending eternity in hell (1 John 2:1-2).“

It is because of the person and work of Jesus Christ that we can refer to this day as Good Friday. Dr. R.C. Sproul comments:

“If I’m happy with my life, why do I need Jesus? I hear that from a lot of folks. They say to me, “I just don’t feel the need for Christ.” As if Christianity were something that were packaged and sold through Madison Avenue! That what we’re trying to communicate to people is “Here’s something that’s going to make you feel good, and everybody needs a little of this in their closet or in their refrigerator,” as if it were some commodity that’s going to add a dash of happiness to our lives.”

“If the only reason a human being ever needed Jesus was to be happy and a person is already happy without Jesus, then they certainly don’t need Jesus. The New Testament indicates, however, that there’s another reason you or somebody else needs Jesus. There is a God who is altogether holy, who is perfectly just, and who declares that he is going to judge the world and hold every human being accountable for their life. As a perfectly holy and just God, he requires from each one of us a life of perfect obedience and of perfect justness. If there is such a God and if you have lived a life of perfect justness and obedience—that is, if you’re perfect — then you certainly don’t need Jesus. You don’t need a Savior because only unjust people have a problem.”

Dr. Sproul continues by writing, “The problem is simply this: If God is just and requires perfection from me and I come short of that perfection and he is going to deal with me according to justice, then I am looking at a future punishment at the hands of a holy God. If the only way I can escape punishment is through a Savior and if I want to escape that, then I need a Savior. Some people will say that we’re just trying to preach Jesus as a ticket out of hell, as a way to escape eternal punishment. That’s not the only reason I would commend Jesus to people, but that is one of the reasons.”

Dr. Sproul concludes, “I think that many people in today’s culture don’t really believe that God is going to hold them accountable for their lives—that God really does not require righteousness. When we take that view, we don’t feel the weight of the threat of judgment. If you’re not afraid to deal with God’s punishment, then be happy as a clam if you want. I would be living in terrible fear and trembling at the prospect of falling into the hands of a holy God.”

What about you? Are you attempting to live your life as if you do not have to face the justice and righteousness of Almighty God? The only hope is to repent of your sins and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and receive His righteousness. Only then can this day truly be a Good Friday for you.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God, Part 3.

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous. How then can fallen and condemned sinners (Romans 3:9-20) stand accepted before the just and righteous God of heaven and earth?

The answer can be found in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The Apostle Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the gospel. To be ashamed (ἐπαισχύνομαι; epaischynomai) means to personally and presently feel embarrassment or disgrace because of something. It may also mean awkwardness, humiliation and discomfort. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel (εὐαγγέλιον; euangelion) or the good news of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Why was this the case?

Paul understood that the gospel, and the gospel alone, was the power of God for salvation. The word power (δύναμις; dynamis), from which we derive our English word dynamite, means supernatural ability. This ability contained in the gospel belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not a manmade power or strength.

This power from God alone contained in the gospel results in salvation. The gospel is the good news that (1) God exists; (2) sin exists; (3) One Savior exists: Jesus Christ; and (4) salvation or deliverance exists from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence. God’s justice and righteousness is satisfied by the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is good news.

This good news is for everyone who believes, or comes to God by faith. Believing (πιστεύω; pisteuo) is the God-given ability to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This salvation is available for both the Jew and the Gentile. But this salvation is only available by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Why is the good news, or the gospel, of Jesus Christ the only way a sinner can be reconciled to the just and righteous God? The answer is given in Romans 1:17.

The phrase “for in it” refers us back to the subject at hand: the gospel. The Apostle Paul says that it is in the gospel alone that the righteousness of God is revealed. Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosyne) means to put right with, to cause to be in a right relationship and to be declared righteous. This righteousness belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not earned by man, but graciously given by God through God-given faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:48; 2 Peter 1:1-2). By this imputed, or credited, righteousness God can and does declare the condemned sinner just or justified.

As one pastor explains, “God is inherently righteous (Deut. 32:4; Psalm 11:7; 116:5; John 17:25; I John 2:1; Revelation 16:5) and man falls woefully short of the divine standard of moral perfection (Romans 3:10-20; Job 9:2; Matthew 5:48). But the gospel reveals that through the instrument of faith – and faith alone – God will impute or credit His righteousness to ungodly sinners (Romans 3:21-24; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:8-9).”

When the Apostle Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 that the just, or those God declares righteous, will live by faith he intends to prove that justification by faith alone has always been God’s way of saving sinners. Abraham is a pattern of justification by faith alone (Romans 4:22-25; Galatians 3:1-7). Additionally, true saving faith will be demonstrated by the believer’s actions (Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:14-26). This good news is always through faith and faith alone.

The righteousness Paul speaks is not the inherent righteousness God’s possesses, even though the Bible teaches that God is just and righteous. Rather, the righteousness of God, spoken of in Romans 1:17, is the imputed righteousness God credits to the condemned sinner by faith in Jesus Christ.

Why Christ? Because Jesus received upon the cross the just and righteous wrath as our substitute. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Pastor John Piper writes, “Historically, Protestants have believed that the Bible teaches that our salvation depends on what Christ has accomplished for our pardon and our perfection. We accept by faith his substitution for us in two senses: in his final suffering and death, he was condemned and cursed so that we may be pardoned (Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:1-3) and in his whole life of righteousness culminating in his death, he learned obedience so that we may be saved (Hebrews 5:1-9). His death crowns his atoning sufferings that propitiate God’s wrath against us (Romans 3:24=25; 5:1-9), but it also crowns his life of perfect righteousness—God’s righteousness —that is then imputed to us who believe (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-22; 4:1-11; 5:18-19). God provided in Christ what God demanded from us in the law. 

Hymn writer Edward Mote wrote these wonderful words. The hymn is entitled The Solid Rock.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

Refrain

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Refrain

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

Refrain

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain

May you rest today that the just and righteous God of heaven and earth has declared you justified and righteous by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Knowing God: The Righteousness and Justice of God, Part 2.

“The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.” – R. C. Sproul

Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.

We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous.

The word righteous, from the Hebrew word sedeq, means accuracy, or that which is correct and right. It is doing what is right according to a standard. Righteousness in synonymous with honesty. Justice, from the Hebrew word mispat, literally means to make a decision in a court case. We may conclude that God renders decisions regarding the punishment of sinners in an accurate, correct and righteous way.

What then is the condition of sinners before a just and righteousness God? The Apostle Paul gives a clear indication in Romans 1:18-3:8. In this lengthy discourse, the apostle argues that all sinners are under the condemnation of God. This includes those who some would identify as pagan, self-righteous and even religious.

The apostle then provides a climatic conclusion to this argument in Romans 3:9-20. By quoting from the Old Testament Scriptures in this section, Paul is demonstrating that God is perfectly just and righteous in punishing sinners and that this conclusion is not just a New Testament teaching. Romans 3:9-20 says,

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

Theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards comments, about this argument from the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, that, “The main subject of the doctrinal part of this epistle, is the free grace of God in the salvation of men by Christ Jesus; especially as it appears in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. And the more clearly to evidence this doctrine, and show the reason of it, the apostle, in the first place, establishes that point, that no flesh living can be justified by the deeds of the law. And to prove it, he is very large and particular in showing, that all mankind, not only the Gentiles, but Jews, are under sin, and so under the condemnation of the law; which is what he insists upon from the beginning of the epistle to this place. He first begins with the Gentiles; and in the first chapter shows that they are under sin, by setting forth the exceeding corruptions and horrid wickedness that overspread the Gentile world: and then through the second chapter, and the former part of this third chapter, to the text and following verse, he shows the same of the Jews, that they also are in the same circumstances with the Gentiles in this regard.”

 18th Century evangelist George Whitfield also explains, “Whoever is acquainted with the nature of mankind in general, or the propensity of his own heart in particular, must acknowledge, that self- righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart: being once born under a covenant of works, it is natural for us all to have recourse to a covenant of works, for our everlasting salvation. And we have contracted such devilish pride, by our fall from God, that we would, if not wholly, yet in part at least, glory in being the cause of our own salvation. We cry out against popery, and that very justly; but we are all Papists, at least, I am sure, we are all Arminians by nature; and therefore no wonder so many natural men embrace that scheme. It is true, we disclaim the doctrine of merit, are ashamed directly to say we deserve any good at the hands of God; therefore, as the Apostle excellently well observes, “we go about,” we fetch a circuit, “to establish a righteousness of our own, and,” like the Pharisees of old, “will not wholly submit to that righteousness which is of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 What is the answer to the truth that God is just and righteous in condemning sinners? We will continue to look at the Epistle of Romans to find our answer. Please know that God’s justice and righteousness are never compromised in order for sinners to become acceptable to God. Rather, God’s righteous justice is satisfied. How? I encourage you to read Romans 3:21-26 as one biblical text containing the answer to this question.

Until next time, Soli deo Gloria!