Justification

May 23, 2009 Romans 4:25

OPENING QUESTION:Do “good works” make you right with God? (Trick question - the answer is YES -  It is Jesus’ good works/obedience (not are own) that make us right with God (Justification).

 OPENING ILLUSTRATION:“Marty” was a religious, passionate, demanding, sensitive, and pessimistic guy but Marty had never been able to find inner peace, joy and most of all contentment. He carried with him a tremendous amount of guilt from things he had done and things he hadn’t done (that he knew he should). He knew he was not as good as he needed to be and he could not overcome his sense of guilt despite all his efforts, his bible reading and even his communication with God.

 A good friend advised him to read the book of Romans. What “Marty” read changed his life for ever. In Romans, “Marty” discovered the simple life changing truth that God had forgiven his sins freely, not because of “Marty’s” good works but because of Christ’s work (perfect obedience) fully completed at the cross.

 

“Marty” discovered that it was Christ’s good works & perfect obedience not his own that made him right with God.This discovery freed Marty from his guilt and ignited a passion that swept over his community, his country and eventually the rest of the world. God used Marty’s life in a significant way to bring glory to Christ, bring much needed change to the Jesus’ church and began what history refers to as “the Great Reformation”

 

Marty (Martin Luther) discovered the life changing truth of what were going to look at today. He came to understand what it meant to be JUSTIFIED before God and it changed his life.

 

He discovered that guilty sinners can be declared righteous before God by grace alone, through faith alone, because of the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

DEFINITION: He came to understand that justification isGod’s act of canceling the sins of guilty men, and accounting them righteous, freely, by his grace, through faith in Christ, on the ground, not of their own works, but of the representative obedience and redemptive death of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf.

Quote: “Justification is the issue on which the church stands or falls”. (Martin Luther)

The question of how a guilty sinner can be declared by God as righteous (holy) is so important that justification is mentioned more than two hundred times in various ways throughout the New Testament alone.

Perhaps the best summary of how justification is made possible is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21, which says, "For our sake he [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Quote: “Martin Luther came to call the truth of this great verse the "great exchange." On the cross, Jesus took your sin upon himself and, though sinless, took upon himself the very worst of what you are (adulterer, liar, thief, coveter, enemy of God, etc,) so that he would perfectly stand in your place to suffer your punishment for your sins.”Mark Driscoll (Death by Love)

God (by grace) open up Luther’s eyes to see this. By God’s grace Luther came to believe, trust, hope, depend and rely (FAITH) in what Jesus accomplished. In turn, that freed him – or liberated him to freely serve out of a heart of delight and gratitude – vs. – a heart of duty or self justifying works.


GROUP exercise – 20 minutes - Present the following situation, divide into groups and ask the group to discuss and answer the questions that follow:

After 15 minutes – come back together – discuss answers and assure that the teaching points are communicated and discussed. The goal is not for them to come up with all the answers as much as it is to create some tension and get them to think about how they would respond.

 SITUATION & Discussion (adapted from Death by Love by Mark Driscoll):

 John was raised in a loving and supportive Christian home. He did not suffer abuse of any kind as a child. His parents loved him well, encouraged him, and provided for him a life filled with opportunity. While growing up, his social life centered on church and private school.

Following graduation from college, he moved away from his parents to start his career. At the time, he was a moral man; however, while he retained a general belief that a god of some kind does exist, he did not have any real relationship with Jesus. He stopped attending church once he was no longer near his parents and instead focused his energies on building his career in business and enjoying his recreational activities. He also began dating women more actively and became sexually active.

Some years later, while still unmarried, he finally acted on a sinful desire that he had apparently been suppressing. Tragically, he had sexual contact with an underage girl. Eventually, the truth of his sin was made known to her parents, who proceeded to press legal charges.

John was left with what he found to be a tremendously difficult decision. If he denied the charges and held out for a trial, he might be able to avoid a guilty verdict and thereby narrowly escape state-sponsored treatment, jail time, and the humiliating prospect of being registered as a sex offender. Yet, to deny the charges would likely mean that the

young woman whom he sexually abused would be forced to testify about the entire ordeal and be subject to even more pain than he had already caused her. Or, he could simply plead guilty and accept his fate, whatever that might be.

The decision was gut-wrenching for him. In time he concluded that, since he was guilty, he should plead guilty to the charges against him and suffer whatever fate he was handed.

As a result, he spiraled into a deep depression. He stopped going out with his friends, ceased participating in sports and other leisure activities, and retreated to the confines of his home. There, alone in silence, he began seriously considering how and when to end his life.

On the day his plea was made before the judge, he was nearly emotionally undone. Upon hearing the judge declare him "guilty," he felt as if his hope and life had come to a painful and premature end. In this season, God in his providential kindness brought a few Christian friends into John's life. They were fearful that he would take his own life, and they actively pursued a relationship with him. They prayed for Jesus to remake this evil and broken man. John could no longer look anyone in the eye, spoke only in hushed tones, and even in a crowd stood alone in the corner, trembling with fear and gazing at his feet.

At the heart of John's despair is a deep sense of his sin and guilt without any hope of forgiveness or transformation.

 

When you meet John, it is apparent to you that unless he meets Jesus, he may kill himself and spend eternity in the torments of hell.

Your goal is to explain to John the fact that, through Jesus and his justifying work on the cross (JUSTIFICATION), he can stand before Jesus his Judge and be declared righteous.

 

  1. What do you say to John?
  2. How is Jesus John’s justification?
  3. What does John need to do?

 

 

 

John’s Sin (What do you say to John?)

 

 

 

  1. You are a despicable human being. Jesus knew you would be born and said that it would be better if a large millstone were tied around your neck and you were thrown into the sea (Luke 17:2). It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
  2. You are frantically searching for something good inside of yourself that you can tap into as the root of a new life as a good person. You are also trying to find someone to blame for what you have done. In a word, you are trying to justify yourself by recalling any seemingly good things you have done throughout your life. The only problem is that no matter how much good you might do, you can never undo the terrible thing you have done. There is no one who made you do what you did. You made the choice. There is no one to blame but yourself.
  3. By your own admission, what has triggered your breakdown is not the fact of your sin as much as the public declaration by the judge of the sins and crimes you have committed, along with the verdict of "guilty." That word guilty continues to ring in your ears because it accurately defines you as a human being. You are no longer able to define yourself by your intellect, competencies, income, toys, car, clothes, or friends because your name and address are now listed on the sex offender web site for everyone to see. You are named among the sadists, predators, and pedophiles that comprise the lowest and most despised segment of society. To make matters worse, the cold, hard truth is that your day before the judge is only a foretaste of what is to come.

 

  1. God is Creator, King and Judge (What do you say to John?)
    1. Throughout the Bible, God is referred to as both a king and a judge. As king, God is sovereign over all of his creation, and there is no authority above him. As judge, God is the one we will stand before on the final judgment day. Romans 2:16 speaks of this as "that day when....God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."   Much like your day in court, on the day of final judgment you will stand before God, and all of the secret sins of your life will be made known. All of your wicked thoughts, words, and deeds will be listed, along with all of the good that you failed to do. Unlike imperfect human judges and human laws, God is a perfectly just judge with perfectly just laws. The Old Testament speaks of God's law on more than six hundred occasions, and the New Testament speaks of God's justice and righteousness on more than two hundred occasions. Moreover, unlike God, you are an unrighteous law-breaker.

 

  1. In Romans, Paul says that because God made us in his image and likeness, his law is also written on our hearts through the conscience that he has given us (Rom. 2:15). Thus, although you are not a Christian, you do have some sense of your guilt due to your conscience. Subsequently, you are continually judging yourself according to your own conscience and rightly concluding that you are guilty, evil, and condemnable.

 

  1. Imagine how much greater your judgment will be when you stand before God himself and see for yourself that "the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!" (Ps. 50:6). On that day you will learn that your sinful condition and ensuing sinful actions have not been merely against people but ultimately against God himself. In Psalm 51:4, a man who was guilty of committing a sexual sin like yours rightly said, "Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment."

 

  1. John, you have sinned against the holy and righteous God who spoke creation into existence and created you to be like him. In rebellion, you have sinned against God. You sinned against God on the day you touched a girl with the hands God made for his service. But you have also sinned continually through your whole life. Your sins include sins of commission, in which you have done what God—through the conscience he gave you along with Scripture—told you not to do, as well as sins of omission, in which you have not done good things that God created you to do.

 

  1. To make matters worse, even the seemingly good things you have done are sinful because God knows that the motives of your heart in doing good were often evil, motivated by human applause, affection, and approval. You have altogether neglected God by living solely for yourself. The first commandment is to love the Lord (Mark 12:30). You have loved yourself first. You have loved only yourself.

 

  1. The reason for your sins is that, as the theologians say, you are totally depraved. This is not to say that you are utterly depraved, because you could do greater evil more often. But you are totally depraved because, although God made your first parents, Adam and Eve, perfect, upright, and good, you have become imperfect, fallen, and sinful because of sin. Subsequently, your mind is corrupt so that you do not think God's thoughts. Your will is corrupt so that you do not desire what God desires of you. Your emotions are corrupt so that how you feel about yourself, your life, and God are not trustworthy. The Bible says in Genesis 1:31 that God made mankind "very good." But now even the remnants of the good image of God in you are pervaded by sinful evil.

 

  1. Being totally depraved, you are in a state completely contrary to the entire purpose for which God created you. Paul speaks of your condition in some very stark terms. Ephesians 2:1-2 he says that you are spiritually dead to God and alive to Satan. Furthermore, in Romans 8:7 he says that your mind is so hostile to God that you will not and cannot obey God. In summary, you are depraved, dead, and at war against God.

 

 

  1. God’s requirement of justice (What do you say to John?)

 

  1. In light of your sinful condition and ensuing sinful actions, your impending day in God's proverbial courtroom seems utterly hopeless for anything other than a guilty verdict and a sentence to eternity in the torments of hell. In light of your obvious guilt, if God were to declare you anything but guilty he would cease to be a just and good God. God himself says that he "will not acquit the wicked" (Ex. 23:7). Furthermore, Proverbs 17:15 says, "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD." As a guilty sinner, you would likely prefer that God simply overlook your offenses against him. To do so, however, would by definition render God unjust, unholy, and unrighteous, 'which is impossible because he is always just, holy, and righteous.

 

  1. As guilty sinners we are prone to expect mercy when we commit sins against others, yet we hypocritically demand justice when others sin against us. Likewise, we overlook our own sins while we are clearly aware of others' sins. For that reason, looking at this situation from the perspective of the victim rather than that of the sinner can provide some clarity.

 

ILLUSTRATION: Imagine, for example, if someone broke into your home, violated your privacy, stole your Possessions, and harmed someone you loved, such as your mother. Imagine that the evidence against that person was incontrovertible, yet he was simply released, and all the charges were dismissed, and to top it off he received an all-expenses-paid vacation for the rest of his life. Because you are made in God's image, something in you would cry out for justice.

 

  1. God himself is the person you have sinned against throughout your life, and he too deserves justice. Furthermore, since you are unjust and God is just, he would be an unjust sinner if he chose to overlook your sin and declare you to be a righteous person and welcome you into the eternal Sabbath rest of his perfect heavenly kingdom.

 

  1. John, God does not owe you anything. If you were to spend forever in the torments of hell as a guilty and condemned sinner, you would be getting what you deserve. Pondering this same point, Job asks one of the great questions of the Bible: "But how can a man be in the right before God?" (Job 9:2).

 

 

  1. God’s gift of Jesus. (What do you say to John? & How is Jesus John’s Justification?)

 

  1. Not only is God holy, righteous, and just, but he is also compassionate, willing to forgive, and incredibly patient. God revealed himself to Moses as "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:6-7). Because God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, loving, faithful, and willing to forgive you, the dilemma is this: how could God justify you and remain ...just?

 

  1. The answer is what is commonly called the doctrine of justification. What is meant by this doctrine is that, according to the Bible, guilty sinners can be declared righteous before God by grace alone, through faith alone, because of the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

 

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:21, says, "For our sake he [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." On the cross, Jesus took your sin upon himself and, though sinless, took upon himself the very worst of what you are—a child molester, liar, and enemy of God—so that he would perfectly stand in your place to suffer your punishment for your sins.

 

  1. The penalty of sin is death. God warned Adam in the garden that "in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Paul confirms this: "They know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die" (Rom. 1:32). The amazing truth I am trying to say to you is that God himself, the second person of the Trinity, stepped up to take your penalty in your place. Because Jesus took your sins to the cross, where he took the blow for you, there is no penalty left for you or any of us who will accept his payment.

 

  1. God forgave "all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). It is Jesus' cross that makes the difference.

 

  1. Additionally, not only did Jesus take all of your sins (past, present, and future) on the cross, but he also gave to you his perfect righteousness as a faultless and sinless person. As a result, the answer to Job's question regarding how you can stand before God and be declared righteous is Jesus. This is why Paul says that Jesus alone is our righteousness (I Cor. 1:30). Therefore, justification through the work of Jesus Christ in your place for your sins on the cross is only possible by grace from Jesus Christ alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, because of Jesus Christ alone.

 

  1. You are justified by grace alone, which means that there is absolutely nothing you can do to contribute to your justification. Rather, when Jesus said, "It is finished" on the cross, he was declaring that all that needed to be done for your justification was completed in him. For this reason, Titus 3:7 speaks of "being justified by his grace." Furthermore, Romans 5:16-17 says, “And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin [Adam's]. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

  1. This gracious gift of Jesus' righteousness and justification must be received by you through personal faith alone. In other words, to be justified is to trust only in the person and work of Jesus and no one and nothing else as the object of your faith, righteousness, and justification. On this point Acts 13:39 says, "By [Jesus] everyone who believes is freed from everything." Also Romans 4:3-5 says, "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.'

 

  1. John’s Responsibility (What does John need to do?)

 

  1. You need to believe, in the core of your existence, that the source of your justifying grace and the object of your justifying faith is Jesus Christ alone. Simply, Jesus is everything. You need to give your sins to Jesus in repentant faith and receive from him the gift of righteousness in humble grace. Isaiah 53:11 says, "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." Galatians 2:16 says, "A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." Romans 5:9 and 4:25 further stress that your justification is made possible by both Jesus' death and resurrection, saying, respectively, "We have now been justified by his blood," and "[He] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." John, despite all of your sin, God has provided a way for you to be justified and declared righteous in his sight: Jesus' death on the cross in your place for your sins.

 

  1. A day is coming, John, when you will die or Jesus will return; on that day you will stand before Jesus. Speaking of that judgment day, Paul says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Cor. 5:10). That day will feel eerily similar to the day you stood in court before a human judge who read your sentence. Unlike the day of your condemnation in a human court, however, that day will be a glorious day in which your salvation is declared in the court of God if you become a Christian in this life.

 

  1. Let me be clear. I am in no way saying that I am in any way a better person than you. Jesus' own brother James writes in the Bible that God does not see people as good and bad but rather as either perfectly sinless or imperfect sinners. We all stand guilty before God with the exception of the sinless Jesus. Subsequently, I too should stand before Jesus and be condemned forever to the fiery torments of hell. However, because of Jesus' work on the cross for me and his ongoing work in changing me from sin to obedience through the Holy Spirit, I have assurance of being declared righteous on my proverbial day in court. On that day, I will be declared righteous because my sin was taken by Jesus and his righteousness was gifted to me.

 

 

  1. I know that much pain has come into your life as a consequence of your sin. Many of your friends, family members, and coworkers want nothing to do with you. Furthermore, you are no longer welcome anywhere there are children; and even whole neighborhoods would prefer that you, as a registered sex offender, not live there. Yet, it is God himself who is welcoming you to be justified through Jesus into an eternal transforming relationship with the God who died and rose for you, that one day you too might rise to live with him and his people forever. To many people, this sounds altogether preposterous, and the New Testament even uses the Greek word for scandal to explain the shockingly wonderful nature of God's saving grace poured out on sinners like you and me through Jesus Christ (John 6:61; Rom. 9:33; I Cor. 1:23).

 

  1. Confess your sins in prayerful repentance to Jesus. Then ask him to apply his justifying work on the cross to you. Jesus will gladly welcome you as a friend so that you can live a new life by his power with a new joy by his provision. That new life will be marked by an ongoing increase in holy living because you will hate your sin for what it did to Jesus. In addition, you will love Jesus for what he has done for you, and he will give you a deep desire to be like him.

 

  1. Homework (What does John need to do?)
    1. Commit to memory all of Romans 3:21-31. If you become a Christian, you will find that Satan will continually condemn you for the sins of your past, but the truth of that section of Scripture will prove to be an anchor for your soul throughout life's storms.

 

  1. Spend a considerable amount of time pondering Luke 18:9-14. There Jesus tells a parable about a man with whom you will identify. In the story, two men went into the Old Testament temple to pray to God. One man wrongly considered himself righteous and looked down on other people whom he considered to be far less holy and righteous than himself. The other man reminds me much of you. That man was so devastated by his sin that he stood alone in the corner, as you have in our church. He would look only at the ground in shame, unable even to make eye contact with other people, just as you do. That man earnestly repented of his sin, beating his chest in remorse and crying out, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Jesus finishes the parable with an encouragement that should bring you untold joy, saying, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 14). The first man made the tragic error that religious people are prone to make. He wrongly thought he could get justification from his good works.  He wrongly thought that if he lived a good life and sought to pay back God through giving money, fasting, praying, and doing good works, God would be obligated to justify him. The other man did not confuse his justification and his sanctification. He humbly understood that he could be justified only by God through grace as he repented of who he was and what he had done. Only through that work of justification could he live an ongoing life of sanctification, being continually conformed to the character of Jesus by the same transforming grace that flows from him to us because of the cross.

 

  1. John, you have been condemned by the court and your conscience. A day is coming when you will be condemned before Jesus Christ unless you are justified by him alone. So, I am asking you to search your heart and conscience to be sure that you know Jesus, love Jesus, have placed your faith in Jesus, have repented of your sin to Jesus, have received saving grace and the gift of righteousness from Jesus, have been forgiven by Jesus, and have been justified by Jesus so that you may live a new life of ongoing sanctification, increasingly becoming more and more like Jesus.

 

  1. I know that you have been giving serious consideration to killing yourself in light of what you have done. The truth is that what you have done is worthy of death. But the good news is that Jesus has already died for your sins. As a result, you can now put your sins to death by his power and live a new life as a new man. Scripture further states that Jesus also rose from death for your justification and, as a result, is alive today and ready to hear from you, speak to you, and walk with you through the rest of your life and into eternity as not only your judge but also as your justifier (Rom. 4:25).