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The Christian Counter

     
Salvation through Justification
Lesson 28
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Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:1,2

The Way to Eternal Life is Through Jesus

Consider these five statements:

1.      The only way a sinner can receive eternal life is through justification.

 

2.      Justification is a legal standing in the court of Heaven in which a sinner is viewed as though he has not broken the law (is without sin).

 

3.      Justification occurs when a person becomes willing to obey the authority of the Holy Spirit and live a life of faith.

4.      Justification can be illustrated in the following way: Angels record the words, actions and motives of every person. Within the books of records is a faithful record of each person’s life. When a sinner becomes willing to obediently submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit and live by faith, Jesus justifies that sinner by placing His perfect life over the record of the sinner. As long as the covering of Jesus remains intact, that sinner is not under the penalty of sin. He is free of the condemnation which God’s law demands.

5.      An absolute knowledge of God is not required for justification. However, a sinner’s ongoing obedient submission to the Holy Spirit is required for the continuation of justification.

Blessed Assurance

Any sinner can receive the assurance of eternal life right now, this very minute, if he or she agrees to obediently submit to the demands of the Holy Spirit. If you are willing at this very moment to go, to be, and to do all that the Holy Spirit asks of you, rejoice! The assurance of eternal life is yours through a heavenly process called justification. Whenever this transforming moment occurs, a new life of faith begins. Of course, a sinner can return to his sinful ways at any time because the power of choice still remains.

(Ezekiel 18) Just because we are willing to submit to the demands of the Holy Spirit today does not mean that we have to submit to His sanctifying demands tomorrow. To a large extent, the internal authority of the Holy Spirit is limited by our desire and cooperation. If a person so desires, He can be permanently turned away. (Matthew 12:31,32)

How can we tell if the Holy Spirit is pressing us for submission? How can we distinguish between the guilt produced by the Holy Spirit or some kind of false guilt? The urging of the Holy Spirit always conforms to Heaven’s constitution of love. We are to love the Lord with all our hearts, mind and soul, and we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The difference between false guilt and guilt imposed by the Holy Spirit becomes easier to differentiate as we learn more about Jesus. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. His example helps us understand many things about the properties of life. A growing knowledge of Jesus Christ sets us free of unnecessary guilt and burdens that God has not imposed.

The process of entering into the assurance of eternal life happens in a rather predictable way, although it is not limited to this process. Here’s my experience: The Holy Spirit produced a strong feeling and relentless conviction that I was guilty of sin before God. My guilt and condemnation weighted often on my mind, because unbeknown to me at the time, the Holy Spirit was trying to motivate me to “get right” with God. Eventually, I recognized my condemnation as a sinner and I wanted pardon from my sins. I desired to know God. I had heard enough to know that people who do wicked things have no hope of a future life and I did not want to miss out on Heaven. I did not know much about God in those days, but I believed God would be pleased with me if I stopped doing things that I knew were wrong. I also knew that it was impossible for me to stop sinning and I wondered how God dealt with human beings like me. The problem was simple: He wanted me to stop sinning, but I could not stop sinning. How could I be saved and go on sinning? In those days, I did not understand the wonderful offer of justification.

Over time as my spiritual maturity developed, I became willing to go, to be, and to do as God directed in my life – no holds barred. I did not become a Christian by invitation. That is, I did not decide to become a Christian by walking down the isle of the front of a Church. One day I made a commitment to God and became a Christian. I was at work when I resolved that from now on, I would be a follower of Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost. It I remember correctly, one of my first decisions involved restitution. I understand that God’s grace and forgiveness were not a whitewash for wrongdoing. From my personal Bible study, I concluded that God required me to make restitution to those whom I had defrauded in the past. So, I began to make restitution from past wrongs as best I knew how. This was expensive, and it required several hundred dollars. After reviewing my past and making every wrong right as far as possible, I confessed my sins to God and have had perfect peace about them ever since.  I was happy and truly free of guilt, which made me feel much closer to God. I resolved, by God’s grace, not to do those things again. Do not be fooled! Sin is always expensive! Sin will take you farther than you want to go and cost you more than you want to pay. During this transforming process in my life, some of my friends fled. They thought I had become a religious fanatic.

By faith, I accepted God’s assurance that He was pleased with my actions. I was happier and felt closer to god, although my understanding of God and His will was very limited. Thirty years later, my peace and joy remain. As long as I continue to obey the demands of the indwelling Holy Spirit, I know that Jesus justifies me before the Father as though I am without sin, even though I am a sinner. Because of this, I am at peace with God and have the joyful assurance of salvation. Yes, I still sin, but now I understand a few things about dealing with sin. First, accidental or unintentional sin does not bring eternal death. John says, “All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.” (1 John 5:17) Second, I am prone to sin and rebellion because I am under the curse of sin. Paul noticed the same thing after being a Christian for about 25 years. He wrote, “But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Romans 7:23)

Last, when I do sin there is a process that I must obediently follow. First, I have to acknowledge to the Holy Spirit that I understand the guilt He is imposing in my heart because I have sinned. Next, I have to confess to my neighbor that I have sinned against him and I must provide restitution as far as possible. Last, I turn to Jesus. John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) This order of events is well stated in Scripture. (Matthew 5:23-26) If I am faithful in dealing with the sin problem, my willingness to go, to be and to do God’s will is affirmed. Jesus sees the evidence of my faith and He, my Savior and Lord, grants me the covering of His righteousness.

Justification is possible for three reasons. First, God’s offer of justification is based on nothing but God’s love for man. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16,17) second, Jesus came to Earth and He lived a perfect life so that He might cover us with His righteous life! “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10) Last, Jesus is qualified to justify repentant sinners because He paid our penalty for sin. In other words, sinners cannot be justified as sinless people if the penalty upon sinners has not been removed. Jesus provided the necessary restitution for every sinner. The merits of this restitution are transferred to sinners when they submit to the demands of the Holy Spirit. When I became willing to submit to God’s will, Jesus covered my sinful life with His perfect life. (Romans 5:17) Notice, I emphasized the word willing. Works does not justify us. Works are a reflection of the motives and desires of our heart. We can do right for the wrong reason (legalism) and we can attempt to justify wrong doing (rebellion). Making restitution in order to be saved is a corrupt motive. An honest motivation that prompts appropriate restitution comes from a deeper understanding of what loving our neighbor is all about.

A parallel between all sinners and Adam and Eve’s Garden of Eden experience provides an excellent illustration. When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost the covering of light that covered their bodies. Realizing their shame, they ran and hid from God. They tried to cover their nakedness with some large itchy fig leaves, but Jesus used this opportunity to present a wonderful object lesson. Jesus killed a flawless sacrificial lamb and I presume He covered the naked pair with its skin. (Genesis 3:7-21) The parallel for every sinner is that we too, stand naked before God. He knows whom we are, where we are, and He knows all of our sins. Any attempt to cover up (or justify) sin is foolish. Jesus offers “His perfect skin” as the Lamb of God, the spotless wedding garment of His righteousness, to all of us. If we surrender our will to God and daily submit to the Holy Spirit, Jesus covers our nakedness with His perfect righteous life. Therefore, when the Father sees us wearing the robe of Jesus’ righteousness, we stand before God fully clothed as though we never sinned!” (Ephesians 2:8,9) Justification is available to every person who has lived, regardless of religious background.

Just as Though I Have Never Sinned

My joy and peace is full because I know that when the Father looks at me, He see me as though I am without sin. Christ’s perfect life of righteousness can cover the worst sinner. Justification does not require works, deeds or proof that I am a changed man. The thief on the cross did not prove that he was a changed man, but he was granted the righteousness of Jesus that very day. (Ephesians 2:8,9; Luke 23:43) I am sure the thief would have become a different man if he could have lived longer. The profound beauty of justification is that it begins in Heaven the moment we become willing to submit to the authority of the indwelling Spirit. As long as we continue in a submissive attitude (to be, to go, to do) toward God’s authority over our lives, we have the assurance of eternal life.

This, in a nutshell, is how my justification and yours begin before God through Christ. Even though the process is simple, it is a miracle! How the Holy Spirit transforms a rebellious heart into a submissive heart is a mystery that God alone knows, but it does happen! (John 3; Romans 8) So, if you are missing the joy and peace that comes from “letting go and letting God,” if you have not experienced the full assurance of God’s salvation through the justification that Jesus offers, if you have not grasped something about God’s great love for you, review the process and implement those portions that remain unfinished in your life. If the Holy Spirit is not beating you up with that strong and relentless conviction that you need salvation, perhaps you need to slow down and ask God to speak to your heart! The Spirit will reveal your true condition before God if you open your heart. I have been there, and my testimony is not unusual. Submit to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, confess your sins, and provide restitution where possible and joy and peace will surely follow.

That’s Not All

Now comes the scary part! When a person receives the assurance of salvation through justification, he or she begins a faith-journey. The journey may seem frightening at times, because you do not know where the journey may lead, but you know who is leading. You may not know which road you will take, but you know where you will end up. You don’t know how you will get there, but a way will be made. In short, walking with Jesus is a scary experience at times, because The Good Shepherd leads His sheep over dangerous mountain trails and through the deepest ravines to take them home. The scary part should not be the travail of travel, but the possibility of losing sight of The Good Shepherd. When two people stand at the marriage alter and unite their lives by agreeing to vows of fidelity, they begin a journey of a lifetime that will take them through uncharted waters. So it is when we join ourselves to Jesus. People who join themselves to Jesus begin a journey that is uncharted to the human eye. Marriage requires fidelity, loyalty, faith and love and so does the journey with Jesus.

Basic Law

By definition, “basic law” is an instinct or inherent ability to rationally determine right from wrong. Most young people exhibit this phenomenon at an early age. When a child has achieved enough maturity to determine right from wrong on his or her own, that age is often called the age of accountability. Thomas Jefferson eloquently noted the presence of “basic law” in the “introduction” of the Bill of Rights for the U.S. Constitution. He wrote, “We hold certain truths to be self evident…” In other words, intelligent people can determine right from wrong because “basic law” is operating and this feature is self evident within all humanity. Yet, the opposite is just as true. If someone does not want to understand or agree with the truth, no one can show him or her the truth! In fact, people who want to justify evil are the first to deny what is right. (John 3:20)

God created human beings with reasoning powers. Even before Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, God wanted man to distinguish between good and evil. If people strive to live right and be honorable – no matter what religion they belong to – they are doing all that God asks of them.

God does not hold a person guilty who does not know His will, but God will condemn a person who refuses to accept the truth! This is a critical point in understanding how salvation operates. Knowing does not save man or agreeing with absolute truth, instead man is saved by faithfully living up to all he believes to be righteous and true. Closely study Paul’s comment: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law {the knowledge of God penned by Moses, but they}, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness {when they do wrong}, and their thought now accusing {them of their wrong deeds}, {this confirms they know from right and wrong and their conscience is} now even defending them. This {is how the judgment} will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Romans 2:14-16, insertion mine.)

The word law as used by Paul in this context is a reference to Moses writings. The point Paul is making is that God judges the heart and takes into consideration the knowledge base that is in the heart. Therefore, Gentiles who know nothing about the true God and His ways will be judged by the same process as Jews and Christians who have had every opportunity to know God and His ways. God righteously judges each person on the basis of his or her knowledge base and the resulting actions. (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14) People who live up to the high ideals of what they honestly believe God wants of them demonstrates the kind of faith that pleases God! James also supports the concept of basic law. He says, “Anyone, then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

I do not want to leave you with the impression that God is not concerned with absolute right and wrong. He is very concerned about absolute right and wrong. The Ten Commandments are ten absolutes. Period. They are not “Ten Suggestions” or a place to negotiation. Jesus himself wrote the Ten Commandments on tables of stone and His eternal law is more enduring than stone. Still, God understands that everyone on Earth does not know about His absolutes or the terms and conditions within the Plan of Salvation. Therefore, He righteously judges each person on their knowledge base, actions and willingness to search for and submit to higher truths as the Holy Spirit leads. God does not require that we know or understand all His marvelous truths in order to receive salvation, for no one on Earth understands everything there is to know about God! However, God does require that we submit, by faith, to a growing spiritual process so that we might know His will. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) If we honestly submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as we understand it, to go, to be and to do His will, God is pleased. If we endeavor to grow in knowledge and understanding, Jesus will bless us with a deeper understanding of truth!

Nothing on Earth compares to walking with God. He is anxious to reveal the issues and ways of life! God knows our knowledge base and the motives that prompt our actions and still loves us in spite of our great ignorance. But, and this is an emphatic “but,” God is not pleased when we compromise our beliefs or shrink back from the demands of faith. Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)

While we are on the topic of ignorance and law, consider the practical side of ignorance of the law. Since man cannot read the heart or determine the motives of another man, man has to take an opposite approach to the issue of ignorance and law. Man’s laws take the perspective: “Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.” So when a person gives the excuse, “But officer, I did not know the speed limit was 35…”we should not be surprised when the officer writes a traffic citation.

Salvation Includes Full Restoration

The Plan of Salvation begins with “basic law.” Realization that we need a Savior comes after we sense guilt and become aware of sin’s penalty. Without the presence and operation of basic law, there would be no guilt and salvation would not be deemed necessary or desirable, because an infant cannot reason. The Bible does not support infant baptism. The notion of infant baptism originally began from a distortion of Christ’s teaching. Jesus answered {Nicodemus}, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.’” (John 3:5, insertion mine.) S superficial reading of this text can result in this twisted meaning: “Unless a person is baptized by water, he or she cannot receive eternal life.” In ancient times, the Christian Church abused this text and unfortunately, the tradition continues today. History reveals that the early church used baptism and other rituals to control the access to salvation. If people were cut off (or excommunicated) from the rituals offered by the Church, they were considered eligible for eternal life. Since adherents believed the rituals were mandatory for salvation, this gave a great deal of control to the Church. The Church implemented infant baptism because infant mortality rates were very high. To ensure that every infant would enter Heaven, the Church taught that children had to be baptized as soon as possible. Of course, an appropriate “gift” to the Church was also expected. Obviously, an infant does not know one thing about basic law, guilt or salvation, and the Bible clearly teaches that salvation does not come through rituals or works of the flesh. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

Let us examine the meaning of John 3:5. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless (a) his or her heart is made alive to spiritual matters by the Holy Spirit, and (b) he or she is washed clean of rebellion. During the time of Nicodemus, it was customary to immerse Gentiles converts who wished to become citizens of Israel in the Jordan River. The Jews regarded baptism by immersion as a symbolic act indicating death (burial) to the past and resurrection to a new life. In other words, a Gentile went down into the water and a Jew came out! Jesus used the symbol of baptism to make a point with Nicodemus that if a person wants to become a member of God’s kingdom, he or she too, must be “born of water” to become a member of a new kingdom. (Romans 6:1-7)

The Bible reveals that children are born with the assurance of salvation until they choose otherwise. In other words, God does not hold children accountable for sin until they know better (accountability begins when basic law states working within a young person – James 4:17) Since Jesus paid the price for every sinner and children are not held accountable for sin, what prevents them from having the assurance of salvation? Some Christians believe just the opposite, believing that a child is born condemned to eternal death. This was the reasoning used in ancient times when infant baptism began. But consider this: If God considers an adult sinner a saint because of his or her faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement, why not a mere child, who is simply too young to know right from wrong? God is much more generous than man and God loves every child – for such is the kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 19:14)

How Man Became Unsaved

Why is justification necessary in the Plan of Salvation? What makes salvation necessary in the first place? Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? What issues are involved between God and man? These are very important questions and we will examine them.

According to the book of Genesis, God created man in His image, forming him out of dirt. God placed man in the Garden of Eden, where he had unrestricted access to the Tree of Life. As long as man had access to the fruit on the Tree of Life, man’s life was sustained indefinitely. The point must be made that Jesus created man (and even the angels) as mortal beings. The word “mortal” means subject to death, having a beginning and the possibility of an end. The word “immortal” means to have no beginning or end and is the term that applies only to God. (1 Timothy 6:15,16; Hebrews 7:3; Revelation 1:18) Many people are surprised to learn the Bible teaches that human beings are mortal because they have a beginning and the possibility of an end. Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Italics mine.) Adam did not exist as some intelligent entity prior to his creation. The soul of Adam came into existence on the sixth day of Creation when God put the breath of life into a body made of dirt. In a similar manner, the soul of Adam ceased to exist when the breath of life was taken from his body of dirt. After his death, Adam does not exist as some intelligent entity. The soul of man is mortal. “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credit to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” (Ezekiel 18:20) Jesus told Adam,” You are free to eat any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16,17) For me, the Bible is clear. Adam and Eve were to be executed the very day they sinned. The penalty of is death by execution. Most Christians overlook this important point. There are two types of death. Death caused by disease, accident or “natural causes” is the consequence of sin, but the penalty for sin is death by execution. This is why it was necessary for Jesus to be executed at Calvary and this also explains why the wicked will be executed by fire at the end of the 1,000 years. Many Bible students have difficulty interpreting Genesis 2:16,17 because Adam and Eve did not die the day they sinned. The reason they were not slain that very day is this: Jesus immediately went before the Father and offered to die in man’s place. The Father accepted the offer of Jesus and their execution was stayed. Ever since that fateful day, Jesus has fulfilled two roles in Heaven. He is our intercessor and He is the Lamb of God. Later in this book, we will consider how these two roles reflect two unique processes that are necessary for man to be fully reconciled with God.

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