The Application of Justification – Romans 3:19-26

 
Let’s say that a man was worried about robberies in his neighborhood, so he sets up a surveillance camera. It is rigged to a digital recorder, making a constant video of everything that takes place on his property. One copy of the recording is collected on the owner’s computer inside the house, but there is a second recording automatically being stored on his computer at work. One night, months later, that property owner comes home and gets into a fight with his wife. He strikes her across the head with the closest thing handy, and she dies. The murderer then cleans up the crime scene and removes every shred of evidence. He realizes that he has a ready-made alibi because of something earlier that evening. Then he goes inside the house and removes the video on his computer. But he doesn’t know that a neighbor heard the commotion and called the police. They arrived just as he finishes up with his computer and as he slips out the back door of his house, racing to his office. The investigators take a quick look at what is on his computer, and one of them is smart enough to realize that video was sent to another site. The neighbor then tells them that the husband of the murdered woman had boasted of his back-up system. The police figure that they have no time to spare, so they have an officer downtown enter the man’s office and confiscate the other computer. There it is – absolute proof that the man murdered his wife.

Unfortunately, when the case comes before the judge, he is obligated, by law, to throw out the video evidence. The police were required to get a search warrant before entering the man’s office, because that was not the crime scene. They knew that they acted in haste, but they went ahead with it, thinking that they would be able to find other evidence – unfortunately they didn’t. The murderer goes free on a technicality of law, even though the whole world knows that he is guilty.

Society is appalled at the seemingly constant string of stories like this. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of violent criminals still stalking their prey, because of things like this. And honest people are not only appalled, but concerned, and even worried. Is there no justice in this world? If the government won’t step in and punish the criminal, then why doesn’t God do it?

Of course, one of the problems is the stupid complexity of our human laws. There should be something in place in the case of my fictitious story which would still make that video acceptable evidence. Just because someone is interrogated by police without a lawyer present shouldn’t make his confession of the crime inadmissible in court. The problem is with the law. But what if the law was holy, righteous and good? What if the law was perfect?

Romans 3:26 is one of the watershed verses of the scriptures. It posses a problem which is similar to, but a thousand times more difficult, than my silly illustration. The righteous God, has elected to save, forgive, free, and make righteous thousands of spiritual criminals. But if He chooses to overlook the law and their crimes against that law, then He, the Righteous Judge becomes unjust. You may say that as God, Jehovah can do whatever He chooses to do, but that is not exactly true. There are many things that God cannot do, because He cannot contradict His own nature. For example He cannot lie, because He IS the truth. And He cannot die, because He IS life itself. Since the law is a revelation of the Divine Being, it is impossible for God to contravene that law. So God cannot save a single sinner – He cannot justify – declare us righteous – and still be just Himself. Unless – unless He does something spectacular and miraculous, which meets the need of the sinner while still maintaining His own holiness.

I realize that much of this is review, but I do plan to take a small step forward this evening.

First, there is the problem of sin.
Do I talk to much about sin? I’m not sure that it is possible to preach against it too much. It surrounds us, envelopes us, invades us and pervades us. Temptation to sin is common to man, and even the Lord Jesus was besieged by it. The moment that we forget sin and forget that we are sinners, is the moment that we’ve sinned again. I have no idea how much of the Bible is spent describing and defining sin, but it is a large portion. And that is before we come to all the chapters which talk about the law itself. There are sixteen chapters in the Book of Romans, and so far at least the first three chapters have been dedicated to this subject.

The conclusion of those chapters, and the conclusion of the subject is that we are all sinners. We have come short of the glory of God throughout our lives, and even in our births. Furthermore, the harder we try to come up to the glory of God the farther we slip back from it. “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.” Jehovah God is absolutely holy – perfectly righteous – and not one of His creatures can ever have a moment’s fellowship with Him unless they are perfectly righteous as well. There are righteous angels, who are permitted to serve Him and stand in His presence. And Adam and Eve enjoyed the Lord in the few moments of their innocence. But now, “there is none righteous, no, not one.”

And despite what foolish human beings might think about God’s law, it cannot be used to make unrighteous people holy. There is no human righteousness, and there is no way for humans to make themselves righteous. In those two sentences I believe that I have summarized the first two and a half chapters of this book.

But that doesn’t undo the fact that God decreed from before the foundation of the earth to redeem some of us.

So the Lord has taken it upon Himself to provide a solution.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law & the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”

There are millions of religious, but ignorant people, who think that the Old Testament and the New Testament are at odds with each other. They think that the Old Testament is all about a Law which condemns us, but the New Testament provides some sort of solution. They have the idea that one is black and the other is bright white, not realizing that there is as much condemnation in the New Testament as in the Old, and that in the Old Testament there are plenty of statements about God’s righteous, saving grace. The saving righteousness and grace of God is testified by the law and prophets as much as it is by Jesus and the Apostles.

Isaiah is sometimes called the Evangelical Prophet, because so much of his book sounds New Testament-like. Paul quotes from Isaiah 45 in another place and another context, but listen to what God said through the prophet in regards to our subject for this evening – “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

Isaiah testified that it’s in the Lord that sinners like us can have righteousness. In the Lord ONLY can anyone be justified. We are made righteous by the grace of God. The Old Testament doesn’t say that by the deeds of the law sinners can be justified. It say that in the Lord there is righteousness and justification. Isaiah 54 – “This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Even dark and dismal Jeremiah says the same thing – “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Going back to the law, Genesis 15:6 clearly says that Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

There is a way to make the square peg of our human unrighteousness, fit into the perfectly round hole of the Lord’s righteous law. The ragged margins of our wicked lives are made to align with the Law by the Lord’s marvelous grace. Verse 24 – “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” God has set forth the Lord Jesus to satisfy the penalty of the law against us – “to declare his righteousness for the remission” of our sins. And in declaring Jesus’ righteousness, God is able to be both just and the justifier of them which believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – verse 26.

The preceding verse says that God “set forth” Jesus to be the propitiation that we need because of our sins. That Greek word is used only three times in the Bible, and it is translated in two different ways. Romans 1:13 – “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I PURPOSED to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” Ephesians 1:9 – “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath PURPOSED in himself.” This verse says that God deliberately purposed that Jesus Christ be the satisfaction that our sins needed. He was foreordained, decreed, planned and eventually delivered to be our Saviour.

There IS justification with God; we can be made to line up against the perfect margins of God’s demands. But it has nothing to do with our lives or natures. We can’t obediently keep the law of God and expect that obedience to make us righteous.

And yet, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.

What a glorious message.

And what is required of us in order to enjoy this miracle of grace?
We are told simply to believe that God has done it on our behalf. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” Please understand that it’s not the faith which Christ Jesus has in the promise of God, which saves us. It is our faith in Jesus Christ – specifically faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.”

This is not some new plan of salvation found only in the New Testament; it is the only way that God has ever saved sinners. Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Romans 5:1 – “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Philippians 3:4-9 – “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

Let’s finish reading the rest of chapter 3 beginning with verse 23 – “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: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

We are the murderer with which I started this message. We have been caught red-handed; there is blood all over them. The law says that as sinners we must die. But the gracious God has determined to spare us, save us, glorify us and take us to be with himself for all eternity. But still that law says that we must die.

How can the holy God contradict His own law, a true reflection of His righteousness? The solution was in the death of His own beloved Son, substituting himself for each and everyone of the people whom the Lord determined to save. The only thing left for those elect souls to enjoy that salvation is to believe what God has done for them. Assuming that they understand that the law has condemned them, and assuming that they are fully repentant for their sinful condition, all that God requires of them is to trust what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished. As far as the sinner is concerned, salvation is a very simple thing – repent and trust Christ. From the perspective of the Lord, salvation is a very difficult thing. In order for the Lord to be both just and the justifier of those believing sinners, He had to sacrifice His only beloved Son.

Sinner, fall on your face in repentance and faith. Believer, fall once again on your face – in adoration and worship. Look what great thing the Lord hath wrought.