If anything could be considered my all-time favorite act of God in His relationship toward man, the act of God declaring the guilty to be just would be it. Without it I would stand condemned. The above title is the title to one of the lessons presented by D.A Carson in his series of lectures on “The God Who Is There”. This series of lectures is prepared for the “seekers” of God’s truth, and for the newly converted. I have also been blessed by the series. I have been listening to it on my 25 mile commute to and from work. The lesson I would like to focus on in this post is the 11th one in the series. The following is what I have gleaned from it.
The Bible goes to great lengths to show the reader that our sin is repulsive to God. Yet the Apostle Paul goes to great lengths as well to explain how the cross itself shows God to be simultaneously both just and the one to declare guilty people just.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes in great lengths how our sin makes us guilty before a holy God. This is accomplished in Romans 1:18 – 3:20. In these verses Paul unravels the truth that we all stand guilty before God. On every front we are a guilty people, no matter what our heritage is. As a matter of fact Paul contends that if you come from a heritage that knows what God’s standard is and yet still remain in rebellion, you may even be guiltier still. Paul drives home this guilty theme home with a shotgun blast of Old Testament quotations in Romans 3:10-18.
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now some might contend here that there are good people in the world. What about the doctors who discover the cure for illnesses and diseases? What about the folks like firefighters or police who risk their lives to help others? Those things are indeed good things but they do not in fact make the people good? The heart of evil is God’s creation, all of us, desiring to go our own way and rebelling against the God who made us. Don’t believe this? In Matthew 22:35 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. In the next four verses Jesus declares:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Does anyone truly do this? I know I fall completely short of it and should be considered guilty. We are all fallen and cursed. The only cure is provided through Jesus Christ the savior of the fallen and cursed. This is unpacked by the apostle Paul in Romans 3:21-26 and the following argument made in 27-31.
I love that “But now” (ESV). Paul begins to write of how the guilty, the fallen and cursed, are declared just. The first thing Paul lays out (v. 21) is the revelation of God’s righteousness and its relationship to the Old Testament. He goes on to contend that this same righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. All have sinned (v. 23) and fall short of being just, but are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption (purchased back from our sin debt) that comes through Jesus Christ. Christ was put forward by God as a propitiation (satisfying) atonement by Christ’s blood shed. In other words instead of God showing His wrath toward us, God is now favorable to us through Christ’s blood. Through Christ our relationship with God drastically changes.
Verses 26 and 27 of Romans 3 drive home the conclusion of the title. They are so important. Because the text shows that not only does God provide the propitiation for our sin debt but he also demonstrates his justice by being the just God, and the justifier. God is the justifier by providing the satisfaction of the believer’s sin debt to Himself through Christ, but he also demonstrates His own righteousness by doing this. God’s justice is most powerfully demonstrated in the cross of Christ. In the audio, D.A. Carson puts it so eloquently: “There, Jesus, the God-man, bore Hell itself.” Because of this God can look at the believer as righteous. Because of this God can also look at the believer as justified. God is glorified. I am declared not-guilty.
The whole CD collection can be obtained free from Monergism Books here. I will also find a way to post the MP3 files for download below.
Soli Deo Gloria!