(Article for publication week of 5-18-2011 AD)
“To declare I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just and the justifier of Him that believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Since God’s justice is holy and inflexible, He will only save sinners in a way that is consistent with His justice. I would caution you not to found any hope of salvation on the mere mercy of God. God is certainly a merciful God, and we will cover that at the appropriate time, but God’s mercy is not at the expence of His inflexible and holy justice. Our text tells us that God will not save any sinner just because He feels sorry for Him. He is “just, and the justifier” of sinners who are joined to the Sin Bearer by faith.
The believer is not saved because of His act of believing. That would be “believe-ism”, rather than justification by faith. To be sure, no sinner is saved apart from a real and vital faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is Christ the sin bearer that saves the elect sinner. Salvation is not a sinner saving himself by any act of his own, including the act of faith. Rather, “it is God that justifieth” (see Romans 8:33) by charging Christ with the believer’s sins and punishing Christ instead of the believer.
We showed last week how that it pleased the Lord to bruise His eternally begotten Son (Isaiah 53:10) because His justice is so inflexible and holy that He must punish every sin. No sin may be committed in God’s universe without God punishing that sin. Everyone who has not Christ as his sin bearer must be punished in hell forever as a just recompence of reward. But everyone that trusts in Christ Alone for his whole and sole righteousness will never “pay” for his sins, because Christ has already paid the price in full. (God’s Fatherly chastisement of His people is another subject that we will take up another time, hopefully.)
Now, since God has imputed His people’s sins to Christ His eternal Son, He saves them in such a way as He maintains His justice perfectly . I want you to see that if God had simply said that He would have mercy on sinners and save them without Someone dying for them, He would have ceased to be just, and (I tremble to write it), He would have quit being God. God will not, and cannot (that is consistent with His holy character) quit being Who He is and What He is. He will not save a sinner just because he is merciful and feels sorry for that sinner. The sinner’s sins must be dealt with, and Christ was the only Person in the universe that could have been , and was, and is a sin bearer.
Believer, here thy comfort stands. Mercy and truth have met together in the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Who died to set His people free from the awful penalty of God’s just and holy law. Trust in Christ Alone for salvation, for none will ever be disappointed who truly believes in the Sin Bearer. God is just and the justifier of every poor sinner who will cease from his rebellion and believe in the atoning work of Christ, for God is the Just Justifier.