(Article for publication week of 6-1-2011 AD)
“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
In our last few articles on the justice of God, we showed how that God will only save sinners on the terms of His strict justice. Perhaps some sinner has seen his ruined condition and has begun to cry from the depth of his soul, “I know it is so of a truth, but how shall man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). How can I, a guilty, bankrupt sinner be righteous before a thrice-holy God Whose justice is strict and inflexible? This is the most important question we can ask ourselves, and the answer is found in our text here in Romans 3:24.
The word “freely” in our text is translated from the Greek word “dorean”. This same word is translated in John 15:25 “without a cause”. Now here is the gospel my dear broken hearted fellow sinner friend. God justifies the believer in Christ without any cause he finds in the believer, but wholly, and solely for Christ’s sake alone. Poor, broken hearted sinner, there is no reason for God to save you, except for His sovereign grace that was treasured up in His eternal and coequal Son from eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished salvation by His redemptive work of being nailed to a cross as a sin bearer for all who would ever believe in Him. The cause of justification is in God Who justifies (Romans 8:33).
And so you see God saves His people in accord with His strict and inflexible justice. All sin must be punished and God will not acquit the wicked. But the believer in Christ, who is nothing but a rotten, wicked sinner in and of himself has Christ for his willing and able Substitute. The believer’s sins were transferred to Christ. God imputed the sins of all His elect to His Son and charged Him as a sinner (though He had no sin of His Own, for He is impeccable), and punished the sin bearer instead of the believing sinner. Christ was punished for all the sins of His people once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).
And so you see, God declares the believer “not guilty” because the record has been cleared by Christ the Suffering Substitute. So Paul asks in Romans 8: 33, “who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?“ Since God has declared the believer as just, not one charge can ever be brought against him. Christ has paid for the believer’s sins past, present and future. The believer has a record with God of having his sins absolved, and so he stands in right relation to the law of God. The believer is justified!
And so the salvation of poor sinners proceeds in accord with God’s inflexible and strict justice. The believer goes free, because his Substitute paid for his sins. Thus we see that God is indeed the “just justifier” (Romans 3:26). If God had simply said, “well I feel sorry for sinners, so I will just be merciful and not punish them for their sins”, He would have ceased to be a just God. And as I have written before, God won’t quit being God. So he maintained His justice by providing His only begotten Son as the sinner’s Substitute. So God is perfectly just and perfectly merciful at the same time.
Wonder of wonders! Poor sinners who have no righteousness of their own have a perfect righteousness in Christ Jesus the Saviour. Flee to Christ awakened sinner. Trust in Him for your whole and sole righteousness. Christ is able and willing to save the chief of sinners, so come to Him even as you read this truth.
Lord willing, we will have a series of articles on justification, when we finish with the attributes of God.