No One Justified In God’s Sight (Part 1).
Romans 3 – 5.
Unless we have been through some emotional and/or physical life-threatening event, and had come through it, the thought of salvation from any near-fatal incident would likely remain theoretical and detached emotionally. When we extrapolate earthy salvation beyond the temporal into the eternal, our grasp of it becomes even more remote. Most likely, eternal salvation would be relegated to a decision, and stashed away in our subconscious, unless the distant reality of either heaven or hell or the presence of God becomes spiritually reactive and permanently etched in our psyche. However, eternity, to most, possesses an element of an unreal distant future. The Apostle Paul conclusively pronounced to the Roman believers that no one alive or dead is justified in God’s eyes, an definitive unsettling human predicament. It is in this portion of his Epistle that we come face-to-face with our own hopelessness in self-justification, as we stand before a holy God, neither through the law nor from within ourselves, are we able to earn God’s righteousness; where holiness is the crux, disqualifying us in our right to salvation! Salvation is all about God, it is never about us! (Rom 3:20-26).
It is no coincidence that Paul used ‘justification’ concurrently with ‘righteousness,’ as they both share the same Greek root. This legal term in the New Testament era is used to adjudicate a person’s innocence to a misdemeanour, and in this sense, Paul declared a person to be righteous, through faith, in Christ’s redemptive work. It is crucial to realise that good works do not justify us before God, but justification is secured through an expression of our faith, which acts as a conduit in our reception of God’s act of justification through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Rom 3: 20, 28). Hence, the critical importance of faith is not faith itself, but the object of our faith – that is, faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3: 22, 26). Understandably, the spiritual mechanics of this sacrificial transaction is beyond the grasp of human logic. We may embrace the reason for this transaction with thankfulness, but its internal spiritual workings within the Trinity have to wait till we meet our Saviour face-to-face.
On an earthly level, how did God justify sinners, who deserve punishment instead? Atonement for sins in the Old Testament required an act of propitiation in the sacrifice of a perfect animal, where its blood representing its life, was drained away. In this sense, Christ – the sinless Man – propitiated Himself to atone for the sins of humanity once for all (1 Peter 3:18), satisfying the wrath of God against sin. Consequently, our life in Christ is an exchanged life: whereby, Jesus took our place at the cross, satisfying God’s justice against sinners, that resulted in an inexplicable process where we received Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). To be in Christ is an exhilarating privilege, but the nuts and bolts of its positional reality remains unfathomable. However, it is certain that when we are in Christ, we ARE justified (c.f., John 15:13).
The human intellect, in attempting to traverse and analyse the interminable theological nuances and emphases of righteousness, justification, and propitiation, must inevitably conclude, not unlike Paul’s appreciation of the depths of eternal love, when he concluded, ‘now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully as I also have been fully known’ by God one day (1 Cor 13:12). Most of us are totally wrapped up in our banal mundane existence in this world, where the issues of Yahweh’s timeless truths may be as distant as eternity itself. In our impossible attempts to fully understand the Infinite, we need to reflexively worship and adore Him, the uncreated One who willingly laid down His own life for His creation.
Read “No One Justified In God’s Sight (Part II)” Here: