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    November 23, 1891

    “Justified by Faith” The Signs of the Times, 18, 3.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Before going further, let us have some definitions to keep in our mind. Justification is “a showing to be just, or conformable to law, rectitude, or propriety.” Condemnation is “the judicial act of declaring guilty, and dooming to punishment.” The two words are directly opposite in meaning; and we have the inspired declaration that all the world are guilty (condemned) before God, and that by the deeds of the law none can be justified.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.27

    That there may be no possibility of a mistake, we will compare Romans 2:13 and 3:20 a little further. Both are true, but they do not both apply to the same classes. The first is a universal truth. The doers of the law, wherever or whenever they are found, are justified. It cannot be otherwise. But in this world there are no doers of the law. There may be many who are trying to do it; but whatever degree of success they may have, they cannot be called doers of the law, for they have repeatedly broken it. Suppose now that it were possible for a man to turn squarely around the keep the law perfectly, would he be justified?—By no means. The law requires that all there is of us shall be devoted to it all the time. Then if a man gets behind, he can never catch up. Since all our strength is required for each hour, it is plain that the perfect performance of duty during any hour will not in the least degree make up for the non-performance of duty during any other hour. There can be no such things as works of supererogation. While the law justifies us in the performance of good deeds, it cannot, as a matter of fact, justify us for a single moment, no matter how good our present actions may be, since on its very first application to us, it must detect the past sin, and consequently must at once condemn us. Justification and condemnation have reference to our whole lives; and since, however good we may be for a portion of our lives, at the end it will be seen that we have not done all our duty, we must therefore stand condemned. The law is just and good, and therefore it can never declare a guilty man innocent.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.28

    Is there, then, no hope for any? Since all have sinned, must all receive the wages—death? Will the law with its unrelenting grasp forever hold all the world in the bondage of death? Such would be the case, and there would be no hope for any, had not “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. All the world are guilty before God, because all have sinned; but they may be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24. There is “hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” Psalm 130:7. Let us read Paul’s clear statement of how we may be justified:—SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.29

    “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.” Romans 3:24-6.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.30

    Take notice that this is not indulgence for sin, nor remission of the law, but remission of sins. The sins are remitted-sent away. By this process, the sins are taken from the individual, so that he may be counted as though he had never committed them. Note also the fact that it is by the grace of God that we are justified, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. There is no antagonism between the Father and the Son; both are concerned in the great work of man’s redemption. The death of Christ, inasmuch as the Lord “laid upon him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), made it possible for God to justify those who have faith in his blood.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.31

    “To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” Christ’s righteousness was perfect. He delighted to do the will of God, because the law-God’s will was within his heart. Psalm 40:8. He “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” 1 Peter 2:22. He alone, of all the people who ever trod this earth, could challenge even his enemies to find in his life one trace of sin. John 8:46. We have learned that righteousness is obedience to the law. Now it is because of unrighteousness-disobedience to the law-that man is condemned. If by any means a man’s whole life could be made to appear in perfect harmony with the law, it is evident that that man would be justified. It is also evident that if the sins of his life could be removed, his life would appear in harmony with the law of God. Now this is just what is done. Christ’s righteousness is declared for the remission-taking away-of those sins. As Christ’s life is worth infinitely more than the lives of all the world, so through his death his righteousness may be made to take the place of the disobedience of all those who will have faith in him. We may say that an exchange is made: Christ takes upon himself the sins of all our past life, and in return lets his righteousness be count as ours. When this is done for a man, the law can do no other than justify him. It demands perfect obedience in the life, and that is what it finds. It matters not to the law that the obedience which it finds in the man’s life is not really his own; it is counted as his own; and since the obedience is perfect, the law cannot condemn. Christ suffered the penalty for the sins which the man actually committed (Isaiah 53:6, 10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:21), and thus God can be perfectly just and at the same time may justify a man who has sinned. But this can be done only for those who have faith in Christ’s blood.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.32

    It must not be forgotten that we are now speaking only of the sins that are past. It is impossible that remission of sins could have reference to anything else, for that which does not exist cannot be taken away; and to justify a man for sins not yet committed, in other words, to grant indulgence for sins, would throw contempt on the law, and bring in anarchy and ruin. And no sins are remitted except of those who believe in Jesus. If any are Christ’s, they are Abraham’s seed (Galatians 3:29), and therefore, with him, their faith is imputed unto them for righteousness (James 2:23).SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.33

    JUSTIFICATION HONORS THE LAW

    “Therefore,” says Paul, “we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. This does not mean that the law is ignored, and that a man who disregards the law can be justified. Nothing of the kind. There could be no justification in such a case; for justification has no connection with injustice, and to clear a guilty man-a violator of the law-is an act of injustice. The Lord says that he “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3), and he does not; for the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7), and when this is applied to an individual, as it is to all who have faith in it, it frees him from guilt, and then he must necessarily stand justified. But the man could not be justified if the law were left out of the account; for justification, as we have already learned, is “a showing to be just or conformable to law.”SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.34

    But this will not be done for a man who does not acknowledge the justice of the law which condemns his sins, and, repenting of them, promise obedience to the law. No just governor would pardon a man under any other circumstances. Here is a man who has been convicted of theft; he petitions for a pardon, but unless he promises to reform, he will not be likely to get it. If he persists that he has a right to steal, and has no intention of reforming, nothing can secure his pardon. Of course this is not a perfect parallel to the sinner pleading with God for forgiveness; for when a man receives pardon from an earthly ruler, his guilt remains the same as ever; but when he receives a pardon from God, the same blood which secures the pardon takes away the sin.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.35

    The statement that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law, is only a summing up of Paul’s argument, which we have already given. No amount of work will have the slightest effect in securing justification by the remission of past sins. That which is done we cannot undo.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.36

    Nothing that we can do can alter the fact that we have sinned. Your past life has been full of sin, and you want to become free from the guilt of it; what can you do? Though you were able to keep the law without the slightest deviation, that would not remove a single sin. You can do nothing but “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He says: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden [with sin], and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. The blood of Jesus Christ, and that alone, can cleanse from sin. So we conclude, with Paul, that “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.”SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.37

    We have said that no work of ours, however perfect it may be, can stone for past transgressions; that even though we should be able to turn around and keep the law perfectly, that would not remove a single sin. As a matter of fact, however, it is impossible for the sinner to do any good work, even though it would be counted in his justification. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Galatians 5:17. This means, of course, while we are serving the flesh, and out of Christ; for Christ says, “Without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. This was said to those whose sins had been forgiven, and will certainly apply, with all its force, to those who have never know Christ. Christ says that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19. These are the works of the flesh (see the complete list in Galatians 5:19-21), and are what men do by nature. Men may have good desires, but they cannot do what they would. Galatians 5:17. The law of God is so extensive and perfect in its requirements that the best efforts of fallen man, unassisted, must fall far short of it. And this thought makes us understand still more clearly the statement that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law; for every act that the man performs before he comes to Christ, no matter how good is intentions may be, only sinks him the deeper in condemnation.SITI November 23, 1891, page 6.38

    “Not all our groans and tears,
    Nor works which we have done,
    Nor vows, nor promises, nor prayers,
    Can e’er for sin atone.
    SITI November 23, 1891, page 36.1

    “Relief alone is found
    In Jesus’ precious blood;
    ’Tis this that he is the mortal wound
    And reconciles to God.”
    SITI November 23, 1891, page 36.2

    And so the sinner, appalled at the multitude of his sins, which, like a mountain upon his back, well nigh sink him into despair, having lost all confidence in himself, may sin:—SITI November 23, 1891, page 36.3

    “Just as I am-without one plea,
    But that thy blood was shed for me,
    And that thou bid’st me come to thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come.
    SITI November 23, 1891, page 36.4

    “Just as I am-and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come.”
    SITI November 23, 1891, page 36.5

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