Sinclair Fergsuson on a Difficult S.W.I.M. with Geerhardus Vos

February 3, 2020 at 11:18 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Geerhardus Vos’s original writings are demanding reading for theological students, never mind for those without academic training. That is partly a stylistic matter, but mostly it is matter of the weight and profundity of his thought. He takes most readers into rivers of biblical theology in which they are unaccustomed to swimming. For some, the depth of the water and the speed of the current prove to be too much.

Sinclair Ferguson, Geerhardus Vos Anthologized

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Psalm 42:7

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 2)

January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 8 Comments
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Last time, we looked at God’s Motive in justification:
1. There was no other way for sinners to be made righteous, unless God Himself did it.
2. He did it for His Own glory.

We also examined the Meaning for justification: It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

That’s an even more Biblical definition of Justification. God made Jesus to be sin for you and me, even though Jesus Himself never sinned, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.

Here is an illustration I am borrowing from Roy Gustafson and Warren Wiersbe: Let’s say you decide to buy a Rolls Royce. You think to yourself, “Well, I spent a fortune, but I don’t care, because everyone knows that Rolls Royces don’t ever break down. Therefore, I won’t ever have to see a repair shop again.” However, sure enough, you do start to have car trouble one day. So, you call the dealership and immediately a mechanic arrives and fixes the car. Days and then weeks go by, and after a while you get worried about the cost of the repair, and, tiring of the dread, you are anxious for them to send you the bill. You call Rolls Royce, Inc., but they tell you, “We have no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls Royce.” We might say that, when God justifies a lost sinner, there’s no longer an “official record” of that sinner ever having sinned.

Curtis Hutson illustrates this another way, by comparing God’s imputation of righteousness and willful “forgetting” of sins to the “clear” button on a microwave oven that lets you start over if you programmed in 30 minutes, when you only meant to program in 30 seconds. He says that God has a divine “forgetter.”

Having said all that, however, I do want to address a couple of misconceptions about justification. The purpose of this lesson is to try to make Justification very simple to understand, but remember, the deeper into theology we go, the more practical it gets.

It is important to know if you’ve been justified, and it is important to know what it means to have been justified, and it is important to live like you’ve been justified. Justification does not really mean that it is “just as if” you never sinned. Justification declares you righteous before God – it takes away the record of your sins. But remember, it is a legal, forensic term. When my wife and I got married, we were legally declared married when somebody said, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” But nothing physically changed about us at that instant. Justification is an event – it happens in an instant. There are other “big words” in the Christian life which are part of a process – such as “sanctification” – but the record of your sin, at the moment of true salvation, is really and truly covered with the blood of Jesus under the doctrine of Justification. Your slate is then “clean,” but your slate is not then “blank.” God is not, from that time on, watching and waiting, without knowing, to see whether you will ever sin again. No, He already knows you will sin after being justified. Therefore, we need to remember that Justification declares you to be, not only redeemed from the price of sin, but actually righteous before God. That is even better than “just as if” you never sinned.

Let’s review:
1. The Motive for Justification: We were meritless sinners with no hope for righteousness outside of God’s Own righteousness somehow being imputed to us.
2. The Meaning of Justification: It is the act of God whereby He, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

Now, let’s examine at the Method of Justification, meaning how it’s done – how God ordained it to be. We want to know why there is justification, what is justification, and how justification works. These inquiries mirror three of life’s biggest questions for every one of us: Why am I here? Who put me here? How did He do it?

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Supposedly, the ancient philosopher Socrates, after much deep consideration, once said to his protege’ Plato: “It may be that God can forgive sin, but I don’t see how…” He was describing a real problem. God is just. We have sinned. God forgives sinners. But where did His justice go? Or: God is love. God gives us justice. But where did His love go?

Justification is God’s glorious solution to this problem. It cancels our sin debt, but not by having God overlook it.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

God’s justification and our redemption are by grace, not by merit. God did not see something in us worthy of justification. He justifies because He is the God of grace. He is not lonely. He is not frustrated. He is not lacking in worshipers. He needs nothing outside of His Triune Self to be complete and satisfied. The word translated “freely” in Romans 3:24 means “without a cause.” It describes the same idea behind the way the Jewish and Roman authorities tried, convicted, and killed Jesus: “without a cause.” There was no cause in Him for Him to be punished. There is no cause in us for us to be pardoned or saved – much less justified and given God’s righteousness and the standing we are given.

I want you to cancel the idea that you are basically a good person, or that God saw something in you that could really be useful, or that He finally got you to start acting the way you ought to act so that He could save you. NO! Salvation – redemption – regeneration – justification – is of the LORD!

So, Justification is by grace, and now we will see the other part of the Method of justification: it is through faith. And if it is through faith, it can not be of works.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20

Oh, how the carnal man hates to hear this! He says, “But it MUST depend in some way on what I can do. I will accept God’s grace, but can’t I add some of my works to it? Surely I can’t admit that I am totally incapable of helping myself in any way.”

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 3:27-28

Now we see that Justification is all God – His grace, received by faith – nothing good inherently in us – nothing good we were able to do. But what about God’s holiness and justice? The Bible says that sin charges a debt, and that debt must be paid. The answer to this dilemma is that Justification is the act of God’s grace, appropriated by faith ALONE – in the blood of His OWN SON.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Romans 5:8-9

God poured out His wrath for my sins, but His Son took it in my place. The debt that was owed for my sins was paid – but Jesus Christ the Righteous is the One Who paid – and He paid it in full! “It is finished,” He said, and, because He was telling the Truth, I live! I have eternal Life. I am justified before God!

I not only can try to tell you what Justification means – I have had it happen to me personally. The devil accuses me of sin – I accuse myself of sin – you can accuse me of sin if you want. But when God hears the accusation and looks in His divine account books for the record of my sin, He does not see it there. The record He sees is the record of His Own dear Son coming up out of that empty tomb, with nail prints in His wrists, saying, “Paid in Full.
God says, “I have no legal record of the sins of the accused. He’s My child, My son. He’s RIGHT with Me – JUSTIFIED.

If that is your testimony, too, you need to stop listening to whomever or whatever is telling you that you are still guilty. If your testimony is that, “I really didn’t realize that justification is the gracious of act of God. I’ve been trusting in myself or my deeds or works,” then forsake that right now. Believe that Jesus Christ paid for your sins in full, and call upon Him to save you. You, too, can be Justified.

Next time, we will look at the marks of justification.


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