Reading No. 2 – Sabbath, December 6, 2008
by Martín Lagunas, Mexico
The comforting message of justification by faith is presented often in God’s word.
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30.
“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 3:24-26.
Justification equals forgiveness, which is given by God to every person who feels pain for his sin and confesses Jesus as his Saviour, substitute, surety and Intercessor, who was made by God justification, sanctification and redemption for us. The Spirit of Prophecy expresses this very clearly: “As the penitent sinner, contrite before God, discerns Christ’s atonement in his behalf and accepts this atonement as his only hope in this life and the future life, his sins are pardoned. This is justification by faith.” –Faith and Works, p. 103. Furthermore, by the work of justification we are declared righteous because Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us.
“The great work that is wrought for the sinner who is spotted and stained by evil is the work of justification. By Him who speaketh truth he is declared righteous. The Lord imputes unto the believer the righteousness of Christ and pronounces him righteous before the universe. He transfers his sins to Jesus, the sinner’s representative, substitute, and surety. Upon Christ He lays the iniquity of every soul that believeth. ‘He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor. 5:21).” –Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 392.
Thus, he who repents and confesses each transgression and by faith acknowledges Jesus as his Saviour, not only appreciates Christ’s righteousness more than anything else, he also receives it as a gift from heaven.
A sinner cannot present atonement for his sins and justification cannot be obtained through the law. (Acts 13:38, 39) Justification is a gift from God obtained by grace through faith. This gift awakens a sincere desire to obey God’s holy law. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10.
The Message of Justification by Faith Presented in 1888
The message of justification by faith was the great topic presented during the General Conference in Minneapolis in 1888. Regarding this, sister White wrote, “There are grand truths, long hidden under the rubbish of error, that are to be revealed to the people. The doctrine of justification by faith has been lost sight of by many who have professed to believe the third angel’s message. The Holiness people have gone to great extremes on this point. With great zeal they have taught, ‘Only believe in Christ, and be saved; but away with the law of God.’ This is not the teaching of the Word of God. There is no foundation for such a faith. This is not the precious gem of truth that God has given to His people for this time. This doctrine misleads honest souls. The light from the Word of God reveals the fact that the law must be proclaimed. Christ must be lifted up, because He is a Saviour who forgiveth transgression, iniquity, and sin, but will by no means clear the guilty and unrepentant soul. ––The Review and Herald, Aug. 13, 1889.” –Selected Messages, Book 1, pp. 360, 361.
Referring to certain later meetings in other places, she writes, “Brother Jones speaks upon the subject of justification by faith, and great interest is manifested. There is a growth in faith and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There are quite a number who have not had an opportunity to hear upon this subject before, but they are taking it in, and are being fed with large morsels from the Lord’s table. The universal testimony from those who have spoken has been that this message of light and truth which has come to our people is just the truth for this time, and wherever they go among the churches, light, and relief, and the blessing of God is sure to come in.” –Ibid., pp. 361, 362.
At the conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 17 to November 4, 1888, ministers A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner spoke about justification by faith, a very important message that the Lord had sent His people. Sister Ellen G. White, who was present at that conference, invited everybody to prayerfully study this subject.
“Somehow the issues came to be identified with certain men. To many, the message of righteousness by faith struck home, and there was a response of heart and soul which led to victorious experience in personal Christian living. There were others who identified themselves with certain cautious and conservative leaders from Battle Creek who saw what they thought were perils in some of the teachings presented. When the conference came to close, these men had failed to gain the blessing God had in store for them.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. xxiii.
Justification in The Times of The Protestant Reformation
“Precious indeed was the message which Luther bore to the eager crowds that hung upon his words. Never before had such teachings fallen upon their ears. The glad tidings of a Saviour’s love, the assurance of pardon and peace through his atoning blood, melted their hearts, and inspired within them an immortal hope.” –The Signs of the Times, June 7, 1883.
Illustration of Justification
In God’s word we find several interesting illustrations of justification. In one place we read, “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” Zechariah 3:1-3. With this illustration, the Lord revealed to the prophet and his people Satan’s work and the work of our Saviour, who acts as a Mediator for the children of God.
“The high priest cannot defend himself or his people from Satan’s accusations. He does not claim that Israel is free from fault. In filthy garments, symbolizing the sins of the people, which he bears as their representative, he stands before the Angel, confessing their guilt, yet pointing to their repentance and humiliation, and relying upon the mercy of a sin-pardoning Redeemer. In faith he claims the promises of God. …
“As the intercession of Joshua is accepted, the command is given, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him;’ and to Joshua the Angel says, ‘Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.’ ‘So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments.’ Verses 4, 5. His own sins and those of his people were pardoned. Israel was clothed with ‘change of raiment’–the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. The miter placed upon Joshua’s head was such as was worn by the priests, and bore the inscription, ‘Holiness to the Lord’ (Exodus 28:36), signifying that notwithstanding his former transgressions, he was now qualified to minister before God in His sanctuary.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 583, 584.
Christ is our High Priest. He assumed human nature, bearing the infirmities and degeneracy of the race brought on by four thousand years of degradation and overcame sin; therefore, he gives us an example that in our nature, with His help, we can overcome as He did.
In his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul tells us, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5: 1. This verse makes it clear that the only person through whom we may be justified is our Lord Jesus Christ. We are justified by His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and by His resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection was as essential for our justification as was His death on the cross. (Romans 4.25). Everyone who acknowledges that he is a sinner and falls at Jesus’ feet in repentance, confesses his sins and by faith accepts His death is justified.
It is important to understand that there are conditions for receiving justification. Firstly, one must feel sorrow for sin, as it is written in God’s word, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:13, 14. Furthermore, it is necessary to put away sin and to have a deep longing for communion with God. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.
May the Lord help us to always acknowledge our sins and to have faith in the beloved Son of God as our Redeemer so as to be continuously justified and sanctified. My sincere wish is that this week of prayer may help us to grow in our spiritual life and prepare ourselves to be with the Lord in eternity.
“As the penitent sinner, contrite before God, discerns Christ’s atonement in his behalf and accepts this atonement as his only hope in this life and the future life, his sins are pardoned. This is justification by faith.” –Faith and Works, p. 103.