Reading 6 – Friday, December 8, 2017
Justified by Faith
By Alfred Ngwenya, Zimbabwe
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1.
Justification is God’s act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time declaring a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Man’s state when he was created
God created man in His own image and likeness. Genesis 1:26. The Bible clearly declares that God is holy and righteous in His ways. After God created everything, the declaration was: “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31. This means that man also came from the hand of God pure and righteous; he did not need justification, for he was holy and upright. Man needed no mercy. The wise man says: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright;…” Ecclesiastes 7:29.
Concerning the first man and the first woman, who came from directly God’s hand, the Spirit of prophecy confirms: “All heaven took a deep and joyful interest in the creation of the world and of man. Human beings were a new and distinct order. They were made ‘in the image of God,’ and it was the Creator’s design that they should populate the earth. They were to live in close communion with heaven, receiving power from the Source of all power. Upheld by God, they were to live sinless lives.
“The holy pair were not only children under the fatherly care of God, but students receiving instruction from the all-wise Creator. They were visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscurthis justificaing veil between.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 7.
They were holy–not justified–and were only “a little lower than the angels.” Hebrews 2:7. They did not need mercy or pardon.
Surprisingly, the apostle says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Why? What brought about such a change? The answer is, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10-14, 23. “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Ecclesiastes 7:29.
Nevertheless, while they were in their holy state–uprightness–they one day faced the tempter and “sought out many inventions.” They looked for things that God had not intended them to have. In eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, they transgressed His commandment. They mistrusted their Creator. They lost faith in their heavenly Father, disobeyed Him, sinned against Him, and became unrighteous. They did not love Him. They became His enemies.
This is how man is today. When Adam sinned, he became carnal; and in such a state no one can appreciate the things of God, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. When he is in obscurthis state, man can do nothing good. He knows no righteousness and does not even desire it. He cannot please God, because he is not seeking for Him. We conclude that in the natural man dwells nothing good, as the Spirit expressly states: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:” (in this state, whatever good a man tries to do proceeds from selfishness) “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21.
When man sinned, did God hate him? No, He hated the sin; and He drove Adam and his wife out of the garden of Eden because they had become unrighteous through transgression of God’s holy law.
However, it is possible for man to be justified. How? “For 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. The Bible says that God is love, and He cannot change. Did God love His Son? Yes! Then, why did He send Him to a world that did not seek for God? “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.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
When man lost his righteousness, God loved him and sent His righteous Son to be the righteousness of fallen human beings. How could He give righteousness to unrighteous people? He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Romans 4:25. Now, for man to be righteous, he must first be justified; and this is possible only through one righteous Man, Jesus Christ, who became human to open a way for sinful man to be pardoned. And, “When God pardons the sinner, remits the punishment he deserves, and treats him as though he had not sinned, He receives him into divine favor, and justifies him through the merits of Christ’s righteousness. The sinner can be justified only through faith in the atonement made through God’s dear Son, who became a sacrifice for the sins of the guilty world. No one can be justified by any works of his own. He can be delivered from the guilt of sin, from the condemnation of the law, from the penalty of transgression, only by virtue of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Faith is the only condition upon which justification can be obtained, and faith includes not only belief but trust.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 389.
Man could not bring himself back to righteousness–back to God–because he was now unrighteous and could not change himself, any more than a leopard can change its spots or an Ethiopian can change his skin. It was exactly the same as the impossibility for man to bring himself up before his existence. Man absolutely cannot be righteous on his own, and he cannot do any work of any kind to receive pardon or justification. The same way in which man came into existence is how he can be made righteous. This helps us understand that “The whole work is the Lord’s from the beginning to the end. The perishing sinner may say: ‘I am a lost sinner; but Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. He says, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Mark 2:17. I am a sinner, and He died upon Calvary’s cross to save me. I need not remain a moment longer unsaved. He died and rose again for my justification, and He will save me now. I accept the forgiveness He has promised.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 392.
Man’s responsibility is to accept the justification that has been purchased for him. If human beings could understand this, they would not try to obtain virtue by their own efforts. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16. We can say that, when Adam was placed in the garden of Eden, the law justified him because he met all the requirements of the law. He did not keep the law to make himself righteous; rather, he kept the law because he was righteous. After he went against the law, it condemned him, because it found no righteousness in him.
Even if Adam had done some work in the attempt to regain what he had lost, it would have been worthless. Good “works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that was made is ample for all who will believe.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 388. “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.” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Romans 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:8.
Faith and works
Many have gone so far as to say that once a person is saved, he is saved forever. And some believe that, through His death on the cross, Jesus freed sinners from any duty. But the great preacher of justification by faith sheds light on this so we can understand our responsibility in being saved by grace through faith. He says: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31.
We need to notice and understand something that is absolutely true: People are saved by grace and rewarded in accordance with their works, for it is written; “And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works.” Revelation 22:12; Matthew 16:27. It is an understandable principle that one is rewarded (compensated) after he has performed work at the Master’s command, as found in the parable of the hired servants. At the twelfth hour, all were blessed for their service (duty)–rewarded for faithfully carrying out their responsibilities. We read: “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14. And the wise man said: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13. “While good works will not save even one soul, yet it is impossible for even one soul to be saved without good works.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 377.
To be a candidate for heaven, one must meet the requirements of the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Luke 10:27. By faith, one must grasp the righteousness of Christ and accept it as his righteousness. Through union with Jesus, through acceptance of His righteousness by faith, we are made able to work the works of God, to be co-laborers with Christ. “If you are willing to drift along with the current of evil, and do not cooperate with the heavenly agencies in restraining transgression in your family, and in the church, in order that everlasting righteousness may be brought in, you do not have faith.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 374. But He cannot accept those who claim to have faith in Him and yet are disloyal to His Father’s commandments. To love God is to have faith in Him. Hebrews 11:6. To love God is to keep His commandments. To know Jesus is to walk as He walked, for He says: “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” John 15:10. We need to understand that while the law does not have the power to bring man back to his first estate, “the mission of Christ on earth was not to destroy the law, but by His grace to bring man back to obedience to its precepts.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 48.
“He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21.
“… I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:4, 5.
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:19, 20.
“… The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:8-10.
“Genuine faith will be manifested in good works; for good works are the fruits of faith. As God works in the heart, and man surrenders his will to God, and cooperates with God, he works out in the life what God works in by the Holy Spirit, and there is harmony between the purpose of the heart and the practice of the life. Every sin must be renounced as the hateful thing that crucified the Lord of life and glory, and the believer must have a progressive experience by continually doing the works of Christ. It is by continual surrender of the will, by continual obedience, that the blessing of justification is retained.
“Those who are justified by faith must have a heart to keep the way of the Lord. It is an evidence that a man is not justified by faith when his works do not correspond to his profession. James says, ‘Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was his faith made perfect?’ James 2:22.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 397. Amen.