Thoughts On Justification
Justification is a state; its being made known is experience.
Justification is the absence of condemnation, and belongs to all who have a being in Christ.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”
Experience is a very blessed thing; but it is not one’s right or title. It cannot add anything to one’s justification.
When we get a gracious feeling, we are very apt to make a bad use of it, to make it part of our title; we do it often unconsciously. Then the Lord takes away our gracious feeling. There must be a good foundation to our hope — justification in Christ.
The work and Person of the Lord Jesus is all our title. That will stand all tests, trials, and fires.
The Apostle says, “I knew a man in Christ.” That is a justified man, a man wrapt in Christ’s righteousness.
Justification is three-fold.
1. Of the Father, by his electing love, choosing the person in Christ from everlasting, and giving Christ for his Surety.
“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)
2. Of the Son, by his work of redemption, his righteousness wrought out for sinners.
3. Of the Spirit, in witnessing the two former to the soul. Gracious feelings always come up when our justification is made known. We are in Christ before we know it; then comes the experience of it by the Spirit. O, if you are in Christ experimentally, you will live on him. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” If you can say that, you have a treasure, a being in Christ.
Thus the Three Persons are all concerned in justifying the ungodly. Justification is a three-fold cord put round a soul, that will pull it into heaven. Experience adds nothing to this. If it did, the most justified would be those with the most experience; and then justification would be partial. God requires perfect holiness and righteousness for justification; but who knows what degrees there are in experience?
The weakest believer is in Christ as much as the man with the most gracious experience.
And the weakest is cut off from the old stock Adam, and grafted into Christ, as well as the strongest. “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
To be in Christ is to be in a justified state. The Apostle says, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance” (Ephesians 1:11).
An inheritance is something a man is born to, his substance, his living. Before he enters on the whole, he receives enough to supply him, to fit him for it. Our first inheritance in Adam is lost: we are “made sinners.”
The law which gave it him was weak in one point: it could not and did not secure it to him, but left him free, liable to fall. This state under the law was not intended to be an end; therefore it was weak. It promised very great things, but conditionally, the favour of God, an immunity from all evil.
All is lost, the favour of God lost, his image lost. But the Scripture sets forth another inheritance, one in Christ Jesus; speaks of the Person of Christ and his chosen people in him. That God has a chosen people is a truth that will stand against all the opposition of man. See it in the first chapter of Ephesians. To be born and to fill up a measure of iniquity is an awfully sad thing.
To be born and to be born again is unspeakably blessed. – The first thing we receive out of our inheritance in Christ is life. Justification is a part of the inheritance in him. O what a fulness is in this fountain!
Hart speaks of it:—
“From which pure fountain if thou draw
Water to quench the fiery law,
And blood to purge our sin ;
We’ll tell the Father in that day,
And thou shalt witness what we say,
We are clean, just God, we’re clean.”
The Holy Spirit shows Christ to a poor sinner, a wretch in his feelings; and the sinner sees full satisfaction in him. In him he has this blessing :
“To present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
“Not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
To justify does more than to forgive.
This blessing has two parts:
It takes away all stain of sin, and gives an acquittal.
It makes the sinner as if he had never sinned; it makes the sin as if it had not been.
To justify is to make righteous.
“As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
Here is righteousness to clothe you, strength for your weakness, sanctification to renew your soul. This sight of Christ makes heaven upon earth. What peace flows from it, power to submit to his will, to take up the cross, to be content with the position in which God has placed you, to persevere to the end, to leave yourself and your trials in his hands.
“Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”
(1 Peter 5:7)
How unspeakably blessed to be of that number:
“In whom we have obtained an inheritance.”
From the first promise in the Garden of Eden to the day of Pentecost there was an increasing revelation of Christ. The first hint of him as a Saviour was in that sin polluted garden; for before sin entered, there could have been no necessity for knowing him as such.
From that time he revealed himself more and more fully to his people; and from the day of Pentecost he was to be fully made known by the gospel; especially as preached by the apostle Paul to the Gentiles, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery.” — the union of Gentile dogs with the Lord Jesus Christ; that there should be one church, one body, “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Ephesians 3:8—12).
“In whom” — here is one Person mentioned.
It seems that Paul bent the whole of his powers to exalt that one Person. Some of us are ashamed how little a place he has had in our thoughts all our lives, how little we think or know of him, the Son of God in the bosom of the Father, the brightness of his glory, the express image of his Person, upholding all things by the word of his power.
This Person was made flesh, and dwelt among us; was he Whose shoulders held up heaven and earth When Mary held up him.
This Man went from the beginning to the end of the law for all whom he represented, who had a being in him from everlasting.
From the beginning he satisfied it in all points, and went to the end—endured the curse, all that was due to the sins of his elect.
He brought in his hands the full tale to the Father, and made the way for them to approach the Father in him.
“Righteousness to full perfection
Must be brought,
Fearless of rejection.”
By the law they are shut out; no sinner may approach God in his own person. The law provides no way for a sinner.
I want to impress this on you, because it will very much tend to exalt this Person in your hearts. If a man is shut out from a place that he very much wants to get into, barred and bolted out, and at length is shown one door, not a great many ways and doors, but only one, Jesus Christ, he will greatly prize that door.
“IN WHOM we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
Now to apply this truth to our daily wants. There are many things that shut a sinner out feelingly. There is guilt. It is not easy for a man to pray with guilt. Others can pray, as they think. It is a very marvellous thing for a man to be ushered into the presence of God with all his sin and guilt, and then to have boldness to tell all his guilt to the Lord. Some of us know that the Holy Spirit carries a guilty soul right to the throne of grace; and more, gives it liberty and enables it to tell him what is in the mind freely, with boldness, or freedom of speech.
And what is more, sometimes when we begin, it will increase, and we find our cry is accepted.
If you are guilty, and wait till you have not a guilty conscience, you will never come at all.
Then there are our continual relapses. How these discourage and shut us up. Perhaps it is one of the most powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power, to bring us again and again to the Lord with our continual relapses, to cry to him for pardon, to hang about the atonement, and to receive out of his fulness more grace.
He is given to enable a burdened soul to unburden itself to God. Go and tell him all the truth. Lie low before him. Say, “I have sinned against light; gone against
checks, against thy Word and conscience.” Leave yourself to him to do what he will. Cry, like Israel, “Deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.”
In this dear Person there is a way made to God, “in whom we have boldness and access.”
“No money for thy ransom take,
But mercy much entreat;
Go with the chains about thy neck,
And fall before his feet.”
Another thing that shuts up a man feelingly is sin-bought trials. Unbelief and Satan say we have procured these things to ourselves, and therefore it is of no use going to God for help or deliverance.
How can we expect deliverance?
There are two voices that never told you that, and they are the only two you should listen to.
One is the Scripture. You cannot find that doctrine anywhere in Scripture. Why, all our troubles are procured by our sin, either directly or indirectly.
The other is the voice of the Spirit in our hearts. He turns our eyes another way, to Jesus and his blood. The best thing to bring a man to him is a sight of him in his sufferings for sin.
If you can say with truth,—
“Yes, now I know ’tis he, ’tis he,
‘Tis Jesus, God’s dear Son,
Wrapt in humanity to die
For crimes that I have done.”
you are a favoured person. The Holy Spirit shows him to a sinner, and tells him what words to take, “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” Shows him, “This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2)
That will give you “boldness and access with confidence.”
You will be like Hannah, who went out with her countenance no more sad. May we bring to him all the burdens that vex our spirits and shut up prayer. Business cares will shut us up. Little house matters that vex the spirit will do it. Temptations, strong opposition from Satan, will do it.
“Make thy worst condition known.” And may the Holy Ghost show us that there is in this Person a way to God, notwithstanding all these things. There is, to my mind, a blessed connection between the 8th chapter of Romans and the 7th.
There is a man feeling the presence, and often the prevalence, of sin, crying out he cannot do the things that he would; and in the midst of all this conflict the Holy Spirit turns his eyes away from himself to this truth of justification in Christ,
and says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
If you had to wait till you had no conflict, till you could come and say, “Now, Lord, I have a sincere feeling,” when would you be justified?
He justifieth the ungodly.
When you are brought to condemnation, justification is not far off.
The Holy Ghost will show you Jesus, his life and death, and bring you with all your ungodliness into his heart, into his bosom.
He lays the guilty, weak soul on the open wounds of Jesus, and what then?
Bight feelings spring up; the heart is dissolved. It would be as easy for a piece of wax to retain its hardness in the flame as for a heart to remain hard and cold in the warm beams of this Sun of Righteousness.
You will confess your sins, feel contrition, remorse, revenge against yourself.
I am not against feelings; no, I want them always; but they are not our right and title.
The Holy Spirit will bring us empty, needy, and ungodly, to look away from them. As he shows us justification is only in Christ, that blessed God-man becomes the object of hope and faith to a sinner. 0 that our eyes might be fixed on him!
We have everything about us to take them off, sin to drive us away.
He is all our acceptance, the way for one that is far off to be brought nigh.
O what counsel the Holy Spirit gives to look to the Lord Jesus Christ, when we are struggling with our own evils, and know not where we are!
He always leads to Jesus; he is given on purpose.
I hope I have said enough to show that justification depends only on the possession of a being in Christ.
Experience brings the enjoyment of it by the Spirit. As this is made known, it is the life of the soul. God says to such a one, “Go thy way . . . for God now accepteth thy works.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)
“Eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared. . . . Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
By James K. Popham – 1905