A Way for Sinners to Repent
… that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26b).
Here is the human dilemma: Man cannot live righteously, which he must if he is to be accepted by God. But there is another dilemma—God’s dilemma. And it is necessary that we also understand this side of the equation in order to understand the role of faith in salvation.
God sets a very high standard for all human beings: They are to be perfect (Matt. 5:48). But, no one is or can be perfect. In fact, all human beings are woefully sinful (‘ “There is none righteous, no, not one,’ ” Rom. 3:10), and that means they cannot come into the presence of God. His eyes are too pure to look on sin (Hab. 1:13) and He must condemn it and punish it, for it is essentially rebellion against Him and violation of His own moral code.
Thus arises the dilemma of a just God and an unjust race of people. Most people today presume that God will solve the dilemma by being merciful and gracious to them. In other words, they confidently believe that God will merely wink at their sin, or somehow will give them extra credit for trying to be “good,” while ushering them into heaven.
In fact, the most common understanding of justification today may well be justification by death alone—the view that all who die go automatically to heaven. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth, and such presumption about God’s mercy and grace simply eclipses the Gospel. It is one thing for one sinner to forgive another sinner. But it is another thing entirely for the sinless God to forgive a sinner. Without some legal basis for doing so, God would have to compromise His integrity. And if He were to do that, He would cease to be holy. He would cease to be God.
The good news of the Gospel is that God has created a process by which sin can be punished and a positive righteousness can be granted to believers, leaving them perfect in God’s eyes. This is “the righteousness of God apart from the law,” which comes to people “through faith in Jesus Christ.” This process, which is known as justification by faith alone, enables God to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” In other words, Jesus’ deeds provide a way for God to receive sinners without sacrificing His holiness. And faith is the key to the process, as we will learn in another study.
We speak of God’s dilemma in this study. Of course, God cannot really experience a dilemma, for He is sovereign and unhindered. His plan of redemption is not a plan B in response to man’s surprising behavior. Rather, the Gospel has always been His plan, as the Scriptures teach (see below). Consider afresh the wisdom of God’s plans.
Passages for Further Study
Matthew 25:34 ; Ephesians 1:3–6 1; Peter 1:1–2; Revelation 13:8; 17:8
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