Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Divine Dilemma Solved in Justification by Faith

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

The Dilemma of Divine Justice and Mercy
The above verse states a significant truth: to justify, or "declare" innocent a guilty man while condemning a clearly innocent man represents the most severe form of injustice.  We unfortunately have heard of such cases of innocent people serving long prison terms.  Likewise we have been equally angered over guilty criminals getting off the hook over supposed "loopholes" in the law. 

In the scriptures, showing mercy to guilty men and punishing innocent men are uncalled-for-realities in human courts of law, let alone Divine Justice.  Yet when we look at the heart of the Gospel, we see this very act in the work of Christ on behalf of sinful human beings - a Divine Dilemma of biblical proportions!  1 Peter 3:18 states: "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit".  

Why God alone can both be just and issue forgiveness to sinners who believe by grace through faith alone
How could God, who is Holy and perfect, give His innocent Son on behalf of clearly guilty sinners?  In order to declare "innocent" guilty sinners who by faith trust in the Person and Work of Christ, five important decisions had to be made by the Triune God in order to solve this Divine Dilemma.  If any one of these five decisions were not carried through by God, salvation in general and Justification by faith alone in particular would be jeopardized.  

1. God the Father had to be willing to show mercy.
In Romans 3:21-24a we read about how willing God the Father was in eternity to show mercy to those sinners whom He was wanting to love.  2 Corinthians 5:18 plainly states the merciful heart of God:  "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation".

2. God the Son had to be willing to represent sinners
Hebrews 10:7 records for us God the Son's words as he was coming from eternity into time: "“THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’  As Romans 3:24 tells us, this willing act of Christ was a work of redemption - that is - He was paying the price for salvation by a willing offering of His human life on behalf of sinners whom the Father loved.  

3. God the Father had to be willing to accept the Son's Offer
God the Father made this agreement with God the Son in eternity, agreeing that The Son becoming a man and going to the cross was the only way to satisfy the payment for sin. (2 Timothy 1:9)  Romans 3:25-26 explains that what Christ did was a "propitiation" or "satisfaction" of Divine wrath against sin.  God as a Just God had to punish sinners without obligation to show mercy.  As a Merciful God, God wanted to show mercy to sinners who clearly deserved judgment.  By the satisfaction or propitation of Divine wrath, God could still show mercy and be Just without contradiction to Himself as a Just and Merciful God.

4. God the Holy Spirit had to agree to apply salvation's benefits to those who by His convicting grace and gifting would believe
Scriptures such as John 16:8-11 and 2 Timothy 2:24 underscore the fact that unless the Holy Spirit is calling and convicting men and women, no one will choose on their own to get saved.  Ephesians 2:8-9 describes faith as a Divine gift before it ends up being a delightful response to the gospel.  The Spirit's work is His effort in applying the accomplishment of the Son.

5. The Father has to agree that faith alone is necessary and sufficient to declare the sinner innocent in His sight
Once God has called and convicted the sinner and shown them the awfulness of sin and the awesomeness of Christ, the sinner responds by faith.   Justification is a Divine declaration that goes full circle.  It is by God the Father, through God the Son and to God the Holy Spirit for the pleasure of God the Father. 

The Dilemma is solved by God
By planning, purchasing and applying salvation, God is able to solve the dilemma of justifying sinful human beings without violating His Holy Character.  Romans 3:21-31 spells all of these Divine decisions by God in full detail.  Once we understand that only God could solve the otherwise impossible task of justifying clearly guilty sinners, we can truly see why Justification is by faith alone and not by human effort. 

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