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Count Your Blessings

Part 3

Blessings 3 and 4. JUSTIFICATION and PEACE WITH GOD

We now move on to some “theory” of sin. We said the letter to the Romans covers the subject of sin thoroughly. Sin is linked to death. Where we have sin, we have death. Where we have no sin, or where sin has been removed, there is no death. Adam and Eve died because they sinned. God in His wisdom and righteousness did not allow Adam and Eve, (or their offspring) in their sinful state to live for ever (they would probably have found it more and more exasperating anyway) and cut them off from the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24). Romans 3:23 states

for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, [Rom 3:23]

The Old Testament has the same testimony, as Paul shows in Romans 3:10-18, quoting amongst other things part of Psalm 14. The first three verses of this Psalm read:

The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They have acted corruptly;
They have acted abominably indeed.
There is no-one who does good
The Lord peered down from heaven
At the sons of Adam,
To see if there was anyone who was prudent
— Anyone who was seeking God.
The whole has departed,
They have become corrupt together;
There is no-one who does good
— There is not even one. [Ps 14:1-3]

If anyone were to be absolutely perfectly righteous, meeting God's exceedingly high standard of absolute righteousness without any trace whatsoever of anything that defiles, that person would not need to be concerned when the Day of the Lord comes, because he would be accepted. God said to Cain,

If you do well, is there not exaltation? [Gen 4:7]

But if anyone has the slightest qualm, bearing in mind the following rather ominous questions:

And
Who can endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand at his appearing?
For he is like a refiner's fire,
And like fullers' lye. [Mal 3:2]

then listen to what else God said to Cain:

And if you do not do well, a sin-offering is lying at the door, [Gen 4:7]

The sin-offering crouching at the door was a lamb, as Abel offered — a type of Christ, as is made clear by John the Baptist's exclamation:

Behold the lamb of God. [John 1:36]

Maybe Romans convinces you, like the apostle Paul who wrote it, of your own sin. Paul knew the Mosaic law. He didn't question the justness of this law. He knew the tenth commandment (from Exodus 20:17):

You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything which is your neighbour's. [Ex 20:17]

Because of this law, Paul realized he coveted. Romans 7:7 says

But I would not have known sin, except through the law. For indeed I would not have known covetousness if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” [Rom 7:7]

Have you ever coveted anything that is not yours?

Another Scripture that may well convict us of sin is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's gospel. Matthew 5:22 draws our attention to the seriousness of anyone who is

angry with his brother [Matt 5:22]

or who says

You fool [Matt 5:22]

How often do you observe these sins taking place, and is anyone clear of guilt in this respect? The point is that just having hatred in our hearts is a terrible sin, making us unfit to come anywhere near God's presence, let alone giving hatred a free rein. But God in His mercy has provided us with a solution. Romans 4:3 quotes an Old Testament principle of righteousness being imputed by faith (i.e. faith in what God has said):

For what does the scripture say? “Now Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him as righteousness.” [Rom 4:3]

This is of course referring to Genesis 15 where Abraham was promised a son and numerous posterity.

King David, too, was forgiven without works, as Romans 4:6-4:8 reminds us. Now Paul tells us that what applied to Abraham, applies to us. We too are justified by faith:

But it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for our sakes, to whom it is going to be imputed — to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered on account of our transgressions, and raised on account of our justification. [Rom 4:23-25]

Romans 5 continues with a message of peace:

Having been justified therefore by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, [Rom 5:1]

Again Christ is the source of more blessings! By the same faith that secured eternal life and forgiveness of sins, we see that we have also secured justification and peace with God. Two more blessings!

What is the difference between forgiveness of sins and justification? The two seem very close to each other. The difference would appear to be like being outside or inside a court-room. Forgiveness of sins has an informal, homely ring to it. In our case the forgiveness is achieved by formally taking away the sins. This makes us legally just. Justification seems to be a court term when, after close scrutiny of the case in hand, no fault can be found by a righteous judge and the defendant is pronounced just.

We see from Romans 4:25 (quoted above) that God doesn't just overlook sin - He requires full payment for it. In fact, (Romans 6:23)

the wages of sin are death. [Rom 6:23]

But Christ has paid the terrible price for us - paid for all our sins for good, and His words on the cross in John 19:30 were

“It has been completed”, [John 19:30]

We should not doubt whether we are forgiven, whatever we may be guilty of. Our justification is not a matter of how sinful we are or what we try to do to make up. The forgiveness is based on Christ's work, which was 100% successfully completed.

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