Reading on Justification

at Oakland, California, USA, Sept. 1921

Luke 18:14; Romans 3:24; 4:24-25; 5:1, 18; Galatians 2:15-17, 33 were read.

C.C. — To begin with, it is important that we should have a right understanding of the term. I should say that justification is an authoritative declaration that an accused person is conformable to righteousness. This is an enlargement of the definition ordinarily given; but there is good reason for it. An unaccused person does not need to be justified. In human courts an authorized judge or jury declares an accused person to be guilty or not guilty. When the decision is “not guilty,” he is declared in a state of conformity to law. With this in mind, we pass on to consider divine justification. God declares the charges made against a person as no longer applicable to him — being, through grace, brought into a state of conformity with Himself. That is what justification is in the divine sense.

X. — Is it the same as blotting out?

C.C. — It is a blotting out of the charge. But the point is, that God, by grace, puts a condemned sinner in Christ — sees him in Christ; so that the charges which applied to him in nature no longer apply to him in Christ.

B.C.G. — It is said by some that justification is the same as forgiveness.

C.C. — Forgiveness is pardon. A man may be pardoned, but that is not justification. He is not declared “not guilty.”

B.C.G. — In fact, they are exactly opposite. Naturally, they contradict each other. But grace does what human courts cannot do. In Acts 13:38-39, we read, “Be it known unto you therefore that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness, of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified,” etc. Here we have both forgiveness and justification. Looked at as a guilty sinner, the man who believes in Jesus is forgiven. Looked at as “in Christ,” he is justified.

C.C. — Yes; Peter preaches forgiveness; Paul, justification. I do not think Peter ever goes on to justification.

F.J.E. — Is that judicial exoneration?

C.C. — Yes, but it is more than that. It is judicially placing an accused person in a new and abiding state before God.

H.A.I. — When you use the term, “state,” do you mean inward condition, a new state of soul, or rather that the person stands in a new relationship to God?

C.C. — Is not a state of soul, but the man is in a new position.

B.C.G. — Justification is found in the Epistle to the Romans, where God accounts the believer to be righteous. Many do not see righteousness as positive. They only think of it as the absence of guilt, or as forgiveness of sins; but the believer stands before God in a perfect righteousness.

C.C. — In the first scripture we read, you will notice the Lord declares a self-condemned person to be justified. The publican is so conscious of his guilt, that he will not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but cries, “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” But the Lord declares, “He went down to his house justified.”

B.C.G. — Now that is very important, and it shows us that a man is justified at a given moment. After being justified by God, it would be very inconsistent for a man to go on calling himself a miserable sinner.

C.C. — Justification then is a state of abiding righteousness. God looks at the believer in Christ.

W.H. — And “in Christ” is far more than if a man had never sinned. The justified person is in a far higher place before God than unfallen man could ever be. Adam innocent was not “in Christ.”

F.J.E. — Does not the term then imply absolute judicial exoneration? — no charge against him?

C.C. — The charges do not apply to him. Charges, however true they may be, are all annulled. They are cancelled because the man is in Christ.

B.C.G. — Forgiveness is shown to one who has committed offences; Christ died for him, and on the ground of His atoning work there is forgiveness for all who believe. But the moment the man believes he is also in Christ; therefore fully justified. Eternal life and righteousness are inseparable.

C.C. — That brings us to the ground of justification. How can God justify a man who is rightly accused with sin, and guilty? If we think of the nature and character of God, we would say, He must condemn that man; He must judge him. As a sinner he is justly exposed to the judgment of God. Now, how is it possible for God to take up that man and free him from all the charges which are justly brought against him?

E.A.B. — With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

C.C. — Yes. So we see the contrast between human and divine justification. In accordance with human law, a guilty man cannot be justified, though a generous person might forgive him. The very fact that he has been forgiven, is the proof that he is not justified. If he were justified, he would not need to be forgiven.

E.A.B. — I think it well to press that a little, for I believe many Christians fail to see it — thinking of themselves as having their past offences forgiven, but, not seeing that they are justified before God, they never have abiding peace.

C.C. — Well, man can forgive an evil-doer, but he cannot justify the guilty. Forgiving a man is saying, “You are guilty, but I will not hold it against you,” Justifying a man is saying, “I believe you are not guilty.” Now God doesn’t say we are not guilty; but having brought us into a state of abiding righteousness in Christ, the charges that applied to us as men in the flesh do not apply now.

B.C.G. — In Romans 8:33 we see that God Himself is the source of justification. In chapter 3:24. that He has, in grace, devised a plan of salvation. We are justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This presents three things; the source of it in God, the Judge; the principle of it, His grace the basis of it, Christ’s atoning work.

C.C. — In verse 25 we read that God hath set forth Christ as a propitiation available to faith, but it is by His blood.

H.A.I. — In the Authorized Version we have, “in His blood,” and one would gather that it is through faith in the blood that we are justified; but you mean, do you not, that the justification or the propitiation, is by His blood?

C.C. — Yes, it is by that atoning death that Christ has, so to speak, become the mercy-seat — a place where God can meet us in peace I righteously.

J.W.H.N. — The New Translation also reads, “in His blood.”

C.C — The preposition is used in various ways; and it is really here “by His blood,” or, in virtue of His blood.

B.C.G. — Christ having shed His blood is Himself the propitiatory, the mercy-seat. The blood sprinkled on the throne of God gives it that character.

C.C. — If Christ had not died, He could not be a propitiatory; but having died, in rising again He has taken His place as the Second Man. “He is the Man whom God has accepted. God was always pleased with Him; but in raising Him from the dead, after His atoning work was accomplished, and receiving Him to His own right hand, God shows He has accepted Him as the beginning of a new creation, the Head of a new race. We are in Him before God, and thus we are justified.

F.J.E. — In Job the question is raised, “How can man be justified with God?” And to Moses God declared He would by no means clear this guilt. Would you say then that an Old Testament saint was never justified?

C.C. — Justification was not then revealed, but God did justify anticipatively.

J.W.H.N. — See the 26th verse of this chapter.

C.C. — God now declares the truth of justification, but that is not saying that Old Testament saints were not justified.

W.H. — Could you say that they were utterly without the knowledge of it? In Hebrews 11:4 we read: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous,” though they had not the full knowledge of it, perhaps. We also have the statement in Galatians 3:6, where we learn that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.

B.C.G. — But, of course, that would not prove how much Abraham knew of it.

C.C. — The thought of justification was in the Old Testament, but it needed lighting up. It is the same with life. Old Testament saints had life, but they needed light in regard to it.

B.C.G. — There was no public declaration of righteousness until Christ was risen. Thus, when Hezekiah was dying, or thought he was, he pleaded his character, his personal piety. It is clear that he did not know what we are dwelling upon. Perhaps, we too often ignore the practical side of righteousness, because of occupation with the positional. Old Testament saints, not having the light of the positional side, they naturally dwelt more on the practical side. It is well to ’be clear as to this.

C.C. — We may be rebuked by their piety; while we know more, we may not have the same godliness.

A Navajo Indian Brother. — Let me see if I can state clearly what you have been teaching. I am anxious to learn all I can, and have it right, so that I can take it back to my people. Now I understand that word “justification” means something like this: I, being a sinner, and the Judge having written, “Whosoever sinneth must die,” some man might say, “Well, I will take John’s place,” and he could die for me. But what man could take my place? Who could find one who had never sinned, and worthy enough to take the place of all? He must be perfect, and he must be greater than any man. Well, the Judge Himself took my place — took the place for all of us. He was put to death, and I am justified because the One that is perfect has given His life in place of mine. By believing on Him I am justified.

H.A.I. — Yes, that is very good; but now go a little farther. When you believed in Jesus, you received a new life from Him, and that makes you one with Him. So that now God sees you in Him; and, as He looks at you, you are as perfect in His sight as His own risen Son. This is your justification.

Indian. — Yes; I see that. That is how God looks at me now.

C.C. — You see Christ has borne the penalty of sin when He was on the cross. Now He is risen. Does He have to do with sin now?

B.C.G. — He has put them away completely, so that they can never be brought up again, for we are in Christ., where no sin can ever be imputed to us, while we may be, and often are, chastened for it.

C.C. — “And in that He died,” we are told, “He died unto sin once; in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” That Man who died, is now risen. He is the living One; the Source of life to us — a life that cannot be charged with guilt.

H.A.I. — And in Him, the risen One, we have justification of life — a life against which no charge of guilt can ever be brought.

The Indian. — Yes, I see that now very clearly. I think I can make that plain to others.

B.C.G. — Now shall we look at the principle of justification? What would you say was the principle, or ground, on which God justifies the repenting sinner?

C.C. — It is by faith. Having given His Son in grace, God imputes righteousness to us who believe. It is grace on God’s side, and faith on ours. The righteousness of God, which was against us, is now, since Christ has died and is risen again, for us. It is like a city of refuge — a sanctuary. It is available for all; and it actually covers and protects all who believe.

A Brother. — Is this the “righteousness of God” spoken of in Romans 10:3?

C.C. — The thought is different. There we read of God’s righteousness, and of the righteousness of God. The Jews were ignorant of God’s righteousness: that is, they were ignorant of how righteous God is. If they had realized that, they would have known they were under condemnation; and that no efforts of their own could have satisfied His demands. Not knowing how righteous God is, they went about to establish their own righteousness. They did not avail themselves of the righteous provision God had made for their justification.

B.C.G. — They had not learned that God justifies the ungodly; and the only way He can do this is when faith lays hold on Christ. When a sinner by faith receives Christ, it brings him in the new position before God, of which we have been speaking.

C.C. — This is Romans 4:24-25. The Lord Jesus was delivered for, or because of, our offences; He was raised again for our justification. By His resurrection, God proclaimed the justification of all who trust in Him,

B.C.G. — In Christ’s resurrection God gave testimony to His perfect satisfaction in Christ’s atonement for sin. It was also His testimony to the world’s judgment. Our Lord’s resurrection was the declaration that the throne of God has nothing against us as believers in Christ. Faith is simply the empty hand that takes the justification which God has provided. This is what we have in Romans 5:1.

C.C. — We are justified then by His blood. God is the Source of our justification, in that He gave His own Son for us, in divine grace and love. That is the divine side. Now we believe, and are justified by faith. This is our side.

B.C.G. — Then, in Acts 13:38-39, may we not say we have the extent of justification? We are justified from all things.

F.J.E. — Going back to what was said, that propitiation was made by His blood, that was on the cross, was it not?

C.C. — Yes; but our risen and glorified Lord is now set forth as a place where we can meet with God, and find Him propitious to us.

B.C.G. — A propitiatory is a meeting place. In Israel, the Lord met men at the door of the tabernacle — the brazen altar and at the mercy-seat. He meets us now in Christ.

C.C. — As believers in Christ, we have boldness to draw near to God.

W.H. — The mercy-seat was upon the ark, and sprinkled with blood. The Christ who died, God has raised and seated; and He is our meeting-place with God.

H.A.I. — His work is the propitiation; He Himself is the propitiatory. In John’s first epistle we read, “He is the propitiation for our sins;” that, of course, refers to His work upon the cross.

C.C. — It is important to see that everyone has to do with the Man whom earth has rejected. He says, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.”

F.J.E. — That is, all will be drawn to Him, either in grace or in judgment.

C.C. — Yes; all will have to do with Him. God, in His grace has provided a way of having to do with Him in salvation. But if men refuse this, they must have to do with Him in judgment. The word rendered “draw,” is really “drag.” It is the same word used in the Gospels, where we read, “They dragged the net to shore.”

B.C.G. — All authority is given to the Son; He is the Dispenser of both life and judgment.

C.C. — Eventually every soul in the universe will submit to Christ; but there is a great difference between willing submission and forcible subjection.

B.C.G. — All will be subjugated, but all will not be reconciled.

F.J.E. — Now as to Romans 5:9, “Being justified … we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

C.C. — The One who died for us stands forever between us and wrath.

H.A.I. — His blood abides in unchanging efficacy before God. Many Christians think of the blood as though it were constantly flowing — constantly available for cleansing every pollution or sin. But as it ever abides before God, there can be no imputation of sin to the believer. A continual application of the blood to the soul of the believer is not a scriptural thought. There is much loose talk about the blood flowing over our hearts, and similar expressions, contrary to Scripture.

X. — Was it by taking the blood into heaven that Christ prepared a place for us?

C.C. — Let us not forget that when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you,” He had the cross in view. He went back to heaven by way of death and resurrection, and, in so doing, He prepared a place for us.

B.C.G. — Now, in closing, it might be well for us to note justification by works.

C.C. — When the question raised by James is rightly understood, there is no confusion whatever. James is not speaking of how a man may be justified before God.

B.C.G. — That is clear by comparing what he says of Abraham in Romans 4. Paul says, “If Abraham were justified by works he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.” If not before God, then James must speak of Abraham as justified by works before men.

C.C. — Then mark in what Abraham was justified by works.

J.W.H.N. — In offering up his own son.

C.C. — Yes, that justifies him as a man of faith. It proves he really believed God.

B.C.G. — So James used it; not in contrast to faith, but as proving the reality of faith. There was at least 25 years between the time when Abraham was justified by faith, as recorded in Genesis 15, and when he was justified by works, as we read in Genesis 22.

C.C. — So, in Genesis 22, Abraham, before man, justified God in counting him righteous.

B.C.G. — So a Christian’s obedience justifies God who calls him His child. If we say we are justified by faith, we are to prove by works what a holy doctrine it is.

J.W.H.N. — The two are beautifully linked in the second of Ephesians. We are saved by grace without works, but we are told, “God has created us in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He before ordained that we should walk in them.”

B.C.G. — Scripture preserves the balance beautifully; but we often fail in this.

C.C. — Now, just one thing more before we close. Let us look again at that expression in Romans 5, “justification of life.” It is important that all should realize that we possess, in virtue of the fact that we are in Christ, an absolutely perfect life — a life that never was linked with sin, and never can be. All who are in Christ possess this life — a life that is unblameable — no charge can be laid against it. This is “justification of life.”

B.C.G. — A brief summary may help in retaining the different points spoken of:

1. THE SOURCE of justification — GOD, the Judge of all. “It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8:33).

2. OUR NEED of it — our guilt and sins. “Know ye not that the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God? … But ye are justified” (1 Cor. 6:9, 11).

3. THE PRINCIPLE of justification — divine grace. “Being justified freely by His grace” (Rom. 3:24).

4. THE BASIS of justification — Atonement. “Through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom.        3:24). “Justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:9).

5. THE PROOF of it is by Christ’s resurrection. “Raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

6. THE APPROPRIATING MEANS of justification — our faith. “Being justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1).

7. THE EXTENT of justification — past, present, future. Negatively, “From all things” (Acts 13:38-39); positively, “Justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).

8. THE PROOF of it to man the believer’s works. “Ye see how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:26).