Ordo Salutis VI: Christ’s Perfect Work, We Are Justified

Many people tried to say that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are completely two different gods. Have you heard this argument? Why was God so angry? Why is Jesus so loving and kind? Was God in the Old Testament was the Father and then his Son took over in the New? I don’t understand a god that would punish people. I can only understand a god that loves.

Interesting is that the Holy Spirit took killed a husband and his wife for lying to God about the selling land and the giving of proceeds from that sale. 1

It is even more interesting to note that the Apostle John wrote in his Gospel in chapter 3 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” 2, did not finish that statement without further claiming and clarifying, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”. 3

So quite simply by seeing the wrath of God in both Testaments, that we know that God is eternally God past, present, and future.

But what about His love, mercy, and grace? What about His gospel which Paul utterly declares to be “… the power of God in salvation for those who believe, to the Jew first and also the Greek4, to which he was not ashamed of?

To try to speak of God’s grace upon constant grace, His daily renewed mercies, and His steadfast love throughout the Bible, I believe we have to also look at his righteousness throughout the Bible.

But what is righteousness? Webster defines it as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” When God defines it, he takes it to that next proverbial level: “To stand upright in the presence of God.” That is to say: to be without sin, to be perfect.

Here’s the reality: we don’t know a time or place ever in our lives or in our souls that was without the effects and consequences of sin. We cannot fathom what it really means to be perfect. Can we really? Even saying something like “That dress is perfect!” or “This gift is so perfect” really doesn’t mean the same thing.

And yet, the Creator God of the universe requires us to be perfect in order to never to perish and more so than that, to be with Him forever. To be with God now and forever requires you to be free from sin—never known sin, committed any sin or never failed to do the thing you were supposed to do.

God requires you to be perfect. And in my experience, when people realize that, there are usually three reactions.

One, hubris. “Well, I guess I better roll up my sleeves and get to work. I know I can do this if I remain perfect control of myself but more so, controlling those people around me and the world around me. If everyone acts right, I can be right and my life will be perfect.”

Two, despair. “Oh my God! This is impossible. I will be crushed under this weight!”

Three, apathy. “Why even bother? This impossible. Screw God, his people and his made up laws. They are not real and made up anyways.”

And all three leads not to joy and pleasures but to destruction and death.

But God, from the moment sin was introduced into this perfect world, gave us the first tidbit of the good news as he promises Satan his own death in front of his two dying kids:

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

That monster, Satan, came to kill, steal, and destroy. And Satan successfully came and did that. Think about this: Adam and Eve had it all. Not because they had all their needs met, and even more than never knowing sin, they had it all because they had God. But in original parents’ fatal mistake, God doesn’t respond with instant judgment. Instead, God lovingly and calmly comes into our world evident by simply strolling through the coolness of the garden looking for his two lost kids.

God calls out, “Adam, where are you? Why are you wearing those ridiculous things? Who said you were naked?”

In other words, “What’s wrong? Tell me, son. Tell me, daughter. What is wrong?”

God doesn’t respond out of by judgment alone although he alone rightfully judges. He doesn’t respond out of only his holiness by shunning his kids instantly away because we know that His holiness does not tolerate sin in his presence. God doesn’t just respond out of righteousness. No, God responds fully and truly out of everything he is–perfectly and fully.

It is out of the perfection and fullness of God’s love, desires, affections, mercy, grace, justice, righteousness, patience, peace, holiness, aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, we can fully see in God’s response.

God doesn’t chastise or even condemn. (Bare with me. I will get to that in a moment.)  Instead, God responds with, “Satan, I will send Someone to make this right. You might think you have hurt him but he will crush your skull underneath his barefoot once and for all.” 5

God promises the monster that he will be destroyed and God makes this threat in front of his half-naked, scared, frightened, sin-filled kids. With Adam and Eve as his first witnesses, God promises He alone will fix what they did. Step number one was sending someone to be born of a woman, step two was for this savior to be hurt in some way and step three was that this person would smash Satan’s head to smithereens.

And when God turns to Adam and Eve, I believe that God doesn’t just instantly judge them. Why would I say this? Because after this encounter, they are still standing around on the earth. What I see is that God is simply laying out the consequences of sin in their lives and in the world.

But do not miss this next part. When you teach a Sunday school lesson, preach the word or simply reading from the Bible on this passage, pay special attention to this verse:

Genesis 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Now, if you had only read the Bible for the first time in your life and chapter 3 verse 21 was the first time you have ever heard of that, that might not mean anything to you.  I mean, it’s nice that God covered their naked bodies. But as the days and lives continue on after this moment, God continues to interact, guide, speak to, and continues to reveal His glory to his people, we can go back and see what was God really doing in that instance. It is only when I read through the law and the gospels that I can reread that verse in actual truth.

That Adam and Eve sinned and they tried covering up their sins with their own self-righteousness which are as dirty garments before God. But, God responds by preaching the Gospel of his Son. Adam and Eve respond by believing the gospel. And because they believed God, God takes away their sin and self-righteousness and clothes them with His own righteousness.

Don’t believe me?

Consider the following:

Luke 15:17–24 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What did the father do? He quickly covered his son’s own mess, shame, and guilt with the best robe; ordained his son with his own seal, and covered his kids’ dirt and poop-covered feet with peace. And then ordered for the fattened calf to be barbequed because his own son was now saved.

The father in the parable had all the means to restore his son to his own family. But how much more is the Good Father in heaven able to restore and bring the very worst and vile sinners into his own family.

God knows everything about you. He determines when you were born and where you would live 6. On top of that, He knows when you were far from him, running away from him and commiting treason against Him. He sees all of that. He knows all of that. God also knows when you appear to do good things but your heart is not in the right place. Namely, your heart is not about God. But when God saw you in your unrighteousness, he decided not to instantly judge you to instant condemnation. But even before the creation of the world, God decided to save you 7.

Just as God slew an animal to clothe his kids, the slaying of that animal did save them. Just as God proclaims his law to His people, that law could not and did not save them—it was too weak to do so. Even when God laid out the instructions to spill the blood of perfect, spotless animals in order to show his people what God must do in order to  save them, not even the animals’ dried blood that completely stain the bronze altar would not save his people 8!

No! God demanded the Perfect Sacrifice and that sacrifice had to be Man. But here’s the dilemma: no one ever born of man is perfect. No one! All who were born of Adam inherited Adam’s wicked and depraved heart. No one is righteous. No, not one. All of us have fallen way short of the glory of God. But under the law of God, the shedding of blood purified everything and without the shedding of blood, there is no removal of sin. Man has fallen into sin, committed sin even when they thought they were obeying the law of God (they were not) and only Man can atone for sin. You cannot atone for sin when you are filled with sin. God has a perfect requirement to atone for sin: it is a perfect man who lives perfectly and this same man would not ever know sin. This man could even be tempted as we are but still freed from sin. From the moment I was made in my mother’s womb, I was automatically disqualified from atoning for my own sin. My very birth was into sin and my continuous disobedience condemns me before the righteous and just God. And don’t get hung up on the word ‘continuous’ as thought I could somehow stop sinning on my own. If I had broken one of the laws of God, I have broken all of the laws of God 9.

With every single verse, chapter, and book in the Old Testament, God continuously, lovingly, and graciously preached His gospel to his people, both Jew and Gentile: “I know you are messed up. I have these laws that you need to perfectly obey in order to be with me forever. They are but the standard of which to live with me forever. Oh, I know you were going to fail. All of you will fail. And your sins will have consequences—sometimes even dire and mortal. But trust in me. No matter how many times you fail, just trust me. Maybe not in your lifetime or your kids’ lifetime or your kids’ kids lifetime but I promise you that one day I will fix everything that you have broken.

That fix was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God the Father sent God the Son to born as a little baby to perfect live his life perfectly obeying every single law that God gave his people. His Son was tempted but never falling short of the glory of God. But in perfect obedience to His Father by the power of His Spirit, the God and man, Jesus Christ, made a beeline to the cross in perfect obedience and with joy and gladness because what Christ was about to do is save His people from their sins. It was upon the last step on that hill of the skull where Jesus Christ would gladly give up his perfect life once and for all so that we would have the perfect life once and for all.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Notes:

  1. Acts 5:1-11
  2. John 3:16
  3. John 3:36
  4. Romans 1:16
  5. Genesis 3:15
  6. Acts 17:24-28
  7. Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:3-10
  8. Hebrews 9:11–22; Hebrews 10:3-7
  9. James 2:10