1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 11.1 How Does God Justify Sinners? God Cleanses Us From All Unrighteousness
2 Corinthians 5:21 (CSB) He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ's active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.
Romans 3:24 (CSB) they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Previously, Chapter 10 dealt with the calling of God upon his people. At this moment, let us not undersell or downplay how God effectually calls those who would believe and trust in him. This means whom God calls, he will perfectly and definitely save that person. This might be a strange thing for any person to fathom. When I call out to my children, although they may hear me, they may not respond. And to that, we might be tempted that God is like us and since we have no power to control or save others, perhaps God may not be as powerful, might, sovereign, or graceful in his calling to any of the sons of Adam.
But God is not like us and we are not like God. Whom God calls, he will justify. Whom God calls from death to life, that person will live. For:
Isaiah 55:11 (CSB) so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
John 6:44 (CSB) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
John 12:32 (CSB) As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.”
This is not some sort of "God calls and then a person will struggle and wiggle and think and ponder about that calling." The calling of God is the effectually calling of the Almighty God upon one who is dead in their trespasses and sins.
John 11:42-44 (CSB) I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out! ”The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”
And we know this because of the Bible--more specifically in Romans:
Romans 8:30 (CSB) And those he predestined, he also called; and
those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
Let me contend that the entirety of the gospel of Christ in this verse is summarized and reduced to a simple mathematical equation:
One hundred percent of those predestined (let's call this w) equals one hundred percent of those called (x) equals one hundred percent of those justified (y) equals one hundred percent of those glorified (z).
w = x = y = z
Whatever that set number is, that is the set number of those who will be saved.
Do we know what that number is? As much as I love my Jehovah's Witnesses neighbors, we are not God so no, we do not know what that number is. That is not for us to know. Ours to know is Jesus Christ, Son of God who is God. For:
John 1:14 (CSB) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This glorious doctrine, that is, whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies, is historically summed in the doctrine of Limited Atonement. That is, God has perfectly saved his people from their sins. How do we know he has already accomplished this? Because he sent his Son to live and die and resurrected for his people. And the fact that Jesus has done this is not a myth or a theory, but rather, an historical fact that happened over 2000 years ago.
not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous;
Romans 4:5–8 (CSB) But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness. Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the person the Lord will never charge with sin.
Ephesians 1:7 (CSB) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
In Ordo Salutis (the Order of Salvation), there is particular set of what God does in order to save his people. Predestination occurred in the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son before the creation of time and space--before Genesis 1:1. From that, the Son came after the saints of the Old Testament lived and came before the born again saints of the New Testament. Those are moments in time.
What does happen, seemingly all at one time, is the work of the Spirit upon the believer. One is that the Spirit gives the heart of the Father and makes his home in the person. There the gift of faith is bestowed. And now the person believes and trusts Christ.
But it is never that God is adding on or infusing his righteousness with our righteousness. We have no righteousness of our own. It does matter how good we think are. We have zero righteousness of ourselves. For:
Romans 3:10–12 (CSB) as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one.
What is even worse: what we think our righteousness might be is actually dirty, filthy rags before God Almighty:
Isaiah 64:6 (CSB) All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.
Our self-righteousness is trash before a just and holy God.
How can God infused his righteousness with trash?
Let me put it another way: how can God simply forgive sin?
There is a teaching among Progressive & Liberal Christians that state since God can simple declared, "Your sins are forgiven--go and sin no more" then Christ death on the cross was not necessary. In other words, Christ did not have to die for our sins. God could have simply forgiven us. Some Liberal Christians suggest, in the name of Social Gospel, that Jesus of Nazareth was a good and moral teacher who was falsely accused, falsely tried and false executed. Christ simply forgive sins and his death was a tragic mistake.
That is an interesting theory. But for that theory to hold up, you will need to disregard the rest of the Bible.
Leviticus 17:11 (CSB) For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.
Hebrews 9:22 (CSB) According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Now make no mistake: it was not the blood of the animal sacrifices that washed away our sins. For:
Hebrews 10:4 (CSB) For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
It is the blood of Christ that washes away our sins. For:
Hebrews 10:10 (CSB) By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.
Hebrews 10:14 (CSB) For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified.
Colossians 2:13-14 (CSB) And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.
In order for Christ to save his people from their sins, he must live for his people and then die for his people. And that is the gospel of Christ--because Christ did so perfectly for his people--once and for all time. For:
Hebrews 9:24-28 (CSB) For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.
And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment — so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
1 Corinthians 1:30–31 (CSB) It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption —in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
Romans 5:17–19 (CSB) If by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
For Christ's sake alone. You miss this and you miss the gospel.
Many well-intended gospel-centered Evangelicals will start to hold fast "it is all about Christ" but in due time, will slip, much like Adam and Eve, and start to add on to the gospel. In the early 18th century, a controversy arose in Scotland, called the Marrow Controversy, where the General Assembly of Presbyters insisted on the repentance of sins in order to be justified in the sight of God.
Stop right there. If you grew up Evangelical like I did, repenting of sins in order to be justified, seems good and right and orthodox. But it is not so. Look at that teaching a little bit more closer and ask this question, "Who is doing what in order to be justified?" The Marrow Brethren taught that it was not any action that we have done that justifies us, not even our repentance of our sins, but rather, the work of Christ alone. Christ alone justifies us. Christ alone saves us. And what the Marrow Brethren contended for: because of what Christ has done, and you being saved by Christ, you are going to repent of yours sins, because of what Christ has done. The Father gives you a new hear, the Spirit dwells in you because of Christ's live and death on the cross.
Look at it this way: can you ever perfectly repent of your sins? The answer is obviously no. If we cannot perfectly repent of our sins and if justification of God depends on our repentance of our sins, then we are most certainly doomed. But because of Christ, who is perfect in every way, we are perfectly saved.
Praise be to God.
1 Corinthians 6:11 (CSB) And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ's active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith
Philippians 3:8–9 (CSB) More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.
Many of us chant, shout, proclaim, preach, & sing: "in Christ alone." But see this: everything that Christ did was to save his people from their sins. In order to save you and me, Christ is our complete propitiation, expiation, imputation, obedience, and righteousness. Nothing we have done or will ever do will ever add to what Christ has done to save us from our sins. We could not have added one bit. Not one thing we have done or will do will sway Christ love for us. Does that make sense?
If you are in Christ now, your obedience is still filthy rags in the sight of God. Only Christ's obedience makes you righteous.
So why obey Christ? God does not need anything--for he is not be served by human hands (Acts 17:25). But we are to do what Christ has command us to do because our neighbor so desperately needs our love--and it starts with the commission of Christ to preach the gospel of Christ to all creatures, everywhere, to the ends of the earth.
The arms of God are wide open. You cannot prepare yourself enough to come to God. You cannot change your mind about God. You cannot repent hard enough fo your sins. You cannot do one good thing to bring yourself to God.
But it is God who sent his only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, fully God and fully man, so that he would fully obey every single commandment of God, perfectly, wholeheartedly, and then die on the cross, so that you can be with God the Father forever.
Remember the 5th chapter of Romans:
Romans 5:8 (CSB) But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You cannot clean yourself up in order to approach the throne of grace. You and I are wicked sinners. Just stay dirty and come the Fount of Life--whose blood washes away all of our sins, makes us clean the first time, all the time, every second of every day until you come all the way home to him.
What if you sin? The death Almighty Son of God, fully God and fully man, was so perfect and strong that it already cleansed your sins the moment Christ died on the cross. Yes, that sin, too. Yes, the one you are going to commit one minute from now, one year from now, and one decade from now. Yes, even the one you struggle with every day. God's grace is more. You don't want to sin against God because he is so good. But you and I will fail. That is okay. God already knew that. That is when he sent his Son to live and die for you. And when you and I do, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).
Galatians 2:16 (CSB) and yet because we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus. This was so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified.
John 1:12 (CSB) But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name,
Romans 5:17 (CSB) If by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Read the following passage:
Ephesians 2:8–10 (CSB) For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
Pop quiz: what is the gift of God to believers?
A. Salvation B. Grace C. Faith
Correct answer: D. All of the above.
You have nothing to give God but the sin that made it necessary to sacrifice his Son on your behalf.
If you do not know this Blessed God, call upon the name of the Lord, and you will be saved instantly. For:
Romans 10:9–10 (CSB) If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.
Acts 2:21 (CSB) Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Acts 16:31 (CSB) They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
John 3:16 (CSB) For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Again, when is it a good time to be saved by God?
2 Corinthians 6:2 (CSB) For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.
Don't you see? Now is the acceptable time! Today is the day of salvation!
I dare you to call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved!