FAITH IS THE KEY
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:1-5.
Having laid out his case for the guilt of the whole world, and the impossibility of satisfying God’s righteous and holy standards by trying to keep the law, Paul moved on to build his case for God’s way of declaring people “not guilty” and making them acceptable to Him.
God could not sweep sin under the carpet. In the beginning, He made it clear to Adam that the penalty for disobedience would be death. He was obliged to honour His own word. When the first pair disobeyed Him, they were alienated from Him and brought the judgment of death upon themselves, the human race and the cosmos itself. There was nothing they could do to undo what they had done.
There was only one way to satisfy God’s justice and, at the same time, justify the guilty – if a human being, who had no sin of his own, would take on himself the penalty for sin on behalf of the sinful human race, then God could forgive sin and reinstate the sinner. God came in person, became a human being, subject to the same law that condemned all other humans, and passed the test. He was put to death as a lawbreaker but rose from the dead to prove both His innocence and His fulfilment of God’s requirement.
But how does what Jesus did become ours? Paul used accounting terms to explain how it happens. Each of us has an account with God. In the debit column is the record of our debt of sin. It begins with a nature that is bent on rebellion. Then, to our sin nature is added the mounting debt of sin that we owe day by day through thoughts, motives, attitudes and actions. All our efforts to add to our credit balance to try to cancel out our debt are futile because everything we do is tainted by sin.
“All of us have become as one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6.
However, Jesus’ death paid our debt in full. Not only that but He also cancelled the very law that accuses us.
“He forgave all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us, nailing it to the cross…” Colossians 2:13b, 14.
“But,” you argue, “How can God remove the standard by which He judges us? Does that mean that it does not matter what we do? Is there no longer any law by which God measures our behaviour?” God’s standards do not change. But He satisfied His own demands through the perfect life of His Son. He cancelled every debt in our debit column, writing across our debt “PAID IN FULL” and wrote in our credit column the name of Jesus which includes His perfect obedience.
No, God did not remove His standard. He put the Spirit of His Son in us to uphold and fulfil all His holy requirements and…He gave us His own nature to desire His ways in place of our own.
There is one more step needed to complete the transaction. It has to be personally received or else it remains ineffective. The basis of Adam’s sin (and confirmed by ours) was the rejection of God’s authority and a declaration of independence. To receive God’s gift of forgiveness is only part of the deal. The other part is to submit once again to His authority and return to His way of doing life.
God appointed His Son, Jesus, to be the ruler of His kingdom. He said to the rebel kings who tried to throw off His rule, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” Psalm 2:6.
Because of His perfect obedience, even to death, “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10, 11.
Faith in the finished work of Jesus, then, deletes our entire debit column, with an emphatic, “PAID IN FULL” writes in bold letters in our credit column, “JESUS’ RIGHTEOUSNESS”, closes the book and declares, “IT IS FINISHED”, and, in response to faith and, with open arms, welcomes the reconciled son back home to Father’s house.
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