Monday, October 8, 2007
God justifies the wicked. Now as counter-intuitive as that sentence is that's the claim that lies at the heart of the "good news" that has brought immeasurable blessing (and trouble) to the church and world throughout history. It's not the Pharisee, confident in his own righteousness, who went home justified in Jesus' parable, but the bartender who couldn't even raise his eyes to heaven but cried out "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." It was this simple claim "God justifies the wicked" that caused the Apostle Paul to look back on all of his zealous obedience as an observant Jew, and call it dung in order he says, "that he may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness that is of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ - the righteousness from God that depends on faith." As the revelation of the righteousness of God, the Law condemns us and leaves no one standing and yet the gospel is a revelation of the righteousness from God the good news that sinners as Paul says, are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith. Therefore, he also adds, "since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul considered this doctrine to be so central that he regarded its explicit denial as anathema, that is, an act of heresy that the Galatian church itself was on the verge of committing. For Paul, a denial of justification was tantamount to a denial of grace and even to a denial of Christ for as he puts it in Galatians, "if justification were through the Law, then Christ died for nothing."
So God justifies the wicked, not those who have done their best yet have fallen short, who might at least be judged acceptable because of their sincerity. But those who are at the very moment of being pronounced righteous, in themselves are in fact unrighteous. And as Paul adds, "to the one who does not work, but trusts him who justifies the ungodly his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works."
- White Horse Inn