The Law Cannot Justify

Repeatedly the New Testament tells us that we are not justified by the law.

“Justified” means to declare someone righteous. The law does not declare people righteous.

The law was not designed to make people righteous, nor to declare anyone righteous. The law was written to declare everyone a sinner!

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
–Romans 3:20

The law tells you what sin is and makes you guilty

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
–Romans 3:19

The law declares people to be sinners. Paul says in Romans 7 that the law actually stirs up the flesh to sin more. The law makes sin abound.

You can’t be justified by the law because the law could never declare anyone to be righteous. The law points out how unrighteous you are.

The law has NO POWER to make you righteous. If the law can’t make you righteous; then the law can’t declare you righteous.

The only way you can be truly declared righteous in God’s eyes is if something existed that could make you righteous!

That aint the law!

But it is the Gospel!

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
–Romans 5:19

The Gospel declares you righteous because the Gospel makes you righteous, not just in God’s head or your head, but in actual conduct.

The law cannot do that because the law is weak through the flesh. It has no power to make you do anything right, therefore, it can never declare anyone righteous because before it; no one is righteous.

The law won’t justify you; the Gospel will. Come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be made righteous.

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
–Romans 6:17-18

Justification is Real

Justification is a word thrown around quite a bit by Christians. Any time Christians throw a word around a lot, expect it to have become battered and bruised.

Justification has become a legal term. It means “to declare someone righteous.” But this is more than a legal term, more than God moving you from the unrighteous column to the righteous column.

Something more is going on.

Unfortunately, for many, justification is synonymous with salvation. The Reformers are talked about “justification by faith.” To the extent that justification now means salvation.

Justification is a part of salvation; it’s not the whole thing.

Justification is a declaration that God makes based on who He has made you.

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
–Romans 5:19

Romans 5:19 is not talking about declaring you righteous! It says you have been made righteous through Christ’s work on the cross.

 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
–2 Corinthians 5:21

Again, this is not just a declaration; it’s a real thing God has made us. We have been made righteous.

So, get this: The reason why God declares us righteous is because He made us righteous!

The common understanding of justification is that God declares us righteous even though we keep living in sin. God just ignores that. God just pretends we’re righteous even though He, we, and everyone else knows we’re not.

Justification understood this way makes God a delusional liar. Yet this is how most people understand justification.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
–1 Corinthians 6:9-11

You were unrighteous and doing unrighteous things, but now you’ve been made righteous. How so?

Because God has washed you [cleansed you from past sin], sanctified you [separated you from the world and called you to holy living different from the world], and justified you [declared you righteous because that’s what He’s made you].

Justification is not a mind game in God’s head. Justification is a declaration based upon what God has made you through the Gospel.

You used to live in sin, but now you’ve been washed, sanctified, and justified and no longer do those things.

Vincent’s Word Studies says about these verses:

Emphasizing the actual moral renewal, which is the true idea of justification. This is shown by the words “by the Spirit,” etc., for the Spirit is not concerned in mere forensic justification.

Justification is not the whole of salvation, nor is it a make-believe scenario. Justification is a declaration of who we are based on who God has made us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God is not a liar. If He calls someone righteous it has to be because they are actually righteous, not just in His head, but in reality.

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
–1 John 3:7

What Does “A Means of Grace” Mean?

We are often told that there is nothing we can do to get God’s grace. If there were something to do to get grace, it would no longer be grace. It would be a wage given for services rendered.

Many of the same people who emphasize this point (often under “sola gratia“), at the same time, hold to a belief in there being “means of grace.”

A “means to an end” refers to stuff you do to bring about a result. A “means of grace” is using the word “means” in the same way. “Means of Grace” means: stuff you do to get God’s grace, (which view, ironically enough, is typically held by people who don’t think there’s anything you can do to get grace).

For the majority of the Protestant church, the means of grace are prayer, the preaching of the word, and the sacraments (typically limited to Communion and baptism).

By doing such things, people will receive God’s grace to build up their faith.

If you pray; God will grace you with faith-building stuff. If you receive the preaching of the Word; God gives grace. If you eat and drink the church’s stuff and get wet in church; grace will be given to you.

If you don’t do these things, presumably, you will not be given God’s grace.

I actually agree that there are things you do to get grace. I believe this because the Bible says this. However, the biblical means of grace are different from the standard view.

God gives grace to the humble: you must be humble to get God’s grace. Humility is a means of grace.

We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is a means of grace.

Note how believing and being humble go together, and also note how neither thing requires you to be at church!

The real issue behind the means of grace is that a church hierarchy is telling people they need to come to church in order to get God’s grace. You need our leaders and our rituals to get grace.

It’s a classic way of guilting people into church attendance. That’s what’s behind the means of grace.

Faith and humility are all you need to receive grace. They are the only biblically sanctioned means of grace there are.  You don’t need to be in church to do either of them.

You can do them right now, in fact. Give them a try. They work wonders. Grace is cool. It would be cool to get more! Go ahead and get more; aint nothin stoppin ya.

Paul Calling People Names

Yesterday I posted about Jesus’ tendency to tell things as they are, even if it meant calling people out on their sin.

If we are to follow Christ, it seems as if we should do the same thing.

This does not mean besmirching people’s character, or making up stuff, or being rude for the sake of being rude, but it does mean telling the truth.

If, in an effort to soften our verbiage, we end up lying, we are forsaking love’s delight in the truth.

Not only did Jesus Christ call people out, so did the Apostle Paul. There may be some who defend Jesus’ manner in calling people out by saying, “Well, yeah, He’s the Son of God, of course He can call us wicked and faithless.”

Well, Paul is not the Son of God, he’s a sinner like you and me, in fact, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

He calls himself that because Paul speaks the truth. Not only does he call other people stuff, he calls himself names!

In the book of Titus he says:

One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.

In another fascinating passage, Acts 23:3, Paul says to the high priest

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Paul calls him a name, judges his performance, and calls upon God to smite him!

Paul later apologized for saying that to the high priest with the supposed defense that he did not know the guy was the high priest!

Paul is rather feisty. Jesus Christ was a tad feisty. People who speak the truth will be feisty, or at least come across that way.

Now, being feisty for feisty’s sake is not the issue. I’m not calling you to be a jerk and call people names.

What I am doing is saying that truth tends to hurt. If you speak the truth you will say things about people that they will not take kindly.

Most resentment and offendedness is a result of guilt. People who know they are sinners don’t like their sin to be pointed out. They want to live in the delusional world that they are sinning and getting away with it and everything is cool.

If you are an easily offended person, that’s because you are not walking in truth and righteousness. If you know you’re doing the right thing, what people accuse you of will bother you very little.

A sign of wisdom is listening to reproof and correction. Stupid people are the only ones who get offended at people correcting them, would be another way to put it.

This is a careful issue and I can easily be taken out of context. Hear what I’m saying.

My point is not that we should be judgmental jerks to people.

My point is to speak the truth and also, as you speak it, make sure you’re hearing it yourself. Start by dealing truthfully with your own sin before taking an interest in everyone else’s sin.

Calling People Names for Jesus

Everyone and their mother is upset right now over being called names, or being labeled and stereotyped.

Sticks and stones break people’s bones, names didn’t use to. Now, apparently they do.

In response to the hyper-sensitivity, we now come down on anyone who ever says anything the slightest judgmental about what someone else is doing.

As much as I agree we need to guard our mouths and be careful not to do unfair, self-righteous judging of others, I would also like to point out that there is a time and a place for labeling people for what they are.

Allow me to illustrate be quoting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
–Matthew 12:34

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
–Matthew 12:39

Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
–Matthew 12:45

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
–Matthew 16:4

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?
–Matthew 17:17

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
–Matthew 23:33

And that’s just Matthew!

Jesus is talking about a large group of people, a generation. Certainly He’s stereotyping and labeling with His generalizations.

Now, I’m not for you going out calling people names or stereotyping people.

I am for a call to reasonableness. At least for calling a spade a spade, rather than calling a spade a “garden implement useful for turning soil.”

Words mean things and need to be used carefully, wisely, and righteously.

We still live in the midst of a crooked, perverse, faithless, and wicked generation of vipers.

We should admit that. We should also admit we are part of that generation and are therefore implicated for our own part.

Sin is sin. Evil is evil. Call it what it is. Sinners sin. Speak the truth and call things what they are. This will protect you and also potentially help others.

BUT, proceed with love, grace, and compassion. Love rejoices in the truth. Don’t fear truth.

Evangelical Christians and Politics

I am reading a book called, The Evangelicals. It is a history of the Evangelical movement within American Christianity, particularly the political involvement they have gotten into over the years.

It’s a 600 page book. The first 200 pages dealt with Wesley through Billy Graham. The last 400 is from Billy Graham to today. It has bogged down tremendously.

One fascinating thing that stands out to me is how ridiculous, from a historical perspective, church leaders look when they get involved in politics.

Politics is driven by fear. There are HUGE problems, so vote for us to solve them. If they solved them; you wouldn’t need them anymore! So, they never get around to solving issues, just changing them and freaking everyone out along the way so they get votes.

When the Church, which is allegedly filled with people with eternal hope, gets involved in temporal squabbles heightened by fear, they look really stupid.

This is especially true when they fall for predictions about the future. There have been so many “threats” to us that should have wiped us out. But none of the major fears ever developed and predictions, predictably (!), fail.

What happened was Evangelicalism, which originally just meant people who were focused on the Gospel (the “evangel” part of Evangelical), got wrapped up with politics. Billy Graham solidified the movement. He thought he was doing the right thing at the time. Richard Nixon broke his heart.

The church got sucked into Republican politics with the Moral Majority and so forth in the 1970’s-90’s. They got carried away and got used, while America continued to remain firmly nowhere near Evangelical ideals.

So, the church learned its lesson. It got tired of being lumped in with rightwing nutjobs. Which brings us to today.

While reading this book about the roaring 70’s-90’s Republican Christian Might, a debate over the Social Gospel erupted.

The Social Gospel, often called Social Justice, Movement is nothing more than leftwing nutjob thinking.

The lesson the church apparently has learned from our losing with the Right, is to join the Left.

I fully expect that in about 40 years all these church leaders fired up over the new leftwing Social Justice stuff will look just as ridiculous as the rightwingers of the 70’s look to us now.

Allow me to posit a theory.

Perhaps the lesson the church should have learned from the disastrous Moral Majority days, is not to shift from the Right to the Left, but rather to stay out of the world’s fray to begin with.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, come out from among them and be separate. What fellowship has light with darkness? Set your affection on things above and not things on the earth. Not falling for the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke out spiritual growth.

Maybe something like that. You know, like, what the Bible says and stuff.

Just a theory.

How to Get Grace

There are some who read that title and are already ticked off!

“There’s nothing you do to get grace! Grace is God’s undeserved favor. If you did something to get it; then it wouldn’t be grace!”

This is the view of Calvinism and the “I” of their TULIP–Irresistible Grace.

Irresistible Grace says the only way you get grace is if God chooses you to get it. If you win the luck of the draw, God will shove His grace down your throat whether you want it or not.

OK, that was my cynical and not very complimentary definition of Irresistible Grace. It is, however, in essence what it is, just without the theological politeness!

Clearly I do not believe in Irresistible Grace. Grace can be resisted; that’s why there are people in hell.

Saying there is something you do to get grace does not mean we earn grace, merit grace, nor that we worked for grace.

Doing something to get grace merely means we met the conditions upon which grace is granted.

There are several conditions the Bible says we meet to get grace.

First, is faith. We are saved by grace through faith. We believe the Gospel, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only one able to save us. When we believe this, we receive the benefits of God’s grace.

Second, is humility. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Being humble is not a work of the flesh. Humility is knowing your flesh can’t work anything to save itself.

Third, is love. Here I will quote a little quoted verse, Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” If you don’t love Jesus Christ sincerely; no grace for you!

None of this says we earn grace or worked for it. Grace is a beautiful thing. God, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, provides everything we need for salvation. This is offered by His grace.

Our response is a faithful, humble, love that is drawn to the humble love Christ demonstrated on the cross. It’s grabbing on to Jesus Christ for salvation in love and faith, completely appreciating and being humbled by His salvation.

This is not a fleshly work that puffs up the fleshly nature. This is simply a realization of who we are and who Christ is, and our desperate need for Him.

There is a reason why some get God’s grace for salvation and some don’t. It’s not luck of the draw either. It’s based on your humble, faithful, and loving reaction to the grace and love of God.

Go get some grace! You need it!