The World’s Trouble: Chapter 8
When I mention the way of salvation, you rightly infer a need for salvation. But, what is salvation? To answer that, we need to look back over the ground we’ve already covered. All men and women are guilty sinners before God. In chapters 2 and 3, we considered what sin is and concluded that everything we do in unbelief is sin against God.
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
– Romans 14:23
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
– Hebrews 11:6
Sin is sin because of who God is and we, being made in his image, fail to live up to God’s standard of holiness.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;
– Romans 3:23
In chapter 4 we considered the consequences of sin being condemnation before God and eternal punishment in a lake of fire. We will not fail to stand before God and be judged by him. If we stand there in our sin, we will be sentenced to eternal punishment.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
– Romans 6:23
We need to be saved from the presence, power, and penalty of sin. Salvation in the most general sense means deliverance. Salvation is a rescue. We need to be rescued from the wrath of God and delivered to the joy of God. We need to be rescued from the sentence of death and delivered to the gift of everlasting life. The salvation we are talking about is the whole rescue and deliverance of man from sin unto life.
All human beings are born in sin (Romans 5:12), but the Bible tells of some who are saved from it. There are some who gain everlasting life in abundance (John 10:10, 27-28). Some pass from death unto life.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
– John 5:24
How are some delivered from death? How can God avert their just condemnation and make them fit for his family? How does God put away sin? There is a problem to be overcome here that, perhaps, you don’t see the difficulty of. If God is holy, righteous, and just, how can he forgive sin?
Let me illustrate the problem to see if it becomes clearer. Imagine there is a small town. It’s the sort of small town where everyone knows everyone else and everything everyone is doing. Maybe you’re from such a place, but whether you are or not, you can imagine it. Imagine in this small town that two prominent men got into an argument and one murdered the other. This took place at noon in the town square where dozens of witnesses saw it all and beside this, security cameras captured footage of the whole thing. Furthermore, all forensic evidence and the police investigations proved the man was guilty of murdering his neighbor. The man was put on trial before the judge and a jury of his peers. The prosecuting attorney presented an air-tight case that the man was guilty. The jury needed little deliberation and returned a guilty verdict promptly. Then imagine the judge considers all these factors and pronounces the man, “Not guilty,” and tells him he may go free.
What would happen in such a case? There would be a huge public outcry. The family of the murdered man would probably seek to sue in a higher court. At the least, the people would want that judge removed from the bench. Why? Because he was an unjust judge. He failed to uphold the law. The law states that when a person is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they are to be sentenced according to their crime.
Now think about what is at stake in God forgiving sin. We defined sin essentially as a falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The concept of sin is wrapped up in the very nature of God. The magnitude of sin is determined not by the nature of the act done but rather the dignity of the one sinned against (1 John 1:5; 1 Timothy 6:16). The very nature of God is why sin is sin and is also why God cannot simply pass over sin. How can God be just and justify a sinner?
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
– Romans 3:26
Justify means to declare just, or righteous. It is a legal term meaning to be cleared of guilt. Paul sees a problem in God justifying sinners because God is just himself. If God declares righteous one who is not righteous, then God lies. If God lies, he denies himself and would not be God (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13). If God passes over, or overlooks sin and declares the sinner righteous, God himself is unrighteous. God cannot and will not pervert judgment (2 Chronicles 19:7; Nahum 1:3). But Paul is referring to the fact that God has made such a way of salvation that God “might be just,” and at the same time “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
What we have come to is that the nature of God demands that sin be dealt with. Sin cannot stand before him apart from condemnation. By law, “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward” (Hebrews 2:2), which just recompense is the sentence of death. In order to pass from death to life, something has to happen to our sin. It must be dealt with in such a way that God remains just and also the justifier of the believer.
In the next chapter, we want to begin considering how God takes away our sin so that we bear it no more and he remains just and righteous.
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.
If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.