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Sabbath School Insights
2010 Quarter 3: Jul - Sep
Insight #05, July 31, 2010
Insights No. 05
Third Quarter 2010 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Justification and the Law”
For the week of July 25-31, 2010
Justification by Faith
Justification has reference to God’s moral law. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. Condemnation comes because of unbelief (John 3:18) which is sin, the transgression of God’s law of righteousness (Romans 14:23).
No one can be justified by keeping the law; neither is a person justified apart from keeping it. We are justified in order tokeep it. We do not use the law as a means of justification; neither will we use justification by faith to jettison the law.
In Romans 3:31, Paul asks and answers the question of the relationship between justification by faith and the law: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” The law is never nullified by faith. Justification by faith always upholds the law. As Waggoner put it: “Justification carries the law on the face of it…. It establishes the law in the heart. Justification is the law incarnate in Christ, put into the man, so it is incarnate in the man” (E.J. Waggoner, “General Conference Daily Bulletin,” March 12, 1891, p. 85).
The New Century Version ( 2005) puts Romans 3:31 this way: “So do we destroy the law by following the way of faith? No! Faith causes us to be what the law truly wants.”
Ellen White wrote that the message sent from heaven through Waggoner and Jones “presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91,92).
The biblical teaching of justification by faith always makes a person a doer of the law. After a sinner is justified by faith in Christ, God’s righteous law stands as a witness to his justification (Psalm 119:172; Romans 3:21). That law testifies in favor of the believing sinner in the Supreme Court of the universe. Conversely any person who disregards God’s law can never be justified.
The Cross, the Law and Justification
Both justification and the law were magnified in the death of Christ on Calvary. Our transgressions of the law put Christ on the cross. His obedience, even to the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8), is the very means by which we are justified (Romans 5:19).
Not only is the death of Christ important to us because of our sins, it is also important for our justification. Further, the cross exalts the law of God. The cross was necessary to magnify both justification and the law. This is what makes Calvary so important.
Justification and the law came together at Calvary. Both justification and the law were magnified on the cross. Christ’s obedience unto death is our justification (Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:19; 5:9). It is received personally by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). In His death on the cross Jesus exhausted the penalty that was against us, while at the same time He exalted the law, showing that God did not and could not change His law to save Jesus, our Representative and Substitute, from its penalty.
Illustrations of Justification by Faith Drawn From the Experiences of Abraham and David.
In Romans 4:1-8 these two Old Testament characters, one a liar and the other an adulterer and murderer, are used to illustrate God’s justification that follows the conditions of repentance toward God and faith in Christ and His righteousness.
Abraham twice lied about Sarah. He told Sarah to inform Pharaoh of Egypt that she was his sister. This half-truth was a cover up of the truth that she was indeed his wife! (Genesis 12:10-20). This lie allowed Sarah to be taken by Pharaoh as a concubine. Abraham committed this same sin again in Canaan with King Abimelech (see Genesis 20). God had to intervene in both cases to save those kings from dire consequences.
And then too, Abraham was promised that he would be “a father of many nations” (Romans 4:17). However, in order to be a father of many nations, Abraham needed first to be the father of one child. Although God made the promise of a child to him, he thought he would have to help God out in fulfilling His promise. In time, Abraham repented and finally believed God.
The other Old Testament person used to illustrate righteousness by faith is David. David was an adulterer and a murderer. He, too, was brought into a deep repentance for his sins and belief in Christ for righteousness.
Notice what God said about David after he died. To Solomon He said: “If you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days” (1Kings 3:14). Then to Jeroboam God said: “My servant David…kept My commandments and… followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes” (1 Kings 14:8). After Abraham and David had repented and believed God, He treated them as if they had never sinned. Not a word about their terrible sins did God bring up after they believed from the heart. This then brings us to a simple but effective way to remember what justification and the law is about, from God’s standpoint. Justified: Just as if I’d never sinned. Just as if I’d always believed. Just as if I’d always obeyed.
As with David and Abraham, when we repent and believe, God looks at us as though we had never sinned – He sees us as if we have always obeyed! He says to you, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins (Isaiah 43:25). Then He writes his law upon the justified heart and mind, thus bringing justification and the law together in the experience of the believer.