How am I Justified
There are three points in this passage which are of great interest to the soul, viz., how I can get forgiveness, justification, and eternal life. They all three come out distinctly in this scripture, and are proclaimed by Paul to an audience which he had never seen before. Do you happily know, my reader, that your sins are all forgiven, that you are justified from all things, so that there can never be a charge laid against you—nay, more—that you are the possessor of eternal life? Do you ask, Can anyone know this here? Yes, thank God, one can, and many also do, and two things follow, joy and the possession of the Holy Ghost—as in the last verse of our chapter.
The apostle came to Antioch in Pisidia, and they gave him a hearing, and he spoke to them of Jesus, of a Saviour. What we all need God provides, and that is a Saviour; and, my friend, if you are not saved now, it is your own fault, it is because you have not availed yourself of what God has provided—viz., a Saviour. The Jew refused this Saviour, trampled Him under foot, and then God turned to the Gentile. “I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation unto the ends of the earth,” is God’s precious statement; and if you are a poor sinner unsaved, there is salvation for you. God has done all He can do. He has done His part. He has sent the Saviour, now it is for you to accept Him. Who is a Saviour suited to? Lost people. Only lost sinners need Him. Are you saved? Perhaps you reply, I could not say that, Well, are you lost? Oh! you answer, I should not like to say that. That is the reason, then, that you do not know that you are saved, for the Saviour only came for the lost. Until you take your place among the lost you will never have the joy of knowing Jesus as your Saviour. You have heard the name of Jesus very often—from a child, I doubt not—but, tell me, is He yours, are you saved?
The apostle first unfolds the character of the One of whom he was speaking, and indicates His mission—“A Saviour, Jesus.” He unfolds His name—the sweetest name that ever fell on mortal ears—Jesus. He then (v. 26) goes on to say, “Whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.” Are you a God-fearing person who, though without the knowledge of forgiveness and salvation, is still looking towards God? “To you is the word of this salvation sent.”
Do you say, I could not take up that ground? But have you never feared God yet? Then you will fear Him—fear Him in a day when it will be too late to taste His grace. Your days of carelessness and heedlessness will soon be over, and then you must meet God. The fear of God is a blessed thing. When I have the fear of God upon me I am in my right place, feeling my own nothingness, and His greatness. Right fear is the doorway of blessing. Are you fearing the Lord? Then, “to you is the word of this salvation sent.”
How does God save men? Is it by the law? No; for “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20). Is it by our works? No; for “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). If it is “the word of this salvation,” then the only thing the sinner has to do is to listen. You may be saved by “words,” by “works” never. What does he mean by words? It is the tale of the work of another, the love and goodness of another, the life and death of another, and how God has raised Him from the dead, and put Him into glory; and you hear, and believe, and are saved before you know it.
There never was a simple look of faith to Christ, as a soul heard the story of His love, but that soul got salvation at once, though it might not know it.
Let me implore you to get into right relationship with God now. There is a breach between the world and God now. What is the breach? The grave of His Son. You may argue that He gave Himself. Yes, but this world demanded His death, they clamoured for His blood. Hatred put Him on the cross. Love took Him down, love buried Him, and love rolled a stone over His beloved body in the tomb. But who sealed Him in that tomb? Fear. Hatred killed Him, love buried Him, and fear sealed Him in, and set a watch over the grave, and then the world went away and hoped it had got rid of Him for ever. But they have not, and they have yet to meet Him, for “God raised him from the dead,” I need not say, without breaking the seal. No stone or seal could hold the Saviour in. “God raised him from the dead,” and then there was an earthquake, and an angel came and rolled away the stone—not to let the Saviour out, He was out already—but to let you look in and see an empty tomb. Oh! then, I say, my Saviour is risen, my sins must be gone. When man had done his worst against God, then it was that God did His best for man. As a martyr, Jesus died for the truth of God; as a victim, He died for the sin of man. On the cross He took the cup due to man, but He took it from the hand of God. He had looked into it, fathomed it, and He took it, and drank it to the very dregs, and He holds out to you and Me the cup of salvation which we have just to take and drink, and then bless His holy name for ever and ever. Precious Saviour!
In the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we have more than the display of the love of God; we have the unfolding of His righteousness too, and there is the basis on which the gospel rests. Oh, what a love is the love of God! Let it penetrate your heart if it never has before. Christ’s incarnation is the proof of His interest in man. His death is the sure proof of—more than interest, yea, of—His deep love, and now that God has raised Him from the dead in righteousness, and seated Him at His own right hand, God can offer to you the forgiveness of your sins, if you turn round to Him. The tide of human affection may at times rise so high as to cover for a moment the tablet on which are recorded your offences; but as the tide recedes, on that tablet of memory still remains the unerased list, but with God the tide is ever at the flood. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” He says. I look back to the cross and see my blessed Saviour dying, and faith lays hold of the work of the cross. I never can estimate its value, but God estimates it at its full value. I cannot measure the love of Christ, but I can enjoy it. The law can only convict and condemn you, but Jesus can save you, and He will if you look to Him.
What a charming unfolding of grace is here! “Be it known unto you . . . that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” Is it conditional? No. It is unconditional, as free as the very air you are breathing as you read this paper. “And by him all who believe are justified from all things.” Another scripture says, “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Then we read in Romans 5:1, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;” and again in verse 9, “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” There is only one way of justification, “through this man.” There are not three ways, but there are three parties to my justification. God is a party to my justification; Christ is a party to my justification; and I, most necessarily, am a party to my justification. God by His grace, Christ by His blood, and I by faith. The spring is grace, the basis is blood, the principle of it is faith. Faith is the hand that goes out, and takes the gift of God.
It is God that justifies. God is on your side now. I am justified from offences by the grace of God, the blood of Christ, and by my own faith; and then I am not only justified from offences, but I get a life in Christ that cannot offend. A believer in Christ has “justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).
Is Christ alive? God raised Him from the dead. There was a man who deserved to die, and Jesus died for him; and now there lives a Man on the throne of God, and I live in Him. I have “justification of life.” Yea, more, it is “eternal life,” and all I have to do is to go on my way rejoicing in Him, who is my life, and make much of Him till I see Him face to face.
Reader, shall He not be yours henceforth?
“Oh take with rejoicing from Jesus at once
The life everlasting He gives;
And know with assurance thou never canst die
Since Jesus thy righteousness lives.”
The Gospel Messenger 1890, p. 59