A Question about Justification and its Effects


On 25 Sep, Elvin P. Asked,


     “…Doesn’t the Protestant doctrine of a justification which is by faith alone lead a man to live in any way he chooses? When someone believes they’re completely forgiven, doesn’t it make them lazy or presumptuous upon God’s mercy?”




"Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul," 
Psalm 66:16. 


     This, sir, is truly a matter of the heart. Can this doctrine lead people astray? Yes it can, but it will only do so in those who do not apprehend it by faith. There is a breadth here that cannot be seen without the panoramic inspiration of the Spirit of God. Justification stands as the central pillar of true religion under God.

     I wish to first briefly mention its certainty. From there I can try to get at its implications, motivational rationale, or effects. The only gospel taught in Scripture is that the righteousness of Christ (a perfect and total satisfaction before God) is given to or shared with those who repent and trust in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, 13. The elect stand before God justified by an alien righteousness. We stand by a righteousness that is not ours! Philippians 3:8-9; Hebrews 10:14; Romans 4:9-10, 16, 23-24; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:6; Acts 13:39, et al. Such a gracious work will forever be scandalous, misunderstood and offensive to those outside it. Romans 9:30-33; Galatians 3:13; Luke 7:39 (see vv. 36-50).

     Such truth beckons the called not just to a teaching, but the teacher Himself. Our righteousness is our life, and our life is in the Son, 1 John 5:11; John 17:3; Colossians 3:3. We are saved entirely by Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 1:21. This doctrine is only as attractive to us as He Himself is. When one repents of sin it is the first sure fruit of saving faith, aka life. Repentance shows that the gospel has been understood by the pedagogy of the Spirit. The Spirit escorts all true disciples into the classroom. Enduring repentance shows the turning of a soul from one’s sin to Christ. In Christ there is absolutely no longer a chance for hell in the future of the believer…despite all the sin they’ll commit from then on. God knows all things to come in our lives. He is omniscient. He saves us knowing us better than we know ourselves. Let the scoffers scoff.

     In Romans 3:8 the Apostle Paul speaks of one such slanderous report brought against this doctrine. Just as you’ve seen today, some in Paul’s day falsely taught that because he preached such an amazing grace over sinners that they should just, “Live it up” allowing God to therefore show Himself all the more merciful in forgiving them more and more over and above more and more sin. Such worldly reasoning would say, “Since God is glorified in forgiving sin, He will be ever more glorified in forgiving me if I have lots more of it.” In other words, some false teachers attempted to twist God’s grace into a license to sin, Jude 4. Today many effectively do the same thing by supposing that God is, “All loving” and will not judge. This is equally false.

     I said near the start here that this is truly a matter of the heart. What I mean is that the regenerate heart despises sin. As a result of being given life, the mind of the Christian (through the ministry of the Bible) is discipled through transforming graces into the very image of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18. He is set free to understand the parables (Luke 8:10) and by faith sees in Christ the Lord of illustrious glory! The regenerate heart, though still tempted and, in part, prone to wander from grace, desires righteousness more earnestly. Instead of sin pleasing the redeemed heart, it afflicts it.

     The Christian life is shown then, in every effort, to be one divorced from sin, Romans 7:1-6. There is no license to sin in Christ. Paul posed the answer to any such antagonists as a question: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1-2; cf. 1 John 3:10. I really needn’t say more. The heart reset on God knows this truth full well. It is a fear of God (Proverbs 16:6; Matthew 10:28) and a love of God (1 John 3:1) that wins us. We are now, "Slaves of righteousness," Romans 6:16.

     The Christian then sees his life as lived for the honor of the Lord Jesus he loves so much, Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Timothy 2:4. “How could I sin against such an amazing God?” They ask! The appreciation for God’s complete pardon for sin fosters this attitude in his living heart and conforming thoughts. As he matures in Christ, his sin becomes less and less attractive while God becomes more and more attractive. Everything (good or bad) now contributes to this, Romans 8:28. It is a matter of the heart. Please hear me: The converted heart knows no other gospel than this! The disciple’s mind is changed in regard to the lie that sin makes one happy. He learns this by sinning. God could remove his sin overnight. He could, but He’s chosen not to. He’s chosen not to because He is more glorified now by letting sin remain. One day He will remove it entirely. The new heart of the believer now informs him, in an active obedience, what joy really is more and more with each passing year.  

     How then can the doctrine that secures this life in Christ ever be a source for sin? Knowing that all of my sin, past, present and future is already pardoned in Christ according to the good pleasure of God’s eternal love towards me does not produce presumption! It produces zeal! I esteem grace far above all else.

     There’s a paragraph taped in the front of my Bible. It’s been a tremendous blessing to me. I’d like to share it:


It is recorded of a Chinese emperor that, on being informed that his enemies had raised an insurrection in one of his distant provinces, he said to his officers, “Come, follow me; and we will quickly destroy them.” He marched forward, and the rebels submitted upon his approach. All now thought that he would take the most signal revenge, but were surprised to see the captives treated with mildness and humanity. “How!” cried the first minister, “Is this the manner in which you fulfill your promise? Your royal word was given that your enemies should be destroyed; and behold you have pardoned them all, and even caressed some of them.” “I promised,” replied the emperor, with a generous air, “To destroy my enemies. I have fulfilled my word; for see, they are enemies no longer: I have made friends of them.” (John 15:15; Romans 5:8; Luke 6:32; Isaiah 63:7; Romans 3:26; 9:23).


     God could have crushed me like a bug. Instead, He saved me by crushing the Son. Get that and you get the kind of grace Christian’s love. I am in God; God is in me. My life must show this wisdom or I show that I’m not His child. “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him,” 1 John 2:29; 3:7.

     “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” 2 Timothy 2:19.

     Here’s the clincher. I assure you it’s lost on the lost: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome,” 1 John 5:3 (emphasis mine). I run to make Him glad because He has given me His life, Romans 8:32. What else could I do? Making Him glad makes me glad. I’m so selfish in seeking my glory, honor and immortality for Him, Romans 2:7-8a. I do this having entered the Sabbath of His rest, Hebrews 4:3. I live in peace with God, Romans 5:1. I have overcome the world, 1 John 5:4. What a gospel!


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