JUSTIFICATION – INSTRUCTION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Skipping a step or an ingredient in a list of instructions is not wise. If you’re making coffee, you cannot skip coffee. If you’re cooking hamburgers, you cannot skip the beef patties. If you’re making sugar cookies, you cannot skip sugar. So also, in our series on “Justification,” we cannot skip the “Law.” If we don’t understand the true meaning and purpose of the Law, we will have an incorrect or incomplete understanding of Justification. In our second message in this series on Justification, our focus is on the Law. It is subtitled “Instruction.” Here’s the main point: God graciously gave his Law to his people. It was never meant to give salvation. Eternal life was always through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Law was given to guide his people in holiness and blessing. The Law of Christ doesn’t lower the standards. The only way we can keep his Law is through his Holy Spirit in us.
Romans 3 27 “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
Context: 3 times in those two verses, we come across the word “law.” If we’re going to have the right understanding of justification, we need to understanding what Paul meant by the word “law,” here and in other parts of his letter. To start with, the word “law” or “nomos” is found over 190 times in the New Testament. More than half of the usages are actually found in Paul’s letters to the Romans (74 times) and Galatians (32 times). We’re not going to launch into a comprehensive study of “law.” Our focus will be basically on “what is the role of the law in our salvation, especially our justification?”
To start with, let’s get somethings straight about the Law:
1. The Law was much more than one long list of dos and don’ts.
Some people have a misunderstanding based on certain verses in the New Testament. James 2:10 “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Galatians 5:3 “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Matthew 5:19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” Keep in mind that in their individual context, the point was not about the unity of the Law, but regarding hypocrisy in picking and choosing what they wanted. Keep in mind that God gave his law and his commandments to his people through Moses (Exodus 24:12). Having said that, the moral Law of God was reflected in the life of people like Enoch, Noah, and Abraham who walked blamelessly before God way before God gave the 10 Commandments through Moses. The 10 Commandments are a summary of the moral Law of God by which people were already living. But later God expanded that moral Law and intertwined it with civil laws, penal code, and ceremonial laws to help his people live holy, peaceful, and prosperous lives. Here are some verses that remind us of God’s deeper expectation through the Law:
- 1 Samuel 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…”
- Isaiah 1 11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats…16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”
- Jeremiah 7 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.”
- Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
- Psalm 51 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.
- Matthew 22 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
- Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
2. The Law was never meant to bring Eternal Life.
Again, some people have a misunderstanding regarding this based on certain verses. Leviticus 18:5 “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” Matthew 19:17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Again, the individual context prove that this was not a formula on how to have salvation. Leviticus was given to a regenerate nation. The second one was Jesus’ challenge to the Rich Young Ruler to really take an account of his obedience. To the contrary, the gospel in the Old was the same gospel in the New. It was presented to the extent the people could understand. Hebrews 4:2 “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” The Old Testament believers also had to place their faith in the plan of salvation. Genesis 15:6 “And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” The Gospel was presented in the promise and even demonstrated in the call to sacrifice Isaac. Galatians 3 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” Exodus 4:5 “that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Exodus 14:31“Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.” Think about the death of the First Born. Deuteronomy 1 31 “and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God.” Can you hear the echo of John 3:16?
The reason I’m emphasizing this is because of the questions raised regarding the destiny of the “hidden peoples.” People think that God is going to judge the lost who’ve never heard the way he will judge the Old Testament people. They even bring up Romans 2 about the “law written on the hearts” of the Gentiles. In the context, it was a chastisement of the Jewish people who were trusting in the Law to get them saved. Paul was warning them that the Gentiles with Law on their hearts are just as good as them, even better. Listen to the conclusion in Romans 9 30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10 1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
So also, in Galatians 2 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
3. The Law still matters today.
Again, some misunderstandings from some verses. Galatians 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 3:10 “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” Galatians 3 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 7:6 “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Again, in the context, they are about trusting in the Law rather than in Christ.
But Jesus did not come to do away with the Moral Law. In fact, he has taken the standard much higher. Matthew 5. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Just when you’d think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Regarding Enemies – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Is this optional? John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Is it possible? Ezekiel 36 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
James 1:12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.
How can we live up to such high standards? We can’t without the help of the Holy Spirit. Are you saved? It’s only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
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