Justification 24, Humiliation 8

This week we will end our study on justification. I have been trying to draw out how other factors influence how we view and apply the doctrine of justification. We cannot just have a bare doctrine of justification since the Bible sets it out in differing contexts. One context that we have looked at is faith. We have asked questions of what it means to be justified by faith and the corresponding thoughts on not having faith in ourselves. This week, I would like to think of justification in the context of the Gospel. I would like to think of the Gospel in terms of II Corinthians 4:4-6 & Romans 3:23-26 and how it should influence our thoughts on faith and justification.

“4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4).”

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3)

What we can see from the text of II Corinthians 4 is that the Gospel is all about the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4 does not describe what that glory is, but it tells us that the most desirable and beautiful part of the Gospel is the glory of God. The light that cuts through the darkness of the soul is the light of the Gospel, but of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. Now, if no one ever sees the glory of Christ, then no one ever really sees the Gospel. The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (v. 4) is God Himself who shines in the heart “to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v. 6). Now, let us look at this a bit closer. The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ is what the evil one wants to hide. He is not trying to hide the words of the Gospel as such, but he wants to hide the light of the Gospel. Verse 6 tells us that God has to shine in the heart to give the Light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ. The Glory of the Gospel, then, is the character and beauty of God displayed in the Gospel. The light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ is the knowledge of the glory of God as seen in Christ.

Romans 3:23 tells us that sin is falling short of the glory of God. This instructs us, in light of other Scriptures, that man’s purpose on earth is to glorify God. But man has fallen short of that. What does it take to be saved from the sin of not glorifying God? What is needed is for Christ to display the glory of God in the place of people that do not glorify God. Man has fallen short and needs someone to glorify God in his place. How did Christ do that? By living and dying in a way that glorifies God in the place of sinners. When we see in Romans 3:24 that justification, grace, and the redemption that saves sinners is in Christ, we should ask why that is and how it glorifies God. We must never think of man in and of himself as being the primary reason God saves sinners, but God always does that which glorifies His name the most. If He did not do that, He would not be holy and loving.

We must not forget that we are dealing with justification and the faith that is used as an instrument to justify. Justification, then, is what God does to sinners to save them from hell in a way that exalts His name. In justification which is by grace alone, the glory of His grace (Eph 1:6) is displayed. In the life and cross of Christ we see the glory of God’s grace displayed. When God declares a sinner just, it is based on the glory of His grace and not on the sinner’s worthiness or merit. It is all about the glory of God. When we see that it is Christ that redeems sinners, we must understand that as the glory of God shining in the purchase of sinners. Since it is all of grace, the redemption price is set out in even more glorious terms. The purchase price is the second Person of the Trinity taking human flesh to Himself in order to purchase sinners. In this we see the grace, mercy, justice, and wrath of God displayed. How beautiful to behold the Divine character in the face of Christ at the cross.

In verse 25 we see that the Father set out Christ as a propitiation and that through faith. Notice Christ is only a propitiation through faith. Only faith sees the glory of this and looks at Christ as a bearer of wrath who removes the wrath of the Father and discerns the glory in that. In this we see the character of God in its beauty. How wonderful the love that would love His own glory enough to save sinners in such a way that restored His glory. How marvelous was the justice that would not allow sinners to be saved without a perfect justice shown. How delicious to the soul is the sight of a perfect holiness that did not back off of pouring out His wrath upon His own Son so that He could display His glory in saving sinners. We then see in verses 25 and 26 that the text tells us that God is demonstrating His own righteousness in salvation. He did all of this in the demonstration of Himself so that He could be both just and the justifier. This shines forth the beauty of the Gospel because we can see the beauty of the character of God being put on display through Christ.

While that was but a short time spent on the point, I hope it is enough to suffice. We should now consider the role of faith in salvation from several verses.

“With respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom 4:20). “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him” (John 12).

44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44).

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)

We see from these texts that faith beholds His glory and not anything of self. Faith in Christ is to behold His glory in the Gospel and not see faith as from self. Faith sees His glory and rests and trusts in that glory rather than seek the glory of self. Faith wants the character of God to be seen and not that of self. Faith must behold the glory of God in the Gospel and trust Him rather than anything it can do of itself. We can see from John 11:40 that it is faith that beholds the glory of God in an event. That text is in the context of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Many people saw that Lazarus was raised from the dead, but only a few saw the glory of God in it. The ones that saw the glory were those with true faith. As we see in John 12:39-41, some could not believe because they were hardened. Isaiah, however, saw His glory. Then, in Romans 4:20 we see that those who believe the promise and grow strong are those that grow strong in faith. It is in that growing strong in faith that people see and give glory to God.

Let us look at the other side of this. The fleshly nature looks at Christ and interprets Him and the cross in terms of self. The person in the fleshly nature is all about self and thinks that God and the Gospel are about self too. He sees a glory of the cross and of Christ in a sense, and is perhaps moved to tears and good works by that glory. But that glory the fleshly person sees is of self. He believes the cross is all about him and his worth. So he does not see the glory of God in the cross which means he loves God and the cross only out of self-interest. The cross is meant to slay the pride and self-centeredness of man, but many teach it in a way that actually leads men to focus on themselves. This is all of pride and has nothing of the true Gospel since it does not demonstrate the glory of God.

Faith cannot be seen by looking for faith. One can only know that he sees a deer if he is sees the deer. The proper way to know if you see a deer is to look at the deer, not at self looking at the deer. So we will only know that we believe in Christ if we see Christ. We can only believe the Gospel if we see the glory of the Gospel. Therefore, faith is the sight of the soul beholding the glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While many believe certain facts about Christ and the Gospel, they are lost if they do not see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. After all, that is the heart of the Gospel. So we can see that to be justified before God one has to believe the Gospel, but true believers in the Gospel see the glory of God in the Gospel. We must teach the glory of God in justification or we will not be teaching the glory of God in the Gospel and there will be nothing that is a true object of faith. Satan would then have effectively hidden the Gospel and we would be helping him do so.

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