We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in the 17th century. In particular, we’ve been examining the doctrine of justification, which is a legal declaration that you are right before God. We’ve seen that justification comes by God’s word and the Spirit to those who are convinced of their sin. But what else should you see in someone who is justified?
Those who are justified are people who are convinced of their own inability to recover themselves from their lost condition.
When people learn of their sin, they can react a number of ways. They can refuse to acknowledge their sin. They can shrug it off as not a big deal. They can seek to do good as compensation for their sin.
Meanwhile the person who is justified, looks for help. Again and again in the Bible, we see those who are convicted of sin crying out for deliverance. For example in Acts 2 we read Peter’s sermon and the response of the people: ‘”Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”’ (Acts 2:36-37. Similarly, the Philippian gaoler says to Paul and Silas: ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:30).
The apostle Paul also teaches that sinners are powerless to save themselves. Paul says to the Roman church: ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:6). Even the way Paul describes humans as ‘dead’ in their sins, demonstrates the helplessness of sinners: ‘When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ’ (Colossians 2:13). Dead people don’t do anything. That’s part of what it means to be dead!
Finally, if salvation only comes through Christ, that demonstrates our complete inability to recover from our sinful state. We can’t help ourselves and no other creature can either. Peter teaches the uniqueness of Christ’s saving power in his sermon to the Jews: ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Jesus himself says: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).
So if there is nothing that we can do to bring ourselves to life we must join in with people all through the ages and cry out ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Only then can we be justified before God.
If you continue in your arrogance toward the Lord, thinking that your sin is a light matter and you can take care of it yourself, there is no place for you in Christ’s kingdom.
Do you want to be justified? Have you recognised your sinfulness? Have you recognised your inability to save yourself? Have you cried out to God for help? Do it now, so that you can be made right before God.