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 and recognise their helplessness. But what else should you see in someone who is justified?
Those who are justified before God are people who believe that Christ’s righteousness pardons their sin.
To be justified, it is not enough to admit to God that you are a sinner and are helpless. Imagine you were to commit a crime in our country and be brought before an earthly court. You could not plead guilty to the judge and then expect to go free. Pleading guilty may reduce your sentence, but it won’t mean you’re forgiven.
It is the same in God’s high court. If you are guilty, then you must be punished – no matter how sorry you may be. This revelation is all the more terrifying when you realise that the punishment for sin is eternal damnation: The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: ‘Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Paul also wrote to the churches in Galatia: ‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (Galatians 5:19-21). Have you committed any of the sins in these lists? Then you will be punished by God and excluded from his kingdom.
Unless, someone pays the punishment for you. And thankfully God has made you an offer. His Son, Jesus Christ, will pay the punishment for you. His death on the cross can be a ransom so that you can go free – you can be justified before God. Jesus himself spoke of the ransom he would pay: ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).
How do you accept this free offer from God the Father and God the Son? The Bible repeatedly tells us that the payment for sin is to be received by faith. The apostle John writes: ‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:12-13).
If you simply trust that Jesus Christ died for you, then you are justified before God. Christ’s righteous work becomes your righteous work and you are pardoned from your sin.
So won’t you believe in Christ’s ransom for your sin and be justified today?