Justified by Grace
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Amen. The word of God. thanks be to God.
In Mark Twain’s great book, Tom Sawyer, there is a place where Tom has discovered a secret cave, and he takes Huck Finn to the cave. He says, "Here you are! Look at it, Huck; it's the snuggest hole in this country. You just keep mum about it. All along I've been wanting to be a robber, but I knew I'd got to have a thing like this, and where to run across it was the bother. We've got it now, and we'll keep it quiet, only we'll let Joe Harper and Ben Rogers in--because of course there's got to be a Gang, or else there wouldn't be any style about it. Tom Sawyer's Gang--it sounds splendid, don't it, Huck?"
Huck replies, "Well, it just does, Tom. And who'll we rob?"
"Oh, most anybody. Waylay people--that's mostly the way."
"And kill them?"
"No, not always. Hive them in the cave till they raise a ransom."
"What's a ransom?"
"Money. You make them raise all they can, off'n their friends; and after you've kept them a year, if it ain't raised then you kill them. That’s the general way.”
[see chapter 33 or http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/7/2/0/7200/7200.htm]
Well Tom Sawyer is just a kid talking, a kid with an imagination the size of Grand Canyon. But let’s think about ransom and redemption for a few minutes. A person is kidnapped and held for ransom. A price must be paid before the prisoner is set free.
The Bible teaches that we have been kidnapped. We are prisoners of a demonic power, slaves of Satan. This kidnapping happens by our own will. We go along with our own spiritual destruction. With every sin we commit, we chain ourselves ever more firmly to Satan. The devil owns our souls and will always own our souls unless we pay a ransom for redemption.
But we have nothing we can pay. We are spiritually bankrupt. We have no means by which we can purchase our freedom. But Jesus has paid our ransom so that we might be delivered from sin and death.
Now, let us say a thing or two about this ransom. It was all paid. When Christ redeemed his people, he did it thoroughly to the last penny. On that day when Christ hung on the cross, he did not leave a single iota of sin debt for us to pay. He freed us entirely from slavery to the devil.
Understand that this was not a small debt that we owed. Our ransom was so large that we could never have paid our way out of demonic slavery. If you read the history of the Middle Ages, sometimes kings and princes of that period were captured and held for ransom. When Richard Lionheart, king of England, was taken prisoner by his enemies in 1192, the ransom was 34 tons of gold. It took England 14 months to raise the ransom and nearly bankrupted the country. 34 tons of gold, that was a kingly ransom.
To ransom your soul from bondage to Satan, it cost more than that, far more, but our savior paid it all. He paid on the cross with blood and agony. He nailed the receipt for payment to his cross and saved his people.
Our verse from Romans says, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Justification is something of a legal term. A prisoner is brought before the court. If she is found not guilty, she is justified. That is, her actions, for which she was being tried, are found to be justified. If she is guilty, she is not justified. She may be pardoned later on by the governor, but the governor cannot justify her. The deed for which she is found guilty is not justifiable. She may be pardoned, but it is still recognized that she is guilty of that particular crime. She just does not have to serve her sentence. So in our courts, the only way for an accused person can be justified is to be found not guilty.
Now, we come to an astonishing thing. We were guilty, and yet we are justified. Romans 3:23 reads, " For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." That is the verdict—guilty—and yet the next verse says that we are justified freely by the grace of God.
Let us think about how God does this. Suppose that a prisoner has been tried, and condemned to death. He is guilty; he cannot be justified. But now, suppose another person appears, who can take all the prisoner’s guilt upon himself, who can change places with the prisoner, and by some miraculous process, become that prisoner. This mysterious stranger is righteous and good, but he takes the condemned prisoner’s place and puts the condemned one in his place. Thus, he makes the guilty person into a righteous person by putting on the guilt and sin of that person himself.
We cannot do that in our courts. If a person were sentenced to a year in jail, and I went before the judge, and asked to be allowed to serve his sentence, the judge would probably just have me committed. He would certainly not allow me to serve the sentence imposed upon another for a crime that person committed. And even if by some stretch of the imagination I should be allowed to serve the sentence, that would still not justify the criminal. I could take his punishment but not his guilt. He would still be guilty of his crime.
But what flesh and blood cannot do, Jesus Christ has done. I am the sinner. I am condemned. I deserve to be condemned. Jesus comes in, puts me aside, stands in my stead, takes my guilt to be his own guilt, my punishment to be his own punishment.
Now this marvelous doctrine of Christ changing places with condemned sinners is not the kind of thing we would have ever expected from God. Thus, we had to receive it by special revelation. God had to explain it to us in the NT, or we would never have believed it.
Jesus took our place as sinners, he is accounted guilty and he suffered the penalty for our guilt, and God looks on us as if we were Christ. This is the doctrine of justification by faith. When Christ takes away our sins, we take Christ's righteousness; so that, when God looks upon us, he looks upon us with as much love and affection as he has for the only begotten Son.
That is how much God loves us, and that leads to a further conclusion. Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ's place, and Christ takes the sinner's place, such a change is wrought in the sinner that it can never be undone. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned for ever.
Once we are saved, we are always saved. Once we are free, we are always free. In the moment we believe, our sins are imputed to Christ, our sins cease to be ours, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to us and accounted as ours, so that we are accepted by God.
But how do we obtain justification? You might say, I feel like I ought to do something to deserve it. You cannot. This is a difficult point for some folks. They want to deserve salvation, and they strive by various works to deserve it. But they can never get there, because they are still sinners.
The great failure of preaching today is that we fail to educate folks on this crucial point. If you leave church today and go up to Pork and More for lunch, as I know many of you do, they will present you with a certain price for the meal. If later on this week you are doing some xmas shopping, the prices for the items are posted. If the price is too high, you will just say I cannot afford that.
What if God set a price on salvation? What if God set up shop and said, “I am going to charge for entrance into heaven.” What would the price be? I promise you, that it would be far more than you can afford, than anyone could afford. The richest person on earth could not buy salvation. No one could.
But the astonishing thing is that everyone can afford it because God gives it away for free. That is so astonishing that people have great difficulty accepting it.
If I could preach today that your sins would be forgiven and God will accept you into his heaven for $100, I will bet that every person here would find or borrow or otherwise scrape up $100 and pay for that salvation. If I could preach that you would by justified before God if you walked 100 miles, you would set out immediately, you would walk it. If I preach that you have to join the church to be saved, you would join the church.
But If I say that none of that is going to save us, but that God freely gives us salvation, some question that. Surely they say, I cannot have it for nothing. Surely I must go to Christ and lay all the good things of my life before him to claim his mercy. But the Word says, "by his grace." It does not say, keep all the laws of man. We don’t do that anyway. Fortunately for us, it says, "by his grace."
There is no other way. We cannot buy salvation because we do not have anything to buy it with. You think God cares about our paper money or our stocks and bonds and deeds. To offer such to God is an insult. He already owns the universe. We have nothing to offer to him. The gospel is worth more than the universe itself. We certainly cannot pay that price.
But we don’t need to. The gospel is a free gift. If you want it, ask for it and you have it.
But there is an important question that comes up here. Someone will ask, “Arent Christians supposed to do good works?” Certainly, we are; but we don’t trust in works for salvation. We trust in Christ alone. You might say, surely if I do a few good things they will recommend me to God. No they don’t. The stench of our sins is so great before God that God cannot bear us, and doing a few good things does not remove that stench.
I know this homeless man who has not had a bath in years. He stinks so badly that even when I try to help him I almost cannot bear to be around him. Recently he came by the church and wanted me to take him to another town. There were several reasons why I could not help him, but one reason was that I could not bear the thing of being in a closed truck cab with him.
Now I know that is a gross thing to say, and you may be thinking, that is more information than I wanted, but sometimes it takes a gross illustration to get your attention.
The stench of our sins is unbearable to God. Maybe we are doing a few good things but our sins create such a stench that God cannot stand to be around us. Now that is not the kind of thing we want to hear. We don’t want to hear that God cannot stand us.
Surely we are good people. Sometimes we look around and we say Im better than him or im better than her. We hope that God is a comparison shopper. And we think that in comparison to others God wll surely like us.
You might say, I go to a conservative church, I am fortunate that I go to a really good church like the ARP. Surely I will be saved. But it does not say in the Bible anything about salvation by churh attendance or salvation by denomination. It says salvation is a free gift.
What we have to do is to cast loose from everything else and trtust only in God’s gift. God’s gift is Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem who paid the full price for our sins on the cross and redeemed us from bondage to sin and earth and satan. Accept Jesus that is all you need to do. Trust Jesus and you will never trust in vain. Trust Jesus and you will one day rejoice with the saints in heaven, singing praise to the king of kings, the bringer of salvation.
A Sermon (No. 126) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 5, 1857, by the C. H. Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
|HOME||About YARPC||Sermons||Prayer Center|
Copyright 2000 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last Modified: 01/14/12