14 March 2009

Third Address: God the Just and the Justifier, Steven Lawson (PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

by Dan Phillips

This immediately followed Thomas' talk, at 10am Saturday. He read Romans 3:21ff.

Lawson quoted from Luther, MacArthur, Boice and many voices in chorus that justification as a central and foundational doctrine. He said you cannot be wrong on this, and be right about the rest of truth. It centers on God Himself. It is the Gospel of God (Romans 1:1). God owns this doctrine. It is God's truth - righteousness of God, the glory of God, the grace of God, are its emphatic themes. The character and attributes of God are interwoven throughout this doctrine. Justification puts the glory of God on full display.

This is our question today: What does justification tell us about God? Lawson will draw our attention to six attributes of God (or seven, time permitting) that emerge from his text.

First, the holiness of God. Romans 3:23 says that all sinned, and fall short of God's glory, which is His intrinsic glory as God, the sum and substance of all that God is. He is light, without darkness; He is separate from sinners, unapproachable and inaccessible to sinners in their sin, morally blameless and without defect or flaw. We are sinful and have fallen short.

Second, the wrath of God (Romans 3:25). The word "propitiation" points us to the satisfaction of the wrath of God, which is not an emotional, out of control reaction, but a necessary and proper stance of a holy God who distances Himself from all sin and inflicts His vengeance on all transgressors as required by His law. He rightly opposes and judges all sin with infinite fury and vengeance — all sin, with no exceptions whatever. All sins will be punished in Hell, or pardoned in Heaven because of Christ's having borne them. The good news is that Christ went to the cross to bear God's just and infinite fury for those whose sins Christ bore, so that now we can have peace with God.

Third: the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21, 22, 25, 26).
This is the truth that God always acts in accord with Himself, and the perfect standard of righteousness that He is; and that He will reward those in conformity, and punish all who rebel. The word was used in the courtroom, but also in the marketplace, to denote conformity to a weight, a standard. This is not the popular notion of our good deeds outweighing our bad; it is us on one scale, and God's perfect holiness on the other. If we do not measure up, we are condemned. Justification teaches that the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ takes our place on the scales, and we are accepted as righteous.

Fourth: the grace of God (Romans 3:24). Justification comes entirely because of God's grace, and in spite of ourselves. It is not a reward for the righteous; it is a gift for the guilty. Even the faith through which we receive it is a grace-gift (Romans 11;36; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29). The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that was transferred to Christ.

Fifth: the immutability of God (Romans 3:24). The verdict of justification will never be rescinded nor revoked; once justified, always justified. We can rest and enjoy this status, without fretting. God's gavel will never come back down again and reverse His sentence. He has sworn by His own name; He will never reverse His justification of us. Romans 8:29-30 allows for no drop-outs, additions nor losses. Those who God started with, He ends with.

Sixth: the sovereignty of God (Romans 3:29-30). In justification, the believing sinner becomes what God says he is, not what man nor devils say. One ounce of what God says is worth ten million tons of what man says, or what Satan says. If God says one is justified, he is justified. Romans 8:31ff. says the justifying God necessarily outweighs all foes or nay-sayers. It is God's court-room, trial, procedure, and verdict. None can gainsay or reverse, ever.

What impact should this have on us? First, we should worship this God who justifies us, with bewildered amazement. Second, we should walk in a manner worthy of such a royal imputation. Sanctification is a necessary result of imputation. Third, we should witness to the lost about God's pardon and justification in Christ.

It is this doctrine that puts the very character of God on display in radiant and bright ways.

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The Squirrel said...

Great reporting, Dan! Sounds like a fantasticly deep, theologically speaking, conference.

The Squirrel

Stefan Ewing said...

All these sessions are just amazing.

Everything stood out, but one line in particular struck me:

The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that was transferred to Christ.

Would that we remember that more often! That is why true Christianity is the exact opposite of every other belief system on the planet, and confounds all human wisdom.

Stefan Ewing said...

This why true Christianity is also the exact opposite of false Christianity, in all its many variegated forms.

Jonathan Ginn said...

This was one of my favorite sessions at the conference. Lawson brought a powerful and passionate message to the pulpit that was both God-centered and Gospel-centered.

candy said...

Excellent notes Dan! I am amazed that you can get it all down! Lawson's session was a real highlight for us as well. I am going to share your notes with some folks at my school. Thanks for your hard work.