We are all sinners. Not by birth or by inheritance or by bad luck, but by our own choices to do things our way instead of God's way, the only way of happiness and peace. This means that all of us, no matter how cultured or refined we may we, are condemned, lost sinners. It is only when we recognize this basic fact of life in a fallen world that we have any hope of anything better. By our own choices we deserve to be excluded forever from the life that was originally planned for the human race. It is only when we realize our desperate situation that we will reach out to God for deliverance from our hopeless plight. In the next four lessons we will explore God's solution to our very serious problem. God has provided a way out of our dilemma, and we want to be sure that we find His remedy,
rather than a humanly invented remedy which might make us feel good as we proceed on our way to destruction.
The Bible tells us in many ways that every human being is a sinner, justly deserving separation from God, which means destruction. None of us can claim to be good or righteous, no matter how morally acceptable our lives may appear, because deep within our characters is the root of selfishness, which we have nurtured all our lives. We live for self, which is exactly the opposite of God's way and which leads to self-destruction. The only comfort that we can take is that all of us are in the same predicament together.
Since we have no way to solve our problem on our own, God has provided a way out. He has made His solution simple and clear, so that no one is excluded from His solution because of lack of education or wealth. Every human being, no matter what his or her circumstances may be, can turn to Jesus for help. If we will believe that Jesus lived and died to save us, then we have taken the first step out of the hopeless situation in which we all find ourselves.
The Bible is very exclusive about the way of salvation. In many different ways it says that only through God's provided way--the life and death of God's Son--is salvation possible. No human teacher or philosophy or religion can save us. No matter how many millions may follow another way of salvation, there is no hope of escape unless we follow God's way. All other solutions to the problem of sin are dead ends, leading only to destruction.
We serve a very merciful and fair God. While the only way of salvation is the life and death of Jesus, God does not hold individual sinners responsible for the ignorance of their age or culture. He will take into account the circumstances of a person's life, especially regarding the light or truth available to that person. If a person responds to God and obeys God with limited understanding of Him, Jesus' atoning blood will cover that person, as long as there is a sincere and complete yielding to God.
The first thing to understand about justification is that God forgives our sins. Since we can do nothing to change our past choices, God simply forgives us or pardons us. We are no longer guilty sinners. This is the declarative aspect of justification. To be justified is to be pardoned, to be acquitted, to be counted righteous. God declares me forgiven and pardoned, without my performing any works to earn my forgiveness.
How was Abraham justified?
"For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Romans 4:2,3
Doing good works, even the best of works, does not provide or earn justification. Justification is a gift of God's grace, undeserved and unearned. When we believe in God's promises and accept Christ's life and death for us, we are counted righteous. We are justified or declared to be righteous.
The only chance any of us have for salvation is the fact that God is love. Only because of His mercy and grace toward us do we have any hope of a way out of destruction. No matter what we learn about justification and sanctification, we must never forget that salvation is by grace, totally undeserved and unmerited. We can cooperate with God's justification, but we can never contribute to our justification. Nothing we do, not even our faith, can justify us.
What is the result of justification?
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1
The great gift of justification provides for us what no good deeds or valiant effort can provide--peace with God. Guilt is gone, fear is gone, uncertainty is gone. They are replaced by peace and joy, because we are counted righteous for Christ's sake.
"Pardon and justification are one and the same thing. Through faith, the believer passes from the position of a rebel, a child of sin and Satan, to the position of a loyal subject of Christ Jesus, not because of an inherent goodness, but because Christ receives him as His child by adoption....The grace of Christ is freely to justify the sinner without merit or claim on his part. Justification is a full, complete pardon of sin. The moment a sinner accepts Christ by faith, that moment he is pardoned. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and he is no more to doubt God's forgiving grace." (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1071)
Justification by faith is the most basic principle of the gospel. It is the bottom line of salvation. If we do not experience justification, we have no hope of salvation. Justification is adoption into the family of God. God declares me righteous.