Justification

Galatians

Justification

September 23rd, 1956 @ 10:50 AM

Galatians 4:1-7

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
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Justification

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Galatians 4:1-7

9-23-56     10:50 a.m.

 

You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians, verses 1 through 7 [Galatians 4:1-7]. In our preaching through the Bible last Sunday night, we concluded the third chapter, and this morning we begin with the fourth chapter. Now the sermon this morning and the sermon tonight are really one sermon.  For lack of time, I could not encompass it in one message, so they are divided in two. The sermon this morning is entitled Justification; it is a doctrinal message. The sermon tonight is on Adoption, a doctrinal message.

The doctrines of justification and adoption; they go together. Whoever is justified before God is also adopted into the family of God.  He becomes a son, a child of God [Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:26]. By nature we are children of wrath [Ephesians 2:3], by nature we are lost and condemned [Ephesians 2:1]. If we ever see the face of God, if we ever go to heaven when we die, if we are ever saved, we must be justified from our sins by faith in Christ, not by the work of the law [Ephesians 2:8-9].  And when we are justified, we are adopted into the family of God; we become the children of God [Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:26]. “As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name: who were born, not of blood, not of flesh, not of the will of man” [John 1:12-13].  For a man to be born of blood, of flesh, of the will of man, is to be a natural son of Adam, a child of wrath [John 3:6; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22]. For a man to be justified, to be saved, he must be regenerated, he must be born again, anothen, “from above” [John 3:7].  And he must be adopted into the family of God.

Now all of that is actually one message, but I cannot encompass it in one message; so this morning we will take Justification and tonight, Adoption. The reading of the Word in the fourth chapter of Galatians is this:

 

Now I say, That an heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a slave, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ Jesus.

[Galatians 4:1-6]

 

Again, Galatians 2:16:

 

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

 

In Galatians 3:11:

 

That no man is justified by [the law] in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

 

Galatians 3:6:

 

Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for justification, for righteousness.

 

So, our first observation is that the word “justification” is righteousness—just, righteous—the same root word in Hebrew, in Greek, all of the same. The Hebrew word for “justification,” tsedekah, is also the Hebrew word for “righteousness.” In the third chapter of Galatians here and the sixth verse that I’ve just read, Paul quotes from the fifteenth chapter of Genesis and the sixth verse: “Abraham believed God; and it was accounted unto him for tsedekah[Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6].  You have it translated “righteousness” or “justification.” Tsedek means to be righteous.” It also means to be accepted as righteous, to be justified.

Now, that same and identical construction is found in the Greek word; for Paul was writing here in Greek, “Even as Abraham believed God; and it was accounted unto him for dikaiosune,dikaiosune, righteousness, justification—dikaios:  just, righteous [Galatians 3:6]. In the first chapter of the Book of Matthew, “For Joseph was a dikaios man, a just man, and did not want to put Mary to an open shame” [Matthew 1:19].  In the ninth chapter of the same Book of Matthew, there the word is again, “Even as the Son of Man came not to call the dikaios,you  have it translated, “the righteous to repentance, but sinners” [Matthew 9:13].  So, the words all are the same: righteousness, justification.

How can a man be righteous in the sight of God? How can he be just in the sight of God and at the same time the man is a sinner?  You! How are you going to get to heaven? You? How is any one of us going to get to heaven? We who are sinful and laden with sin, and covered with sin, guilty of sin, and no sinner enters that beautiful place; no man, in his sin, shall ever see the holy God. How shall God justify us? How shall God make us righteous?

Now, a theological definition of justification is this: justification is that judicial act of God; it is a forensic thing, it is a declared thing, not an actual thing. You never are righteous.  We are never without sin.  Mistake and shortcoming are our daily, daily lot. Justification is that judicial, forensic, declarative act of God whereby God, for Christ’s sake, declares the sinner—you, me, we who have joined ourselves by faith to Christ and are identified by faith with Christ—justification is the act of God whereby God, for Christ’s sake, declares that sinner who has fled to Jesus for refuge—God declares that sinner no longer exposed to the penalty and the judgment of law, but accepts him as being righteous, holy, good, pure.  Heretofore, God hath rejected the man; now He accepts him. Heretofore God hath condemned the man; now He receives him. Heretofore, God hath pushed the man away and condemned him; now He is acceptable, and his presence is, in the sight of God, altogether just and right [Ephesians 1:6].

Now that’s an unusual thing. It’s not an actual thing. It is a forensic thing. It is a declarative thing. It is a judicial thing. It is a thing in ideal. I went through the Bible, and I found some magnificent things in the Book to illustrate this thing of justification. We are not actually righteous; we are not actually without sin. We are not actually pure and holy, but God looks upon us as pure and holy. God accepts us as righteous; God accepts us as though we had no sin.

Now, here are three things that I read out of the Book. In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Numbers is the story of Balak who is the king of Moab. And Balak has sent from far away, from Mesopotamia, he has sent for a prophet named Balaam [Numbers 22:5-7]. And he has hired Balaam to come and curse Israel [Numbers 22:18-21]. Well, Balaam stands up to curse Israel, but God won’t let him; and God puts in Balaam’s mouth, words of blessing and not cursing [Numbers 23:17-20]. And in that blessing of Israel, Balaam says:

 

God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.

[Numbers 23:21]

 

My soul, I never saw a wickeder man in my life—nor have I ever heard of one—than Jacob. Jacob, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” [Numbers 2321], that’s another name for Jacob. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Isn’t that a remarkable thing? God looked upon Jacob, and God never saw iniquity in him, and He never saw perverseness in him.  For Jacob had been justified in the sight of God [Genesis 48:3-4], like his grandfather Abraham [Genesis 15:6].  He had been acceptable unto God in his person, justified! And when God looked upon him, He didn’t look upon the iniquity in him, and the sin in him, and the unrighteousness in him, for Jacob was justified in the sight of God [Genesis 48:3-4]. God looked upon Jacob ideally, as though he were in heaven already: pure and holy and saved.

Now I wonder if I could show you how you do that in every day language?  You look upon a thing, not how it is actually, but as it is possibly, potentially, ideally. Here is an agriculturist, a botanist, and he walks along and he finds a little thing rising out of the ground, a little almond shaped thing.  Oh, it’s no bigger than an inch.  And he looks upon it and he says, “That’s an oak; that’s an oak.” Now, the little ol’ thing is not more than an inch high with a little ol’ almond top to it. You know, that broken acorn sticking up out of the ground. An oak is a great tree with spreading branches bearing acorns, a tremendous thing. And yet, he says, “that’s an oak there.” Now he’s not talking in actual fact, he’s talking in ideal fact. He looks at that little ol’ thing whose development is imperceptible, and he imputes to it the majesty, and the glory, and the spreading wonder of the great oak tree. The naturalist, the agriculturist, can see that in that little thing coming out the ground.  Now, that’s imputed majesty, that’s imputed glory; that’s imputed growth and all the things that go with the great oak tree.  It’s not actually there, but he sees it. That’s the way God does in justification: we are not actually righteous, we are not actually without sin.  We are condemned sinners, all of us [Romans 3:23; Ezekiel 18:4, 20]—but when we are justified, God looks upon us ideally, and He imputes to us righteousness [Galatians 3:5-7].

Well, let’s go on again.  In the third chapter of the prophet Zechariah is Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel, clothed in filthy rags, and Satan is standing there by his side to rebuke him [Zechariah 3:1-3].  Satan does that for all of us; every one of you when you stand up, Satan stands right there by your side and says, “Look at you, you!  Look at you, you!”  Clothed in filthy rags; that is we are sinners. Well, let me read the passage:

 

And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord… is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the Angel. And He answered and spake unto those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment, pure and white.

[Zechariah 3:1-4]

 

Satan standing there at the right hand of Joshua the high priest accusing and rebuking, “Look God, look at this man. He’s a sinner! He’s a sinner!” But the Lord God said, “The Lord rebuke thee Satan, for this man, this man, this sinful man is a brand plucked out of the burning! [Zechariah 3:2]. I rescued him,” says the Lord, “I will clothe him with new garments. I will justify him. I will,” says God [Zechariah 3:4].  God interposes Himself between the people and the judgment upon their sins.

Now, could I say the same thing out of the Book of Romans? All of this is just the same saying in different ways.  Romans 8:33, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth!”  When God says, “I interpose between this man and the judgment upon his sins,” who dares to say, “nay?”  Not even Satan himself:

 

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?

Who is he that condemneth?

It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who [also] maketh intercession for us.

 [Romans 8:33-34]

 

God interposes for the man that trusts in Him, God interposes between the man and the penalty upon his sins.

Now, I want to take a passage out of a great man of God.  He lived in 1100 AD, long time ago. He was the archbishop of Canterbury, and he was one of the great saints and great theologians of all time. There’s not a boy that grows up in school who is not familiar with Anselm: Anselm, the archbishop of Canterbury, who was a saint of God and a great theologian. This Anselm, who lived so long ago, wrote a tract for the consolation of the dying who were alarmed because of their sin. “I have sinned and I’m dying; what shall I do?  I have sinned and I face God; what shall I do?”  The people of his flock were alarmed because death came, and they were sinners. So he wrote a tract for them.  Now, I’m going to quote from that ancient tract of Anselm.  And you listen to this man and see how he reflects the true revelation of our faith in Christ Jesus:

 

Question—now this is from Anselm

Question: Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus died for thee?

Answer: I believe it.

Question: Does thou thank Him for His passion and death?

Answer: I do thank Him

Question: Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by His death?

Answer: I believe it.

 

Then in the tract, Anselm addresses the dying man:

Come then, while life remaineth in thee; in Christ alone place thy whole trust; in naught else place thy trust; to His death commit thyself wholly; with this alone cover thyself wholly; and if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, ‘Lord, between Thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with Thee.’ And if God shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou: ‘Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and Thee.’ If He shall say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say: ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil desserts and Thee, and His merits I offer for those I ought to have and have not.’ If He say that He is wroth with thee, say: ‘Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thy wrath and me.’ And when thou hast completed this, say again: ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thee and me.’

[See Anselm, Opera (Migne), 1:686, 687.]

 

That’s what it is to be justified by faith [Romans 1:17, 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:11, 24]. It comes through the interposition of Christ, “I died for this man,” says Christ. “I paid the penalty for the unrighteousnesses of his life!  He is not exposed to the penalty of the law. He is just, and he has been justified by faith in Me.”

Now, I want to show, if God will help me—I want to show the reasonableness of a God-kind of righteousness. That is, a righteousness by justification and not by the works of the law. When God has respect unto a man and his works, the respect of God is not to the works of the man, but to the man himself. God does not have respect to a man’s works, then to the man; but God has respect to the man himself, and then God has respect to the man’s works.

Now, the world and the mistress Reason who is so plainly among the people of the world—why, they come to us and say, “Now, that’s folly.  That’s idiocy.  That’s senselessness, for the thing is exactly the opposite,” says the world. The world says, “We gain favor before God and we are acceptable unto God by our works!  God accepts the works first, and then He will accept the man, the person.”  But God’s Book says it’s the opposite of that; God says the man first must be acceptable. The man first must be justified, and then his works are acceptable.  But the works of an unjustified man are not acceptable, and God will not have respect unto them.”

All right, look at it. The thing starts off like that.  In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis is this story:

 

Now Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock and of the fat thereof.

And the Lord had respect unto Abel, first, and then to his offering

And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.

[Genesis 4:4-5]

 

First, God had respect to Abel and to his offering, but God had not respect, first, to Cain, then not to his offering. God has respect first to the man and then to the works of the man, but not the other way around. In the twenty-third Psalm and the third verse, it is the same thing, “He restoreth my soul” [Psalm 23:3].  God justifies me first. I become a child of God first; then, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.  He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness” [Psalm 23:3].  The man first must be acceptable to God before the man’s works are acceptable to God.  And if a man is not acceptable to God, if the man is not justified, if he is not declared acceptable, if he’s not received, none of his works are received.

Now I want to illustrate that.  I want to illustrate that because the world says it’s the works that God accepts, then He accepts the man. I lived six years in Kentucky. If I ever saw a hole filled with drunkenness, and wickedness, and debauchery, it’s when they turned all northern Kentucky into a gamblers’ paradise, and they run the races.  Well, may God deliver our city from the influx of all of the wanton iniquity that pours into a place like that when the parimutuel tickets are being sold.  O God!

All right, in all of that morass and miasma of wickedness and drunkenness, they will run the sixth race for charity. “Ah!” You say, “How gracious!” and “How fine!” The sixth race is run for charity. “Look at the poor. Look at the orphan. Look at the sick.” And all of those gamblers and horse racers go around, “Oh, the good we do! The sixth race we run for charity!” And so you say, “God accepts the works, then He accepts the man.”  God says, “I accept the man first,” then He accepts his works. God looks upon that and says, “That’s not acceptable.”  The work’s good, yes.  Don’t have any quarrel with trying to help the poor, and the aged, and the infirmed, and the helpless child, but God says, “The man’s not right!” He may run the sixth race for charity, but God does not accept it because the man’s not acceptable.

I’ll give you another instance. I never saw a place that was built around liquor more than that same part of the country. And so I was there when they took out the eighteenth amendment. And here’s what they said: “Oh, let’s bring back the flood and toll of liquor; let’s bring it back, and then we’ll take the taxes therefrom, and we will pay old age pensions. That’s what we’ll do. And we will build schools, that’s what we’ll do. And isn’t that a gracious thing to do? We will pay old age pensions with that tax, and we will build schools with that tax.” And they think because of their works they shall be acceptable unto God. But God says the man first must be acceptable to God. And the man in the liquor business—my soul, my soul!

Take an instance out of the Bible. Samuel was commissioned of God to anoint a new king for Israel; and there came before Samuel the eldest son of Jesse—Eliab, tall and fine and handsome.  And when Samuel looked upon him, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.”  But the Lord God said to Samuel, “Samuel, I have rejected him for God seeth not as man seeth.  For man looketh upon the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart” [1 Samuel 16:6-7].  How ever a man’s works may be, he’s not acceptable because of his works. First, a man himself must be acceptable.  First a man must be justified; then, let him bring his offering.  Then let him do the works of the Lord [Galatians 3:5-7].

A man is unregenerate, a man is a son of earthly Adam, a man is a dying creature. “Even the imagination of the thoughts of his heart is wicked continually,” says the Lord [Genesis 6:5].  Our works in His sight are as “filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6]; the man must be justified. First, he must be accepted, then his works are offered unto God [Genesis 4:4-5; Psalm 23:3].

Ah, just a little word left for so much, so much. “How, pastor, can a man be justified?”  How can a man be acceptable unto God? Where is that God-kind of righteousness by which a man can come in the presence of the Lord and offer the fruit of his hands and offer the reward of his life? How can a man be justified in the sight of God? How can a man be righteous? How can he be saved? How? That is the gospel, that is the message of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are justified not by the works of the law, not by ideals, not by character, not by reputation, not by self-righteousness; a man is not justified by the works of the law, but he’s justified by casting himself, committing himself, entrusting himself to Jesus Christ.  “For by the works of the law shall no man be justified…but by faith in Jesus Christ” [Galatians 2:16].  “Even as Abraham trusted God,” cast himself upon the choices and mercies and goodnesses of God, “and it was accounted to him for justification, for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6].  

No good thing does the Lord withhold from that covenant of justification. Righteousness, holiness, peace, heirship to heaven, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all of this that I read in my text, all of it is for the man who is justified by faith in Jesus Christ [Galatians 3:5-7]; who casts himself upon the mercies, upon the love, upon the grace, upon the pardon and forgiveness of God [James 4:6].

O Lord, upon Thee do I lean! Not on the works that I could do, not on myself,

not on any righteous thing I might attempt. Lord, I cast myself upon Thee! Not by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ [Galatians 3:5-7].

And that’s why Paul says here, “Wherefore thou art no more a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” [Galatians 4:7]. Now, what he means is this: that as long as a man is working, he’s a slave.  He’s a servant in another man’s house. As long as a man is working in order to be just in the sight of God—to be accepted to God, to be saved, to go to heaven—as long as a man is working, Paul says he’s a slave.  He’s working for hire, he’s working for reward, he’s working for stipend, he’s working for wages, he’s a hireling, says Paul.  He’s a slave in another man’s house. And if he works and works and works and if he worked forever, Paul says, he’s still a slave.  He’s still a servant, he’s still working.

“But,” he says, “by faith we are adopted” [Galatians 3:26, 4:5-7].  We become sons, and we’re no longer slaves, douloi, “slaves.” But we are huios, “a son,” huioi, “sons.” We are children; children, heirs.  We’re in the household of God.  Not working like a servant for pay or for stipend in order to receive a reward or to get to heaven, but we’re already in the house of God, we’re on the road to glory. And we are in the house, working for God just because of the love of a Father in our hearts; because we love God and the brotherhood—belong to the family.  In it not for the reward or pay or compensation, not working our way to heaven, it’s a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8-9], and what we do as sons in the Father’s house, as heirs to all the Father possesses [Romans 8:17]—God looks upon His children and we belong to Him.  And what we do, we do out of a love of our hearts.

I am a father; many, many, most of you are fathers. It never once occurred to me that in my house, my child was nice to me, paid deference to me in order to buy her way in our home.  Ah! It’s unthinkable!  Aren’t you that way?  Do you ever look upon your children as you would servants in the home who are there to work?  And you pay them for being there, and you pay their wage and reward for what they do?  Paul says the man who’s working and expects to go to heaven by the things he does is a slave; he’s a servant, he’s hired.  But a son, a son: he may work as hard, he may do as much—that’s the boy.  If he is a good boy, partners with his dad, may pour his very life into the great partnership of his dad’s business or whatever his father’s doing, but he doesn’t do it as a slave or as a servant, he does it as a son, as a son.

That’s the way God builds His house!  Not by slaves and paid workers and hirelings, but God built it up by the love of His children.  Oh, if I had time I’d illustrate that endlessly. Just point you one, then we’ll sing our song.  That’s the prodigal boy. When he came to himself, he said, “In my father’s house how many hired servants has my father? [Luke 15:17].  And I—look at me, look at me, look at me.” And he arose and came to his father, and his father said, “This is my son, not a hired hand.”  The boy was willing to do the work of a hired hand, to be a servant, but the father said, “Not a hired hand!  This is my son! Where is the ring? Put it on his finger. Where is the robe? Drape his shoulders. Where is the fatted calf? Kill it and let’s eat and be merry; this is my son!” [Luke 15:18-24]

That’s you. That’s you. We’re not here working our way to heaven, we’re not here trying to buy off God with good works; we acknowledge ourselves sinners in the sight of the holy great God. But we’re here as children and fellow heirs of Jesus Christ [Galatians 3:26, Romans 8:17]. By faith we are adopted into His family and we’re sons and fellow heirs [Galatians 3:26, 4:5-7]. And that’s the sermon tonight.

While we sing our song this morning, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord. Open your heart to Him. While we sing this song, would you come today? Would you come today? Would you put your life and heart in the love and grace and mercy of Jesus? Would you come today?  And into the fellowship of the church, a family, somebody you, as God should open the door and say the word, would you come?  Into the aisle and down by my side, “Here I am, preacher.”

Lots of folks listen on this radio. Have you given your heart to Christ? Tell me. Tell me. What’s your hope? What’s your hope? Are you looking to yourself and to your works to buy the mercy of God to trade? Are you? Or are you saying, “In my hands no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling” [“Rock of Ages”; Augustus Toplady].   “What can wash away my sins?” [“Nothing But the Blood,” Robert Lowry]. 

“Not my righteousness, nothing but the holy sacrifice of Jesus” [John 3:16; Titus 3:5] Would you say that? Give your heart to Him wherever you are—ride along in a car, there in the living room, in the bedroom, wherever—would you give your heart to Jesus today? Would you?  “All done with self, Lord, I take up the love and grace and hope we have in Jesus.” Would you?  While we sing this song, would you come? Would you come, while we stand and while we sing?