But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone,  but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,  who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (ESV)
Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone is the article by which the church stands or falls. If this doctrine were to be neglected or misunderstood or, worse, discarded, the results would be disastrous. The salvation of souls is at stake in this matter. There would be no church, no Christianity, no Christians, unless people were freely justified by simple faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and who was raised for our justification. In a little while I will show the relationship between justification and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But for now let me give you a brief background of our text …
In this message I intend for us to do three things:
I. ENGAGE IN A REVIEW OF THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION
A) Definition of Justification:
Justification is declaring the “ungodly” righteous on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteous, which is outside of us.
 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (ESV)
1 Corinthians 1:30–31
 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)
This is to be distinguished from God “making” us righteous (sanctification), which inseparably accompanies justification, but is not the basis of it. God does not justify us on the basis of any holiness or righteousness in us.
Hebrews 10: 14
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (NIV)
It is freely received by faith and not earned by works. This is accompanied by repentance which is a fruit of faith. In the course of the justified person’s life, good works follow as evidence of his faith.
Acts 11:21 – And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
B) Benefits of Justification
– Encouragement for the worst of sinners to come to Christ
Mark 2:17 – And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
– Comfort for Christians
 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (ESV)
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
– Motivation for holy living
Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
II. EXPLAIN THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JUSTIFICATION AND THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
I do not intend here to prove the historicity of the resurrection. I have done that before in a previous sermon many years ago where I presented proofs in support of historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, namely, the empty tomb, the testimony of eyewitnesses, the miraculous transformation that came over the people who met the risen Christ, and the early and swift rise of the Christian Church composed of the most unlikely converts (Jews who were taught to worship no other God except Yahweh, but who began worshipping Jesus and acknowledged him as Lord of all). Rather, I intend to emphasize the fact that if Jesus were not risen from the dead our faith and preaching is in vain (1 Cor. 15), we are still in our sins, and we are not justified at all. How could it be said that the death of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, if he did not overcome death? But praise the Lord Jesus Christ is risen; he has proven by his resurrection that his sacrifice on the cross successfully paid the penalty for our sins and therefore those who believe in him are justified and are freed from condemnation and have the hope of life.
1 Corinthians 15:20
 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (ESV)
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34)
III. EXPOUND THE RELEVANCE OF JUSTIFICATION TODAY IN LIGHT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION.
If Christ not only died but was also raised for our justification, it follows that our justification is of great value; otherwise, Christ would not have gone into all the trouble of dying for us and being raised for our justification. But if so, what should we do in order to honor the resurrection of Christ in relation to our justification?
A) We should promote justification.
Preach the sufficiency of Christ and the freeness of grace to sinner!
 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (ESV)
2 Corinthians 5:21
 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)
 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. (ESV)
 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (ESV)
B) We should protect justification.
We should get people to focus on Christ rather than on themselves; otherwise, they will be discouraged from coming to Christ once they see that will never be worthy of Christ in and of themselves) and as a result will never be saved at all! This does not mean they should never look at themselves. Of course, they need to realize how sick they are in order to realize their need of a physician. But they should not allow their eyes to remain fixated on their sickness; otherwise, they will never look to the physician for healing.
I understand that there are legitimate concerns with offering salvation as something that can be freely received by undeserving sinners. Some fear that it may lead to the cheapening and abuse of God’s grace, which in reality is costly because it cost the precious blood of his Son. That is why to a certain extent I sympathize with the concern that in freely offering salvation to sinners we might be encouraging insincere people to come to Christ with mercenary motives (they want salvation but not the Savior); these people presume they are saved when actually they are not. But the cure that is offered in order to prevent this possibility from taking place is, in my view, worse than the disease. The cure that is offered amounts to this: that before we come to Christ we must first make sure that we are sincere and that our faith is true. At first blush, there seems nothing wrong with this, for isn’t it biblical that our faith must be unfeigned? (2 Tim. 1:5)
However, there is a serious practical problem with this: Its practical effect is to discourage a person from coming to Christ while he obsesses and worries about whether his faith is sincere enough. As a result, he is prevented from being saved at all!
Besides, doctrinally speaking, before a person comes to Christ, he is outside of Christ and is dead in trespasses and sins and has a heart that is deceitful above all things. He is therefore not in a position to make sure that his faith is sincere before he comes to Christ.
To make sure that your faith is sincere before you come to Christ is once again to look to one’s self and to rely on one’s strength to produce something from ourselves that we hope God might find acceptable so as to earn his favor. We cannot be saved by fixing our eyes on ourselves. If we want to be saved we must simply come to Christ and cast ourselves upon his mercy. Let us come to him and tell him, Lord I don’t know if my faith is sincere enough or true enough. All I know is I need you and I have nowhere else to go. You are my only hope. Have mercy on me and save me by your free grace. I believe in you, help thou my unbelief! You must take your eyes off yourself, even off your own faith and simply believe.
If you will make sure of the sincerity of your faith before you come to Christ, the danger is you might never be saved, because, in the first place, how do you measure whether your faith is good enough or sincere enough or acceptable enough? You will always be in doubt as to whether your faith has met the acceptable standard. On the other hand, if you think your faith is good enough so much so that you are ready to come to Christ, you will then be guilty of self-righteousness and pride, because you have produced something that you think is acceptable to God. All the more you will not be saved! No, come as you are, sinful, helpless, with a defective and imperfect faith, and just believe. Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief. We are not saved by faith in our beautiful and wonderful and acceptable and shiny and sparkling faith; we are saved by faith in Christ the almighty and willing Savior of the worst of sinners.
Think of all the instances of saving faith in the Bible: the Philippian jailer, the woman at the well, the man whose son had a deaf and mute spirit, the thief on the cross. Did they take time to analyze, overthink, and make sure that their faith was sincere and true before they came to Christ? No, they simply believed there and then. They had no time to overthink about the acceptability of their faith because they were desperately thirsty. When the water of life was offered freely to them they simply rushed to the water to drink and quench their thirst. They didn’t pause to first make sure that their drinking will be in an acceptable manner and is sincere (Is the glass I’m using acceptable? Maybe I should use a plastic cup? Should I use one or two hands and lap the water instead? Do I really want this water or maybe I’m just doing it for fun?); they simply drank because they were desperately thirsty! It’s the same way with the gospel and the people we preach to.
Let’s not complicate the gospel for these poor, hungry, thirsty, helpless, desperate and miserable sinners who need salvation.
“Come, everyone who thirsts, and he who has no money, come buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price!” (Isaiah 55:1)
Faith is looking away from ourselves and unto Jesus.
 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (ESV)
The bitten Hebrews had no time to ponder over how they will look at the brazen serpent; they simply looked!
 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)
As we, in faith, look to Jesus on the cross, sin’s hold on us is loosened. We not only fear the penalty of sin and desire to be saved from it, we also see the ugliness of our sins and long to be cleansed and freed from sin’s power Above all, we see how much God loved us and how willing he is to save us even though we are so unworthy! As a result, with repentance and rejoicing, by God’s grace and in the power of the Spirit, we come to him for salvation.
 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (ESV)
Acts 11:18 – When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
2 Timothy 2:25 – [C]orrecting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…
I think our worry that if we preach the gospel too freely, mere professing Christians (who will eventually abuse the gospel) will be encouraged to assume they are saved when actually they are not, is a subtle and effective diversionary tactic from Satan to dilute the gospel and rob it of its power to save! Yes, there will be mere professors who will believe falsely, but there will also be those who will believe truly by God’s grace. The important thing is not to dilute the gospel just to allay our human fears. The sower went forth to sow: some fell on hard, rocky, and thorny grounds. But some also fell on good soil. The important thing is for us to sow the true seed of the gospel of the free grace of God in the Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners, even if only for the sake of the good soil. Our duty is to sow the seed and not to worry about the kind of ground that will receive it. It is worse if you don’t sow the true seed because even the good soil will suffer!
 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,  but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.  And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’  But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (ESV)
Shall we uproot the wheat in order to uproot the weeds? Shall we, out of an understandable concern to bar false believers from presuming that they are saved, tweak the gospel by saying in effect, “You have to be worthy of this gift in some way?” Have we thought of what the effect of this tweaking will be on those who are sincerely and desperately thirsty for the water of life and who realize that they are hopelessly unworthy and completely powerless to make themselves worthy of this infinitely precious gift of salvation?
Besides, if one is really worried that people might get the wrong impression that holiness can be completely set aside by simply believing in Jesus, then let us make it clear that holiness is the inevitable result of faith in Jesus. If faith does not produce holiness and good works then it never was true faith in the first place and cannot save anyone. But at the same time we must make it clear that holiness is the fruit and not the root or basis of justification. We are justified perfectly and instantaneously by faith alone in Christ alone. Once justified, a person cannot be unjustified, nor can he be more justified than he already is at the moment of faith. The righteousness which covers him is the perfect righteousness of Christ, and once obtained it is his forever.
In fine, whom God perfectly and instantaneously justifies, he also progressively and gradually sanctifies. He justifies the ungodly, but he does not leave them ungodly. A justified person who is at the same time unsanctified is an impossible combination.
Human, imperfect, and ignorant as I am, I cannot solve all the problems involved when it comes to freely offering salvation to sinners. I understand the risks. I understand that there is the risk of encouraging insincere people to “believe” in Christ with a dead faith that is nothing more than mere intellectual assent, even if it is sometimes accompanied by remorse that is ultimately nothing more than “worldly sorrow”. But if I tweak the gospel to make it more in line with human ideas of human worthiness to be saved I might end up discouraging from coming to Christ those who would truly believe in him. These are people who realize that they are unworthy and are helpless and powerless to make themselves worthy, and whose only hope for salvation is the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. If I tell them that they must enhance and adorn themselves or their faith in some way before they can come to Jesus for salvation, they will end up wondering how much enhancement or adornment is necessary before they or their faith can be accepted, and they will never be saved at all! Faith is not a beautiful and expensive present to bribe the judge to acquit you; it is the trembling hand of a poor, sickly, dirty but desperately hungry beggar who simply reaches out to receive the bread of life which is freely offered to him.
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come
©2022 Dennis M. Cortes; All Rights Reserved.