Throughout my time at Nyack, probably the biggest doctrine to be set in stone for me by the end of it was the doctrine of justification. This was the doctrine called into question first as I got closer to the more liberal of the teachers there, and it was the one that I embraced the strongest as I backed away from them.
What do I mean by justification? For me this is the very heart of the Gospel. It is the means by which God decided to save sinners. It is what we stand on in order to be secure in our salvation. But how does it work? What was the mechanism that brought this means to salvation to us?
Most of my readers probably have the answer down pat. Most of you are probably familiar enough with the Romans road and the sinners prayer and know what the basic path to "receiving Christ" is. Therefore, I won't start by outlining how God decided to do it. Instead, I'll begin with a misconception about God's means of saving us that has arisen in recent years and then I will go back to the biblical truth and show how important it is that we remember it. The "new" view of justification sounds very loving and poetic, but I've found that it is a way of thinking that actually weakens our confidence that we are justified.
In several recent books, the cross has taken on a new definition for many who claim to follow Christ. The first time I heard it was in my "Introduction to Philosophy" class. The teacher began to talk about the love of Christ. His summery of what Christ did went something like this, "When we want to have a loving family relationship with someone, we no longer look at justice the same way. When Jesus died on the cross, it was the ultimate of all unjust acts. It was there that the law was nailed to the cross with him, and love overcame justice."
I don't want to assume anything, but there is a chance that many of you reading this may be nodding your heads at this summery and wondering why I disagree with it. You may have read the books that put it this way, but I want to submit to you that the Bible was not one of these books. I challenge you to find anything in the Bible that would suggest that the Lord's justice would ever be referred to as something that needed to be overcome.
I only want to point out one major flaw in this way of thinking, and it relates to my former post, "Holy Wins." When we look at the Lords justification of sinners this way, it puts God in a very interesting situation. It seems that a God who allows love to overcome justice in this way, is a God who allows himself to be overcome by love. Justice, like love, flows out of God's very character. God is love, but love is not God. God is not overcome by anything. God is a God who overcomes.
The reason I wish to point this out is because when we see God in a way that allows him to be overcome by love, what's to stop us from seeing him as one who could be overcome by wrath tomorrow? Seeing our salvation as "justice overcome by love" is often preached and written about in order to make us feel secure in our salvation, yet I see the logic of it having the potential to do the opposite as well. God is so clearly submitted to his emotions when we look at him this way that he obviously can't be counted on to be consistent.
Now, what does the Bible state? Often we are tempted to constantly point out the fact that we don't deserve mercy or forgiveness, and this is certainly true. Yet when this is all we say, we often forget the fact that the Bible also says that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Do you see that word? God is JUST in his forgiveness of our sins. Yet, when we speak of God's mercy, we often speak of it as an unjust "overlooking" of our sins by God, as if he may not do it again tomorrow. How is it that God has made it a JUST act to have mercy on us?
You all know the answer. He saw to it that His Son bore His wrath for our sins, "Since, therefore we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." (Rom. 5:9) This is perhaps the most clear and important doctrine in Christianity, yet among these many new "Christian" thinkers there are those who are even willing to look at it as "cosmic child abuse." Yes, that is an actual quote.
Perhaps their intention is to paint God in a more palatable way, yet as I hope I've made clear, in the end they are doing the opposite. The cross was a perfect expression of God's love and justice working in perfect harmony. When one trumps the other, THAT is when God unpalatable. If he is unjust enough to forgive us for nothing, he is unjust enough to change his mind. However, when we see that he has is fact saved us OUT OF his just character, there is nothing that can take away our confidence.
We are secure. We are loved. We are JUSTIFIED!