What does it Mean to be Justified?
Perfect Love - Part 2
by J.A. Wood
Section III - Justification
3. What is Justification?
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a book, "Perfect Love, or, Plain Things for Those who Need Them." The book is in the public domain. It tells of a spiritual life higher than many people believe to be possible. The author says that he has experienced this higher spiritual life, and wants his readers to experience it too.
Justification is pardon or forgiveness. Sin is a violation of law, and is a capital offense. "The wages of sin is death." Justification is that governmental act of God's grace, absolving the penitent sinner from all past guilt, and removing the penalty of violated law. It precedes regeneration, and is by faith. The penitent sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, and God pardons his sins, remits the punishment they deserve, receives him into favor and fellowship, and treats him as though he had not sinned. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. Can a state of justification be retained while sin is committed?
It can not. "He that committeth sin is of the devil." The commission of sin negatives the justified state, and any professing Christian who lives in the commission of sin, is a sinner and not a saint. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar." — "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not." — "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law." — "In this (committing sin or otherwise) the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil."
All sin is forbidden, and he who commits sin is "of the devil." No state of grace admits of committing sin. A state of justification implies freedom from the guilt of sin by pardon, and freedom from the commission of sin by renewing, assisting grace. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
The lowest type of a Christian sinneth not, and is not condemned. The minimum of salvation is salvation from sinning. The maximum is salvation from pollution — the inclination to sin.
- Mr. Wesley says: "But even babes in Christ are so far perfect as not to commit sin..... We all agree and earnestly maintain, 'He that committeth sin is of the devil.' We agree, 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.' " — Sermon on "Sin in Believers."
2. Rev. Luther Lee says: "No man can believe with the heart unto righteousness, or so as to obtain justification, while living in the practice of any known sin, or in the neglect of any known duty..... The moment he does what he knows to be a sin, or neglects what he knows to be a duty, faith, by which he is justified, lets go its hold upon God, and he loses his justification.... Justification, which is by faith alone, carries with it entire submission and obedience to God ..... The will is right at the moment of regeneration, and it must remain right or willful sin will be the result, and justification will be lost," — Lee's Theology, p. 191.
3. Rev. Timothy Merritt says: "The word of God plainly declares that those who are born again, even in the lowest sense, do not continue in sin that they can not live any longer therein." — Christian Manual.
4. "The continuance of the justified state," says Bishop Peck, implies obedience in intention to all the requirements of the gospel, the law of progress ('grow in grace'), and the law of purity ('be ye holy'), included." — Central Idea, p. 59.
5. Rev. Albert Barnes says: "No man can be a Christian who voluntarily indulges in sin, or in what he knows to be wrong. — Notes on 2 Corinthians, chap. 7.
The conditions of receiving justification and of retaining it are the same. Christ is received by penitential submission and faith. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." Justification can not be retained with less consecration and faith than that by which it was received.
Conscious confidence and conscious guilt can not coexist in the same heart. There is a vital union between justifying faith and an obedient spirit. While obedience makes faith perfect, disobedience destroys it. Salvation is by appropriating faith, and such faith or trust can be exercised only when there is a consciousness of complete surrender to God. A justified state can exist only in connection with a serious, honest intention to obey all the commands of God.
The standard of justification is too low among many professors of religion. It should be ever borne in mind that believers can not commit sin without forfeiting justification and laying the foundation for repentance from dead works. There must be a continued obedience to all the known will of God, if we would retain his favor.
The commission of sin, any sin, is inconsistent with supreme love to God. If we love God supremely (and not to do it is idolatry) we can not knowingly displease him for the sake of pleasing ourselves. Whom we supremely love we desire to please, and all sin is an offense against the law of love.
We should make a distinction, to some extent, between sin committed by deliberate thought and set purpose, and sin committed by sudden impulse, under strong distraction and temptation.
5. Are obedience and disobedience units in their spirit and root?
They are; and they are eternal antagonisms.
1. The real spirit of disobedience is ever one and the same, — the same for every precept, for all times, and for all circumstances. Each sin, alike, is a violation of the same obligations, outrages the same law, insults the same Lawgiver, evinces the same rebellion of spirit, and incurs the same fearful curse denounced against the lawbreaker. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James ii. 10.)
2. The real spirit of obedience is ever one and the same, the same for every precept, the same for all times, and for all circumstances. The spirit of true obedience has regard to God's supreme authority, and involves submission of the whole soul to that authority. Every act of real obedience has reference to the same obligations, regard for the same law, respect for the same Lawgiver, evinces the same submissive spirit, and secures the same gracious reward in the divine favor and blessing. Hence, he who has the true spirit of obedience as to one precept of the law, has it as to all the rest. "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much." (Luke xvi. 10.)
3. The law of God is essentially a unit. It is such, in so much that he who breaks any one precept breaks the law, — insults the Law-giver, and avows disregard of his authority. The majesty and authority of the law resides equally in every precept, so that he who disobeys any single precept disobeys God, and strikes a blow which takes effect against the whole law. God's law is one; a common interest and relationship exist between all the precepts, so that we can not honor and obey one part, while we are dishonoring and trampling down another part. "He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." (Luke xvi. 10.)
4. Total abstinence from all sin is the only practicable rule of life. To sin in one thing, and to really obey God in another at the same time, is utterly impossible. All true obedience involves supreme regard to divine authority, and he who has it, cannot knowingly disregard or reject that authority. God forbids all sin. Every precept of the law has an equal obligation. Any disobedience rejects and insults divine authority, and lays the foundation for universal disobedience.
A spirit of disobedience in the heart, in regard to any item of God's will, vitiates for the time any true obedience, hence, real obedience to God in one thing, and persistent disobedience in another thing, cannot exist at the same time. The soul under the pressure and distraction of powerful temptation, as already stated, may occasionally for a moment commit sin, while it may really obey God in other things.
I worship thee, sweet Will of God!
And all thy ways adore,
And every day I live I seem
To love thee more and more."