OUR GREAT SALVATION (3)/ THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH/ JESUS HEALS THE LEPER
During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “Our Great Salvation (3)/ The Doctrine of Justification by Faith/ Jesus heals the Leper. Her main text was taken from the Books of Romans 1:16, 17; 3:21-24; 4:5; 5:1, 2; 8:28-34 and the Book of Luke 5:12-15.
THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the most important doctrines concerning our great salvation. It is like ‘the mother’ of all the doctrines of salvation. Long ago, man was interested to know about justification. “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2; KJ). Many Christians are ignorant of the true meaning of Justification. It is not a difficult doctrine but the devil fights hard against its understanding. For many centuries this doctrine was hidden under a cover of empty religion. It was re-discovered by Martin Luther (1483-1546), who God used to start the Reformation. The understanding of this great doctrine has ignited revival in many hearts and churches. May God help us to experience such mighty revival in this land! Amen!
The biblical doctrine of justification by faith is defined as the Loving, Gracious and Eternal ‘act’ of God, by which a sinner who totally trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as His Substitute, is declared ‘justified’ or ‘righteous’. Simply put, to justify is to declare someone righteous. Salvation means that you are declared righteous (or justified) by God! In the dictionary, justification is defined as an acceptable reason or a reasonable explanation that defends and vindicates an action. For example, a man sends his child to a private school. He justifies his action by saying that he believes that school is the best for his child, and he has the money to pay the fees. This is an acceptable reason and a reasonable explanation for his action. In the same way, God chooses to save a sinner who is one of His ‘elect.’ God justifies His action by saying that the sinner has total faith in the death of Christ as his substitute. The believer is justified in saying that he is sure of heaven, because he has believed in Christ crucified. An unbeliever is not justified because he has refused to believe in Christ crucified.
Justification is God’s act based on His Grace alone. It is a gift. It is freely given. It is totally independent on our works. Justification for sinners is found in Christ alone. No other religion preaches justification by faith. God’s action is based purely on His Grace and Love. The question arises, “Is justification just? If God is holy, how can He forgive a guilty sinner?” The answer is that justification does not excuse, ignore, or endorse our sin. Rather, our sin is fully punished because Christ has taken our penalty for us. He is our Substitute (1 Pet 3:18). Because the wrath of God is satisfied in Christ (Is 53:4–6), we are now free from condemnation (Rom 8:1). Justification reveals God’s righteousness. God is both Holy (hates sin) and Just (He must punish sin). The death of Christ on the Cross gives God the reason for justifying the sinners who believe. God is always right in all His words, plans, and actions, including the act of justifying the elect. By this act of justification, God completely satisfies the demands of His holiness and His justice. This reveals the un-surpassing wisdom of God!
Justification is God’s legal declaration as the Supreme Judge of creation. God declares that a sinner who has total faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is now righteous before Him. Justification is a legal or forensic term, that belongs to the realm of the Law Court. The Almighty God is the Judge of all. God speaks and declares the sinner to be righteous, justified, or free from the condemnation of sin before Him. God’s declaration is based on the perfect work of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died as a Substitute for sinners and paid the price for their sins with His Blood. Justification has to do with God’s declaration about the sinner, not with any change within the sinner. That is, justification does not make anyone holy; it simply declares him to be not guilty before God and therefore treated as holy. Immediately after justification, the process of sanctification starts by which the sinner saved by grace becomes holy. God sees the sinner righteous because He has a new relationship with Him. Justification and sanctification are always connected. Justification is once and for all an act of God. Sanctification is a lifetime process under the direction of God. Justification of sinners is the work of the Trinity. God the Father declares the sinner righteous. God the Son died to pay the price for the sins of men. God the Holy Spirit oversees their sanctification. Halleluiah!
Justification is the opposite of condemnation. To condemn is also a forensic term. The judge in the court, after weighing the evidence, he pronounces the man guilty and sentence him to punishment. In the Bible, all men are born sinners, therefore all are condemned before God. Only the elect believe in Jesus and God declares them justified. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn 3:18). Justification changes the position of the sinner, from the realm of Adam (a state or sin and condemnation) to the realm of Christ (the state of justification, which is freedom from sin). The sinner was born in the realm of death, where sin was his king. Now, the justified sinner becomes a child of God, and is translated into the realm of eternal life, where Grace is King!
Justification by faith is revealed throughout the Bible. All believers in the Old Testament got saved thru faith in God and not by obeying the law or thru their religious works. After Jesus died and rose from the dead, justification by faith became clearer. Apostle Paul got the clearest revelation of this doctrine. He expounds it best in the Book of Romans. It is a simple doctrine but many stumble over it. They do not understand ‘the simplicity’ of it. They stumble over the meaning of Grace.
To understand this doctrine, we must believe these foundational teachings:
1-All men are born sinners. The punishment of sin is death. Because God is Holy no sinner can come before God. No sinner can enter heaven!
2-Man cannot save Himself. Salvation is found in Christ alone. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, became a Man, lived a perfect righteous life, and died as a Substitute for sinners. The work of Christ on behalf of sinners, to save them, is perfect! God the Father proved that He has accepted the Son’s sacrificial work by raising Him from the dead.
3-Faith in the life and death of Christ who died for man’s sins is the only ‘key’ to salvation. Man’s works to please God cannot save him.
3-Because salvation is God’s work, man cannot boast of his salvation or justification. God takes all the glory!
4-Justification brings peace with God, and experientially, peace in the mind and in the heart of the believer.
5-Salvation is by Grace alone, by Faith alone, thru Christ alone, thru the Word of God alone, and for the glory of God alone!
God predestines, calls, and justifies the elect. Salvation is not random. Salvation is planned and executed by the Trinity. Salvation is totally God’s work! The declaration of justification is not a declaring of what is already a reality from eternity past or what will be true in the future, but it is God’s actual decision which takes place at the very moment a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation, faith, and the act of justification are actual present miracles granted from heaven. Justification is the Divine Judge’s verdict in advance of the day of judgment. Justification is an event in time, and it is always connected with our faith in Christ. God does not declare a sinner righteous without his faith in Christ. Faith is necessary for justification to be declared. Faith is not works. It is only an instrument that God expects from a sinner so that He can justify him. God plants the seed of faith during his effectual call. Faith is God’s gift to the elect. That is why all who are predestined and called unto salvation, come to the point of faith in Christ. That is when God pronounces the sinner justified. Justification is not a provisional announcement but a once-for-all decree in the here and now that will not be withdrawn in the future. Even the final judgment of God will not cancel it. Once God justifies a sinner, God does not change His mind about him. The sinner is now His child. Even if a Christian sins, he cannot become ’a sinner’ again. Thru the process of chastisement, God will bring His child back to Him. He who is justified and glorified already. Backsliding does not cancel the declared justification of God. As far as God is concerned, once He has declared you justified, you are living with Him in heaven. That is why a child of God cannot ‘miss heaven’. The believer is one with Christ, the King of heaven. Dear child of God, your soul and spirit are already glorified. One day, your body will ‘sleep’ in death but at the resurrection day, your body will rise and be changed into a spiritual body, to be like Christ. Your new body will be totally free from sin. At that time, salvation will be completed and perfect! Glory to God!
Justification has two basic components: forgiveness of sins and receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ. In declaring you justified God does two things at the same time: 1-God not only forgives your sins, but He takes your sins and imputes them to Christ who died as your Substitute. From this moment on, God sees you guiltless, blameless, like you have never sinned. 2-God takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and imputes it to you. You are now clothed with His garment of righteousness. God sees you as Christ! Standing before the Cross I see that on my own, I can nothing to save myself. I also see that Christ has done everything for me! He said: “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30). I am now in Him. By faith I become one with Him. This mystical unity with Christ is my life, my hope, my glory! Halleluiah!
WRONG DOCTRINE – In the Roman Catholic church they preach a wrong doctrine. They say that man is justified by works. They say that if a man comes to church regularly, takes the Holy Communion, and confesses his sins to a priest, at last, he will be justified and goes to heaven. They do not believe that God ‘declares’ the sinner righteous by Grace and by faith! Many have fallen into this error!
THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16, 17)
The Gospel of Christ comes from heaven. God the Father designed the plan of salvation. God the Son agreed to become a Man and die as a Substitute for sinners who shall believe in Him. The Holy Spirit helps believers to apply the truth. This is the only way for a man to be saved from sin and eternal death. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). The Gospel is the story and power of salvation: “Christ died and rose again, for me!” Salvation is by God’s Grace and thru Man’s Faith. The Gospel reveals God’s Righteousness, how can a sinner be justified and stand before Him. The Gospel, Salvation, Righteousness, Justification are not ‘natural’ teachings. They cannot be understood just by man’s intelligence. These are spiritual realities that come only by the revelation of the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Man cannot be saved by religious works. “We are all like an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is 64:6). Man cannot go to God. God must come down to man. He has done this thru the life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Greek, the word Righteousness is the same as being Justified. It means to right with God. A sinner cannot be right with God. Righteousness is that holy state that God approves and passes the test of His judgment. It is God’s ideal and His standard for man. Only Jesus lived and died as a Righteous Man. Christ’ perfect righteousness is imputed on us when we believe that Christ died as our Substitute. The word ‘imputed’ means to be paid unto your account. A sinner must believe in Christ. Then God will justify him. This justification is a double blessing: the subtraction of sins (forgiveness) and the addition (imputation) of Christ perfect righteousness on the sinner. The righteousness God demands He has provided it thru His Son! Glory to God! Faith is not a natural deduction. Faith is spiritual, a seed from God. Faith is not ‘blind’. Its root is in the Word of God which is Truth. Faith says: “God said it, that settles it! I believe it!” Saving faith is found only in the elect. The rest are called unbelievers. Your faith is not your justification. Then faith could have been counted as ‘works.’ Faith is the ‘hand’ that stretches to give your sins to Jesus and to take His garment of imputed righteousness. Salvation is ‘from faith to faith’. This means that the Old Testament saints were saved by the same faith in God. It also means that just as justification is by faith, the process of sanctification, of spiritual maturity, comes also by an ever-growing faith. This is the life of the Christian!
JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:21-24)
These are some of the most important verses in the Bible. Here we see that men are born sinners. When Adam rebelled against God and fell into sin, he took all humanity with him. Sin leads to death. Sin is defined as rebellion against God. There is no salvation for man except thru Jesus Christ who died for man and rose again victoriously. Salvation is defined as being justified by God! The sinner is declared righteous by God at the moment when he truly believes that Jesus Christ died in his place, as his Substitute. As believers we are ‘being justified’ freely by His Grace. The words ‘being justified’ reveal a present action. We are justified freely, at the very moment when we believe in Christ. Salvation is a free gift of King Grace. This salvation reveals God’s righteousness, and it is ‘apart from the Law’. God gave the Law to reveal the meaning of sin to man. But God did not give the Law for man for him to obey it as a way to salvation. The Law itself witnessed to God’s righteousness which is by faith in Him. That is how Abraham, King David and all other saints in the Old Testament got saved. God always saves by His Grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God given freely to those who merit the opposite. We are born sinners. We were going to hell. Then God calls and justifies the elect, those sinners who have faith in Christ who died for them. Because of sin, nobody could obey the Law to God’s standard. Jesus Christ is the only Man who obeyed God’s Law perfectly. That is why He was indeed a Righteous Man. Jesus took our sins and died for us. When He died, God took the righteousness of Christ and imputed it on the account of those who believe in Him. This is called justification by faith. We are saved ‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’. In Greek, the word ‘redemption’ means to loosen the chains of a slave who is at the slave market, by paying a ransom price for him. The payment gives freedom. Christ, by His Blood shed on the Cross, paid the ransom price for any sinner slave who has faith in Him. All glory to God the Father who sent God the Son to die for us, sinners, saved by Grace!
JUSTIFICATION OF THE UNGODLY
“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom 4:5). Here you see that justification is a peculiar act of God. It is not according to man’s works. The Word of God says: “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord” (PV 17:15). God is the only One who can justify the wicked, the ungodly, the sinner. What is called abomination to man, is a blessing to God. God justifies the man who has faith that God justifies the sinner, the ungodly, not the godly. The reason why God justifies the ungodly is because Jesus Christ became sin on our behalf, took the punishment for it, and die for us. This is the mystery and the power of the Gospel! Halleluiah!
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH LEADS TO PEACE, JOY, AND CONFIDENT STANDING IN PRAYER
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:1, 2)
Justification by faith is a miracle of life. It manifests as peace with God, and peace with man. For as long as you still feel restless, troubled, guilty and inferior to others, you should examine your foundation. Your money, religion, your church, your pastor or prophet, your education, your social status, none can save your soul. None can forgive your sins except God, who justifies the Christian when he believes in Christ who shed His blood for him. Peace is the sign that you have been indeed justified freely by God’s grace!
THE GOLDEN GLORIOUS CHAIN OF SALVATION IN CHRIST
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom 8:28-34). God the Father has planned this great salvation before the foundation of the world. God the Son became Man and died on behalf of sinners. According to God’s plan and purpose for the elect, any man God predestined to be saved, will be saved to the uttermost. God’s plan can never fail. These scriptures are great encouragement to all believers. Read the Word often and mediate on it!
JESUS HEALS A LEPER
“And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities” (Lk 5:12-15).
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. The bacillus multiplies slowly. Symptoms appear about 5 years after the initial infection. Leprosy mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, and the eyes. Leprosy spreads thru the air, thru droplets from the nose or the mouth during close contact with the infected person. Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. The disease is now curable with multidrug therapy. People infected with leprosy live in communities called ‘leprosarium’. Today, about 4 million people worldwide are infected with leprosy, most of them in Africa and Asia (India in particular). According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, leprosy was almost eliminated. Recently, new cases have appeared. Over 3,500 people get infected with the disease every year in Nigeria. Most cases are in the northern part of Nigeria (Zaria, Kaduna etc)
In the ancient time, Leprosy was a dreaded disease that had no medical cure. In Israel, leprosy was more than a sickness. It was a social tragedy. The only way to deal with the leprous people was to isolate them outside the city. The leprous loses not only his health, but everything else. He loses his family, friends, the opportunity to serve God in the temple, and his business. Nobody hires a leprous. Most leprous are beggars. They live outside the community. they dress with rags. When they see people, they must shout ‘unclean, unclean’, to warn others to keep their distance. “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lev 13:45, 46). To be a leprous was like living in hell.
This is a wonderful story how Jesus healed a man who was ‘full of leprosy’. His was a terminal case. The man was dying. His body was covered from head to toe with infested smelly wounds. His fingers, his toes, his nose, and his lips were gone. He looked like a monster. When he saw Jesus and the disciples, he was to shout ‘unclean, unclean’. God’s Law said that he should run away from men. But this man had nothing to lose anymore. God planted Faith in his heart. When he saw Jesus, he ran towards Him, fell on his face in worship and ‘implored’ Him saying: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean!” Just try to imagine the scene… the disciples probably ran back in horror. They had no pity on this ‘dirty, ugly’ man. But the man was desperate and bold. The worse that could happen is that men will stone him to death. A quick death was better than this slow terrifying death. He knew that only God could help him. He believed that Jesus is not only a Man, but God. In his heart he said: “If Jesus dose not heal me I will die”. But if He heals me, I will live!” Here was his chance. Perhaps, his only chance… The man came to Jesus. He called Him, ‘Lord”. He needed healing, cleansing, forgiveness of sins, and a new life. He believed that Jesus has all power over sin, disease, and death. The leprous man was right! True faith is always right!
Jesus responded to the man’s humility and faith. He was a genuine sinner. He was not a hypocrite. He had great needs and no rights to claim at all. He forgot everything and everyone else. At the feet of Jesus, he waited, hoping, trusting… Then something totally unexpected and amazing happen. Jesus “put out his hand and touched him saying: I am willing. Be cleansed!” Jesus touched that man and “immediately the leprosy left him”. The man became completely healed by the Word and by the touch of Jesus. Instantly, as the disciples watched, his wounds disappeared. His fingers, toes, nose, and lips grew back. This was a creative miracle. Jesus always does creative miracles. He is the Creator of the universe. In the Old Testament, it was forbidden for any man, especially for a priest, to touch a lepper. By touching a leper, the power of sin will contaminate the other. But when Jesus touched the leprous man, the leprosy could not enter Jesus. The ‘high voltage’ of the power of Jesus destroyed the leprosy and the man became healed. Then Jesus told him to go to the priest and let him inspect the healing. The priest will pronounce the man ‘clean’ and restore him back to the community. This was total healing! Glory!
In the Bible leprosy is a symbol of sin. Man has no cure for sin. It destroys a man’s life, marriage, family relationships and ministry. Sin destroys the feelings, the conscience. The healing and cleansing of this man are symbols of what happens when a man becomes saved. It is a vivid picture of being justified by faith in Christ. The ugly sores of sin are gone. The dirty rags of self-righteousness are gone. He is now healed and clothed with the garments of righteousness given to Him by His Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ! From leprosy to liberty! From grave to glory! Only Jesus can do this! Oh, the goodness, mercy, grace, and gentleness of Jesus! There is no Savior like Him! What a Savior! Worship the Lord!!!