“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
In a very brief and very brilliant biography of a famous preacher, it says that he had some very strange habits. One of these habits was to carry in his pocket a handful of precious stones…a diamond, a sapphire, a ruby, an emerald, and so forth.
He would walk into a park and take one of those precious stones and hold it up to the light of the sun, moving it around, seeking different shades or different illuminations from it as the sunlight hit it.
And as the people would go past, particularly the children, they would all shake their heads indicating that they thought this fellow was just a little bit odd.
The preacher that I am referring to is Jonathan Edwards, and on July 8, 1741, preached one of the greatest sermons ever preached in America. It was called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
In Enfield, Connecticut, a congregation of people fell off their seats and clung to the pillars that were holding the gallery up—crying out in despair. Jonathan Edwards did not say, “Oh friends, please excuse me. I never meant to embarrass you like that.” Not at all. He let the Spirit of God move.
There was a reason for the Lord’s spiritual power and anointing that day on Mr. Edwards and that was because before he preached, he prayed.
Over and over and over again, he prayed, “Oh God, stamp eternity on my eyes.”
I do not know anybody else who has ever prayed it. Maybe we have “said” it, but if God should stamp eternity or even judgment upon our eyes, I am quite convinced we would be a very different people.
Someone once said to that great scholar and stateman, Daniel Webster, “You have a colossal mind. What is the greatest thought that you have ever had?”
He said, “I’ve thought about many things, but the most awesome, the most terrifying, the most shattering thought I’ve ever had is my personal accountability to God one day.”
There are roughly 783,137 words in the Authorized Version. One hymn writer calls the Bible, “A golden casket where gems of scriptural truth are stored. Each gem of scriptural truth is a heaven drawn picture of Christ, the Living Word.”
I suggest that like Jonathan Edwards who selected a precious stone and lifted it up to the light of the sun, we select one word out of this “golden casket” and hold it up to the light of eternity in order to have a great thought. The word to examine is “justification.”
Before this study is over, I trust you will have a great thought and know what it means to be justified or declared righteous before God.
When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), He was stating the greatest fact in all of human history for this was a divine pronouncement that the work of redemption was now accomplished.
Christ had come into the world to redeem souls unto Himself and now that act of purchasing them from the power, pollution, and presence of sin was a spiritual reality.
That the sons of Adam need redemption should be obvious, for there is much sin in the soul.
Jesus said “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:” (Mark 7:21-22).
Worldly wisdom that teaches man is innately good finds no confirmation in either the Word of God or human experience.
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Man has earned death. He deserves to die not only a physical death but an eternal death as well, for his transgression is great.
So heinous is the sin of a soul that only the Sovereign of the universe can help Him. The plight of man is desperate.
But who will be His advocate?
Who will defend his case before the bar of divine justice and plead for mercy and grace?
It is obvious that man is guilty as charged for the Moral Law of God has been violated. Exodus 20:1-20
The Law says:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.”
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”
“Thou shalt not kill.”
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“Thou shalt not steal.”
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”
Before the Just Judge of the Universe the Accused is brought. You are the Accused and so am I.
If we are both honest, we shall say that Isaiah the prophet is right.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;” (Isaiah 53:6).
Now the heavenly verdict is rendered. “Guilty as charged!”
And the sentence is past, eternal separation from the face of God. The Prisoner is to be taken away.
There is a word to be said from the Defense Attorney, even Jesus Christ the Righteous One.
If the Court please, a proposition is to be made. Will the Divine Lawgiver of the Universe allow the sentence imposed on the guilty prisoner to be executed or carried out by a Substitute?
The answer is, “Yes.” The Court will allow a substitute and the Law shall be satisfied as long as the penalty is paid.
And so it is that Jesus Christ went to Calvary as a substitute for sinners. Jesus died in your place and mine, if you believe in Him. The wrath of the Father was poured out on Christ.
See Him now suspended between heaven and earth suffering the fury of Divine wrath against sin in the act of crucifixion.
Shall I tell you about a crucifixion? Crucifixion was a form of Roman torture, reserved for slaves and rebels, combining the height of disgrace with the extremity of suffering.
The agonies were so excruciating that men died in blasphemy and despair.
Seneca, the Roman Stoic, says that those being crucified cursed heaven and earth, all mankind, the hour of their birth, their judges and executioners, and that they spat in fury at those who looked on.
Sometimes the horror was so great that the victims had their tongues cut out, or their mouths gagged, to silence the desperate torment of their cries.
On these occasions there were always those who, sadistically inclined, gathered to see the “fun.”
They maliciously taunted and tormented the helpless victims, exacerbating and aggravating their pain.
The rulers, not content with having engineered the crucifixion of Jesus, were also there to watch the end. “He saved others,” they sneered, “let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35).
The hardened soldiers, brutalized and callous, took up the cry, “If thou be the king of the Jews, save they self” (Luke 23:37).
The malefactors who had been crucified with Jesus began to rail on Him casting the same in His teeth:
“If thou be Christ,” they cried derisively, “save thyself and us” (Matthew 27:44; Luke 23:39)
The irony is that what the unbelieving people uttered in jest was actually taking place. Jesus said,
“I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
In the strange and mysterious economy of the Father, the cross is not simply the symbol but the instrument of our salvation. It is the means by which we are reconciled to God.
The Cross is the basis of justification whereby souls are declared righteous by faith.
In the act of justification comes peace with God.
“Without justification it is impossible to have real peace. Conscience forbids it. Sin is a mountain between a man and God, and must be taken away.
The sense of guilt lies heavy on the heart and must be removed. Unpardoned sin will murder peace.
The true Christian knows all this well. His peace arises from a consciousness of his sins being forgiven, and his guilt being put away. … He has peace with God, because he is justified” (J.C. Ryle, Foundations of Faith).
We return once more to the courtroom for the Adversary of men’s souls has leveled a renewed charge. The Accused stands. The Holy and Just Judge asks,
“How plead ye? Guilty or not guilty?”
This time the entry is made,
How can that be?
The answer is this. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, does cleanse those who have cast themselves upon Him from all sin (1 John 1:7).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
The Cross is the means by which souls are reconciled to God.
There is a lovely story told in a work by the English author, Charles Dickens.
Mr. Peggotty, in David Copperfield, bids Ham and Mrs. Gummidge put a lighted candle every night in the little window of the boat-turned-house.
Emily has run away, and Mr. Peggotty is going out through the entire world to seek her. But he says,
“Every night as regular as the night comes, the candle must be stood in its old pane of glass, that if ever she should see it, it may seem to say, ‘Come back, my child, come back.’”
God calls the wayward and the lost, not by a candle but by a Cross.
It is at Calvary that our burdens are lifted and our sins are forgiven.
“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 RSV).
“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:” (Isaiah 59:1) William Cowper celebrates this saving truth:
“There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.”
The guilty stains are lost because it is finished, the great work of redemption has been accomplished and can now be applied to all those who cast themselves upon Jesus Christ and say,
“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me Saviour, or I die”.
There are only two kinds of religion in the world … You can list every “ism,” every cult, every religion under one category.
They all say, “Do, do, do.” Only Christianity says, “Done.” Christ has done it all (Dr. J. Vernon McGee)