At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
Our exploration of atonement began as a Lenten devotion moving us steadily closer to Calvary on that Friday afternoon. Leading up to this post we have examined two images—propitiation and redemption—that illustrate facets of salvation, but not the entire picture. To these we add a third, justification.
Redemption locates us in the slave market, in bondage to sin with no hope of escape. One who has the will and the means to enable our freedom pays the price to loose our shackles and to walk free. The cost, often dismissed on the 51 weeks away from Resurrection Sunday, was the blood of Christ.
Free, we are still held to account for our sin. Redemption did not enable us to avoid the consequence. That requires a judicial decision: guilty or not guilty. The concept of justification serves this purpose. It stands us before The Judge who declares us not guilty. The verdict comes vicariously, the guilt being assigned to an Innocent.
We must also be cautious to not confuse justification with amnesty. Amnesty means that we overlook guilt or innocence, it is simply put aside without rendering a verdict. The holiness of God does not provide for this option. Holiness requires that only the not guilty stand in His presence. This requires the courtroom and the gavel of God to pronounce humanity’s status. Without it we have the ability to walk free, all the while walking toward the eternal consequences of our fallen nature. The removal of guilt enables us to, at a minimum, stand in the presence of God.
Grace and peace to you…
image Tim Ellis