Sunday, 23 June 2024 04:40

Article of Faith: Justification of the ungodly - Femi Aribisala

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Femi Aribisala Femi Aribisala

The managing director had a liking for Fred, to the great annoyance of Joe, his main rival for promotion. Joe was convinced that Fred was no better at the job than him. He tried his level best to impress the boss but to no avail. So, he opted for a new strategy. 

He would set a trap for Fred, confident that he would slip up sooner than later. He did not have to wait for long. Fred fell into the trap hook, line, and sinker. Joe quickly and gleefully brought the matter to the attention of the boss. The dye was cast. He knew that Fred would be given the sack.

Kingdom Dynamics

But he was in for a surprise. The boss tried Fred under the perfect law of liberty, found him guilty, and convicted him. But then he also tried Joe for tripping up Fred. He tried him under the Law of Moses, also found him guilty and convicted him. But why try them under different laws? 

The Law of Moses is a law of judgment. Because Joe showed no mercy to Fred in tripping him up and reporting him, he could receive no mercy. Therefore, Joe is given the sack. Jesus says: “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:7).

But the law of liberty is a law of mercy. It does not lead to condemnation but to exoneration. Accordingly, Fred was sentenced to mercy, whereby he was not only absolved from the offense but was also enrolled for training that would ensure that he would not be able to commit another offense in the future. Since he was thereby now deemed to be a model worker, he was promoted. In Fred’s case, mercy triumphed over judgment.

These are not the ways of man; these are the ways of God. These are kingdom dynamics.

Caught Red-handed

Once, the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They wanted to know whether he would contradict the Law of Moses, which states that the adulterous should be stoned to death.

There was no question that the woman was guilty. She was caught red-handed, in the very act. Neither did she argue or attempt to defend herself. She pleaded “guilty as charged.” And yet, Jesus did not allow her to be condemned. Instead, he challenged her accusers: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And the Bible records a dramatic turnaround:

“Those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” (John 8:9-11).

The case of the woman caught in adultery deserves scrutiny, not least because it was a major threat to Jesus’ ministry. It was an attack launched from the pit of hell. Had Jesus condemned the woman, his earthly ministry would have ended. Had he condemned the woman, he would have had to, by the same token, condemn all men: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). 

That would have short-circuited the whole plan of salvation. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Instead of being the Saviour of the world, Jesus would have become another accuser of the brethren.

Grace of God

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22). Because of the plan of salvation, God is not only just; he is also the justifier of all those who believe in Jesus Christ. This makes God paradoxically a God of the sinner, as opposed to a God of the righteous. 

Jesus was at pains to explain this to the self-righteous Pharisees: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17).

Indeed, according to the dynamics of the kingdom of God, the competition is not between sin and judgment, but between sin and grace. So, Paul says: “The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20).

The more the sin, the more the grace of God. Moreover, the redemptive power of grace has given us much more than sin ever took away. Thank God Adam sinned; for while sin robbed us of silver, grace gave us gold.  While sin killed the body of the flesh: grace gave us the body of the Spirit. While sin consigned us to dust, grace lifted us up in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

No Condemnation

Be careful, therefore, not to forfeit the grace of God. Jesus told the story of the contrite publican whom the self-righteous Pharisee despised at the hour of prayer in the temple: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14).

Once you judge a man, you have arrogated yourself to be God. Once you judge a man, you cease to be justified. Once you judge, you will be judged. Man often justifies the righteous but God will only justify sinners. 

Since the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death, Paul says: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1-2). Then, it naturally follows that those who are in Christ should not condemn others. It makes no difference if you are right; know it would be wrong. 

Once you judge a man, you are casting stones, which automatically qualifies you for condemnation in the court of God: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” (James 2:13).

Let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus contradicted every prescription of common sense. He knew that Peter would betray him and yet continued to walk closely with him. He knew that Judas was a thief, and yet he kept him as his treasurer. He knew that we were sinners, and yet he died for us. And now the Bible says to us: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5).

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).

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