As we saw in the last issue, justification may not be divorced either from election or from the cross. It is grounded in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and harks back to eternity.
This is of the utmost importance. What is not decreed by God cannot possibly come to pass in time, i.e., the justification of the non-elect. And what is not purchased and obtained for all by the death of Christ on the cross is not available to all.
There is, therefore, no justification (righteousness or forgiveness) to "offer" to those who are non-elect. The gospel must be preached to all - the righteousness of God in Christ must be declared (Rom. 3:25, 26). All who hear must be called to faith, with the sure promise that those who believe will be justified before God.
But that promise, as becomes evident in time, is only for those whom God has chosen and for whom Christ died on the cross. The promise of justification, therefore, is only for the elect, and it is surely fulfilled for them in that God graciously gives them the faith by which they are justified (Eph. 2:8-10).
That Christ died only for the elect is the doctrine of particular redemption (limited atonement), a subject we have dealt with in previous issues. It is the clear teaching of Scripture.
Christ's work, and especially His death on the cross, secures the justification of God's elect (Is. 53:11, Rom. 3:24, 5:9, 19). It does this because Christ by His suffering and death substituted His perfect obedience for their disobedience and endured the punishment of their crimes.
In this way He earned for them a perfect righteousness (innocence) that is acceptable to God, the Judge. That righteousness become theirs through faith, whereby their guilt is removed and they received once again into God's favor and presence. Christ's work, then, is the ground of their justification.
It is even possible to speak of Christ's death as the justification of God's people, in an objective sense (Rom. 5:19). By His death everything that separated them from God is taken out of the way and a righteousness is earned by Him for them that God accepts and approves (Is. 53:11).
It is, therefore, not a general righteousness that Christ earned, but a righteousness decreed and purchased for particular persons. It is a righteousness that belongs to them by the price paid by Christ on the cross. Nor is there any other righteousness but this (Rom. 10:1-4).
Sovereign, gracious, particular election and particular atonement, guarantee the actual justification through faith of all those whom God loved from eternity and whom He has given to Christ. A justification that is available to all conditionally, is a justification divorced from election and the cross - a justification that justifies no one in the end.
- Volume: 5
- Issue: 12
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
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