by Jerry Shugart


In the following verse the Apostle Paul say that he received the ministry to preach the gospel of grace from the Lord Jesus Christ:

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Later Paul said that those who had heard the gospel of grace knew the truth of God's grace::

"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth" (Col.1:5-6).

The Righteous Judgment of God

In order to understand exactly what the Bible teaches about how God judges men we must begin by looking at Paul's words beginning in the second chapter of the epistle to the Romans. Here Paul reveals how men will be judged by God according to their actions or deeds:

"...the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile" (Ro.2:5-10; KJV).

Those who "continue" in well doing will inherit eternal life and will receive glory, honor and peace. But if a person does not continue in well doing then he will be "guilty" according to God's judgment, as witnessed by the words of James in regard to how the Jews will be judged:

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).

So we can see that God demands absolute perfection from man if he is to inherit eternal life according to his deeds or works. The Jews will be judged by their obedience to the Ten Commandments found in the law of Moses and the non-Jews will be judged by their obedience to the law written in their hearts, the same law of which their conscience bears witness (Ro.2:15).

Paul then explains that the whole world is guilty before God because all men have sinned and therefore have broken His law:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God...Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Ro.3:23,19-20).

Saved by Grace Through Faith

After making it plain that no one can inherit eternal life by his own actions Paul then unveils a way that a sinful person can receive eternal life:

"But now apart from law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe...Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Ro.3:21-22,24).

Those who believe receive the righteousness which is of God when they believe. Therefore, law-keeping, or the believer's's deeds (works), are no longer a factor in being "right" in the eyes of God. Paul wrote:

" For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Ro.10:4).

Notice that Paul says that believers are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Ro.3:24).

The words "justified" and "righteousness" are translations of similiar Greek words and they convey the idea of being "right" with God. Sir Robert Anderson writes that "righteousness is a complex word. It expresses either a personal moral quality or a judicial state. If any one be personally righteous, he is, of course, and by virtue of it, judicially righteous also. On the other hand, to declare a person to be judicially righteous who personally is not righteous, is, according to human judgment, unrighteous and immoral...But the great marvel of the gospel, the great triumph of redemption, is that God can declare those to be righteous who personally are not righteous; that He can justify the sinner, not by deeming him a law-keeper, but even while He judges him as a law-breaker" (Anderson, The Gospel And Its Ministry [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1978], pp. 109-110).

Paul uses Abraham as an example of a person who received the righteousness of God apart from his works:

"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Ro.4:3-5).

Paul explains that his own salvation was not dependent upon his own righteousness, which is a result of law keeping, but instead it was dependent on the righteousness which is of God, which he received by faith:

"And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of law, but that which is through the faithfulness of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3: 9).

Here Paul speaks of those who were ignorant of this principle and as a result they were trying to establish their own righteousness:

"For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Ro.10:203).

Next, we will show the principles as to how God can declare those who are personally not righteous to be judicially righteous.

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