Posted by Gary on July 31, 2008
Today some brothers and I discussed the doctrine of Justification (reading the argument for the book of Galatians from Luther’s commentary on Galatians). Luther points out that if through temptation, weakness or at the hour of death we may begin to look at ourselves for hope of our justification we will fall into despair and hopelessness. He says:
But man’s weakness and misery is so great, that in the terrors of conscience and danger of death, we behold nothing else but our works, our worthiness and the law: which when it showeth unto us our sin, by and by our evil life past cometh to remembrance. The poor sinner with great anguish of spirit groaneth, and thus thinketh with himself: ‘Alas! How desperately have I lived!…Thus man’s reason cannot restrain itself from the sight and beholding of this active or working righteousness: that is to say, her own righteousness: nor lift up her eyes to the beholding of the passive or Christian righteousness…
Then can it not be but that the poor conscience must be more grievously troubled, terrified and confounded. For it is impossible that the mind of man itself should conceive any comfort, or look up unto grace only, in the feeling and horror of sin, or constantly reject all disputing and reasoning about works. For this is far above man’s strength and capacity, yea and above the law of God also. True it is, that in the world, the law is most excellent: yet is it not able to quiet a troubled conscience, but increaseth terrors, and driveth it to desperation…
Simply put, if we look to ourselves for hope and confidence when we stand before God we will end up in despair because any honest person knows that they have disobeyed God’s holy law more times than they can begin to imagine. How prone we are to do this, we are apt and in some way want to believe that we obtain salvation by our efforts but the law dashes that hope into a million pieces. What is my hope of acceptance by God? Christ and His righteousness which I receive as a gift through faith. The gospel is that Christ’s righteousness is credited to the person who places their hope in Him for salvation. This righteousness is not performed, worked for or earned. It is “imputed” or credited to our account, transferred from Christ’s account to ours, we receive it simply by believing. Because it is Christ’s righteousness, it is unshakeable and all-sufficient to bring me out of heaven’s court room cleared of all charges that the law rightly brings against me.
Do you want to look to yourself? Well then enter despair and perish. Would you have peace and confidence with God? Then look to Christ and His righteousness. Spurgeon frames it most helpfully while commenting on Ephesians 1:6:
Ephesians 1:6 “ To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
"Accepted in the beloved" What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term "acceptance" in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacency, nay, even of divine delight. How marvelous that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love! But it is only "in the beloved". Some Christians seem to be accepted in their own experience; at least, that is their apprehension. When their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted.
If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in one who never alters, in one who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, how much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour!
Rejoice then believer, in this: THOU ART ACCEPTED "in the beloved". Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, "There is nothing acceptable here!" But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind His back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One. Thou hast to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but thou art already accepted in Him who has overcome the powers of evil.
The devil tempts thee, be of good cheer, he cannot destroy thee, for thou art accepted in Him who has broken Satan’s head. Know by full assurance thy glorious standing. Even glorified souls are not more accepted than thou art. They are only accepted in heaven "in the beloved", and thou art even now accepted in Christ in the same manner."