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The Dialogue on Christianity

Chapter 7

John: How can anyone ever be good enough to get into heaven?

Bryan: No one can. Only Christ is righteous, and we must have His righteousness applied to our account. Do you remember what Ben told me at first? Unless I had the righteousness of someone else who had lived perfectly, all of my righteousness and all of the so-called righteousness of all the world wouldn't get me out of my dilemma.

Let me show you something I wrote down from a sermon I heard a couple of years ago. It makes a great deal of sense, but it takes some explaining.

John: Okay.

Bryan: It's in the back of my Bible. It will take me a minute to find it.

While Bryan flipped through his Bible, John looked up at the ceiling, stretched, and then rubbed his eyes and face. The Bible had always been a revered book to him—revered and untouched. He found it intriguing that someone could really use it like a textbook.

Here it is. I wrote down that justification—I'll explain that in a minute—that we are justified meritoriously by the righteousness of Christ (that is, the gift of Christ's righteousness alone is worthy of, or merits, the acceptance of the Father); we are justified effectively by the death of Christ; we are justified instrumentally by the faith of the believer; and we are justified declaratively by the good works coming from the believer. Am I losing you?

John: Maybe, but I think it is just the point where most of my questions lie. Explain.

Bryan: It's really easier to explain than that, but I like the way that was put. Let me bring it down to words we can understand. Let's see. First let me try to explain this word justification. Someone said that to be justified is to be "just-as-if-I'd never sinned, and just-as-if-I'd kept the law."

This will make it easier. Think of two ledgers.

He held up a paper from his Bible in each hand to illustrate the idea.

The first ledger is yours and it contains the record of your sin—all of your sins from the beginning throughout your whole life, past, present, and future. The other ledger is Christ's. It contains His righteousness with not even a hint of sin. Well, when Christ died He completely erased the penalty we earned by taking on Himself the believer's sins. Because of this, all the proper and perfectly just anger of the Father due each of us as sinners was borne by Christ. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. Since Christ had no sin and He was really divine, He had no death to die for Himself. His life was of such a caliber that He could die for the believer as a substitute on the cross. That takes care of the sin account, the debt. But then, beyond that, He applied His own righteousness to the account of the believer.

Now you not only have your sins dealt with thoroughly, so as to appease the just wrath of God which you deserved; but, if you are a believer, you have the positive righteousness of Christ on your account as well. Now you can be received by God the Father through the righteousness of His Son. So, in simple terms, justification means that we, though we are certainly sinners (and we can't deny that), are declared to be righteous before God on the basis of what Christ has done. Because of Christ I am "just-as-if-I'd never sinned" and "just-as-if-I'd kept the Law." Justified.

John: This is getting a bit clearer. Show me the Bible passages on that.

Read Chapter 8
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