Part Five

by A.E. Knoch

THE "GUILTY" cannot be justified. Any judge who attempts to do so, makes himself guilty. Nevertheless we are assured, again and again, that God does this when He acquits the "guilty" sinner, because of the "substitutionary" death of Christ. Yet He Himself has expressed His abhorrence of this very act. In Prov.17:15 we read:

Who justifies the wicked, and who condemns the just, Even both of them are an abhorrence to Yahweh.

Even those who are justified by His grace accuse Him of this thing which is so contrary to all justice and is denounced in His Word. We are told that "justification is a judicial act which frees a man from his guilt before God and establishes him as being righteous." When do we find this in God's revelation? We shall seek for it in vain if we go to the original and ignore the translations made to agree with corrupt tradition.

The Authorized Version does, indeed, give color to this unscriptural idea. There, Romans 3:19 reads: "that....all the world may become guilty before God." But even there the margin changes "guilty before God," to "subject to the judgment of God." So there is little excuse for even the most ignorant reader to use the word guilty. The Revisers have changed to "that all the world may be brought under the judgment of God." These renderings are ever so much better than the Authorized perversion, but there is still an alien element present which may keep us from the deep and precious truth on which justification rests.

Two Greek words are often confused in English versions. These are just, whose stem is -dik-, and judge, from -kri-. The Concordant Version keeps them distinct wherever possible. In order to help us see the vast difference between them, we give a list of the words under each root, as shown in the Greek Word Elements of the Concordant Greek Text. The stem -dik- just forms a part of the words: justice, justly, justify, justifying, justification, just (statute, award, or requirement); with TOGETHER- it is righteousness, with UN- it makes injure, injury, injustice, unjust, unjustly; with INSTEAD it is plaintiff; with OUT- it means avenge, vengeance, avenger; with IN-, fair; with DOWN- it denotes convict, conviction; with PEOPLE we get the names Laodicea and Laodicean; and, finally, with UNDER-, we have subject to the just (verdict). This is the word which the A.V. translates guilty in Rom.3:19.

The family formed from -kri- (judge) is as follows: sentence or lawsuit, judging; combined with -instrument it is tribunal; with UP-, examine, examination; with FROM- answer rescript; with INSTEAD-FROM- answer again; with THRU- doubt, discriminate, discrimination; with IN- judge by; with TOGETHER- sincere, sincerity; with ON- adjudge; with DOWN- condemn, condemnation; With UN-DOWN- uncondemned; with SAME-DOWN- self-condemned; with BEFORE- prejudice; with TOGETHER- compare, match UN-TOGETHER- uncomparable or Asyncritus; with UNDER- feign, hypocrite, hypocrisy, with UN-UNDER- unfeigned; with TOGETHER-UNDER- play hypocrite with.

Both stems are found in the word just-judgment.

It will be seen from this that the families -dik- and -kri- are quite distinct, and should not be mixed. In the one case where both are combined into one expression, just differs from judgment. In the two verbs, this is even more pronounced, for judging is the process of setting right by undergoing corrective experiences, while justifying is clearing, acquitting, so that no judging is possible. A man may be an unjust judge, or just and no judge at all.

Though by no means as misleading a rendering as the guilty of the A.V., their margin and the text of the Revised still clash with the rest of revelation. All the world will not be subject to the judgment of God. For those in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation. Even to the Circumcision our Lord could say, "Verily, verily, I am saying to you that he who is hearing My Word and believing Him Who sends Me, has life eonian, and is not coming into judging, but has proceeded out of death into life (John 5:24)." The judging of the world will take place after the thousand years (Rev.20:12), at the resurrection of judging, but the saints will rise in the resurrection of life, a millennium before (John 5:29).

The picture presented by the word guilty is that the judging has already taken place, instead of waiting until the end of the next eon. And that all, saint as well as sinner, have had their day before the Judge, and the verdict has been against them. But the Judge is gracious to some for His Son's sake and changes the records to read not guilty. This is most unjust and impossible. No judge could do it and retain his own righteousness. Yet the point of the whole passage is that the sinner receives God's righteousness, not his own. If God did wrong in judging, then He would not have a righteousness to impart. Most of us are so dulled by tradition that we cannot see this, and we are so fearful of men's judgment that we are afraid to protest against it.

That is the reason why justification is usually confused with forgiveness or pardon. A story told by a friend may help us here. He attended a large Bible class. The teacher was a well known judge, who had tried thousands of cases. He was speaking of justification, yet he was continually implying that the sinner before God's judgment bar was forgiven if he believed in Christ. My friend begged for permission to ask a question. This was granted, so he said, "Judge, in your long experience, how many guilty men did you forgive?" This so disconcerted the judge that he closed the session without replying. Yet afterward he told my friend, "What a mess I made of it! Of course I never forgave anyone!" Forgiveness is not for guilt, but for offense. Pardon (the same word in the Greek), cannot be granted by a judge. Only a governor or other executive official can pardon. In the Kingdom it is Christ as King Who offers the sons of Israel a pardon of their sins.

No doubt the judge who never forgave a criminal while he was on the bench, often dealt leniently with his own family and his friends, when they hurt his feelings and gave cause for offense. So it is with God also. As our Father He forgives the offenses(not the sins), not as in the Kingdom, but according to the riches of His grace (Eph.1:7). We should never confuse offenses with sins. In the present administration, during the dispensation of conciliation, God is not reckoning their offenses, even to the world (2 Cor.5:18,19). That does not apply to their sins and crimes and injuries against one another and Himself. For these they will give account at the great white throne in the resurrection of judging. Even the blasphemies of the modern godless movement, which can hardly be exceeded in vicious vehemence and awful offensiveness, does not move Him to protect the honor of His name.

Yet, even the judge's actions may be used to illustrate the difference between justification and forgiveness. Though he dare not justify any infringement of the law on the part of the one who stands before the bar, he may choose to bear a good deal of ill treatment himself on the part of others in the courtroom. He may overlook or forgive those whom he deems in contempt of court without being himself unjust. It is more a question of feelings than of law, It concerns personal offense. In Biblical usage the word offense should be limited to social misconduct. Its loose usage as a synonym of crime in legal language is to be deplored, for much that is offensive cannot be counted as a legal offense. A judge may fine a man for laughing at him, but if he has a sense of humor he may join in the laugh. Either way he is neither just nor unjust. Such offenses belong to a different category, only remotely related to his proper judicial functions.

We are not at present concerned with those who do not believe. Because they are subject to God's just verdict, they must be brought into judgement and be condemned after they have died. The believer also goes through judgment and enters the new creation, which is beyond the great white throne, in spirit, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. It is not that He went through this "in their room and stead," or as their "substitute," for this is impossible, seeing that He is only One and they are many, and the judgment has not even taken place as yet. Rather He, being of more value to God than all the rest of mankind, and far beyond them in power and glory, gave Himself for, or in behalf of all, a Sacrifice, perfect and acceptable, so that those who avail themselves of it are past all possibility of condemnation.

The sins of the believer and the sacrifice of the Saviour, combined, bring endless glory to God and uncounted blessings to the saint, far beyond any other possible consummation. Both are essential, and neither would avail anything without the other. Both are contrary to God's revealed will, but both are the result of His intention. All is out of Him and through Him and for Him (Rom.11:36). He is determined to subject all to Him and be their All (1 Cor.15:28). His object is to reveal Himself as Light and Life and Love. Sin and sorrow and suffering for a brief period are needed as a background, hence their temporary term is justified. A sin-bearing, sorrowing and suffering Saviour is the sufficient Sacrifice that completes the revelation of God's heart, which is the object of creation. Since this grand goal can be achieved only through the sins of each one, God is justified in using them in preparing His creatures for eternal bliss. He is justified because this is the only means to His glorious end.

This, His righteousness, is not displayed in the sins of His creatures, divorced from Christ's sacrifice, hence He cannot justify anyone who does not gladly acknowledge the bloodshed on his behalf. In those in whom the two are combined, His goal has been attained, at least as far as practicable while they are in the flesh. By faith we are already dead to sin and alive to God (Rom.6:11). We are beyond the sphere of condemnation (Rom.8:10). God's righteousness, which we have, is only the threshold to overwhelming grace and glory. Being the product of God's love, it introduces us to an entirely new sphere in which our own deserts are no longer in view, but those of Christ Jesus, Who is worthy of every blessing and honor God is able to bestow upon Him.

God's righteousness differs radically from man's. All that He does is just because it contributes to His grand purpose to reveal Himself and thus bless all His creatures. All the evil that He does is right. When He locks up all in stubbornness, it is justified by the fact that this is the essential prelude to His mercy on all. But His justice goes far beyond what we count righteousness. In view of His self-revelation it is just for Him to justify the unjust, to be merciful to the criminal, and to be gracious to the chief of sinners, for these acts are necessary to discover Himself to His creatures and to prepare them for the implicit confidence and absolute faith in Him which will be the portion of all at the consummation.

Many imagine that, if we had a human righteousness, if we never did wrong, that would entitle us to a magnificent reward in the hereafter. But why should it? Do we do this among ourselves? A man who breaks the law is put in jail, but a man who keeps it is not awarded a palace or a pension. If we were all just to one another there would be nothing over to distribute. A just man has no more right to expect a mansion in heaven than on earth. A race that has become sinless might expect a return to Edenic conditions, but they could not even prove their title to that. Our righteousness, even if we had it, would only save us in a negative sense, from the penalties of wrong doing. It would not assure us of anything, either in heaven or on earth, in the hereafter.

In contrast to this, God's righteousness is the key to untold blessing for the saints during the eons and inexpressible felicity for all creation thereafter. God's righteousness comes to us in Christ. We are involved in His deserts. Not only are we saved by His sacrifice, but we are one with Him in His resurrection, His rousing, His vivification, we have ascended with Him, we are seated with Him among the celestials, and are to be used as a display of the transcendent riches of God's grace (Eph.2:5-8). Nothing would mar this exhibition of God's love so completely as a righteousness of our own. We may be sure that anyone who has a shred of it left in that day, could have no place in this display, for human righteousness, unless the fruit of God's grace, is the last thing to be allowed in God's great spectacle of the eons.

Let us then glory in His righteousness and fling away the sorry remnants of our own. Let us no longer seek to do what is right in our own eyes, or the eyes of our associates, but that which He approves, what accords with His righteousness, the good works which He has made ready that we should be walking in them (Eph.2:10). Above all, let us no longer seek to justify ourselves, and base our hopes of the future on our own righteousness. As this is in direct conflict with God's intention for His creatures, it is far more reprehensible and disastrous than open sin. It shuts the gate of grace, the only way to the righteousness of God. May every reader of these lines revel in the righteousness of God, and find a place in that select company which will display the riches of His grace to a wondering world!

Beyond this, much that passes for right among men is wrong in the sight of God. Human righteousness has no true standard. Those who claim their "rights" almost always trespass upon the "rights" of others. Even when we have a perfect title to everything that we possess, so far as human law can make it, all of it may vanish in the face of other rights. In war most of man's rights disappear. A wealthy man may become a beggar in a day, and have no right to recover an iota of all his riches. An insistence on our rights is almost always a prelude to a greater loss in another sphere.

Let us not rest on our own righteousness, even though we should use every effort to do the right thing in our contacts with others. It is seldom that we can see their side as we see ours, and there may be hidden reasons which, if known, would reverse or judgment. That is why it is always better for the saint to act in grace wherever possible, for this will usually bring our actions up to the level of justice, if not above it.

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