A Just God and a Savior
God must be just, for justice is essential to his nature; but he is under no obligation to save, for salvation is an exercise of his sovereignty. Justice requires that every creature have his right—but no creature found in rebellion against God can in any sense claim salvation. If all had perished—then God would have remained infinitely just; and if any are saved—then God must be just in saving them. His word must be kept. His law must be honored. His justice must be satisfied.
But if we have sinned, and God has said, "The soul that sins, it shall die"—if we have broken God's law, and that law must be honored—if we deserve to be punished, and justice requires that we be so punished—then how can we be saved, and God still remain just? This is a dilemma which could never have been solved by us; if God had not solved it for us.
God would save us—and he could only save us in accordance with his justice. In order to do this, he agreed to accept of a substitute, if one could be found who would undertake to fill our place, honor the law in our stead, and satisfy justice on our behalf. The Lord Jesus undertook to do this. He therefore received us at his Father's hands, voluntarily engaged to be our surety, and become answerable for our debts. In order to do this—he assumed our nature, united it to his Divine nature, so that the Divine and human natures became one person, and that person became our substitute, and was answerable for us. Having volunteered to save us, he could not, he would not, give up our cause. He therefore obeyed the precepts of the law for us. He suffered the curse of the law for us. He met all and every one of the demands of justice for us. He not only made it possible for God to save us justly; but saving us through him, God gets a revenue of glory he would not have otherwise had.
God, the just God, saves us. In his wisdom he devised and drew the plan of salvation. In his justice, he fixed and settled the terms of salvation. In his grace, he accepted of a change of persons, Jesus for us; and a transfer of obligation, so that our sins were placed to the account of Jesus, and his righteousness is imputed to us. In his mercy, he presents salvation to sinners who are miserable, lost, and wretched; that they may be saved gratuitously for the sake of Jesus. Thus justice and grace, wisdom and mercy—unite, harmonize, and shine forth gloriously, in saving sinners. God is just—and yet the justifier of everyone who believes in Jesus. God is just—and yet he saves the unjust, the unholy, and the rebellious. God is just—and yet no coming sinner need be alarmed at his justice, or afraid of his wrath.
God, the God-man saves us. He really took our place, paid our debts, and suffered our desert. He procured our pardon by his own blood; our justification by his own righteousness; and reconciled us to God by his death. He commanded his servants to publish and proclaim among all nations, in every language spoken by men, that he is able to save to the uttermost, and is willing to save all who are willing to be saved by him. He sends his Holy Spirit to attend that word, working faith by it, and bringing sinners to his feet through it. He gives the grace of repentance, and men change their minds, are sorry for their sins, and reform their lives. He gives the grace of faith, and men look to him, trust in him, and receive from him saving grace. He gives the remission of sins, and men enjoy peace with God, reconciliation to God, and are acknowledged as the sons of God. In a word, he gives a free, full, and everlasting salvation—and all of grace! He will consequently, at last, present the whole church faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.
Reader, do you understand God's method of salvation? Many seem to have very obscure and indefinite views of this great subject. They talk of being saved by Christ, and through Christ—but appear to have no clear and distinct views of the substitution of Christ. They see not that God's justice has received all its demands, and can therefore make no demand on them, if believing in Jesus. They see not that the law has been fulfilled, and so fulfilled as to be magnified and honored, and therefore it has no curse to vent on them, no objection to raise to their present justification, or eternal salvation. They see not that God's inflexible justice, and every other perfection of his Divine nature, are glorified in their salvation. In consequence of this, they have no settled peace of conscience, no strong confidence in God, no joyful hope, no triumphant anticipations: but they hang between hope and fear, doubt and faith, gloom and joy.
Primitive believers realized that Christ represented them, acted for them, and had carried their cause into the high court of heaven; and they realized too, that Christ was in them, the hope of glory; their realization sprung from faith, and they were exceeding joyful in all their tribulations, they carried about with them the consciousness that their sins were forgiven them, and therefore lived in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.