This study deals with what we will call a second phase of justification. The previous study titled JUSTIFIED dealt with our initial justification, which took place when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Our sins were laid upon Him and He became the guilt offering in our behalf. He received the judgment that was due us as sinners, and we became justified. That means that we are totally free from any guilt. It puts us in a place where we can stand before God completely innocent. However, we must understand that being justified does not necessarily mean that we have received anything other than forgiveness. Being justified means that we are without guilt for our past sins. God has forgiven and forgotten. Those past sins will never be remembered by the Lord. We will never have to give an account for them. They are obliterated!
We do not want to remain in a “vacuum.” We’re innocent, but we want more than that. We want to grow in God and become mature Christians. We want to learn how to live in His presence. Our salvation must expand. Otherwise, we could just go to heaven as soon as we are saved. But our becoming guiltless of past sins was not all that God had in mind when He sent His Son to the cross. He wants a people that will do His will and become an expression of Him in the earth. In the same way that our salvation must expand, our justification has to expand also. We were responsible for our past sins, so we needed to be justified. Now we are responsible to walk with God, and we will have to be justified in that area, too.
James 2:21-26 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he
had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
When we became Christians we were justified by faith, by grace, and by blood. We believed in God’s grace and Jesus’ blood, and we were justified. It could not have happened any other way. Any religious work we could have thought of would have been futile. The only thing we could do to be justified was to humbly submit to the Lord and say, “O Lord, I am a sinner. Forgive me. I believe for the blood of Christ to cleanse me from all sin.”
Yet in our text, James says that we have to be justified by works. And he is absolutely correct! At first, our faith had to be seen apart from any works. But now that we are Christians, our faith can only be seen through our works. Without works, faith is dead; it is unexpressed.
God had an ulterior motive for saving us. He had a purpose and a plan for each one of us. This means that we have a job to do, a particular way in which He wants us to function as Christians.
Each member of the Body of Christ has a particular function, and yours may be different than anyone else’s. Yet you are responsible for what God has called you to be and to do. However, there are some things required of us that are common for all Christians. While all of them cannot be discussed, there are a few scriptures that will help us to understand our responsibility before God. It is in these things that we must be justified. Our faithfulness in what He sets before us will determine whether we are justified in this phase of our relationship with Him.
Luke 18:9-14 And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted
in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
This parable gives a contrast between two types of Christians and teaches us a very important truth. James taught us the necessity of works after we are saved. He said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). However, there is a necessary ingredient that must be added to our works, lest they become more of a curse than a blessing.
Both the Pharisee and the publican represented Christians. Each one approached the Lord, but on a different basis. The Pharisee thanked the Lord that he was no longer living a life of sin. Now there is nothing wrong in being thankful to God that He has wrought changes in our lives, but there was not a humility of spirit in him. There was a spiritual pride and a self-righteous attitude of the Pharisee. He exalted himself and looked with contempt upon the publican. He expected to be heard by God because of his works, so he boasted of his fasting and paying of tithes. But God turns a deaf ear to that kind of arrogance, for He is opposed to the proud (James 4:6).
No doubt the publican had works also, but he counted them not as a basis for being accepted before God. The greatest work of all was his submission to the work of the cross that had worked humility in his spirit.
There must be works that express our faith and love toward God, but they will have to be works that are born out of a desire to do the will of the Lord simply because we love Him and want to please Him. So while the works are necessary, it is a humble relationship to the Lord that really counts.
There is a difference in working “for” God and working “with” God. The Pharisee did works for God in order to gain favor, and his works were dead works. On the other hand, the publican was in a position to work with God. His humility enabled the Lord to move through him and to work His works. These are the kind of works that are effective. They are living works. When you realize that it is God who is working through you, there is no boasting. You cannot take credit for what God did, even though He used you as a channel. So the bottom line is that even though the Pharisee had works, he was not justified before God. The publican, on the other hand, was justified by his humility.
Luke 16:10-15 He that is faithful in that which is least is
faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him.
15 And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
After we have been justified by faith, we will find ourselves tested in our faithfulness. It is one thing to have faith, but it quite another thing to be found faithful. A measure of faith has been allotted to every man (Romans 12:3), but faithfulness has to be appropriated because it is not an inherent characteristic of human nature. Human nature is not faithful to God, and it cannot be disciplined to become faithful. Faithfulness is found only in the divine nature of the Lord. It is a divine attribute. Therefore, we become faithful as we appropriate His nature. The more of Christ worked in us, the more faithful we become.
Samson is a good example of the difference between faith and faithfulness. There can be no doubt that Samson had a lot of faith. He believed for the Holy Spirit to move on him and He did. Samson accomplished such extraordinary feats and exploits that people were utterly amazed. His strength to do battle against the Philistines was beyond human ability. But Samson wasn’t very faithful. He had a weakness for women and it became his undoing. Because of his unfaithfulness, the time came when the Holy Spirit left him. Expecting the strength of the Holy Spirit to come upon him, he jumped up to face the Philistines, unaware that the Spirit had departed. Consequently, the Philistines captured him and put his eyes out.
The Lord will allow us to face many adverse circumstances. Each time we have to decide whether we will react with our human instincts or respond with faithfulness toward God. The Lord will give us a Word and Satan will try to bring discouragement with lying circumstances. Our responsibility is to remain faithful, to stand upon the Word, and to reject the lie of Satan. Every time we do, we grow stronger in His faithfulness. When the enemy sends those fiery darts of futility, that is the time to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).
It is very difficult to be faithful when you are pulled in two different directions. There will have to be a continual focus of the heart upon the Lord. Success in faithfulness is determined by the intensity of the heart to serve only one master. We can talk about many different areas in which we need to be faithful, but it all comes down to one thing: Jesus Christ must be our only Lord and Master. If the heart is divided, it is impossible to be faithful. We may make mistakes and we may err in judgment, but we will always be counted justified and faithful when the heart is set upon the Lord as our only Master.
Luke 10:25-37 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted
Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down as certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
The lawyer that approached Jesus was not a civil lawyer like we are accustomed to today. He was an expert in the Mosaic Law. A lawyer was frequently spoken of as a scribe, and his function was threefold. It was his responsibility to study and interpret the law. He also instructed the Hebrew youth in the law. These two functions he accomplished as a teacher. His third function was judicial in respect to the Mosaic Law. It was his job to decide questions concerning the law. It was a common thing for a scribe to be able to quote by memory the entire Pentateuch, or write it without missing a jot or tittle.
So this particular lawyer stands up to put Jesus to the test. It is quite obvious that his motivation for such an action was not completely pure. The scribes tended to have an air of arrogance because of their position. He did not have a revelation of the Lord, and because of his position he felt he had a right to test Jesus. And verse 29 says that he was “willing to justify himself.”
He confronts Jesus with the question, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It is amazing how many people think that they can gain points with God by deeds and benevolent actions. We will do things that will express our faith and love to the Lord, but the works of justification are works of humility, faithfulness, com-passion, and mercy. The most important works are works that reveal His attributes.
So Jesus is trying to teach the lawyer that there isn’t some work or deed he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? How do your interpret it?” The lawyer said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself.”
The lawyer was very close to answering his own question, except for one thing. He was prejudiced and maintained the right to choose whom his neighbor would be. The Jews were a very prejudiced people, particularly the religious leaders. The Samaritans, for example, were counted as dogs, and the Jews would have nothing to do with them.
So Jesus tells a story about a man who was beaten, robbed, and left beside the road half dead. A priest and a Levite passed him, choosing to ignore him. But a Samaritan saw him and helped him. He felt compassion and showed mercy to the man, making him his neighbor. Was the priest justified? Was the Levite justified? No, the Samaritan was justified because he was compassionate and merciful.
Do you want to be justified in your walk with God? Then be compassionate and merciful. Minister the presence of Christ to everyone. Never be partial or prejudiced. Let there be a continual flow of His attributes through you.
Matthew 12:30-37 He that is
not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad.
31 Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
36 But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Jesus says that by our words we will be justified or condemned. However, it is not the actual words that are spoken that make the difference. There is no magical formula of words or divine vocabulary that we are to use. Rather we are to understand that words are carriers. They are like a freight train. Therefore, it is the cargo that makes the difference. The one whose heart is evil will only speak evil, regardless of the words he uses. And the one who is righteous will speak forth righteousness. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things (Verse 35).
Now we understand that the issue is not whether we are saved or not saved. It is a matter of how much of the nature of Christ has taken over our hearts. Even though we are Christians, much of what we speak may come from an evil heart.
Remember when Jesus asked His disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus responded, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17).
Peter spoke by revelation and his words were life. Yet just a little while later when Jesus was explaining how He must go to Jerusalem and be killed, Peter rebuked Him and said, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: This shall not be unto Thee.” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offense unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).
One moment Peter was speaking by a revelation from the Father, and the next moment he was speaking from Satan. Do you think that since that was true for Peter, it could also be true for the average Christian? Do you think it is possible that our words do not always minister life?
It is obvious that the heart is the determining factor of whether our words will condemn us or justify us. If there are words in your vocabulary that you feel should be dropped, then drop them. However, it is not so much the actual words you use as it is the condition of your spirit that rides on those words that is most important. If you have a critical spirit, it will ride upon the words you speak and will be imparted to those who receive them.
Have you ever noticed that after being around someone who was bitter and critical that you had a tendency to be bitter and critical, too? That is why we are held responsible for the words we speak.
Luke 7:24-30 And when the
messengers of John were departed, He began to speak unto the people concerning
John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously appareled, and live delicately, are in king’s courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
28 For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.
29 And all the people that heard Him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
The principle Jesus teaches here is very important. God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the ones who received John were mostly the common people. The Pharisees and lawyers who should have been spiritual enough to discern that He was from God rejected Him.
It is very easy for us to believe that John was sent from God. The Scriptures plainly tells us that. We believe the Bible, so it is easy for us to accept John as a prophet. But it was not so simple for the people who lived in that day. John was born of a priestly family, so he could have become one of the priests that ministered in the temple. But he didn’t do that. Instead he ministered from the wilderness and baptized people in the Jordan River. His message was a message of repentance. He did not wear the priestly garments, and he did not require the people to bring animal sacrifices for their sins. His ministry was completely different from anything they were accustomed to in that day.
Verse 30 says that the Pharisees and lawyers, in their rejection of John, had rejected the purpose God had for them. When God sends a ministry, it is because He has a purpose for us. He has something for us to receive. If we had everything we needed from God, there would be no reason for Him to ever send a ministry.
One characteristic of a true ministry from the Lord is that he will present something new from God for us to walk in and experience. Then at the proper time, he will present something deeper from God. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over His household, to give them meat in due season? Matthew 24:45.
There is great danger in becoming too traditional. The Pharisees were old wineskins. They were embedded in the ruts and traditions of the old-time religion. Consequently, they could not receive the ministry of John. But it was to their own hurt. By rejecting John, they rejected the purpose God had for them.
There is a great concern in my heart for the Christians of our day, because we are in days like those of our scripture text. God is sending ministries, as He did John the Baptist, to prepare us for the coming of the Lord. And there aren’t many that will receive them. A John the Baptist Company is coming on the scene, and much of Christianity is too cemented in traditionalism to receive new and deeper truths from God. If we want to be justified before God in this day of transition, it will be necessary for us to receive His ministries.
The Lord always links Himself to the one He commissions. It is not so much the human vessel that’s the issue, although he is a part of it. The ministry and authority coming through the vessel is the ministry and authority of the Lord. Therefore, if he is rejected, the Lord is rejected. If he is received, the Lord is received. He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me. Luke 10:16.
Luke 7:31-35 And the Lord
said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are
32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
It is practically impossible to please a religious Pharisee. John the Baptist came with a very strict diet and drank no wine, and they said he had a devil. Jesus came eating and drinking, and they were critical of Him. Although they appeared to be opposites, God sent them both. John ministered in the wilderness and the people came out to him. On the other hand, Jesus mingled with the people.
You cannot set standards to determine whether a man is sent from God or not. The Pharisee will not accept anyone unless he measures up to his standards. Have you noticed how some religious groups have certain codes of dress and behavior? If you do not conform to their regulations, they will not accept you. I wonder how many churches would receive Jesus Christ today? There are some that would reject Him simply because of His beard and long hair. How about John the Baptist? Or, the apostle Paul? The majority of churches today wouldn’t receive any of them.
Listen to what Paul says about this in his letter to the Corinthian Church. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. I Corinthians 4:1-4.
Paul was more concerned about what God thought of him than men. It is amazing how many will become hypocrites because of their fear of man. Above everything else, we must be God-pleasers, to be faithful as servants of Christ.
Wisdom is justified by her children. This means that God is expecting fruitfulness. And it is impossible to be fruitful when you are constantly trying to measure up to someone’s standards. You cannot serve God and man at the same time. You can only have one master and that has to be the Lord.
The fruitfulness God is looking for is His divine nature. Fruitfulness is not measured by how many people you have converted to Christianity. You become fruitful when you allow the nature of the Lord to take over your life. Our responsibility is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in order that His life may come forth within us and to bring forth Christ in others. It is one thing to talk someone into becoming a Christian. It is quite another thing to birth Christ in them and to minister to them until He comes forth in all of His glory. In this way we are justified by fruitfulness. Wisdom is vindicated by her children.
Copyright © 1999 by Henry DuBose