The Glorious Gospel
What is the gospel? The greatest question that a man has to deal with if he is truly concerned about his own soul is this: “how can a man be right with God?” The answer to this specific question is the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, a true understanding of God’s character and ours is crucial in answering this question. Since God is holy, just, perfect, and free from all sins, and humanity is fallen, corrupt, and sinful rebels, becoming right with God seems to be an irresolvable problem.
The Divine Dilemma
This is what most of the theologians called the Divine Dilemma.. The word “dilemma” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a situation in which a person has to choose between things that are all bad or unsatisfactory ”. So, when you are in a dilemma, you enter a situation that seems to offer no acceptable solution. You cannot understand the gospel, the divine solution, without the divine dilemma.
In the Scriptures this is the greatest dilemma: God is good and we are not, God is righteous and we are sinners, God is holy and we are profane. Acting with justice, God must punish. If He gives what men deserve, all will be condemned and all will perish eternally under His wrath in hell. But in the Bible, we know that God forgives.
Can’t God just simply forgive us all? After all, He commanded us to forgive freely, right? There are three reasons why God cannot simply do that:
God is not like us. We can simply forgive others for their offense. But for God, any form of sin is an insult to His Holy character. God cannot let the guilty go unpunished. To do otherwise is to deny His character and His glorious justice.
God cannot contradict Himself. There’s no higher law to which He appeals to. He cannot simply ignore His justice to give way for His other attributes to shine. Love and justice goes together.
God is the judge of all. If an earthly judge simply pardons a criminal who committed murder, he would be the most unjust judge. We expect a just judge to act justly and the Judge of all the earth must do right! It is a basic expectation in an earthly court and we must not expect otherwise in a heavenly court.
The question now becomes:
How can God be just and the justifier of the unjust men without compromising His own justice?
Let us first hear the testimony of the Scripture about God’s response to wicked men and their sins.
Exod 23:7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.
Rom 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness...
Prov 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
It is clear from the verses above that God will not acquit (Hebrew word tsadeq, which means, to justify, vindicate, or declare right) the wicked, and no man is righteous, all of us sinned against Him. However, the next verse tells us that God justifies the ungodly. Now, the last verse says that it is an abomination to justify the wicked. This is the same word (Hebrew word tow`ebah) used to describe homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. So, it is an abominable, detestable and even disgusting act to justify the wicked. Indeed, this is one of the strongest word to describe sinful humanity in the Scripture. But far be it from the Righteous One to be described with these words! Are you now seeing the dilemma with much clarity?
Let us rephrase our initial inquiry sharply:
“How can the perfect God justify the wicked in a way that is not abominable or detestable to His holy and righteous character?”
Here’s another verse that is worth our close attention:
And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth; who keeps faithfulness for thousands, who forgives wrongdoing, violation of His Law, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
In this passage, we read a clear declaration of God’s attributes passed before Moses’ eyes that God gives on the one hand, forgiveness from all sins, and on the other hand punishment against all forms of wickedness. His justice is so certain that He is even said to be inflicting punishment down to the fourth generation.
But the LORD in other passages actually forgives, in Romans 4:7-8 we read,
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
Without a doubt, the Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit writes that David is the one whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, sins have been cleansed, and whose sin will not be taken into account. These three magnificent phrases were written to refer to a sinful man. Paul Washer1 asked “How can both statements be true? The same Scripture that promises pardon for all kinds of sin warns that God will not forgive the guilty or leave him unpunished.”
The Divine Solution
If we have a problem that seems to be irresolvable, then we have a solution that is totally amazing! In Romans 3:21-26, we find the heartbeat of the heart of the gospel,
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in God’s merciful restraint He let the sins previously committed go unpunished; 26 for the demonstration, that is, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
In this passage we see that in Christ God maintained His righteousness in forgiving sinners like you and me. Three times, the Apostle Paul writes that God’s righteousness was demonstrated and manifested. The divine dilemma is answered by the glorious gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ is the theater upon which we see the brightness of God’s love, holiness, grace, justice, righteousness, and mercy shines together. The demand of God’s justice is fulfilled in the death of Christ and the proof that God was satisfied was seen in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The late founder of Ligonier Ministries, R.C Sproul writes,
The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
God Himself became a Man (Philippians 2:5-8), bore the sins of His people by shedding His blood on the cross of Calvary (1 Peter 2:24), suffered the divine judgment and drank the cup of God’s wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18).
This is the good news of the gospel, and those who repent of their sins and trust in Him by faith alone will be saved. You will have His perfect righteousness clothed upon you and His perfect blood to wash from all your sins. You will not only be forgiven but you will also be given a new heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34) that you may love Him truly. My friend, this is the ONLY SOLUTION to your dilemma. Are you now concerned about your soul’s eternal destiny? You can be right with God though Christ alone. Come to Him for pardon and be cleansed within!
SOLI DEO GLORIA!