Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-29-72 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Imputed Righteousness, Declared Righteous, or what the Bible calls justification.
In our preaching through the Book of Galatians, we are in the third chapter. And the last Sunday that I preached from the book the title of the message was, The Paidagōgos; the tutor-leader, the child leader who brings the lad before his schoolmaster. And Paul says that the law, the old covenant, the Old Testament, was a paidagōgos, a child leader, “to bring us to Jesus, that we might be justified by faith” [Galatians 3:24], and there is that word. He uses it again and again. For example, in Galatians 2:16 he says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified”—there it is again—”by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” And there it is again.
Turning to the next chapter, chapter 3 and verse 6, he will say, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for,” and there is that word again, “righteousness,” justification [Galatians 3:6]. Or in the eleventh verse of chapter 3: “But that no man is justified”—and there is that word again—”But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just”—and there is that word again—”shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. And then the text, “Wherefore the law was our paidagōgos to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified,” and there is that word, “that we might be justified by faith” [Galatians 3:24].
In both the Hebrew and the Greek—both the language of the Old Testament and the New Testament—the same root words are used for “righteousness” and “justification.” The Hebrew word tsedeq—tsedeq means “to be righteous.” It also means “to be declared righteous, to be justified.” For example, in Genesis 15:6; quoted in Galatians 3:6: “Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted for tsedeqah—for righteousness, for justification.” The Greek word dikaios can be translated “just,” or it can be translated “righteous.” And in the Bible it is translated both ways. In Matthew 1:19, when Joseph saw that Mary was with child, the Scriptures say, “Joseph, being a dikaios man”—a just man—”thought to put her away privily, and not make a public example of her.” In Matthew 5:45 it reads, “God sendeth His rain on the dikaios and the adikos—on the just and the unjust.” In Matthew 9:13 it reads the Lord says, He “came not to call the dikaios”—here it is translated righteous—”came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” In Acts 10:22, Cornelius the centurion is described as a dikaios man—translated there, “a just man.” In Romans 1:17, “The just, the dikaios man—The just shall live by faith.” Then, in Romans 3:10, it reads, “There is none dikaios”—translated righteous. “There is none dikaios—none righteous—no, not one.” So the word “righteous” and the word “just,” the word “righteousness” and the word “justification” are about the same words.
Now dikaioō means “to pronounce or treat as righteous, to hold guiltless”—that is, “to justify.” In Luke 18:14 the Lord describes a publican, a sinner who would not so much as lift up his face to heaven, but beat upon his breast saying, “God be merciful to me the sinner” [Luke 18:13]. And [verse] 14 says, “that man went down to his house dikaioō—justified, declared righteous” [Luke 18:14]. In Romans 8:30 it reads, “whom He called”—whom God called—“He dikaioed, He justified, and those whom He dikaioed, he justified—He glorified.”
Now another word built on that root is dikaiōsis, and that word dikaiōsis means “acquittal.” It means “justification.” If a man were tried before a court of law and he is acquitted, he is dikaiōsis, that is, he is justified, he is declared righteous. So Romans 4:25 reads, “Christ was delivered for our offenses, and He was raised again for our dikaiōsis—for our justification”—that is, to declare us righteous. The great purpose of the resurrection was not only to verify, to point out the deity of Christ, to set Him apart as the Son of God, but He also was raised before heaven and earth to declare us dikaiōsis—acquitted, righteous, justified [Romans 4:25].
Now, he uses it again in Romans 5:18: “As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men, condemnation came upon men, so by the righteousness”—and there is that word again—”of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life”—dikaiōsis of life, declaring us righteous, justification. Then, “the law was our schoolmaster” our paidagōgos,” to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” [Galatians 3:24]. Justification then is that judicial act of God whereby God, on account of Christ, declares us sinners, who are joined by faith to Him, as being acquitted. We are declared to be righteous. Not that we are righteous, for we are not righteous. But God accepts us as righteous. He looks upon us as righteous. We are acquitted in His sight. We are no longer under condemnation and judgment, but we have been restored in Christ to His grace and His favor.
This is a remarkable thing that you will find throughout the Bible, how the Lord will look upon His children, His people—not as they really are: sinners, perverse, stiff-necked, obstreperous, incorrigible, lost—He will not look upon them like that, even though they are that. But the Lord will look upon His people ideally, in grace and in favor, in righteousness and in justification. In His sight, they can do no wrong. In God’s sight, they are perfect. Now you look at this.
In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Numbers, we are told the story of Balak the king of Moab, who hired Balaam, a prophet, to curse Israel. But instead of cursing Israel, Balaam blesses Israel. So Balaam
took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse for me Jacob. Come . . . and defy Israel.
But how shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? Or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?
And Balak the king of Moab said unto Balaam—
What hast thou done unto me? I took thee—
I bought thee, I brought thee, I paid thee—
to curse mine enemies—
and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.
[Numbers 23:7, 8, 11].
And then, in his address to the king, Balaam says, “God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” [Numbers 23:21].
Now what do you think of that? This is in the story of the wandering through the wilderness just before they entered the Promised Land. And the story of the wandering of Israel in the wilderness is a story of perverseness, of incorrigibility, of murmuring and sin, of backsliding and finally of unbelief. Yet God says, “God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” [Numbers 23:21]. That is an astonishing thing, how God looks upon His people not as they really are, but idealistically, beautifully, in gracious loving favor as though they were perfect! God says, “He that toucheth Israel toucheth the apple of Mine eye” [Zechariah 2:8]. And yet there never was a people more perverse and stiff-necked than Israel. But in God’s sight they could do no wrong.
Now look again at that same doctrine in the third chapter of Zechariah. Now, he is going to talk about Joshua. When the children of Israel came out of the captivity of Babylon and returned back home to Judah and to Jerusalem, Zerubbabel was the civic leader and Joshua was the spiritual leader. Joshua was the great high priest. Now you look: “And He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of God, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him,” to condemn him, to blaspheme him. “For [Joshua] was clothed with filthy garments, and he thus stood before God [Zechariah 3:1-3]. But the high priest, Joshua, the man, stood there before God a sinner, lost, undone, dressed in filthy garments like all other of mankind.
And when Joshua stood before God as the high priest to mediate the worship of the people, Satan was standing there at his right hand [Zechariah 3:1]. And Satan stood there and said, “Look at him. Look at him, a vile sinner. Look at those filthy rags [Zechariah 3:1]. Look at that stained garment. Look at his heart. Look at his soul. He is a sinner inside and out.” Satan is standing there at the right hand of Joshua, God’s high priest, to condemn him [Zechariah 3:1]. “But the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan . . . is not this a brand plucked out of the burning, out of the fire?” [Zechariah 3:2]. “Is he not somebody I have saved, that I have chosen, a lost man that I have redeemed?” That man Joshua is one. And the Lord answered, and said, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And the Lord said, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with beautiful raiment” [Zechariah 3:4]. And God said, “Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with beautiful garments” [Zechariah 3:5]. Isn’t that something?
The man stood there before God a sinner man, and Satan standing there said, “Look at him, he is clothed in filthy garments. He is a lost sinner” [Zechariah 3:1, 3]. But the Lord God rebuked Satan in His own name and said, “But I have saved him. Now take away those filthy garments, and clothe him with robes of righteousness, and put a beautiful mitre on his head, that he might stand before Me justified, declared righteous” [Zechariah 3:4-5]—in God’s sight righteous.
Now just one other. Here in the Book of Romans the apostle Paul writes, “Whom God did predestinate, them also He called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and those whom He justified, them He glorified. . . . For who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” [Romans 8:30-33]. Let Satan talk forever. He is called our great adversary and archenemy” [1 Peter 5:8], and his name means “the accuser” [Revelation 12:10]. Let Satan stand there and accuse God’s people for ever!
“Look at him! Look at his heart. Look at his life. Look at his imaginations. Look at what he did. Look at what he does. Look at what he is going to do. He is clothed in filthy garments [Zechariah 3:2]. He is not fit to stand in heaven. He is not worthy to walk in that holy city, nor to mingle with God’s redeemed. Look at him,” says Satan, our great archenemy and accuser. But the Lord God says, “In Christ, in the blood, in Jesus, in the favor of My Son, he is clean. He is pure. His robes are spotless and white. He is justified [Revelation 22:14]. He is declared righteous” [Romans 5:1]. God interposes the death of His Son and the blood of His Son and the cross of His Son and the sufferings of His Son. God interposes Christ’s atoning grace between us and the wrath and judgment of God upon our sins [2 Corinthians 5:19]. And in God’s sight, looking at us through the grace and blood of Jesus, we are clean and pure white, and saved [Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:22].
Let me show you something that I copied. Anselm—A-n-s-e-l-m, Anselm—was one of the great theologians of all time. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury in about 1100 AD. And Anselm wrote a tract for the consolation of his people who died, because when time came to die so many of them were alarmed on account of their sins. “I am not ready to die. I am a lost sinner. What shall I do?” And the great theologian Anselm wrote a little tract for the dying, and I want to read from it. The first part of it is a little catechism question to the man whose dying, “Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for thee?”
And he is to answer, “I believe it.”
The question, “Dost thou thank Him for His passion, His suffering and death?”
The answer, “I did thank Him.”
The question, “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by His death?”
The answer, “I believe it.”
Then Anselm in the tract addresses the dying man, and this is what he says:
Come then, while life remaineth in thee, in Christ alone place thy whole trust. In naught else place thy trust. To His death commit thyself wholly. With this alone cover thyself wholly.
And if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, Lord, between Thy judgment and me, I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. No otherwise can I contend with Thee.
And if the Lord shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou, Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and Thee.
And if the Lord say that thou hast deserved condemnation, damnation, say, Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and Thee.
And His merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not. If God say that He is wroth with thee, say, Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thy wrath and me.
And when thou hast completed this, say, again, Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thee and me.
How do you like that? That is justification. When the Lord declares us righteous, we are not. We are sinners. But God looks at us not as in our sins and our filthy rags, but God looks at us in the love and grace and mercy of Jesus and declares us righteous for His sake; justified, acquitted, declared guiltless [Colossians 1:22].
Well, at eight-fifteen o’clock service this morning, I got to preaching about this, and I guess the congregation thought I would never stop. That is absolutely one of the most astonishing and glorious and amazing doctrines in this earth. And just for a minute, now—I hope I have time because I ought to place the invitation on television—just for a moment, I want to show you that by contrast.
First: the contrast between the way the world looks at a man and the way God will look at him. The way the world will look at a man is always the same: “You prove yourself by your works, and then we’ll accept you or reject you.” That is the way the world does; always look at what you do, then accept you or reject you. But God does just the opposite. He will look at the man first and He will accept or reject the man first, then He will accept or reject the man’s works. But always, the man himself; God always looks at the man and He accepts the person of the man himself first, and then He will look at his works.
All right, I want to show you that. Back here in the beginning, in the story of Cain and Abel, it says:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering, a minchah, a gift unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his minchah, to his gift, to his offering:
But unto Cain and then to his minchah He had not respect.
God accepted first Abel, the man. God looked in Abel’s heart and accepted Abel first; then He accepted the works, the gifts, the offerings of Abel. And God looked into the heart of Cain, and He rejected Cain first, and then He rejected Cain’s offering and Cain’s works. God always looks at the man first and accepts the man first.
Now that doctrine is all through the Bible. We learned the twenty-third Psalm when we were children, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: and He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Now look, “He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” [Psalm 23:1-3]. First, “He restoreth my soul”—He regenerates me. He saves me, and then He leads me in the paths of righteousness—of good works for His name’s sake. But first God does something to my heart, and then He accepts my works. That is always first—always.
It is like Samuel who was sent to the house of Jesse—there to anoint a new king over Israel [1 Samuel 16:1-13]. And Samuel says to Jesse, “Have all your boys come before me.” And Eliab, the eldest, stood before Samuel, and what a magnificent specimen of a man was he. And Samuel said, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” [1 Samuel 16:6]. But the Lord said to Samuel, “I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:7]. And he said to Jesse, “Have your second boy come.” And the second boy Abinadab stood before the prophet. What a magnificent man he was. God said, “I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:8]. Then Jesse had the third boy to stand before him, and his name was Shammah, and what a magnificent creature he was. And Samuel, looking at him, said, “Surely this is the new king!” And God said, “I reject him” [1 Samuel 16:9]. And all seven of them passed before Samuel, and for all seven of them God said, “I have not chosen” [1 Samuel 16:10].
And Samuel in frustration and despair said to Jesse, “Is this all of your boys? Is—these seven, are these all of your boys?” And Jesse said, “Oh, I forgot. I have another boy who is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said, “We will not sit down until you fetch him” [1 Samuel 16:11].
That is the worst thing that has ever happened to the English language. We have lost that word “fetch.” There is no other word to take its place. There is no other word that says “go out there and get him and bring him back. We will not sit down until you have fetched him.” And they sent out there for the boy David, out there with the sheep, singing songs with his harp where angels bowed down their heads to listen. And then the boy, when he came and stood before the prophet Samuel—ruddy, unshaved, a lad—God said to Samuel, “This is he, arise, anoint him” [1 Samuel 16:11-12]. Samuel said to the Lord, “Lord, I do not understand.” And the Lord said, “Man looks on the outside, on the countenance; but God looks on the heart” [1 Samuel 16:7]. First God accepts the man, then God accepts the work.
I want to illustrate that to you in our life out there in the world. I remember in the days of the Depression when people were hungry and most people were out of a job and it was awful days. I remember as a young man being in Chicago, and I was up there with a young, rich fellow who knew the inside of the world. He lived in Seattle. The dad had sent him away in order to get him out of the house. The fellow traveled all over the world. He knew everything, and he knew all about Al Capone. And he took me to one of Al Capone’s speakeasies right under the nose of the policemen. There were forty policemen who passed by that—right down there at Madison and State Street. And Al Capone had those things all over Chicago, and everywhere else. And he ruled Chicago. Al Capone ruled Chicago like a man would hold an object in his—in his hand!
I tried to find out—and I did—how is it that a gangster could do that. And it is very plain. Al Capone took thousands, and thousands, and thousands, and uncounted thousands of dollars, and he fed the poor, and he brought coal in the wintertime to the widow, and he took care of the orphan. And he had those people in Cicero, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago, and Chicago, he had them voting for him by day and by night. He elected the aldermen. He elected the councilmen. He elected the policemen. He elected the judges. He elected the mayor. He ruled Chicago, and he did it by good works! You could not beat Al Capone no matter what you did. You know, when they sent him to the federal penitentiary at Atlanta, what did they send him for? Because he was a mobster, and a murderer, and a gangster, and openly flaunted and violated the law? No. They finally sent him to the penitentiary on account of his income tax. Isn’t that something?
I am illustrating to you how the world judges a man and how God looks at a man. The world judges a man, “Look at all those good works. Look at those good works.” But God looks on the heart and God accepts first the man [1 Samuel 16:7], then He accepts the works. For God says, “By works shall no man be justified in His sight,” none [Romans 3:20]. By works we increase in debt and in debt. For everything we do before God has something of imperfection that even our prayers are not perfect, our praise is not perfect, our lives are never perfect. And the more we work, the more we are in debt, back and back and back. We can never be good enough! But in Christ we are justified, acquitted [Romans 5:9]. We are accepted and then our works are in praise and love and glory to God [Ephesians 1:6]. There are works of thanksgiving and gratitude.
I want to show you one thing and then I have to close. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians in which we will start next Sunday—in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul draws a contrast between a slave and a son [Galatians 4:1-7]. And he says a servant in the house—the man who works—he is going to be saved by his works, he is going to be justified by his works, he is going to commend himself to God by his works. He says a slave in the house—a servant in the house works and works and works and works and he works for ever. He works for pay. He works for reward. He is a hired servant! And at the end of the years and the years and the years and the years, after he has worked and worked and worked, he is still a hired servant!
But a son—a son that belongs to the family—is the heir. He belongs in the bloodstream and the bloodline of the family. He is born into the family. And Paul applies that to us who are born into the family of God. We are no longer hired servants, working, and working, and working; but we have been adopted and born again into the family of God, and we are the heirs of all of the riches of God in Christ Jesus [Galatians 4:1-7].
Did you know that is exactly the story of that prodigal boy? [Luke 15:11-32]. Out there in the hog pen, when he came to himself, he said, “I am going back to my father, and I am going to say to him, My father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Isn’t that what he said?—”Make me as one of thy paid, hired servants” [Luke 15:18-19]. So he came back to his father. And started out his speech, “My father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and I am no more worthy to be called a son. Make me as one of thy hired servants” [Luke 15:21].
What did the father say? He didn’t even let him finish his speech, “No,” said the father. “No. No. Find the best robe and put it on him” [Luke 15:22]. Imputed righteousness, declared righteousness, God-given righteousness—”Bring the best robe, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger in the sign of sonship; put shoes on his feet, the sign of dignity. This, my son” [Luke 15:22]. Know what he said? “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [Luke 15:24]. That is justification. Not by what we do. Not by the works of our hands, but in the love and favor of God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. He accepts us, forgives us, declares us guiltless, and we are adopted, born again into the family of our heavenly Father [Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5]. Oh, glory! Blessed be the name of our Lord. What He hath done for us!
And now, we are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you to come, a couple you to come, or just one somebody you, on the first note of that first stanza, make it this morning. “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming today.” Or just one somebody whom God calls down one of these stairways, from this aisle and to the front, make it now. Decide now. And when we stand up, stand up coming down that aisle. Make it now. Come now. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.