God Justifies the Ungodly…
By Geoffrey R. Kirkland
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην·
But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
This verse encapsulates the core of the gospel in a succinct statement. There are numerous elements of the gospel that Paul combines in this verse that are essential to the saving message of Jesus Christ.
The sinner must come to recognize one simple fact. It is a most-easy truth to comprehend yet an overwhelming difficult truth to swallow. The sinner must admit that he is ungodly. The sinner must come to the end of himself and confess that he is utterly despicable in the eyes of a holy God. More than that, sinners are God’s enemies (Rom 5:10), sinners are hated by God (Ps 5:5), sinners who are prideful, arrogant, wicked, and perverted are hated by God (Prov 8:13). Every single person must first come to agreement with this foundational truth. Unless a sinner recognizes this and admits it, he cannot be saved.
The Scriptures teach that for the ungodly man who has no one to stand in his stead, come to his defense, and none to plead his case, God will eternally condemn him. By God’s Word, the present heavens are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Pet 3:7). The Old Testament Law declares that the righteous must be justified but the wicked must be condemned (cf. Deut 25:1ff). But here is, perhaps, one of the most shocking verses in the Scriptures. Proverbs 17:15 says that “he who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (emphasis added). That means that for God to justify an ungodly man would make God utterly abominable—it would go against His very nature and character. Thus, as an ungodly man, you cannot be justified by God.
Spurgeon put it this way:
If you are not lost, what do you want with a Saviour? Should the shepherd go after those who never went astray? Why should the woman sweep her house for the pieces of money that were never out of her purse? No, the medicine is for the diseased; the quickening is for the dead; the pardon is for the guilty; liberation is for those who are bound; the opening of eyes is for those who are blind. How can the Saviour and His death upon the cross and the Gospel of pardon be accounted for unless they be upon the supposition that men are guilty and worthy of condemnation. The sinner is the Gospel’s reason for existence. If you are undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, you are the sort of man for whom the Gospel is ordained and arranged and proclaimed. God justifies the ungodly.
I leave you with one final verse that we will elaborate on in the next post: Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Get the pdf of this article here.
More on the solution to this dilemma in the next post...