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CHRIST JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY THROUGH THEIR FAITH ALONE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 2nd Week of Lent, March 02, 2015
Dan. 9:4-10, Ps. 78, Luke 6:36-38


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments and ordinances" (Dan. 9:5).


This is Daniel's confession of his and his people's sins in exile in Babylon. Being punished by God by being exiled, Daniel recognizes and confesses that his people have indeed sinned, and that this is why God is punishing them far away from their home in a strange land. And Daniel asks God to forgive his people. "To the Lord our God belongs mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him" (Dan. 9:9).


We too need to beg God to forgive our sins, and God punishes us for our sins by making us feel depressed by our sense of guilt for them, even for very small sins. But we are now living in the New Testament, and God, through Christ, declares us righteous, that is, he justifies us, when we put our faith in Christ.


No human being or human judge should declare a guilty person innocent. He should not declare just or justify, one who is guilty. "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord" (Prov. 17:15). To do this would be a miscarriage of justice.


But in the New Testament God declares the guilty innocent; the ungodly he declarers just and righteous: "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:5 NKJV). Is this not a miscarriage of justice to declare a guilty person innocent, to declare an impious person righteous? In this case God is not being unjust or violating his infinite divine justice in order to show mercy, precisely because Christ took our sins upon himself and expiated them by his suffering and death for them on the cross. "For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). That is, Christ died for the ungodly. "While we were helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6).


Therefore God's declaration that the guilty are innocent, that is, that the ungodly are just and righteous, is not a miscarriage of justice, because Christ expiated their sins in his death on the cross, suffering their just punishment for their sins for them. Christ's death on the cross makes God's declaration of the ungodly to be righteous a just and righteous declaration. His death proves that God is righteous, and it also justifies us, making us truly righteous. "It [Christ's death] was to prove at the present time that he himself [God] is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26)


When, then, through our own free act of faith, which God enables us to freely make, we receive this declaration that we are just, we are actually made truly just and righteous, precisely because of the atonement made by Christ.


And all of this comes to us without any work of our own. We simply receive it by faith alone, which is our act of reception. So Christ's work on the cross justifies us, that is, declares and actually makes us righteous, just, and holy, and this comes to us by faith alone, without our works, "for no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law" (Rom. 3:20). We could never merit by our works this justification of God that makes us truly righteous, just, and holy (Rom. 3:28; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). It is an act of God, through Christ's death, that we can only receive by faith alone.


But once we have passively received this gift by faith, we must then do good works and live a good life according to God's moral law, and in this way we will grow still more in holiness.

 

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