Tuesday, 21 April 2009

God, him say, 'me OK'.

I am preparing for a week-end in Norfolk at a beautiful country house. It is a very pleasant setting and is the venue for a church weekend. The church, not the one of which I am part, gathers there every second year and last time in 2007 I was invited to be the speaker. These patient folk have repeated the invitation and this year our topic is 'justification by faith'. It is a great topic and one of the foundation stones of New Testament truth. The Reformation began as a protest but it was this truth that changed the direction of church history from that point.

The topic is one of those phrases much loved by Bible believers but completely incomprehensible to everyone else. What is justification? When we use the word in everyday speech we usually mean that someone is defending an action that someone has challenged. In everyday language it means I am trying to put myself 'in the right' over some disputed issue. How would you begin to put yourself 'in the right' in a disagreement with God?!?

If I stand in the court of God's justice and God accuses me of having broken his law, how would I begin to 'justify' myself? How would I 'plead' in such a court? Guilty or Not-Guilty? If I have any sense of sin I am clearly going to plead 'guilty'. What would you say if I said I have stood in such a court and pleaded 'guilty' and yet the judgement of the court was that I was 'not guilty'?

'Guilt' in Bible language doesn't mean a bad feeling, it means 'blame-worthiness'. So how can I go into court knowing that I am 'blame-worthy' and then entering my plea of 'guilty' and then walk from the court not only a free man but one with no criminal record. The court found me 'not guilty' even though I pleaded 'guilty'.

If I were 'guilty' a sentence or condemnation would follow, but if I am pronounced 'not guilty' the court's authority over me has ended, and there is, literally, no condemnation. No sentence, no punishment. In ancient Roman law a man found 'not guilty' in court was said to be 'in the right'. The verdict of the judge was 'This man is in the right' or to use the Bible language, 'justified'. Paul says when a man or woman put all their trust, of faith, in Christ and his death in our place, God declares that person to be 'just with him'... justified. Hence the theological phrase 'justified by faith'. 'Guilty' but pronounced 'not guilty' by the judge. Christ's death was the penalty for our crime and hence as the sentence has been carried out already, the law has no more power over me.

In Papua New Guinea some years ago the Bible was being translated into a language which is sometimes called 'pigeon English'; English words but used in a very non-English way. When they came to translate the concept of 'justification by faith' it was a struggle. They came up with a quaint phrase which is not good English but is crystal clear theology 'God, him say, me OK'. As the judge his opinion is the only one that really matters. Accusations may come thick and fast but if 'God, him say, me OK' who is going to argue?

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Rom 8:33-34 World English Bible.

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