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Fugitives from Justice

It is difficult to walk into a post office and not notice all the wanted posters plastered on the wall. I have often wondered where these fugitives from justice are hiding out and just how their lives are going to work out. It might be of interest to realize that every member of the human race started out as fugitives from justice also. Hang on to this thought for a minute as we attempt to tie it in to the true worth of the good news concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)

The real value of the gospel of the grace of God is found in Paul’s use of the word “righteousness.”  This important word helps to answer the single most crucial question facing the human race: “How can a sinful human being be right before a holy God?”

It’s All About Righteousness

When thinking about getting to heaven, we sometimes ask questions like, “Which religion is really the right one?” or “Which denomination is right?” or “Which church is right?” But getting to heaven is all about righteousness. The word righteousness occurs 92 times in the New Testament and 36 times in the book of Romans. The Greeks used the word as a legal term. Its use involved fugitives from justice. When a Roman law was broken, the lawbreaker was taken before the judge. The judge weighed the evidence and pronounced judgment. The judgment, when carried out, satisfied the demand of the law. When judgment is carried out, justice has been satisfied and that which was wrong is made right. By using this particular word, Paul is saying that the good news involving Jesus Christ’s work on the cross of Calvary reveals a “making right that which was wrong involving God and man.”

When the Bible speaks of God’s righteousness, it uses a word (dikaios) that means that God is “always and forever absolutely right.” His character makes Him much more than just the “Good Lord.” The Bible reveals to us a God who is absolutely holy, absolutely perfect, and absolutely pure. His thoughts and actions are always and forever perfectly right in every way.  In fact, the only word that the apostle John could use to adequately describe God’s rightness to the sinful human race is the word light.

“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (Jn 1:5)

The Holiness of God

God created the first man and woman with the design that they have a perfect relationship with Him. Before they sinned, the point of contact between God and them was only love. God loved Adam and Eve, and His love motivated Him to bless them continuously. God and man walked and talked together in the Garden of Eden in a perfect environment, experiencing a perfect relationship, in perfect harmony with each other.

God then gave Adam a simple command!

“And the Lord God commanded the man saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you must not eat, for in the day (at the moment) that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:15-17)

The small phrase “shall surely die” is the strongest possible negative word that the language of that day could have used. God had said in effect, “Adam, if you choose to disobey Me, you shall surely, most positively, without a doubt, die.”

God may have said it this way: “Adam, this is a test. You must keep My command. If you do not, then you must pay the penalty that I have set. My word, and My character that stands behind it, is at stake here. If you do as I say, then I will be true to My word. But If you do not do what I tell you to do, then again I must be true to My word.”

Though God is a God of love, He is also a God of righteousness and judgment. God’s divine judgment in the event of Adam’s rebellion in the garden was firmly set. It was death and death only!

Justice Must Prevail

When Adam sinned, the point of contact between God and man immediately changed. It was as if God immediately placed the picture of the entire race on the wall with the word, “Wanted”!  The human race is in violation of God’s holiness! We have all been sentenced to death! Man’s sin violated God’s holiness and immediately set in motion the demand for His justice. Because the genetic blueprint for the entire human race was in Adam at the very moment of His sin, his death was passed on to all. We all sinned in Adam.

“Whereas by one man sin entered the world and death by sin, and so death passed on all men, for all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)

Every member of Adam’s race was indicted by God and sentenced to death.

“In Adam all die.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

“The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23)

This judgment of death had to be carried out. God’s word was at stake. God’s absolute righteousness was in the balance.

God’s Justice Forever Satisfied

God determined long before Adam and the human race sinned that He was going to take care of our sin problem. He had already prepared a Lamb to die (1 Pet. 1:20).

The Son of God born to the virgin Mary was in every way a perfect specimen. Because of His supernatural birth, He had not been contaminated with Adam’s sin. Because of His perfect life, He never committed a single act of sin.

God slipped out of His judicial robe as our judge and onto a Roman cross becoming our sin sacrifice. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, bore the judgment that was meant for us. The One who was always right became a substitutionary atonement for those who are wrong. The innocent became a substitute for the guilty.

“He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us . . .” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Here is the wonderful news of the gospel, which brings to light the righteousness of God. The gospel is the good news that God’s just judgment against our sin has forever been settled by the death of Jesus Christ. “Well”, one might say, “If this is true then heaven’s gates should now be opened for everyone, shouldn’t they?”

God will declare to be right before Him only those who believe in Him (Jn. 5:24).  God will not grant the righteousness necessary to enter heaven to anyone until it is received by personal faith.

“But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5)

“He that believes on Him is not condemned; but he that does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jn. 3:18)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (Jn. 5:24)

We could never do anything of ourselves to persuade God to be any more loving and just than He has already been in Jesus Christ. We cannot stop all of our bad habits, join a church, give our money, say prayers, nor anything at all to help satisfy God’s demand of death against us. God’s work of grace has been finished.

Yet many of us are still fugitives from justice, running from God simply because we have not believed in Jesus Christ. We are fugitives because we have not availed ourselves to God’s wonderful grace. Would you right now stop running and give yourself up by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ?