So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16
Charles Wesley grew up in a preacher’s home. His mother included Bible readings and Scripture memorization in her children’s daily routine. At age 8, he was sent to live with his older brother Samuel, who continued Charles’ religious education. As a university student, Charles developed a rigid regimen of Bible study, prayer, and charitable activities. He even went to America as a missionary.
However, neither his spiritual disciplines nor his good works provided the peace he sought. He still felt chained by his sinfulness and unworthy of God’s love. At age 31, while he was recovering from an extended illness, he read Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians. That’s when Charles realized what “justification by faith alone” meant.
The Greek word for “justified” is dikaioo, which means “to declare, pronounce righteous.” It doesn’t mean “just as if I never sinned.” As Thayer’s Lexicon says, it “never means to make worthy, but to judge worthy or treat worthy.”*
The whole point of justification is that we cannot meet God’s standard of righteousness on our own. The weight of our sins (past, present, and future) will forever prevent us from balancing God’s scales of justice. Nothing we have ever done or could do is able to compensate for their weight. Only the magnitude of Christ’s sacrificial death could balance those scales, and nothing can ever unbalance them again.
When Charles Wesley grasped that truth, he expressed his joy in a hymn – “And Can It Be.” For the first time in his life, he could say, “I feel the Savior in my heart.” Stanza 6 is his shout of elation:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
The fact that our salvation depends on Christ alone should fill our hearts with overwhelming joy, too. I’ve sung Wesley’s words many times: “Amazing Love! How can it be that thou, my God shouldst die for me?” Am I truly amazed by the enormity of His sacrifice? Are you? If so, what are we doing to express our gratitude?
Psalm 32 is one of David’s hymns. It also celebrates the completeness of God’s forgiveness. What is his advice to those who want to experience the joy of forgiveness (vv. 5-7, 9-11)?
Romans 5:1-14 is Paul’s explanation of justification. How does he describe the process in verses 6-10? What benefits of justification does he list in verses 1-4?
Read Galatians 3:1-5. Why does Paul call the Galatians “foolish”? Have you ever made the mistake the Galatians were making? What enables us to live in a way that pleases God? (Read Galatians 2:20 too.)
To read all the lyrics of “And Can It Be,” go to http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/c/acanitbe.htm
Denise K. Loock
Note: This devotion appears in a slightly different form in Open Your Hymnal Again: Devotions That Harmonize Scripture With Song. Order a copy at http://tinyurl.com/cnf699n