How Can A Man Be Just With God?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

The question we have to consider together is, “How can a man be just with God?” How should a man be just with God? I think there is a need for emphasis upon this question today perhaps more than any other time because a great many people have their own ideas about relationships with God. There is much confusion in the thinking of people. I think that there is a need for a consideration of this question today because of what appears to me to be an unusual amount of familiarity with God.

I am not going to attempt to repeat the phrases with which you are familiar which indicate by and large that people do not have the reverence for God they ought to have. The question is found in Job, chapter 9, verse 1:

Job 9:

1 Then Job answered and said,
2 I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

You will notice that the writer of the book of Job stated Job's question with the words, “Then Job answered and said.” That indicates that there was a reason for Job's question, “How should a man be just with God?”. Why did Job ask that question anyway? Let us remember that Job had been suffering at the hand of Satan exceedingly, so much so that he cursed the day of his birth and wished that he had died the moment he came from his mother's womb. He was bitter; he was confused, and he said, “If I could die now, all of my problems would be over.”

Bildad, one of the three friends of Job, reasoned with him and said, “Job, you are aware, are you not, that the reason you are going through these trials is that you are a wicked sinner?” The way he stated it is brought to our attention in chapter 8, verse 6, when Bildad said:

Job 8:

6 If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
7 Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.

What Bildad was saying was, “Job, the trouble is with you. You are a sinner; you are not pure; you are wicked. If you were pure, if you were just, if you were righteous, God would cease all of these trials through which you are going and would give you much more than you ever dreamed He could.”

Notice Job's answer in chapter 9, verse 2: “That's right,” he said, “I agree with everything you are saying. I know it is so of a truth, but tell me this: How should a man be just with God? I will agree I ought to be righteous. I will agree I ought to be pure, but tell me how.”

Turn with me in your Bible to Job, chapter 25, for Bildad, who gave such advice, faced the question himself in regard to another comment. In verse 1, we read:

Job 25:

1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
2 Dominion and fear are with him, [that is, God] he maketh peace in his high places.
3 Is there any number of his armies? and upon whom doth not his light arise?
4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?
5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight.
6 How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?

Interesting, isn't it? When we look upon the problem of others and when we tend to sit in judgment upon the spiritual condition of others, we have the answer. Bildad said, “Job, I know what's wrong with you. Get right with God,” and Job said, “Tell me how.” Then later Bildad, recognizing this problem for what it was, said, “You know, I don't really know. How can a man be justified with God?”

Then he thought about God's overall supervision of the whole world, and he considered the fact that the very heavens hide themselves, figuratively speaking, from the holiness of God, and Bildad said: “If that is true, how can a man be justifed with God? How can a man who is a worm ever be able to have any contact with God?”

Pause for a moment. Though it is not in the main body of the message, I want to suggest that we should think carefully about the undue familiarity with God that is expressed in language and song in this generation in which we live. That sort of thing has always bothered me, and when I read passages of Scripture such as this, I am convicted that even though those of us who may not go to the lengths that many go in regard to being too familiar with God, we are not as reverent as we ought to be.

Let's pause for a moment. I repeat again, though it is not in the main body of the message, what is your attitude during the time of prayer? We are in the throne room of Heaven when we pray. Yet how often we spend our time letting our thoughts roam from everything except the thing that is being mentioned. How often are we even irreverent in action as well?

We are going to leave that thought because we must get on with the question, “How can a man be just with God?” We have already hinted at something that you know to be true. There is a problem. There must be a problem. If Job did not know quite how to do it, if Bildad did not know how to do it, then it would follow that most people do not know how to do it. Many of you, most of you, perhaps all of you have sat under the Word of God here at Abilene Bible Church long enough to have the theological answer to the question, “How should a man be just with God?” But as we consider this question today, I would like for you to examine your own heart in the light of the Word of God to see what you are resting on for your acceptance before the Holy God of Heaven.

Born With a Sinful Nature

If this is new truth to you, then I beg of you to listen carefully, for this is a most important question that must be answered; and the problem related to it must be solved. The first problem concerning the question was mentioned by Bildad in chapter 25, when he said:

Job 25:

4 How then can man be justified with God? [notice] or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?

There is the first problem. Man is born of a woman and because man is born of a woman, he has a problem in being acceptable to God. Before you get alarmed in these days when it is very, very difficult to even quote Scripture without upsetting somebody because of the undue emphasis upon the rights of women, what the passage of Scripture is referring to is the fact that you and I are born in human flesh with a human nature. It is clarified somewhat for us in Psalm 51. You will recognize Psalm 51 as being the prayer that David prayed in connection with his sins of adultery and murder and falsehood. In Psalm 51, verse 5, David said:

Psalm 51:

5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

That is what Bildad meant when he said, “We have a problem.” We men, women, boys and girls—every human being—is born of a woman. We are born depraved. We are born with a sinful nature. We are born with a carnal nature. We are born with an inclination toward evil that overrides any inclination toward good that we might have. The Psalmist makes it even clearer in Psalm 58, verse 3, when he says:

Psalm 58:

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Do you realize what that is saying? You don't wait until you get to be a great, big boy and do something evil. It is the nature of human flesh to go stray from righteousness as soon as we are born. Human flesh, human beings, tend toward evil.

Think now what we are doing. We are considering the problem that there is in being just with God. How can a man who is born with a sinful nature be just with God? How can a man who goes astray from the womb as soon as he is born be just with God? How can a man who is born into the world condemned be just with God?

Turn to the New Testament to the book of Romans, chapter 5, where the Apostle Paul, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, sums up all of these truths we have been examining in the Word of God in one simple statement that answers forever the question of why there is a problem in man's being in contact with God. In Romans, chapter 5, verse 12, we read:

Romans 5:

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Here is a simple statement of fact. I would not be presumptuous and say that it can be clearly understood. It must be accepted because it is the plain declaration of the Word of God and what it says is simply this: When Adam sinned (He is the federal head of the human race.), the whole human race was brought under the curse of sin. One of the proofs of that is there has never been anyone ever born into this world who has not died. Death passes upon all men. Death is the eternal reminder of the fact that we are all sinners. Then the Apostle says, by virtue of the fact that we all sinned in Adam, we have all sinned.

Do you see the problem? How can a man be just with God? Before a man can be just with God, before a man can be right with God, before a man can be accepted by God, this problem that we have before us has to be solved. We need to give some thought to dealing with the problem because if we don't deal with it, the human race is eternally lost; and men will not know how to be just with God.

In thinking of dealing with the problem, I am thinking of the efforts of men, and of course, I think you will agree with me. There is a feeling of hopelessness. Here is God way up here, Holy of holies. Here is man way down here, the most sinful of the sinful. A man, when he considers the idea of being in contact with God in that condition, is overwhelmed with the feeling of hopelessness. Perhaps men don't think as deeply as Job thought, but when Job considered this question, he was overwhelmed with this feeling of hopelessness. He expressed it so well in Job, chapter 9, verses 30-33, when he said:

Job 9:

30 If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
31 Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.

Pause for a moment. Think of the contrast. In Job's day, there was not anything more pure than water which came from melted snow. “Take the purest water there is and wash my hands so that they will be cleaner than they have ever been cleaned in all my life. What happens? You might as well throw me in a ditch and tell me to take a bath in the dirty water and come out where I can't even stand as well as you the stench of my being, to the degree that even my clothes feel too clean to be upon my body.”

Is there anything more expressive than that? Why did Job feel that way? Look at verse 32:

Job 9:

32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.

There it is. “He is different than I am. There is no way that I can talk to Him. There is no way that I can meet Him on His own level.” Then in verse 33, my, how hopeless Job felt when he said:

Job 9:

33 Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

A better word for the word daysman here would be mediator —a go between. “Here is God way up here. Here am I way down here, and there is nobody,” Job says, “that can reach up and touch God and reach down and touch me—nobody, nobody. I feel utterly hopeless.”

Even though man is born with a carnal nature, a depraved nature, a nature of greater tendency toward evil than toward good, man is also born with a longing for God. That is the reason nearly every, and perhaps I could say every, people in the world has some kind of deity. It may be a stick, but it is something that they feel they must reach out toward because they were born with that longing for God. Because men are born with that longing for God, they make an effort to be just. They make an effort to find the answer to this question through the performance of good deeds, and we are not going to take the time today to list all of the good deeds that men might try to perform in order to be just with God; but we call to your attention what is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, a parable known to you as the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. You find, beginning with verse 9:

Luke 18:

9 And he [the Lord Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The emphasis at the moment lies with the attitude of the Pharisee. Did you notice he considered himself to be a righteous man? He considered himself to be just. He considered himself to be accepted before God. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ said that He spoke this parable for those who felt that they were just, who felt that they were righteous, who felt that they were all right with God. Do you notice what this man based his justification upon? Everything that he did in the way of good deeds. Some of them with a religious emphasis, some of them not, but his claim to righteousness was, “I do this; I do this. That makes me righteous.”

I repeat to you that men, in attempting to solve the problem, have attempted to solve the problem by the performance of good deeds; and they have failed because the Lord Jesus Christ said that this particular man was as unrighteous before God as he was when he started out with those good deeds.

Religious Observances

There is another effort that man makes in order to be just before God. I have summed them up under the term religious observances . Turn with me, please, to the book of Micah, that little Old Testament prophet that sometimes you don't read from very much because you don't think there is much there. Micah, chapter 6, verse 6:

Micah 6:

6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

The religious observances that Micah is speaking about here were religious observances that were observed in Israel and out of Israel—burnt offerings, rams, offerings of oil. Oh yes, he indicates his realization that things weren't going too well because you notice he spoke of thousands of rivers of oil. Yet, if you are familiar with the observances for Israel, a little vial of oil in the worship service was all that was necessary, but he said, “If I give thousands of rivers of oil, does it do me any good?” Then he spoke of those who lived around him who offered their children as sacrifices to the fire god and he said, “Shall I give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Will this make me just before God?” Then verse 8, though it must be interpreted in the light of the Gospel in the New Testament, it puts the emphasis on the fact that it is not effort; it is not religious observances; it is the condition of the heart that makes a man acceptable before God because in verse 8, we read:

Micah 6:

8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

I say this must be interpreted in the light of the New Testament because if you, without recognition of the part that the Lord Jesus Christ plays in our satisfaction before God, attempt to do justly and be merciful and to be humble, it won't work. You would wind up a sinner who had done the best that he knew how, but was lost and eternally condemned before God.

Turn with me, please, to Psalm 51, again and notice in the same portion of the Word where David was speaking concerning the sins to which I have already referred. He came to the realization that religious observances are not going to make a man just before God. In verse 16, he said:

Psalm 51:

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Speaking of Israel's methods of worship, he said, “I know that sacrifices and burnt offerings in themselves are not what You desire. If they were, then I would be satisfied with the simple, outward religious observance, but rather,” he said in verse 17:

Psalm 51:

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

A broken and a contrite heart will put man in a position where he can recognize that religious observances do not make a man just before God. May we pause just a moment and examine our hearts before the Lord? What are you depending on for your acceptance before God? Are you depending on the fact that you made a public profession of faith? Are you depending upon the fact that you have been baptized? Are you depending upon the fact that you are faithful in your attendance in the services of the church? Are you depending upon the fact that you read your Bible faithfully and pray diligently? What are you depending upon this moment to guarantee the answer to the question, “How shall a man be just before God?”

Keeping the Law

I have one other suggestion that I want to leave with you concerning the efforts of man to solve the problem, and it is a familiar suggestion. I refer to it in the words keeping the law . Individuals who have a deep desire to be just before God make every effort they can to keep the law. When I am using the phrase, keeping the law , as I use it here today, I am thinking about the Ten Commandments because basically that is what the Spirit of God had in mind when He said that men would make an effort to be acceptable before God by keeping the Ten Commandments.

I ask you to turn to Romans, chapter 3, and notice in verse 19 these convicting words:

Romans 3:

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

What is he saying? He said: “Here is a fact that you have to recognize, that whatever the law says is binding upon every individual who puts himself under the law.” And why? So, that he might be justified before God? No. “So that every mouth might be stopped and the whole world become guilty before God.” Any man who chooses the law as a means of being just before God is silenced and is guilty before God. Why? Look at verse 20:

Romans 3:

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

What is the purpose of the Ten Commandments? Are they something you can do to make you just before God, something you can do to make you righteous before God? No. The law was meant to show you what a sinner you are, and hear me today, if you are an individual who believes you ought to keep the Ten Commandments in order to be saved, you have a misconception about what the Word of God says about the law. It is meant to tell you that you are a sinner. Turn with me to the epistle of James, chapter 2, for a very practical reason the effort to solve the problem we are thinking about today cannot be done through the keeping of the law, for in verse 10, we read:

James 2:

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

Let those words sink in. They are familiar to a great many of us, but in the light of that familiarity, do we realize how serious they are? Do you realize what the Word of God is saying? It is saying that if by some means you could keep nine of the ten commandments (not likely, but if by some means you could) and broke only one, as far as God is concerned, you have broken all of them.

My, how that should shut our mouths before God about our righteousness! Permit this aside, though it is good to make the point: How this should shut our mouths in our criticism of other Christians. How we ought to ask God to forgive us for every critical thing we have ever said about other believers when we read in this portion of the Word of God that if we break one of the Ten Commandments, we are guilty of breaking them all.

You might be horrified today if you found out someone thought you were an adulterer. You would be horrified; you would be indignant; you would say, “Well, the worst that I have ever done is to lie.” Do you get the point? God said, “As far as I am concerned, you might as well commit adultery for the law condemns if you break even one point.”

If I had to stop my discussion here, we would all have to leave in a hopeless condition. Particularly would this be true if we had never had any teaching from the Word of God. The solemnity of this question is emphasized when I say to you that all of the efforts that man has ever thought about making to justify himself before God has failed. Therefore, it became necessary for God to make provision—and this is vitally important—for God's provision must be understood and God's provision must be accepted if we are ever to be just before God. That is the reason David said that a broken and a contrite heart and Micah said a humble spirit is what makes us right before God. Hear me today and hear me well: God's provision does not include anything that you do. God's provision does not include anything that you can do. Nothing that you can do will enter into God's provision. It is all His and is related to One Man.

Do you remember what we read in Romans, chapter 5, earlier in our remarks? Notice verse 12:

Romans 5:

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Then notice on down in verse 18:

Romans 5:

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation [That is what we just read there in verse 12. Judgment, condemnation came upon all men because of one man's sin.] ; even so [Here is God's provision.] by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Here is the good news today. The provision that God made is in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—no other provision, no partial provision, a complete provision made in Jesus Christ. Remember what Job said. “I feel so hopeless. I feel so out of it because God is up there and I am down here. There is nobody who can reach out and touch God and reach down and touch me.”

Listen, Job. Listen, all men who have that hopelessness in their hearts. There is a Daysman; there is a Mediator; there is a Man who can solve the problem. That Man is Christ Jesus.

Aspects of God's Provision

In the few minutes I have remaining I want to remind you that there are several aspects of this provision through the Lord Jesus Christ. Look in Romans, chapter 5, and notice verses 8-9:

Romans 5:

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Did you get that? Yes, our justification is in the Lord Jesus Christ, but in that provision was the blood of Christ, for there is nothing that has met the demands of God for the penalty of sin but the blood of His only Begotten Son. No matter what you may think, no matter what you may do today to be pleasing to God, if you do not have the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as an integral part of your assurance of salvation, you still are in a hopeless condition.

Titus, chapter 3, verses 5-7, another aspect in God's provision of salvation in and through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember the words:

Titus 3:

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7 [Listen carefully now.] That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Why must we emphasize the blood? Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. Why must we emphasize grace? Because it is not of the works of righteousness, it is solely by God's grace.

One other thought I would leave with you and that is brought to our attention in the experience of an Old Testament saint, which the Spirit of God said was recorded in the Word of God for our instruction in Romans, chapter 4, verse 23. There has been discussion in the chapter concerning Abraham's believing what God said about the provision. Because Abraham believed that, it was counted to him for righteousness. He was made just before God and so we read:

Romans 4:

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Conclusion

How should a man be just before God? How should a man be right with God? How can a man be right with God? By giving up every effort at self-righteousness, and believing that what the Lord Jesus Christ did on the Cross is sufficient to make you acceptable to God.


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