On what basis can God declare us not guilty?

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). There you have it. We have all sinned. We are all guilty before God. And, because of our sin, we are all worthy of death. Not just physical death, but spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36). We are justly condemned for our sin, and the just punishment is quite severe.

But, Jesus Christ is our advocate (1 John 2:1). He is essentially our defense attorney. Jesus recognized our sin and its just penalty and decided to come to our defense. He offered Himself in our place. He took the punishment that we deserve (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He told the judge to punish Him instead, despite the fact that He had not sinned (1 Peter 1:18-19). If we place our trust in Him, our sins are forgiven and we are freed from the eternal consequences of our sins (Ephesians 1:7). In the language of the legal system, if you accept Jesus’ offer to be your defense attorney, you will be found not guilty. If anyone else is your defense attorney, you will be declared guilty (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

“But, how is this fair? How is this just? In what warped form of justice can a guilty man’s crimes be placed on an innocent man, with the result being the guilty man declared innocent? Further, since Jesus is God, and since God is the judge, doesn’t that make Jesus both the judge and the defense attorney (2 Timothy 4:1)? Talk about stacking the deck! This doesn’t sound like justice to me.”

God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Justice is an attribute of God. Justice is who God is. If some aspect of God’s plan appears to be unjust, it is our sense of justice that is warped, not God’s. Our sins are against God (Psalm 51:4). Our crime is against the Judge, and as the Judge, God is just in determining how our sins are paid for. The Law that was broken was God’s Law, so He is the only one who can determine how the breaking of His Law can be atoned for (Psalm 7:11).

How can God declare a guilty person innocent? How can God punish an innocent person for the sins of the guilty and then declare justice to be fulfilled? Simple—because He is God. He makes the rules. We live in His universe. We may not understand how His plan of salvation is just, but that is our failure, not His (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 9:20; 11:33-34).

In regards to the “deck being stacked,” if you were indeed guilty of a crime, and the consequences were severe, wouldn’t you want a defense attorney who has an “in” with the judge? Better yet, wouldn’t you want a defense attorney who is the judge? (There is obviously no space for a discussion on the Persons of the Trinity and their roles in salvation.) In a human courtroom, this would be a huge conflict of interest. In God’s courtroom, it is justice. Remember, God is the one who was wronged. Therefore, God is the only one who can declare how to make things right.

You can have a guaranteed “not guilty” verdict simply by accepting Jesus’ offer to be your defense attorney. God, the definition of justice, has declared His plan of salvation to be just (Romans 3:24-26). Accept it. Accept Jesus’ offer to be your defense attorney. You won’t regret it.

Legal verbiage aside, the Bible promises that if you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, trusting His sacrifice on the cross as the payment for your sins, you will be forgiven and promised an eternal home in Heaven (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). The Judge becomes your heavenly Father. The defense attorney becomes your Savior.

S. Michael Houdmann

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On what basis can God declare us not guilty?