I COME today to speak about the specific surprise that is contained in the Word “just.” I John 1.9. To lay this out before you, I. I shall show that the Scripture frequently ties GOD'S Forgiveness of sins to GOD'S Mercy. II. The specific surprise that is contained in the Word “just.”
I. The Scripture frequently ties GOD'S Forgiveness of sins to GOD'S Mercy. In the Scripture, one work that is often done is GOD'S Forgiveness is tied to GOD'S Mercy. In Exodus 34.6,7: “And the Lord proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” In these Words, two times GOD speaks about His Mercy. Then after speaking about His Mercy, GOD demonstrates it. He says He forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin.” In Nehemiah 9.17: “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful.” In the Words, GOD not only says He “pardons.” He says He is “ready to pardon.” And why? For one thing, He is said to be “merciful.” In Hebrews 8.12, GOD says: “I will be merciful.” How so? GOD goes on to say: “I will be merciful, and their sins will I remember no more.”
This is the way it is in the Scripture. All throughout Scripture, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, GOD'S Forgiveness is frequently tied to GOD'S Mercy. The thinking is if GOD did not have Mercy, there would be no Forgiveness. Since GOD has Mercy, there is Forgiveness. Which points to the Fact that in GOD dwells a sea of Divine Mercy. It is up from this fountain that Forgiveness springs. Down through the years, in human thinking, this Truth has been largely understood and accepted. In Luke 18.13, the Publican prayed: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” In the Prayer, as the Publican turned to GOD, down in his mind, he knew that GOD'S Forgiveness is tied to GOD'S Mercy. And so it often has been. This has been a common belief in this world. This Truth has shined in Hymns, Books, Sermons, and Prayers.
II. The specific surprise that is contained in the Word “just.” Since the Scripture frequently ties GOD'S Forgiveness to GOD'S Mercy and since this Truth has been largely understood and accepted in human thinking, the appearance of the Word “just” in the Text and how the Word is used brings surprise. How would you think the Text would read? At first, the Text might be expected to read: “If we confess our sins, He is merciful to forgive us our sins.” But this is not the way GOD said it. The way GOD said it is: “If we confess our sins, He is just to forgive us our sins.” As I showed before, it is not hard to grasp that GOD'S Forgiveness comes from His Mercy. Such a belief has been common in this world. But to have GOD'S Forgiveness here tied to the Fact that “God is just,” this Fact would seem rather to block the Forgiveness of sins than promote it.
What should be done in such a difficult case? There are three things. 1. It ought to be remembered that this is Scripture. 2. Prayer should be used. 3. The simplest Truth should be deduced from the Word in question.
Now consider. 1. It ought to be remembered that this is Scripture. Is our Text part of Scripture? Down through the years, Christians have commonly accepted the Words in our Text as part of Scripture. This Fact, then, ought to be fixed and unshakable in the mind. For what does the human mind tend to do? Too oftentimes, what the mind cannot make sense of, it rejects. But here is nothing worthy of rejection, though in the beginning it seems not to make sense. Therefore when difficulty comes in the study of Scripture, the first point of direction is remember that it is the Scripture that is being studied. The Old Book deserves faith. And if the hard Word is not swiftly understood, there must be patience. For after all, these are the deepest things in the world.
2. Prayer should be used. When the Prophet Daniel had difficulty in understanding Scripture, what did he do? He tells us in Daniel 9.3. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer.” This is what the Prophet did when he came to hard Words in Scripture. He prayed. His expression is that he “sought” the answer “by prayer.” Which shows when things in the Scripture were difficult to the Prophet, he did not quit the Scripture. He did not start doubting GOD. Instead, the difficulty led him to Prayer. Here is sound advice. In the study of Scripture, when there is difficulty, there should be Prayer. It is GOD Who gave the Scripture. Surely, GOD knows what the Words mean. Therefore the Best Person to consult for the understanding of Scripture is GOD Himself. Ephesians 1.18 says GOD is able to open “the eyes of the understanding.”
3. The simplest Truth should be deduced from the Word in question. In our material world, how does GOD give light? From day to day, in the morning, GOD does not give light suddenly. GOD gives light by degrees. First there is sunrise. Then the sun shines more and more. And very often, in the spiritual, this is how GOD works. GOD gives Light by degrees. In Proverbs 4.18: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Therefore when you come to a hard Word in Scripture, seek to see the Light by degrees. Don't try to see everything at once. A good place to start is to identify the simplest Truth the Word in question is saying. Thus in humility and in simplicity the Truth is seen. By reflection and practice, the Truth will grow.
And what is the simplest Truth that may be learned from the Word “just?” “He is just to forgive us our sins.” The simplest Truth is GOD here declares that He will not only “forgive sins,” but He will be “just” in the Forgiveness of sins. This is a resplendent token of the Divine Wisdom. For when GOD takes care of His own Justice in Forgiveness, He glorifies Himself. In such a Forgiveness, not only His Mercy, but even His Justice shines. This is full of wonder. Furthermore, in this instance, GOD provides for the conscience. If GOD were only Merciful and not Just also, the conscience would find no rest in such a Forgiveness. The conscience would still fear GOD'S Justice against sin. But when conscience sees that GOD is both Merciful and Just in Forgiveness, conscience finds here the perfect place of rest. Amen.
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