This follows upon our regeneration which is evidenced by evangelical repentance and unfeigned faith. Every soul that truly puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is then and there saved from the penalty--the guilt, the wages, the punishment--of sin. When the apostle said to the penitent jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," he signified that all his sins would be remitted by God; just as when the Lord said to the poor woman, "thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace" (Luke 7:50). He meant that all her sins were now forgiven her, for forgiveness has to do with the criminality and punishment of sin. To the same effect when we read "by grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8), it is to be understood the Lord has actually "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10).
This aspect of our salvation is to be contemplated from two separate viewpoints: the Divine and the human. The Divine side of it is found in the mediatorial office and work of Christ, who as the Sponsor and Surety of His people met the requirements of the law on their behalf, working out for them a perfect righteousness and enduring Himself the curse and condemnation which are due them, consummated at the Cross. It was there that He was "wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5). It was there that He, judicially, "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24). It was there that He was "smitten of God and afflicted" while He was making atonement for the offenses of His people. Because Christ suffered in my stead, I go free; because He died, I live; because He was forsaken of God, I am reconciled to Him. This is the great marvel of grace, which will evoke ceaseless praise from the redeemed throughout eternity.
The human side of our salvation from the penalty of sin respects our repentance and faith. Though these possess no merits whatever, and though they in no sense purchase our pardon, yet according to the order which God has appointed, they are (instrumentally) essential, for salvation does not become ours experimentally until they are exercised. Repentance is the hand releasing those filthy objects it had previously clung to so tenaciously; faith is extending an empty hand to God to receive His gift of grace. Repentance is a godly sorrow for sin; faith is receiving a sinner s Saviour. Repentance is a revulsion of the filth and pollution of sin; faith is a seeking of cleansing therefrom. Repentance is the sinner covering his mouth and crying, "Unclean, unclean!"; faith is the leper coming to Christ and saying, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean."
So far from repentance and faith being meritorious graces, they are self-emptying ones. The one who truly repents takes his place as a lost sinner before God, confessing himself to be a guilty wretch deserving naught but unsparing judgment at the hands of Divine justice. Faith looks away from corrupt and ruined self, and views the amazing provision which God has made for such a Hell-deserving creature. Faith lays hold of the Son of God's love, as a drowning man clutches at a passing spar. Faith surrenders to the Lordship of Christ, rests upon the merits and efficacy of His sacrifice, his sins are removed from God's sight "as far as the east is from the west": he is now eternally saved from the wrath to come.
We cannot do better here than quote these sublime lines of Augustus Toplady:
From whence this fear and unbelief? Hast Thou, O Father, put to grief Thy spotless Son for me? And will the righteous Judge of men Condemn me for that debt of sin Which, Lord, was laid on Thee? If Thou hast my discharge procured, And freely in my place endured The whole of wrath Divine; Payment God cannot twice demand First at my bleeding Surety's hand, And then again at mine. Complete atonement Thou hast made, And to the utmost farthing paid, What e'er Thy people owed; How then can wrath on me take place, If sheltered in Thy righteousness, And sprinkled with Thy blood? Turn, then, my soul, unto thy rest, The merits of thy great High Priest Speak peace and liberty. Trust in His efficacious blood, Nor fear thy banishment from God, Since Jesus died for thee.
While deliverance from the love of sin has to do entirely with the experimental side of our salvation, remission of the penalty of sin concerns the legal aspect only, or in other words, the believer's justification. Justification is a forensic term and has to do with the law-courts, for it is the decision or verdict of the judge. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. Condemnation means that a man has been charged with a crime, his guilt is established, and accordingly the law pronounces upon him sentence of punishment. On the contrary, justification means that the accused is found to be guiltless, the law has nothing against him, and therefore he is acquitted and exonerated, leaving the court without a stain upon his character. When we read in Scripture that believers are "justified from all things" (Acts 13:39), it signifies that their case has been tried in the high court of Heaven and that God, the Judge of all the earth, has acquitted them: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).
But to be without condemnation is only the negative side: justification means to declare or pronounce righteous, up to the Law's requirements. Justification implies that the Law has been fulfilled, obeyed, magnified, for nothing short of this would meet the just demands of God. Hence, as His people, fallen in Adam, were unable to measure up to the Divine standard, God appointed that His own Son should become incarnate, be the Surety of His people, and answer the demands of the Law in their stead. Here, then, is the sufficient answer which may be made to the two objections which unbelief is ready to raise: how can God acquit the guilty? How can He declare righteous one who is devoid of righteousness? Bring in the Lord Jesus Christ and all difficulty disappears. The guilt of our sins was imputed or legally transferred to Him, so that He suffered the full penalty of what was due them; the merits of His obedience are imputed or legally transferred to us, so that we stand before God in all the acceptableness of our Sponsor (Rom. 5:18, 19; 2 Cor. 5:21, etc.). Not only has the Law nothing against us, but we are entitled to its reward.