Our focus on the doctrine of justification has made it necessary for us to use a specialized theological vocabulary. As we noted yesterday, this technicality is often necessary in order to make sure that we rightly understand the teaching of Scripture and are able to answer those who misuse and misunderstand the Bible.
At the same time, all good technical theology is also good practical theology. As we conclude our study of the doctrine of justification over the next two days, we will note how this doctrine answers some of the practical issues and questions of the Christian life.
John Calvin once said that the remission of sins was the heart of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The word “remission” is made up of the word mission and the prefix re-. Mission is taken from the Latin word missio which means “to send.” The prefix re- means “away” or “again.” Thus, when we speak of the remission of sins we speak of the sending away of our sins.
In short, the doctrine of justification deals with the reality of our guilt. In justification, God declares us righteous based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. However, He also declares us not guilty of our sins because in justification, our sins are imputed to Jesus upon whom was poured the wrath of God. In Christ, our sins are sent away from us. Consequently, our guilt is removed, and we are made clean in the eyes of God.
This was the hope of every old-covenant believer. As today’s passage notes, the Lord promised that though the sins of His people be as scarlet, He would make them as white as snow. The use of the color scarlet indicates that even the vilest of sins would be forgiven, for just as God can make the darkest stain white, so too can He make the foulest sinner clean.
Two thousand years ago, the hope of Israel was fulfilled when Jesus bore the sins of His people on the cross. On that day, the wrath of God was poured out upon Him so that those who are in Christ might be cleansed. If you are in Christ you are no longer guilty of any transgression, and you have been forgiven of even the most heinous of sins.
How do you view yourself? Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner who is no longer guilty because of Christ? Or are you weighed down by guilt for the sins that you have committed? If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, you need not bear such guilt any longer. If you know Christ but struggle with guilt, ask Him to remind you that He forgives the truly repentant, and find other believers who will help to remind you of this.