The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Pastor Jim Nichols
Sidney Seventh-day Adventist Church 

Guilty, yet acquitted

 


“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying, ‘Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Revelation 14:6, 7) With Christianity’s focus today on the Life, Death, and Resurrection ministry of Jesus, how are these truths of the Gospel and the Judgment woven together in the saving ministry of Jesus?

On August 18, 1956, James Fulton Foster was condemned in the Jackson County Courthouse, Georgia, for a murder he did not commit. He had a good alibi, but because he was too close to the scene of the crime and had a past criminal record, he became the prime suspect. When James was ushered into the presence of the emotionally distraught widow, without a lineup process, she immediately pointed the finger to him and said, “That’s the one. He is the killer!” Because the police and the people felt they needed a quick solution, they arrested and charged him and prosecuted him in court. When the jury announced the verdict of guilty, the judge pronounced the sentence. James Foster was to die between the hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00PM September 17, 1956. There were delays and appeals to postpone the execution. James Wood, Mr. Foster’s lawyer, worked night and day to find sufficient evidence to free his client. On July 4, 1958, over two years later, Charles Rothchild, the real killer, finally confessed that he had shot the victim. James Foster, an innocent man, was found guilty by his peers, sentenced to death, yet cleared and acquitted of all charges and set free.

How do you feel about some of the injustice that occurs in our legal system? We are disturbed to know that an innocent person is condemned falsely and suffers for something they didn’t do. And if we are really honest with ourselves, it bothers us even more, when a guilty person is acquitted or set free. Well, let me drop a spiritual bomb on our thinking and feelings, as we consider the reality of solving the sin problem in God’s courtroom. In God’s court system, all persons are considered guilty before they even enter the courtroom; an innocent man is found guilty and suffers the death penalty for the wrongs of all mankind; and all guilty believers are acquitted and set free! God acquits the guilty! How could this be possible? Well, another high profile case, long ago, gives us the answer.

In the Spring of 31 A.D., an innocent man was condemned to death for a crime he did not commit. He had a good alibi, witnesses and evidence to clear his record and justify his actions. But, he was too close the scene of the crime and his past record of associations caused him to have a questionable character. He became the prime suspect and was ushered into presence of the judge and emotionally distraught jury. The local leaders felt they needed a quick solution and they were ready to accuse this man. The people pointed to him and said “He’s the one who is causing all this trouble,” and declared their desire, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” The judge pronounced the sentence; he was to die by crucifixion, with no postponements, no delays, and no appeals. It seems like this was an injustice, but it was all in the Father’s plan of Salvation.

I believe God had at least 3 options to litigate the problem of sin. 1. God could be all just, letting the wages of sin go its natural course, resulting in death for all mankind. Or, 2. God could choose to be all merciful and just give every sinner another chance. But sin has changed us, never to be the same again, so choosing this option would only perpetuate sin for eternity. Therefore, the only real solution to the sin problem is Option No. 3; God taking upon himself the penalty of sin through the life, death, and resurrection ministry of Jesus Christ, as a substitute for every person. God chose Option No. 3! “God, (the Father) was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;…For he made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) “For God (the Father) so loved the world (you and me) that he gave his only-begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Option No. 3 is believing in Jesus as our Substitute and Savior, and accepting the pardoning grace of God. Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had not share. He suffered the death that was ours, that we might receive the life which was his. “With His stripes we are healed.” This is God’s Gift of Amazing Grace.

 

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