Define Justification – A Big Word With Big Implications
You can’t sit in church too long or attempt to read through the epistles in the New Testament without running into the word “justification.” Paul especially liked throwing out big theological terms that might be a little foreign to us at first glance. How do we define justification and what does it mean in our relationship with God?
Justification is a pretty easy concept to understand, but its implications are so huge that most believers spend their lifetimes growing to understand it more and more. Being justified speaks of being declared or pronounced legally righteous.
In a court of law, if a judge declares someone on trial “not guilty” that means they’re justified. In the eyes of the law, nothing can be held against them or is punishable. So for the Christian, when we define justification we mean that in God’s courtroom, regardless of what we’ve felt, thought, or done, we’ve been declared officially righteous.
Why Is Justification So Important?
It’s easy to academically define justification without really delving into what it actually accomplishes for us. You see because God is holy, He can only do what is right, fair, and just. Although He loves all men, He cannot and will not compromise his standard of perfection for any man. Initially, this puts us in a clearly impossible situation.
We’re totally sinful, He is completely sinless. We’re fallen and wracked with unworthiness, He is perfect, righteous, and uncompromising. The two can’t mix.
It would seem we’re doomed to wallow and die in our shame, since the only One who can save us is so far removed.
But that’s where the love of God comes in. He cannot abide sin, yet He wants to have a relationship with sinful man. We cannot produce the righteousness He requires, yet He is everything we need. And so God designed an alternative by which He could take our guilt and replace it with pure righteousness.
Justification Comes Through Christ Alone
Salvation begins and ends with Jesus Christ. It is through Him that God planned, even before the world began, to justify and cleanse us so that we could enter into His presence. By pouring out sin’s appropriate punishment on Jesus, God could justly deal with sin without having to condemn us to separation from Him forever. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus, who was sinless, to actually be sin, and then poured out all of His wrath towards all sin past, present, and future, on Him at the cross.
Not only did Jesus take our punishment, but God also accomplished our justification by assigning Jesus’s righteousness to anyone who believes in Him. He both took our wrong and gave us His right.
Facts About Justification
If you’re a believer, God has justified you. But it’s not enough to just define justification, we need to know the set in stone truths about it. Here are the immovable facts about justification:
-It’s based on the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
-It is a free gift given by God because He is gracious
-It is not by works of the law (Acts 13:39)
-It is received by faith
-It happens at a certain point in time (Romans 4:3)
-It is for the ungodly (all of us!)
-It makes us as righteous before God, positionally, as we will ever be
-It takes away all condemnation for sins
-It defeats our need to work for acceptance and love (Ephesians 1:6)
-It results in security – those justified will no longer be guilty, will be saved from future punishment, and can be certain of sanctification and future glorification (Romans 5:9, 8:30)
-It completely removes us from all legal and eternal punishment
-It does NOT remove us from God responding to our sin in this life or from Him disciplining us as His children.
Justification – The Kindness of God
When we define justification, we see a beautiful picture of God’s character. He is kind, He is merciful, He is seeking our redemption against all odds. Though it cost Him the life of His Son, His only Son, he would not leave us condemned beneath the legal demands of sin.
“Indeed this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world – namely, that a righteousness that resides with a Person in heaven should justify me, a sinner on earth.”
God’s gift of justification is amazing, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. God doesn’t stop at the miracle of declaring us righteous. He goes on to sanctify and glorify us, as we will explore in later posts. Let the beauty and mystery of justification draw you deeper into knowing the God who gave His all to be close to you.
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Anna Wishart is a graduate of Ethnos360 Bible Institute and continues to seek ways to be involved with missions through writing. She currently lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys biking, art, friends, the mountain views, and attending Fellowship Bible Church.