How To Biblically Define Justification

How To Biblically Define Justification

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.”

-John Bunyan

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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What Is The Gospel?

What Is The Gospel?

“Christianese” is a real thing, am I right? As a Christian kid being raised in a Christian home going to a private Christian school with multiple church events each week, I knew the language. I heard the word “gospel” about a gazillion times growing up. But honestly, for most of my life I wouldn’t have been able to clearly define it. It was a word so common that I didn’t have to stop and think about it. “Gospel” was an overused word that I stuck into the same mental category as “grace”, “justification”, “glorification”, and other Christian lingo that I understood enough to spit back correct answers, but whose deep meanings were lost on me.

If someone had asked me “What is the gospel?” I probably wouldn’t have given a very clear and concise answer. I’d imagine lots of people who have spent time in and around Christian circles are in the same boat.

What Is The Gospel?

One thing I love about God’s truths is that though they’re deep, magnificent, crazy good, profound, and life-changing realities, they’re also able to be understood when we break them down. Think about it – even a child can understand God’s Word. His truths hold something for each one of us where we’re at, no matter our age or maturity. Whether you’re hearing the word “gospel” for the first time or reviewing it again after many years of familiarity, there is something here for you.

So what is the gospel? Simply stated, it just means “good news”, and it’s the good news about Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection.

What’s So Good About the Good News?

While the basic explanation of the gospel is pretty simple, when we dig deeper, it continually unfolds with more grace, more blessing, and more goodness. When Christ died and was raised again by the power of the Holy Spirit, he accomplished full salvation for all who believe. And the reality of this full salvation gets sweeter and sweeter the more we learn about what all it entails. When we ask “what is the gospel?”, we need to delve into what it means that Christ saved us from eternal separation from God. This is the worst possible scenario for human beings created to have fellowship with their Creator. In place of that agony, he gave us:

-Substitution: The just (Christ) took the punishment of the unjust (us)
-Reconciliation: We’re brought back into fellowship with God
-Redemption: Bought out of slavery to darkness and brought into God’s light
-Identification: Unified with Christ – dead to sin and resurrected again to righteousness!
-Sanctification: Set apart as holy, and free from sin’s power
-Peace with God: The Father holds nothing against us anymore
-Adoption: Placed into God’s family with all the rights of a legitimate child
-Glorification: God will transform our bodies and free us from this body of death that lives in a broken world.

And this is just scratching the surface of all the spiritual blessings Christ achieved for us. All of these gifts are really, really good. So good we can’t even comprehend them. So good we didn’t even know we needed them. So good we’ll spend all our lives as believers exploring their implications with our God. But the key to the beginning of grasping it all is understanding why Christ had to provide those things for us in the first place, and it’s because we are hopelessly needy.

Our Neediness is the Foundation of the Gospel

It might not be easy to look in the mirror and admit that we are poor, weak, broken, sinful, needy people, but dealing in reality is the first step to understanding the good news. What is the gospel but the answer to an insurmountable issue? If we still think we can fix, heal, or make our hearts and lives better, we’re not ready to understand it. Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who are spiritually poor, spiritually have nothing, are the perfect candidates for the good news.

It is when we become desperately aware of our need that we become hungry for what only God can provide – hope. Salvation. The gospel.

He holds out to us everything we need and which we could never get anywhere else but at the foot of the tree that Jesus died upon.

The Gospel Is God’s Provision

The gospel is bread to starving souls.
The gospel is healing to the mortally ill.
The gospel is the lifeline to the drowning.
The gospel is light in the darkness.
The gospel is the answer to every question.
The gospel is God’s heart to mankind.

As you can see, the gospel does initially have a simple explanation, but the more we discuss it, the greater this news becomes. Or rather, we just begin to understand more and more that it is greater than we first realized.

God’s provision for us in the gospel is complete, victorious, and the greatest expression of His love to us. Instead of turning his back on needy sinners, God sent His son to pay the price for their wrongs and lavished on them every blessing possible. Next time someone asks or you wonder “what is the gospel?”, start with the basics – Jesus died to save sinners.

But prepare to be amazed by the profound depths of where that simple truth will lead you.

Soteriology: The Rich Theology Of The Christian Faith

soteriology-the-rich-theology-of-the-christian-faith

Life has a funny way of reminding us just how inadequate we are. Of how much we need help outside of ourselves, and of how frail we are. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically – at some point and in some way every person alive comes to realize they need saving. We might not admit it in such blatant terms, of course, but self-help books, self-care regimens, counselors, social media, friends, food, sex, and more can all have something in common – we go to them looking for something. We want answers for our questions, distractions from pain, solutions to problems, and pleasure in the midst of hurt. All these things aren’t bad of course – they’re good! But if we’re honest, they don’t give us all that we seek. They can’t save us from this life, from this world, from ourselves. And salvation is what we need. When we have moments of realizing it, where will we go?

Soteriology is the study of salvation – where it comes from, who can offer it, and what we need to be saved from.

Soteriology Is A Must For Us All

“God saved us..He’s the reason we’re alive. He saved us.”

I mumbled it again and again to my cousin while we sat on the side of the road, and afterwards, as we rode in the ambulance. A motorcycle crash that probably should have taken both our lives left us with injuries that would heal and an altered perspective on life. For weeks and weeks afterward when friends would come to see me I told them the same thing – God saved my life.

I’ve never been so physically helpless as I was that day – lying in the middle of the road. I watched, unable to move quick enough, as hundreds of pounds of metal hurdled after me on the asphalt. The bike crashed into my head, fracturing my neck. I knew it was the hand of God shielding me that allowed me to sit up immediately after, alive, unparalyzed, and coherent.

Maybe you, like me, have experienced a physical event where you knew you could not save yourself. Or maybe the mental maze of anxiety, depression or obsession has brought you to your knees. Perhaps the emotional pain of grief, loss, or loneliness has crippled your life. Maybe spiritual bondage to pornography, addiction, anger, bitterness, or fear has brought you to the end of yourself.

Whatever issues or multiple problems have or will come into your life, soteriology, at some point, is something we all must grapple with.

Salvation From What?

In Christian circles, the word “salvation” is most often used to refer to salvation from hell. But when we study soteriology in the Bible, we find that salvation from hell is not the only meaning of the broad word “salvation”. It can mean salvation from a lot of different things, depending on the context of the word and where it is found in Scripture. It’s really important to study the biblical context of the word before interpreting it in a passage.  For example, in the Bible, the word “salvation” is used in reference to:

-Salvation from enemies (Exodus 14:13)

-Salvation from difficult circumstances (Psalm 78:22)

-Salvation from physical captivity (Psalm 53:6)

-The future blessings of the Messiah’s Kingdom (Isaiah 25:9)

-Saved from sins (Romans 1:16)

-Delivered from the power of sin (Philippians 2:12-13)

-Delivered from the presence of sin (Romans 13:11)

-Saved from a storm (Matthew 8:25)

-Healed from a physical sickness (James 5:15)

And these are just a few examples! So when you’re studying soteriology and you see the word “salvation” or “saved” be sure to ask the question “saved from what?”.

Soteriology In Regards To Salvation From Sin

Of all the things we need to be saved from in this life, it is important to come to a point where we realize that our greatest plight is our desperate need to be saved from sin. My near-death experience with the motorcycle accident showed me that I am physically needy. But my physical weakness pales in comparison to the needs of my soul. Sin’s penalty, power, and presence have marred our inner beings, and our only hope is found in the work of Jesus Christ.

But even the salvation of Christ has more than one meaning. Once we’ve determined that a passage is indeed referring to salvation from sin in some regard, soteriology leads us to dig a little deeper.

The whole view of salvation from sin can be broken down into three tenses:

Justification: Justification is our past tense salvation. As believers, the moment we believed we were instantly saved from the penalty of sin. Our destiny was no longer hell as a punishment for our sins, but life with God and acceptance in His presence as His spiritual child. We’ll discuss justification more in depth in a later post, but much of what we typically think of when we think of God saving us from sin happens at the moment we believe the gospel.

Sanctification: Sanctification is our present tense, daily salvation. We are currently being delivered from the power of sin – God is continually leading us to become more and more like Jesus.

Glorification: Glorification is the future tense reality that we will one day be fully delivered from the presence of sin in our lives.

The beauty of soteriology is that it shows us salvation from God is much more than we ever dreamed.

What Soteriology Means For Us

Understanding soteriology is the most important theology to grasp. It’s eternally crucial; putting our faith for salvation in the right thing is the difference between eternal punishment and eternal bliss with God.  It’s also life-changing. The more we understand the true nature of God’s gift of salvation, the more we will able to walk through this life with hope, peace, and security.

God’s purpose in saving men has always been so that we will not die in bondage. He wants to redeem us with his great love, show us His grace, and bring us all to know Him. In return, we get to enjoy the freedom His presence brings, following Him through this life and into eternity.

Soteriology Is All About The Savior

You’re probably getting it by now – Jesus is the crux of soteriology. His very name is derived from the Hebrew name “Yeshua”, which means “deliverance”. He himself is our salvation.

Soteriology cannot be studied without coming face to face with the author of salvation – may He remind you that salvation is His to give, and He gives it willingly.