Category: Salvation, Word: JUSTIFICATION
January 8, 2016 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything, which you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39)
DEFINITION: Justification is God’s judicial declaration that a sinner who believes in Christ is counted righteous instead of guilty, based on Jesus’ death on his or her behalf. Christ’s righteousness is imputed (reckoned) to the sinner just as God imputed sin to Christ on the cross.
The language of justification is primarily legal or forensic, based on the biblical notion, “Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25). The following facts provide the background for understanding the biblical teaching on justification.
- God always does (and pronounces judgment) according to what is righteous.
- All mankind must appear before Him for judgment.
- All persons are guilty of sin before Him.
If there is any hope for a human to be acquitted—to escape God’s condemnation—then God must justify those who are in fact guilty before Him. And the way He does this with integrity is by a kind of bookkeeping exchange: God credits Christ’s righteous life and sacrificial death to sinners, so that sinners do not bear the penalty of their sins; rather Christ has already done so. In the words of Paul, God “declares righteous the ungodly” through faith (Rom. 4:5).
Paul is the biblical writer who fully developed justification as the foundation for understanding salvation. (Of the 39 instances of the verb “justify” in the New Testament, 29 of them come from Paul’s letters or recorded words.) He found the key for this in Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (see Rom. 4:3, 9:22; Gal. 3:16). Martin Luther in the sixteenth century made his rediscovery of “justification by faith alone” the touchstone of the Reformation. This differed from justification by faith plus good works or keeping of the law, and this has been the distinguishing mark of Protestants ever since.
Careful Bible students have maintained these distinct ways to speak of justification:
- Justification by God’s grace: God’s undeserved favor is the origin or source of righteousness.
- Justification by Christ’s blood: Jesus’ death is the ground or basis of one’s righteousness.
- Justification by faith: the sinner’s trust is the instrument or condition of righteousness. In particular, this means that faith is itself never to be considered a good work that is somehow the sinner’s contribution to salvation.
To this should be added the discussion from the Epistle of James that good works are the expected fruit or evidence that one has been justified (James 2). Two great teachings that came from the Reformation recovery of justification were these: (1) belief that one could have confidence that one was certainly justified (“assurance of salvation”) and (2) belief that the justified sinner could never become unjustified (“security of the believer”). During the medieval period, both these were vigorously denied, and they continue to be matters disputed by Christians today.
REFLECTION: Why focus on justification as the legal concept of the “declaration of righteousness?” Why distinguish between “justification by faith” and “Justification by grace?”
PRAYER: God You justify all those who come to You by faith in Jesus Christ’s death on their behalf. Thank You for the gift of righteousness and forgiveness through Our Lord. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.