Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 1)December 29, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 36 Comments
Tags: big words, Christian doctrine, Christian vocabulary, Job 9, justice of God, Justification, O.J. Simpson, Romans 3, Salvation, yard sprinklers
Many Christians tend to shy away from some of the great Truths of the Bible for two reasons: One, they seem so hard to understand. Two, they just don’t seem as practical. We want our Biblical lessons to focus on how we can get money; how we can have happier marriages; how we can be healed; how we can beat stress; how we can have great sex. But the fact is, the deeper into doctrine you go, the more practical it becomes. We sometimes live very defeated Christian lives because we’re afraid to try to understand just what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
In the past, I have taught basic discipleship lessons: salvation, baptism, everlasting security, church membership, sin, prayer, the world. These lessons on “big words” are not really more difficult. They just have more syllables in the title.
I want to focus on:
1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification
3. The Method of Justification
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
Prior to our salvation we were not “just” with God: we were not righteous before Him. Why? We might say it is because we had sinned. But we must understand that the bigger issue is not that we had sinned – the bigger issue is that we are sinners.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
One of the reasons God gave the Law is so that everyone could plainly see his/her own sinful condition – for none of us have ever come close to keeping the Law of God. Therefore, the Law “stops every mouth.” No one has a valid argument that they are not guilty before God.
God’s motive for justification – for somehow making guilty unrighteous sinners right before Him – is the Truth that there was absolutely no other way for us to do it. He has to do it for us – to make us righteous – or it could not be done.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Whose righteousness is involved in justification? Is it ours or God’s? God’s righteousness must be imputed to us in justification, for there is no other righteousness outside of God.
1. God’s Motive in Justification:
A. There is no other way.
B. It is for His Own glory.
Those are the motives for justification. We see why there must be such a thing as justification if we are to have a relationship with our Creator; if we were to be saved from judgment and hell; if God’s great plan of redemption and salvation is to bring Him the greatest glory of forever and all time.
1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification
Now, I want to look at the meaning of justification – the definition. What is “Justification?” Justification is a forensic term – a legal term. It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ, to be righteous.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Everyone has sinned and come short of the glory of God, and not just a little short. No, we fell way short. We were totally depraved – completely without merit. God has freely justified those who have been born again by His grace. God gives His righteousness as a free gift. But it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and it is not a cheap gift. Christ Jesus is the Propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice which satisfies the punishment that is justly due. God declares justification for the remission of sins, so justification is real, even though it’s an act of declaration, and not a physical change. God Himself shows that He is just through His Own act of Justification. God legally declares sinners to be righteous when – and only when – they believe in Jesus.
Justification happens instantaneously. It is not a process. If my kids turn on the yard sprinkler, and we all run through it, some of us get a “little wet” and some of us get a “lot wet.” There are different degrees of “wet.” But if we all run, and leap into the air, and land in the deep end of the swimming pool, then we all get completely soaked. That’s how justification is. In an instant, every Christian who truly believes is justified to the same degree as every Christian who has ever been justified. And that degree is 100% – fully soaking wet.
Justification is not something earned. It is not a process of working and getting good enough to be justified. God does it all. And it does not change.
After the end of the O.J. Simpson trial, people used to always ask me this question about O.J.: “But do you think he’s really guilty?” And I would respond: “No, I know for a fact he’s ‘not guilty.’ He was declared ‘not guilty’ in court.” That is not the same as saying he’s innocent. It is not the same as saying “he didn’t do it.” I don’t know if he “did it,” because I wasn’t there – and you don’t either. The jury came back and said “not guilty,” so legally he was declared not guilty.
I’m sure O.J. felt pretty good about the American legal system’s version of “justification” at the time, but God’s Justification is even better. In a “not guilty” verdict there is still a record of what was done. Justification is even better than a “pardon.” A pardon says that, whether you did it or not, we’re letting you go. Justification is saying: Not only are you not guilty – but you are completely righteous – all your record is wiped clean and there’s no more evidence of it. You are declared to have the same righteousness as Jesus Christ Himself.
Next time, we will see the Method of Justification.