21 “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
(Romans 3:21-26 [NASB])
Justification is one of the words heard used by church people. It is not a word commonly used. What does it mean? Can it be used outside of church in any way? Does it reflect upon me? Am I justified?
Let’s begin our study with a simple definition of the word. Justification means to be made right, complete, or as one ought to be. When we consider God’s creation, after He made each part of the world, He stopped and proclaimed it good. That means when God created Adam and Eve He proclaimed them good (Genesis 1:31). Besides this, we are told in Genesis that God created them in His image (Genesis 1:27). Since that is the case, they were just, right, and as they ought to be.
The question remains though: just and right based upon what standard? Since they Adam and Eve were made in God’s image and God created all we see, the standard is God. God is the definition for righteousness, goodness, love, justice, mercy, grace and other words we use daily. For our purposes here, Adam and Eve were right and as they ought to be based upon God’s standard; they did not have sin, but were pure.
Most of us know what happened next. Satan tempted and convinced Adam and Eve to seek knowledge and greatness like God – to be their own gods. Sin entered the world upon their succumbing to temptation. God created humankind with the gift of free will. He did not mandate Adam and Eve be in a relationship with Him, but wanted them to come to Him of their own free will. God wanted them to choose Him. In the garden when they bowed to temptation, they did not choose God. Adam and Eve exercised their free will and sin (turning away from God) entered the world.
Over the millennia, God appeared to humankind through creation, dreams and visions, voices, burning bushes, pillars of fire and clouds, signs and wonders, prophets and priests, and His Law, which He gave to the Israelites. The intent of the Law was to lead people to God. In Galatians 3:24, Paul said, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”
You can see then, before Jesus Christ’s death, God spent millennia striving to reconnect with His creation, humankind, to have a relationship with them. He is not a dictator and does not command humankind be in a relationship with Him. Because of God’s love – the love that caused Him to create us and want a relationship with us – He kept trying to draw us near to Him. Free will and sin kept taking us further away from Him, building blocks higher each day so that a great wall rose between humankind and Himself.
When God gave the Law to the Israelites, they covenanted to worship and obey Him. Yet, their sinful ways kept them from absolute obedience even though they knew God from their ancestor’s past with Him. They knew of His might, majesty, power, and love. They understood to remain His children, He required obedience. Still the Israelites were unfaithful.
God in His love was not thwarted. From the beginning of the world, He planned for the redemption of humankind from sin and death. God’s plan required a pure sacrifice, one not polluted with sin. His plan for this redemption was the offering of His only Son, Jesus Christ, as the sin sacrifice for the death penalty that covered each human.
Sin causes separation from God because God cannot be in the presence of sin due to His holiness. This separation extended even to the time after life on earth ended for each person. Separation from God is death – on earth and eternally. God provided Jesus Christ to pay the sin penalty of death with His death. That is redemption. Jesus Christ paid His life to redeem us from death forever and the power of sin now.
When a person believes by faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died to provide salvation from death and sin, his or her sins are wiped from their slate. God will no longer avenge wrath upon the person for his or her sin against Him (Romans 5:9). The sin of the person is removed from them. His or her slate is clean.
That is justification. Because Jesus Christ is just – pure and righteous – and gave Himself as our sin sacrifice, by substitution, we, too, become just, pure, and righteous through Him. Jesus is just and justifier (Romans 3:26). Justification is the being made right, pure, and righteous before God by belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who takes away the sin of people. Justification comes from nothing we do or say. It comes through belief in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ’s righteousness imparted to us when we believe that declares our sin penalty – death – fulfilled by Him.
Have you been justified by Jesus Christ? Have you accepted God’s gift of salvation/redemption from sin and death? You can do nothing to earn it or acquire it. It comes by belief in Jesus Christ. If you accepted God’s gift of salvation and justification, are you living it out in the world? Does your life reflect the righteousness Jesus paid His life to give you? James wrote in James 2:14 & 17-18,
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Even so faith, if it has now works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works and I will show you my faith by my works.” [NASB]
Later in this chapter, James added, “Faith without works is dead.”
We each have to decide if we will believe in Jesus Christ. Then, we each have to decide if we will live as Jesus Christ lived – will we follow Him daily. Let me encourage you with these final words form Paul in Romans 5:1. He said,
Therefore, since we have been justified (made pure, perfect, complete, and righteous) through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. [NASB]
Are you experiencing that joy? Have you received that hope? Today is not too late to accept God’s free gift and be justified. Today is not too late to act out your faith. Will you make those choices?