The Vocabulary of Salvation – Justification

Hi guys!! We’re back again with another episode in our ongoing series on the VOCABULARY OF SALVATION. It’s been an exciting past few weeks of biblical surveys and historical analysis of words and their usage but I’m pretty sure it has been exciting and insightful as your feedback will suggest. Today we forge ahead. We take a look at the word JUSTIFICATION. What do the biblical authors mean when they use the word? What are the implications of being justified?  How do sinners become justified in the sight of a Holy God? And most importantly how does Jesus Christ fit into all this. Now that we’re all set, let’s jump right in.

The English word Justification finds its origin in the Latin word “Justificare” which means to set right or to make right. When we justify something we provide reasons or arguments that we believe make our actions or reasons right. In Biblical terms however, Justification refers to the doctrine of how believers are declared to be right before God even though we are not actually righteous in and of ourselves. In the New Testament, the Greek words associated with justification are the words dikaioo and dikaiosis. They literally mean to make righteous or to declare to be righteous. They have the same root as the Greek for righteousness. This is because in Greek, there is little or no distinction between the terms righteousness and justice; effectively saying to declare someone just or innocent is to proclaim them to be righteous in the matter. So when we say God justifies the believer what we are basically saying is that God declares the individual to be righteous in His sight. (Isn’t that wonderful?)

In our previous posts we’ve taken a look at how all humanity is sinful before God and how the righteousness of God demands that we face the penalty for all our sinful acts. We’ve also looked at the fact that although the law was given as a temporary remedy for the sin problem, all it really did was exacerbate our woes. It made our sinful nature all the more glaring and made us ripe candidates for punishment. The law became a magnifying glass that exposed our sinful nature. This is why the apostle Paul constantly declares that “by the deeds of the law shall no man be justified” (Galatians 2:16, 3:11). The question we now need to answer is; how does a righteous God justify sinners?

For the Apostle Paul and the authors of the New Testament, this is where Jesus comes in. God’s justification of sinners is not an arbitrary act. The act of justification rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. In Romans 3:23-26 we see the apostle Paul not only revisit the issue of our collective sinfulness but he goes ahead to present the good news of God’s loving act of Justification based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a closer look.
Romans 3:23-26

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

For Paul the “free” act of justification hinges on the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross paid for our redemption and was also the price for our propitiation. And because He is our redemption and propitiation we also have the remission of our sins. Think about it this way. Most of us use computers and phone applications that require complex layers of code but what we experience on the front end (that is on our screens) which the programmers call the user interface is usually buttons we click or icons we touch. These icons or buttons represent complex codes and algorithms that come into play to accomplish whatever task the program is designed for. Similarly, Redemption, Propitiation and Remission function like the back end code for what we experience in Justification. God is just one amazing programmer isn’t He?

Click on any of the words for our in-depth post on what they are and mean to a Christian.

To the New Testament authors all of this was necessary so that God might be Just in Justifying the unjust. That is to say God is so righteous that in doing a near impossible feat such as justifying sinners He did the right thing and did it the right way. This act is a testament to God’s faithfulness to Himself and His relentless love towards humanity.

But how does an individual become justified? Or to put it another way how does a person receive this gift of being declared righteous? Several times in the NT we are told that this happens by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is we are justified by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But what really does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ? There are two layers of the word I would want us to look at. The first and basic one is to believe that all that He did on the cross, he did on your behalf. Faith in this sense is an acceptance of what Jesus has done. It is a confidence in the efficacy of his sacrifice on your behalf. The second strand of meaning is what I call believing loyalty. The first act of Sin and every act born out of it has rebellion against God at the core of it. For the Biblical authors faith is not just a mental ascent, it is a submission of the will and the entire being to God, because of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. This is why the Bible consistently speaks about good works following our faith. Not that the works in and of themselves can save us, but they are a proof of a life surrendered and submitted to God in believing loyalty.

Now that we have looked at what the word means, how the Biblical authors used it and how we are justified, we are left with one more question to answer. What does justification mean to us?

The short answer would be justification is everything to the believer. But for the purposes of this post we’ll take a look at two. First justification means we have “peace” with God. In Romans chapter 5 verse 1 we read;

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”.

Sin estranged us from God. It marred the relationship we had with our Creator. We deserve punishment and condemnation but when through faith we submit our lives to Jesus and are declared righteous (Justified), we obtain peace with God. The relationship is restored with God and we who were once “lost” and “dead” can now walk into the presence of God because our guilt has been cleared. The author of Hebrews puts it this way; “we can now come boldly to the throne of Grace” (Heb 4:16).

The second result of justification is that it provides the believer with an eschatological hope (don’t panic). Here’s what we mean. According to the Bible, God as Judge is one day going to come and judge all humanity and creation at the end of the age. The Greek word for last things or the end of the age is the word eschaton hence the word eschatological (I told you there was nothing to worry about). As it stands all humanity stands guilty before God, but not so with the Christian. For the one who has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his justification means that he/she is declared not guilty right here right now. To put it another way he/she has his future verdict today. This means that whereas others look with terror and fear to the day that God comes to judge, the one who is justified rejoices in hope because he knows today that God declares him NOT GUILTY! Amazing right? This is what Paul is driving at in the verse quoted earlier when he says we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. These two and many more are the implications of being justified.

Today as always we present to you Jesus Christ, our redemption, propitiation, remission and the basis of our Justification. It is our prayer and our hope that you will submit to Him in faith so that you too will experience the peace and joys that come with being justified.

Until next time, God bless you.

Timothy Project…….Presenting every man perfect.

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