“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” — Romans 3:28
Justification is a term that Christians use, but it is one that most do not fully understand. Justification is a part of the redemption process established by God in Christ. It must be understood as a legal event. Man is not justified through labor or good works but solely by the declaration of God. This declaration of innocence is based entirely upon an individual’s object of faith. If a man, woman, boy, or girl declares faith in Christ Jesus as their Saviour, God responds by declaring them justified. The status or position of righteousness is then established by God. This only occurs after God’s thorough evaluation of the heart of the one who confesses faith in Christ. If the repentant one’s words are speaking a truth that is contained in the heart, God recognizes as much and grants that individual the righteousness of Christ. This is justification. It is a legal work. It is established by faith in Christ as the world’s Redeemer. The act that made man’s justification possible is Christ’s death on Calvary. The work of the cross made justification a reality for all who will sincerely believe.
The Necessity of Justification
Outside of the legal work of justification, there is no other means by which man might have a relationship with God. Therefore, justification is not just a theology; justification is a necessity. God must work in this way due to man’s inability to live holy. It is a good thing when men do their best to live righteously. It is a great thing when men rely upon the Holy Spirit to enable them to live righteously. However, at no point in time will man ever qualify for a relationship with God. The reason is simple—God is not a God who is 98 percent holy. He is 100 percent holy. There is no fault, no mark, no wrong thought, no wrong motive, and no sin that can be ascribed to or associated with God.
In order for mankind to be restored to relationship with God, this same status of righteousness has to be obtained. Man has to be viewed as perfect in order to enter a relationship with God. The only way that this can be obtained is through the legal work of justification. Due to the fall, mankind will never be perfect in this life outside of justification. Yet, he must be perfect in order to have a relationship with God and to qualify as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Since mankind is incapable of providing perfect righteousness in and of himself, God must provide it for him. One sin in an entire lifetime would be sufficient to disqualify a man from relationship with God. Therefore, justification as the means of relationship with God is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
The Beauty of Justification
In Ephesians 1:8, Paul states that the manner in which God has supplied justification by faith has evidenced that God “abounded toward us (mankind) in all wisdom and prudence.” Simply put, God has supplied man with a plan that shows His wisdom and understanding of man’s incapability.
The beauty of justification is that it is available to everyone. There is no person incapable of obtaining it. God made a way for every person on the planet to be justified. That is beautiful! It does not matter if one is rich or poor, intelligent, or one who struggles mentally. This plan does not depend upon a person’s social status or his ability to relate to other people. It is not based upon a person’s surroundings or his background, and neither does it demand a specific pedigree. Every single person who has ever drawn a breath has the ability to place his faith in what God has provided in Christ. He needs only to hear the story of God’s redemption plan and then place his faith in that plan.
Another aspect of the beauty of justification will cause those who are self-righteous much discomfort, and that is this: If justification can only be granted as a result of one’s faith and not as a result of one’s work, then we do not lose justification each time we “fall short” of the glory of God. Since faith establishes justification, only a lack of faith can cause the status of justification to be revoked. Justification gives one the opportunity to get back up after failing without fearing the threat of being cast aside by God. To be sure, I am not preaching unconditional eternal security. If a person loses his faith, the status of justification can be lost; but as long as a person’s faith is in Christ, God has granted the capability for us to rise above any failure and move forward.
The Responsibility of Justification
I know that these truths will be opposed by many in the church. Let me balance and qualify my statements in this way: Justification does not give the believer the right to live a sinful life. It grants the beleaguered Christian, weakened by the fall, the ability to move forward despite a failure. There is no one who, after experiencing salvation, has not failed. To say that you have lived perfectly after being saved is a lie. Therefore, you are a proven example that the statements I have made are accurate and true.
Justification does not allow me to live in sin. Justification grants me the opportunity to learn how to overcome the sin and the weight that does so easily beset me. I have a responsibility to learn how to live for God. Justification is God’s way of keeping us in the game even when our opponents are outscoring us one hundred to one. We have the responsibility of getting back up and the capability to once again square off against the enemy. We must learn how to freely receive grace from God in order to be victorious over what once had the victory over us! Justification, when properly understood, does not encourage a sinful lifestyle. It gives us hope that the pursuit of righteousness will be realized as long as we never give up in the process. If you don’t quit, He won’t quit! Glory be to God!