Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 5:1
The doctrine of justification by faith is of paramount importance. It’s important because justification is critical to man’s salvation. If a person is not justified, then his fate is an eternity in hell. And the fact that it is by faith is important because that is the only avenue to which we can be justified. Thus we have the thing all men need most (Justification), and the only way that they can get it (by Faith).
Justification is a big word. We don’t use it a lot in our everyday speech, but we do use it from time to time in it’s various forms.
For example, when we are working on a computer, typing away at some paper, we may choose to have our text justified. What does that mean? It means that all the text lines up perfectly to the left and to the right in a straight line down the page, like how it is in most bibles.
We also use the word justified when we seek to clear ourselves from something we have been accused of. We call it ‘justifying ourselves.’ Often we will give some reason to why we did what we did, seeking to show that our motives were pure. For example, once I visited five bars in one day. Someone could of accused me of being a party animal, or a drunk. But I would have justified myself by explaining that I was required by my job to hang free HIV testing flyers in each bar of our town.
The word ‘justified’ comes from the root word ‘just.’ The best definition of this word is ‘blameless.’ A just person is a blameless person – a person who has done nothing wrong.
The word ‘just’ is also equivalent to the word ‘righteous.’ Righteous = Just = Blameless.
The first example of this in the bible is Noah:
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time – Genesis 6:9 (NIV)
But notice here another translation:
Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations – Genesis 6:9 (NKJV)
Just, righteous, blameless, perfect, pure, holy, sanctified…all are basically the same thing. As a matter of fact, you can say our title verse with all of these words and still be correct:
- justified by faith
- made righteous by faith
- made perfect by faith
- made blameless by faith
- purified by faith
- made holy by faith
- sanctified by faith
They are all correct and mean basically the same thing. In the Greek (which was the language the New Testament was originally written in), the words ‘righteous’ and ‘just’ are the same word. For some reason the English translators felt the need to use two words.
But the reason I say all this is so we can get a good handle on what it means to be justified. When the postfix ‘-fied’ is added to any word, it donates the idea of of being made into whatever word it is attached to. For example, if something has been liquified, it has been made into a liquid. If something is personified, it is made to be like a person. Even so, if someone is justified, he is made to be just.
Now I hope you are getting a clear picture of what it means to be justified. Just like justified text is made to be straight and perfect, and just like a person tries to make themselves innocent by justifying themselves, so a person justified by faith, in biblical context, is made to be just, righteous, blameless, holy, and perfect.
A justified person is a person that can stand before a Holy God completely blameless. That person would have no faults before God. God would not be able to accuse him of anything, because it would be as if he had done nothing wrong and everything right. He would say, “I find no fault in this man.”
And this is exactly what we need to be. But it’s exactly what we are not.
We don’t need to go into detail about this (I do here), but we know that the bible declares us all to be sinners. It only takes one sin and we are blameless no more. If we are guilty of breaking God’s law, we are not just. And if we do something wrong, we are no longer righteous.
God, however, has provided a way for guilty sinners like us to be justified. The way we are justified is by faith.
Remember: Justification is what we need. Faith is how we get it.
Throughout the world people either embrace their sinfulness, deny their sinfulness, or seek a way to overcome their sinfulness and be right with God (i.e. justification). Most other religions teach ‘justification by works:’ if you just do enough good deeds, say enough prayers, make enough pilgrimages, knock on enough doors, then God will receive you, and provide you an entrance to His kingdom.
But the bible doesn’t teach that. The bible teaches that we are justified by faith. Why faith? The answer is here:
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace – Romans 4:16
There are only two ways to receive anything from anyone. One way is to earn it, the other way is to receive it as a gift. The truth is that we could never truly earn our salvation; but even if we could, we would be puffed up in pride. God hates pride. It’s what made Lucifer fall. Therefore He has made it so no one can earn righteousness in any way. No one can do enough good deeds, pray enough prayers, or knock on enough doors. The only way a person can be saved is by humbling themselves, and receiving it as gift.
Salvation is a gift from God. Righteousness is a gift from God. The fact that it’s a gift implies that it can’t be worked for. But we know this gift just doesn’t fall upon everyone, because then everyone would be saved. The way we receive this gift is by believing.
The great example of this is Abraham. Abraham is a perfect example of God’s grace and what our proper response should be. Remember when God first spoke to Abraham? He said, “Get up, take your wife, leave your land, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great.” What was Abraham’s response to that? He believed it.
And then, a little later, God made another promise to Abraham. He said, “Abraham, see the stars in the sky? See the sand on the seashore? So shall your descendants be.” What was Abraham’s response? He believed it.
The bible then says that Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness. In other words, he was justified by faith.
Seems pretty easy doesn’t it? God offers a gift, you believe Him, you get it. It is easy, but it’s a package deal. When you choose to believe God, it can’t just be for the good. You are choosing to believe Him in everything.
It’s like getting married. At first it seems easy: “You mean I stand at the altar, say I do, and get to sleep with a beautiful woman for the rest of my life?” Soon we realize that there is a little more to it.
Abraham learned this when the Lord spoke to him yet again. This time is wasn’t to promise blessings. This time the Lord asked him to offer up his son as a burnt offering.
When you choose to believe in God, you are choosing to believe all that He says about Himself. This includes the fact that He is all-good, all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful. It would stand to reason then, that if you really believed this, that you would heed His commands. For if He is all-good, all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful, His commands would always be best case scenario. Doing things differently would result in a lesser good, at best, and downright evil, at worst.
Abraham used this logic when he went to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering. Even though it didn’t seem like it was the best idea, he had made a decision to believe in the all-powerful God. Instead of doubting the Word of God, he reasoned that God would raise his son from the dead!
We are justified by faith–by believing what God says. It really is as simple as that. We are purified from every sin by believing in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Because of His death, burial, and resurrection, we now have the free gift of righteousness offered to us, and as a result, eternal life. We receive it by choosing to believe. But that faith isn’t only for a moment. It’s a declaration that we believe in the One True God, who He is, and what He says. Sometimes that’ll be easy, many times it won’t. But when we trust in Him, we can be guaranteed that it will always be ultimately for good, because God is good. Amen.
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