By Prem Lee
In the English language ‘justified’ means that you were right in the decision you took. But in Christian thought it has a different meaning. It means God is right in declaring you righteous before God. This is done on the basis of your faith and trust in God and especially in Jesus Christ. God is justified in declaring you righteous because of your faith in Him.
We see this in the Old Testament relationship between Yahweh and Israel.
• Ex 19:4-6 - You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
• Is 45:25 – ‘In the Lord all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.’
• Is 46:13 - I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.
We see from these verses, that Israel was not declared righteous or justified on the basis of their life, but because of the grace of God in accepting them when they commit themselves to be followers of Yahweh. Their relationship with God comes to an end when they opt for another god.
I experienced this when I made my first commitment to Jesus at the age of 16. Though I did not keep the commitment, God seems to have hung on to me and carried me through to the second and final commitment. This is what seems to be promised in these verses.
The New Testament goes on to say:-
• Rom 3:19-20 – ‘ Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those 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 no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.’
• Acts 13:39 - and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Even though Paul emphasized that we are justified by grace and not works, like most early believers, I became highly legalistic and Pharisaical condemning other Christians for not living upto the standards we had set. That is why the doctrine of Justification is important to be understood. It is not about us living the life.
• Rom 3:21-23 - But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Then a slow understanding comes that our relationship with Jesus is not based on works but on our total faith in Jesus. This led to a total surrender of my life to Jesus and to living for Him in all areas of my life. That is the expectation of God for all of us. Not to earn salvation but because we are saved.
• Romans 3:24-26 - 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.
You now begin to realize that you do not do anything for God, but God uses you and does things through you. You are just available to God. Not only that we are at peace with God and not burdened or tense. As Paul writes Rom 5:1f - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now you begin to ask, how are you different from hyper grace? Isn’t this what they teach? James makes the differentiation very clear. James 2:21-24 - Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
James point is that faith results in work. If there is no work then there is no faith. So we take sin seriously, knowing that it does not separate me from God, but shows that there are weaknesses in our faith. I need to drill down to the location of the weakness and deal with it. John says in 1 John 1:7-9 that we do not ignore sin but deal with it through confession. As we deal with the sources of sin (weakness in our faith) our faith is strengthened and we move from works of the Law to the works of faith.
• 1 Thess 1:2-3 - We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father
So, what do we conclude?
• You are justified
• Do not try to do prove yourself
• Do not do things for God, let God use you
• Let your life reflect your faith in Jesus