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October 13, 2012, 3:08am Report to Moderator
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What is Justification?

   Justification is a Biblical doctrine that few understand.

   When I was in Bible College, my Soteriology (the study of salvation) professor read off fifty definitions of justification and told us to pick our favorite.  I chose, "Just as if I never sinned and just as if I never would."

   By the time I graduated from seminary I had learned that justification is being "declared righteous".  It is similar to what a judge does when he declares a murderer to be innocent because he was not read his rights before he confessed even though the judge might know that he is guilty of murder.  God declares a person righteous even though He knows he is a sinner.  It occurs at the moment of salvation.  It is totally undeserved. God overlooks a person's past and future sin and treats him as a sinless person.

   That explanation worked for me until I was the pastor of a small country church and I was teaching through the book of Romans.  It did not fit into the fourteen verses in Romans that use the word, "justify".

Simple Justification

   I started researching and contemplating how justify is used in the Bible.  I found out that it is simple.

   The verb, justify, literally means to make just.  Just is an old word for righteous.  Righteous means to be right or to do what is right.  So justify means to make something right.

   The word is still used in a limited sense today when it is used to refer to a person justifying his actions.  What does a person do when he justifies his actions?  He shows how his actions are right.

   Simple justification is when a person's actions are considered wrong by others and someone shows those people that his actions are right.

An Example of Justification

   Justification happens in everyday life.  We just do not call it that.

   When I started working as an administrative assistant at a manufacturing plant, the owner told me to consolidate all of the cut sheets into one.  I worked for several days on it.
   When I finished, one supervisor did not like it.  A few days later he was in a distant cubicle criticizing what I had done.
   "This is a disaster," he said loud enough for me to hear.  "We are not going to do this again."
   I was totally humiliated.  I had done what I was told to do.
   A few days later the owner's wife left some notes on my desk that she had taken while talking to this supervisor.  They were not good.
   A week later the owner's wife came to my office.  "I put those notes on your desk so you could see that supervisor's complaints.  But what you did was right.  From now on, we want it done the way you did it.  I will go talk to the supervisors and tell them."
   The owner's wife justified what I had done.  She made my way the right way.

   You can probably think of times when you were considered wrong and a person of authority verified that you were right.  This is justification.

Justification in Salvation

   How does that figure into salvation?

   There is one way to be saved.  The Bible mentions it over and over again.  The Bible gives no other way.  Yet few do it.  Salvation does not come from keeping the sacraments.  It does not come from asking Jesus to come into your heart.  It does not come from making Jesus lord of your life.  And it does not come from speaking in tongues.

   What the Bible says is that a person is saved when he believes in Jesus (John 3:16, 36) or has faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8 ).  "Believe" and "faith" in the Bible come from the same Greek root word and have the same basic meaning, trust.  A person is saved by trusting Jesus.  When a person rejects all of the wrong ways to be saved and trusts Jesus, he is right.  It doesn't matter how weak or ugly he might be.  His trust is right.

   He may be wrong in everything else he does, he may be a sinner, but God makes him right because he trusts Him.  God treats this person as if he is right because he is right.  He trusts God and that is what God wants him to do.

   Don't say this person is wrong.  God says he is right.  That is justification.

The Road Rally

   When I was younger, my wife and I served as counselors in a large High School Sunday School class. One of our jobs was to plan the monthly activities along with the other counselors.

   One month we planned an activity that we called the Road Rally. On the night of the activity, teams of high schoolers received a list of directions (go two blocks and turn right, go 1.4 miles and turn left, and etc.) that they were to follow in their car.

   The winner of this race was not the first team to finish, but the team that went the correct route in the correct amount of time.

   We had already run the route at the speed limit and recorded the distance and time it took.

   When the race was over, we declared the team that came closest to the correct time and distance as right. We justified the team that did it right.

   This is how God justifies people. He has decided ahead of time that the correct way to go is to trust Him. He taught them this through His Son and the Bible. Those who do this, He makes right, He justifies them. He does not look at the other things that they do. He looks at whether they trust Him or not. If they do, He makes them right.

Justification is a Box

   Justification is a box of classification that God puts people in. Everyone outside of the box are people who are considered to be wrong.
When someone trusts in Jesus for the first time, God picks them up and puts them in the Justification Box. This is God justifying them. They now are considered right and they are treated as if they are right.

   Read the following Bible passage to see how justify is used in the Bible.  I inserted "(justify)" in the places where that word is used in other versions.

   "You see, if Abraham was made right (justified) from actions, he has something to brag about, but not to God. You see, what does the Old Testament writing say in Genesis 15:6? 'Abraham trusted God, and it was considered to him as the right way.' To the person working, the pay is not considered in line with generosity, but in line with what is owed. To the person not working, but trusting based on the One who makes the person who is not godly right (justify), his trust is considered as the right way," (Romans 4:2-5, www.breakthroughversion.com)

   God is a God that can be trusted, and God is a God who wants to be trusted.  When you trust Him, He makes you right.  This is justification.

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