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 us righteous even though He knows we are sinners. It occurs at the moment of salvation. 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. A righteous person is someone who is right. So justify means to make something right or to show that something is 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. 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. That is the way we want it done from now on. I will go talk to the supervisors and tell them." The owner's wife justified me. She told everyone that I was right. There were no complaints after that.
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.Justification Everyday
How does justification figure into your everyday Christian life?
God is a big God. He can do everything. Because of this the one thing He wants you to do is trust Him. God wants to do all of the heavy lifting. He doesn't want you to. Trust Him.
When you trust God and His Son, Jesus, you are doing the right thing. You may not see any positive results. God will not step down out of heaven and pat you on the back. You may even wonder if trusting God is right because God often stays silent when you trust Him. Many people will say that you are wrong. They have rituals, works, and traditions that they insist you must do. They are wrong. Keep trusting.
When you trust God, 1) the Bible justifies you in the many verses that say it is right, 2) God works in you to get you to do more right things, 3) God may use a situation to show others that you are right, 4) God considers you to be right, and 5) God will someday show that you were right when you stand before Him. These are all forms of justification.
The good things that you do, do not make you right. Keeping the law does not make you right. Going to church does not make you right.
You trusting God makes you right. A lot of things happen when you trust God. You stop trusting the wrong things. This keeps you out of the way and keeps you from interferring with God's solution. You start looking to God for solutions. God is free to do the work. He teaches you. He works in you. He brings you to do what is right. He makes you right.
God's people should be people who trust God for everything. This is what God has decided is 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 shown to be right (justified)
from things he did, he has something to brag about but not to God. What does the Old Testament writing say in Genesis 15:6? 'Abraham trusted God and because of that he was considered to be right.' To the person working, pay is not considered to be about generosity but about what is owed. Yet to the person who is not working but is trusting in the One who makes the person who is not godly right(justify)
, his trust is considered to be right." (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 and will show you to be right. This is justification.Buy the New Testament: Breakthrough Version
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