Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

JUSTIFICATION: Part I - An Introduction

"Justification." We often use this term in daily life. News stories carry commentary asking whether George W. Bush was "justified" in attacking Iraq, or if the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank was "justified." We ask whether a friend’s reaction to an event was "justified," or whether the stern words a teacher used with our children were "justified."

We have a good grasp of "justification," I think, as long as it’s applied to verbs – to us, actions can be judged right or wrong, depending on circumstances. Justification, to the average person, means that a person was right to do what he did, that their action or words were warranted under the circumstances.

However, the Bible speaks of people being justified, not actions:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-25)

What we see here is that justification of people is the same as of actions. When we say an action is "justified," we declare it to be right or proper. Biblically, a person who is "justified," similarly, has been declared right before God.

Here’s an illustration:

Picture a heavenly courtroom, filled with light. God Almighty Himself is seated as the Judge. Trembling, you are walked in to face God’s judgment for a life of sin and rebellion.

You know you are guilty, a sinner, and deserving of death. "What have you to say for yourself?" asks the Judge. You know His judgment will be fair; you recognize how filthy and sinful you are. You know that the Judge is perfectly just and perfectly strict with the Law. You know that you have no hope of arguing the verdict, and you know that the damage has been done, that you can never make up for the sins you have committed.

Instead of trying to defend yourself, you look to the One standing beside you – your Advocate, the Mediator between God, the Eternal Judge, and yourself. Jesus looks at you, and says, "Believe in me." You trust Him, that He has already taken care of the matter, that you are safe with Him. You have faith – that Jesus has already paid the price. And Jesus, standing next to you, steps forward.

He says, "Father, this is one whom You gave to me. Although she is a sinner, and deserves death, the debt has already been paid. I died on her behalf. And further, my perfect record I give to her, to count as her own. This woman is righteous only because of Your gift of mercy, in sending me to take her place. She is mine, and I have set her free."

And the Judge says to you, "Therefore, I declare you to be righteous in my sight. Righteous, not because of anything you have done, but because My Son has purchased you with His precious blood. You are His, for I have given you to Him. Your sins are forgiven. I adopt you as my child… Welcome to my kingdom."

This is a metaphor of justification – a courtroom scene, where we are pardoned of our sin on account of Christ’s work.

So justification is central to salvation. It is the point at which we become acceptable to God, at which we become good in His sight. The one who is justified, is saved. Period.

If you remember nothing else, here is a definition:

Justification is an act of God, by which He declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him, where through the sinner’s faith Christ’s righteousness is counted on behalf of the sinner, and the sinner’s punishment is laid on Christ, once and for all.

I’m going to look at justification in depth over the next couple of days, covering the following points:

1) Justification is an act of God – not man!
2) Justification is a declaration about a person, not a change of the person’s nature – that is, it happens outside, not within, a person.
3) Justification is a judicial declaration – that is, a declaration having to do with God’s justice and God’s law.
4) In justification, God does not count our sins against us, but declares our sins punished in Christ.
5) In justification, Christ’s righteousness counts as our own, by way of our faith.
6) Justification is a one-time event, not a process.

More to follow...


Anonymous Erin said...

Thank you, sweetie! :) I did understand what you were talking about, and I'm learning. I love you! :)

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Erin said...

And I'm very proud of you! :)

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

I see. That was an execellent explanation. I have the definition down!! The courtroom example was particulary helpful. Looking forward for the next installment!

11:47 AM  

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