Justification: What is it?

What is justification? It is fundamental to the life of every Christian and our understanding of it will affect how much we enjoy God’s blessings. It will even affect our service for Him. The sheet looks briefly at what justification is and why it’s so important to us.

What is justification?

Justification is the most fundamental basis of Christianity. If we are justified before God then nothing can touch our salvation, not even our failures. If we are not justified then we are condemned and have only an eternity of suffering ahead of us. Justification according to the dictionary, means “the action of showing something to be right or reasonable” or “the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God”. The Bible sometimes uses the first definition but it is mostly concerned with the latter, i.e. being made righteous in the sight of God.

Perhaps, we need then to understand what is meant by the word righteousness in the Bible. In the dictionary righteousness is defined as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable”. In other words, a truly righteous person is maintaining God’s standards of holiness. While we get several people who are described being righteous or displaying righteousness in the Bible they all failed at some point in their lives, i.e. they were not righteous all the time. The only one who was completely righteous is “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2:1).

So being justified begins when we are faced with the truth about ourselves and God. We realise that God’s holy judgement of us is completely just and thus we, perhaps for the first time, are really just with ourselves as we realise our terrible state before Him. If we are just then we recognise our poor state before God and seek not to live in our own pride or worth of our own making but by faith, “the just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 & Hebrews 10:38). God then justifies us by removing our sins. He changes us from unjust sinners to persons who are now justified in His sight.

“We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ's own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God's demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous—He justifies us.” (Quoted from an article on Justifcation on www.GotQuestions.org)

The importance of understanding justification

God’s desire is to justify us. We know this because we are told that “the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations on the principle of faith, announced beforehand the glad tidings to Abraham: In thee all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8). He has provided the way, through the Lord Jesus to justify us and this has enabled us to enter into all the blessings that God wants to give us. “That, having been justified by his grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).

However, Paul when writing to the Galatians warns them that if they went back to the Law and thinking about how they could be saved by pleasing God with their own ability and strength then they would lose the liberty and the enjoyment of God’s goodness in giving us grace. “Ye are deprived of all profit from the Christ as separated from him, as many as are justified by law; ye have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

We need to remember how amazing it is to be justified by God Himself and thus be preserved in the knowledge of His love we have peace with God, both now and in eternity.

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