Justification: What is it's Basis?
Justification is the most important thing to understand in Christianity. If we understand the basis of how God has been able to justify us then we can be able to enjoy the tremendous liberty and the spiritual blessings He has given us to enjoy now and in eternity. The sheet shows how our justification cannot rely on ourselves but depends completely on God’s sovereign grace. It is intended as an introduction to the study on “How are we justified?”
We cannot justify ourselves ...
The scriptures are clear that we are sinners and that we have fallen far from God as a result of our sinfulness. God gave the Law to Israel and it was said “For Moses lays down in writing the righteousness which is of the law, The man who has practised those things shall live by them” (Romans 10:5, see also Ezekiel 20:11). However, the Law, instead of justifying mankind and making them holy, only demonstrated God’s holiness and exposed mankind’s inability to meet it in his sinfulness. “Wherefore by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him; for by law is knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20). It was impossible to gain justification through the Law because the Law of God only condemned our unrighteousnesses.
Some in the Bible comment on their own inability to be able to justify themselves:
If I justified myself, mine own mouth would condemn me; were I perfect, he would prove me perverse” (Job 9:20).
“Then was kindled the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel, the Buzite, of the family of Ram: against Job was his anger kindled, because he justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). >
“Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the peoples be assembled: who among them declareth this, or causeth us to hear former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear, and say, It is truth” (Isaiah 43:9). Even if all the nations could do this God appeals to them to recognise their inability to justify themselves. Before God they would still be worthy of nothing but his condemnation.
“Put me in remembrance, let us plead together; rehearse thine own cause, that thou mayest be justified” (Isaiah 43:26). God called on the nations to bring Him their arguments for justifying themselves. Alas, their arguments would be futile and they would find that justifying themselves before God would be an impossible task.
“For I am conscious of nothing in myself; but I am not justified by this: but he that examines me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4). Paul says that he is no longer conscious of doing anything wrong but recognises that he cannot depend on his own evaluation of his actions for it is the Lord’s judgement alone that stands.
The Lord exposes the problem with us trying to justify ourselves when “He said to them, Ye are they who justify themselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what amongst men is highly thought of is an abomination before God” (Luke 16:15). God knows our hearts and thus He can declare that there is none righteous, not one.
“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). When we stand before God our words will condemn us however our words, spoken in repentance, are the means of our salvation.
Thus Paul warns the Galatians against slipping back into serving the Law by reminding them that the fact “that by law no one is justified with God is evident, because The just shall live on the principle of faith” (Galatians 3:11).
God hates those who justify the wicked
There were some men that tried to justify each other, but just as there is no point trying to justify ourselves we cannot justify the wicked either. The children of Israel were told in the Law that “If there be a controversy between men, and they resort to judgment, and they judge their case; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked” (Deuteronomy 25:1). Yet, God condemned them a couple of hundred years later for doing the opposite. “Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and turn away the righteousness of the righteous from them!” (Isaiah 5:23). Mankind might seek to justify the wicked without seeking forgiveness for sins but those who do so are condemned in the strongest possible terms. “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the righteous, even they both are abomination to Jehovah” (Proverbs 17:15).
God does not justify the wicked, but the righteous
In short, God does not justify wicked and sinful persons. He will not justify us when we are in our sins. He warns Israel: “Thou shalt keep far from the cause of falsehood; and the innocent and righteous slay not; for I will not justify the wicked.” (Exodus 23:7). The psalmist recognises his inability to stand in God’s presence as a sinful man when he cries for God’s mercy: “And enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight no man living shall be justified” (Psalm 143:2). God only justifies righteous persons and the only way we gain righteousness is by faith in Jesus Christ. God delights to justify those who, in trusting in the Lord Jesus have now gained His righteousness. So it is, that God will judge mankind and demonstrate His righteousness in judging the unrepentant wickedness of man while sparing those who now are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. As Solomon prayed “then hear thou in the heavens, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his own head; and justifying the righteous, giving him according to his righteousness” (1 Kings 8:32 & 2 Chronicles 6:23).
Thus, we can see that it is only God that can justify us (Romans 8:33). We cannot justify ourselves or make ourselves right for God’s presence. Any efforts to do so are utterly futile. We are dependent completely on God. God alone is the justifier and it is only His justification that has any value.