Justification! Everyone needs it, but no one can effect it! God alone justifies. “Now it was not written for his [Abraham’s] sake alone that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed if we believe in Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4.23-25; KJ21).
The prominence of sin among all peoples is an obvious theme in the first four chapters of Romans. That theme does not stop there; the entire book refers to our sins and our need for becoming free from sin’s guilt. The thesis of the book of Romans has rightly been identified as being expressed by Paul when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1.16-17).
The just do, in fact, live by faith, but it is not their sinless lives that allow them to be called just; they do not live sinless lives! They are just, but they are not sinless. They sin, but God does not see them as guilty of sin. These facts are consistent with the meaning of justification. One source states that justification is “…the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him.” This definition clearly notes that justification is an act of God; it is not an action of man. Man cannot force God to justify, nor can man set the terms or conditions under which justification takes place. In fact, had God not revealed that such a thing as justification were possible, man could never have known that it exists! Man might wish for such a thing as justification, but his desire alone could have never brought it to pass.
Justification, according to our opening text, was at least one of the reasons for Jesus’ resurrection. “He was raised again for our justification.” All that we can know about this process is that which God has chosen to reveal. The Hebrews writer spoke extensively about justification though he never mentioned the word. However, he did write about Jesus, our great High Priest, and how He entered into the Father’s presence with everything that was necessary for our forgiveness. Unlike previous priests who could only postpone the penalty for sin, Jesus was raised again so that the guilt of sin could be eliminated so far as faithful believers are concerned. He entered into those courts, not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His own blood! Somehow in this act, Jesus satisfied the debt of sin that otherwise would be written against every believer’s name. He paid it all and all to Him I owe!
As a part of our daily vocabulary, Christians would do well to get back to using the terms justify, justification, and similar biblical words. These are some of the most important words that exist in that they express what God does on our behalf through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Likewise, these words imply man’s inability to save himself or to lift himself by his bootstraps out of the mire of sin. It is God who justifies, and that without any input from me! He did not ask me, nor did he seek counsel from any man or group of men. Justification is exclusively in God’s purview; my relationship to justification is merely to receive it as it comes to me through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
1. Who decided that the blood of Jesus would cover our sins? Was He right? Did He have the authority to make this decision?
2. Do those who are “just” live sinless lives? Why or why not?
3. If Jesus was resurrected to bring about our justification (as today’s text says), what would be implied if it could be shown that He was not resurrected? Why has the resurrection become such a battle front?
4. Who, other than God, has a voice in man’s justification? Can man alter God’s terms and conditions?
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