"And whom he called, them he also justified..." (Rom. 8:30). Justification is an important and major New Testament doctrine. It is especially propounded (and used in almost a unique way) by the apostle Paul; more is said about justification in his epistles than in any other part of the New Testament.
But "justification" is a difficult concept for many to understand. Part of the problem is that the English word "justify" conjures up a meaning in people's minds different from that intended in the original Greek of the New Testament. Also, over the centuries, the English word has taken on a different meaning in English than it originally had in the 1600's when the King James translation was made. In the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, the word "justify" has as its first meaning, "to show to be just or right; give a good reason for." Probably most people today associate the word "justify" with this primary definition: i.e., giving a reason for an action. However, listed also as definitions are "to clear of blame or guilt; vindicate, "as well as to "show a satisfactory reason or excuse for something done."
Just and Right. What makes the term "justification" so difficult to understand, as it is used in the Bible, is that we read it all by itself and do not connect it with another very important biblical term, which in English seems to be a quite different concept. That word is "righteous" or "righteousness."
In actuality, in the Greek of the New Testament, the word "just" is dikaion; its verb is "justify" or dikaioo. Related to these is the word "righteousness," dikaiosune. A "just" man is a man who is "right" or "upright."
To "glorify" something is to "make it glorious." To "rectify" something is to "make it right." To "dignify" something is "to give it dignity" or "make it have dignity." In the same way, to "justify" is to make "just" or " righteous."
This is the usage of the New Testament term. After a brief introduction, Paul begins the book of Romans by talking about the revelation of the "righteousness of God" In verses 16 and 17 of the first chapter, he states that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for in it is revealed the "righteousness [dikaiosune] of God... from faith to faith as it is written, The just [dikaios] shall live by faith"
All Are Unjust. After this, Paul launches into a long explanation of the "unrighteousness" that is on the earth. This will bring God's wrath from heaven against men who hold, to unrighteousness and suppress the truth (verse 18). As we read in verses 21-32, these men are primarily Gentiles,
In chapter 2 of Romans, Paul tells his readers (primarily Jews) that they are also without excuse, Though they would like to judge the Gentiles, are they any better? In verse 11, he says "There is no respect of persons with God" — whether Jew or Gentile, whether with law or without it, every man is going to be judged according to what he has done, on the basis of whether his deeds have been right or wrong, He then proceeds to condemn those who have the law and pay lip service to it, but have not kept it (verses 17-23), Finally, Paul ends in chapter 3 by showing that everyone has sinned, regardless of whether Jew or Gentile, "What then? are we [Jews] better than they [Gentiles)? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no not one" (verses 9- 10).
Further, Paul goes on to emphasize that what the law says it says to everyone who is under it, because God considers all the world to be guilty (verse 19), The law brings the knowledge of sin (verse 20), but since no one has kept the law perfectly, no one can be justified (made just or righteous in God's sight) by the law,
God's Righteousness. But now God is revealing the righteousness (dikaiosune) of God apart from the law or "without the law," although "the law and the prophets" (a phrase signifying the first two major sections of the Old Testament) bear witness to it (verse 21), Paul says it is "the righteousness [dikaiosune] of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (verses 22-23).
Paul asserts that everyone has sinned, that the world — both Jews and Gentiles — is in utter hopelessness either with or without the law, Those without the law have sinned without it, and those with, it have sinned with it thus everyone is guilty before God, There is only one way to be made right in God's sight that is through faith in the Son whom He has revealed,
Notice verse 24: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," "Being justified" means to be made righteous — the passive form of the verb dikaioo, which is dikaiousthai, This is defined in the Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Lexicon of the New Testament as" to be acquitted, to be pronounced and treated as righteous, and thereby become dikaios, receive the divine gift of dikaiosune [righteousness]" (p, 196), Here Paul tells us that we are made righteous by the grace of God which is freely given, We stand in the dikaiosune of God, that is, the righteousness of God, And we do it by the grace of God through the redemption that we have in Christ Jesus.
"God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Rom. 5:8, 9). In verses 25 and 26, Paul goes on to explain that this redemption comes to us because God sent Christ forth as " a propitiation through faith in his blood... to declare, I say, at this time his [God's] righteousness [dikaiosune]: that he [God] might be just [dikaion], and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus, "God declares His own righteousness by passing over our sins,
Remember that the words "righteousness," "just," and "Justifier" are all from the same basic family of words in the Greek language, God is declaring His own righteousness apart from the law in order that God may be just (righteous Himself) and that He might be the One who makes righteous (justifies) the person who believes in Jesus,
This excludes boasting because this righteousness comes from faith (verse 27), "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified [made righteous] by faith without [apart from] the deeds of the law" (verse 28),
Case in Point: Abraham. This truly is an amazing doctrine! How can God make sinners righteous? How can He, while we are enemies, love us so much that Christ would die for. us that we might be reconciled to God and therefore be "justified" by His blood? (Rom, 5:6-10,) Paul answers from the law itself: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Rom, 3:31),
Here the "law" means the first five books of the Old Testament. Paul uses the law — the book of Genesis in this case — to explain how God counted for righteousness the faith that Abraham had,
"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom, 4:3; see Gen, 15:6), The word "counted" is the same Greek word translated "imputed" in verses 6, 11, 22-24 and "reckoned" in verse 10,
This "imputing" of righteousness was reckoned as a result of Abraham's faith and belief in God's word, "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him [Abraham]; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed [the righteousness of God will be imputed to us like it was to Abraham], if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification [diakaiosis]" (verses 22-25),
What is God doing when He justifies us through faith? When we, allow God's faith and His word to enter us, when we have a change of heart which comes from repentance, and we express that change of heart through living faith and belief in God, that faith is attributed to us as righteousness, God counts it as righteousness, We may not actually be righteous in the sense we have done all the things that a righteous person should do as demanded by the law. But because of this intrinsic change of heart there is in a Christian righteousness (an attitude of faith and wanting to fulfill the law) which is apart from the law, which God sees and counts as more important. This is the righteousness which comes through faith.
Blessings of Justification. Paul goes on to explain the wonderful benefits of being justified. These are outlined for us in Romans, chapter 5.
The apostle writes: "Therefore being justified [made righteous in His sight] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 1). Notice that the first benefit is the fact that we are now at peace with God. When we have a change of mind (repentance) and come to believe in God and in His Son that He raised from the dead, we are at peace. Prior to that, we were enemies and were fighting Him. And God's wrath was against us because we were sinners. But now we have put all that away. We have buried the hatchet, so to speak, and through this justification we now have peace — peace that comes through Jesus Christ. And it is through Him that we have "access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (verse 2).
Through Jesus Christ we have access to God. We are not worthy to stand before God on our own; it is God's grace that allows us to stand.
Also, we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (verse 2). So we have three immediate benefits!) peace with God, 2) access by faith to God's grace, and 3) the hope of God's glory.
But there are other benefits that come from this justification as well as this grace, for Paul says that a Christian who has been justified can even meet tribulation head on with exaltation. For the Christian knows why he suffers. He knows the purpose for patience and hope and experience, and he knows above all that God loves Him throughout this tribulation (verses 3, 4).
You Can Be Sure. But how do we know that God loves us when we have trials and problems?
Because we have this hope, this meaning and purpose to life, we are told that this hope will never let us down or disappoint us. We will never have to be ashamed, for God's love is shed abroad in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit. We know God loves us by the Holy Spirit which we have in us (verse 5).
But how can we be sure? Paul explains that although a man might scarcely, or rarely, die for a really good, kind and righteous man, Christ died for us while we were enemies, while we were yet sinners, that we might be Justified by His blood (verses 7-9).
Now if God loved us enough while we were His enemies to permit Jesus to die for us, how much more does He love us now that we have accepted His Son and we are His friends? "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more [now that we're His friends and children], being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (verse 10).
To be justified is to stand in God's sight clean of your guilty past because you have believed in the only begotten Son of God and have had a change of mind which changes your life. The first step in living this new life is to recognize that God imputes to you righteousness for the faith which has come out of this change of heart. This faith is in His Son.
"And whom he called [by His Word which brought you to His Son Jesus Christ], them he also justified" — made righteous — made to stand clean and just in His sight.