Are you Justified and declared righteous?
An age-old question
Job who lived in the Patriarchal era or even before was asked by his friend Bildad the Shuhite this most important question of human beings- “How can mere man stand before God and claim to be righteous? Who in all the earth can boast that he is clean?”
Case studies -Abram and David
Bible also records in Genesis 15:6 this about the patriarch Abraham, “And Abram believed God; then God considered him righteous on account of his faith.” Looking back to how God declared Abraham as righteous, the New Testament asserts these in Romans 4. It says, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Then Bible continues to say Romans 4:4-6 this and listen carefully “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justified the ungodly, their faith is credit as righteousness.
New Testament also connects how the patriarch David the King was declared righteous although he was a sinner who committed adultery and murder in the following way. It says David says the same thing about the justification of God or righteousness of God when he spoke of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Romans 4:7-8 quotes from Psalm 32 to prove how God declares a sinner righteous. It says, “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” God declared Abraham and David righteous even though they were sinners on account of their faith in the promise of God. David says in Psalms 32:3-5 this –When he kept silent about his sins, God’s heavy hand was upon him day and night, his bones wasted away and were groaning all day long. His strength and energy were sapped as in the heat of summer. However, when he agreed his sins to the Lord and confessed and did not cover his wrongdoings, the Lord forgave the guilt of his sin.
Therefore both in the cases of Abraham and David, they were declared righteous by God based on their faith in God, not by their works, even though they were still sinners while they lived here on this earth.
Galatians 2:21 says, “for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” In other words, if you could gain the righteousness or right standing before God by strict observance of the Law (the good works), then Christ died for nothing. Alternatively, if you could get the righteousness of God by good works, then what was the need for the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Bible says in Galatians 3:6-14 this by reminding how the patriarch Abraham was justified and declared righteous by God. It says, “Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Then it says verse 7 and following verses, therefore, understand those how have faith are children of Abraham. It also says the same way God justifies the gentiles. It says Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles also by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham when God promised, “all nations will be blessed through you.” So all those who rely on faith are blessed and declared righteous the same way Abraham was justified. Verse 14 says, Jesus Christ redeemed us so that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles also through Christ so that by faith we might also receive the promise of God.
Both Jews and Gentiles are made righteous so that they both can stand in front of the holy God and obtain the promise of God by faith in Him for what Christ Jesus has done.
Old Testament forward-looking and New Testament backward-looking
In the Old Testament period, God justified the people based on their future looking faith in God that He would provide a perfect sacrifice for their sins. Hebrews 10:1 says, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” It continues to say in the same chapter that the law and all the offerings and sacrifices were fore-looking for better and final fulfillment. It says those sacrifices in the old testament are an annual reminder of sins. The truth was the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. Then Christ came into the world for the fulfillment of the requirement of the laws which no man can ever fully obey. He came to do the will of God fully and completely and he lived a perfect and holy life and finally died as a substitutionary death for the final and full remission of people’s sins. And by that will of God, by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you have been declared righteous. Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Then it says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And the sins of the people are forgiven and they are declared justified with God because God put all the sins on the body of Jesus Christ, he went to the cross and paid for the sins. Therefore sacrifices and strict obedience to the law and hard endeavor of good and excellent deeds are not the requirements to get justified with God. This is the perfect sacrifice (the one time sacrifice of Jesus Christ) the old testament believers were looking forward and placed their faith on. They all knew that their animal sacrifices and offerings would never make a permanent solution to their sins. It was a temporary arrangement until all the shadows are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Now, a New Testament believer places his faith in God by looking backward to what was already God accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ. God always justified people by their faith in God. Never God justified or declared people righteous based on the observance of the law or good works. All through the different dispensations, He justified and declared people righteous by their professed faith in the promise of God.
Heavenly courtroom verdict is the declaration ‘Justified and righteous’
Justification comes out of a courtroom verdict. For example, a judge announces a person is now legally free based on the evidence. Similarly, God, as the ultimate and final judge declares from his heavenly court a sinner is legally free and acceptable to him because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, satisfied the divine justice, by paying for sinner’s guilt by his broken body and shed blood on the cross. Listen carefully to what the Bible says in Romans 8:1-3, “So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death. We aren’t saved from sin’s grasp by knowing the commandments of God because we can’t and don’t keep them, but God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours—except that ours are sinful—and destroyed sin’s control over us by giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.” In essence, in Jesus Christ, a sinner is free from the condemnation and judgment of sins, because Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection are imputed to the sinner’s account when a person comes to God in the name of Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:33-34 challenge with this question, “who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, also risen and who is at the right hand of God, interceding for us.
In Philippians 3:9 Apostle Paul wrote, he wants to be “found in Christ Jesus, not having his own righteousness, which is from the Law (based on good works), but the righteousness which is from God by faith..” God forgives the sins and shortcomings and views a sinner righteous by declaring him justified, by imputing Christ’s righteousness to him.
The cause of justification is two-fold: The entire life of the full and perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to the Law. The perfect sacrificial and substitutionary death of Jesus on behalf of the people. Nothing more needed for the Holy God than what Christ had already done. You see, we were unable to live in full obedience to the law of the holy God. In one way or another, we all fell short when it comes to God’s law. However, Jesus perfectly obeyed it all through His life and then finally offered his divine body and blood according to God’s eternal plan of people’s salvation. Now the righteousness and perfectness of Christ are imputed to sinner’s account when he or she comes to Jesus Christ and call upon His name. This is the basis of justification and righteousness.
By Justification God legally declares a Christ believing sinner perfect forever. Listen to what Hebrews 10:10 and14-18 says about this. “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. ” 14-18 says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First, he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
Did you notice the phrases ‘made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ’, ‘once for all’, ‘made perfect forever’,’ Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more’ etc? The conclusion is Justification is a once for all declaration by God in favor of a Christ believing sinner. A sinner upon professed faith in Christ is perfected forever. Nothing more God requires us to stand in front of Him. If there was another human way, there was no need for God to send His only begotten Son to this world and allow him to die, bury and rose again.
Justification is not a progressive or ongoing process as some may think and teach. Bible does not see once for all, perfected forever (by Christ’s death) justification as an ongoing one or in a developmental stage. The subjective progression of becoming more like Christ in spiritual growth is not called justification. It is described as sanctification. God declares a believing sinner justified and righteous at the time of his or her professed faith in Jesus Christ. We need to know the difference between justification and sanctification. Even though sanctification which means becoming more and more holy as you grow in Christ Jesus is rooted in justification, the two concepts are different. One should not be confused with the two concepts.
Now going back to century’s old question of Bildad the shuhit- “How can mere man stand before God and claim to be righteous? Who in all the earth can boast that he is clean?” we have the answer. The answer is not in ourselves. The answer is in God who sent His only begotten Son for the sake of our sins. God justifies you and declares you righteous in Jesus Christ.
There were two major issues to get the acceptance of God and to stand in front of him. They were sins and unholiness of our life. The holiness of God demands justice. God put all our sins on the body of Jesus Christ who perfectly obeyed the law and allowed him to die, bury and rose again. The sin issues are solved in Christ Jesus. God’s perfect justice is met by the perfect obedience and the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.
Based on this, a person can now be declared justified and righteous by God. This is the legal declaration of God, even though a believer in Christ remains as a sinner when he lives on this planet earth. However, based on faith, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to him, forgives his past, current future, and all sins, fully reconcile with him, adopts him into God’s family, lavish the richness of God’s grace and love on him and grants eternal life. At the time of his/her death or at the time of the return of Christ, whichever happens first, a believer in Christ who is imputed with the righteousness of Jesus on account of his faith and trust in him, would be glorified with glorified and heavenly bodies and live with God and Christ throughout the eternity.
The source of Justification with God is not human. The source of justification is God’s grace and love.
The means of justification is faith in God. Faith in what God had done for you in the life and person of Jesus Christ
The reason or the ground of justification is the perfect obedience, life of Jesus and His sacrificial and substitutionary death, burial and resurrection
The moment of justification is when God declares you legally justified when you call upon the name of His Son Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. The moment you repent about your sins and call the name of Jesus for help, the court of heaven declares you righteous and justified to stand guilt-free and without condemnation in front of the holy God. You are reconciled to God, adopted to His family, lavished the richness of God’s love and grace and awarded with eternal life in heaven.
Would you pray now? “Father in heaven, I believe I can be declared justified and righteous by the almighty God when I place my faith on you and what you have done for me personally. I believe Jesus, your Son, died in my place for all of my sins. Please forgive my sins. I call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please lavish on me the richness of your grace and love and over me with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Thank you for accepting me, adopting me to your family and granting me eternal life. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.”