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Justification: How does the Bible define it?

Gary Googe Mar 22

Justification is one of many wonderful blessings God gives someone the moment they accept the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as a basis for their salvation. This means that when the person dies, they will immediately go to heaven and get to live there forever in the wonderful new home God has prepared for them.

More technically speaking, justification is the act of God by which the believing sinner is declared righteous, or justly freed from obligation to penalty, and given by grace a position of divine favor.

It is important to understand that justification is never provided on the basis of one’s works; it is freely given as an expression of God’s grace. Complying with laws, rules, or regulations of the Bible have nothing whatsoever to do with attaining this wonderful blessing.

Romans 3:20

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. [Emphasis added]

It is simply by putting one’s faith in what Christ has done in His death, burial, and resurrection that justification is provided.

Romans 3:28

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [Emphasis added]

This work that God has done as a means to our salvation is clearly stated for us.

Romans 5:9

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. [Emphasis added]]

And what “work” was this that He did to make a way for our salvation?

I Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]

Works on our part have nothing to do with it. There is no work in one’s expression of faith; it is a non-meritorious expression. The merit is in the object of faith.

Galatians 2:16

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. [Emphasis added]

To say that we are justified by the faith OF Christ is to say it is because of His faithfulness and not ours that we are saved from God’s condemnation and His punishment. Salvation is totally on account of His work, not ours. And we need not think we can or should try to add anything to it.

As much as we may want to keep and fulfill God’s laws, it is Christ alone who has lived up to God’s standards completely. It is because of our identity with Him and His goodness that we are saved.

Galatians 3:11

11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. [Emphasis added]

The work Jesus Christ did, His death, burial and resurrection, does nothing for you if you think your own works have anything at all to do with your attainment of salvation.

Galatians 5:4

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen [departed] from grace. [Emphasis added]

Only Jesus Christ has ever lived up to and completely fulfilled the standards of the perfect law of God.

Matthew 5:17

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. [Emphasis added]

One of the greatest discoveries you will ever make is the grace of God. Grace simply tells us that salvation, and every other blessing God provides, comes without any merit on our part. Faith is the key to God’s grace.

Romans 3:24

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]

It is the redemptive work of Christ that makes the way for our salvation.  It is not anything we do.

Titus 3:7

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis added]

This, of course, means God gets all the credit, all the glory for our salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]

In fact, all that you will ever become and every blessing you will ever receive will come by His grace.

I Corinthians 15:10

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. [Emphasis added]

Even in Old Testament times, there was never a place for boasting in justification. It has all come by grace through faith.

Romans 4:2

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

All too often people suppose that it is the forgiveness of man’s sins that gives him salvation. However, as important as forgiveness is, that alone does not provide it. Salvation also demands the addition of God’s righteousness to man’s account before God. That addition of His righteousness occurs when the individual accepts God’s work through Christ as the basis for his salvation. It is by no means a righteousness that man creates for himself by his own efforts. When man accepts what Christ did to provide it, God credits him with the very righteousness of Christ. This crediting of God’s perfect righteousness to man has always been the basis for his justification.

Romans 4:3-5

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]

The moment identity with Christ’s righteousness is made, all condemnation for that person is removed.

Romans 8:1a

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,

Even though justification has always come by grace through faith, there was a time when God did demand certain works, not to provide justification, but to show proof of one’s faith. This was the case in the time before the present Dispensation of Grace and it will be that way again in the time of The Tribulation that will follow this present Dispensation of Grace. This is why the Apostle Paul uses the “but now” phrase in his writings, showing the contrast between what we have now vs. what went on before us in former times.

Romans 3:21

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; [Emphasis added]

Again, Romans 4:4-5 is a passage you want to be familiar with.  It states so plainly our situation.

Romans 4:4-5

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]

The book of James has much to do with justification as it existed in the Dispensation of Law that preceded our time and will again follow our time in The Tribulation period.

James 2:24

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. [Emphasis added]

We must always bear in mind that the book of James, along with all the other non-Pauline writings are for us, but not to us as believers in this present Dispensation of the Grace of God. In every dispensation, only faith is acceptable to God for justification. Whenever a person wishes to express his faith, he will surely express it in the way God demands for him; to do otherwise would represent the absence of faith–unbelief. When God has said, “Offer an animal sacrifice and I will accept you,” those of faith have complied [Example: Abel (Genesis 4:4)]. Where there was the absence of faith, some substitute has been offered [Example: Cain (Genesis 4:3)]. In all other cases the person’s unbelief, along with the expression [the work] of that unbelief was rejected, and justification was not provided [Genesis 4:5].

When this present “Dispensation of the Grace of God” has run its course, God will again begin dealing with “the twelve tribes of Israel,” now “scattered abroad” [James 1:1]. In that day, the “gospel of the kingdom” will again be proclaimed [Matthew 24:14] and works as a way of expressing faith will again be included in the terms of salvation as they were when our Lord was on earth. This is the period James is addressing in his epistle [James 2:18-26].  This is the passage people like to quote from when they’re trying to say that works are a part of the means to salvation today.

In conclusion, what you need to primarily gain from this is that works have their place, but they in themselves have never provided anyone with salvation. At best they only serve as evidence of one’s faith. But God knows the heart; He knows exactly what we believe about everything. In our time, only faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is demanded. To add to that in our time represents the absence of faith, unbelief.  No works of any kind are required today. If anything at all is added as a basis for one’s salvation, salvation is not provided. And, in one’s study of the Bible, only by the right-division of Scripture can this very important principle be correctly understood.

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