Justification is a central theme throughout the New Testament of what the life of a Christian is to be. One of the central verses in all of scripture dealing with Justification comes from the Book of Romans…
“28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
— Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)
In this scripture we see that we are all destined for greatness when it comes to our purpose in the eyes of God. Looking back at Psalm 134 we see David make the claim that he was known by God in his mother’s womb…divinely pieced together…and “fearfully and wonderfully made”. So we come back and see Paul then say, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” with the knowledge of both we see that everyone who has ever been created has been predestined to be the image of Christ. Looking at Genesis we see that God stated, “Let us create man in our own image.” So using that as well we see we are all created in the image of a wonderful Creator.
Paul then continues on to state, “…those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also JUSTIFIED…” so…we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ…we have been called because of our choice to accept that we are in the image of Christ…and because of that we have been justified. To understand justification we need to understand what justification is…
justify [juhs-tuh-fahy] verb, -fied, -fy⋅ing
– To declare free of blame; absolve; to free (a human) of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin. Used of God.
So if we use the dictionary definition of justify we can see that we are declared free from sin, we are free of any type of blame, we have been absolved…and because of that we are no longer subject to any penalty of sin. We have been declared by God to be blameless in his sight – and because of that – have been glorified according to the scripture. In other words, being justified is ‘just-[as]-if-I’d never sinned’.
Paul understood this…and Paul wanted to make sure that other Christians believed it too…Look at the letter to the Galatians…
” 15We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
— Galatians 2:15-21
What does our justification say about God…that we are all justified by one thing, and one thing only! Our full justification comes from our faith in Jesus Christ…nothing else. What that says to us as Christians is this…your justification comes through faith…not from works. Paul had to tell the Galatian church this because of the belief that was still prominent that the Law had bearing over the lives of those who were to earn justification. Does this mean that we should not abide by laws? Not at all – but what it does mean that you cannot receive full justification without a faith in Christ. Doing right will get you a long way in life…but combining that with a faith that is unwavering is the key to complete Justification.
Paul then makes sure to mention the impact that has on the ministry of Christ…why? Because it would keep the people from believing that Christ could be lessened due to the sin of man. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
Why does Paul see fit to mention that his life is through faith in Christ…followed by going into detail of why. Paul wants to be faithful because Christ showed a faithfulness on the cross that it would save the world. Paul says that Christ loved him and gave his life to save Paul’s; and the good news is that we are all in the shoes of Paul on this matter. Christ died so that we might live…so that we could have a life that has a purpose.
The final point that Paul makes is to make sure that it is understood that if we were able to attain righteousness through the law there would have been no reason for Christ to come and die…Paul also makes sure to address the fact that Christ is not a servant to sin. Christ knew no sin…His Justification came through his faith in God…just as ours comes from a faith in him. Christ was blameless, yet died with the sins of the world on his shoulders. Our sin was so great that God could not dare to even look upon His own Son hanging on a cross because he was covered in our sin…but Christ washed that sin clean with his blood…opening the door for our justification.
We are made clean through our faith…our acceptance that Christ washed us clean with his blood…and our willingness to be crucified with him. Paul knew this…stating that he no longer lived his own life…but Christ who lived through him. Why could this claim be made? Because Paul was created in the image of Christ…and Christ lived through him because of his acceptance that Christ’s death justified him.
”I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
— Galatians 2:20 (ESV)