Theology Made Simple: Justification
Thoughts and insights are taken from Tim Keller’s book Romans 1-7 for You.
Romans 4:3 (NIV)
3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4 describes how God credited Abraham’s faith in God as righteous. Some might think that faith resulted in us being made righteous, or that Abraham’s faith was a form of righteousness but when Paul wrote this he was pointing to us something deeper.
In chapter 4 of Romans, Paul was saying that God treated Abraham as though he was living a righteous life. His faith was not righteousness, but God counted it as if it were. (Keller, loc 1278)
Abraham was not really righteous (perfect and blameless) in man’s eyes, but God treated him as righteous.
5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
This is what we call justification. The doctrine of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation that teaches that justification is achieved by good works. Paul made that clear in his letter found in Romans 3:20.
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Justification is an instantaneous judicial act of God in which He thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us. (Leadership 113 manual). We go back to Romans 3:24-28 to understand what justification means:
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Justification, in a nutshell, talks about the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of righteousness.
First, justification declares that my sins (the past, present, and future), are forgiven. Through this forgiven we have been justified from our sin. We are declared not guilty of any sin because somebody paid for it on the cross. But it did not end with God forgiving my sin, He also imputed (gave us) His righteousness. I am declared forgiven and righteous not because of my good works but because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
But it did not end with God forgiving my sin, He also imputed (gave us) His righteousness. I am declared forgiven and righteous not because of my good works but because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
I preached about the topic of justification in the video below. I do hope you take the time to listen to it so you would understand and appreciate what Christ has done for us and how justification affects our present life.