Section 6: Salvation – Part 1
Week 4: Justification – God’s Declaration of Our Righteousness
Day 1: Justification Is a Legal Concept
Last week we looked at the process of coming to faith in Christ. This week we want to take a closer look at something that happens as a result of our coming faith. Paul says we are justified by faith (Rom 3:26, 28), but what does that mean exactly?
Justification is a term that has legal connotations. Because he is holy and just, God must judge sin. That’s why the image of the final judgment is a common one throughout the Bible (see Rev. 20:11-15 for example). We will all one day stand before the bar of God’s judgment, and only the righteous will survive it. That’s where the term justification comes into play. It refers to a declaration of righteousness. In the context of God’s judgment, the picture is of God looking at a believer and handing down a verdict that he or she is righteous.
“Righteousness” is one of those words we think we know what it means, but then if we are forced to give a definition we find maybe we don’t understand it as well as we thought. We typically think of righteousness as meaning “morally good.” A righteous person is someone who does good things.
Righteousness does have this ethical dimension, but it also has a relational dimension. Righteousness means being in a right relationship with God. The righteous person is the one who is right with God. The ethical and relational dimensions are intertwined because God expects those in a right relationship with him to do certain things, and we damage our relationship with him when we don’t fulfill our obligations in the relationship.[i]
Justification, therefore, refers to a declaration that we are right before God because we have been deemed to have fulfilled our obligations to him.
Read Rev. 20:11-15
What would it be like to stand before a judge who knows everything you have ever done and thought? Do you think God could declare you righteous on that basis?
[i] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (1996), 80.