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Theology 101 (Lesson 10)
What is justification? | Romans 3:24
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The doctrine of justification teaches that, by God’s grace alone, sinners are made right with God.
This is an entirely new status.
And there are two sides to this new status. One is forgiveness and the other is righteousness.
To be forgiven means my record of crimes before the law has been torn up.
To be righteous means I possess as the same credit of obedience on my record as Jesus.
My new righteous status in God’s eyes is a gift-righteousness that I receive when I confess my crimes (repentance) and receive his record as my own (faith).
My record of obedience (righteousness) is not based on my merit but is based entirely on the merit of Jesus.
This is amazing grace!
Despite this grace, many of us still struggle with the idea of earning acceptance before God, which leads to a cycle of spiritual anxiety and fear.
This is why we need to emphasize the cross in our hearts and minds all the time. Every day. Moment by moment.
The purpose of the cross is to convince us that, through simple, childlike faith in Jesus and the love of God for us, we are fully forgiven and perfectly accepted.
As Paul says in Romans 3:24, those who believe “are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
To be redeemed means to be saved or rescued from a predicament by the payment of a price. The price Jesus paid was his own life as a substitute for us. He was declared guilty as a sinner so we could be declared righteous as sons and daughters of God.
This means that our justification is not based on our merit or our works, but on the gift of righteousness that comes through Christ.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way,
"Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone."
As an act, it’s a declaration or pronouncement of a judge rendering a verdict.
We’re not declared guilty and condemned (according to the law) but forgiven and righteous (according to the gospel)!
This is free for us. But it was costly for Jesus. On the cross, he was declared guilty and condemned for us.
Note that this gift is not offered with condition but is given freely to those who will simply receive it with faith.
The grace of justification is not something we achieve. It’s something we receive.
This means that we don't have to earn God’s favor or sustain it with new obedience.
We don’t obey God to be accepted; we obey because we already are.
This is how the cross offers a solution to the cycle of spiritual anxiety and fear.
Through the work of Jesus, the penalty of sin is removed and we are made perfect in the sight of God.
We are no longer alienated from God but can rest in the knowledge that we are fully forgiven and accepted—even treasured as his children!
When we begin to rest in the justifying grace of God in Jesus, we can live our lives in freedom, confidence, humility, gratitude, and a sense of indescribable peace.
What are the two sides of the new status we receive through justification?
What does it mean that righteousness in Christ is not something we achieve but something we receive?
If we receive it, can we lose it? Explain the significance of this gospel reality.
Why do some people still struggle with the idea of earning acceptance before God?
How can understanding and resting in the grace of God in Jesus affect our lives?
We thank you for your amazing grace that justifies us through faith in your son, Jesus Christ.
We confess that we often struggle with the idea of earning our acceptance before you, even though we know that salvation is not something that can be earned.
Help us to trust in your love and mercy, and to rest in the knowledge that we are fully forgiven and accepted in Jesus.
Let reminders of your justifying grace empower us to live with freedom, confidence, humility, gratitude, and a sense of indescribable peace.
For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.