For the last two weeks we have seen that in order to go to heaven we must repent and have faith in Jesus. But what has happened if we have repented and believed? One of the ways the Bible describes conversion to Christianity is justification: ‘And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified’ (Romans 8:30). If we are to be glorified by God at the last day we need to be justified. But what does it mean to be justified?
Justification is a legal declaration that someone is right. We understand this usage in our day when we try to ‘justify’ ourselves after being accused of doing something wrong. When Jill asks why I forgot to take the rubbish out, I automatically come up with a large number of reasons that justify why I didn’t do it, rather than simply accept that I did the wrong thing in forgetting to fulfil my promise to take it out.
There are a number of clear examples in the Bible that show this legal understanding of the word justify. For example, Elihu is angry with his friend Job for justifying himself: ‘But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God’ (Job 32:2). Elihu is upset because he believes Job is in the wrong, not the right, whereas Job believes he is in the right. In Psalm 51:4 David speaks of God being justified in his judgements: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.’ God is a lawful judge, not an unlawful one and therefore is known as justified. Finally, Jesus refers to a legal justification in the New Testament when he confronts the Pharisees for their actions: ‘He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts’ (Luke 16:15). The Pharisees were justified and declared right in the eyes of the people by their actions (but not justified in God’s eyes).
Therefore when we have saving faith in Jesus we are declared right before God and inherit those blessings that come with being in the right and not in the wrong. Romans 5:1 speaks of this: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’. How do you have peace? By being in the right with God. How do you get right with God? By being justified through faith. If you’re not a Christian, you are not legally right with God. Put your faith in him today so that you will be justified!