Last week we saw that one of things that happens when we are converted is that we are justified before God – we are legally right before him. But the question is then raised how can God say that we are right before him when it is clear that our sin makes us wrong before him? If a corrupt judge is one who lets people off the hook, isn’t this what God is doing? No, God is allowed to let us off for two reasons.
The first reason that we can be justified is because our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus died the death that we were supposed to die. He took our sins upon himself and died as our substitute: ‘…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people’ (Hebrews 9:28). Therefore when God justifies us at our conversion it is not as though God is letting us off the hook without any punishment being made. Instead of us paying the price, God has paid the price through the blood of his son. This is what Paul is speaking of in Romans 5:8 when he says: ‘…we have now been justified by his blood’.
The second reason that we can be justified is because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to our account. Grudem writes: ‘…if God merely declared us to be forgiven from our past sins, that would not solve our problems entirely, for it would only make us morally neutral before God. We would be in the state that Adam was in before he had done anything right or wrong in God’s sight – he was not guilty before God, but neither had he earned a record of righteousness before God.’ Therefore when we are justified before God, he not only forgives us our sins through Christ, but he also accounts Christ’s righteousness to us – we become law abiding citizens. The Bible says this in a number of places and no more clearly than in the book of Romans: ‘righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (Romans 3:22).
So for these two reasons God is not a corrupt judge turning a blind eye when he justifies sinners. The payment for our sins is met in Jesus’ death and the good works we are required to do are met in Jesus’ righteousness. God is therefore ‘just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26). If you want to be justified before God there is no other way except through Jesus Christ. Any other means would make God a corrupt judge. Are you legally right before God because of Jesus?