Some Agents Involved in Man's Justification
Biblical justification is a spiritually and intellectually challenging study. Justification (dikaiosis) is simply defined as, "Denotes the act of pronouncing righteous acquittal" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine). Justification or the act of God pronouncing man free of condemnation is one of the outstanding truths found in the Bible. Indeed, justification is a Bible subject:
"16: And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17: For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18: Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Rom. 5).
In the foregoing passage, Paul establishes that man is a sinner; hence, stands condemned under the penalty of law. The amazing thing is that justification is introduced as a "free gift." It is also apparent that Jesus Christ is presented as the means of this justification. Easton's Bible Dictionary makes the following observation relative to biblical justification:
"Justification: A forensic term, opposed to condemnation. As regards its nature, it is the judicial act of God, by which he pardons all the sins of those who believe in Christ, and accounts, accepts, and treats them as righteous in the eye of the law, i.e., as conformed to all its demands. In addition to the pardon (q.v.) of sin, justification declares that all the claims of the law are satisfied in respect of the justified. It is the act of a judge and not of a sovereign. The law is not relaxed or set aside, but is declared to be fulfilled in the strictest sense; and so the person justified is declared to be entitled to all the advantages and rewards arising from perfect obedience to the law ."
One way to treat, define, and illustrate biblical justification is to explore the necessary agents involved in the pronouncement of man's acquittal.
God's grace, the motive agent. An agent is a means or instrument to the accomplishment of a given action or goal. When the subject of man's exoneration is examined, it is clear that grace is an agent. Paul wrote, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3: 24). God's grace reflects on his nature and desire that all men be saved (Tit. 2: 11-14). God's grace is also motivation in the sense of actuating man in the acceptance of God's grace. Man does this by his implicit faith and humble obedience (Eph. 2: 8-10).
Christ, the ready agent. As we have noticed, without Christ man would have no hope of justification. Jesus is presented as ready and eager in regards to man being freed from the guilt sentence of sin. Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3: 30). Paul preached to those in Antioch in Pisidia that through Jesus is preached the forgiveness of sins. He continued by saying, "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13: 38, 39).
Christ's blood, the procurable agent. Inspired writers did not hesitate to teach that Jesus' blood is man's means of justification. Hear the apostle Paul in his great work on justification, the Book of Romans:
"6: For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7: For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9: Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10: For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5).
When we compare such verses as Matthew 26: 28 and Acts 2: 38, we find that it is in the act of scriptural baptism that one initially experiences Jesus' blood and the remission of their sins.
The name of the Lord, the immediate agent. Peter boldly taught the Jewish Council thus regarding the name of Jesus, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4: 12). Jesus' name involves his authority and power (Acts 4: 7-12). Jesus has been given "all authority in heaven and earth" (Matt. 28: 18). To reject Jesus' authority is to be rejected by Jesus (Matt. 7: 21-23). All that the Christian does must be done in the name of Jesus or by his authority and power (Col. 3: 17). When one humbly acquiesces to Jesus' authority, one immediately enjoys justification.
Man's faith, the human basic agent. Faith is seen to be very important as far as man and his justification is concerned. Consider the following:
"1: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5).
Faith is acquired by man's efforts. This is why some have faith and others do not. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," declare the scriptures (Rom. 10: 17). As man studies God's word, especially the miracles of Jesus, man increases in faith (Jn. 20: 30, 31). As this faith grows, it reaches the point to where it moves the person to obedience (click on "Saving Faith" to learn more). This brings us to our final agent involved in man's justification.
Man's works, the human active agent. Man can never earn or merit his salvation; however, God has required certain acts on man's part in the obtaining of his extrication from sin (see Tit. 3: 5). Even belief itself is said to be a work, a work that God has ordained (Jn. 6: 29). Please observe the clear teaching of the inspired James:
"14: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15: If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16: And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17: Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18: Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20: But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21: Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22: Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23: And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26: For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (Jas. 2).
In conclusion, man, all men, stand condemned in their sins (Rom. 3: 23, 6: 23). Man cannot pronounce himself acquitted, only God can do this. God has put in place certain agents, if you please, to effect man's justification. Some of these instruments we have seen, grace, Christ, Jesus' blood, Jesus' authority, man's faith, and man's obedience. You will notice upon analyzing these agents that they can be placed under two headings or categories: God's part and man's part. God has provided the grace and Jesus and it is up to man to supply the faith and obedience (to study more about biblical justification, click on "Justification, an Act of Acquittal" and "Justification, Paul and James").