The Justification of Man
Introduction: One of the sublime subjects taught in the New Testament is the subject of justification. The teaching of Paul in Romans 4: 1-7 presents some of the most succinct thoughts relative to justification. Read the text.
I. A brief exegesis of the text and definition of "justification."
A. In Romans 4: 1-7, Paul shows that justification does not come as a result of keeping the Law of Moses (cp. Rom. 3: 28, 21, 4: 10-16). External acts or meritorious deeds such as circumcision cannot directly result in justification (vs. 10).
B. If one could work and thus earn salvation, grace would not be needed, Paul reasoned (vs. 4, 5). In fact, in the case of earned justification, God would be indebted.
C. Paul shows that such a truth predated the system of Moses (vs. 1 ff.). This singular truth also applies to Christ's law, earned salvation, if such were possible, always excludes grace (cf. Rom. 11: 6).
D. What is the meaning of "justification?"
a. W. E. Vine comments thus on dikaiosis (noun for "justification"):
"Denotes "the act of pronouncing righteous, justification, acquittal;" its precise meaning is determined by that of the verb dikaioo, "to justify"; it is used twice in the Epistle to the Romans, and there alone in the New Testament, signifying the establishment of a person as just by acquittal from guilt" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
II. Justification presupposes guilt and condemnation.
A. The scriptures teach, "For the wages of sin is death " (Rom. 6: 23). Furthermore, the Bible declares that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3: 21, see also Eph. 2: 1, 2, 11, 12). Therefore, all accountable individuals are condemned.
B. Justification is the official pronouncement of freedom from guilt and condemnation. Justification, then, is acquittal. Moreover, spiritual condemnation is so severe that man cannot extricate himself from his penalty of death (Tit. 3: 5).
III. The means of justification.
A. The scriptures mention a number of matters as instrumental in the sinner's justification or acquittal. Man is expressly said to be justified by God, grace, faith, Christ's blood, the Holy Spirit, and by performing works that God has required (Rom. 3: 30; 3: 24; 3: 28; 5: 9; I Cor. 6: 11; Jas. 2: 24).
B. When a careful study is made of the "instruments" involved in justification, harmony is seen. For instance, God the Father provides the opportunity for man's releasement from guilt. Grace or favor emanates from God and is the answer to the problem of man not being able to effect his own salvation. Faith is man's part and allows man to lay hold of God's grace. Hence, salvation is "by grace through faith" (Eph. 2: 8). Jesus' blood is the means of acquittal. Jesus said, "For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26: 28).
C. The Holy Spirit is active in man's justification in that He has provided the word in which we learn of justification (Jn. 14-16). As mentioned, faith on man's part is necessary (Jn. 8: 24). The required faith is an active and obedient faith (Gal. 5: 6). The works expressed by saving faith are not meritorious, though. How can man glory in "belief," "repentance," "confession of Christ's deity," and "baptism"? (Jn. 6: 29; Acts 17: 30, 31; Rom. 10: 9, 10; Acts 2: 38). The Christian is created unto humbly doing the works that God has ordained (Eph. 2: 10).
IV. Some negative means of man's justification.
A. The scriptures are also very explicit regarding how man is not justified. For instance, the works of the Law of Moses do not save man. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law," wrote Paul, "but by the faith of Jesus Christ not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2: 16).
B. What is said relative to the works of the law is true regarding "all works," as such. There is no work thus performed that can eliminate the need of God's grace.
C. However, God does require certain "works" (expressions of faith), in order to access his grace (cf. Tit. 2: 11-14). Therefore, man is said to both save and justify himself and also not be able to justify himself (Acts 2: 40; Lk. 10: 29).
V. The results of justification are many and wonderful.
A. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ, " Paul injected (Rom. 5: 1). Guilt and condemnation are adversely overwhelming, but acquittal results in peace that "passeth all understanding" (Phili. 4: 7).
B. As a result of justification, man can be saved from the impending wrath of God, be made an heir of God, and be freed from the guilt of "all things" (Rom. 5: 9; Tit. 3: 7; Acts 13: 39).
Conclusion: As seen, there are many considerations involved in the great subject of justification. Man, by law, is condemned and cannot effect his freedom. However, God has provided the means of man's being pronounced innocent. All that God has supplied is sure and certain. However, the failure is on the part of man. Man must exercise saving faith (Eph. 2: 8-10). If justification were all of God, as some teach, universal salvation would result. Alas, only a few will be saved because only a few will obey God and accept His terms of pardon (Matt. 7: 13, 14; Heb. 5: 8, 9). The matter that is incomprehensible about God's justification is why do most remain in a state of condemnation?