Our Justification

THIS SUBJECT OF justification is one that is very dear to the Christian. Despite the fact that doctrinal subjects are sometimes thought of as being rather dry or difficult to understand, anyone who has been a student of the Bible for any length of time recognizes that justification is such a fundamental doctrine that a clear knowledge how it works is most necessary.

Understanding who receives justification, and how, and why, acquaints us with the use of ransom price by believers in our Lord Jesus during this Gospel Age. It also makes us aware of how the ransom will be applied to the world in general during the Millennial Age, and for what purpose. The subject of justification comes into play also as it affected the faithful ones during the Jewish Age—how the Ancient Worthies were justified to “friendship” with God, as well as how the nation of Israel received typical justification through the Tabernacle arrangement. But most important of all, the clear understanding of justification as it relates to Jesus’ followers during the Gospel Age enlightens us concerning their relationship with the Heavenly Father as his sons.

The English words, justification and righteousness, come from the same Greek root word, the meaning of which is ‘to be made right’, or ‘to make righteous’. Since the Scriptures repeatedly state that it is God who justifies, the proper thought behind the word justification, as we will consider it in this lesson, is ‘to make right with God.’ For example we read in Romans 8:33,34: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

During the Gospel Age in which we are living, justification is the act by which God reckons or counts the followers of Christ as being righteous—no longer sinners—because they have faith that Christ died to eradicate their sins. Therefore, despite the fact that they are still members of the sinful, fallen race, they are accounted as being acceptable to him, and can return to the sonship which was lost when Adam sinned. This relationship is so real that Paul could write: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”—Rom. 8:1

Of course, we realize that God’s blessed arrangement to consider us his sons is just that—a matter of reckoning—since we still must contend with our body of fallen flesh. However, he has begotten us to a new spiritual life, and permits us to have fellowship and communion with him. Paul goes on to say: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [in a body of flesh, yet without sin] and for sin [or as a sin-offering] condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—vss. 2-4

This thought is almost impossible for us to grasp, it is so wonderful! God is the author of a great plan of salvation by which he can release all mankind from the curse of death. And this merit of Christ’s sacrifice is offered first, during the Gospel Age, to the followers of Jesus. As Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “By his own blood he [Jesus] entered in once into the holy place [heaven], having obtained eternal redemption for us. … How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:12,14) It is because we have been justified by God through the merit of Jesus’ blood, and because it has been applied on our behalf before God’s altar, that we can have fellowship with God. We can communicate with him, and he hears our prayers. We are his children whose lives he directs and blesses.

Paul gave us a great deal of information on the matter of justification in his letters. One important factor we must keep in mind is that as fallen human beings we do not deserve this wonderful provision which God has made of returning us to his favor. It is entirely a matter of God’s grace, his favor, his mercy. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 3:23 through 26, where he says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

In Romans 5:9 Paul wrote: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath [the curse of death] through him.” Previously, in Romans 4:25, the apostle had told us that Jesus “was delivered [into death] for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” And in Romans 5:1 we are told that we are “justified by faith.” So we can see that there are many factors involved in the matter of justification—God’s grace and favor to us; the death and resurrection of our ransomer, Jesus Christ the righteous; his presentation of the merit of his sacrifice before the throne of God for its acceptance; and, finally, our faith in the redeeming power of his blood—all of which are necessary for us to be covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness.—Isa. 61:10

Paul, the theologian, with his logical and Spirit-begotten mind, was greatly used by God to explain this important matter to us, and to reveal the sequence of the steps by which our justification is accomplished. In his writings, Paul highlighted the fact that justification is not dependent upon our keeping the Jewish Law perfectly. It is perfection of intention to do God’s will perfectly which is required.

Paul pointed out that Israel never actually obtained righteousness through keeping the Law, despite the fact that every year on the Day of Atonement, their sins were typically forgiven for the forthcoming year. As soon as their sins were forgiven, they again immediately failed to come up to the perfect standards of the Law. As Paul tells us in Hebrews 10:1: “The Law … can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the corners thereunto perfect.” The Law was specifically given to Israel to show them that in their sinful condition it was impossible to keep God’s Law—it could only be fulfilled by a perfect man. Of course, throughout much of their history the Law was neglected and ignored. And worse than this, Israel substituted worship of heathen gods and obedience to their laws—in place of the righteous and perfect Law given to them by God. And so, instead of being lifted up through striving to keep the Law and its righteous standards, they fell deeper and deeper into degradation.

When Jesus took the Law “out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” those who were called by God to seek after the high calling in Christ Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, could receive justification through the grace and favor of God, if they had the faith to claim the promise. (Col. 2:12-14) It is not necessary to keep the letter of the Law, but we must keep its Spirit. Jesus, when asked what was the most important commandment of the Law, said that the Spirit of the Law was to love God supremely, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the everlasting law of God, the spirit of which permeates the law of love by which Jesus taught his disciples to live. And, of course we cannot even do this perfectly, but we must bend every effort, every fiber of our being must be brought into the battle, to subdue the fallen flesh, and to live by the spirit of love.

Paul repeated this thought again, in Romans 3:20, where he wrote: “By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified.” But then he added the thought that justification is made manifest by faith in Christ. (vss. 21,11) The Williams Translation reads: “No human creature can be brought into right standing with God by observing the Law; for all that the Law can do is to make man conscious of sin. But now God’s way of giving right standing with him has come to light.”

In the outworking of his great plan of salvation, God gave, at great cost to himself, his only begotten Son to pay the price for our release from sin and death. (John 3:16) Not only had God known that sin and death would enter upon the scene early in man’s career, but he planned for his release from the sentence of oblivion by engaging his Son as the ransomer, arranging with him to accomplish their release even from the time the foundation of the earth was laid! (Rev. 13:8) What great love, wisdom, mercy, and power is shown in the great divine plan of the ages! “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because [Jesus) laid down his life for us.” (I John 3:16) Our Lord willingly and joyfully entered into this arrangement, also at great cost to himself.

God’s plan emphasizes the aspects of grace and mercy that Paul treated in Romans 3:22, where we read: “Now the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being Justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”—vss. 22,23

What did Paul mean when he said, in Romans 5:9, “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him”? God’s sentence of death upon Adam after his disobedience is often referred to in the Scriptures as God’s ‘wrath’, and we as Adam’s offspring have inherited that curse. As we previously quoted, in Romans 3:25, we are justified by his blood because Christ poured out his perfect human life as our ransom price—an exact equivalent of what Adam lost—releasing us from Adamic condemnation. It is through our faith in Christ’s death upon the cross that we receive remission of our sins—justification—through the grace of God.

In Leviticus 17:11 we are told, “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” Therefore, life poured out, shed blood, results in death. This is why we understand the symbol of shed blood to represent death, and in the case of our Lord Jesus, his shed blood was offered voluntarily as a ransom sacrifice, a life for a life—Jesus’ life in place of Adam’s forfeited life. Jesus died for Adam, and thus released not only Adam, but the entire human race unborn in his loins, from the condemnation to death.

Paul admonished the elders at Ephesus, saying, “Take heed to feed the church of God, which he [Christ] hath purchased with his own blood.” If we are purchased with this precious blood, then our relationship with God is dependant upon that offering. We cannot separate sacrifice from salvation. And so, this expression, “being justified by his blood,” is used to emphasize the fact that the ransom is the means of our justification, and that it plays the indispensable part in our relationship with God.

Summarizing what we have covered thus far: First, we have noted that our justification is based upon God’s grace. Not that his condemnation to death was unjust, but because of his love and mercy he wished to be the justifier of man. He formed the plan, he made the arrangements to carry it out, and then he sacrificed, at great cost to himself, his own beloved Son, Jesus Christ the righteous. And we have seen that it was necessary for our Lord Jesus to pour out his blood as the ransom sacrifice, that by so doing we have been supplied the means by which we can be justified—made just or righteous—in the sight of God.

There was still another essential feature necessary before we could receive justification even after our Lord’s sacrifice had been consummated upon the cross. After remaining in the grave for parts of three days, our Lord had to be resurrected from the dead. We read, “[Jesus] was delivered [into death] for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25) Had Jesus remained in death, the human race would never have been redeemed. A dead Christ could not complete the necessary transaction of presenting his blood before the throne of God, and having it accepted as a redemption price.

This thought is again expressed in Hebrews 9:24. There Paul speaks of the Tabernacle type where, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the bullock’ and the goat on the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy—which represented heaven itself. In the 29th verse Paul tells us, “Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands [the Tabernacle of ancient days, nor even the Temple], which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

We emphasize this phrase, ‘now to appear in the presence of God for us.’ When Christ entered into the presence of God for us at the time of his resurrection, he did not have in his possession the blood of a bull, or the blood of a goat. NO, he had the merit of his own blood given as a sin-offering. This was the merit of a perfect life that had been willingly laid down in sacrifice. He was an offering for sin, or a sin offering. Had he not made this formal presentation to God and received his approval and acceptance, we would not have been able to become justified. It is one thing to offer a sacrifice to God. It is another to have God accept it as satisfactory.

Jesus said: “This is why the Father loves me, because I am giving my own life to take it back again [not in the flesh, but on a spiritual plane]. No one has taken it from me, but I am giving it as a free gift. I have the right to give it, and I have the right to take it back. I have gotten this order from my Father.” (John 10:17, 18, William’s Translation) This does not mean that he raised himself from the dead. Oh no; he was raised from the dead by the power and the majesty of his Heavenly Father.—Acts 2:24; Acts 10:40; Eph. 1:19-23

By contrast, Adam’s life was ‘taken away’ from him because he disobeyed God’s simple command. But Jesus’ perfect life was not ‘taken away’ from him. Christ was always obedient to the Father’s will. He gladly and voluntarily laid down his life in sacrifice. At his resurrection, the first thing he did was to present the ‘merit’ of his perfect human life to the Father. He possessed this ‘merit’ because he had given up his right to perfect human life here upon earth. If he had desired to remain here and had kept the Law perfectly, he could have lived forever as a human being. But he chose to conform to God’s plan for himself when he laid down his life. He also chose to acquiesce to God’s will when he accepted life from his Father again. As we can see, the resurrection of Jesus and his appearing before the face of his Heavenly Father were two very important steps in providing for the basis of our justification.

Paul continues the discussion by saying, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. … 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. 5:1,2,10

Another crucial step required before receiving justification concerns our part in this arrangement. Not only must we fully exercise our faith in the redemption provided by Christ’s death, but we must offer our lives in complete and everlasting consecration—dedication to God’s righteous service. In turn, God will examine our proffered consecration to determine its depth, its sincerity, and our ability to carry it out. When he has found it to be acceptable to him, he will approve it, and grant to us this state of reckoned perfection, so that we will have something worthy to offer him. Nothing short of perfection could ever be an acceptable offering to God. Justification to reckoned perfect human life allows us to have something valuable to sacrifice. We give up our rights to resurrection to human life guaranteed to everyone in the kingdom, and then God bestows upon us his Holy Spirit, begetting us to a new nature. We are then considered New Creatures in the sight of God—his spirit-begotten sons. God will supply the strength and grace for us to carry out our consecration to do his will even unto death, if we transform our hearts and minds to the doing of his will.

Faith and consecration are active principles in the life of every justified child of God. Paul recognized, through special revelations from the Father, the fact that the church throughout the Gospel Age would go through times very trying to their faith. All the apostles knew that because of ‘fiery trials’ (I Pet. 4:12), Christians during the Gospel Age would need to be reassured that their faith was very pleasing to God. Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of the great faith of the Ancient Worthies who lived prior to our time, indicating how much they endeavored to serve God faithfully and endured much suffering in the accomplishment of this. Paul strove to kindle a similar love and faith in the disciples then, as well as to pass this message on to us at this end of the Gospel Age. To be pleasing to God, faith and consecration are required of all in every age and on every plane.

Upon our consecration and justification, we take up our cross, as did Jesus, and begin to lay down our lives as a sin-offering. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” is our Lord’s promise to us in Revelation, 2:10. And he invited us, “Come, … and follow me.”—Mark 10:21

Consider the marvelous statement in Romans 5:1,2, for a few minutes! “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” There are many nuances of meaning in this word, peace. Sometimes it carries the thought of tranquility, or quietness. But the meaning of the word peace in this verse in Romans has the thought of reconciliation between God and ourselves. There is a peace of God. But this scripture is referring to a peace with God, which includes the thought of being in good standing with him, of sonship, and of fellowship with him. Having peace with God is a very important matter. We have become reconciled, we are at one with him. This peace of reconciliation is possible only when we have had the merit of Christ’s blood applied to us.

An illustration of justification is beautifully shown to us in Israel’s Tabernacle arrangement. The Court represents a justified condition. We see the bullock being offered on the brazen altar which is in the center of the Court, and recognize it as the sin-offering made to reconcile us with God. We know that the Court pictured a justified condition because of the typical furnishings: the white linen curtains indicate a pure condition; the posts, with their sockets of copper, indicate our justified humanity (copper representing in the Scriptures the human nature). The goat which had also been placed on the brazen altar along with the bullock represents our laying down of our justified human life as an offering for sin.

The Holy Place pictures the condition of consecration and spirit-begettal. The new life is sustained by the light from the oil (God’s Holy Spirit) in the golden candlestick, the shewbread from the table (God’s Word), and the golden altar (our acceptance of our Lord’s sacrifice, which makes possible communion with God through prayer). The Holy illustrates the spirit begotten condition of the new creature, and each item of furniture represents a vital part of what is necessary for the sustenance and nourishment of that new life.

The two conditions of consecration and justification are in effect at one time. If the sacrifice is shown as being on the altar, then we know that justification has already taken place, or it would not be an acceptable sacrifice to the Heavenly Father. The New Creature is daily being developed, while the justified human body dies a sacrificial death. If this work goes on satisfactorily, and we are faithful until death, we will pass under the veil and enter the Most Holy. The Most Holy pictures our glorification, our spirit birth on the divine plane, our entrance into the very presence of Jehovah!

Thinking a little more about the meaning of the word peace, we remember the scripture which promises, because of the birth of the Savior, that one day there will be “on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14) Do we try to imagine what this peace will involve? The principal thought in this passage is not concerned with peace as opposed to war. This peace refers to the time when there will be a reconciliation between the world of mankind and the Heavenly Father, when Christ’s kingdom has been established upon earth. Because God made us this promise of peace, it means that the time will come when there will be a reconciliation between mankind and God. This is the good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people! Mankind will during the Millennial Age have all the necessary factors made available to them to go through the process of actually becoming perfect human beings. When they have walked along the highway of holiness and have reached perfection, they will have a righteous standing before God. They will not need reckoned justification, but will have reached the perfection which they lost in Adam.

During the Gospel Age we recognize that our reckoned justification is not a process of being made right. Rather, it is an instantaneous condition of being counted as being right with God because of faith. But in the Millennial Age mankind will progress toward actual righteousness, or justification by walking up the highway of holiness to reach perfection. It will, perhaps, take some the entire period of one thousand years, but in the end, all the willing and obedient will stand before God, reconciled and at one, with peace filling their hearts.

May we rejoice in the realization that our Lord was willing to die, and was raised from the dead, for our justification. Let us continue to walk in the path which we have chosen—in the footsteps of our Redeemer, carrying our cross. This path is as a shining light which shines brighter as we get closer to the perfect day.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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