What is Justification?
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How to be Justified Before God
Justification can be a controversial subject in the Christian world, because there are opposing views as to exactly what justification is. On the one hand we have people who believe you have to do works to obtain justification, and on the other you have people who believe that you are justified by faith alone, and that you can carry on in your sinful life and still be justified. I would like to say that both are wrong. So what does it mean for us to be justified? The Bible truth is plain to see if we just let God teach us.
According to the Bible, everyone who has ever lived (except Jesus) has sinned ... Romans 3:23 ...'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' ... We have all sinned and deserve the penalty of our sin which God reveals is ... Romans 6:23 ...'For the wages of sin is death.' ... So everyone who has ever lived, deserve to die for their sin. So let's think about this for a moment. If in a worldly sense you committed a crime and was punished with 10 years in prison, could you 'work' your way to freedom? Yes, if you serve the 10 years then you would be considered to have paid the penalty for your crime and are free. But what if the penalty for your crime is death? Could you 'work' your way to freedom? No, because only by death could you pay the price for your crime. In the same way as the Bible describes, only by death could our sin be paid for. So if we cannot work our way to justification, how are we justified? ... Romans 6:23 ...'For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.' ... So salvation is a gift, and we know that we cannot earn a gift, otherwise it would not be a gift.
If you give yourself to Jesus and truly accept Him as your Saviour, then Christ's character stands in place of yours and you are accepted and justified before God as if you had never sinned. Take a look at this parable that Jesus spoke concerning justification:
Luke 18:10-14 ...'Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.'
Notice that the Pharisee prayed 'with himself'. He wasn't really praying to God, but just glorifying in his own works and righteousness. But the publican doesn't even count himself worthy enough to lift his eyes up to heaven. And the fact that he beat his breast as he prayed showed his true repentance and sorrow for his sins. Whereas the Pharisee has all these 'works' to offer God and exalts himself, the publican has nothing to offer God, and humbly comes to God asking for mercy. And there was only one of these men that went home justified in God's eyes, and that was the publican. So according to Jesus, if we humble ourselves before God, and truly repent of our sins, pleading for His mercy, we will be justified because Christ paid the full price for our sins.
But what about works you ask? Where does works fit in with this? Are works connected with justification? Absolutely! Let me first say that justification does not depend on works, because as we learned above, salvation is a free gift, we cannot earn it. The book of James has a lot to say about works, so let's take a look at a few verses below:
James 2:14,17 ...'What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.' ... Wait a minute! We learned that it is through faith in the free gift of God that we are justified, so is James contradicting here? Afterall, Paul said in Ephesians 2:9 ...'Not of works, lest any man should boast.' ... No, we just need to understand more fully what he is teaching. If someone tells you that they are a Christian and they are justified through their faith in Christ, BUT they are continuing to live a worldly sinful life and are not growing in their walk with Jesus, what would you learn from that? You would learn that their faith is a false one, and in fact they are not justified at all, because it is their works that PROVE or SHOW whether their faith is real or not. Does that make sense? Take a look at something else James said:
James 2:21-22 ...'Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?' ... We can see that faith and works work together, and works make our faith 'perfect', or complete. In other words, our works give EVIDENCE of our faith. This is how Abraham was justified. He was justified by His faith in God, but his works SHOWED his faith to be true.
You see, Paul in the book of Romans was talking to people who were legalistic, thinking that their works would save them, whereas James is talking to people who thought that because they were justified by faith, that they didn't need to practice obedience or good works ... James 2:24 .....'Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.'
Think about it. When you truly realize the cost of your sin, and what Jesus went through to pay for that sin, are you going to accept it in faith and then carry on in your life as if nothing has changed? Are you going to carry on in sin, living a worldly life after contemplating the cost of the cross of Christ? The Bible says no! Any person who comes to Christ in true repentance, accepting what Christ did for them, will WANT to change and do good works and obey God's ten Commandments, because their heart has been "renewed" in this process.
Those who are in Christ do not obey Him and do works out of duty, but out of pure love for Him. And it is not of ourselves that we do the works, but God will fill us with His Holy Spirit which will empower us to do those works ... Titus 3:5 ...'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.' ... When we are truly saved, there is a regeneration that happens in us, which CAUSES us to obey God and do works, through the renewing of the Holy Spirit in us. It is then that we are declared righteous and justified. And from then on, God's people do not do works TO BE saved, they do works and are obedient to God's commands because they ARE saved.
James 2:23 ...'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.' ... Abraham was made righteous by God through his belief. But what did that belief produce? Works, by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
Let me finish by making a very important point. The Bible confirms that we are judged according to our works:
Revelation 20:12 ...'And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.'
Matthew 16:27 ...'For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.'
Revelation 22:12 ...'And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.'
Our faith is made perfect by our works. Works are the evidence of true conversion and it is by those works or lack of works that we will be judged. Please don't think like so many professing Christians in this world do, believing that all they need to do is "believe" in Christ Jesus to be justified. No, the Bible is very clear that when we TRULY come to Christ, and accept His atoning sacrifice for our sins, then there is a renewing that takes place in our hearts and we become "new creatures" who devote their lives in obedience and service to Christ.
What will Jesus see in your life? Will He see good works and obedience making your faith complete and invite you into His Kingdom? Or will He see a lack of works and obedience, showing that your faith was not real, and send you to the lake of fire? I pray that you would study and truly grasp hold of this important topic of justification and ask God to reveal His Bible truth to you from His Word.
I plead with you to give your all to Christ Jesus so that you may be justified before God.
James 2:18 ...'I will shew thee my faith BY my works.'