The Greek word for justification is “dikaiosis’ and means “to declare righteous” or “to be acquitted from guilt”. Justification is one half of God’s holiness (integrity), righteousness being the other half. Justification is the function or action of God’s integrity and righteousness is the principle or standard of God’s integrity. God’s justice carries out the judicial sentences pronounced by God’s righteousness.
At the moment of salvation, we are justified by God because His righteousness was credited to our account. Justification means vindication. Because of the substitutionary spiritual death of Christ, the believer is vindicated or set free from all charges against him. The penalty for personal sins and Adam’s original sin was paid by Jesus Christ so that the believer’s debt is now paid in full. The obligation that God’s righteousness (the standard of God’s integrity) demanded, with regard to sin, was satisfied by the justice of God (the action of God’s integrity) at the Cross. (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 3:24)
It was the work of Christ on the Cross that completely satisfied (propitiated) the justice and the righteousness of God. Once God’s justice and righteousness were satisfied, He was justified in declaring anyone that would believe in Christ to be righteous. At faith in Christ, the believer is said to be “freely justified by His grace”. Justification, like righteousness, is a grace function of God, which means we cannot earn it nor do we deserve it. (Romans 5:8-9; 9:30-32; I John 2:2)
Justification is the provision by God to solve the problem of man’s sinful condition. God’s justice had to find a way to deal with sin without compromising His perfect character. God’s love provided the answer in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Since Christ had no sin of His own to pay for, He was qualified to pay the penalty of sin (spiritual death) for the entire human race. (II Corinthians 5:21)
It is the imputation of God’s righteousness to the believer that guarantees him an eternal relationship with God and qualifies him to spend eternity in Heaven. Imputation means that God credits to your account something that properly belongs to another. In this case, God credits the righteousness of Christ to your account because at salvation you were justified and placed in union with Him (baptism of the Holy Spirit). (Romans 3:22; II Corinthians 5:21)
A single act of faith in Christ removes the guilt and punishment of sin. The believer is redeemed (bought back and set free) from the Law. The Mosaic Law was never designed to justify mankind. Justification has always been, and always will be, by faith alone in Christ alone. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16)
The Law was good and served a specific purpose: to point people to Christ. Every aspect of the Law, including ritual worship, the furniture in the Tabernacle and sacrifices, pointed to the Person and Work of Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law by never offending in any point of it. Jesus is the personification of the righteousness and the justice of God.
The Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Galatians to refute the teachings of a group of Jews, known as the Judaizers. They taught that one must be a circumcised Jew and keep the Law in order to have eternal life. They also taught that being a member of the ecclesiastical groups of Israel (i.e. Pharisees, Sadducees) gave a person acceptance before God. Paul refutes all of these false teachings in his letter to the Galatian church. He clearly shows the fallacy of the idea that the Mosaic Law was designed to bring salvation, and instead, teaches the Galatian believers the real purpose of the Law, which was to bring a person to Christ. By showing a person his sinful condition, the Mosaic Law reveals the need for a Savior and God’s plan of salvation. (Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Acts 15:1; Romans 9:30-10:3; Galatians 1:6-9, 2:15-21, 3:1-3, 5:1)
In order to show that justification has always been the same throughout the history of mankind, we need to examine salvation in the Old Testament. Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were created perfect from the hand of God and “fell” because of sin. Their decision to sin against God resulted in much more than simple expulsion from the Garden, a minor result. The most serious result was spiritual death (separation from God without the ability to do anything about it). Amazingly, Jehovah (Jesus Christ) had walked with them daily in the cool of the evening and taught them doctrine. After the Fall, we see Adam and Eve being clothed in the skins of animals, an illustration of the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross. Both Adam and Eve understood and accepted God’s salvation solution and its resultant eternal life. (Genesis 3:21-22)
After the expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve began to have children. The first two were Cain and Abel, and they provide for us another illustration of salvation in the Old Testament. As the story goes, both sons had been taught the approach to God, which was a blood sacrifice. It was the blood sacrifice that symbolized the actual sacrifice that Jesus Christ would someday make on their behalf. However, there was no salvation in the ritual itself, as it was to be only a representation of an inward faith in the coming Savior. Well, you know the story… Cain brought a sacrifice to God from the labor of his hands, illustrating the fact that he had rejected the teaching of grace and attempted to reconcile himself to God by works, which God rejected. On the other hand, Abel followed the instructions of his father and brought a blood sacrifice to God (which He accepted), illustrating that he had understood and accepted salvation through the coming Savior.
The other well-known illustration is Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation. It is Abraham that accepted the coming Savior as illustrated in Genesis 15:6. He also understood that his faith must be demonstrated before the world. The story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice to God is the classic example in Scripture of a believer’s complete and unwavering faith in God. Abraham was already justified before God, so this test of his faith could only be an illustration of that faith to the world. (Genesis 22:1-14; Romans 4:1-5, 22-25)
As a believer in Christ, your outward production justifies you before the unbeliever. The Book of James is the view of the believer as seen through the eyes of the unbeliever. As Christ’s representative on earth, the world judges us by what we say and what we do. Therefore, post-salvation justification is faith plus divine production. It is through divine production that we vindicate ourselves before others. The verse from the Book of James, “Faith without works is dead” means that faith in Christ without divine production is useless or vain in the eyes of the world. Only through producing the character of Jesus Christ (divine production) can a believer be justified before man.
It is the responsibility of each one of us to properly represent our Savior. We must all ask ourselves, “What kind of representative am I”? There is a great deal of information with regard to proper representation in the Bible. James, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a clear picture of our responsibilities as ambassadors for Christ.
Proper representation of Christ to the world begins with Divine Viewpoint Thinking or thinking the thoughts of Christ. The world cannot see our thinking. However, it can see the results of our thinking. Our thinking is evident in both what we say and how we act. “Out of the abundance of the heart (mind) the mouth speaketh” and “As a man thinketh in his heart (mind) so is he”. In Romans 12:1-2 we are commanded to change our thinking from human viewpoint to divine viewpoint by presenting ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. Sacrificial living means setting aside anything in your life that would distract you or keep you from the execution of the Christian Way of Life. God says that this is your reasonable or logical service. Why? Because you cannot be the kind of representative of Jesus Christ that God wants you to be until you are motivated to do what He commands. (Matthew 12:33-37; Proverbs 23:7)
The context throughout the Book of James is directed to those that lack mercy toward others, are judgmental of others and are “respecters of persons”. For Christians who exhibit these characteristics, their faith is useless because it has not transformed their thinking. Only faith that is exercised will transform the believers thinking, speaking and actions. Exercising your faith means making the truth of God’s Word a part of your consciousness, your frame of reference and your norms and standards.
When we as Christians stand up and tell the world that we have a faith that will set them free, lift them up, transform their thoughts and actions, give them hope, joy and peace, it’s fair for them to ask: “Have you? Does it? Can it?” If they fail to see these things in our lives they most likely will not believe us. None of us is neutral when it comes to our effect upon people’s opinion of the faith we profess. You can be the best or the worst illustration of the truth of God’s Word by your words and your deeds. (A quote from Rev. Buddy Dano)