Many times when discussing salvation, different words are used to describe certain theological points. Words such as faith, repentance, redemption, righteousness, sanctification, regeneration, glorification, and justification come to mind. Some of these words are clear in their meaning; others are not so clear. One of these unclear words is justification. However, a Biblical study and examination using the Bible definition of justification will make it clear.
What is the common definition of justification?
Justification is commonly defined as: 1. The action of showing something to be right or reasonable. 2. Good reason for something that exists or has been done (1). In most cases, justification is commonly used to explain why things were done in the context of someone justifying their actions. Other times it is used when questioning why something exists like a rule or a law.
The root of the word justification is the word just. The word just is where we also get the word justice. Just is commonly defined as being “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair” (2). Just is also used in the sense of describing something that is exact in application or dealing with something very recent in time. For the purpose of this study, the focus will be on something being morally right.
What is the Bible definition of justification?
The word justification in the Bible refers to what God says is morally right and fair. For this reason He is the only One that can justify, or declare us just. Justification is an important part of God’s plan of salvation as outlined in Psalms 51:
We recognize our sinfulness before a holy God and that only He can declare us just and save us by His mercy (Psalms 51:1-6)
We desire God’s forgiveness and for His Holy Spirit to recreate in us a new, clean heart, which comes from being born again by His Spirit into His family (Psalms 51:7-11)
We allow God the Holy Spirit to convince us to believe in His truth and to trust in Him alone to forgive us and save us (Psalms 51:12)
We are motivated to openly praise and justly serve God out of appreciation for what He has done for us (Psalms 51:13-19)
Justification must be based on God’s standards or else the source, the act of justification, and the results of justification will not be just in God’s eyes. With this in mind, God’s justification is described Biblically in three ways:
The source of justification is determined by God
Man’s source of justification is based on what he declares as morally right and fair. God’s Word tells us that no man has a righteous standard (Psalms 143:2; Romans 3:10-18). Despite this, man tries to justify his actions before others, but before long, he even violates his own standards. This does nothing more than condemn himself and show that he is a hypocrite (Job 9:20; Luke 10:25-37).
God’s source of justification is what He declares as morally right and fair. God’s Word tells us that only God has a righteous standard (Job 4:17; Psalms 119:160; Proverbs 29:26-27). Because God is righteous, Christ is righteous because He is God (Deuteronomy 32:3-4; 1 John 5:7 KJV).
This makes Christ just and the source of our justification (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 23:3; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 7:51-52). Yet, as a man, even Christ received His justification from God the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 5:30; 1 Peter 2:21-23; 1 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, our specific source of justification is the blood of Christ that was shed when He died for our sins on the cross (Romans 5:6-10).
The act of justification is performed by God
We become justified by God the moment we believe that Christ died and shed His blood on the cross for our sins (Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:20-4:2; Galatians 3:11-26). By faith we forsake of our standard of justification and believe what God says about His standard (Luke 18:9-14; Romans 10:17). In doing so, we also trust that God’s standard of judgment through Christ is true (Exodus 23:7; John 8:13-18).
The fruit of justification is produced by God
Differing sources of justification result in differing lifestyles and beliefs, or fruit, between believers and unbelievers (Psalms 37:12). It also results in differing judgments. Those who base their judgments on God’s Word will produce just results (Deuteronomy 25:1; 2 Samuel 23:1).
Likewise, those who allow the Holy Spirit to change them to be more like Christ will be seen as justified in the eyes of others (Luke 2:25; 1 Timothy 3:16). They behave in a just manner that is different than others (Proverbs 10:1-31; Isaiah 26:7; Hosea 14:9; Matthew 12:37; Galatians 5:22-23). Their behaviors also demonstrate the faith they have in their hearts, which also justifies them in man’s eyes (Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 11:1-2; James 2:14-26).
Those who are justified by God experience peace (Romans 5:1) because they know that they are saved from the wrath to come (Romans 5:9) and will be rewarded and glorified in the resurrection (Acts 24:15; Luke 14:14; Romans 8:29-30). They also know they have an inheritance in Heaven that never fades away (Galatians 3:6-9; Ephesians 1:12-14; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 9:14-15; 1 Peter 1:3-4).
Justification is the process by which God declares that someone is morally right. The source of justification is determined by God; the act of justification is performed by God; and the fruit of justification is produced by God.
Dr. Michael L. Williams is a pastor, author, Christian educator and Biblical counselor who has served in ministry since March of 2000. Dr. Mike holds under-graduate through post graduate degrees in Christian Education and formerly worked as a nurse. Dr. Mike is the Senior Pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, which he founded in March of 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (selahmountain.org). In addition to counseling, he teaches how to overcome life issues Biblically on topics such as anger management, marriage, addictions, and other subjects typically referred to as mental illnesses. Dr. Mike is also a writer at What Christians Want To Know. Dr. Mike lives with his wife Pamela Rose and adult daughter Hollie Rose. He and Pamela have other adult children and several grandchildren as well. Learn more about Dr. Mike at his personal ministry web site Wisdom4Today
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. Resource – Williams, Michael L. (2014). Soteriology: The Doctrine of the Salvation. Bible Doctrines: An introductory study of the doctrines of the Bible (Chapters 10 & 11). http: //www. wisdom4today .org. (1) Google. (2014). “Justification”. Retrieved from Google, https: //www .google. com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=justification. (2) Google (2014). “Just”, Retrieved from Google, https: //www. google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=just