Being Justified

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
Romans 8:29-30 NIVUK
“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.”
Romans 8:29-30 NLT

We’ll spend another day with these two verses in Romans 8. This time the word “justified” or phrase “right standing with himself” appears in the text, depending on which of today’s Bible versions we look at. What does it mean to be “justified”. 

An old pastor of mine used to define justification as “just as if we had never sinned”. Quite close to the mark. But although there has been much theology written about justification, all easily accessible via Mr Google, it has no impact unless there is a personal experience woven into the definition. I’m sure many of us can spout out what justification means. It all starts with man’s ubiquitous sin. We have all sinned, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:23 – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. And that sin will inevitably one day have to be accounted for, and punishment dispensed. An unrepentant sinner will one day find himself standing before God to give an account of his life. Perhaps God will ask him why he never had his sins forgiven through the death of His Son. Ignorance won’t be an excuse. There are no mitigating circumstances. The punishment is eternal death without parole, in a place far worse than any human jail.

But through our faith in Jesus, who took on board all sins committed, past, present and future when He was crucified at Calvary, we are now declared righteous. It is not as though God now considers us as being holy, which is something internal, but being justified declares that we are sinless in His sight. The sins we have confessed and repented of are now accredited to Jesus rather than to us. And because of that we are now declared righteous in His sight. We are “justified”. 

Far too simple, some say. Christians who believe this are naïve and deluded, goes the criticism. There will always be many who reject such a profound explanation. A question is often, ”How do we know all this is true? No-one has returned from the dead to confirm it”. Jesus told a parable about the Rich Man and a poor man called Lazarus, who begged for money at his gate. Lazarus ended up justified in God’s presence but the Rich Man ended up in hell. He begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to speak to his brothers, to warn them about what would happen to them unless they changed their ways. And the conclusion of the story can be found in Luke 16:19-31, “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’”.

We pilgrims will nevertheless keep on warning those around us. We share our experiences, our testimonies, and the picture of a God of love and well as a God of righteousness and holiness. Our message of hope will mostly be rejected, we know. But unless we try how can God’s love touch someone we know? We can never give up sharing what God has done for us.

Father God. We worship You today, the wonderful and merciful God, with the gracious power to forgive our sins through Your Son Jesus. Amen.

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