A question for the ages I guess, hardwired inside every one of us. Accompanied by a deep, instinctive longing to be fully reconciled with our Creator. The answer in a word – and a theme we’re exploring in this issue as we journey together these next 2 months – justification, by faith in Jesus.
“How can a man be made right with God?” (Job 25:4)
What is justification exactly? Biblically, it is a legal declaration from God that we are innocent of sin. Instead of being punished, we are declared right before Him. It is not mere pardon – justification still respects the law. It is an act by which God determines to treat the guilty as righteous, just as if they had not sinned. The basis for this? The finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross. He takes our place as Accused #1 and is put to death in our place. He who knew no sin becomes sin for us, broken for our brokenness. The thief on the cross next to Jesus, justified with just a few words of faith, is a powerful reminder that restoring the relationship between us and God is by Grace alone through faith, not by any good behaviour on our part! Through faith, God counts us as righteous, justifying us because of Christ.
Justification. No wonder Martin Luther said that it is the cornerstone of Christianity! No wonder it sets our faith apart from all other world religions! And no wonder our false sense of justice and piety makes it so difficult to accept.
“The doctrine (justification) is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour.”Martin Luther
Researching and writing this introduction has made me realise how absolutely central the doctrine of justification is to our faith. It really is at the heart of all that we are called to believe, live by and proclaim as Christians. The history-splitting sacrifice of Jesus, or ‘atonement’, justifies a fallen world before a Holy God. So that humans can once again walk and talk in relationship with Him, full of hope and wonderfully free!
But have you fully embraced this scandalous doctrine of justification? His Word teaches us that it is a gift which we must keep grabbing on to in order to live the abundant, eternal and freedom-proclaiming life we are all made for. And it is a gift we need to let the ‘sinners’ alongside us know about – so they too can live free and fully justified before their Creator.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)