Week 29: Justified
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:20-26
In an effort to continue our journey in deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ, we’re going to spend the next several weeks digging into some of the theological terminology that Paul uses. Both here in Romans 3, as well as other places in scripture, to describe God’s love toward His people through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This week’s word is JUSTIFIED. The word justified in the New Testament means, to have been declared, notice the tense there, to have been declared not guilty or just or righteous. A simple way to remember the meaning of justified is, that in Christ, from God the Father’s perspective, it’s “just if I’d” never sinned.
Now, there’s one big problem with this concept. We have sinned. In fact, we are guilty. Each and every one of us. You and I are wretched black-hearted sinners by both nature and nurture. In fact, no one had to teach us to sin, it was born deep within us.
Verse 23 tells us that we are ALL sinners and ALL of us have “fallen short of the glory of God.” Now, that phrase “fallen short” literally in the Greek means “missed the mark.” That means that we have missed the mark of God’s standard and requirement of us. God’s standard is perfection because He is perfect. And all of us know that we can’t measure up to that standard and that IS the standard of the righteous God.
Imagine it this way. Imagine you were in an archery contest. And to move on to the second round, you had to hit three perfect bullseyes in round one. You knock your arrow, you pull back the bowstring and you release your first arrow. And it soars over the target, you missed the mark. Now, do you get to move on into the next round? NO WAY! No matter how well you do in your next two shots you have already blown it because of your first shot. This is our situation.
We have missed the mark of the glory of God. And even if we try our best from this day forward it does nothing to make up for our past sins and mistakes. So then, since that is true, how does the righteous judge of all creation declare that we are not guilty when we know that we are?
Well, verse 24 lets us know that we are justified by His grace as a gift. Grace means that we receive something that we do not deserve. What we deserve is judgment and punishment and yet we receive the gift of grace. Now, a gift cannot be earned. This is one of the reasons verse 20 lets us know that no one will be justified by our works.
This gift of grace from God must be received. Trying to earn the gift of grace is futile, yet many church people try and attempt it. And it always and only leads to failure and exhaustion. However, the gift of God’s grace freely received leads to freedom and peace. That’s peace with God.
Because of what Christ accomplished on our behalf at the cross, that’s what we’ll cover that in the next several weeks, for anyone who is in Christ the just judge of the universe looks at guilty sinners like you and I and declares, “NOT GUILTY! JUSTIFIED.”
There’s only one catch. You can only receive this free gift by FAITH. Maybe the best way to think about the word FAITH is to use the word TRUST. You see, there’s an eternity of difference between “believing that” and “believing in.” The Bible says that even the demons “believe that” Jesus is who He says He is, but that kind of belief isn’t a saving faith.
To “believe in” means to trust. Now, you don’t have to fully understand to fully “believe in.” In fact, see the disciples in the gospels. But what you must do, is you must trust. Trust means that I believe that Jesus is who He says HE is, the son of God. And that He will do what He said He would do. Faith is believing that when Jesus died on that cross that somehow it counted for me.
For anyone that believes in Jesus like that, as their Lord and Savior, they have been justified. In Romans 5:1 Paul says it this way…
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And now, may the free gift of grace through the person and work of Jesus Christ be received freely and continue to draw us deeper and deeper into a relationship with Him.