Many times when talking about 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 those unclear words is justification. However, a Bible study and examination using the Biblical definition of justification will make this clear.
What is the current definition of justification?
Justification is generally defined as: 1. The act of showing that something is 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 to ask why something exists like a rule or a law.
The root of the word justification is the right word. The right word is where we also get the word justice. Just is commonly defined as being “based on or behaving in accordance with what is morally just and just” (2). Just is also used in the sense of describing something exact in its application or dealing with something very recent in time. For the purposes of this study, the focus will be on something that is morally right.
What is the biblical definition of justification?
The word justification in the Bible refers to what God says is morally righteous and just. This is why he is the only one who can justify us or declare us righteous. Justification is an important part of God’s plan of salvation, as stated in Psalm 51:
We recognize our state of sin before a holy God and that only he can declare us righteous and save us by his mercy (Psalm 51: 1-6)
We desire the forgiveness of God and that his Holy Spirit recreate in us a new and pure heart, which comes from the new birth by his Spirit in his family (Psalm 51: 7-11)
We allow God the Holy Spirit to convince us to believe in his truth and to trust him alone to forgive and save us (Psalm 51:12)
We are motivated to openly praise and serve God righteously out of appreciation for what he has done for us (Psalm 51: 13-19)
Justification must be based on the standards of God or the source, the act of justification, and the results of justification will not be righteous in the sight of God. With this in mind, God’s justification is biblically described in three ways:
The source of justification is determined by God
Man’s source of justification is based on what he declares to be morally just and just. The Word of God tells us that no man has a righteous standard (Psalm 143: 2; Romans 3: 10-18). Despite this, man tries to justify his actions in front of others, but before long he even violates his own standards. This only condemns himself and shows that he is a hypocrite (Job 9:20; Luke 10: 25-37).
God’s source of justification is what He declares to be morally just and just. The Word of God tells us that only God has a righteous standard (Job 4:17; Psalm 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 righteous 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 which 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 let go 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 have confidence 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
Different sources of justification result in different lifestyles and beliefs, or fruits, between believers and unbelievers (Psalms 37:12). It also results in divergent judgments. Those who base their judgments on the Word of God will produce righteous 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 fairly and differently from 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 the eyes of man (Romans 10: 9-10; Hebrews 11: 1-2; James 2: 14-26).
Those who are justified by God know 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 that they have an inheritance in heaven that never fades (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.
Article by Dr Michael Williams
Dr. Michael L. Williams is a pastor, author, Christian educator, and Bible counselor who has served in ministry since March 2000. Dr. Mike holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Christian education and previously worked as a nurse . Dr. Mike is the senior pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, which he founded in March 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 topics commonly 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 grown children and several grandchildren. Learn more about Dr Mike on his personal ministry website Wisdom4Today
Resources – Scripture quotes are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. Resource – Williams, Michael L. (2014). Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation. Biblical Doctrines: An Introductory Study of the Doctrines of the Bible (Chapters 10 and 11). http: // www. wisdom4today.org. (1) Google. (2014). “Justification”. Retrieved from Google, https: // www .google. com /? gws_rd = ssl # q = justification. (2) Google (2014). “Fair”, retrieved from Google, https: // www. google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=just