Justification by Faith
By Pastor Dennis Smith
In this book I am focusing primarily on sanctification; how the believer lives the obedient Christian life by letting Christ manifest His righteousness in and through him. Some have called this the “imparted” righteousness of Christ. It is essential the Christian understand this aspect of righteousness by faith because he is to become just like Jesus in order to be ready for His return (1John3:2).
The goal of this post is to enable the reader to better understand how this is to happen in their life. It is a subject that all Christians must understand and experience if they are living when Jesus returns.
In this chapter I am focusing on the justification aspect of receiving Christ’s righteousness. This has been called receiving the “imputed” righteous of Christ. Justification and sanctification, the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ go hand–in-hand when one accepts Christ as his Savior. They are two sides of the same coin. God’s desire is for the believer to experience both in the life. The problem through the ages has been confusion concerning what the Bible teaches on these important subjects and understanding how to experience them to the fullest in the life. The great Protestant Reformation of the 15th and 16th centuries was caused by such men as Jerome, Hus, Luther, and Calvin becoming personally enlightened through God’s Word on this vital subject. Through the study of God’s Word they realized the established church of their day was teaching error concerning these vital biblical truths. Justification by faith was a precious teaching to these great Bible scholars just as it has continued to be to all who have come to understand and accept it since that time.
To be justified is to be declared free from the guilt and penalty of law breaking. For instance, if you are accused of breaking some law you will be taken to court, tried, and judged. If you are found guilty you will receive a just penalty for your law breaking. If during the trial you are found innocent of the charges you will then be declared “justified.” You will be free from the guilt and penalty of the law breaking you were accused of.
This is what justification by faith is all about for the Christian. When a sinner accepts Christ and asks God’s forgiveness the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the accused sinner, and he becomes justified: freed from the guilt and penalty of his law breaking, which is death.
The first step in understanding and experiencing justification from our disobedience of God’s law is to know what the Bible teaches about man’s natural born condition before God. According to the Bible we are all sinners through and through. Not one of us is righteous; for we have all sinned (Romans 3:10, 23). Because of this condition we are all condemned to death as unrighteous law breakers (Romans 6:23). This terrible condition came upon mankind through the forefather of us all, Adam (Romans 5:12). His sin brought this sinful condition upon mankind. Along with that sinful condition came the just penalty of death. Therefore, every human being stands before God as a condemned sinner deserving of death. That is our hopeless, helpless condition and unless God does something for us we are all eternally lost; separated from God. This is the reason Jesus Christ became one of us (John 3:16-18).
Once one understands this he might say; “I now realize I’m a sinner. So I will begin obeying God’s law and He will accept or justify me; declare me free from the guilt and death penalty of sin. I will now begin obeying God’s law, work hard at atoning for all my past sins and become righteous in His sight.”
The truth is that when we come to realize we are sinful law breakers we are powerless to then begin keeping the law of God in order to achieve righteousness and justification; freedom from the guilt and penalty of sin in our life (Romans 3:20). No matter how hard “we try” to obey God’s law we still fall short of perfect righteous obedience. No, we are sinners through and through; slaves to sin through our sinful nature (Romans 7:14, 18). We are filled with unrighteousness (Romans 1:29). Any righteousness we try to attain by trying to obey God’s law is as “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)