“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” – James 2:20-22
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Consider the husband who forgot his wife’s birthday, the parent who missed their child’s first shot scoring points, or the friend who said an unkind word. They all might go to the person who was wronged or slighted in some way and say, what can I do to make it up to you – to make things right.
That’s what justification is. It’s making things right with God when we have sinned against Him. And we all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). As a result, we all need to be made right with God. We all need to be justified.
Justification is about being restored to a relationship with God as if we had never sinned in the first place. It happens when guilt is not imputed to the sinner. The Bible says, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Ps. 32:2). It’s a blessing to be justified before the Lord.
That justification can only come from God, “that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting trespasses against them, and He was committed to the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Co. 5:19). The only One who can remove our sins as if they were never committed is the Lord.
It’s through Christ that justification is achieved. Before Christ came anywhere near the scene, the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning it: “He shall see the labor of his soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many. For He shall bear their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11). “And not only that, but we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11). It’s His blood that cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7).
Just like with the wife who gives her husband a pardon for forgetting her birthday and tells him to make it right by buying her jewelry, being justified – reconciled or made right – is based on the one who was wronged. It’s up to them to forgive and give the terms for how to make things right again.
The same is true with God. Any of us being made right with Him, or justified, is based on God’s righteousness. It’s in His righteousness that we are able to be exalted out of the depths of sin (Ps. 89:16).
Justification does not come through the law. The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). We can’t be made right with God by trying to carry out the Law of Moses.
Finally, justification is by faith. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 1:7).
Notice that Noah had faith and he acted on his faith. His faith in God caused Him to do what God told Him to do. And so it is the same with us. We are not justified simply by believing. It’s a combination of belief and doing what God says to do.
If the husband doesn’t do what the wife asks and buy her jewelry for her belated birthday present, then he hasn’t been justified – he hasn’t reconciled the relationship with her. “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).
God has told us what He requires of us to be reconciled to Him: Believe that Jesus Christ is Lord (Jn. 8:24), confess that He is Lord (Matt. 10:32-33), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Mark 16:16). You can be made right with God today if you do those things.
Do you want to be justified?
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