When speaking of God’s salvation of sinners, the term ‘salvation’ can sometimes refer to different blessings of a believer’s salvation: past, present, and future. Today we are going to look at Justification: the blessing of salvation found in the believer’s past when, through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for their sins, they passed from spiritual death to life everlasting (Eph. 2.1-10).
‘Justify’ is a forensic [courtroom] term meaning ‘acquit’, ‘declare righteous’, the opposite of ‘condemn’ [guilty verdict with a sentence]. Justifying is the judge’s act. From the litigant’s standpoint, therefore, ‘be justified’ means ‘get the verdict’ 1 [brackets mine]
All mankind has sinned (Rom. 3.23) and is worthy of God’s outpouring of wrath in judgment (Rom. 1.18). Any sinner deserves God’s wrath. And we are all sinners. I put it this way: Some people deserve Hell more than others, but nobody deserves Heaven. But God provided a way for us to avoid a sentence of condemnation and instead be declared righteous: by placing your faith in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death for your sins.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:8–9, ESV)
Notice that justification is something that is past tense for the believer: we have been justified. Again notice the past tense of the believer’s salvation (referring to our justification) in Ephesians 2.8.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV)
You are spared from God’s condemnation and given new life in Christ when you place your faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for your sins. Justification for the believer is a one-time blessing of salvation that has already occurred in the past. We are delivered from condemnation.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, ESV)
As a believer, you have been saved from the penalty of sin.
Further reading: Eph. 2.1-10; Rom. 8.1; Rom. 3.21-25
1 J. I. Packer, “Justification,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 636.
David Harris is the Senior Pastor at Faith Baptist Church. A former programmer, in his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife Kim and trying his hand at the illusive craft of smoking meat.