Justification

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Jesus parable in Luke 18: 9-14 about a clergyman and a tax collector so beautifully illustrates justification by faith in the Righteousness of God.

Two men went over to the temple to pray. One was a super religious do-gooder called a Pharisee and the other a tax collector, called a Publican. A taxman in those days was considered by the Pharisees to be the most wicked sinner in the world. He was a man who betrayed his own countrymen by collecting more taxes than were assigned. A Pharisee was a member of the Jewish religious order that went to the temple three times a day and prayed on his own seven times daily. Talk about trying to pile up brownie points with God, in Luke 18:11, it says, “the Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, God, I thank thee that I am not like other people, swindlers, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax collector.” Then he boasted all his good deeds off to the Lord – fasting, tithing, praying and sacrificing. Do you think this guy was kidding? No! He did all these things. Why, in the average church today he will be considered a real pillar, wouldn’t he? People will applaud him “look at this great saint of God.” Everything he did in the public eye was beyond reproach.

Then in vs 13, the other man prayed, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” It says he was unwilling even to lift his eyes to heaven but instead was beating his breast. This “beating of the breasts” was a sign of sorrow and unworthiness. He counted himself unworthy to come to God. 

 

Jesus Looks at the Heart

What did Jesus say about this tax collecting sinner? “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for anyone who exalts himself shall be humble but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” To be humble means to have true estimation of oneself and where he stands with God. To recognize there is nothing you can do to gain acceptance in God’s sight but to merely allow Him to make you acceptable. By contrast, look at how the Pharisee approach God. He was full of pride about all the things he was doing to gain God’s acceptance. His deeds in themselves were not wrong, only his motives. His pride gave away the fact that he didn’t understand the real meaning of the Gospel Truth of the water and Spirit that contains God’s Righteousness. 

 

Justification Defined

A simple definition which we often hear is “ just-as–if–I’d never sinned.” It makes a clear sounding phrase, but unfortunately it isn’t correct. 

Friends, even in light of the fact that Christ has taken away all our sins through His baptism, death and resurrection, that only leaves us in a neutral status with God. Just being sinless will never make us acceptable in God’s sight. In order to be acceptable to God, I need more than just the subtraction of my sins. I need the addition of Christ’s Righteousness. The Apostle Paul tells us how God arranged for this exchange. “God made Christ Who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Cor 5:21. In other words, God took our sins and put them on Christ when He received His baptism from John the Baptist at the River Jordan and then took Christ’s righteousness and gave it to us in exchange through His death and resurrection. That’s what it means to be justified. 

 

Justification by Faith: A Neglected Doctrine

The baptism, death and resurrection of Jesus which contains justification by faith in the righteousness of God has been the most maligned, misunderstood, and neglected truth of the Christian faith. A failure to properly understand and accept the reality of having been declared irrevocably righteous by God through faith in the righteous act of Jesus’ baptism, death and resurrection has stripped believers of the assurance of their standing with God. A lack of this truth can cripple a person into thinking they must be on an endless treadmill of works in order to maintain their acceptance with God. It is hard to see how this vital truth of the Gospel of water and the Spirit could be missed by anyone who is seeking to carefully examine and teach the Word, since it’s the heart of the message of Apostle Paul. What Jesus has introduced in numerous parables in the gospels concerning justification, Paul amplified doctrinally in the epistles, particularly in Romans and Galatians. Obviously the reason Paul made such an emphasis upon this truth is because of the impact that this doctrine had upon his own life. He makes this clear in his words of caution to the Philippians. In that letter, Paul seeks to undo some of the erroneous teaching that the group of super religious Pharisaical Jews had sown behind his back that contradicted his previous teaching. These Judaizers were Jews who had in some ways accepted Jesus as a Messiah but believed it was still imperative to keep all the Mosaic laws, as well as being circumcised if they truly wanted to be acceptable to God. This was diametrically opposed to what Paul had taught. His emphasis was upon faith in the baptism, death and resurrection of Jesus alone as being sufficient to bring about salvation. 

In summing it up, let me just say that justification is the work of God whereby He declares righteous, on the basis of faith alone, that one who simply believes in Jesus Who took their sins by the way of baptism and was nailed on the cross as an atonement by shedding His blood for all men. On the third day, He rose from the dead to give us a new life to those who believed in Him as Saviour. This justification of faith in the righteousness of God assures us 3 great realities: peace with God, a standing in grace and no more condemnation.

 

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