Justification by Faith

I begin this blog with a prayer of repentance, not that I have sinned so much as of late, but because I have sinned much in my 57 years of life.  I celebrate the fact that I have been forgiven for every sin I have ever committed or will ever commit as I walk with Jesus in this life. King David wrote Psalm 51 when Nathan the prophet went to him and confronted him about the incident with Bathsheba.  David’s response has been recorded in the halls of heaven and written in God’s Book.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—
that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.”                                           – Psalm 51:1-17

  • When we get to a place when our sin convicts us to the level that it did David here in this psalm, we too will repent and change the way that we live.  This is how the Lord does it; He moves us from a place of desolation and despair, toward a place of restoration and forgiveness, but only through His shed blood and our acceptance of Him and His forgiveness.  Only God can forgive sin and Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  Christ’ sacrifice on the cross for our sin and our act of repentance and acceptance of that sacrifice and belief in God through Jesus is what it takes for us to be totally forgiven.

Isaiah said it this way, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”                                             – Isaiah 1:18

It would seem that God is in the restoration and forgiveness business. We can’t be in His presence without being cleansed from all of ours sin and unrighteousness.  This is the way of things.  The word that best describes this place of forgiveness, positionally, is justification; ‘just-if-I’d’ never sinned. A closer look at this word will reveal more truths about where a repentant sinner stands in God’s sight

The word justification is a noun. Jus·ti·fi·ca·tion

1. ‘the action of showing something, or someone, to be right or reasonable.’

2. ‘the action of declaring or making a person righteous in the sight of God.’

Justification is an event that God bestows upon us when we receive Jesus into our heart as our personal Lord and Savior.  This is the moment when He forgives us of our sin and cleanses us from our unrighteousness.  This is when the Holy Spirit of God regenerates our spirit – the moment of our salvation.  ‘Just-if-I’d-never-sinned!’

Question: What is justification? What does it mean to be justified?

Answer: To justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God declaring to those who receive Christ to be righteous.  This is based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of all who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

 Paul reminds us, “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus).”                     – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Justification, as a principle, is found throughout scripture.  A main passage describing justification in relation to believers was explained by the Apostle Paul in this way,

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”                                                                                                               – Romans 3:21-26

We are justified and declared righteous in God’s sight at the moment we believe on Jesus for our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, rather it presents us as righteous in God’s sight. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished.  As believers, we are hidden in Christ and God sees Christ’s own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God’s demand for sinless perfection; thus, He declares us righteous; in essence, God ‘justifies’ us.

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many (everyone else) were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man (Jesus) the many (those who call upon His name) will be made righteous.”                                             Romans 5:18-19

It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of justification that believers can have assurance of their salvation. It is because of justification that moves God to begin the process of sanctification—a process by which God makes us, over the course of our lives, what we already are by virtue of our receiving Jesus as Lord.  Sanctification is the process that God uses over the course of our life to shape us and make us and mold us into the image of His Son.

 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”                                                                     Romans 5:1

Understanding the difference between justification and sanctification can be as important as understanding the difference between salvation and damnation.  Rightly dividing between the two of these realities is of crucial importance to every believer.  When you understand what justification and sanctification are, you can then draw a line in the sand and say, “This is Who saves, Jesus.  This is not who saves, me.”

Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of Jesus is given to the sinner who is declared by God as being righteous.  This righteousness is not earned by any effort of the individual; it’s a free gift of God by faith in Jesus.  Justification is an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life in Christ and it is based solely upon Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that is received by faith alone.  No works are necessary whatsoever to obtain justification.  Otherwise, it is not a gift; therefore, we are justified by faith. God does however expect His children who are justified to live a life of obedience to His Word.

Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God’s work and being conformed to the image of Jesus.  This conforming to Christ involves the work of the individual, but God, though His Holy Spirit, is still working in the believer to produce a godly character in the person who has already been justified. Sanctification is not instantaneous because it’s not the work of God alone; we are also in the process of daily living out our faith. 

The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God’s will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more Christ-like. The sanctified person is enduring the process of daily being made into Christ’ image.

Justification is a legal declaration that is instantaneous, while sanctification is a life-long process.  Justification comes from God alone, while sanctification also comes from God working within us, but it’s through the power of His Holy Spirit, who comes alongside us and ministers to us each day as we walk with the Lord and toward our eternal home in heaven.  We contribute to our sanctification through our efforts, but we can do nothing to receive our justification; that was a work of Christ and Christ alone. Justification is God’s act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin, while at the same time, it’s God declaring that a sinner is now righteous through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Righteousness from God is viewed as being credited to the sinner’s account through faith alone, without works.  However we demonstrate our faith in God it is done so by our works for God, otherwise, our faith would be dead.  This is to say that once we are saved, we are to walk in the righteousness God by faith in Him and live our lives in a manner that best reflects our love for the Lord and our obedience to His Word.  Our works (righteous acts) can never save us, only Jesus can do that, but they do reflect our love for the Lord and our desire to one day be with Him in heaven.

The Apostle James said it this way, “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”      – James 2:18-20

The means of justification is an area of significant difference between Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant ChristiansCatholic and Orthodox Christians distinguish between initial justification, which in their view, occurs when a person is water baptized by emersion.  This, in their view, provides a sort of ‘permanent justification,’ accomplished after a lifetime of striving to do God’s will. Most Protestants believe that justification is a singular act in which God declares an unrighteous individual to be righteous, an act made possible because Christ was legally “made sin” while on the cross.  

The problem occurs when certain believers begin to abuse their justification and live their lives in a way that is not consistent with God’s standard for their life, as demonstrated in His Word.  The idea that a person who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior and then begins to live a life inconsistent with that decision of faith speaks more to their intent than it does a genuine interest in serving God and loving Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said it this way, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”                             – Romans 6:1b-14

  • The idea of ‘sin having dominion over a person’ speaks to their condemnation, which means that God has declares them a sinner, which is a declaration of war. However, justification means that God declares those who have received Jesus, as righteous, which is a declaration of peace, made possible by Jesus’ atoning work on the cross.

The Psalmist said it this way, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His (the Lord’s) footsteps our pathway.”    Psalm 85:10-13

  • While this psalm speaks of God’s promises to those who follow in Christ’ footsteps, walking in His righteousness, mercy, and truth; we also see how God honors those who obey His voice and do what is good from a heart of redemption.

God promises His people His peace, but nobody condemned by God’s law can enjoy peace with God. When we are justified by faith in Jesus, we are declared righteous in God’s sight and the law cannot condemn us or declare war upon us.  The moment when Jesus died on the cross, God tore the temple veil Luke 23:45 and broke down the temple wall, Ephesians 2:14 thus making a way for all believing Jews and Gentiles to have access to God.  As a result, NT believers in Jesus stand in grace positionally, but not in the law. 

Remember: Justification has to do with our standing, sanctification has to do with our state.

Believers in Jesus have access to the Father’s presence at any time, regardless of how we look. 

This blog is dedicated to all those believers out there who are ‘ready’ for Jesus to return in the Rapture because they are tired, worn out, and just plain want to go home.  However, this kind of ‘readiness’ does not make one a believer, only Jesus can do that. I know a lot of people out there who are no more saved than the man in the moon and yet, they are ‘ready for the Lord to return;’ at least in their mind.  If you are reading this blog and you are truly ready for the Lord’s return because you know that you are justified by faith in God through Jesus and you are walking in a right relationship with the Lord (sanctification) each day, than blessings on you.

However, if anyone who believes they are saved, yet they miss the Rapture, they will then know for sure at that moment that they weren’t saved.  I am talking about people who have embraced a lifestyle of sin and degradation that goes against God’s Word and yet they believe they are saved because they see themselves as  ‘justified’ by faith, yet their works, their lifestyle, is anything but.  My heart breaks for these folks, but in a way, it would be better for them to miss the Rapture and then to repent of their sin, genuinely coming to faith in Christ, than to, like too many, die in their sin only to find out that they weren’t saved at all. 

I conclude this blog with a reminder from the Lord through the words of the Apostle Paul,

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”    – Romans 8:16,17

When the Spirit of the Lord lives within you, a person can know, for sure, that they are saved because He confirms this truth that they are justified in God’s sight through Christ.  The process of making one holy and ready for the kingdom is lifelong and a sanctifying work that the Holy Spirit does within us each day.  May you find comfort and peace in your knowing in your spirit that you are saved, justified by faith in Christ, and truly ready for the Lord’s return.


Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Northwest Missouri.  He lives with his wife of 32-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren).  Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate.  He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry. 

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