Summary: A sermon on justification preached on a Sunday night (Material adapted from John Stott's book, The Cross of Christ, chapter 7 The Salvation of Sinners, section under Justification)


Let's say we where caught speeding down the highway. We are doing 100 mph, obviously slightly out of the acceptable speeding window. We go to court and just as the judge is about to throw the book at us, someone steps forward and says, "I will pay the fine. I will take the punishment." And so we get off, without paying the fine, without any punishment at all. We have been justified, Made right in the eyes of the law. It doesn't change the fact that we were speeding, but the court sees us as innocent. That is what Christ did for us.


Words used in different places. In a temple- propitiation; in the marketplace- redemption; in our home with family and friends- reconciliation; now we are in a court of law- justification.

Definition of justification- “Just as if the penalty of eternal hell has been paid” This is the verdict of the judge of the world.

Some do not like this term for at least 2 reasons:

1. This talks only about God as Judge and King, not as Father, and this cannot adequately portray his dealings with us or our personal relationship to Him. True if this is the only word that is used in talking about salvation, but there are 3 others we have discussed. Em Griffin writes about three kinds of London maps: The street map, the map depicting throughways, and the underground map of the subway. "Each map is accurate and correct," he writes, "but each map does not give the complete picture. To see the whole, the three maps must be printed one on top of each other. However, that is often confusing, so I use only one ’layer’ at a time. "It is the same with the words used to describe the death of Jesus Christ. Each word, like redemption, reconciliation, or justification, is accurate and correct, but each word does not give the complete picture. To see the whole we need to place one ’layer’ one top of the other, but that is sometimes confusing--we cannot see the trees for the whole! So we separate out each splendid concept and discover that the whole is more than the sum of its parts."

2. Paul came up with this in his forensic, legalistic mind. Now Paul is an apostle and authoritative. However, he is not the only one who used this term in this way. Jesus did in his story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God...” Luke 18:14, NIV. Even before Jesus, in the OT, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:11, NIV.

Thesis: Let’s talk about justification’s source, grounds, means and effects.

For instances:

Source of justification

“and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24, NIV.

Since no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10), it is equally certain that no one can declare himself to be righteous in God’s sight. I may have done a bad thing, but I JUSTIFY myself by blaming someone or something else. But God says: “that’s not going to fly!” When you and I stand before the judgment seat of God, God won’t take our excuses. The only testimony He’s going to consider is what we did. He won’t listen to our self-justifications because we won’t be able to JUSTIFY ourselves enough to get thru the pearly gates. They only way to get into heaven is if God JUSTIFIES us.

Therefore, “it is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33); only He can.

And he does so “freely” (Romans 3:24) “as a free gift”, not because of any works of ours, but because of his own grace. Grace means unmerited, undeserved favor. More specifically “favor bestowed when wrath is owed”, getting the opposite of what we deserve.

Jesus, our defense lawyer, who we hired for free, uses grace strategy. He pays off the judge. “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” Matthew 20:28, NIV. The word redemption.

This payment is also described as an act of propitiation, turning aside wrath by means of an offering. Jesus our lawyer accomplishes this propitiation Himself by paying the full penalty for our sins.

But justification has to do with justice. What kind of justice is this? To say that we are “justified by his grace” tells us the source of our justification but says nothing about the righteousness of it, without which God would contradict his own justice.

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