Summary: Justification lies at the very core of our Christian faith; it is central to Christianity. Martin Luther declared justification as the cornerstone of Christianity. It is a doctrine we must understand and embrace.
Justification: Declared Righteous
Romans 3: 23-26
As we continue the series, Understanding Christianese, I want to consider a term that every believer should know and embrace – justification. For those who have attended church over the years, you have heard this word spoken many times, but I am not sure the modern church truly comprehends the enormity of justification. It is impossible to argue that justification by faith lies at the very core of Christianity. Martin Luther declared justification was “the cornerstone of Christianity.”
As I began to prepare this series, I thought of dealing with justification first, simply because of its centrality to the Christian faith. We have already discussed redemption and propitiation; these two divine acts are clearly involved with our justification. I thought we might better understand the doctrine of justification if we already had discussed the previous two doctrines.
As we begin our study today, I want to offer a clear and concise definition for justification. This core doctrine simply means “to be declared righteous.” We will discuss the implications of that in depth today, but I hope you will keep that definition in mind. Those who are justified by faith in Christ have been declared righteous by God. Let’s examine the principles within the text as we discuss: Justification – Declared Righteous.
I. The Reality of Sin (23) – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. In order to receive, and fully appreciate justification by faith, one must first embrace the reality of sin. Consider:
A. The Extent – For all have sinned. Paul emphatically declared that sin was universal and all inclusive. All have sinned. I realize our world has embraced an unhealthy view of what constitutes actual sin, but there can be no doubt that we are all sinners. We are sinners by virtue of our birth. We received the fallen nature of our father, Adam. As I said previously – we are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. That is the nature of every human being prior to salvation in Christ! Our sin is a byproduct of our fallen nature.
B. The Enmity – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Due to our fallen nature and the presence of sin in our lives, we all come short of the glory of God. He is holy and righteous. God will not have fellowship with sin. Because of our sin we are at enmity with God; we are the enemies of a holy God, separated from Him and condemned because of our sin. Those who remain in sin are the enemy of God. We desire to satisfy the flesh instead of pleasing God.
Do you remember the definition for justification? – being declared righteous. Apart from Christ, yet in sin, we have no righteousness. We remain in our sin, viewed as sinful and unrighteous before the God who demands complete righteousness. This raises the questions – what are we to do; how do we obtain the righteousness that God demands? How are we justified, declared righteous, in the eyes of God? Paul reveals that as we continue in the text. Consider:
II. The Resolution for Sin (24-25) – Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Paul reveals that God knew the reality of our sin. He also knew we were incapable of atoning for our sin. In essence, we were in a hopeless state apart from the provision of God. Thankfully God provided a resolution for our sin. Notice:
A. The Plan (24) – Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. There can be no doubt that we were guilty of sin: all have sinned. We were incapable of becoming righteous before God in order to be accepted by Him. Thankfully God had a plan in place to provide the righteousness we lacked. Long before sin entered the heart of Adam, and subsequently the entire human race, God planned to offer His Son as the atonement, the payment for our sin. This was all an act of God’s grace. Through His marvelous grace, His unmerited favor, He freely offered His Son so that we could be justified in His eyes. God had a plan for our justification long before we realized our need to be righteous before Him.
B. The Process (24-25) – In these verses Paul discussed the process through which our justification is obtained. Let’s take a moment to consider each element involved.
Redemption – Like our first study, Paul again speaks of the redemption provided in Christ. In order for fallen humanity to be justified, declared righteous by God, redemption was necessary. The act of redemption reveals that “one is purchased, removed from the slave market all together, and set at liberty from the bondage of sin.” Christ purchased our redemption, paying the ultimate price as He died on the cross to ransom us from sin. The debt we owed is marked “paid in full.” Christ paid our sin debt as He redeemed us from our sin.