Beyond Sin and Punishment: Unpacking the Concept of Justification
We have been discussing Jesus’s Holy Spirit and his message to his disciples about his departure to heaven. He mentioned that it is beneficial for them that he is leaving because he will send his Holy Spirit to transform their lives. So, what exactly does the Holy Spirit do? What role does the Holy Spirit play in the heart and life of a Christian? Today, we will explore these questions along with another biblical concept called justification.
Understanding Justification: God’s Declaration of Righteousness
Now, let’s delve into the meaning of justification. This term is often compared to a courtroom scenario. Some pastors describe it as “just as if I’d justified,” meaning as if I had never sinned. The challenge with this theological term lies in the fact that God, as the perfect judge, knows everything, sees everything, and is aware of our sins. We are all aware of our own sins as well, and even without knowing each other personally, we can acknowledge that we have all sinned. So, when we stand before God, who possesses full knowledge and awareness of our sins, how can he declare that we have not sinned? This is where the concept of justification emerges. It is God’s declaration that our past sins are no longer punishable because of the sacrifice of Jesus. God has punished our sins by sending his son to die in our place. However, it is essential to note that being justified doesn’t make us inherently good or righteous. It simply places us in a neutral position. Justification goes beyond that; it is when God credits us with something we did not achieve. The Bible portrays Jesus in the book of Hebrews as someone who was tempted in every way just as we are, yet he did not sin.
Jesus is the only one who can approach God in heaven and claim to be faultless, perfect in actions and attitudes, deserving of being in God’s presence due to personal effort. No one else can make such a claim because all of us have sinned and deserve punishment. Justification is when God credits us with what Jesus accomplished, declaring us innocent of our sins and righteous in His eyes because of Jesus, not ourselves. This pronouncement finalizes the case, granting us eternal welcome in God’s house. That’s the essence of justification we’re discussing today.
The Challenge of Following the Law After Justification
However, a problem arises with this concept. The Bible presents us with numerous rules, often referred to as the law or commandments. What happens if we fail to perfectly adhere to these commandments? Are we still obligated to follow them despite being justified through Jesus’ sinless life and perfect righteousness? I will attempt to address this question, but in reality, I am not equipped to provide a definitive answer. Instead, I defer to the Apostle Paul, one of history’s greatest theological minds, who addressed this matter in his book, Romans. I encourage everyone connected with our church to memorize Romans 3:28 this week, as it will guide your thinking on how to live after being justified by God. So, here it is:
Exploring Romans 3:28:
What the Bible is conveying here is that we are not required to adhere to all the regulations outlined in Leviticus regarding food consumption or engage in the rituals of temple visits and sacrifices. Jesus’ perfect righteousness exempts us from those ceremonial practices. However, a question arises: Does this mean we are exempt from following the Ten Commandments? Can we lie, cheat, steal, murder, or commit adultery? Is that acceptable according to the Bible? This is a question I want to explore for a moment. I encourage you to discuss it with your family, small group, or reflect upon it through prayer. Consider this question throughout the week because Romans 3 informs us that our declaration of innocence and perfection in God’s sight is not achieved through the works of the law. However, as I’ve explained, it is through the works of Jesus that we obtain purity, innocence, and perfection credited to us.
Should We Strive to Keep the Law?
I will display a question on the screen that may seem simple to read but challenging to answer. I encourage you to ponder this question before responding throughout the week. Here it is:
If the law does not justify you, should you still strive to keep it? When I mention the word “law”, please note that I specifically refer to the Ten Commandments. If keeping the Ten Commandments no longer results in perfection in God’s sight, should you make an effort to follow them this week? It’s a significant question that every individual must address. I urge you to contemplate and answer it. We will continue our discussion next week when we explore the timing of your justification.