What is justification?
What does it mean to be Justified?
Simply put, to justify is to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ. And our placing faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. God see’s Christ righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God’s demands for perfection. He justifies us.
Paul starts out chapter 4 by saying in verses 1-3 “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” If Abraham was justified by his works, he might boast of his own merits. But Abraham has no ground of boasting before God, because he was not justified by works. Paul will prove that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised; and that even his circumcision was in consequence of his being justified by faith. Paul refers to the Scripture which says in Genesis 15:5-6 “And he (God) brought him (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and he (God) counted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness.” This was incredible faith in that Abraham was old and his aged wife’s womb was dead. Yet, he believed Jehovah’s promise. Faith is a gift of God, extended to all, through the very existence of His Word to Man – we choose to either receive it or reject it. Abraham accepted it. It is God who will do the work. And so, by us accepting God’s promises and believing them to be true – God is pleased. We trust God’s Word that says, My sins are forgiven and God will remember them no more – that I am saved by faith and not by my works.
Next, 4:4 “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” In other words, if a man were justified by his works, it would mean salvation was due or owed to him – he or she had earned it by working for it. Works, Paul is saying, produces debt – not a gift. When we work, we place the person we are working for in our debt. And we expect payment for our labor. When talking about salvation the question then becomes: Can any human being ever put God in debt to them? How does Man ever place the Creator of all things – Almighty God – in our debt? As Paul says, it’s impossible. Let me quote from Spencer W. Kimball, President of the LDS Church, who wrote in his book Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 206 “one of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.” So far in Romans, Paul is presenting the exact opposite doctrine of the Mormon leader. Verse 5 “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” I mean it can’t get any clearer than that. And yet people of works-based, high performance-based religions can’t understand it. They have somehow allowed their arrogant selves to believe that what they do justifies them – not so.
Listen carefully to these next verses. Romans 4:14-15 “For if they which are of the law (those who seek justification by obedience to the law) be heirs (are saved), faith is made void ( or, neutralized) and the promise made of none effect (meaning, no more promise of salvation by grace through faith can be appealed to by those seeking to justify themselves by obedience to the Law): Because the law worketh wrath (condemnation): for where no law is, there is no transgression.” Paul’s point is that if a law does not exist – neither does guilt. He is saying that those who attempt to justify themselves by obedience to the law are always going to be found guilty. Paul concludes in Verse 16 “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” Therefore, in light of all Paul has written, we must conclude that – man’s justification before Holy God – is by faith – “that it might be by grace.” We are saved by grace through faith in Christ that He did the work perfectly on our behalf. We will read later in our study of the book of Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” It’s a gift – it’s free!
Abraham was first given the promise that in light of the facts that seemed impossible – he and his aged wife would have unlimited offspring. Then his faith in this promise of God was put to the test when God commanded that his only son, Isaac be put to death. And once, again Abraham believed that God would actually raise Isaac up from the dead to fulfill what he had already promised. Whoa! What faith!
Speaking of Abraham, Chapter 4:20-22 “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Paul now ties the promises made to Abraham and his belief in them to us in Verses 23-25 “Now it was not written for his (Abraham’s) sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our (here’s that word) justification.” Our faith is to believe in the promise that God will truly save us by His grace and not by our works. We believe that God raised our Lord from the dead – who was delivered for our offenses – and was raised for our justification. His righteousness is imputed on each of us as we surrender our unrighteousness – to Him.
Paul now lays out a remarkable fact that illustrates God’s amazing love for us. Romans 5:6 “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Since God saved us by performing the reconciliation work for us when we hated Him – isn’t it obvious that He will be wholly faithful to carry us forward and complete what He has begun. And as a result, our hope is greatly increased. Paul continues Verse 7 “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” The point he is making is that very rarely will anyone die for a regular good guy or even a great guy. So how many people would die for someone who hated them? Verse 8 “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus paid the punishment for our sins on the cross – Such unconditional love! Verses 9-11 “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In the Kings James this is the only instance in which the translators used the word “atonement” in the New Testament. It was used dozens of times in the Old Testament.
Then Paul states in Verse 12 “Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned.” All Paul is doing is showing how the plan of justification meets the universal evils caused by Adam and then exceeds it. Christianity is merely the solution to the problem. Verse 15 “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one (Adam) many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” Verse 19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Jesus Christ) shall many be made righteous.”
Moving on to Chapter 6, Paul will describe how baptism is done in the similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Verses 1-2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin, that grace may abound? God forbid, How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” This question addresses the ignorant and uninformed non-believers who often say, “Oh, so all a person has to do is confess Jesus and then they can go on sinning like there is no tomorrow?” They think Christians use grace as an excuse to sin even more – since they’ve been saved and forgiven. Only those who truly have experienced a born-again, regeneration of mind and heart will understand that when the Holy Spirit moves into a person – that person receives new life. We don’t want to sin because we are dead to sin. Dead to sin, because sin is loosing its influence on the person. Paul writes in Colossians 3:3 “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Sin doesn’t dominate over us as it did in our former lives.
Then in Verse 3 Paul explains the impossibility of a Christian who possesses this new identity to continue in sin, buy asking a rhetorical question which presents us with an illustration. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” We are literally baptized into His very death and we are also raised up from the water unto HIS life – not our own. Verse 4 “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Did you hear that? “newness of life.” What a glorious explanation! What a beautiful description of who we are in Christ. Verses 6-7 “Knowing this, that our old man (or woman) is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” When you die to your former self – you are dying with Christ. He died as a result of our sin and selfishness. So, when we die to it too – we are simultaneously being buried with Him. Ephesians 4:22-24 “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man (or woman), which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The new man and woman embodies faith and love.
Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” This is an expression of how to be free from the dominion of sin and to be free to love as Christ loved. Verse 22 “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” And, this takes us right back to who we are in Him – not who we want to be. Not what we are striving to be – but who we ARE. Paul summaries his message in the last verse of this chapter Verse 23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He is saying “the wages of the Law, is death.” Remember He taught back in Romans 3:20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The first line in the Romans 6:23 speaks of the earning efforts of mankind. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Eternal life then, is a gift – not earned – given to us when we put our faith in the fact that Jesus did the work for us. He paid for our sins completely – and gave us eternal life if, and when we will believe in Him.
And, this concludes our study of Romans 3-6. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons. com.