What is justification?
God demands perfection, but we all fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Because we cannot reach up to Him, He reaches down to us. Justification involves the imputation of Jesus Christ’s righteousness to us and our sin to Jesus Christ.
This is no bootstrap theology—trying to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and achieve righteousness apart from God’s help. God’s holiness and our sinfulness permeates Scripture. The more we know and love God, the more we realize that God is holier than we ever thought before, and we are more sinful than we realized before.
As a result, justification is God’s work; He is the One who saves us.
The Grace of Justification
In order to show the Jews that justification is by faith and not by works—that we cannot keep the Law—Paul looks at the life of Abraham. Paul cites Genesis 15:6, which reads, “Then [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (NASB95). This “reckoning as righteousness” is justification.
Justification is not God’s justice toward us; it is not the payment of our rightly earned wages. We do not earn justification through our works. Instead, justification is God’s gracious gift to us.
We see this truth in the fact that God justified Abraham before Abraham was circumcised. In other words, Abraham was not justified by his works, but by his faith. This is important because it shows that the gospel is for all people groups—not just the Jews. Abraham is the father of all who believe, not of all who keep the Law. Jews and Gentiles alike are saved by faith in Christ.
Belief in God
Believing in God is more than mere intellectual assent. It also involves trusting. We need to realize that apart from His grace we would have no life, and we need to entrust Him with our lives.
When we believe in God, our lives ought to be transformed. We have been moved from sin to righteousness, from death to life. God not only made us, but He also purchased us, so that we are doubly His. This truth should drive us to worship our God!
This teaching is based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture.