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The just One who justifies

February 21, 2011
Courtroom One Gavel

Image by Joe Gratz via Flickr

What do you think of when you picture standing before God’s throne for the first time?

Perhaps you tremble at the thought. You picture your knees knocking together, your hands shaking, waiting for the deepest, darkest parts of your heart, the most shameful moments of your life to be displayed on a giant screen for all to see. You picture God as judge, glaring down at you, gavel in hand. You are unworthy. You shudder as you await the verdict.

  • God is holy. He cannot allow sin in His presence.
  • God is just. He must punish sin.
  • God is also love. He desires all men to be saved.

Truly, we have all missed the mark. We are woefully far from God’s holy standards. But because of God’s glorious grace, if we repent and believe, the scene in  heaven will look very different. God is still judge, but we have miraculously been changed. For although we were once sinners, at the moment of our salvation we were justified.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26

We had no righteousness of our own. Our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Since the justice of God demands punishment of sin, since the holiness of God cannot allow unrighteousness in His presence, He offers to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The spotless, holy Lamb of God sacrificed Himself in our place. When we place our trust in Jesus Christ and receive His sacrifice on our behalf, everything changes. The courtroom of heaven no longer looms threateningly.

When the individual receives Christ he is placed in Christ. This is what makes him righteous. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. This righteousness overcomes our desperate, sinful condition, and measures up to all the demands of God’s holiness. – Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology

Standing before the throne of God in our desperate, sinful condition we are certainly deserving of His wrath and judgment. But when I stand before Him dressed in the righteousness of Christ, I have nothing to fear. My sin has been atoned for. No shameful scenes will be replayed for all eternity – they are washed away, forgotten; I stand before the throne declared righteous. I could never measure up to the demands of God’s holiness – but Jesus did so on my behalf.

I have been justified. It is just-as-if-I’d never sinned.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

When I was sinking down, sinking down;

When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;

To God and to the Lamb who is the great “I Am,” while millions join the theme I will sing.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie Sanders permalink
    February 21, 2011 9:04 am

    This is a great explanation of how God sees us and how He provides for our reception. That image of the screen and the courtroom and the shame is one I feared for a long time. Understanding how I am justified in Christ is freeing! I never cease to be grateful.

  2. Mandy permalink
    February 21, 2011 9:45 am

    I understand justification..the just as if I’d never sinned…but I understand it as our “final” destination. Meaning either we face eternal condemnation, or salvation. Those sins won’t be held against us or determine our eternity but we still have consequences for them; we still have to answer for them.

    2 Corinthians 5:10 talks about that we still must stand before the judgement seat of God to give an accounting of what we’ve done whether good or bad. I do believe we are covered with grace, but see too many people “hide behind” grace as though what we do on earth has no consequence once we are saved. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that. Do you by chance have a way to explain that I can understand?

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      February 21, 2011 10:06 am

      Mandy, that is a great question. This quote from the MacArthur Bible Commentary’s explanation of 2 Corinthians 5:10 discusses this more clearly than I would be able to!

      Judgment seat metaphorically refers to the place where the Lord will sit to evaluate believer’s lives for the purpose of giving them eternal rewards. It is translated from the Greek word bema which was an elevated platform where victorious athletes (e.g., during the Olympics) went to receive their crowns… “the things done in the body” – actions which happened during the believer’s time of earthly ministry. This does not include sins, since their judgment took place at the cross (Eph.1:17)… “whether good or bad’ – These Greek terms do not refer to moral good and moral evil. Maters of sin have been completely dealt with by the death of the Savior. Rather, Paul was comparing worthwhile, eternally valuable activities with useless ones. (page 1629)

      So, we are accountable for what we do and will be rewarded according to our deeds. But, if we have accepted Christ’s saving work on our behalf, we are righteous in God’s sight.

      Does that help?

    • February 21, 2011 1:41 pm

      Mandy, I “hear you” about how people can use God’s grace as an excuse to sin. When we really grasp how great it is that our holy God made a way for us to know and draw near to Him, our response can only be a desire to be more like Him, not to offend Him, and to live to honor Him – not to sin. While godly actions don’t earn our salvation in any way, they demonstrate it and reveal how genuine it is.

      • Kristi Stephens permalink*
        February 21, 2011 2:46 pm

        Well said, Julie!

      • February 22, 2011 2:20 am

        I really like how you said that, too, Julie. Mandy has a valid concern, and you and Kristi gave very insightful answers.

        I’m going to preface what I’m about to say with the blatant fact that I don’t know the answer. (Only God does, anyway, right?) I tend to think of this “judgment” as looking whether or not we relied on God and held fast to our faith (which, in turn, produces actions, as you both were saying). I think of Jesus speaking about denying people who did not truly believe, rely on Him, or have that personal relationship in Matthew 7:21-23.

        But what throws my above statements out is that the offer of salvation and righteous alone is given truly by grace. Nothing we ever do can earn it. And like you said, Julie, when we come to really understand that grace – and the amazingly undeserved nature it holds – faith, actions, and desire to live for Him flow forth.

        (Please, please correct me if I’m totally off base here.)

  3. holly permalink
    February 21, 2011 12:40 pm

    Love this discussion…something that doesn’t get talked about alot though is the “freedom” that comes when we can not only accept the forgiveness that was bought on the cross but recognize that there is no longer need to hide who we really are “no shame” “no condemnation” in Christ Jesus !
    Luke 8:40-56, John 4:1-42, 1 John 1:9, Romans 8:1-2&31-39
    We have no reason to live in fear that we aren’t good enough…we aren’t but He is!

  4. stephanieshott permalink
    February 21, 2011 1:54 pm

    Kristi ~ I love how you said, “at the moment of our salvation we were justified.” Past tense. A done deal. Praise God that what Jesus did through His death, burial and resurrection was obtain eternal salvation once and for all. Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      February 21, 2011 2:46 pm

      Amen, Stephanie!!

  5. February 22, 2011 2:05 am

    Awesome post, Kristi.

    Righteousness is a topic I’ve had on my list as one I would like to study more. It’s one of those topics that I feel so unworthy of and confused by it’s graceful giving. I love how this verse you mentioned shows the our reliance on God for any righteousness: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Like you said, we had/have no righteousness of our own. I still think righteousness doesn’t “belong” to us (as none of our blessings do, right?). You said it well here: “He offers to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ.” The righteousness is still not “of us,” but instead of Christ.

    Oooh, great ending sentence: “I could never measure up to the demands of God’s holiness – but Jesus did so on my behalf.” Yes, yes. That makes me praise.

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