Monday, November 28, 2011
Today’s Topic: Justification
Today’s Text: Isaiah 53:11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
When I was in the Philippines in October, my dear friend Glenn and I developed a little joke between us. It was actually more than a joke – it was a loving admonition. It involved the use of one word. In our conversations with each other or with other people, when we would hear any form of rationalization or defense of behavior, we would simply look at each other and say, “justification.”
I am amazed at how many times we had to say that to each other. I am embarrassed to admit how many times in any given day I attempt to justify my behavior or my choices. I think you can agree with me that we have become expert justifiers of self.
For example, I wonder how many hunters shot at deer last night after sunset? I know of at least two around me that did. One shot I heard was so close to dark that I had my flashlight on so I could see the deer I had legally shot. I wonder how they would attempt to defend that action if confronted by a game warden.
How much justification of materialism will take place between now and Christmas? How much justification of gluttony just took place at Thanksgiving? How much justification of setting aside our personal quiet time with our Lord because we are so busy is going on right now?
Justification simply means to declare innocence. The foundation for justification is laid out in the Old Testament law, where God declares that He will never punish the innocent or let the guilty off the hook. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exodus 23:7) When King Solomon dedicated the temple he had built for the Lord, he reviewed the laws that would be upheld in the spiritually revived nation. “When a man wrongs his neighbor and is required to take an oath and he comes and swears the oath before your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty, and so establish his innocence. (1 Kings 8:31-32)
Justification is the declaration of innocence. But notice that in the Old Testament law, only the truly innocent were declared innocent. Justification was simply the acknowledgment of what was already true.
In contrast to that, consider the justification that was provided by Jesus Christ through His death on the cross. He has declared the guilty to be innocent! The Righteous Servant has born the iniquities of the unrighteous sinner. The innocent One has taken the punishment of the guilty.
But the guilty are not justified automatically. It is only by faith. The guilty cannot be declared innocent by earning it through obedience to the law. A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16) The law cannot declare the guilty to be innocent nor can it declare the innocent to be guilty.
But what the law does do is lead us to faith in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross so that He can declare us to be innocent. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.(Galatians 3:24) It is by faith alone in the finished work of Christ that we are justified. The Apostle Paul specifically states this in Romans 5 where we read, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
How marvelous! How magnificent! How incredible! Jesus the Innocent One bore the sins of all the guilty, and those who have faith in Him are eternally declared innocent. Oh the splendor of justification!