By Arch Hoercher
In Luke Chapter 18 verses 9 thru 14, Jesus told a parable that conclusively affirms that faith is the only instrument of justification. Before we get into that scripture let us look at the definition of justification. The word justified means “pronounced or treated as righteous.” Justification is the process by which one would become justified (pronounced righteous).
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV) – “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’” From Jesus’ own lips He affirmed that one is only justified through faith by grace, not through works. Jesus was pretty much putting His gospel against most every major religion of the world. Most of the religions of the world teach that if you follow some set of laws or a list of behaviors, you will become justified. Jesus taught that justification by works is not possible.
Justification is the act of God not only forgiving the believer’s sin but attributing to him the very righteousness of Christ. There are many scriptures in the Bible which state that justification only comes through faith. Romans 5:1 (NIV) – “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.” Galatians 3:24 (NIV) – “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Titus 3:5 (NIV) – “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.”
The Bible teaches us that justification is not earned through our own works; rather, we are covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Christian, being declared righteous, is thus freed from the guilt of sin. Before the Apostle Paul’s (Saul) famous conversion on the road to Damascus, Saul thought that He was justified before God because He was a Pharisee. Not only was he a Pharisee, but he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He observed the Law of Moses and even persecuted the church. Philippians 3:5-9 (NIV) – “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness under the law faultless. But whatever was an asset to me I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them RUBBISH, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.” Paul saw in himself what folly it was to believe that righteousness could be earned through His own works. He called all of His success as a Pharisee rubbish – the King James version gives it an even stronger word – “Dung”. The belief that a person can be justified before God by any work or religion or achievement is nothing but trash.
The only way that a person can be justified (pronounced righteous) is through faith in the all-inclusive work of Jesus Christ. It is a free gift of God because of His love and mercy and grace. To acquire the righteousness of God is to know and understand that we are sinners and like the tax collector from the parable, we would ask God to have mercy upon us a sinner.
The road block to righteousness is sin. The standard of holiness was established by God Himself. Leviticus 19:2 – “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount said in Matthew 5:48 – “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” God is the standard. True righteousness, as defined by the character of God Himself, demands absolute, uncompromising perfection. James 2:10 says, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Who, then, can be right with God? The bad news is that no one can. No one can live the life required to be as perfect and righteous as God. There is no work that can. There is no amount of money given to the poor or no amount of food that can be given to the hungry or no amount of kindness that can be shown to others or no amount of work for the church or no amount of time spent overseas as a missionary or working for a charity that is good enough to put you in a right stand with God.
The good news is that God did provide a way to make it right or be reconciled to Him. Because of God’s love for you and for me and for every person that is living or has ever lived has provided a way. That way is in the person of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus provided a full and perfect atonement for sin; Romans 3:25 – “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness. Christ also provides the perfect righteousness that is imputed to those who believe: “God the Father made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” 2 Corinthians 5:21. The righteousness provided to you through the work of Jesus Christ is a pure gift. It is the provision of God’s unending grace given to those who believe.
Do you want to be justified? Confess you sin before God and believe (in faith) in God’s Son and what has been done for you through Him and you WILL be justified.