1) What does “I am justified in Christ” mean? How can I look for God's justice in my life? Why should I hunger for it to satisfy my desire? 2) Could you explain what it means to live under the law in contrast to living under God's grace?
When we are born into this world, we are sinners. Our natural passion or “bent” is to reject a holy God. Not only do we reject God, but we love to sin. Sin is the opposite of God’s character. God is holy (Lev. 11:44). Consequently, it should not be a surprise that God considers to be His enemy (Rom. 5:8-10). Later in life some of us will desire to know our Creator, but others will not. By the time we die, we either believe He exists, that Jesus is God, that Jesus died so that He could forgive our sins, and He returned to life, or we reject one or all of these truths.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. (NASB) John 3:16-19
Those who reject one or all of these truths have called God a liar.
But those who believe all of these truths are declared by God to be holy or just. They are justified in Christ by God.
. . . seeking to be justified in Christ . . . (NASB) Galatians 2:17
The word “justified” comes from a Greek word, DIKAIOO, which means “judged to be good or considered to be just, that is holy.” To be justified in Christ means that God declares or considers us to be holy individuals even though we are still sinners. It is a legal decision. Here are some key passages.
To be justified in Christ means that we do not try to earn our forgiveness or win God’s favor and gain the right to go to heaven. God is the one who justifies us because we believe He exists, that Jesus is God, Jesus died so that He can forgive our sins, and He returned to life. If we really believe these truths, then He justifies us – declares us to be eternally holy. It is a gift.
Law and Grace
When God talks to us about being justified, He talks about the Law and His grace. It is important to understand these terms. The term Law refers to the set of commands given by God through Moses. The Law outlines how the sacrifices were to be conducted, the duties of the priests, and the Ten Commandments, for example.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (NASB) John 1:17
Anyone who tries to get to heaven by keeping any set of rules or those commandments given in the Law will be disappointed because he or she will fail and fall short. The law was given to us by God not for the purpose of earning our way to heaven, but to show us that we are not perfect and cannot keep any set or rules (Gal. 3:22-24). This reminds me of promises I have made to myself about things I desire to do or not do. Most of them I keep, but I have not kept all of them. If I cannot even keep my own commitments, how can I do the things that God wants me to do? The law was designed to show us that we need another way to gain God’s favor and get to heaven. The law was designed to lead us to Jesus or to show us that we need Jesus.
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. (NASB) Gal. 3:24
So God justifies or declares us to to be holy, when we give up trying to keep a list of rules and simply believe the truth about Jesus and turn our life over to Him. When God does this He is showing us His love for us.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASB) Rom. 5:8
Grace refers to the favor that God shows us because Jesus died for us. Grace is God’s favor we do not deserve. We gain God’s favor when we believe the truth about Jesus and turn our lives over to Him. We should praise Him and rejoice in our spirit because we do not have to work to earn His favor or our salvation. All of it is a gift from God. Because of His grace we are justified – declared to be holy forever, even though we are not!
We have been talking about what God’s grace does for us at the moment we believe. Here is a true story that reveals how God’s grace works on some of us before we believe.
The Rueben Donnely Company of Chicago is the nation’s largest printer of magazines. They have a huge machine that sends out notices to people whose subscriptions have expired. One day a small spring in the machine broke, and a rancher in Power Bluff, Colorado, received 9,734 notices that his magazine subscription to National Geographic had expired. As a result, the rancher rode ten miles to the post office, sent his money, and wrote the following note: “Send me the magazine. I give up!”
That is the only way God can bring many of us to Jesus. It is a wonderful reminder of God’s blessings and love toward us. He just keeps loving us until we surrender to Him.