Justification: For the Lowly in Spirit
My wife and I visited a church last Sunday in Springfield, Missouri. For the last three weeks, life has felt non-stop. We haven’t had much free time. Every weekend we have been in a different state. As we went into church that morning, I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, tired, and weary. I knew that we would have to interact with people we didn’t know and that was the last thing I wanted to do. The pastor opened up by reading Romans 3:21-26:
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The pastor began to remind us of this incredible gift of redemption and justification. He went on to paint a beautiful picture of this justification. Christ is the one who justifies those who have faith in him, our faith itself a gift from the Father, God’s own work in our regenerate hearts. Our works are nothing more than a fruit of the justification and redemption that we already have because of the magnificent work of Christ on the cross. The fact of it is, we all have failed, and will continue to fail. The only redeeming fact in this is that we are justified freely by his grace, not for our merits or worthiness or desirability, but for God’s own glory and righteousness to be demonstrated.
Our salvation is about God. This is solely based on the grace and loving kindness of Christ alone. On the days that I fall short, I will cling to the goodness of our risen Lord. On the days that I walk into church tired and weary, I will, through faith, turn my eyes to the cross and the empty tomb. I will prayerfully repent of my sins when I inevitably fail. In all these things, I will remember that justification did not wait for our response, but it occurred at the time that Christ took his final breath on that cross. Lest I should boast, as Paul says in Romans 3:27-28, I must remember that no sinner’s prayer or response to an altar call could be powerful enough to justify me before a holy God. It is by no act of mine (and, praise God, can be defeated by no act of mine either). We are justified in the same way and at the same moment as all those of the faith who have gone before us and all those who will come after us. We are justified in Christ—through his perfect, gracious, and finished work on the cross.