What does it mean to be justified? Part One
I have already explained the bad news that because of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, all humans are born pre-programmed to be sinners. (Click here to read that post about our sin nature.) That post left off on a sad note, proclaiming that we are all sinners, but not explaining a hope for forgiveness of our sins. This post (and more to come) will try to take on the task of explaining how a sinner is forgiven and saved! I strongly believe that every believer ought to have some understanding of the concept of justification, even if they cannot use all the big words!
This is not intended to be a thorough theological treatise, to be read by accomplished theologians. This post is written for the purpose of explaining salvation in a way that can be understood by everyone, including someone who is completely new to the idea of salvation. I have no fancy letters after my name that some may consider credentials for delving into this task. But, I myself am a sinner – saved by God’s grace. And, I will rely upon the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit to direct my words to lead others to salvation.
I want to begin with two key Scriptures to understand this topic.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12 (KJV)
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans (KJV)
The man that brought sin into the world was Adam. Who is the one man who will be obedient and cause many to be righteous? Jesus! Read this verse that is speaking of Jesus:
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor (KJV)
Jesus was a man who never sinned! But, how can that be, when “by one man sin entered into the world?” (Romans 5:12) This can only be accomplished through a miraculous kind of conception! Joseph raised Jesus, but he was not the one who placed the seed in Mary’s womb to grow!
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of
, named Galilee , To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:26-35 (KJV - emphasis mine) Nazareth
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Matt 1:18-20 (KJV – emphasis mine)
It is incredibly important that we understand that Jesus was the seed of the Holy Ghost – this is the only way that He could be formed without the sin nature passed down from Adam!
Simply put, Jesus was a man, but not just any man! Jesus is the Son of God, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
We know from Romans 5:19 that one man – Jesus – has made many people righteous, but How? What is the connection between this perfect, sinless man, to my own forgiveness? The answer to that is a little harder to put into one post. God gave us the entire Bible to show us mankind’s problem – sin, and God’s solution – salvation. I cannot thoroughly explain how a person is saved, without quoting the entire Bible to you! But, I will try to summarize as best as possible – hoping that you will read the Bible on your own for the complete story.
We have to begin by starting in the beginning of the Bible, in particular, the first five books. These first books of the Bible contain the Law/Instruction of God.
While Adam and Eve were dwelling in the Garden of Eden we only know of one law they were given:
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Gen 2:15-17 (KJV)
Unfortunately, Adam broke this agreement (or covenant) with God, and was sent out of the garden. Much later, God gave His people new laws to keep – many of them. In fact, He gave them so many laws that it was impossible to keep all these rules. With their natural propensity to sin (the sin nature) they could never be completely obedient. We cannot; however, say “That’s not fair.” Because God is Perfect and Holy. God is more fair and Just than we will ever understand (in this mortal life).
In God’s kindness and mercy, he set up a system whereby men could find forgiveness for sins. He told them how and when to sacrifice an animal to be forgiven of their many sins. (The word the Bible uses for this is “atonement” – which means reconciliation with God) For many years, the Israelites sacrificed animals, to be reconciled with God, after they had sinned. The sacrifices themselves were not a means of salvation, rather the faith that these people had in God (that believed in God's provision of a Saviour) was the saving agent!
Along with the Law, God gave His people prophets to explain to them that One was to come who would be the perfect sacrifice.The very first mention in Scripture that alludes to this future solution to the problem of sin is in Genesis, when God is setting curses upon Adam, Eve and the Serpent for their sins. He says to the Serpent (who is Satan):
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:14-15 (KJV)
Later prophecies are more clear and specific:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. Isaiah 7:14-15 (KJV)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. Isaiah 53:3-7 (KJV)
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10 (KJV)
The Old Testament speaks of One man who will come and be a sacrifice for others. The New Testament explains how Jesus has fulfilled and completed the system of sacrifice that God set in place (for mankind to be forgiven of sins). We will start there in Justification - Part Two.