In January I was given a ticket for running a stop sign as I came off a turnpike near our home. I went to court instead of mailing in the fine so that I could justify my action. Didn’t work.
When we think of justification, we tend to think of it in terms of actions, not people. If work is not done, we give our excuse. If I’ve mistreated you, I tell you why. If you’re late, you explain what detained you. The excuses, the “whys,” and the explanations are attempts to justify something done. Justification, as we seek it, is not a proclamation of innocence; it is acceptance that there was good reason to have made the mistake.
But when Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” he was not talking about reasonable excuses for having done wrong. When Paul used the word “justified” or something like it fifteen times in Romans, he was not indicating that God understands why we’ve sinned, and has accepted our explanation. Paul means that God has made us as though we had not done the wrong thing. Instead of seeing us as wrong, but excused; he forgives and credits us with righteousness. In God’s estimation, those who have faith in Christ, have no sin.
Since the faithful have no sin, they are not under the wrath of God. Since we have no sin, we will not be paid “death,” which sin earns. Since we have no sin, we have peace with God and there is no condemnation for us.
My fine for running the stop sign was eighty dollars. I know now that there is a stop sign there and that even if the light is green, I’ve got to stop. Good lesson learned. I was really irritated, though, that I had pay.
My wage for my sin is death (Romans 6:23). I’ve learned that my justification calls me to a life lived with a mindset on things of the Spirit. Good lesson learned. To have paid the fine for my sin would not have simply been irritating. It would have been devastating … for all eternity. Thanks be to God for the gift of righteousness.