God justifies the ungodly

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Justification is usually a strange word to most people because it is not a part of our everday vocabulary. In its spiritual sense, however, it is a word rich in content.

The Bible explains justification in this way: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account" (Rom. 4:7,8). In ourselves we are sinners, but when God has granted us forgiveness through faith in Jesus, He does not see any faults in us. Paul writes: "God justifies the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5). God grants forgiveness to us who of ourselves, with all our works, are completely unworthy, ungodly. Our Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, in fact says that justification is the same as forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake.

When the Bible speaks of a person's justification in God's sight, it is referring to a person being declared righteous or justified. This person is not changed into a sinless person. Jesus' righteousness or holiness is ascribed to him.

What does the fact that God justifies the ungodly mean to us? It means that our works do not save us. "All of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Is. 64:6). If we think that we are acceptable to God without Christ, we are mistaken. The noblest person does not have a righteousness of his own that is acceptable to God. All he can bring before God is sin. God does not justify saints but ungodly people. This is a comforting truth to a person who is experiencing terrors of conscience. Our works are not needed for attaining salvation. God does not require them as a prerequisite for reaching heaven, but rather, as a free gift He gives us Christ's perfect work, His subtitutionary suffering and death.

The person who thinks he has progressed far enough in sanctification so that God will be able to take his works into consideration in granting salvation, has gone astray, far from Christ, and has succumbed to spiritual pride.

A Christian is both a righteous person and a sinner at the same time. He enjoys salvation through faith, but at the same time sighs because of his sins. He is, as it were, in heaven and on earth at the same time, but never dangles between the two.