The Saving Righteousness Of God

by Paul Franco on November 26, 2010

Romans 3:24 “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”

There is truly nothing more wonderful in the world than these words penned by Apostle Paul. The glorious Gospel of God’s free choice to justify the ungodly by His grace alone, in Christ alone! I live off of these words and if Paul would not have explained it so plainly I would never have believed it. Praise to the glory of God for this “Good News.”

1. Justification is an act performed by God on behalf of the believing sinner.

It is something that God does for us. He is the one acting, not us. We do not justify ourselves, nor does anyone else justify us. The church cannot justify us, and we cannot justify ourselves. God is the one that performs this transaction between Himself and the sinner, with no intermediaries. God is the one that justifies us, to demonstrate His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26). God is the one working and justifying the ungodly, the believer does no work at all and his faith is accounted to him for righteousness (Rom 4:5). And again we read that God is the one who predestines, He is the one who calls, and He is the one who justifies (Rom 8:30). It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).

2. Justification is Gods declaration that the believing sinner has a righteous standing in His sight.

It is defined in the Old Testament in examples like Exodus 23:3,6,7 “You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.” V6 “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. V7 “Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked.”

What does it mean that God justifies the ungodly? It is a legal term and has to do with the law. The end of verse 7 explains that it is a legal action describing what a judge will or will not do. In this case, God says “He will not justify the wicked.” He will not declare them righteous. Deu 25:1-2 “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows.” The judges role is to justify the righteous and to condemn the wicked. It is to be understood that the judgment is based on the law. They are to judge based on the law without partiality. When the judge hears the case set before him, he is to do two things:

1. The judge is to justify the righteous. He is declaring that the man set before him has kept the law.
2. The judge is to condemn the wicked. He is declaring that the violator of the law is guilty and is worthy to receive punishment as the law requires.

These two terms are opposites, but they are both the declaring of a verdict regarding the person’s status before God. Justification is an act of God in which He declares the ungodly sinner to be righteous. God as the acting judge pronounces that the person’s status before His law is righteous, as having kept all the requirements of the law.

How can God justify the ungodly? He appears to be doing the very thing that He warned the judges of Israel not to do. In which he himself says “I will not justify the wicked.” Apostle Paul is telling us God justifies the ungodly. How can God do this? It is because God does something else before He justifies. God does something much more than simply declare the sinner righteous. He imputes to them the saving righteousness of God, which is Christ’s righteousness.

God first imputes Christ’s righteousness to the believing sinner and then He judges the sinner, and the result is— the sinner is declared righteous, the sinner is declared justified!

In Romans 4, Paul explains repeatedly that this saving righteousness which is for the believing sinner has been imputed/credited/accounted to the one that has faith in Jesus. And it is for all who believe. Rom 4:6-8 “just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” There are two actions happening:

1. God first imputes the saving righteousness of Christ to the sinner, thereby making it possible to justify.
2. Second, God justifies the sinner, in which he declares him righteous.

There are two distinct actions; God imputes the saving righteousness of Christ to the believer, and He then judges him. The verdict is—Justified! And God judges the sinner as if it were the final judgment.

3. This righteousness is a foreign righteousness

It is a righteousness that we do not posses. It does not come from ourselves. It is given to us on the basis of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Our sin and guilt were imputed to Christ, who is perfect, without sin and who never once broke the law of God. His dying under the penalty of the law, and His obedience to the requirements of the law are imputed to the believing sinner. And the sins of the believer are imputed to Christ. It is a two way highway, Christ’s righteousness imputed to the believer and the believers sins imputed to Christ. This righteousness of Christ is foreign to the sinner, for he has no righteousness of his own by which he can draw near to God. It is an alien righteousness which no human being possesses apart from Christ.

4. Justification is not a moral change in a person’s character

It is very important to understand that Gods justifying or condemning someone does not change their moral character. They are no more holy in character in life because of the judges act of justifying them, or any more wicked because of the judges act of condemning them. What has changed as the result of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and to what has changed as a result of the judges act of justifying or condemning them, is their ‘legal standing’ in the sight of Gods law and their exposure to either the punishments of the law or the rewards of the law. Their moral character has not been changed. Justification changes the sinners legal status before God.

Now when God saves us, he does more than that, but He justifies us first! Justification is at no cost to the believing sinner, because the righteousness upon which justification rests is not our own. Since it is an alien righteousness, it is a gift of righteousness (Eph 2:8). We are justified freely! And it is freely by Gods grace. Of Gods own free will He chooses to do this immense favor for us, by His grace. He doesn’t have to do it, no one can make Him do it, and He is not legally obligated to do it. Justification is a free favor of His grace because the sinner deserves to be condemned forever, but instead God favors us with His free gift of justification. And since our justification is based 100% on a righteousness that is not of our own, we are justified by grace alone. God didn’t credit to the sinner 95% of what he needed to be saved, and then the sinner needs to chip in 5%. Now some will say, “you can’t let him go to free,” “maybe they’ll be ungodly if you do that,” or “you can’t make it that easy.” But that is exactly what God has done, 100% freely. If anyone tries to mix any of their own righteousness in there, they are sure to hear at the judgment, Gods declaration of “99% righteous pieces, and 1% unrighteous piece,— CONDEMNED!” How many times did Adam sin? Once, and this once was enough to condemn all of humanity. 100% imputation of Christ’s righteousness means we are saved by grace alone, freely by God’s free will, with no contribution of man whatsoever. And this is truly the most wonderful news any man, woman, or child has ever heard.

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