The Doctor has noticed that Minister-types sometimes like to throw around big sounding theological terms like justification, atonement and sanctification. These words represent important Biblical truths but they can be difficult to understand if no one explains what they mean. However, it doesn’t have to be that difficult to understand these things. Sometimes all it takes is a little background information to help make things clear.
Take justification for example. Justification is simply the term that’s used to describe the way that sinful human beings are made acceptable to a perfect God. A good way to get an understanding of justification is to think about a court of Law. You see, the court system in the days of New Testament was somewhat different than what we often see today. A courtroom spectator in those days would find no prosecutor, no defense team and no jury. Instead, there were just three parties:
- An accuser
- A defendant
- The judge
The judge would hear the case and examine the evidence presented by both sides. The judge would then issue a verdict. If the judge found in favor of the defendant, that person was then said to be “justified.” Having been found to be “righteous” (or “without guilt”) the defendant would be acquitted and set free.
So what does this have to do with what we’re talking about? Well let’s continue the law court idea and apply it to those who have accepted Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for the things that they’ve done wrong. Imagine a “spiritual courtroom” with you as the defendant. In this spiritual court there are three parties:
- Satan, your accuser
- You, the defendant
- God, the judge
As the trial begins, the accuser relentlessly presses his case against you, viciously piling up charge after charge. His accusations are devastating and his evidence is totally undeniable. Your accuser highlights each charge, carefully detailing every thought, word and action that contributed to the charges against you. It looks pretty bad, but worst of all, you know deep down that everything that you’ve been accused of is true. You brace yourself for the worst as the judge prepares to give the verdict.
After hearing the evidence the judge finds that there is enough proof to convict you of the death penalty. Yet amazingly, the judge finds in favor of you, the defendant. The judge then declares you to be justified and tells you that you are free to go. You walk out of the courtroom having been declared “not guilty.”
Now how could the judge in this spiritual court possibly arrive at such a verdict? Well, the judge in this spiritual court has an explanation: While agreeing that there was enough evidence to convict the defendant, the judge points out the defendant had previously accepted the punishment and death of Christ -an innocent third party- in place of his own. Because of this, the judge states that the sentence of the Court has been imposed on Jesus in place of you, the defendant.
Because the death penalty requirements of the Court have been satisfied in Jesus’ death, you have been acquitted of the charges and have been declared to be justified through your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. In other words, the judge has examined your legal standing before the court and because of what Jesus has done, you have been found to be just.
You see, the basis for justification is not being a good person or hoping that the good things you’ve done outweigh the bad things you’ve done. It’s not being religious, or giving a lot of money away or helping little old ladies across the street. Jesus’ death on the cross is the total basis for our justification.
In the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, God tells us, “It is for a man’s own sins that he shall die” (18:4). But in speaking of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Bible says …“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (NIV).
Because Jesus took the punishment that we deserved,“…the result of (this) one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18 NIV). Jesus paid the price for our justification and “since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9 NIV).
The Doctor thinks that’s a pretty good deal.