Lesson Three – Justification by Faith

Justification by Faith

Lesson Aim:  To show God offers a gift of righteousness for those “in Christ” for the purpose of peace and a positive self image.


And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom and the earth shook; and the rocks were split. Matt. 27:50, 51

The veil hung in the temple in Jerusalem between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  The only person allowed behind the veil was the Levitical high priest and he entered only once a year (Heb. 9:1-10).  Jesus gave Himself as the final sin offering and took away the first covenant in order to establish the second (Heb. 10:9).  The result of the split veil for Christians is proclaimed by the Hebrew writer.

Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Heb. 10:19-22


Today, saints of God enjoy justification by faith because we live on the mercy seat in the presence of God.  Consider this doctrine in the following scriptures:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  II Cor. 5:21

He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.  Rom. 4:25

And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Rom. 5:20, 21

One of the graces dominating the lives of the citizens of God’s kingdom “in Christ” is righteousness.  In fact, it is through this one grace all other spiritual blessings flow upon the church of God in Christ (Eph. 1:3; I Thess. 2:14).  God’s wrath is manifested when He does not find righteousness in mankind.  Since none of us are righteous by our own merit, Christians happily concur with the Apostle Paul’s teaching that we should accept God’s gift of righteousness in order to receive full grace (Rom. 3:10; 5:17).  He made the following statement to the Philippian Christians.

And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.  Phil. 3:9

The gift of God’s righteousness is absolutely necessary for the fulfilling of His purposes in the creation of mankind.  Let us consider four reasons.  The first is God created us to be His children.  Satan moved against God’s plan in the case of Adam and Eve and brought God’s wrath upon the very same people who were to be His children.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.  Rom. 5:12

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.  Rom. 5:19

God will not lower His standard to fellowship sinful people, and we, without God’s gift of righteousness, cannot do everything right (Psa. 145:17).  When Adam sinned God became wrathful toward mankind and we became hostile toward God (Rom. 8:7).  The gift of God’s righteousness makes peace for Christians in Christ.

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Rom. 5:1

Secondly, the gift of God’s righteousness is necessary because the adopted sons of God in Christ have passed out of death and into life by the processes of the new birth (John 5:24).  Please review the word life in Part One, Lesson Three and the word death in Part Two, Lesson One.  Although the Colossian saints had made this transition, they were admonished to put off their characteristics of death, such as anger, wrath, malice and abusive speech (Col. 3:8).  They had life but it was a justified life (Rom. 5:18).  Until we have put off all death characteristics, we will not be able to do everything right; that is, be completely just with all people.  For instance, how many of us can say we have put off all anger?  Surely then, we need a gift of righteousness to reign in life.  Justification by faith permits “less than perfect” behavior caused by Christians’ weaknesses of character and ignorance.  If this sounds like cheating, we must remember this doctrine cost Jesus His life on the cross.

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  Rom. 5:17

Thirdly, a gift of God’s righteousness is necessary to maintain the unity of the spirit with our brethren in the church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-3).  Members of the church can have differences of opinion about some things and still maintain a close relationship; whereas, according to the balance theory this is not possible for those who live in the world realm.   According to psychologists, the cognitive balance theory is that people with similar attitudes can have a close relationship, but the relationship will weaken if their attitudes are opposite.

According to the balance theory the Holy Spirit’s message for the weak and strong brethren in Romans, chapter fourteen is not possible.  Although this theory has been tested and proven to be generally correct for those in the world realm, it does not hold true for those of us in Christ because we, like Abraham, walk by faith and are reckoned as righteous by God (Rom. 4:19-25).  We look upon our brethren as God sees us.  Because He counts us righteous based on our faith in the blood of Christ, we are righteous in the sight of one another; therefore, we can hold different attitudes and still maintain a close fellowship.  Perhaps we can better understand the value of the law of faith in relation to righteousness when we comprehend the following scripture in its context.

But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.  Rom. 14:23

The weak brother would have sinned if he had eaten what the strong brother ate.  There is nothing wrong with eating meat; however, if the weak brother’s faith did not allow meat as a part of his diet he would have sinned if he had partook.  According to the law of faith his weakness of ignorance was not counted against him as long as he walked by faith (Rom. 1:17).  The weak brother can be viewed as righteous by the church.  This will allow the church “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Eph. 4: 3.  In this case, the cognitive balance theory is overridden and a close fellowship can be maintained in spite of their differences of attitudes.

A fourth reason why God gives His adopted sons a gift of righteousness is to help us maintain a positive self-image.  The man under the law of works screams out “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Rom. 7:24, 25.  Paul told the Roman Christian, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Rom. 8:1.  We might ask, “By what kind of law?  of works?  No, but by a law of faith.”  Rom. 3:27.  Also see Gal. 2:20, 21; 3:21-26.  According to the following scripture, the faithful Christian’s image is untarnished; even though, the world may say we are hypocrites.

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?  God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Rom. 8:33, 34

God’s gift of righteousness gives us peace with our Father and lets Him create for us a healthy spiritual environment in Christ.  We have passed out of death into life, and we are counted righteous while we work on changing our personality and behavioral traits from death to life.

We know we have passed out of death and into life because we love all the brethren (I John 3:14).  We do not boast before God about our righteousness because of our works but neither are we laden with guilt because of our weaknesses and ignorance.  We practice righteousness and accept the full gift of grace.  We are counted righteous as Jesus is righteous; He is 100% (I John 3:7).  The difference is that He is righteous because He did everything right and we are counted righteous because of we live by faith on the mercy seat of God in Christ.

What is this law of faith that lets us stand as righteous as Jesus Christ before God’s throne?  What does the scripture mean; “Jesus was raised because of our justification?”  Paul, by the inspiration of God, gives us very clear answers to these questions in the Roman letter, especially in chapters three through five.  To understand justification by faith we should perceive of the presence of three entities.  They are the blood of Jesus and His priesthood, the faith of a Christian and God as He is being appeased because of a Christian’s faith in Christ’s blood.  Please study the following scripture in order to find the dynamics of these three in action.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Rom. 3:21-26

The activity described in the foregoing is God viewing the faith of a Christian.  God is appeased rather than wrathful because of the Christian’s faith, a faith that came from his or her hearing the divine teachings.  Christians learn about Jesus whom God displayed publicly on the cross as a propitiation.  Remember, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).  The blood of Jesus has substance because of the Christians’ faith in the message he heard about the cross.  Christians are justified by God, the justifier, because of the their faith in the blood of Jesus.  This is not just a one time happening, Christians are “being” justified continuously.

Jesus was raised because of our justification (Rom. 4:25).  Jesus is the high priest in Jesus Christ’s Priesthood.  He offers His own blood in the scenario where God is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Heb. 8:1-3).  Please note the Greek word histerion, translated propitiation in Romans 3:25 has been translated mercy seat in Heb. 9:5.  This was the mercy seat behind the split veil when Jesus died on the cross.  Christians’ can now come boldly to God’s throne; however, because we are still “in Adam” we need a propitiatory sacrifice so that God is propitiated, or appeased.  We have the knowledge of good and evil while in our physical bodies.  Since this is what got us into trouble with sin and death, then surely it will continue to give us problems even though we have been born again.  We must live our lives on the mercy seat every moment and God will count us as righteous.  Thanks be to God for this gift by grace.  “Even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Rom. 5:21.

Justification by faith is not a new doctrine with the Christian age.  It worked for Abel, Abraham, and David.  See Heb. 11:4; Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:6.  However, the quality of the sacrificial offering is now perfect; therefore, we can come boldly to the throne of God (Heb 10: 5-10).  In our next lesson, we will see how a combination of the doctrine of justification and sanctification gives Christians a justified life.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the significance of the “split veil” for a faithful Christian?
  2. Through which grace do all other graces flow upon those of us “in Christ?”
  3. What condition will the gift of righteousness maintain for God and Christians?
  4. Why might Christians have “less than perfect” behavior even though we have passed out of death and into life?
  5. What is the value of justification in regard to unjust behavior?
  6. What is the cognitive balance theory according to psychologists?
  7. Why does the balance theory not apply to Christians?
  8. Explain how the “no condemnation” environment, revealed in Romans 8:1, helps a Christian to maintain a positive self image.
  9. List the four reasons given in this lesson why Christians need a gift of God’s righteousness?
  10. What did the Apostle Paul mean when he said, “Jesus was raised because of our justification” in Romans 4:25?
  11. Describe the activities of God, Christ and Christians as God’s righteousness is being imputed in Romans 3:21-26.
  12. How far back does Biblical history record the function of justification by faith in God’s plan for mankind?

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