We’ve been justified, made right with God. How? Not by our own good works, there is no amount of right that we could do to erase the sin that separated us from God. There is no price that we could afford to purchase our lives back from the penalty of death. It is grace alone, the unmerited favor of God, that redeems us and makes us righteous.
And we pray:
Father, sometimes I forget that it is Your grace that saves me. Sometimes I try to lean on my own righteousness, which will never be enough. Thank You for freely giving me the gift of righteousness, for redeeming my life, and allowing me to stand in Your presence, justified and blameless, because of what Jesus has done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We are all in need of a heart transplant.
In Romans 3, Paul continues his argument of the sinfulness of humanity. Because of our sin, we need more than justice when it comes to our relationship with God. Otherwise, His justice would destroy us because every one of us has sinned—without exception.
Mark 7:20–23 makes this clear:
“And [Jesus] was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’” (NASB 1995)
Jesus’ list of sins covers our thoughts, our actions, and our emotions. He touches on the true intentions of our hearts, which fall short of the glory of God.
As a result, whether Jew or Gentile, no person can earn their salvation.
The Richness of Our Salvation
We could not save ourselves, so God made a way for salvation. The Law and the Prophets looked forward to Jesus, the Anointed One, who would save us through His righteousness, the righteousness of God.
Salvation in Christ is rich, and no one word can completely encompass all that is contained within it. As a result, Scripture speaks of various aspects of salvation, like the facets of a gem:
- Justification: We have been declared righteous.
- Reconciliation: We have moved from alienation to intimacy with God.
- Propitiation: Christ has satisfied the wrath of God through His righteousness.
- Redemption: Christ paid the price to save us.
- Sanctification: We are in the process of growing more like Christ.
- Atonement: Because Christ has paid the price, we are reconciled to God and freed from sin.
Justification in Christ
Paul uses several of these terms in Romans 3. One of these is justification, which means “to be declared righteous.” God requires perfect righteousness, and the bad news is that we cannot achieve this righteousness on our own. But the good news is that God is immanent; He entered into His own creation, taking on humanity but with undiminished deity in order to give us His own righteousness.
In Romans 3:24, Paul writes that we have been “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (NASB 1995).
Christ justified us because God cannot forgive sin—it separates us from His perfection due to His holiness. But God can forgive sinners, and He does so through Christ’s righteousness.
This can be a difficult concept to grasp. What it boils down to, though, is that Christ’s thoughts, words, and deeds add up to righteousness. On the other hand, our thoughts, words, and deeds add up to sin. But our sin has been imputed to Him—added to His account, so that He has taken on our sin.
Not only did Christ take our sin, but He imputed His righteousness to us. This is a double imputation, and there is nothing like it in any other religion. It is beyond our grasp, marvelous, and worthy of our worship.