To “justify” is to declare righteous as a judicial act. But God does more than this for us. He acts in our lives to actually make us righteous.
Three strong emphases on righteousness are found in the NT, and each is linked to Jesus:
- Jesus’ death has demonstrated God’s righteousness, revealing him to be a gracious and holy person (Rom. 3:24-26).
24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26.
- Jesus himself is the object of faith, through whom individuals are declared righteous by God. And,
- Jesus is the source of a dynamic new life for those who exercise a believing trust in him. In our relationship with Jesus a “righteousness that is by faith from first to last” (Rom. 1:17) begins to possess us, bringing us new thoughts, new motives, and a new way of life.
17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
In Romans 6, Paul outlines an option facing believers. We can choose continued bondage to sin, or by faith commit ourselves to God and be servants of righteousness. By offering ourselves totally to God, to respond to his Spirit, we are released to experience a truly righteous life which reflects the very character of our Lord (6:1-14).
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness,but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[b] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. Romans 3:21-31
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:14-16
[Charity and compassion – fruit of the Holy Spirit being a dynamic force to make us righteous.]
For study: Romans 3:21-31; 6:1-14; James 2:14-16
Nowadays, people are taught that there is no distinction between good and evil. Good and evil are of equal status and we should embrace both. Love yourself and don’t feel guilty about anything. Mr. Rogers and many Christian pastors have taught this false teaching that must have led to enslavement of many lives to sins and destruction.