“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness. In His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time, His righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3: 23-26)
The passage above is often misunderstood, but a critical basic belief for the Christian. It is this very belief in “justification by faith, alone” that caused a rift between the Catholic and Protestant Churches in what was called the “Protestant Reformation.”
There’s a vast difference between being declared righteous by God and actually becoming righteous in our daily behavior. The first happens the moment we believe in Christ as our personal Savior and is forever settled in God’s eyes. The latter is a life-long process of our behavior that needs both our faith and works to accomplish. Adding “works” to justification by faith means that Jesus’s death and resurrection wasn’t enough to satisfy God’s justice.
To be declared “justified” means that God took our sins and put them on Christ and then took Christ’s righteousness and gave it to us in return. Both are needed! The fact that Christ has taken all our sins away, only leaves us in a neutral state with God. In order to be totally acceptable to God, we need more than just the subtraction of our sins. We need the addition of Christ’s righteousness.
For the believer, God grants us Justification, once and forever! It is a done deal.
A failure to properly understand the concept of being declared forever righteous by God has robbed believers of the assurance of their salvation and has crippled them into thinking that they must be on an endless highway of works in order to maintain their acceptance with God.
Because of the propitiation (turning away wrath by the satisfaction of violated justice) accomplished by Christ, God will instantly and forever declare righteous any man, woman, or child who places their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God declares that person to be just as righteous in His sight as His Son, Jesus Christ!
The great message of the gospel is that we can be justified (forgiven and accepted by God) by grace through faith, alone, on account of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Additional References: Titus 3:7, Romans 5:1, Genesis 15:6
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