Rooted – Salvation and Justification (22nd March 2020)

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Big Words Series
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So today we are following on our series of looking at difficult Church words that get used a lot, and never explained. Today – Salvation and Justification.

Justification and salvation are two of many different words that are used by the Bible, and by people studying the Bible, to try and get across the idea of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. 

Yes, we all know he “died for our sins” – but what does that actually mean? The Bible uses several different ideas and word-pictures to try and describe what it means. None of them are more right or wrong than any other – they’re all true. But they each deal with different parts of people’s relationship with God. Together they try to give us a full picture of the amazing work done for us at the cross by Jesus.
For us to go through all of those would take a lot of time (but you’re encouraged to look up Atonement Theory and Salvation Metaphors for yourself!), so today we’re going to look a little narrower. Today we’re going to look at the idea of ‘Justification by Faith’. This is a central idea to the idea of ‘saving’ people from the effects of ‘The Fall’ that we looked at in session 1 and 2.

Saved By A Belief?

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

What is the way people are considered righteous?

Let’s look at the language and ideas the Bible uses to talk about justification. We’ll start in the Old Testament. Remember, this was written in Hebrew initially.
“If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense."
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

What place or idea do all these verses make you think of? Notice that sometimes the verdict seems to be wrong – what does this mean for the guilt and innocence of those being called righteous or acquitted (let off)?

A Guilty Verdict

These verses (and others) give us the impression of a legal setting. The Fall puts us at odds with God, rebels and sinners.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

Are we innocent or guilty before God? Can this verdict be changed?

With these verses in mind we realise the necessity of some way of making things right with God. Somehow, in order to be what we were designed to be (remember session one on Sin?), we need to be viewed by God as righteous, to be ‘justified’.


It is by Gods rules we are judged because he made everything. It also by him we have the opportunity to be reconciled.
In the New Testament the five words related to righteousness all have the first syllable dikē (dee-kay) – they all have different emphasis of meaning, for example: forensic law, being righteous before God and moral uprightness.

A Different Verdict?

We’ve already said we’re guilty, so we don’t deserve justification. But it is still available to us. Why?
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
1 Timothy

Who is made righteous? How? How can this grace be earned?

God is perfect, and his judgement always right. We deserve punishment and yet God is satisfied somehow.

Being Made Right

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What makes us justified? How is the punishment due to us paid for and God satisfied?

How can we take advantage of this free gift of grace?
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

How are we justified? What do we do to receive righteousness? Do we have to work at faith to receive anything?

The Good News

We are accounted righteous before God on the grounds of Christ’s obedience and death. We desperately need it and can never earn it. By faith we can come out from the burden of judgement and guilt to a new life of freedom in Christ. Next week, we’ll begin to look at that further.