Let’s talk about justification by faith. What does that mean? We’ve talked at length about faith, but not justification. But doesn’t it just mean “saved”? No, it does not. Rather, it means —
The acquittal, or declaration of being righteous, before God as judge. It is a central aspect of Paul’s understanding of what God achieved for believers through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Manzer & McGrath, Eds., “Justification,” Dictionary of Biblical Themes (2012).
BDAG, the most respected lexicon of biblical Greek, says,
of God be found in the right, be free of charges (cp. TestAbr A 13 p. 93, 14 [Stone p. 34] ‘be vindicated’ in a trial by fire) Mt 12:37 (opp. καταδικάζειν). δεδικαιωμένος Lk 18:14; GJs 5:1; δεδικαιωμένη (Salome) 20:4 (not pap). Ac 13:39 (but s. 3 below); Rv 22:11 v.l; Dg 5:14.—Paul, who has influenced later wr[iters]. (cp. Iren. 3, 18, 7 [Harv. II 102, 2f]), uses the word almost exclusively of God’s judgment. As affirmative verdict Ro 2:13. Esp. of pers. δικαιοῦσθαι …
Thayer’s defines “justify” as —
to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be, (cf. ὁμοιόω to declare to be like, liken, i. e. compare; ὁσιόω, Sap. 6:11 ; ἀξιόω ,which never means to make worthy, but to judge worthy, to declare worthy, to treat as worthy; …)
Think about it. If “justification” is not the forgiveness itself but the declaration of a judge that I’m acquitted — innocent, really — then what does “justified by faith” mean? Well, it means that my faith evidences my acquittal. Not my circumcision, not my kosher diet, not even my scrupulous keeping of the Sabbath. My faith in Jesus declares to the world that God has acquitted me! Continue reading