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Justified Unto Righteousness

If I had called my sister stupid as a child, my mother  would have scolded me.  I wonder if the apostle Paul's mother scolded him when he called the Christians in the province of Galatia stupid.   

In Galatians 3:1 Paul says, "you foolish Galatians". (NIV)  The Greek word  "anoetos" that is translated as "foolish" in Galatians 3:1 can easily be translated as "stupid".  Maybe our Bible translators remembered their mother's admonition and translated "anoetos" as "foolish" instead of "stupid".  "Foolish" may sound a bit more polite than "stupid", but "stupid" seems to better reflect Paul's sentiment.  Whatever the case, Paul was really upset with these Christians.  They really were stupid, and it wasn't because they didn't have the capacity to be intelligent, because they did.  They simply failed to use their intelligence, which was leading them astray into serious false teaching.    

The gospel message that Paul received from Jesus stated that men and women, whether Jew or Gentile, could be declared righteous in the sight of God through the process of justification.  Justification and righteousness could only be found through Jesus, and absolutely nothing else.  The false teaching Paul was combating in Galatia stated that what Jesus did on the cross wasn't good enough for us to be declared righteous.  Men and women, Jew and Gentile, had to improve on what Jesus did on the cross by struggling  to obey all 613 laws found in the Law of Moses.  In short, "human effort", as Paul calls it, was to complement the cross of Christ.  That's one horrific sin.         

I've often referred to the 1999 book entitled "The Deliberate Dumbing Down Of America", written by Charlotte Iserbyt-Thomson.  Iserbyt-Thomas speaks to our failure in post-modern times to use our intelligence.  Like the Galatian Christians, we have the capacity to understand, but we're too lazy to exercise this capacity.  I'd dare say that this infectious mental illness has penetrated the thinking processes of the majority of Christians these days.  We fail to take the time to sit down and seriously think through Biblical issues.  We quickly read the Bible without thinking about what we read.  For this reason, many people will not fully understand what I've just said in the last paragraph concerning justification and righteousness.  It seems to me, that when we read the Bible, we hope the Lord will bypass our brains and just drop bits and pieces of understanding into our hearts.  It doesn't always work that way.  Or, we hope a Sunday morning sermon will clue us in on these things, but that doesn't necessarily happen either.  I think Paul might well call many of us stupid, or should I say foolish, if he were around today. 

Fifty years ago Christians had a pretty good understanding of what the words "justification" and "righteousness" meant.  Ask Christians today what these two words mean and you'll probably see their brains go up in smoke.  The mental stress that occurs in the attempt to provide an answer throws their brain cells into mass confusion. The resulting collision of these brain cells causes a fiery explosion that accounts for the smoke rising from their ears and nostrils.  

To understand justification, you must accept the Biblical premise that each and every human being ever born is a miserable sinner from conception. We simply donít have the ability to do as God wants.  I know that's not acceptable in today's "let's all feel good about ourselves world", but that's foundational to Christian thinking.          

Justification is therefore the process by which God has removed this designation of being a miserable sinner from who we are.  The disciple of Jesus no longer stands before the Judge of all things as being a sinner.  God views him as being perfectly just.  To be clear about being a sinner and committing sinful acts; we don't become a sinner when we first commit a sin.  We commit sins because we are born a sinner.

When God the Father watched the Roman soldiers kill Jesus, He saw you and I being killed as well, because Jesus was executed as a condemned sinner on our behalf.  Our sins have now been deleted from God's eternal spreadsheet, but more importantly, God no longer views us as who we really are.  We're still miserable sinners, but for those of us who have trusted our lives with Jesus, that designation no longer exists over our heads.  That's what Justification means, and that's what provides us the opportunity to be declared "righteous" in the sight of God.

Righteousness is the process by which God views us as being perfectly right, not merely in what we do, but in who we are.  Even though we're still  miserable sinners, God declares us as perfect saints.  Imagine that.  God views you and I as being perfectly right in who we are, even as He Himself is perfectly right in who He is.  That's mind boggling.  God views the Christian in the same way He views Himself, even though the Christian is light years away from being like Him.   

If you fail to understand "justification" and "righteousness" you will fail to understand what being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is all about, and that is sadly the case with many of us today.  It's time to exercise our brain cells, think these important Biblical issues through, and allow them to penetrate the core of who we are. 


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