At our house, we try to take turns making dinner each week. I’m not a great cook, so I’m always a bit apprehensive when it’s my turn. A few weeks ago, when it was my turn, Becky suggested we have leftover chili. All I had to do was make the cornbread. My sister, Beth, who is living with us can’t eat gluten, so Becky left me the recipe for the gluten free cornbread and I went to work on it. I followed the recipe as best as I could, heated up the chili in the microwave, and then served dinner.
I was a bit nervous to see how the cornbread turned out, and... it didn’t turn out well. Instead of being moist and crumbly like it usually is, it was dense and chewy. It tasted good, but it was hard to swallow! I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong, so Becky started walking me through the steps to see where I had gone wrong. When we got to the part about mixing in the gluten free flour, Becky stopped and said, “Wait, what did you use for gluten free flour?” I responded, “I used the flour that was in the tupperware container labelled ‘gluten free flour’.” Becky, looking a bit sheepish, proceeded to tell me that gluten free flour is actually a mixture of rice flour and tapioca flour and that she hadn’t mixed them yet and the flour that was in the tupperware was only tapioca flour.
Well, that made my day. I wasn’t to blame! I was justified! There was no longer any guilt or judgement on me! (Not that there was much judgement, but there was a good deal of snickering.)
This idea of justification is a major theme in the book of Romans. Romans starts off early on by setting up the problem that all people have: we are all guilty of sin and we deserve God’s judgement. But this problem is much more serious than my failed gluten free cornbread. The guilt is no misunderstanding and the judgement is much worse than being teased. We are guilty of sin, or as Romans puts it, we are unrighteous. And the penalty of our unrighteousness is death, both physically and spiritually. On top of this bad news, Romans tells us that there is nothing we can do to justify ourselves or become righteous (innocent of guilt). And God can’t simply forgive our sins because our sins demand justice and God would be unjust if He swept them under the rug. In short, all of humanity is in huge trouble!
But then comes the good news:
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,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— 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 3:25-26 (NIV)
Jesus is the solution to our problem. God sent His Son into the world as a human to live a sinless life and then die the death we deserve, taking our place and paying for our sins. Then He rose again, defeating death and sin and breaking their power. Now, if you trust that Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for your sins and you decide to follow Jesus as your king, you are justified. God declares you righteous, innocent of guilt. Jesus took your judgement and you received His position as God’s child. Praise God for His mercy and grace! What amazing good news!
All the bold words in this article come from the same Greek word.
Some of them are nouns (righteousness, justice, unrighteousness, injustice, justification)
Some are adjectives (righteous, just, unrighteous, unjust)
some are verbs (justify, justified, justifies)
But they all have to do with being innocent of guilt or being declared innocent of guilt. These words show up over 60 times in the book of Romans. Keep an eye out for them and they’ll help you follow the point of the book and see the amazing news of the gospel!
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