1 October 2013
Justified by Grace
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 (Romans 3:23-24).
Grace is beautiful. It captures the goodness and kindness of God’s heart towards his people. What does ‘grace’ really means? The Bible contrasts grace with the wages or payment that a worker receives for his work. ‘Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt’ (Romans 4:4). The worker merits his payment. Grace is the very opposite of merit; it is a gift, an unmerited favour.
So when the Bible says that we are justified by grace it means that we do not deserve it. On the contrary, ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ We have not obeyed his law, and as such we deserve to be condemned, but instead God justifies us.
Nor do we work, maybe with God’s help, to merit our justification or part of it. If we had to contribute any merit to our justification, it could not be said any longer that we are justified by grace. As the Bible says elsewhere, ‘if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace’ (Romans 11:6).
But justification is purely by grace as the Bible declares. ‘Justified by his grace as a gift.’ It is a free. God justifies believers not because he is somehow obliged to do so, nor is he in any way indebted to us, but simply because he wants to be good to us. We do not pay anything, we do not labour to obtain our justification.
Not that justification is cheap! It does not cost us anything but as for God, he gave his Son to pay for this priceless gift. Justification is ‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ The Son of God purchased our freedom with his precious blood.
Any attempt to add our obedience to the law to merit justification is a denial of both grace and the efficacy of the cross of Christ. ‘I do not nullify the grace of God,’ says the apostle Paul, ‘for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose’ (Galatians 2:21).
As Christian believers we do not dream of rejecting grace or of doubting the power of the cross. We will never stop praising God for forgiving us the punishment we deserved, for sending his Son to die on the cross in our place, and for declaring us righteous for Jesus’ sake. He saved us ‘to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6). It is no wonder that grace will be the theme of our joyous song for all eternity.