… are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Picture the scene: the court case is coming to an end. Everyone eagerly anticipates the verdict of the jury, and then comes the simple phrase, ‘not guilty’. A cry of joy comes from the one on trial and his supporters. Everyone now knows that the original accusations were false.
This scene helps us to understand one aspect of the meaning of the Greek verb dikaioô, a word which belongs to the courts of law. The verb dikaioô is usually translated as ‘to justify’, to render someone righteous. In order to appreciate something of the meaning of the verb, we must dwell more on the word ‘righteous’.
Who are the ‘righteous’? In the Old and New Testaments, they are the same, those who conform to a certain standard. For example, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).
But as we consider humankind in general, the Apostle Paul comes to the unnerving conclusion that “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). It is as though everyone is on trial in the court and all are found guilty. The result is condemnation.
However, there is good news, because we “are justified by his grace as a gift” (Romans 3:24). As a result of Jesus Christ’s unique life and death the order in the world has been turned around. Instead of everyone being heirs to Adam and his disobedience, a new status comes. This is how Paul expresses it: “For as by the one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s [Jesus’s] obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). That which Jesus Christ has done means that the accused have been vindicated, that is, they have been declared ‘not guilty’. But that isn’t everything! They have a new positive status: righteous!
The wonder of the gospel is that this justification happens to those who are genuinely guilty, not those who have merely been falsely accused. Oh, amazing grace!
Iwan Rhys Jones, ‘Cyfiawnder’ taken from Geiriau Bywyd, published by EMW in 2017