“Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.” It is initiated by our faith, carried out by God’s grace, and results in a reconciliation with God.
Justification accomplishes at least 3 things as detailed in Scripture. First, God forgives the justified person of their sin (this deals with conduct). Second, God pardons the justified person of their penalty (this deals with consequence). Third, God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the justified person (this deals with condition). Justification solves the problem of sin, death, and unrighteousness.
This morning we will study Paul’s closing comments regarding justification. We will discover how it came into being through the gracious act of one Man, namely Jesus Christ. At the same time, we will also see how sin infected all of humanity through the disobedience of one man, namely Adam.
A brief look back over this series so far reveals 3 distinct areas of teaching. The first was about the message of salvation (1 sermon), the second was about the necessity of salvation (4 sermons), and the third is about the initial phase of salvation - justification (5 sermons, including today’s). The passage today ties these all together with a neat bow. The sin of Adam necessitates salvation, while the sacrificial atonement of Christ makes it possible through justification.
I. ALL MANKIND IS INFECTED BY SIN (Romans 5:12-14)
Prior to the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, mankind had never sinned. Adam was righteous, meaning that he was in a right relationship with God. He walked with the LORD intimately and harmoniously. Since Adam had not yet eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he did not even know what “wrong” was, and thus had no understanding of moral law. This ignorance - perhaps better understood as innocence - kept sin from being imputed against him.
The only restriction that Adam had was not to eat from a certain tree, because God had expressly told him not to. We don’t know how long Adam lived in the Garden prior to disobeying this single command, perhaps a long time. Nevertheless, eventually Adam broke the one rule that he was given. He had no idea what would ensue as a result of his misconduct. The tragic ramifications were beyond his ability to grasp.
When thinking about the Fall we tend to fixate on the specific act - Adam eating the forbidden fruit. But let’s take a moment to consider what happened to Adam’s spiritual condition. When he ate, Adam immediately became aware of the difference between good and evil. In other words, he became conscious of morality - aka, “the law” - and realized that he had broken it. His spiritual condition changed from one of innocence to one of guilt, from righteousness to unrighteousness.
This corrupted nature has been passed from one generation to the next since, so that all people born of Adam (everyone) are carnal, worldly, and unrighteous. We are inclined to sin from the moment of our conception and invariably choose to do so given the opportunity. Our sin leads to death, which refers to eternal separation from God in hell. While we are ultimately held accountable for our own personal sins, certainly the transgression of Adam has affected all of humanity by infecting it with a sinful nature which we inherit from him.
Even before the Law was formally given to Moses, spiritual death reigned in Adam’s descendants because they had an inherent law written on their hearts. It was derived from the knowledge of good and evil and they knowingly violated it. Their disobedience was slightly different than Adam’s because he broke a verbally expressed command directly spoken by God while they broke a silent command from God which they instinctively knew to be true. Either way, both were guilty.
Adam was a righteous man who sinned, and as a result became unrighteous. All who come after him are born unrighteous men, and sin consistent with their corrupted nature. Since all of us sin, death has spread to everyone.
II. COMPARING THE SIN OF ADAM AND THE GIFT OF GOD (Romans 5:15-19)
Paul makes 5 statements of comparison between the effects of Adam’s sin and the impact of Jesus’ sacrifice on mankind. These contrasts clearly describe the differences between the two acts. Adam is referred to in these verses as the “one” (lowercase) while Jesus is called the “One” (uppercase).
(v 15) The sin of one led to the death of many. The gift of One leads to abounding grace for many. In Christ there is grace, but apart from Him there is none.
(v 16) The sin of one led to the condemnation of many. The sin of many led to justification through One. In Christ there is justification, but apart from Him condemnation.
(v 17) The sin of one allowed death to reign over many. The gracious gift of One allows life to reign over those who receive it. In Christ there is life, but apart from Him is death.
(v 18) The sin of one led to the condemnation of all. The righteousness of One led to the justification of all. This verse repeats and thereby emphasizes the truth stated in verse 16. In Christ there is justification, but apart from Him condemnation.
(v 19) The disobedience of one led many to be made sinners. The obedience of One led to many being made righteous. In Christ we are righteous, but apart from Him we are sinners (unrighteous).
III. HIS GRACE ABOUNDS (Romans 5:20-21)
The advent of the Mosaic Law did not increase the severity or consequence of people’s sins, but rather raised our awareness of them. It was not intended to establish more types of sin, but to be used as a means of greater recognition of sin. As we become increasingly conscious of our sin, we understand the encompassing extent of God’s grace that triumphs over it.
The abundant grace of God as demonstrated through our Lord Jesus Christ has completely enveloped and crushed the scourge of sin and death. The tragedy that befell mankind through the sin of one has been reversed through the gracious gift of Another. Jesus is the source of our justification. Where our sin increased, His grace abounded all the more!
As we wrap-up this portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans regarding justification, I want to remind us all of some of his major points. These are important truths for us to remember as we continue through this study of salvation.
● Justification is the first step in the salvation process.
● Justification comes through faith alone; not of works or by any other means.
● Justification through faith applies to everyone in the same way, even those who lived before Jesus’ coming.
● Justification involves the forgiveness of sins (the charges are dropped).
● Justification involves the pardon of penalty (the sentence is dismissed).
● Justification involves a declaration of righteousness (the nature is changed).
● Justification is a one-time event that occurs at the moment when a person places their faith in Christ.
● Justification deals with one’s spiritual nature and standing before God.
● Justification results in reconciliation with God - a restored and ongoing relationship.
● Justification was made possible through the work of Jesus Christ.
One Sunday morning, at the age of nine, in the back of a small church in Conroe, TX, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and was justified in God’s eyes. But that was only the beginning of my salvation… Today I am 43 years old and am continually being saved every single day as my salvation unfolds. Starting next week we will begin exploring the second step of the salvation process - sanctification.