(Unless noted otherwise, all scripture references are from The English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001)
As we continue to follow the in Christ theme of Paul’s theology, We will take a look at key benefits that are ours in Christ though the spiritual union in the New Birth. The cornerstone of these benefits is justification. This is the definitive point of our union with Christ, after that our hearts are regenerated. God actually makes us in right standing with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus, though His grace. Consider Galatians 2:16
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Jesus, in a conversation with the Pharisees, as well as the rich young ruler, in Matthew 19, shows the utter perfection the law demands for righteousness. Jesus teaches the Pharasees that the Law demands perfection in marriage (19:1-9), and the rich young ruler is shown by our Lord that even the desires of the heart through his greed break the commands that this young man so boldly claimed to honor (19:16-22).
Our best effort and attempts to fulfill any moral standard before a holy and just God and His Law is worthless. (Isaiah 64:6) Paul, in Romans 1, examines the human condition and stance apart from God quite vividly:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Houston? We have a problem… It is our sinful state apart from Christ. Paul even tells us that NO ONE seeks after God in Romans 3:11-12:
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
What is the remedy for this condition? It is God’s declaring the sinner just in His sight, apart from his or her own works. This is a work of God alone in the salvific union with Christ, through faith. Romans 5:1 proclaims:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can you grasp the reality of this truth!? God is not counting your sin against you in Christ! We have peace with God in Him! God sees us as He sees His only Son. The truths of the teaching of the blessings in heavenly places in Christ of Ephesians 1:3 are evident here.
This justification is a one time event, that happens at conversion. We not only are merely forgven of our sins, but we must be granted a perfect righteousness to stand before God. Noted theologian John Murray points to this in an excerpt from his work Redemption Accomplished and Applied: “Salvation requires not only the forgiveness of sin but also justification. And justification, adequate to the situation in which lost mankind is, demands a righteousness such as belongs to no other than the incarnate Son of God, a righteousness undefiled and undefilable, a righteousness with divine property and quality (cf. Rom 1:17; 3:21-22; 10:3; 2Co 5:21; Phi 3:9). It is the righteousness of the obedience of Christ (Rom 5:19).”
― John Murray, The Atonement
The just wrath of God was laid on the spotless Christ at Calvary, and His perfect righteous merit was granted to us who are in Him. Paul specifies this in Romans 3:21-22:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: and are justified by his grace as a gift, through redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
What the Law demanded Christ accomplished, in His life, and death, and we have recieved the blessing of justification through faith in Him alone. God sees us in Christ’s right standing, and not our own weakness and base works. The Father looks on us in full mercy and joy, in love, as He does His only Son (John 17:21-23).