Faithlife Sermons

Justified in Christ

Identified: Who I Am Because of Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: To be in Christ is the most basic identity of the Christian. It is such an important element of who we are that all of the other answers to the question “Who Am I?” are based on that point. The most important aspect of what it means to be in Christ is the fact that we are justified. Tonight we will look to answer three questions concerning justification. 1). What does it mean to be justified? 2). How do you become justified? 3). How can you relate to the fact that you are justified?

What Does It Mean to be Justified?

Galatians 2:5–6 NKJV
to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.
Galatians 2:15–16 NKJV
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
The word justified is a term that refers to a legal or courtroom evaluation based one’s obedience to a law. To be justified means to be declared “right” according to the law. In Scripture to be justified means to be declared right by God in regards to His law, and since you are declared to be right then you are accepted by God and treated as right.
Those are the facts. However, what we must wrestle with is this. How can God declare us to be righteous in regards to His law when the fact of the matter is that we have all broken the law of God and continue to break the law of God?

The Curse of the Law

The first thing we need to understand is this. We are not justified by our own works. Paul repeats this idea in three times. Well, why can’t we be justified by our own works?
Galatians 3:10 NKJV
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
In other words, the absolute standard is complete and perfect obedience to what is commanded in the law. Although there are many laws, Jesus said that all the laws can be summed up in this way:
Matthew 22:37–39 NKJV
Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
How many of you have kept the law even stated in its simplest form? Without going through the over 600 laws of the OT that lay out for us what it looks like to love God and man how many of you can think of at least on example of when you acted in such a way that you either did not love God or did not love your neighbor? Sometimes we get the idea that God scores us in the way that schools score us, a passing grade around 70% is good enough. Paul says, through the inspiration of God, that we must obey all things in God’s law perfectly. Anyone who attempts to earn righteousness for themselves, instead of being declared righteous, will actually be under the curse of God.
So, if we desire to be justified then we have two options:
We can rely on our own righteousness
We can by faith place ourselves in Christ
Paul calls the first option “works of the law” and he promises us that through the works of the law we shall remain under the curse of God because it is impossible to fulfill the requirements of the law.
The second option, however, does result in our justification.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There are three persons mentioned in this verse.
He - God the Father
Him - Jesus Christ
Us - humankind
The shocking thing that we realize in is that the violent actions of the Father towards His own beloved Son were done for us. Well, who are we that we would deserve such love?
Ephesians 2:1–3 NKJV
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Romans 5:6–10 NKJV
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Christ was treated as if He were the object of God’s wrath and as if He were unrighteous so that you could be considered righteous. Before Christ, we were ungodly, sinners, enemies of God, spiritually dead, in collusion with the devil, and living according to the lusts of our own flesh. We are not a pretty picture. God did not send His Son to die for nice people who really wanted to obey God but just struggled. No, He died for rebellious, hate-filled enemies so that He could redeem them as sons and daughters.

He Knew No Sin

Christ did not descend from Adam and did not have a sin nature. says that we are slaves to our own sinful passions, but Jesus did not have sinful passions. He was tempted externally by the devil and the sinful environment of the world but when confronted with temptation there was no response in His heart to those temptations. Instead of struggling with sin His heart He was totally devoted and obedient to God the Father.
Hebrews 4:15 NKJV
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
1 Peter 2:22 NKJV
“Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
1 John 3:5 NKJV
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
So, the four major writers of the NT agree. Christ was without sin. Even stronger is the testimony of Jesus Himself.
John 8:46 NKJV
Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?
John 8:29 NKJV
And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
Matthew 3:17 NKJV
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 17:5 NKJV
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

He Was Made to Be Sin

Next, God sent His Son who knew no sin to be sin. When Paul says that Jesus was “made” he does not mean that He was created, nor does it mean that the Father forced the Son to come and become sin. What Paul means is that the Father caused Jesus to bear the weight of our sin. In God’s plan and with Jesus’ humble cooperation, despite the unimaginable anguish and torment involved. God took all of the sins of mankind (“us”) throughout all the ages and placed it on Christ. Every sin whether in action or thought or word or motive was dumped on Christ as He was caused to taste death so that you wouldn’t have to.
Isaiah 53:6 NKJV
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
1 Peter 2:24 NKJV
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
I don’t want you to take for granted what the Bible is saying about justification. Forget that you have heard this before and let the truth of the Bible wash over you as if you have never heard it before. For the sake of us who are sinners, who are ungodly, who are enemies of God, God the Father punished His Son.
Isaiah 53:5 NKJV
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:10 NKJV
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
The Father is not a cruel Father who delighted in the punishment of His beloved Son. Rather, He was pleased to crush His own Son in order to do something for us. Jesus was in total cooperation. He actually makes this point in .
John 10:17–18 NKJV
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Jesus voluntarily submitted Himself to the plan of the Father for the sake of our salvation.

We Become the Righteousness of God

God made Jesus to be sin in order that in Him we could be righteous. This righteousness has nothing to do with our own work, but it has everything to do with the work of Christ.
Philippians 3:9 NKJV
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Picture this. Imagine you come to your own trial and the judge has a list of everything you have done and it is all corrupt. As a matter of fact, even your very best deeds are like polluted garments, but by placing your faith in Christ the judge removes the charges against you and charges it to Christ. The charges against you then have been dropped. Now instead of leaving your life empty the judge then takes Christ’s perfect obedience and charges it to you. For us, because we all grew up with technology, God has cut your evil deeds and pasted them to Christ, and God has copied Christ’s righteous deeds and pasted them to you.
Your life now is no longer a testimony of sin. Instead of sin, your record bears witness to 33 years of a perfectly righteous life. Christ, as our representative, willingly became a man in order to represent man and payed the penalty of man through His death. Now He can righteously credit us with His righteousness. So, for those who are in Christ, when Christ died on the cross you died on the cross, and when He lived a perfect life you lived a perfect life.

How Do You Become Justified?

Paul answers this question very clearly in .
Galatians 2:15–16 NKJV
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
We become justified by placing our faith in Christ. A lot of times you will hear people say that they have faith or have religion. This is empty faith and empty religion. Faith must always be placed in something, and where faith must be placed is in Christ.
Paul is also saying that in order to become justified we must renounce our own perceived righteousness.

How Can You Relate to the Fact That Your Are Justified?

Galatians 2:20 NKJV
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
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