What does justification have to do with the day of judgment? Mark Seifrid answers the question well. “The day of judgment has been brought into the present in Jesus Christ crucified and risen.” It is a piece of the future brought into our present. The cross and resurrection is the courtroom where God condemns and vindicates us in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:31-34 captures this truth best.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
On the final day no charge will be stand against us according to this text. Why? Because it is God who justifies. Our justification now (Rom 8:1–there is now no condemnation) assures us of our right standing in the future. On that final day who will there be to condemn us? The answer to that is who cares. The one who ultimately can condemn us will absolutely not condemn us. The one who stands to judge is the one who died, rose, and is interceding for us right now. The one who can condemn us has promised us now that he will never do so. Every accusation of the evil one, of other people, of our consciences, of our sinful deeds will fall impotent before the justifying word of God that has been spoken to us now but keeps us forever.
This poem is about the grace of justification that we encounter at the cross. It attempts to capture what Luther called the “wonderful exchange” of our sin for Christ’s righteousness.
Gerhard Forde defines sanctification as the “art of getting used to justification.” He goes further to describe what growth in godliness looks like when justification stands at the center of how you think about transformation. “There is a kind of growth and progress, it is to be hoped, but it is growth in ‘grace’ a growth in coming to be captivated more and more, if we can so speak, by the totality, the unconditionality of the grace of God. It is a matter of getting used to the fact that if we are to be saved it will have to be by grace alone. We should make no mistake about it: sin is to be conquered and expelled. But if we see that sin is the total state of standing against the unconditional grace and goodness of God, if sin is our very incredulity, unbelief, mistrust, our insistence on falling back on our self and maintaining control, then it is only through the total grace of God that sin comes under attack, and only through faith in that total grace that sin is defeated. To repeat: sin is not defeated by a repair job, but by dying and being raised new.”
I’m working through Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians and it has been very encouraging. I posted this entire commentary in PDF form under the category “Articles for Equipping” (help yourself). Commenting on justification by faith Luther says, “The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.” Isn’t that the truth. The news that God has declared us righteous in Christ, has removed the guilt and condemnation of our sin, and considers us innocent is quite difficult to go on believing day after day. Our experience contradicts our position many times. We the guiltless know the guilt of sin. We the righteous know we do unrighteousness. We the pure are often impure. The fact that our experience militates against the truth of our position before God points to the fact that we need to hear the promise of justification again and again. Faith looks not at what is seen but beyond that to what is certain and that is God’s promise. His promise is a promise of liberation. The cross is about justification and justification is about freedom. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. We need to hear that God has justified us in Christ day after day—indeed incessantly. This incessant reminder has the effect of breaking our shackles of guilt and shame and compelling us in our freedom to love God and neighbor.