“There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom.3:10). In the first three chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, the apostle shows that all of humanity alike have sinned—whether they have the written law or not, and all have fallen short of attaining God’s glorious ideal and likeness. Even the Pharisees who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, Jesus, the Righteous One, called them hypocrites since outwardly they appeared righteous in their behavior toward others but inwardly they were full of corruption and wickedness. * Rom.3:23; Lk.18:9-14; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; Mt.23.27-28*
Although there are “none righteous,” yet we do read, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt.5:6, NKJV). And Jesus told His disciples that unless their righteousness greatly surpassed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they would certainly never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! *Mt.5:20*
Then there are those who the Scriptures call “righteous”: Abel; Lot; John the Baptist; Joseph, the husband of Mary; Simeon and Noah. We’re also told that Zachariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s parents) were upright before God, living blamelessly in all the commandments and regulations of the Lord (Lk.1:5-6). And then James tells us that the prayers of a “righteous” person are very powerful and able to do much, and such prayers effectively work to bring about results (Ja.5:16). *Heb.11:4, Mt.23:35; II Pe.2:7-8; Mk.6:20; Mt.1:19; Lk.2:25-26; Heb.11:7*
In spite of those declarations we still read that “there is none righteous, no not one!” No upright or guiltless person exists. All are doomed with inevitable judgment. And yet we see that there are righteous people on this earth, as God has declared in His word. How is that possible? How can a guilty person be or become “justified?”
What adds to this perplexing difficulty is that no guilty human being can become acceptable in God’s sight through observing the law. No such person can be pronounced righteous through his or her efforts to conform to and live by a certain law. Why not? Because God established the law for lawless and ungodly people to cause them see what sin is, make them conscious of it and show them their need of Christ and salvation. The law acts like an attendant to lead people to Christ. So no one can be “justified”—pronounced and treated as righteous–by observing the law. And anyone who seeks to be justified by way of law and rests their righteousness on it, automatically puts himself outside the range of God’s favor and grace (Gal.5:4). *I Tim.1:9-10; Gal.3:24; Rom.3:20*
So how can an unrighteous person become righteous since it is not possible to do so by obedience to any law? Does God just decide to justify people out of His love and mercy? But how can God ever “justify the ungodly” and still remain a “righteous judge” (II Tim.4:8)? He is supposed to “judge righteously!” And how could God in righteousness and with justice ultimately have the right to judge the world on the appointed Day if He justifies such people? He is the One who said that judges were to justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, and in Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” * I Pe.2:23; Rom.3:5-6, Acts 17:31; Dt.25:1*
So in light of all of this, how can God “justifiably” justify the ungodly and remain just? Is that the proper administration of legal justice?! We’ll answer that question in the next blog.
By Ed Dudek
From:: Justified: A Big Problem!