The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What is justification and why is it necessary?

Hello everyone :smiley:
I’m relatively new to Universalism (about 6 months) so I’m still deeply in a “learning phase”. It’s all extremely exciting though!

Recently, I’ve been thinking about justification? What, per Universalist definition, is justification? Since I was young, the word 'justification" has always meant “being declared righteous (sinless, blemishless) by God so that our judgment is not hell”. Since I no longer believe hell is eternal (or even exists, I’m still debating this), I don’t really know what the point of justification is. From what I understand, Universalists don’t believe God is angry, or needs to be apeased or needs people to be sinless in order to have a relationship with them. In fact, I’m coming to a point where I believe everything that God has done, is doing and will do (the Cross, grace, mercy, atonement, justification) is more for our benefit than for God’s. So why does God need to justify us in order to let us go to heaven? And also, is justification by faith alone? I’ve heard some Orthodox people and other Protestant Christians claim that justification comes from our faith being put into action, as in, there NEEDS to be works (fruit) to be justified. They claim that someone who has faith but hasn’t done anything yet isn’t justified. This makes no sense to me, but I would appreciate any thoughts…

Blessings! :slight_smile: And happy Thursday to you all.

Welcome to the forum, Mrs.O!

A quick technical note: don’t be alarmed if it takes your posts up to a few days to come through; all posts from new members go to the spamcatcher at first so we can check if someone is selling essays or Russian hacking software. (We had a swarm of that back before Christmas, which was quite hilarious as the posts were all boasting about how good they were at getting through Captchas if you could read their posts as evidence. As far as I know they were all zorched inbound. :smiling_imp: )

After three or four posts the system will flip over to allow you through automatically afterward.

I don’t have much time to type this afternoon – buckling down, and up, for an oncoming winter storm in West TN – but if justification involves people becoming actually and perfectly fair, perfectly just, and not only a legal ruling, then of course so long as we’re morally still choosing injustice then we be still making any heaven into a hell, even slightly, for ourselves or other people.

This leads to the question of whether our proclivities to do injustice can all be cured (simply or more complexly), or whether there’s more contribution from us as free willed persons involved in our bad behavior than that. If the former then of course there’s no need for God’s attitude toward us to be, relative to our sin, any amount of personal opposition against us personally; if the latter, then (as Lewis used to say) while whatever can be cured will be cured, and whatever can fairly be excused will be excused, what’s left over still needs forgiving and that’s a changing of our mind by us as responsible people – until then we’re still making ourselves enemies of the source of our own existence, even if as God says through Isaiah He actually has no wrath in Him and is only fighting us to burn up the thorns and thistles with which we go out to war against Him (so that we will throw them down and cling to Him instead as our friend).

Christian universalists disagree among ourselves on this point: some of us (myself included) do believe God is angry (although technically that’s more of a human analogy to God’s attitude toward us when we do injustice), even though we believe His anger is a mode of His love for us (against our sin) and not something intrinisc to God in itself; consequently His actions toward us can be discplinary as well as healing and instruction. (i.e. God can do or not do anger, but God can never not do love.) Others of us don’t believe God is ever angry at us personally and that all we need is curing of ignorance and/or disease, in which case God never acts in disciplinary inconvenience (i.e. punishment) toward us but only in healing and instruction.

Both sides however probably most often share an understanding of justification to mean bringing a person to be actually just (one way or another), not merely being declared just. Although I’ve seen some universalists going the legal, forensic route, too: if that was all there was to justification, I’d be even more convinced (if that was possible) that universal salvation is true, and I’ve seen some Christians arrive at Christian universalism by that route. I think this notion of justification is much of a minority among us, however. (Although those I’ve seen hold it do tend to be what we call around here ultra-universalists, with no wrath or punishment coming from God, anymore or perhaps ever. But not all ultras hold to a merely legal or procedural justification notion.)

Hi thanks for your answers and information :slight_smile: Russian hackers do seem to be something to chuckle about haha :stuck_out_tongue:

So from my understanding from what you wrote, you believe that justification is not just being declared legally righteous, but requires us actually becoming righteous to some degree. I’m not sure why, but this is something that kind of unsettles me. I don’t think that I could ever gain assurance of my eternal life if that was the way I was to be declared righteous. From my understanding of Sciptures, the word justification was a legal term and is said to come when one has faith (not works). While I know that eventually everyone will gain eternal life and salvation, it’s important to me that I may have assurance of my current, eternal standing with God. I really am lacking in assurance, I’m afraid. I can’t really explain what I mean, it might sound a bit weird, but the legal, forensic idea of justification really is the only thing that can give me assurance as to my standing towards God…

Why? Our assurance of eternal life isn’t in our works, but in God’s commitment and competence in empowering and leading us to be righteous. I certainly didn’t mean to be saying that we earn our eternal life once we attain enough righteousness to be justified. (Nor do we earn it by faith instead of works, which only makes faith itself a work.)

Of course the term was a contemporary legal term, but God’s judgment isn’t ever a merely legal judgment (maybe never a legal judgment at all, except in passing). God judges truly and truly judges what actually is true. God’s judgments aren’t a useful legal fiction like human legal justification at the time (and even that wasn’t only legal in basis: the core concept still goes back to a judge correctly judging a person to be righteous.)

And not your trust in God Himself, personally? That can be hard to do, admittedly, but I think it’s better than trusting a legal formality, especially what is only a legal fiction (however useful it might be). But God is faithful to us regardless of our difficulties in trusting Him personally. :slight_smile: And being a perfectly just judge, God relates to us taking all our difficulties fairly into account. (Which is why God expects more from those who have more advantages.)

George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis’ teacher, has several interesting and helpful considerations of the topic in his Unspoken Sermon series (including what amounts to volume 4, The Hope of the Gospel), if you can find those.

Technical theological words used to irritate me - why all the fuss about minutely parsing the inflected meanings of Paul’s language, when what I wanted was a breaking into my life of the life of Jesus?

I feel differently now - not about Jesus breaking into my life, He is welcomed! - but about the technical language.
My thinking now is this: We are called to have our minds ‘renewed’; there are layers to that call, of course, but one major factor in that renewal is to understand what the true meaning of history is - not just for the Christian, but for all people.

A great part of that truth is understanding the earth-shaking importance of Paul’s explanation of the covenant with Abraham!! THAT is what God has been up to - and Paul goes to great lengths to show that the covenant was to deal with sin, and not just for the Jews, but for all the rest of us. God has been faithful all these thousands of years to the promises he made to Abraham (the faithfulness Paul calls the 'righteouness of God), up to the climax of the covenant in His messiah Jesus our Lord.

So - as Paul lays all this out in Romans 1-4 especially, he uses words that have to do, not with our inner experiences or emotions, but with words that do describe ‘what’s been going on’, and though they do not bear on our daily struggles and feelings much, they DO help to ‘renew our minds’ so that we are thinking God’s thoughts, in a sense. Paul is telling the real history of the world, which is counter to all the stories we hear in culture and in school and etc.

Hey Dave, been reading N.T. Wright much???
Yes indeed - working through his long commentary on Romans in the New Interpreter’s Bibe - a thrilling ride to be sure.

I doubt that the understandable desire to believe in “legal, forensic ‘justification’” is consistent with Paul’s understanding.

“Wrong DOERS (even the “greedy”) will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9; Cf. Matt. 7:21-23). “Keeping God’s commands is what counts…we uphold the law… It is those who OBEY the law who will be declared righteous.” For God sent His Son “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not LIVE according to the sinful nature” (1 Cor. 7:19; Rom. 3:31; 2:13,26; 8:4; Cf. Mt. 19:16f).

“People reap what they sow… Everyone will receive what is due them for the things DONE, whether good or bad… God will repay everyone according to what they have done… To those who persist in DOING good… He’ll give eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7f; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:6f; Cf. Jesus: Mt. 25:34-46; Mk. 9:43-49; Lk 6:38)


Hey Bob, good to hear from you but I am at a question as to what your point is… Please don’t get me wrong and maybe dave has the decoder ring, but what is the point about

You prefaced it with

I well may have taken this wrong and that happens a lot with me. Help me out here! :laughing:

BTW daveB what is the story behind your avatar?

Spur of the moment, nothing more :smiley:

Sorry dave, what is the pic you are using as the avatar? :smiley:

At least two Greek words have been translated as “justification”: δικαιωσις and δικαιωμα. Both originate from the verb δικαιοω which in turn is derived from δικαιος which means “righteous.” The whole question revolves around whether the verb δικαιοω means “to count as righteous” or “to render righteous.” Every good lexicon suggests the latter as a possible meaning.

The angel announced to Joseph that he should call Mary’s baby “Jesus” (Saviour) for He would save His people from their sins. To be saved from sin is tantamount to being saved from sinning, and that is a life-long process. If you think of “justification” as meaning “righteousification” I think you will get closer to the intended meaning. God wants people to become ACTUALLY righteous. He is not interested in POSITIONAL righteousness (which is not righteousness at all—well… maybe a pretending “righteousness”) The idea of positional righteousness is that because of Christ’s sacrifice, God looks at those who have accepted Christ or His sacrifice as if they had never sinned (they even define “justification” as "just as if I’d never sinned’). In their view, God is blind to the sin of a justified person. When He looks at such a person, He does not see the person’s sin—only Christ’s righteousness.

I believe this position is a grave error. God sees our every sin, and He wants to help us overcome that sin by His enabling grace. That is why Christ died—to free us from sin by His grace.

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and to live sensible, righteous, and devout lives in the present age, expecting the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; encourage and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)

I found it Here

thanx :smiley:

Is it clearer if I say that these words of Paul suggest that he does not understand “legal, forensic justification” as what meets our real need?

Mrs Ozera objected to Jason, “you believe that justification is not just being declared legally righteous, but requires us actually becoming righteous to some degree.” But I find that Paul’s claims that those who obey and actually DO good are the ones declared righteous and get eternal life supports those here who point out that ‘justify’ has the core meaning of actually “making us righteous” or just, not simply treating us as if we are righteous. As Paul puts it, Jesus gave himself to create a people who do “Not LIVE according to the sinful nature.” I find the whole Biblical narrative presents this sort of actual righteousness as the goal God desires to produce and is pursuing.

I agree… there is NO such thing as “positional righteousness” as is often defined. We are simply righteous, but not according to any performance on our part; such righteousness was God’s gift in Christ to humanity. It is BECAUSE OF this we can then learn… “to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and to live sensible, righteous, and devout lives in the present age” — thus living in the fruit or reality of Christ’s righteousness. Responding to Christ helps righteousness become a lived reality, i.e., tapping into ‘eternal life’ as the present reality it is, as per the likes of… Jn 10:10b; 14:23; 16:33a, et al <<< this IS ‘eternal life’.

Check out this post HERE and give yourself about ¾ of an hour to see a good explanation between ‘righteousness’ as we see it as opposed to the reality of how God sees it.

The OP was a question about the concept ‘justification’, right?
26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

I don’t think justification is a matter of character in the above verses; when Paul wants to speak about character, he does so plainly.

Sorry Bob I do not understand when you say

You’ll have to clarify that to me.

You said

YUP… there is a distinct difference between those who think that these scriptures are written to us and those who believe that they are historical. Every time you think you need to do something you’re screwed :laughing: The paradigm is different. :open_mouth:



And to me. While being ‘justified’ is by no means the end of the work that Christ has for us - and GMac, better than anyone imo, has the handle on that - still, ‘justification’ is a word Paul used, explaining it as a word approving that a person does believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. A person that believes that way is ‘justified’ - it’s not a word about holiness, or seeking to do good - Paul talks a lot about that in other places.

To help the gentile Roman Christians locate themselves in history, though, Paul goes back prior to Moses-Torah (the law) all the way to Abram, to show God’s righteousness in HIs faithfulness to that covenant even in the face of Israel’s and indeed all mankind’s failures and sin. God stayed faithful as always, and it should evoke faithfulness in us (from faith(fulness) to faith(fulness)).

Justification is God’s approval that we are on the right Way, by that kind of faith - in God who raised Jesus. And to go on that Way shows that we are justified. Nothing we can feel, but something we need to know.

And now all Heck can break loose :unamused: