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Ide as Connected with the Word

The idea of justification appears to be in some measure legal or forensic rather than moral or psychological. It is frequently taken in Scripture to be the opposite of condemnation; and in some of its aspects it answers fairly to our word acquittal. But it has often been observed that human legal analogies are very inadequate for the purpose of representing the relation of the restored man to his God. Acquittal is the judicial declaration that an accused man is not guilty of a certain crime, so far as the law under which he has been tried is concerned. He may have committed the offence, but either it cannot be brought home to him by adequate testimony, or else the law under which he is tried has not provided for the charge laid against him. This, however, is a most imperfect representation of God's work in justifying, as it leaves out of sight the fact that his law is perfect and applicable to all cases, also that no outside testimony of man's guilt is necessary, because God is acquainted with the very secrets of the heart; and, what is still more important, it leaves out of sight the truth which is to be gathered from Scripture as a whole, that the process of Divine acquittal is so blended with the entrance of spiritual life into the person acquitted, that, though they are theoretically distinct, one cannot be fully stated or even comprehended without reference to the other. The controversy between the Church of Rome and various Protestant bodies has arisen, in part at least, from the complexity of the relationship which thus exists between God and man.

Another difficulty has arisen in England from the poverty of our language. We have no one word which can convey the idea of righteousness and that of justification, as they are set forth in Scripture in this case, as in many others, we see the wisdom of God in selecting Hebrew as the means of communication with his creatures, because here the ideas of righteousness, justification, and acquittal all cluster round one verbal root, and are seen to be parts of one whole.

The Hebrew word which expresses the being just or righteous is Tsadak (צדק ), which is supposed to convey originally an idea of straightness or stiffness (see chap. ix. § 2.)

The verb is once used in the Hithpael or reflexive voice, namely, in Genesis 44:16, 'What shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves?' as a matter of fact, Judah and his brethren were innocent, but he asked this question under the impression that they were guilty. It is once used in the Niphal or passive, viz in Daniel 8:14, 'Thus shall the sanctuary be cleansed.' It appears here to be used in a secondary or derived sense. Five times it occurs in the Piel or intensive, viz.: in Job 32:2, 'He justified his own soul rather than God;' 33:32, 'If thou hast anything to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee;' Jeremiah 3:11, 'The backsliding Israel hath justified her soul more than treacherous Judah;' Ezekiel 16:51-52, 'Thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done. They are righteous in comparison with thee. Yea, be thou also confounded, and bear thy shame in that thou hast justified thy sisters.' The conduct of the inhabitants of Judah had been so much worse than that of Samaria or Sodom that they caused these nations to appear or to be accounted righteous in comparison.

Tsadak is used twelve times in the Hiphil or causative voice: Exodus 23:7, 'I will not justify the wicked.' this principle of the Divine action is laid down as an example to be imitated by the earthly judge in Deuteronomy 25:1, 'Then shall they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.' 2 Samuel 15:4, 'Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!' 1 Kings 8:39, and 2 Chronicles 6:23, 'Condemning the wicked, to bring his way up on his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.' this passage is important as giving a fulness of meaning to the word justification which otherwise might be missed. It is here not only acquittal, but the consequences of acquittal. Job 27:5, 'God forbid that I should justify you.' Psalms 82:3, 'Do justice to the afflicted and needy.' Proverbs 17:15, 'He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.' Isaiah 5:23, 'Woe unto them . which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.' Isaiah 50:8, 'He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me?' Isaiah 53:11, ' by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; and it is he that shall bear their iniquities.' this passage is usually explained as if 'h is knowledge' meant 'the knowledge which others should have concerning him;' but there is no necessity to fall back up on this explanation. The Messiah was to be 'acquainted with grief;' nay more, he was to bear man's iniquities, and they became in some mysterious sense identified with Him. It was this which became the means of justifying many. ['No man, except Christ, has ever yet been able rightly to discern the nature and extent of sin; because only one whose penetrating gaze can apprehend the whole of the glory and worth of which God created humanity capable, the whole tenor of its downward way, and the high end it may yet attain; none but Jesus has ever sounded the whole extent of the aberrations, degradations, and disorder of our race. He, however, has sounded all these depths, his heart has been pierced with adequate sorrow for all that dishonouring of God's holy name, of which the beings, whose brother He became, were guilty; and consequently He has fully apprehended the righteous severity of Divine justice in connecting sin with death in its various forms. and because He has manifested the righteousness and justice of the Divine sentence, not in words only, but practically by his silent and holy endurance of its penalty, He has accomplished the purpose of Divine punishment, and has terminated it - on behalf of whom? on behalf of all those who by faith appropriate this his holy endurance of the Divine judgment as their own.' - Essay on the Atonement, by Wolfgang Friedrich Gess.] Daniel 12:3, 'They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.' Compare the teaching of the last verses of St. James's Epistle.

It remains to notice the passages where the verb is used in the active voice. They are as follows: - Genesis 38:26, 'She hath been more righteous than I.' Job 4:17, 'Shall a mortal man be more just than God?' Job 9:2, 'How should man be just before God?' Job 9:15, 'Though I were righteous I would not answer.' Job 9:20, 'If I justify myself (lit. if I be righteous), my own mouth shall condemn me.' Job 10:15, 'If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head.' Job 11:2, 'Should a man full of talk be justified' (lit. be righteous)? Job 13:18, 'Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified' (lit. that I am righteous). Job 15:14, 'What is he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?' Job 22:3, ' is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous?' Job 25:4, 'How can man be justified (lit. righteous) with God?' Job 33:12, 'Behold in this thou art not just.' Job 34:5, 'Job hath said, I am righteous.' Job 35:7, 'If thou be righteous, what givest thou him ?' Job 40:8, 'Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?' Psalms 19:9, 'The judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.' Psalms 51:4, 'That thou mightest be justified (lit. be righteous) when thou speakest, and clear when thou judges.' Psalms 143:2, 'Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified' (or righteous). Isaiah 43:9, 'Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified (or righteous): or let them hear, and say, It is truth.' Isaiah 43:26, 'Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified' (or righteous). Isaiah 45:25, ' in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified' (or righteous), and shall glory.' Ezekiel 16:59, 'They are righteous in comparison with thee.'

The passages which have been cited above show that justification is a term applicable to something more than the discharge of an accused person uncondemned. as in our courts of law there are civil as well as criminal cases, so it was in old time; and a large number of the passages adduced seem to refer to trials of the former description, in which some question of property, right, or inheritance was under discussion between two parties. The judge, by justifying one of the parties, decided that the property in question was to be regarded as his. Applying this aspect of the matter to the justification of man in the sight of God, we gather from Scripture that whilst through sin man has forfeited legal claim to any right or inheritance which God might have to bestow up on his creatures, so through justification he is restored to his high position and regarded as an heir of God.

The adjective tsadik is almost always rendered δίκαιος, righteous, in the LXX, and the substantives tsedek and tsedakah generally δικαιοσύνη, righteousness. The word ἔλεος, mercy, has been adopted in Isaiah 56:1, 'My salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed'; also in Ezekiel 18:19; Ezekiel 18:21, where we read of man doing 'what is lawful and right.' The righteousness of the law was specially manifested in mercy, so that the Greek translators were right in point of fact, though incorrect in their rendering in these passages.

In several passages the LXX has adopted ἐλεημοσύνη, a word which has passed from its original meaning as the feeling of mercy or pity to the active development of that feeling in eleemosynary acts, or alms-giving. this is the case in Deuteronomy 6:25, where our translation is, 'It shall be our righteousness; if we observe to do all these commandments.' Here the LXX, followed by the Vulgate and the translations made from it, say, 'There shall be mercy for us if we observe,' &c. The passage literally translated would be, 'There shall be righteousness for us,' &c. Perhaps the LXX has preserved the true meaning of the passage, and certainly it is in accordance with the general ten or of God's Word. The same rendering is found in Deuteronomy 24:13; Psalms 24:5; Psalms 33:5; Psalms 103:6; Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 28:17; Isaiah 59:16; Daniel 4:27; Daniel 9:16.

The verb tsadak is rendered δικαιόω, to make righteous or to acquit, almost everywhere by the LXX; but the various voices in which the word is used were not capable of being accurately distinguished in the Greek. this difficulty has reappeared in at least one passage in the N.T in Revelation 22:11, the words 'He that is righteous let him be righteous still' are, if literally rendered, 'He that is righteous let him be justified still' - a rendering which was adopted by the Latin Vulgate, and is to be found in most, if not all, versions made from that venerable work this literal rendering is certainly very beautiful and instructive, though the usage of the LXX affords our translators some plea for departing from it. The R. V. has changed, but hardly improved, the rendering.

Righteousness in Relation to Justification

The nature of righteousness, or conformity to the Divine law of love, has been pointed out in chap. ix., but we must here notice its relationship with justification.

We read in Genesis 15:6, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him (for) righteousness.' in this passage three words enter up on the sacred pages for the first time - belief, righteousness, and reckoning or imputation - words which were destined to play a conspicuous part in Christian terminology. That element of Abraham's feeling and conduct towards God which we usually call belief, faith, or faithfulness, [See chap. ix] was regarded by God as a re as on why he should be accepted as righteous or justified. Not only does all right action spring from belief in the Word of God, but also our Heavenly Father justifies or acquits those persons who exercise it. Abraham's faith, according to the Hebrew text, 'was reckoned unto him righteousness;' but the LXX, followed by St. Paul, interprets this phrase as meaning 'for' (εἰς), not ' as (ὡς) righteousness.' [This important distinction, which has sometimes been neglected in controversy, has been observed in the Vulgate (ad justitiam); so Luther has 'zür Gerechtigkeit;' De Sacy, ' a" justic;' D'Almeida, 'p or justi´.' Beza made a mistake in putting pro justitiain Romans 4:3, &c.] It would follow that the passage does not teach us that Abraham's faith was regarded or estimated by God as if it were righteousness - the one quality being taken for the other - but that owing to the fact that he had faith in the promises, God accepted him, acquitted him from the charge of sin, pronounced him righteous, and conferred on him an inheritance. Thus, as St. Paul says, Abraham was justified by faith (ἐκ πιστέως), i.e. owing to the fact that he had faith. The ground on God's part, and the method of justification, are not touched by the word. It simply points to the aspect in which the Judge of all the earth regards the believer, and the way in which He deals with him.

It is not a little remarkable that the privilege thus granted to Abraham was accorded to another person in exactly the same terms, but apparently on a different ground in Psalms 106:30-31, we read, 'Then stood up Phine has and executed judgment: and the plague was stayed. and that was counted unto him for [The Hebrew preposition for (ל ) is inserted here, justifying the interpretation of the LXX in the passage previously discussed.] righteousness unto all generations for evermore.' When we turn to the history (Numbers 25:1-18.) on which these verses are a comment, we find that Phine has was zealous for God's sake against those who were committing whoredom and idolatry, going so far as to slay 'a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites,' together with the daughter of the 'head over a people and of a chief house in Midian.' What was it that prompted him to this bold and decided action, which atoned for the sins of the people? The prophet Malachi answers, speaking in God's name, 'He feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips' (Malachi 2:5-6). He 'said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children' (Deuteronomy 33:9). He had respect to the unseen God, and despised the fear of man and the ties of kindred; in other words, he had faith, and his deed is of a class with many of those which are recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. It was his conviction of the truth of God's Word that caused him to be loyal when a whole nation seemed to be drifting into carnality and idolatry; and so 'it was reckoned to him for righteousness.'

The second passage in which the substantive occurs is Genesis 18:19, where God says of Abraham, 'I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.' Here justice (i.e. righteousness) seems to mark a course of action in conformity with the gr and principle of right, the loving God with all one's heart, and one's neighbour as oneself. this righteousness was not absolute, i.e. suc has would commend Abraham to God as a rightful claimant of the inheritance of sonship, because, in that case, he would not have been said to have been justified by faith; it was therefore relative, and was the result of his faith in God (see Romans 4:2-4, and compare 2 Samuel 22:21).

Jacob appeals to this relative and practical principle in Genesis 30:33, with reference to his dealings with Laban (whether fairly or not), where he says, 'So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face.' He implies that he had been honest, and more than honest; that he had borne losses which might fairly have gone to the account of Laban. this righteousness is something more than what we ordinarily mean by the word justice; it is not the doing to others as they have done to us, but the doing to them what we would like them to do to us if our respective positions were changed. It exceeds 'the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,' which consisted in doing good either where a return was to be expected, or where the object was to make a fair show before men.

Another noteworthy passage is Deuteronomy 9:4-6, where the people of Israel were guarded in the plainest terms from the supposition that they were being brought into Canaan for their own righteousness. They were thus trained in the idea that the inheritance was not to be regarded as a reward for human merit, but was to be received as a gift from the covenant-keeping God.

The expression, 'O God of my righteousness,' which is occasionally found in the Psalms, e.g. Psalms 4:1, has been diversely explained. Some critics suppose that it means, 'O God, who art my righteous judge;' others, 'O God, who justifies me.' [De Sacy renders, 'Dieu, qui est le principe de ma justice.'] But perhaps its explanation is more simple. as 'the temple of God's holiness,' in Psalms 138:2, signifies 'God's holy temple,' so the phrase 'God of my righteousness' may mean 'my righteous God,' whilst it is in harmony with the doctrine that God possesses in fulness Himself that righteousness which He bestows on man.

In Deuteronomy 33:19, and Psalms 4:5, we read, 'offer the sacrifices of righteousness.' this cannot signify 'substitute righteousness for sacrifices,' but rather 'offer righteous sacrifices,' i.e. do not let your sacrifices be formal or impure, but bring them in a right spirit, in loving conformity with God's law. The form of the expression is exactly parallel to that which the A. V. translates 'just balances' (lit. balances of righteousness) in Leviticus 19:36, Job 31:6, and Ezekiel 45:10. That this is the right interpretation of the passage may be confirmed from a reference to Psalms 51:19, where, after saying, 'Thou desires not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering,' and again, 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise,' the Psalmist looks forward to a state of things when sacrifices should be once more acceptable, 'Build thou the walls of Jerusalem; then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings: then shall they offer young bullocks up on thine altar.' Compare Matthew 3:3, where we are told that the angel of the covenant 'shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.' in all these passages the spirit of the offerers rather than the nature of the offering is described by the qualifying word 'righteousness.'

In some passages in which God's righteousness is appealed to, it appears that its merciful aspect, as referred to so often by the LXX, is in the Psalmist's mind. Thus he says, 'Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness' (Psalms 5:8); 'Deliver me, in thy righteousness' (Psalms 31:1) in these passages the writer throws himself up on the revealed character of God as containing something more than abstract justice; there is in Him an element of pity for the suffering, and of mercy for the fallen; there must be, for these principles have found expression in the law which He has prescribed for men's dealings with one another.

In Proverbs 10:2 ('Righteousness delivereth from death') we have one of a class of passages very common in the O.T., pointing to the blessings which as a matter of fact follow from conformity to the will of God. When the prophet Ezekiel says (18:20), 'The righteousness of the righteous shall be up on him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be up on him,' he teaches that a man is dealt with by God according to his own personal character and course of action, and that he must not delude himself with the idea that he can possess any hereditary immunity from evil.

Lastly, we read, in Malachi 4:2, of a Being who is described as the Sun of Righteousness, who should rise with healing in his wings for them that fear the name of God. Just as the material sun in the heavens gives forth light and heat, and becomes a centre of attraction for all other bodies that come with in its sphere, so from the Messiah there was to issue healing power which should become an efficient remedy for all spiritual diseases and for physical corruption.

Teaching on Justification and Righteousness

Turning now from the O.T. to the N.T., it is noticeable that the word 'righteousness' is rare in the Gospels. St. Mark never employs it; St. Luke only once (four times in the Acts); St. John, twice; and St. Matthew, eight times at most in the Epistles of St. Paul the word is used sixty-six times, and in various senses.

(i.) There is one absolute and eternal standard of right, which is of the essence of the nature of God, so that we say whatever He does must be right, because Right is summed up in Him. [The question is sometimes asked, is a thing right because God does it? or does He do it because it is right? this is a metaphysical query far beyond the limits of the present work. Suffice it to say that if God has done a thing, it is certain to be right; and if a thing is certainly wrong, we may be sure that God does not approve of it. God and right, the Law-giver and the law, are, so far as we can understand, not two, but one.] With respect to this element in the character of God, St. Paul speaks of our own righteousness commending God's righteousness (Romans 3:5). this is the only passage in St. Paul's Epistles in which the words are put in the order, Θεου̂ δικαιοσύνη; in all the others he - no doubt with a purpose - wrote, δικαιοσύνη Θεου̂.

(ii.) If we could obtain a thorough conformity with this Divine standard by the spiritual observance of the various principles and precepts contained in the law, we should be righteous even as He is righteous; but in this sense 'There is none righteous, no, not one' (Romans 3:10).

(iii.) Nevertheless, some have sought to establish their own righteousness by attempting to fulfil the letter of the law of Moses. this was the case with many of the Jews (Romans 10:3); and it had been the aim of St. Paul himself in his early days; so far, in fact, had he succeeded that he could say, ' as touching the righteousness which is of the law,' I was 'blameless,' i.e. no fault could be found in me by those who measured me by the letter of the law (Philippians 3:6). Yet when the commandments contained in the law were opened out to him in their application to the thoughts of his heart, [A student of Luther's works will probably be led to the conclusion that there was no point in which he was more strong, more clear, and more excellent than in the application of the law of God to the whole man instead of confining it to external actions and so-called religious observances.] he found that sin, though repressed, was not conquered: 'S in revived, and I died' (Romans 7:9).

(iv.) One Being, however, has partaken of human nature, of whom God could say, in the full meaning of the words, 'Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity' (Hebrews 1:9). Jesus Christ is emphatically called 'the righteous one' (Acts 22:14; 1 John 2:1). He, in human nature, lived up to the perfect standard of the Divine law, so that his righteousness was of the same complexion and character as the righteousness of God.

(v.) But Jesus Christ has become righteousness unto us (1 Corinthians 1:30). Hence we read of those 'who receive the gift of righteousness' (Romans 5:17).

(vi.) this gift is made available to us - so far as God's part is concerned - by Christ's atoning death up on the cross. God made Him, who knew not sin, to be sin (i.e. dealt with Him as sin should be dealt with), that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

(vii.) The gift of God's righteousness is available to us - so far as our part is concerned - through faith. We must yield to it (Romans 10:3). It is conferred 'up on all them that believe.' They are then 'freely justified by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set fort has a mercy-seat or propitiation, through faith in his blood' (Romans 3:22; Romans 3:24-25). Hence it is called the righteousness of faith.

(viii.) Thus, by the term 'the righteousness of God,' St. Paul generally implies that righteousness which comes up to God's standard, and which flows from God to man when he rests on Christ crucified as his ground of pardon, and is united with Christ risen as the spring of his spiritual life.

(ix.) Lastly, the possession of it necessarily leads a man into practical conformity with the will of God, because it sets his heart in the right direction, and makes him a partaker of the Divine life which flows into him through the agency of the Holy Spirit of God. The Christian becomes in a practical sense 'the righteousness of God in Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:21); being made free from sin, he is made servant to righteousness (Romans 6:18); and he who has been hungering and thirsting after righteousness is filled out of the fulness which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The word righteous or just (δίκαιος) is almost always taken in the N.T. to represent that upright and merciful character in conformity with law which we have already met with in the O.T.; and this is the case whether the word is applied to God, the righteous Judge, to Jesus Christ 'the holy one and the just,' or to those who shall rise at 'the resurrection of the just.'

In the opening of the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul takes as his text the words of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 2:4), 'a righteous man shall live by faith.' From this passage he teaches that Divine life is not granted to a righteous man as a reward for his justice and obedience to the law of Moses, but it accrues to him by virtue of that faithfulness whereby he takes hold of Christ, and thus avails himself of the grace and righteousness of God in this sense also are we to understand the words ' by the obedience of one many shall be constituted righteous' (Romans 5:19); it is not their own obedience which causeth them to be righteous in God's sight, but through the work of Christ, who was 'obedient unto (or, up to) death,' they are accounted righteous before God.

Little needs to be added concerning the N.T. usage of the word justify. We have seen that it signifies a decision in a person's favour, and that it involves a consequent freedom from penalty, and a claim to an inheritance. St. Paul sums up the whole matter very tersely in his speech at Antioch, where alone the word occurs in the Acts (Acts 13:39): 'Be it known unto you that through this (Jesus) is remission of sins proclaimed to you; and every one who believes in him is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified under the law of Moses.' Neither charge nor penalty exists for the believer. He is now justified in [It is often hard to give an exact rendering to the preposition ἐν (in), especially in St. Paul's Epistles. It marks position, relationship, or union. The expression ' in Christ' usually signifies ' by virtue of union with Christ by faith.'] Christ's blood (Romans 5:9). his faith in the sacrifice of Christ is of such a nature as to identify him with Christ in his death to sin, [Christ died to sin once. He was crucified by sinners, and slain by wicked hands. The sin which slew Him was the sin of the world, summed up in one act . of intense hatred of God and of goodness. He was constituted 'accursed' under the law of Moses, not by wrong-doing, but by being fastened to a cross, and was further identified with sinners by being crucified between two thieves. All this was foreordained. He endured the cross and despised the shame because Hs knew that He, the innocent, was dying for a guilty world by the will of God.] and thus 'he that is dead (i.e. dead in this sense with Christ) is justified from sin' (Romans 6:7, margin).

We see that to be justified, to be recounted righteous, and to have the gift of the righteousness of God, are three aspects of one and the same thing, and set forth most forcibly some of the benefits which we obtain through faith in Christ's offering of Himself.

Bibilography Information
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Justification'. Synonyms of the Old Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​lexicons/​eng/​girdlestone/​justification.html.
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