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Editors’ note: 

Pastor Colin Smith continues his Christmas season devotional to help you reflect on Jesus’ glory by taking a broad look at all that God has promised and accomplished in Him. The readings follow the pattern of his sermon series, “The Plan: God’s Design For the Universe and Your Place In It.” You can read, hear or watch these sermons as they are posted at Unlocking the Bible.

Take a moment to savor the blessing of justification that is yours in Jesus Christ. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

Justified is a legal word. Rather like “sentenced” or “condemned,” it describes a verdict. When God justifies, He declares or pronounces a person to be righteous. When He condemns, He pronounces a person guilty.

Justification and condemnation are about declaring, or recognizing something that is already true. When justice prevails, an innocent man will be acquitted and a guilty man will be sentenced.

Being acquitted does not make a man innocent; it is the man’s innocence that leads to him being acquitted. Being sentenced does not make a man a criminal, it is the man’s crime that leads to him being sentenced.

As a matter of simple justice, we should expect God to condemn sinners and justify the righteous. But here is something truly amazing: God justifies sinners.

Try to let that massive contradiction sink into your mind. God justifies sinners! How can God do that?

God presented Jesus as a propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25). That means that when Jesus died, all the anger and hostility that God rightly has towards sin, wickedness, and evil was poured out on Him. God’s judgment was like a cup poured out, and Jesus drank all of it. At the cross Christ absorbed the judgment of God that was due to us because of our sin.

Faith unites you to Christ, and when you are “in Christ” God counts all your sin as His, and all His righteousness as yours. He bore your condemnation, and you are justified in Him.  Through the cross, God demonstrated His justice so as to be just and, at the same time, the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Roman 3:26).

If God only justified godly people, how could we have any hope? But God justifies sinners. Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and declared righteous by faith in His blood.

Thomas Chalmers used to say, “What would I do if God did not justify the ungodly?” Thank God for that amazing grace that is yours in Christ today.