Clothed in Christ: Declared Innocent, Justified

By Jim Olsen

Key Verse
Acts 13:39 "Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

Justification is an act of God where he proclaims you innocent, faultless, guilt-free and righteous. The Greek word translated justify is dikaioo, it means ‘to render innocent.’ It comes from a root word dikaios, meaning ‘innocent, faultless, guiltless.’ The key verse for this session states that by believing in Jesus, you are justified; it cannot happen by obeying the law.


Acts 13:38 “Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  39 Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”


Innocence for all mankind was the result of the work Jesus did on the cross. The punishment meant for you and for me was placed on him. You see, God can’t just overlook laws. Everything he does is based on immutable and consequential laws. God’s spiritual laws are constant in much the same way as the physical laws of nature, such as gravity or chemistry, are completely consistent and unchanging. Once a spiritual law is broken, a penalty must be paid for it. The Bible’s plain and consistent teaching is that we need a savior to save us from the punishment of our sin. Jesus took our place by dying on the cross. Because of Christ, we are saved from God’s punishment and wrath.


Rom 5:8 “But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  9 Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him!  10 For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”


But Christ didn’t just set us free from punishment. He gave us a complete restoration into God’s family. God now looks at us as innocent, pure and spotless because of the Christ’s sacrifice. Even more so, God is able to bring one of his own special creations; you, into a loving and caring relationship and family. You were wonderfully and majestically formed by God. He knows every hair on your head and treasures you. Because he declares you innocent, you can now walk in that innocence.


Jesus clearly warned us there are two kingdoms at war with each other. The world system, which is based in material wealth fighting against God’s kingdom, based in truth and love. Jesus presented an easy way to identify what kingdom you are in; it’s based in how you are justified. Let’s consider what Jesus said.


Luke 16:13 “”No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all of this and were scoffing at Jesus.“


In the prior verse, Jesus proclaims to his followers that they must be free from the love of money. In the next verse, he describes what people who love money do wrong… They justify, or make themselves appear completely innocent before others. Jesus called self-justification detestable before God. The Greek word translated detestable actually means idolatry. He was hitting the Pharisees hard.


Luke 16:15 “So He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is prized among men is detestable before God.””


In essence, Jesus was saying that if your make yourselves appear innocent before men without dealing with your hearts; you are actually putting on a show and worshiping the idol of money. It’s very important that Christians do not make it a priority showing how innocent and pure we are before others. Actually, we should be doing the opposite; letting God and others know that we are unworthy sinners. Consider the story of the tax collector. He showed the right way to be declared innocent before God and man.


Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance, unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven. Instead, he beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’  14 I tell you, this man, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


God’s way of justification is: Humble yourself, recognize what Jesus did for you. In reality, you are a person whose sinful nature has separated you from God. That sin arrested, bound you up and sentenced you to a destiny of eternal separation from God, in a place of torment called hell. It’s not that one particular sin that made you his enemy; it was your sinful nature, a nature inherited from your forefathers, all the way back to Adam that caused the problem. Jesus has the cure for sin: His justification renders you innocent on the inside.


You should take a look at your own heart, ask yourself a question. Am I justified before God, or am I just making myself look good to other people? The tax collector understood that God was ready to forgive, and he went home declared innocent. Jesus continued his teaching, showing us how to continue being justified: Becoming like a child. Childhood is innocence. Children understand their father loves them and exemplify the innocence of God’s kingdom. Jesus continues his teaching in Luke 18.


Luke 18:16 “But Jesus called the children to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”


Jesus is telling us how to stay innocent: Accept the new nature that Christ has provided for you. It’s a new man that God had formed inside your deepest being: your heart. Given to you when you repent and recognize you cannot go through life without the Lord’s help. This childhood innocence is in direct opposition to self-justification, where you try to appear righteous before other people. In fact, you can expect that you’ll be persecuted and have trouble when dealing with certain people; God’s childlike innocence is a gift that inspires evil people to hate, and, at the same time, many to consider how they can change their lives by accepting his free gift.


So, in summation, you should walk away from this teaching understanding the big picture: You cannot be justified by obeying rules; innocence will never come by obeying external commandments; it has to come from a changed heart. So examine your heart now. Ask the Lord to show you the places where you are being like a Pharisee, pretending holiness on the outside, but you alone are hiding the truth. Confess your sins, let the Lord wipe them away and give you his new nature. If you are afraid of rejection, don’t be: this life is only temporary; living eternally with Jesus is really all that matters.


Let’s consider how Paul dealt with the same error in the Galatian church. He had very hard words to say to those who filled up their lives with religious rules and regulations. He said that trying to be justified by the law means being separated from Christ.


Gal 5:4 “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been severed from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the hope of righteousness.  6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. All that matters is faith, expressed through love.”


Paul’s words were actually much harsher in the original Greek. He said that the law will ‘sever’ you from Christ. The Greek word he used, katargeo, means ‘make entirely useless;’ it’s translated abolished in other verses. In other words, obeying the law abolishes Christ in your life. He also says that the law makes you fall away from grace. The Greek word he used was ekpipto, and it means running off course. Grace, that open, loving, kind, gracious nature of God is cancelled when you try to justify yourself by obedience to a set of holy rules. True justification comes from faith in God. The sign of being declared innocence is faith, believing what God said, expressed through love. Jesus said the same thing in other words, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well.” (Matt 23:26)


So, to sum it up, it’s central to recognize that Christ’s entire mission is to present to himself a church without spot, wrinkle or blemish (Eph 5:27). Being declared innocent by Christ is meant to change your life now and forever. It is meant remove accusations, because you’ll understand your innermost being is clean, forgiven, made right with God. Justification gives you God’s peace, ending a kingdom battle between you and God. Paul states it clearly here.


Rom 8:33 “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  34 Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God—and He is interceding for us.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”


In closing, I now proclaim, on the authority of God’s word, that anyone reading this can be completely clean, completely innocent, stand completely righteous before our loving God because of what Christ has done. Make the decision to receive him, saying yes, Lord, and letting his wonderful Holy Spirit change your life from within. When you have a chance, listen to the accompanying video.