Justification means I’m forgiven for far worse than anything my spouse can do
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:21–25 ESV)
Justification is God’s eternal judgment over a sinner declaring them completely and wholly righteous with the promise to treat us forever fully righteous. Within this are basic constructs in Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one.” All human beings are sinners. We are declared righteous by faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and are forgiven all our sins apart from obeying the law of God. This is an act of God’s love for us and toward us.
Justification is ours without any personally contributing righteousness on our part. All we contribute is our sin. Everything is God’s saving initiative which the Bible calls grace. Grace is God giving us not only what we don’t deserve but the complete opposite of what we do deserve.
So, justification is undeserved righteousness, undeserved love, undeserved grace, and the undeserved and unearned promise of grace toward our sins forever. We might say it this way: God promises to love us for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and death won’t part us from his love because we live forever in his love.
There is the reality. Not the reflection. The reality. A marriage will succeed to the extent that both spouses intentionally seek to reflect that reality.
Justification is the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins. Jesus’ righteous death on our behalf allows God to forgive our sins while maintaining perfect justice. To be a Christian is to be a recipient of overwhelming forgiveness.
A justified marriage is really good at forgiveness.
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
- “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7, NIV)
This past summer, Jennifer and I were on a tour with Dr. Erwin Lutzer from Moody Church. We were on a tour bus and Dr. Lutzer and his wife were taking questions. They have been married like around a thousand years. Someone asked, “What is the key to a good marriage?” Dr. Lutzer’s wife, Rebecca, answered over the bus sound system, “You have to be really good at forgiving each other.” Be really good at forgiveness? It’s more important than financial stability. More important that sexual prowess. A more important character quality than perhaps anything else, is being good at forgiving.
I rarely hear that from single people who are looking for a spouse. What are you looking for in a spouse? The normal list comes out: attractive, funny, drives a truck, etc. I have never heard anyone say, I’m looking for somebody really good at forgiving. Yet, think of what that Christian quality implies.
This is somebody who loves the gospel enough to live it out enough to absorb the daily slights and offenses and the big deal wrongs and cover them with gospel grace. What a wonderful spouse to be married to! What a wonderful spouse to be! Where does this Christian virtue come from? Ephesians 4:32, forgive others as God has forgiven you. Jesus tells the parable in Matthew 18 of the man who was forgiven the billion-dollar debt by the king and then walks out and chokes a man who owes him $10. The point? The big forgive was God’s forgiveness of my sin. My pile of sin against God is far greater than anything my spouse can do against me.
Husband, are you good at forgiving? Are you able to move on from conflict? Wife, would your husband say one of your top five qualities is that you are quick to forgive? If not, let’s ask, why not? Are we building our marriage on the paradigm of Christ’s love and grace to us? Really, if you aren’t good at forgiving it means you are actually good at damaging marital qualities: resentment, holding a grudge, keeping score, and a host of other vices that end up making both of you very unhappy. Have you forgotten how God justified you?
Think of this future moment with me. A Christian married couple. Not a good marriage. He failed to lead and love. She failed to respect. Whatever. Think of the coming moment in heaven when the Christian husband and wife see the glory of God. While no longer married as there is no marriage in eternity, they personally see and possibly touch Jesus and the scars in his hands. They see and feel the power of God’s love. Perhaps they glimpse hell while experiencing heaven. I hope there is not a moment coming for you and your spouse when you will turn to one another and say, “I had no idea how much God forgave me. During our whole marriage, I was so, so wrong. I’m overwhelmed with regret.” Think of that couple reflecting on the marriage they could have had if only they would have appropriated into the way they treat each other the way God had treated them.
Do you want to be that couple? Waste your marital life only to discover in glory what could have been? God’s will for every marriage is the sweet communion like Jesus and the church. When a husband and wife turn their focus from their spouse’s sin to the amazing grace of God toward their own sin, now the spouse’s sin doesn’t seem so big. Certainly not too big to cover with love. To forgive. Any true Christian spouse should be really good at forgiving and moving on. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13 ESV).
Marriage is nakedness in many ways. There’s no hiding marital ache and this is why that reality is a blessing. It forces our noses in our problems and we share the bed every night with the source of the conflict. There’s no escape and that’s a good thing. Will my marriage by justified or not? If so, it’s because we live daily with the awareness that God has forgiven me way more than I’ll ever have to forgive my spouse.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Additional Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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