Torrey - Man -5.1- What does Justify mean?


The way to decide this is by an examination of the biblical use of the word and the words derived from it. The question is not, "What is the etymological significance of the word?" for words are frequently used in a meaning widely different from their etymological significance. The question is, What is the significance of the word as determined by its usage in the Bible? The way to determine this is by taking a concordance and Bible and looking up every passage where the word is used. The following passages are sufficient to illustrate the biblical usage. In the passages taken from the Old Testament, the Septuagint uses the same Greek verb that is translated 'justify" in the New Testament. Deuteronomy 25:1 — "If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked." Exodus 23:7 — "Keep thee far from a false matter: and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked." Isaiah 5:23 — "Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!" Luke 16:15 — "And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Romans 2:13 — "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doer of the law shall be justified." Romans 3:23-24 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Luke 18:14 "I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

See also Romans 4:2-8 RV — "For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not toward God. For what saith the scripture? And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. Even as David also pronounceth blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckoned righteousness apart from works, saying: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, And whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin." To justify, in Biblical usage, signifies not "to make righteous," but to "reckon," "declare," or "show to be righteous." A man is justified before God when God reckons him righteous.

Etymologically the word translated justify means to make righteous, but Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, says: "This meaning is extremely rare, if not altogether doubtful." It certainly is not the New Testament usage of the word.