The Doctrine of Justification and Social Justice

BY: CHARLES HOLMES JR. 

The Justice of God

The doctrine of justification is a doctrine about our glorious salvation. It is an essential part of the message of the Bible. This doctrine, although is directly about Christ atoning for our sins, is foundationally built on the justice of God. God is an infinitely holy God, and there is nothing and no one on earth or in Heaven like Him (1 Samuel 2:2). God is a completely righteous God and can’t even look upon sin or have sin in His presence. When sin entered the world, we offended the rule and reign of God, and we followed our own way and trusted in our own ability for life and happiness. (Romans 1:22-23) For this reason, our disobedience to God must be punished eternally because our sin was against an infinite and holy God. God is a God of justice, so justice must be sought out by God for His glory (Psalm 89:14) in order for sin not to go without punishment. By the grace of God, God is not only a just God, but simultaneously a merciful and gracious God. All throughout the Bible God displays His mercy and justice as He intervenes in the world. The best display of this was on the cross where Jesus, the Son of God, went to bear the sin of world bringing justice to God, but also bringing mercy to a wicked people (1 Peter 2:24). As believers, because we have received the mercy of God and have seen the justice of God poured out on the person of Jesus, our understanding of justice should be shaped by this beautiful Gospel message.

Injustice and Humanity

As we see, justice is part of the very nature of our God. When the topic of social justice comes up, believers should be leading the way because of what we have experienced in the Gospel. Social justice, however, can be misinterpreted by the church due to a lack of compassion and knowledge on the subject. In the realm of social justice many times the church looks on with hesitance to be bold for the voiceless, neglected, and broken.

Over the past few years we have seen the awareness of social injustices in our world heighten. As witnesses of these injustices the church cannot afford to become timid in our response to these wicked atrocities. Our response will have an effect on how people view the message of the Gospel and how people view Jesus. No matter the injustice, whether it is poverty, abortion, or racism, the church must be the voice of God for the victims since we have experienced the justification of God through the person and work of Jesus. Because God does care so deeply about establishing justice, Jesus goes as far to identify Himself with the least these in society who have been victims of injustice. (Matthew 25:35-40) James in his letter writes that true Christianity is a Christianity that serves and takes care of the oppressed. (James 1:26-27) In the Old Testament God condemns congregational worship that offers sacrifices on behalf religion and yet doesn’t pursue justice on behalf of the hurting and broken image bearers. (Amos 5:21-24) The church should be aware of the injustices that occur in our world, because injustice distorts the image we were created in. If we are called to be imitators of God, we called to be a people and a church that preaches the justice of God in the cross and lives out the justice of God in practice through love.

The Christian Approach to Social Justice

Social injustices aren't just problems with systems and structures, but are theological issues as well. The mistreatment of human beings made in the image of God is an issue of human value and worth. In Genesis 9, God shows us that because we are created in the image of God, both humans and animals are held accountable for the killing of other humans. The extent of our value stems from the very nature of God. When injustice happens, the biblical truth that all of mankind are image bearers of God is attacked. As believers in Christ, we hold to the fact that we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This Gospel truth, coupled with the reality that we have been justified and declared righteous because of Jesus should compel our hearts to seek to bring forth justice on the earth. Through social justice, we point to the coming perfect judge who died and rose from the grave to redeem and reconcile sinners to God, all while standing up for the oppressed.

Faith in Jesus is a faith that empowers action for the glory of God and good of humanity. Sadly, we are sometimes seen more so as moral police than caretakers of the sick and hurting. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus rebukes this kind of attitude, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law -justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others." We see that the heart of God is that our Gospel commissions’ and ordains good works, that people may see and glorify God. (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10). If we are involved in religious activity, but lack compassion and mercy towards people in need, then our religious activity is a waste and a mockery of the very religion we claim to believe and practice. True Gospel belief should produce compassion and love in us for those oppressed by injustice.

We once were alienated from God, but God had compassion on us. As we seek to be conformed to the image of God lets seek justice by doing good deeds, declaring justification through faith, and hoping and proclaiming in the coming perfect Judge Jesus Christ.


Charles Holmes graduated from Liberty University in May 2015. He is married to his best friend Kiara Holmes in August, and they now reside in North Carolina. Charles is a part of the pastoral apprenticeship program at the Summit Church in Durham, NC, and serves as the college ministry coordinator at Grace Park Church. Charles has a passion for discipleship and teaching God's Word. He loves to help people in the urban context grasp the Scriptures and walk with Jesus.