The following is a guest column by Gladys M. Hunt, author, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

For the most part we can be thankful for modern translations of the Bible that have made truth plainer and sharpened the Two-edged Sword. But some biblical concepts just can’t be simplified in translation, and the choice of a simpler word, if it is lesser in content, weakens the understanding of great truths and is unfaithful to biblical inspiration.

Justification is one such word. No one single word or phrase can translate into simpler language a concept as enormous as this. Justification by faith is the bedrock truth of our salvation. We must wrestle with its meaning. To translate it “being put right with God” or “made right in God’s sight” is not enough.

Our need to be justified implies a profound lack. Something is missing. And Paul in Romans 3 has made amply clear what it is that we lack: it is the righteousness of God. We fall short of God’s glory. We are in want, like the prodigal son in the pigsty in a foreign land. We are in want of the righteousness of God.

It isn’t just that we sinners have a few black marks against us that need to be taken care of; it is that we lack the positive quality of righteousness that could make us acceptable to God. None is righteous; no not one. Our state is desperate.

The remarkable, awe-inspiring transaction that takes place in response to our personal commitment and faith in Jesus Christ is that God gives us what we need. He gives us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He justifies us.

Justification is not only the removal of our sins, a slate wiped clean, but a slate inscribed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is not a process but a legal declaration made by God: he declares us righteous by ...

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