Bible Topics: Self-Justification
Definition: Making excuses for oneself or one's behavior.
1. Self-justification is a product of pride; we want to appear righteous, therefore we resist exposure.
- Proverbs 20:6 Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
- Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts. [See also 16:2.]
- 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 10:3 For they ... going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
2. Numerous Biblical examples clearly illustrate how self-justification is used to try to dodge conviction and side-step correction.
- Genesis 3:12,13 [Adam blamed God and Eve for his sin, and Eve blamed the Devil:] And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
- Exodus 32:22,23 [Aaron blames the people for his decision to make an idol for them to worship:] And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord [Moses] wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. 23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
- 1 Samuel 13:11,12 [Saul blamed the prophet Samuel and the people for his disobedience in not waiting for the prophet's instructions, and for offering the sacrifices, which Samuel was to do ( see 10:8 ):] And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; 12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
- 1 Samuel 15:18-23 [Again King Saul blames others for his own flagrant disobediences. Samuel said to him:] And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord? 20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel
said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the Word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.
- Luke 19:20-22a [The unfaithful servant didn't invest the talent the Lord gave him, and then justified himself, and blamed the Lord, when the day of reckoning came:] And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared thee, because Thou art an austere man: Thou takest up that Thou layedst not down, and reapest that Thou didst not sow. 22a And He [the Lord] saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee.
3. It is impossible for us to make ourselves just or righteous.
- Psalm 130:3 If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
- Psalm 143:2b In Thy sight shall no man living be justified.
- Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
- Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
- Isaiah 64:6a But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
- Romans 3:10,23 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
- Romans 7:18a For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.
4. When we attempt to justify ourselves, we do it to our own hurt.
- Job 9:2b-4 How should man be just with God? 3 If he will contend with Him, he cannot answer Him one of a thousand. 4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against Him, and hath prospered?
- Job 9:20 If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
- Job 25:4-6 How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? 5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in His sight. 6 How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man, which is a worm? [See also 4:17,18 .]
- Psalm 64:8 So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves.
- Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
- John 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
- 1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.
5. To benefit from counsel and correction we must learn not to justify ourselves.
- Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
- Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. [See also 38:18 .]
- Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.
- Proverbs 9:8,9 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
- Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
- Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
- 1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6. King David, although he made many mistakes, was a good example of readily receiving correction.
- 1 Samuel 25:32,33 [When Abigail wisely warned him not to take matters into his own hands against her wicked husband, Nabal, David listened to her:] And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: 33 And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand. [See verses 1-35 for the whole story.]
- 2 Samuel 12:13 ; Psalm 51:3,4 [When King David was exposed by a prophet for his serious sins, he accepted it readily, and God blessed his repentance:] And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Psalm 51:3 For I [David] acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.
- 1 Chronicles 21:17 [David took sole responsibility for his sin of disobediently ordering a census, and asked to be held accountable:] And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray Thee, O Lord My God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on Thy people, that they should be plagued.
- Psalm 141:5a [King David said:] Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.
7. One of the best ways to overcome the temptation to justify ourselves is to remember what sinners we are and how merciful the Lord is.
- Ezra 9:13,15a And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; ... 15a O Lord God of Israel, Thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before Thee in our trespasses.
- Job 11:6b Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
- Psalm 103:10,11 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the Heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.
- Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.
- Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
- Lamentations 3:22,23 It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.
8. If Jesus -- Who was always in the right -- refrained from justifying Himself, how much more should we, regardless of whether we feel we are right or wrong.
- Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.
- Matthew 26:62,63a And the high priest arose, and said unto Him, Answerest Thou nothing? What is it which these witness against Thee? 63 But Jesus held His peace.
- 1 Peter 2:19-23 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: 23 Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him [God] that judgeth righteously.
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