A photo of an open Bible, highlighting the verse John 3:16, symbolizing the essence of "just" in the Bible - God's righteous and fair judgment, offering salvation to all who believe.

What Does ‘Just’ Mean In The Bible?

The word ‘just’ appears over 500 times in the Bible, conveying an important concept related to righteousness, justice, fairness, and uprightness. But what exactly does ‘just’ mean in the various biblical contexts and how should it inform our understanding of God’s character and our calling as Christ followers?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In the Bible, ‘just’ often refers to acting or being in accordance with God’s righteous standards, whether his moral law or plan of salvation. It is connected to uprightness, fairness, equity and justice from God’s perspective.

The Range of Meanings of ‘Just’

‘Just’ as Righteous and Upright

The word ‘just’ is used numerous times throughout the Bible to describe God, His actions, and His people. When describing a person, ‘just’ refers to someone who is righteous, upright, virtuous, honest, and fair.

A just person follows God’s laws and commandments and does what is right in His eyes (Deuteronomy 16:20). King David, for example, is described as doing “what was just and right for all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15).

As followers of Christ, Christians are called to be just and walk in righteousness (Micah 6:8).

‘Just’ as Equitable and Fair

In other contexts, ‘just’ means equitable, fair, or impartial. human judges and rulers are exhorted to be just and not show partiality or favoritism (Leviticus 19:15). Their judgments and decisions must be balanced, unbiased, and equitable.

God Himself perfectly displays this trait, as He “shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). His treatment of mankind is always fair, reasonable, and just.

This sense of just also applies to weights and measures. The Bible condemns dishonest scales and “unequal weights and unequal measures” (Proverbs 20:23). Instead, business dealings are to be done with standards that are ‘just’ – accurate, honest, and fair.

God as Perfectly ‘Just’

Most importantly, the Bible describes God Himself as just. He is perfectly righteous, holy, and upright in all His ways. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

His judgments are always right, true, and just (Revelation 16:5-7).

Because God is just, He must punish sin. His justice demands it. No injustice or wrong can go unpunished in His holy presence. Thankfully, God satisfied His justice by sending Jesus to take the punishment we deserve (Romans 3:25-26).

Our salvation comes not from ignoring God’s justice, but by trusting in Christ’s sacrifice that fulfills God’s just requirement.

Key Biblical Usages of ‘Just’

‘Just’ Actions and Commands

The Bible often refers to God’s commands and actions as being “just.” This means they are morally right, fair, and equitable (Isaiah 45:21). For example, God’s laws, judgments, and statutes are described as “just” (Deuteronomy 4:8). His ways and works are also labeled as “just” (Daniel 4:37).

This shows that God always acts according to perfect righteousness and justice.

Human beings are also called to lead “just” lives by following God’s commands faithfully (Ezekiel 18:5-9). The Bible sets a high standard for moral conduct that should be displayed through just actions, words, and thoughts.

As Proverbs 21:3 states: “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

God’s ‘Just’ Laws and Ways

As the divine lawgiver, God established laws and ways for humanity that reflect His righteous character (Psalm 19:7-9). His commands are “true and just altogether” because they come from His perfect moral nature.

God’s laws are designed to lead people in just ways that bring life and blessings when followed (Proverbs 4:11-13).

However, the Bible declares that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). All fall short of God’s glorious and just standard (Romans 3:23). Yet, God made a way through Christ for people’s sins to be justly forgiven (Romans 3:25-26). He extends mercy without compromising justice.

The ‘Just’ Shall Live by Faith

“The just shall live by faith” is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4 emphasizing right standing before God comes through belief in Him. This concept is reiterated in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. Though everyone sins and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), the “just” or “righteous” obtain life and perseverance through faith in Jesus (Hebrews 10:38).

So while God requires perfect righteousness and none meet that standard on their own, He graciously credits Christ’s righteousness to those who have faith (Romans 4:22-25). Believers then progressively grow in righteousness as they walk by faith and yield to the Spirit’s work in their lives (Galatians 5:5, Romans 8:4-6).

‘Justified’ by Grace Through Faith

Declaration of Righteousness

The concept of being “justified” refers to being declared righteous before God. This righteousness is not earned through good works or law-keeping, but is a gift of grace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When a person places their trust in Christ for salvation, God credits Christ’s righteousness to them, even though they are still sinners. This is an act of God’s grace, through which He declares believers righteous based on the atoning sacrifice of His Son.

Basis is Christ’s Atonement

The basis for justification is the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Scripture teaches that “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood” (Romans 3:25). When Jesus died for sinners, He took upon Himself the punishment they deserved.

His sacrifice turned aside God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the demands of justice. Now God can declare righteous those who believe in Jesus, since their penalty has been paid through Christ’s shed blood.

Theologians refer to this as the “great exchange”—our sin was imputed to Christ on the cross, while His righteousness is imputed to us at conversion. This substitutionary sacrifice enables God to justify ungodly sinners as an act of grace (Romans 4:5).

The ground of our justification is solely the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

Received by Faith, Not Works

This gift of justification is received by faith in Christ, not by any good deeds or law-keeping on our part. Paul strongly emphasizes that “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28). Salvation is “not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

Good works flow from justification but have no part in earning it. We simply trust in what Jesus did for us.

Paul argues extensively in Galatians that trying to be justified by keeping the law only leads to condemnation. This is because “all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse” due to humanity’s universal inability to keep God’s perfect standards (Galatians 3:10).

The only way out is faith in the redemptive work of Christ, who bore that curse on our behalf (Galatians 3:13).

Pursuing ‘Justice’ as People of God

Defending the Vulnerable

As followers of Christ, we are called to defend and care for the vulnerable in society. This includes advocating for the rights of the poor, widows, orphans, immigrants, and any who are oppressed or marginalized (Isaiah 1:17).

We must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and ensure their basic needs are met (Proverbs 31:8-9). One way the early church pursued justice was by providing for widows who were often neglected in that society (Acts 6:1-7).

We can defend the vulnerable today by supporting organizations and causes that empower them.

Caring for the Poor and Oppressed

Throughout Scripture, God shows special concern for the poor and commands His people to do the same. For instance, God says that whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors Him (Proverbs 14:31).

Jesus Himself spent much of His time among the poor, broken, and outcast. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to serve the “least of these” in word and deed (Matthew 25:31-46). We should seek justice for the oppressed, meet their practical needs, and treat them with the dignity they deserve as people made in God’s image.

As we care for the poor, we reflect Christ’s sacrificial love that compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Administering Impartial Judgment

As those empowered by the truth, Christians are responsible to pursue justice and righteousness in public affairs. This includes working to establish laws and policies that align with God’s standards of justice.

For example, in the Old Testament, judges were to administer impartial judgment without showing partiality or accepting bribes (Deuteronomy 16:19). Likewise, Christians today can promote just laws that defend human rights and liberties.

Within the church, believers should also uphold justice and integrity when settling disputes between members. Church leaders must judge matters objectively based on facts and Scriptural principles, not personal opinions.

Paul urged the Corinthian church to appoint wise men to judge grievances between believers fairly (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). As we advocate for and model justice in society and the church, we reflect God’s heart for righteousness.

The Coming Reign of God’s Perfect ‘Justice’

Judging the World with Righteousness

The Bible speaks of a coming day when God will judge the world with perfect justice (Psalm 9:8). As the sovereign Lord of the universe, God has the right to judge humanity for how they have lived, whether righteous or wicked. His judgments will be perfectly fair and righteous (Psalm 96:13).

God sees and knows all things, so His verdicts will be according to truth and facts.

This means evil deeds will not go unpunished. Those who have rejected God and committed injustices will face due penalty for their actions (Romans 2:6-8). However, those who have trusted in God and His salvation will be declared righteous in His sight (Romans 3:21-26).

They will experience everlasting life and blessing as God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).

While many current injustices may seem to go unchecked now, the Bible urges patience in God’s timing (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13). His judgments often come later than expected but right on time according to His wisdom and purposes.

We can trust the Judge of the whole earth to do what is right (Genesis 18:25).

Making All Things Right

Central to God’s coming judgment is His intent to put all things right. The Bible says God will bring true, comprehensive justice to a broken world filled with injustice, oppression, poverty, sickness, and tragedy.

God promises to heal the brokenhearted, free the captive, give sight to the blind, lift up the oppressed, and make right all wrongs (Luke 4:18-19). He will wipe away every tear and make all sad things come untrue (Revelation 21:4-5).

Even the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:18-21).

While humans have often compounded injustice, God is fully able to unravel it. He specializes in reconciling broken relationships, restoring ruined lives, and bringing beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3). His judgments are always purposeful and leaded by His unconditional love.

Renewal of Creation

The Bible’s depiction of God’s coming justice culminates in the total renewal of heaven and earth. Scripture says God will create “new heavens and a new earth” characterized by righteousness, peace, and flourishing life (2 Peter 3:13).

Pain, suffering, and death itself will cease as God makes all things new. According to Revelation 21:1-5, God’s renewal of creation will be so comprehensive that the current order of things will entirely pass away.

But those who belong to God will experience indestructible life in a world where sin’s curses are no more.

This hope has inspired God’s people for generations to persevere in justice (Hebrews 10:23-25). It moved the prophet Amos to issue a radical call to “let justice roll down like waters” in anticipation of God judging and restoring all things (Amos 5:24).

We can join in this divine plan for justice and partner with God to reflect His heart for a suffering world.


In summary, the diverse biblical usage of ‘just’ spotlights God’s righteous character and actions, the gracious justification of sinners by faith, and the mandate for Christ’s followers to pursue justice in a fallen world while anticipating the perfect justice to come in God’s eternal kingdom.

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