There is an unusual use of the word justified (Greek: dikaiow) in Luke 7. There Jesus says that the tax collectors “justified God” by being baptized with the baptism of John the Baptist.
Say what? How can any human being justify God? He is the one that justifies us. We don’t justify Him. Or, maybe we should.
Luke 7:29 shows that it is biblically correct to say that we indeed can and should justify God.
The word justify has a primary meaning in the NT of declaring someone righteous. Most often it refers to God declaring those who believe in Jesus to be righteous. When we speak of justification by faith alone, we mean that God declares righteous all who simply believe in Jesus, apart from any works we do.
Here, however, we find a reversal. It is men who are declaring God to be righteous! And these men who are justifying God are tax collectors, considered some of the worst sinners in all of Israel.
Leon Morris comments, “But these common people justified God, i.e., they ‘pronounced God just,’ they accepted the ways of God as they were and did not try to constrain him into a mould of their own manufacture. This is seen in that they were baptized with the baptism of John, a baptism that was with a view to repentance, and which pointed forward to the work that Jesus would do” (Luke, Tyndale Series, p. 158, italics his).
This verse suggests that whenever we proclaim what God has said as true, then we are justifying God.
Have you justified God lately?