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By Benjamin Meng
Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Aspects of Justification
There are two aspects of justification, They are Imputed Righteousness and Pardon.
This Righteousness is Imputed and not Infused to the sinner. If the righteousness was infused into the sinner, then the sinner would be inherrently righteousness and could stand on his own merit instead of the merit of Jesus Christ as in imputed righteousness. Infused righteousness makes faith in Christ usless. Imputed righteousness is given freely to the sinner without any works on the part of the sinner.
Romans 4:6, 11. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works...
The Righteousness that is imputed to the sinner is in fact the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This righteousness is derived from the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ. see also Active Obedience & Passive Obedience
Jesus Christ pays the debt for the beliver's sin by His death on the cross.
Grounds For Justification
The only Ground for Justification is the Imputed Righteousenss of Christ
- Justification is a legal or forensic term, and is used in Scripture to denote the acceptance of any one as righteous in the sight of God.
- While "Justification" is a forensic or judicial term, it is used in Scripture to denote, sometimes the acceptance of a sinner as righteous in the sight of God, sometimes the manifestation or proof of his acceptance, by which it is attested and made sure; and this variety in the application of it is the ground of an important theological distinction:– the distinction between ACTUAL and DECLARATIVE Justification.
- Justification must not be confused with sanctification. "Most of the leading errors on the subject of Justification may be traced to obscure or defective views in regard to the nature or import of imputation, and have arisen from supposing – either that it consists in the infusion of moral qualities, in which case Justification is confounded with Sanctification" - Buchanan, James
- Justification is an act not a process, according to Protestant doctrine. This act is an act that takes place in the past from the perspective of the Justified. Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By contrast, the Eastern Orthodox consider justification to be one of many salvific processes rather than a one-time declaration.
- It is a one time act, according to Protestant doctrine, not necessarily shared by all Christians. Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
- Justification holds a far more important place in Catholic-Protestant soteriology than it does in the soteriology of the Eastern Orthodox, who instead emphasize "Deification" (being brought closer to God by His Grace and acts upon us) as an ongoing process, of which justification is but a part.
Justification as Described by Confessions
Justification As Described By the Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace,[a]
wherein he pardoneth all our sins,[b]
and accepteth us as righteous in His sight,[c]
only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us,[d]
and received by faith alone.[e]
Supporting Scripture For the Shorter Catechism Definition
[a] Romans 3:24. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
[b] Romans 4:6-8. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 2 Corinthians 5:19. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
[c] 2 Corinthians 5:21. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
[d] Romans 4:6, 11. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.... And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: Romans 5:19. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
[e] Galatians 2:16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Philippians 3:9. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
Justification As Described By the Second Helvetic Confession
Chapter 15 - Of the True Justification of the Faithful
What Is Justification?
According to the apostle in his treatment of justification, to justify means to remit sins, to absolve from guilt and punishment, to receive into favor, and to pronounce a man just. For in his epistle to the Romans the apostle says: "It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?" (Rom. 8:33). To justify and to condemn are opposed. And in The Acts of the Apostles the apostle states: "Through Christ forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38 f.). For in the Law and also in the Prophets we read: "If there is a dispute between men, and they come into court . . . the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty" (Deut. 25:1). And in Isa., ch. 5: "Woe to those . . . who acquit the guilty for a bribe."
We Are Justified on Account of Christ.
Now it is most certain that all of us are by nature sinners and godless, and before God's judgment-seat are convicted of godlessness and are guilty of death, but that, solely by the grace of Christ and not from any merit of ours or consideration for us, we are justified, that is, absolved from sin and death by God the Judge. For what is clearer than what Paul said: "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23 f.).
For Christ took upon himself and bore the sins of the world, and satisfied divine justice. Therefore, solely on account of Christ's sufferings and resurrection God is propitious with respect to our sins and does not impute them to us, but imputes Christ's righteousness to us as our own (II Cor. 5:19 ff.; Rom. 4:25), so that now we are not only cleansed and purged from sins or are holy, but also, granted the righteousness of Christ, and so absolved from sin, death and condemnation, are at last righteous and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, therefore, God alone justifies us, and justifies only on account of Christ, not imputing sins to us but imputing his righteousness to us.
We Are Justified by Faith Alone
But because we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith in the mercy of God and in Christ, we therefore teach and believe with the apostle that sinful man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by the law or any works. For the apostle says: "We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom. 3:28). Also: "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. . . . And to one who does not work but believes in him who justified the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:2 ff.; Gen. 15:6). And again: "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast," etc. (Eph. 2:8 f.). Therefore, because faith receives Christ our righteousness and attributes everything to the grace of God in Christ, on that account justification is attributed to faith, chiefly because of Christ and not therefore because it is our work. For it is the gift of God.
We Receive Christ By Faith.
Moreover, the Lord abundantly shows that we receive Christ by faith, in John, ch. 6, where he puts eating for believing, and believing for eating. For as we receive food by eating, so we participate in Christ by believing. JUSTIFICATION IS NOT ATTRIBUTED PARTLY TO CHRIST OR TO FAITH, PARTLY TO US. Therefore, we do not share in the benefit of justification partly because of the grace of God or Christ, and partly because of ourselves, our love, works or merit, but we attribute it wholly to the grace of God in Christ through faith. For our love and our works could not please God if performed by unrighteous men. Therefore, it is necessary for us to be righteous before we may love and do good works. We are made truly righteous, as we have said, by faith in Christ purely by the grace of God, who does not impute to us our sins, but the righteousness of Christ, or rather, he imputes faith in Christ to us for righteousness. Moreover, the apostle very clearly derives love from faith when he says: "The aim of our command is love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith" (I Tim. 1:5).
James Compared with Paul.
Wherefore, in this matter we are not speaking of a fictitious, empty, lazy and dead faith, but of a living, quickening faith. It is and is called a living faith because it apprehends Christ who is life and makes alive, and shows that it is alive by living works. And so James does not contradict anything in this doctrine of ours. For he speaks of an empty, dead faith of which some boasted but who did not have Christ living in them by faith (James 2:14 ff.). James said that works justify, yet without contradicting the apostle (otherwise he would have to be rejected) but showing that Abraham proved his living and justifying faith by works. This all the pious do, but they trust in Christ alone and not in their own works. For again the apostle said: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not reject the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose," etc. (Gal. 2:20 f.).
Justification As Described By the Heidelberg Catechism
60 Q. How are you right with God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.1 Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments and of never having kept any of them,2 and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,3 nevertheless, without my deserving it at all,4 out of sheer grace,5 God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,6 as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.7 All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.8
1 Rom. 3:21-28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:8-11.
2 Rom. 3:9, 10.
3 Rom. 7:23.
4 Tit. 3:4, 5.
5 Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8.
6 Rom. 4:3-5 (Gen. 15:6); 2 Cor. 5:17-19; 1 John 2:1, 2.
7 Rom. 4:24, 25; 2 Cor. 5:21.
8 John 3:18; Acts 16:30, 31.
61 Q. Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?
A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ's satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God.1 And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.2
1 1 Cor. 1:30, 31.
2 Rom. 10:10; 1 John 5:10-12.
62 Q. Why can't the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with Him?
A. Because the righteousness which can pass God's scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law.1 Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.2 1 Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10 (Deut. 27:26).
2 Isa. 64:6.
63 Q. How can you say that the good we do doesn't earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next?1
A. This reward is not earned;1 it is a gift of grace.2
1 Matt. 5:12; Heb. 11:6.
2 Luke 17:10; 2 Tim. 4:7, 8.
64 Q. But doesn't this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
A. No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude.1
1 Luke 6:43-45; John 15:5.
A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts1 by the preaching of the holy gospel,2 and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.3 1 John 3:5; 1 Cor. 2:10-14; Eph. 2:8.
2 Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23-25.
3 Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 10:16.
The Doctrine of Justification. Buchanan, James (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, reprint of 1867 original ISBN 851514405)
Not Guilty (Abridgement of The Doctrine of Justification) Buchanan, James (Evangelical Press, 1993. ISBN 0946462224)
Justification by Faith. White, James R. (Crowne Publications, November 1, 1990. ISBN 0925703400)
By Benjamin Meng
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