Justification Part 1
- Why is the doctrine of justification important?
o It answers the problem of how sinful man is made right before a holy and just God.
§ Man stands before God guilty and fully deserving of hell.
· See the blog entries here, here and here for a fuller treatment of man’s sinful state.
o It is central to the gospel and to deny the Biblical view is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ.
§ Galatians 1:6-10 makes this abundantly clear.
§ Galatians chapters 2 & 3 expound upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.
· Galatians 2:21 – I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law Christ died needlessly.
Grudem’s Definition of Justification: Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in His sight.
- Justify (dikaoo) – *IMPORTANT* this word has a range of meanings – its meaning is determined by context.
o Common usage is to declare righteous or just, or can mean to prove or show to be right, righteous or just.
- Scripture examples:
o Luke – Wisdom is justified by all her children.
o Luke – Lawyer justifying himself.
o Luke – Pharisees justify themselves.
o Luke –People justified God.
o Rom 3:4 – You (God) may be justified in your words.
§ None of these relate to sin but a form of the word justify (dikaoo) is used in each of these passages.
- Justification in salvation is in regards to sin.
o We must first understand that salvific justification occurs in God’s sight.
§ Scriptural proof:
· Romans – By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.
· Romans 4:2 – For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
· Galatians 3:11 – Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."
- The first aspect of Grudem’s definition is justification is a forensic (pertaining to legal matters) or legal act.
o Scriptural proof:
o Romans -34 – Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect, God is the one who justifies (vs 33).
§ Charge is a legal term and would have brought to mind the current legal system of the Roman readers.
§ In verse 34, Paul goes on to contrast the word justify with condemn.
· “It is God who justifies. Who can condemn?”
o What we see here is a legal declaration.
§ See also, Romans & 18, where judgment and condemnation is contrasted with justification.
o Grudem points out the distinction between justification and regeneration - John Murray quote.
- The second aspect is that God declares us just in His sight.
o Grudem lists two characteristics of this declaration.
- First – There is no more penalty for our sin – we are not guilty.
o Romans 8:1 – No condemnation for those in Christ.
§ See also Romans ,18 & -34 which we looked at earlier.
o We are not guilty, but is that it? Are we just neutral?
§ Are we neutral just like a criminal who has been acquitted of past crimes, but can still commit more crimes & become guilty again? No!
- Second – We are declared positively righteous.
o We are not merely forgiven, but are positively, eternally righteous before God.
o Scriptural Proof:
§ Romans – By the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
§ Romans 3:21-22 – Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
§ Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
- *IMPORTANT* This is not an internal change. We must not confuse justification with regeneration or sanctification.
o It is clear from the texts of scripture we have looked at that justification is a legal declaration that does not affect the inner man.
§ It is only an act of God.
- John Murray is absolutely right when he says in his book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied:
o “Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does—he gives a verdict regarding over judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.”
o “The purity of the gospel is bound up with the recognition of this distinction. If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its center. Justification is still the article of the standing or the falling of the Church.”
§ This is an area where we have a BIG problem with Roman Catholic teaching.
o They perpetrate a false gospel that conflates justification with regeneration & sanctification.
§ Just read the Roman Catholic catechism on justification for further proof.
- For us who believe in the true gospel, let us pause, meditate and give thanks for the abundant gift of justification!