JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH(A)
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"
Introduction: Centuries ago, the ancient patriarch Job asked this all important question, one that is still being queried by thousands around the world today: "How should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2)
For centuries, human beings, all around the world, have been performing religious actions in sincere endeavors to answer this imperative question. While these religious actions may vary from bathing in the dirty Ganges River in India, to kneeling prostrate before the world's largest crucifix in Indian River, MI, they all have the same major goal: finding acceptance and justification with God.
The answer to this question determines our eternal destiny: The correct response means eternal acceptance with God, while the wrong reply means eternal condemnation. C. H. Spurgeon, the famed 19th century Baptist "prince of preachers" was right when he made the statement that a "mistake here is eternally fatal." God's declaration in the inspired Scripture, the only genuine answer, is justification by faith.
A CARDINAL DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Justification by faith is a fundamental doctrine of the historic Christian faith. In fact, some have termed this truth, the underpinning basis of Christianity. Without a doubt, it is the ground and foundation of all solid assurance. John Gill, the great Baptist apologist of the 17th century stated that this teaching "cuts the sinews of popery, the anti-Christian doctrines of penance and purgatory, of pardons and indulgences, and all the merit of good works."
In delineating this doctrine, the writer would like to elucidate on three simple points; (a) the basis of justification, (b) the bestowal of justification and (c) the blessings of justification. In considering this grand truth, he would like to note that justification is basically a forensic [legal] term, one that is just in a courtroom of adjudication or law.
THE GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE TERM
In a general sense, justification is the action by which a judge asserts one to have a righteous claim, therefore he acquits a defendant of any/all charges brought against him by the accuser[s] or prosecutor [s]. Therefore, condemnation and justification are opposite terms. They are positions which are diametrically opposite to each other. It is impossible to be condemned and be justified at the same time. Rom. 5:19 states "…for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification."
THE LEGAL EQUIVILANTS IN SCRIPTURE
In justification, all the factors of a courtroom of justice are affirmed. Every proper court of justice must possess the following characteristics:
1. A Judge: Rom. 8:33 "It is God that justifieth"
2. A Defendant: Rom. 3:19 "that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be brought unto the judgment of God."
3. A Plaintiff or Accuser: John 5:45 "there is one that accuseth you, even Moses [God's law]."
4. A Witness or witnesses: Rom. 2:15 "their conscience bearing witness"
5. An Indictment: Col. 2:14 "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us."
6. A Potential Sentence: Deut. 27:26 "Cursed is everyone that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them."
7. A Code or Set of Laws: Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth"
8. An Advocate: (lawyer or intercessor) I John 2:2 "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
9. A Satisfaction for the Violation of the Law: Rom. 8:19 "Through the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
10. A Potential Acquittal: Rom. 8:1 "There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…"
THE BIBLICALLY BASED DEFINITION
Justification can be Biblically defined as "the act whereby God declares the believing sinner to be righteous in His sight in and through the merit of the atoning work of Christ on the cross—that is the giving of his life in death—the shedding of His blood as the sacrificial payment for sin." It can also be delineated as "the act whereby God credits or deposits to our account in glory the righteousness of His dearly beloved only begotten Son, a divine activity that is termed 'imputation.'"
This imputation includes both negative and positive aspects: (a) It means that God does not reckon to me my sin[s]. Imputation thus involves the legal forgiveness of sins, the absolution and remission of the charges against me: Rom. 4:8, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity." (b) It also means that God imputes to me the perfect righteousness of Christ, provided solely via Christ's atoning work on the cross. In Rom. 4:6 Paul notes that the man "unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works" is a blessed man.
THE BASIS OF JUSTIFICATION
Reiterating that the word impute means "to reckon, to credit or attribute to the account of another, the basis of justification is thus the imputed righteousness of Christ.
This justification includes (a) the non-imputation or non-reckoning of our sins. Ps. 32:1-2 states that "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity…" (b) the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believing sinners: II Cor. 5:21, "For He hath made him sin to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
DISTINCTIONS FROM OTHER RELATED CLOSELY DOCTRINES
1. Justification is to be distinguished from the doctrine of REGENERATION. In the Handbook of Christian Truth, the authors stated: "Regeneration has to do with the change which takes place in the believer's heart; justification concerns the change in his standing before God. Regeneration refers to the impartation of spiritual life, while justification deals with our acceptance as righteous in the eyes of God. Regeneration is the divine answer to the problem of spiritual death, while justification is divine answer to the problem of spiritual guilt."
2. Justification is to be distinguished from the doctrine of SANCTIFICATION. Justification is the act whereby God declares us to be righteous, while sanctification is the act whereby He makes us righteous. Justification is a work upon man, while sanctification is a work within man. Justification is an instantaneous act, while sanctification is a gradual work. Justification deals with the imputing of God's righteousness, while sanctification deals with the infilling of God's righteousness. Justification concerns a change in our condition, while sanctification deals with a change in our character.
But on what BASIS does God justify sinful men and women, for justification can only take place upon valid grounds. In order for sinful human beings to experience the forgiveness of sins, enjoy peace with God and assurance of a home in heaven, they must be declared righteous in God's sight. They must be declared free from the penalty and guilt of sin. What valid grounds dos God have for declaring repentant sinners to be righteous and justified in His sight?
A. The basis of justification cannot be CREATED righteousness since it is ILLUSIVE righteousness; it is NON-EXISTENT righteousness.
Created righteousness is that righteousness which humanity-Adam and Eve-originally possessed in/by virtue of their creation by God. It is that innocence that they possessed when they enjoyed both a condition that was right in God's eyes—Gen. 1:27. This is the righteousness which our first human parents and progenitors possessed in God's sight. At the time Adam and Eve were created, the only place iniquity and sin existed was in the heart of satan and his demonic helpers, the fallen angels.
In this ideal setting in the Garden of Eden, no sin spoiled their communion with God, no iniquity stained their soul, no unrighteousness corrupted their souls, no wickedness marred their fellowship with the Creator and no depravity defiled their intimacy with the God of glory. Adam and Even walked and talked with God in the fields of splendor and in the gardens of exquisite delight. The external beauties of that garden as well as the internal purity of that couple cannot be adequately portrayed in human language.
However, that created righteousness does NOT exist anywhere today on the face of the earth, it is a righteousness that has been FORFEITED BY SIN. It cannot be located anywhere on the planet earth today. Rom. 3:9-10 says, "…for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin: as it is written, there is non righteous, no not one…there is none that doeth good, no not one." Ecc. 7:20 states: "For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not."
B. The basis of justification cannot be COMPARATIVE righteousness since it is IMPERFECT righteousness, it is NON-EQUITABLE righteousness.
Comparative righteousness is the fictitious righteousness that human beings claim when they compare themselves with other human beings, primarily those with lower standards. The common phrase so frequently heard to defend this kind of supposed righteousness is "I'm better than so and so." God's analysis of this righteousness is found in Gal. 2:10 where the Apostle Paul says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole and offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Why Comparative Righteousness Can Never be the Basis of Justification.
Comparative righteousness can never be the basis of justification because it proceeds from a depraved sinful nature that has been transmitted from a fleshly depraved sinful heart that that is spiritually dead and can never please God. Rom. 5:12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Rom. 8:7-8: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be; so then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."
Comparative righteousness is (a) filthy righteousness—Is. 64:6: "For we are all as unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses as filthy rags"; (b) failed righteousness—Rom. 3:20: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight:"; (c) flawed righteousness—James 2:10: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
C. The basis of justification can never be CEREMONIAL righteousness because it is INTENDED righteousness; it is NON-ENABLED righteousness.
Ceremonial righteousness is that human righteousness which seeks to obtain God's favor through acts of religious ceremonies and supposedly earned merits, rites and religious sacrifices. Christ declared that this pseudo-righteousness is based on the unscriptural traditions of men and is totally worthless.
In Matt. 15:9, Christ stated: "But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Writing about such vain ceremonial sacrifices, Hebrews 10:12 says: "And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins." In Gal. 1:8, the apostle Paul states those who depend on this ceremonial righteousness proclaim another gospel that is under the curse of God: "But though we, or an angel form heaven preach any other gospel unto than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
God's analysis of all human righteousness whether it be forfeited created righteousness, comparative human righteousness or legalistic ceremonial righteousness is disclosed in Rom. 3:10-12: "As it is written, there is none righteous, no one. There is none that seeketh after God, they are all gone out of the way: they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one." The sovereign judge of the universe has pronounced His verdict upon human nature and His infallible ruling is "guilty" as charged!
THE TRIUNE RESOURCES INVOLVED IN GENUINE JUSTIFICATION
The entire triune God is involved in the action of justification. (a) God the Father is the source of this righteousness—Isaiah 54:17: "Their righteousness is of me." Rom. 8:33: "It is God that justifieth." (b) God the Son is the supplier of this righteousness—Rom. 5:21: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (c) God the Holy Spirit is the securer of this righteousness—I Cor. 6:11: "…but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God."
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH CONTINUED (B)
CHRIST THE CENTER OF DIVINE JUSTIFICATION
While all three members of the one triune God are intricately involved in justification, this doctrine centers in/around the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Jer.23:6, Christ is called "the Lord our righteousness"; in Mal. 4:2, he is termed the "Sun of righteousness," and in Rom. 10:4, He is designated as the "end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth."
THE TRAITS OF THIS JUSTIFICATION THAT HAS ITS NUCLEUS IN CHRIST
1. A PROMISED Righteousness: Rom. 4:20-22—"He [Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith…being fully persuaded that what he [God] had promised, he was able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." This same righteousness was also promised to believers in this dispensation—Rom. 3:23-25: "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also…who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification."
2. A PERFECT Righteousness: Nothing has to be added. This righteousness is not partial or incomplete. It is not Jesus and the sacraments, Jesus and the Pope, Jesus and the saints, Jesus and traditions, or Jesus and good works. Christ alone provides this righteousness.
Christ was (a) perfect in his Office: Heb. 4:15—"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin"; (b) perfect in his Obedience: Rom. 5:19—"For as by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous;" (c) perfect in his Offering: Heb. 10:12—"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice forever, sat down on the right hand of God." With such divine perfections, it is little wonder, then that Paul would state in Rom. 10:4 that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone that believeth."
3. A PERMANENT Righteousness: Heb. 10:14—"For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." Praise God, this righteousness is complete and provides eternal security. You cannot possess this righteousness and lose it tomorrow!
THE CONTRAST WITH ROMAN CATHOLICISM
This perfect righteousness in Christ is to be starkly contrasted with the incomplete system of Roman Catholicism which has an (a) incomplete saviour: In Romanism, Christ is not sufficient, He has to have the help of Mary, the pope, the saints, tradition and the sacraments to save! Roman Catholicism also has an (b) incomplete sacrifice: In Romanism, the continuing sacrifice of the mass is necessary for supposed justification. The Scripture, however, teaches that Christ "offered one sacrifice for sin forever…Heb. 10:12. The Roman Catholic system also has an (c) incomplete Scripture: In addition to Scripture, in Romanism, tradition, the "ex-cathedra" decrees of the Pope and the Vatican ecumenical counsels are necessary imperatives.
In II Tim. 3:15-17, however, the apostle Paul taught that the inspired Scripture is God's sufficient tool for both salvation and sanctification. "And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST
The imputed righteousness of Christ is the means whereby this righteousness is credited to the believing sinner. Imputation is the ascribing to someone else, something they did not priory possess; It is an act whereby someone places something to one's account or credit that they did not previously possess. In imputation, God simply places in our account the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ; He ascribes to repentant sinners that which they did not possess--Christ's righteousness.
The entire fourth chapter of Romans is a divine treatise on this great theme. Consider these verses: "For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God and it was counted [imputed] unto him for righteousness" (v. 3); "Even as David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works" (v. 6); "Now it was not written for his [Abraham's] sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (vs. 23-25).
THE DIVINE CAUSES OF JUSTIFICATION
A. THE ORIGINAL CAUSE: THE GRACE OF GOD
"being justified freely by his grace…" Rom. 3:24. True divine grace is simply the undeserved favor of God which declares believing sinners to be completely acceptable to God via the imputed righteousness of Christ, apart from any human effort or merit—I Cor. 1:30—"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption"; Titus 3:7: "Being justified freely by his grace."
This genuine grace is to be distinguished from the pseudo grace promulgated by Roman Catholicism, which considers grace to be a quality infused into the soul that makes individuals acceptable to God and thus able to meritoriously earn God's righteousness. Romanism confuses justification with sanctification. One R.C. scholar erroneously states that justification "is the infusion of sanctifying grace" and a "genuine gift of sanctification to him."
B. THE MERITORIOUS CAUSE: THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him"—Rom. 5:9. Redemption is the ransom price that was paid by Jesus Christ through his atoning sacrifice on the cross, a sacrificial act that satisfied completely the justice and holiness of a righteous God. "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities"—Isaiah 53:11.
The grounds of the believer's justification is thus the infinite merit of the righteous work of Christ, purchased for the saint through Christ's blood shed in His death on the cross and the guarantee of this justification is the bodily resurrection of Christ from the grave. Christ's bodily resurrection was God the Father's divine approval upon Christ's atoning death on the cross, "the guarantee that the justifying transaction at Calvary was acceptable to the Father." (H. Lindsell, A Handbook of Christian Truth.")
C. THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE: FAITH IN CHRIST
"To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus"—Rom. 3:26; "And by him all that believe are justified from all things which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses"—Acts 13:38. Genuine faith, however, does not make justification, it simply takes justification!
Faith is simply the reliance and trust that believing sinners place in and upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ does all the saving and justifying, repentant believing sinners are simply the recipients and takers.
The Triune God Emphasized Again in Justification
It should be noted again, the triune God is totally effectual in this divine work of justification: (a) God the Father is the ORIGINAL cause of Justification: "Even the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe"—Rom. 3:22; (b) God the Son is the MERITORIOUS cause of Justification: "that we might be justified by the faith of Christ"—Gal. 3:16; (c) God the Holy Spirit is the INSTRUMENTAL cause of Justification: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death"—Rom. 8:2
THE BESTOWAL OF THIS JUSTIFICATION
REASONS WHY JUSTIFICATION HAS TO BE BY FAITH AND NOT BY ANY OF THE THREE METHODS PREVIOUSLY DELINEATED.
1. Man could boast before God about his efforts and his merits in what he had done. Romans 3:27-28 says: "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Nay, but by the law of faith. therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."
2. Comparative and ceremonial righteousness would nullify the promises of God and faith would be nullified and made void. Rom. 4:14 states: "For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect."
3. No one is able to fulfill the law: Righteousness by the law requires fulfillment by the law. Jesus Christ is the only one who has completely fulfilled the law's requirements. Christ himself said that "I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law."
4.Justification by human effort is a frustration of the grace of God and makes the resurrection of Christ meaningless. In Gal. 2:2, Paul declared: "I do not frustrate the grace of god: for if righteousness had been by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Furthermore, the Scripture records in Rom. 4:25 that Christ was "raised again for our justification."
\ The faith by which we are justified is not human works in reverse, for genuine faith comes solely from the hearing of God's Word: Rom. 10:17 states: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
This faith is exercised only in Christ's atoning blood shed in his death on the cross, and it is faith, plus nothing! Even in O. T. dispensation of the law, salvation came via faith. Rom. 4:3 says that "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness." The eleventh chapter of Hebrews gives abundant evidence of this fact. John Gibbons was right when he stated: "Faith is the nuptial knotting in which the soul joins itself to its resurrected Lord in an everlasting marriage covenant."
While this writer is far more than a Protestant—he is a Biblicist Fundamentalist Baptist—the Reformation leaders were right in contending for three great principles of the historic Christian faith: Sola Scripture, Sola Gracia and Sola fide [solely by faith].
It is not faith plus works, faith plus human merit, faith plus the sacraments, faith plus trust in the apparitions of Mary and the prayers of departed saints, faith plus human tradition, faith plus the ex-cathedra dogmas of the Pope, or even faith plus the supposedly infallible decrees of Vatican counsels. Paul clearly summarized his conclusions in Rom. 5:1 when he wrote: "Wherefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
THE BLESSINGS OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
In Acts 13:39, the Scripture declares: "And by him, all that believe are justified from all things which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses," while Rom. 4:8 says, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity."
These verses simply mean that the believing sinner (now a saint) has been cleared of all charges brought against him in God's court of justice; that all the once legitimate charges against him have been dismissed and dropped; the believer having been declared totally free concerning the penalties he rightly deserved.
In an assuring acquittal concerning the penalty and judgment concerning sin, the Apostle Paul wrote in Rom. 8:33-34: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth? Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
This writer remembers reading a newspaper advertisement for a Seventh Day Adventist sermon that was entitled: "All you need to know about your case which is now in God's court of Judgment." No! No! No! The believer has been totally set free from the laws demands and penalties. Christ guarantee in John 8:36 is that those whom the Son sets "free" are "free indeed."
Via the imputed righteousness of Christ, God now accepts the believing sinner. Whereas we were once convicted sinners, children of wrath, captives to sin and bond slaves to satan, we have complete acceptance with God. In Eph. 1:6, the Apostle Paul confidently states: "to the praise of the glory of his grace where he had made us accepted in the beloved."
This acceptance results in our becoming children of God: "But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name"—John 1:12. This acceptance grants us all the blessings, attendant, privileges, rights and eternal standing that come with sonship, including the assurance of ultimate spiritual conformity and likeness to the Son of God—Rom. 8:29, I John 3:2.
As a justified saint, believers have an identity standing that allows them instance personal access to the throne room of God himself. Rom. 5:1 says, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we also have access into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
As justified saints, believers have the distinctive right to enter the presence of God's throne anytime and anywhere they desire and choose. No advance reservations or appointments are needed and we can come for any reason desired: communion, confession, request, praise, adoration, assignment to service. You name it and there is access!
Writing about the righteous, the prophet Isaiah penned these choice words: "And the work of righteousness shall be peace: and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." This assurance is a (a) blessed assurance: "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine"; a (b) bright assurance: "Heavenly Sunlight"; and a (c) betrothal assurance—Eph. 5:25-27.
This assurance grants believers the guarantees of a (a) right standing with God: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God—Rom. 5:2;" (b) remission of sins: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past…Rom. 3:25"; (c) resurrection: "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept—I Cor. 15:20.
This resurrection includes the glorification of the believers, that having been declared righteous in eternal standing with God, they shall someday be made perfectly righteous in character and conduct—Phil. 3:20-21, I John 3:2..
In Gal. 4:4-5 Paul forthrightly declared that believers have been adopted by God as sons in His family, with all the inherent and intrinsic rights of full sonship: "but when the fullness of the law was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." In Gal. 3:26, Paul verified this privileged status when he said that "ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ." The glorious truth about this adoption is that it is a fact that can never be reversed! As His children, we are the possessors of eternal life—John 3:16, 3:36.
SUMMATION OF THIS TREATISE ON JUSTIFICATION:
The BASIS of justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ; the BESTOWAL of justification comes via faith in the risen Son of God, while the BLESSINGS of justification include acquittal, acceptance, access, assurance and adoption.
The divine righteousness that has been credited to our account in the checkbook of heaven is
(a) equal and identical: All believers equally and identically possess the same quality and quantity of imputed righteousness, whether it is the oldest and strongest believer or the newest and weakest saint. Rom.3:22 states: "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus unto all and upon all that believe: for there is no difference."
(b) everlasting and irreversible: "By the which will we are sanctified [set apart] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.—Heb. 10:10; "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." [Ed: Sanctification comes in three tenses: past [positional], present [progressive], and prospective [perfect]. In these verses, sanctification is viewed in its positional aspect and is closely linked with the judicial aspect of justification.].
(c) exclusive and individual: Rom. 3:26 states that God is the "justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Only those who individually appropriate Christ's sacrifice on the cross as the perfect once-for-all ransom price for sin can rightly claim this divine righteousness.
Also in this issue:
Also in this issue: