Justification: The Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls

Justification: The Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls

Do you think that this truth is important?

I. Romans 3:9-4:25

  1. According to 3:9-3:18, what is the universal problem of humanity?
  2. In verse 19, what is the purpose of the law?
  3. What conclusion does Paul derive from all of this in verse 20? Do you understand Paul's logic here? State it in your own words.
  4. According to verse 21, where is righteousness found?
  5. According to verse 21 and 22, whose righteousness is this?
  6. According to verse 22, how does one obtain that righteousness? How does your answer to that question relate to verses 9-20? How does it relate to verse 23 (notice Paul begins this verse with “for”)?
  7. State every truth that you see in verse 24.
  8. Do you understand the connection between justification and redemption in verse 24?
  9. According to verse 26, how does God remain just when He justifies us?
  10. What does the example of Abraham show in 4:1-4?
  11. Justification involves something given and something taken away. In 4:6, what is given? In verses 7-8, what is taken away?

II. What is justification? It is
a legal act of God, at the instant we believe in Christ, in which He (1) forgives our sins, (2) imputes the righteousness of Christ to us, and (3) declares us to be righteous in His sight, thereby (4) delivering us forever from all condemnation, guaranteeing for us a title to heaven.

III. Justification occurs “...
the instant we believe in Christ...”

A. It is not a process. It is a once for all proclamation.

  1. Romans 5:1
  2. Romans 8:1

IV. God “...
forgives our sins...”

A. This means that He no longer counts them against us. He stops ascribing them to us.

  1. Romans 5:7, 8.
  2. Romans 8:33
  3. Romans 3:24
  4. Romans 3:25-26.

V. God “..
.declares us to be righteous...”

A. It is a legal declaration, not a surgical operation. God declares us righteous in justification, but does not make us righteous in justification.

  1. Paul parallels justification with condemnation in Romans 8:33, 34. To condemn someone does not mean to make them guilty, but to declare them guilty and treat them accordingly. Thus, justification cannot mean in Paul's thought to make one righteous, but rather to declare them righteous and treat them accordingly.
  2. In Romans 8:33 justification is clearly the opposite of having charges brought against you.

B. God justifies sinners.

  1. Romans 4:5. List every truth that Paul teaches in this verse.

C. How can God declare us righteous without making us righteous?

VI. God can declare us righteous because He “...
imputes the righteousness of Christ to us ...”

A. We cannot be justified on the basis of our own righteousness, for we are sinners. So God gives us the righteousness of someone else–namely, Christ.

B. That is what we mean by imputed righteousness–we are clothed in the righteousness of somebody else, what Luther called an “alien righteousness.” To put it another way, impute means to be given credit for something that you did not do. We have not obeyed God perfectly. But Christ has. So God gives us credit for Christ's obedience.

C. It helps us to understand this better if we see the difference between imputed righteousness and inherent righteousness.

  1. inherent righteousness is:
    1. Good moral deeds you do for God.
    2. Good transformations God brings about in your character.
    3. It is a goodness that resides in you. It is internal to you.
  2. Imputed righteousness is:
    1. A righteousness that is external to you.
    2. A righteousness that was achieved by somebody else and given to you.
    3. This righteousness consists in Christ's perfect obedience (Romans 5:15-19).

D. Again, in justification God declares us righteous not on the basis of inherent righteousness, but on the basis of imputed righteousness. Your righteousness in justification does not consist of any transformation that God has brought about in your character, or any good works that you do. Rather, it consists of what Christ did in your behalf.

E. Why must we be declared righteous? Isn't it enough just to have your sins forgiven?

  1. God's law not only requires that its transgressions be forgiven, but also that its requirements be perfectly fulfilled. For example, let's say it is my job to take out the trash, and I fail to do it. My roommate may forgive me. However, the trash still hasn't been taken out. Someone needs to do it in order to fulfill the requirement. Thus, if God simply forgave our sins without requiring a positive righteousness, He would be leaving His law unfilled. Thus, God not only forgives us, but has Christ do for us what we failed to do ourselves–perfectly obey His law.

F. Where is imputed righteousness taught in the Bible?

  1. An inherent righteousness would always be imperfect in this life, and therefore not valuable enough to make you accepted before God the instant you believe, as Scripture declares you are. This righteousness must be of infinite value in order to be accepted by an infinitely valuable God. Only Christ achieved this perfect and infinitely valuable righteousness.
  2. Even if the inherent righteousness was perfect, it still wouldn't fully measure up to God's demands, since it would have no application to our past. We need an eternal righteousness to be accepted by an eternal God. Only Christ's righteousness meets this.
  3. Justification respects the ungodly. Therefore, it cannot be based upon any righteousness inherent in us–for we are ungodly when first justified.
    1. Romans 4:5
  4. Many verses teach that it is not our own righteousness that justifies us, but God's (specifically, Christ's). Thus, it is an alien righteousness that justifies us.
    1. Jeremiah 23:6
    2. Romans 3:22
    3. Philippians 3:9
    4. 1 Corinthians 1:31
  5. Many verses speak of this righteousness as being given to us, indicating that it is imputed. This righteousness given to us is Christ's obedience, and thus is not anything done in us or by us.
    1. Romans 4:6, 11, 22
      1. “Reckon” basically means impute.
    2. Romans 5:17
  6. Many verses teach that this righteousness is external to us–thereby indicating that it is not inherent righteousness that justifies us, but imputed righteousness.
    1. Luke 19:9-14
    2. Isaiah 61:10

G. Does Romans 4:5, 9, 22 mean that the act of believing is our righteousness by which we stand before God? Does it mean that the righteousness that serves as the ground of God's declaration is not Christ, but our faith?

  1. No. The Greek preposition is “eis” here means “with a view to” and not “in the place of.” In other words, “faith reckoned as righteousness” doesn't mean that God accepts your faith in the place of perfect obedience to His law, or that your faith is your righteousness. Rather, it means that your faith is reckoned unto righteousness. For example, in Romans 10:10 it says, “for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness.” Likewise, Romans 4:5, etc. doesn't mean that faith is our righteousness, but that our faith leads to the righteousness of Christ.

H. The covenant of creation and covenant of grace.

  1. When God set Adam in the Garden of Eden, He made a covenant with him and all humanity. If Adam obeyed by faith, he would gain life. If he disobeyed, death. As we learned last semester, he sinned and we are all given the guilt of this sin. Now, God's covenants cannot just be “pushed aside.” They must be fulfilled. What can be done? God sent Christ, and Christ perfectly obeyed God and thus fulfilled the covenant of creation that Adam had failed at. Thus, we are now able to receive the obedience of Chrsit, and thus justification, in place of the disobedience of Adam, which put us in condemnation. The covenant of creation is fulfilled by Christ, which we receive through the covenant of grace.
    1. Examine this teaching in Romans 5:12-21

VII. The results of justification: we are “..
.forever delivered from all condemnation and thus guaranteed a title to heaven.”

A. No condemnation

  1. Romans 8:1

B. A title to heaven

  1. Romans 8:31-32

VIII. Justification is by faith alone

A. From Romans 3:21-24, 28 and 4:2-6, list all of the ways Paul teaches that justification is by faith alone.

B. Titus 3:5-6

C. Ephesians 2:8-10

D. Can you think of further Scriptural evidence that it is by faith alone?

E. What about James 2:24?

  1. As Dr. Wayne Grudem has said, "Here we must realize that James is using the word justified in a different sense from the way Paul uses it" (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 731). Paul uses the word justify to mean "declare to be righteous," but the word can also mean "to demonstrate to be righteous." For example, the word is used this way in Luke 16:15. That James is using it this way is supported by the fact that the instance that he uses to show that Abraham was "justified by works" (2:21)--which is recorded in Genesis 22--came many years after Genesis 15:6 where Abraham believed God and "[God] reckoned it to him as righteousness." Further, James is concerned in this section with showing that mere intellectual assent to the gospel is not true faith (2:18, 26). Grudem summarizes: "James is saying here that `faith' that has no results or `works' is not real faith at all; it is`dead' faith. He is not denying Paul's clear teaching that justification (in the sense of a declaration of right legal standing before God) is by faith alone apart from works of the law; he is simply affirming a different truth, namely, that `justification' in the sense of an outward showing that one is righteous only occurs as we see evidence in a person's life. To paraphrase, James is saying that a person is `shown to be righteous by his works, and not by his faith alone.' This is something with which Paul also would certainly agree (2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 5:19-24)" (Grudem, pp. 731-732).

F. Why is it by faith alone?

  1. It must be by faith alone in order to be by Christ alone.
  2. Since our righteousness lies in Christ, the only way to lay hold of it is to cease trying yourself and turn to Him for it.
  3. What does Romans 5:16 say?
  4. Faith most glorifies God as the all sufficient giver, and most humbles us as the all needy receiver.

G. The role of repentance, from Jonathan Edwards.

  1. Faith is turning to Christ, but in the act of this you are turning from sin, which is repentance. Thus, repentance is an aspect of faith. Or, we may say: Repentance is faith's attitude toward sin.
  2. Repentance is the act of justifying faith in regards to sin, which includes a sense of our sin and hatred of it and acknowledging what it deserves, looking to God's mercy for deliverance from it.”
  3. I plead with you–in light of this, when you preach the gospel make sure that you do so in such a way that people see sin as their main problem and are convicted of it. You will have much sounder converts. You will be doing them a great favor.

IX. Faith does not earn us Christ's righteousness, but unites us with it

A. Faith isn't something good that we do that makes us deserving of Christ's righteousness. It is simply the means through which we receive it. If I reach out my hand to obtain a gift from someone, I am not earning the gift, but simply receiving it.

  1. The example of marriage. Getting married to someone is not a virtuous thing that deserves a reward, but a relationship that brings the husbands possessions along with him. A wife isn't entitled to her husband's money and property because she deserves it, but simply because she is united to him in marriage.

B. Horatius Bonar “Faith is not a work, nor merit; nor effort; but the cessation from all these, and the acceptance in place of them of what another has done–done completely, and forever.”

C. “God is pleased with faith because faith is pleased with Christ.”

X. How justification relates to sanctification

A. God justifies all whom He sanctifies, and therefore all justified people will lead changed lives.

B. As James showed us, the test of whether you have the kind of faith that justifies is whether you have a faith that brings about good works. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.

C. The difference between justification and sanctification (from the book Justification by Faith Alone, edited by Don Kistler.

Justification Sanctification
External to us Internal to us
Declared righteous Made righteous
Removes guilt of sin Removes pollution of sin
Legal status Moral condition
Restores God's favor Restores God's image
Complete and once for all Progressive but incomplete (until death)
Gives title to heaven Gives fitness for heaven
Criminal pardoned Patient healed

D. Both justification and sanctification are necessary. Imagine a deathly sick criminal on death row. A pardon alone is not enough–he will still die of his illness. A cure alone is not enough either–he will still be in jail. Both are necessary for him to be completely delivered.

XI. The problems with Roman Catholocism

A. They error regarding the nature of justification

  1. Rome turned it into a process rather than a once for all declaration. As such, they confused justification and sanctification.

B. They error concerning the ground of justification

  1. Rome substituted inherent righteousness for imputed righteousness

C. They error regarding the means of justification

  1. Rome said it is by faith and works, not faith alone.

D. Test case regarding last week:

  1. A woman comes to you and says she feels the Lord leading her to join the Catholic Church. What do you say to her?

XII. Allocations

A. I know that I am a great sinner, and thus I need a great righteousness.

B. Don't you realize that we have a great and holy God, and therefore we need an immense and massive foundation for our acceptance with Him? Justification gives us this. What comfort and security we miss out when we are unaware of this truth and therefore unable to plead before God “I'm justified, and therefore I know you will never bring your wrath against me.”

C. Marvel that you stand before God in the infinite, eternal, and perfect righteousness of Christ Himself. What an indescribable gift. Give thanks to God.

D. This is the basis of our peace with God (Romans 5:1).

E. A proper understanding that we are justified by faith alone through Christ alone is necessary to being a Christian (Galatians 5:4).

F. It gives us deep comfort, security, and confidence before God to know that even though I will never be perfect in this life, I am nonetheless considered perfectly righteous in His sight. This has huge ramifications for the way we relate to God.

G. Knowing this truth gives us a fuller--and more accurate--understanding of our God and the gospel we preach, and keeps us from preaching a false gospel.

H. True humility is only possible by recognizing that we cannot earn salvation, but instead must admit our horribly sinful condition and accept salvation as a gift (Romans 4:2; Ephesians 2:8, 9).

I. knowing this truth gives us a greater delight in God and deeper worship of Him, for it reveals to us more of His ways that we may know Him more fully (Exodus 33:11).

J. We need to know about justification in order to fully appreciate our salvation.


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