Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion: God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.


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Quiz Key: Justification, Question 4

Continuing with the answers to the quiz on justification. You will find the previous answers here and here.

Question 4

4. Included in the grounds for our justification is/are

  • a. The good works produced by the Spirit within us.
  • b. Our faith.
  • c. Christ’s righteous life and obedient death.
  • d. b and c.
  • e. all of the above.
The correct answer is c: The grounds for our justification is Christ’s righteous life and obedient death.
It may help for me to explain what grounds are before I launch into a more thorough explanation of this answer. When theologians speak of grounds in regards to justification, they are using the word in the legal sense. Grounds comprise the basis upon which something is due, the basis upon which one is entitled to something. For instance, the grounds for a wage is the work that earns it, the work that entitles the worker to a paycheck. The grounds for a criminal charge is the criminal activity that is the reason for the charge. With that background information, we’re all set to proceed with the reasons for the correct answer.

The good works produced by the Spirit within us is not grounds for our justification.
It’s back to Question 70 of the Westminster Larger Catechism for our proof the historic reformed doctrine denies that our works provide any grounds for our justification. The answer to this question says that it is “not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them” that sinners are justified. The catechism gives two scriptural proofs of this: Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 1:7, which together say that it is “not by works of righteousness that we are saved” and that forgiveness, which is part of justification, comes “in Him.” In other words, we do not merit our justification by good works, and justification does not come through what we do, but through what Christ does.

Our faith is not grounds for our justification.
Finally, we get to go to another question in the WLC! Question 73, on the role of faith in our justification:

Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not … as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applies Christ and his righteousness.

The short and sweet version of that? Faith is not the grounds for our justification, but only the instrument by which we receive it. In exercising faith, we are not producing a deposit of faith that goes into our account (or is imputed to us), and then based on that deposit of faith, we are entitled to justification. Rather, the faith by which we are justified is receptive. It is not something put forward, but is, as the Heidelberg Catechism 1563 states, “self-emptying and has no merit in itself (Question 61).”

For scriptural proof, I find Romans 4:4-5 convincing. (You may want to read the verses in context in order to understand the whole of Paul’s argument.)

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness….

When it says that faith is counted as righteousness, we might think this means that our faith is credited to our account as a righteous or meritorious act, and in exchange, we receive justification. If that were the case, then the credited faith would be at least partial grounds for our justification. But notice that Paul emphasises that justification is a gift and not wages, and not our due. Our faith cannot entitle us to our justification or it would not be a gift. Rather, justification would be, at least partially, our due. So even though faith is necessary for justification, it cannot provide the grounds for it.

Christ’s righteous life and obedient death are the grounds for our justification.
Question 70 once more: It is “only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them” that sinners are justified. Perfect obedience here refers to Christ’s righteous life, and full satisfaction to his obedient death. Christ’s perfect obedience and his full satisfaction are put on our account, and in that way, he merits our justification for us. It is his work  that entitles us to justification.

I’ve given a little scriptural evidence that both Christ’s righteous life and obedient death serve as grounds for our justification in this post, so I’ll just point you there rather than repeat things.

Look for the rest of the answers to the quiz either tomorrow or Tuesday. 

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Reader Comments (1)

I got this one wrong. I was thinking that since faith is necessary for justification and it is a gift from God, then it was included. You're right in that it does depend on how one defines the word "grounds."

July 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

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