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Tuesday
Jan192010

Theological Term of the Week

justification
A judicial act of God in which he pardons sinners and accepts them as righteous on the basis of Christ’s work on their behalf, which includes both his representative obedience to the law and his representative endurance of the penalty for their disobedience.

  • From scripture:

    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3: 21-28 ESV)

    Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…. (Philippians 3:8-9 ESV)

  • From The London Baptist Confession, 1689, Chapter 11:

    Of Justification

    1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.

    2. Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

    3. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf; yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for anything in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

    4. God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification; nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit doth in time due actually apply Christ unto them.

    5. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified, and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure; and in that condition they have not usually the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

    6. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem: 

    The practical implications of the doctrine of justification by faith alone are very significant. First, this doctrine enables us to offer genuine hope to unbelievers who know they could never make themselves righteous before God: if salvation is a free gift to be received through faith alone, then anyone who hears the gospel may hope that eternal life is freely offered and may be obtained.

    Second, this doctrine gives us confidence that God will never make us pay the penalty for sins that have been forgiven on Christ’s merits. Of course, we may continue to suffer the ordinary consequences of sin (an alcoholic who quits drinking may still have physical weakness for the rest of his or her life, and a thief who is justified may still have to go to jail to pay the penalty for his or her crime). Moreover, God may discipline us if we continue to act in ways that are disobedient to him (see Heb. 12:5-11), doing this out of love and for our own good. But God can never nor will ever take vengeance on us for past sins or make us pay for the penalty that is due for them or punish us out of wrath and for the purpose of doing us harm. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). This fact should give us a great sense of joy and confidence before God that we are accepted by him and that we stand before him as “not guilty” and “righteous” forever.

  • From J. I. Packer in Sole Fide: The Reformed Doctrine of Justification:
    Of all the Reformers’ many biblical elucidations, the rediscovery of justification as a present reality, and of the nature of the faith which secures it, was undoubtedly the most formative and fundamental. For the doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas. It bears a whole world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical knowledge of God the Saviour. The doctrines of election, of effectual calling, regeneration, and repentance, of adoption, of prayer, of the Church, the ministry, and the sacraments, are all to be interpreted and understood in the light of justification by faith, for this is how the Bible views them. Thus, we are taught that God elected men from eternity in order that in due time they might be justified through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:29f.). He renews their hearts under the Word, and draws them to Christ by effectual calling, in order that he might justify them upon their believing. Their adoption as God’s sons follows upon their justification; it is, indeed, no more than the positive outworking of God’s justifying sentence. Their practice of prayer, of daily repentance, and of good works springs from their knowledge of justifying grace (cf. Luke 18:9-14; Eph. 2:8-10). The Church is to be thought of as the congregation of the faithful, the fellowship of justified sinners, and the preaching of the Word and ministration of the sacraments are to be understood as means of grace because through them God evokes and sustains the faith that justifies. A right view of these things is possible only where there is a proper grasp of justification; so that, when justification falls, true knowledge of God’s grace in human life falls with it. When Atlas loses his footing, everything that rested on his shoulders collapses too.

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: What is justification?
  2. Phil Johnson: Justification: Defending the Heart of the Gospel (pdf)
  3. Philip Eveson: The Great Exchange
  4. S. Lewis Johnson: Riches of Divine Grace: Justification
  5. John Piper: Justification and the Diminishing Work of Christ (mp3)
  6. Here at this blog:
    1. Making It Legal
    2. Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience in Our Justification
    3. Quiz: Justification (Answers 1, 2, 3, 4)

Related terms:

Filed under Salvation.

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

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