Justification: The Divine Verdict of Righteousness by Thiago Silva, ThM
Now, we’re going to look at the profound concept of justification – another element in this intricate process.
Justification unfolds as God’s divine pronouncement, wherein He declares us righteous by pardoning our sins and imputing Christ’s righteousness unto us.
The Westminster Confession of Faith clarifies the essence of this divine act:“Justification unfolds as God’s divine pronouncement, wherein He declares us righteous by pardoning our sins and imputing Christ’s righteousness unto us.”
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; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. (Chapter XI, §I)
The apostle Paul’s eloquence reverberates throughout the doctrine of justification.
His epistles to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians notably underscore two contrasting paths to righteousness.
The first, advocated by Judaizing Christians, emphasizes adherence to the law as a prerequisite for salvation.
This pathway demands meticulous observance of rules, regulations, and rituals as a means to gain acceptance from God. “Scriptures reaffirm that justification hinges solely on divine grace. Humanity’s own efforts are impotent in securing justification; it is the work of God’s grace.”
Paul vehemently opposes this legalistic approach. Instead, he champions the biblical route of justification through grace – a grace revealed in the gospel.
Through this grace, sinful humanity finds acceptance before the very God they have offended.
Yet, the echoes of legalism do not resonate solely in the past. The Catholic Church, too, propagates a view that links justification to human righteousness and good deeds.
However, Scriptures reaffirm that justification hinges solely on divine grace. Humanity’s own efforts are impotent in securing justification; it is the work of God’s grace.
The Scriptural foundation of justification rebukes any claim of righteousness attained through adherence to the law.
Our assertion stands resolute: the foundation of justification rests solely on the impeccable righteousness of Christ – an imputed righteousness granted to the believer at the moment of justification.“God declares the sinner in Christ righteous, freeing them from condemnation and God’s wrath.”
Paul’s words in Romans 3:23-26 encapsulate the essence of justification. All humanity falls short of the glory of God due to sin, leading to inevitable condemnation.
However, for the elect – those effectively called and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, undergoing the transformative experience of true conversion – justification dawns.
In this act, God declares the sinner in Christ righteous, freeing them from condemnation and God’s wrath.
This righteousness, however, emanates not from personal merit or self-righteousness, but from the merit and righteousness of Christ.
The righteousness of Christ is imputed, legally accounted as the possession of the converted sinner – a profound exchange.“Justification, distinct from sanctification, is a singular event that transmutes the sinner’s state from unrighteous to righteous.”
The bedrock of justification is the obedience of Christ, encapsulated in His fulfillment of God’s precepts and His sacrificial death on the cross, wherein He bore the weight of divine judgment on our behalf.
Christ’s atonement, the propitiation in His blood, satisfies the demands of divine justice.
The WCF succinctly captures this when it says that Christ, by his obedience and death, fully paid the debt of all that are justified, and, in their stead, made his Father a real, full satisfaction of his own.
Justification, distinct from sanctification, is a singular event that transmutes the sinner’s state from unrighteous to righteous.
Berkhof introduces two facets of justification: active and passive.
Active justification unfolds in God’s heavenly courtroom, where He, the Judge, pronounces the sinner righteous by virtue of Christ’s righteousness. “God, the justifier, forever secures the justified.”
Passive justification, conversely, reverberates within the sinner’s conscience – an inward acceptance of the declared righteousness.
This divine sentence of acquittal reverberates within, affirming the believer’s standing before God.
Yet, a significant distinction between justification and regeneration and conversion arises.
Justification is entwined with the realm of legal standing. God, the Lawgiver, Judge, and King, asserts His sovereign right to determine, judge, and reward humanity.
Thus, justification delineates our relational status with God, whether as sinners or as new creations. It illuminates the dynamic of our alignment with God’s righteousness.“Genuine self-evaluation always orbits around God as the reference point. In humility, we depend on God’s mercy, recognizing our insufficiency to earn His favor.”
In this divine arrangement, humans are justified through the grace of God, founded upon the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Numerous Scriptural passages corroborate this truth. Yet, one question persists: Can the justified ever lose their standing?
The answer is firmly entrenched in the eternal security of justification.
While a justified individual may experience distance from God due to sin, the justification itself remains steadfast.
The apostle Paul reinforces this in Romans 8:33-34, affirming that God, the justifier, forever secures the justified.
In light of this profound truth, humility becomes our posture. Boasting in our own righteousness or relying on human works crumble under the weight of divine grace. “Justified by Christ, we stand eternally righteous and innocent before God’s gaze.”
Jesus’ admonishment to the Pharisees resonates in our ears: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God,” (Lk. 16:15).
Genuine self-evaluation always orbits around God as the reference point. In humility, we depend on God’s mercy, recognizing our insufficiency to earn His favor.
Two crucial implications emerge from the doctrine of justification.
Firstly, it kindles genuine hope within the unbeliever who realizes the futility of self-righteousness.
Secondly, it endows believers with unwavering assurance – assurance that God, having justified, will not extract payment for sins already forgiven through Christ’s merits.
The resounding truth of Romans 8:1 echoes in our hearts: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Justified by Christ, we stand eternally righteous and innocent before God’s gaze.
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