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Category Archives: Justification

Faith in Christ

Here is a useful excerpt from Spurgeon’s book “Faith: What it is and what it leads to.”  This portion describes how faith can be misinterpreted or misunderstood in light of true dependence upon Christ alone.

Now let me further remark that there are some who may read this, no doubt, who will say—“Oh, I should believe and I should be saved if”—If what? If Christ had died? “Oh no, sir, my doubt is nothing about Christ.” I thought so. Then what is the doubt? “Why, I should believe if I felt this, or if I had done that.” Just so; but I tell you, you could not believe in Jesus if you felt that, or if you had done that, for then you would believe in yourself, and not in Christ. That is the English of it. If you were so-and-so, or so-and-so, then you could have confidence. Confidence in what? Why, confidence in your feelings, and confidence in your doings, and that is just the clear contrary of confidence in Christ. Faith is not to infer from something good within me that I shall be saved, but to say in the teeth, and despite of the fact, that I am guilty in the sight of God, and deserve his wrath, yet I do nevertheless believe that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth me from all sin; and though my present consciousness condemns me, yet my faith overpowers my consciousness, and I do believe that “he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” To come to Christ as a saint is very easy work; to trust to a doctor to cure you when you believe you are getting better, is very easy; but to trust your physician when you feel as if the sentence of death were in your body, to bear up when the disease is rising into the very skin, and when the ulcer is gathering its venom, to believe even then in the efficacy of the medicine—that is faith. And so, when sin gets the mastery of thee, when thou feelest that the law condemns thee, then, even then, as a sinner, to trust Christ, this is the most daring feat in all the world; and the faith which shook down the walls of Jericho, the faith which raised the dead, the faith which stopped the mouths of lions, was not greater than that of a poor sinner, when in the teeth of all his sins he dares to trust the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Do this, soul, then thou art saved, whosoever thou mayest be. The object of faith, then, is Christ as the substitute for sinners. God in Christ, but not God apart from Christ, nor any work of the Spirit, but the work of Jesus only must be viewed by you as the foundation of your hope.

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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Edification, Justification

 

The Doctrine of Justification

Here is an excerpt about the nature of justification, very useful and encouraging to think upon what Christ has done for us and how we could never earn His favor, it is only through the finished work of Christ that we are righteous before God.

 

The doctrine of justification, the storm center of the Reformation, was a major concern of the apostle Paul. For him it was the heart of the gospel (Rom. 1:17; 3:21–5:21; Gal. 2:15–5:1) shaping both his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion and spiritual life (2 Cor. 5:13-21; Phil. 3:4-14). Though other New Testament writers affirm the same doctrine in substance, the terms in which Protestants have affirmed and defended it for almost five centuries are drawn primarily from Paul.

Justification is a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. This justifying sentence is God’s gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:15-17), his bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 5:21).

God’s justifying judgment seems strange, for pronouncing sinners righteous may appear to be precisely the unjust action on the judge’s part that God’s own law forbade (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15). Yet it is in fact a just judgment, for its basis is the righteousness of Jesus Christ who as “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), our representative head acting on our behalf, obeyed the law that bound us and endured the retribution for lawlessness that was our due and so (to use a medieval technical term) “merited” our justification. So we are justified justly, on the basis of justice done (Rom. 3:25-26) and Christ’s righteousness reckoned to our account (Rom. 5:18-19).

God’s justifying decision is the judgment of the Last Day, declaring where we shall spend eternity, brought forward into the present and pronounced here and now. It is the last judgment that will ever be passed on our destiny; God will never go back on it, however much Satan may appeal against God’s verdict (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10; Rom. 8:33-34). To be justified is to be eternally secure (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:30).

The necessary means, or instrumental cause, of justification is personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord (Rom. 4:23-25; 10:8-13). This is because the meritorious ground of our justification is entirely in Christ. As we give ourselves in faith to Jesus, Jesus gives us his gift of righteousness, so that in the very act of “closing with Christ,” as older Reformed teachers put it, we receive divine pardon and acceptance which we could not otherwise have (Gal. 2:15-16; 3:24).

~J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993)~

James Boice also had a concise yet accurate definition of it in his commentary on Matthew 5:4

Jesus Christ came to step between the wrath of God against sin on the one hand and all who trust in Jesus Christ on the other. He took the blow of God’s wrath upon himself, paying the full penalty for our sin, and God has placed the full righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to our account, so that we are seen as being perfectly acceptable before God in him.

~James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002).  Page 29 ~

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Encouragement, Justification

 

What is Justification?

Many hear the word “justification” but do not have a very good grasp on what the word means and how it relates to the Christian. Instead of attempting to explain it myself, here is a post from Grace to You which clearly explains justification, the history of this doctrine, and how it relates to the Christian lifestyle.

The Christian church today is in danger of returning to the Dark Ages. The seeker movement has Christianity turning in its Bibles; the ecumenical movement urges Christians to use worldly means to accomplish temporal ends; and current theological movements look through the lens of philosophy–Enlightenment rationalism and postmodern subjectivism–rather than Scripture. The departure from sola scriptura has led to the departure from sola fide–justification by faith alone.

Back to the Beginning
In the 1500s a fastidious monk, who by his own testimony “hated God,” was studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans. He couldn’t get past the first half of Romans 1:17: “[In the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (KJV).

One simple, biblical truth changed that monk’s life–and ignited the Protestant Reformation. It was the realization that God’s righteousness could become the sinner’s righteousness–and that could happen through the means of faith alone. Martin Luther found the truth in the same verse he had stumbled over, Romans 1:17: “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (KJV, emphasis added).

Luther had always seen “the righteousness of God” as an attribute of the sovereign Lord by which He judged sinners–not an attribute sinners could ever possess. He described the breakthrough that put an end to the theological dark ages:

I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

Justification by faith was the great truth that dawned on Luther and dramatically altered the church. Because Christians are justified by faith alone, their standing before God is not in any way related to personal merit. Good works and practical holiness do not provide the grounds for acceptance with God. God receives as righteous those who believe, not because of any good thing He sees in them–not even because of His own sanctifying work in their lives–but solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, which is reckoned to their account. “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). That is justification.

Declared Righteous: What Actually Changes?
In its theological sense, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner’s nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. Forensic decrees like this are fairly common in everyday life.

When I was married, for example, Patricia and I stood before the minister (my father) and recited our vows. Near the end of the ceremony, my father declared, “By the authority vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you man and wife.” Instantly we were legally husband and wife. Whereas seconds before we had been an engaged couple, now we were married. Nothing inside us actually changed when those words were spoken. But our status changed before God, the law, and our family and friends. The implications of that simple declaration have been lifelong and life-changing (for which I am grateful). But when my father spoke those words, it was a legal declaration only.

Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer “the accused.” Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent–depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free person in the eyes of the law, fully justified.

In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty–fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.

Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). Christ’s own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). So justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, because of justification, believers not only are perfectly free from any charge of guilt (Romans 8:33) but also have the full merit of Christ reckoned to their personal account (Romans 5:17). Here are the forensic realities that flow out of justification:

We are adopted as sons and daughters (Romans 8:15)
We become fellow-heirs with Christ (v. 17)
We are united with Christ so that we become one with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17)
We are henceforth “in Christ” (Galatians 3:27) and He in us (Colossians 1:27)

How Justification and Sanctification Differ
Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Notice how justification and sanctification are distinct from one another:

Justification imputes Christ’s righteousness to the sinner’s account (Romans 4:11b); sanctification imparts righteousness to the sinner personally and practically (Romans 6:1-7; 8:11-14).
Justification takes place outside sinners and changes their standing (Romans 5:1-2, sanctification is internal and changes the believer’s state (Romans 6:19).
Justification is an event, sanctification a process.

Those two must be distinguished but can never be separated. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.

Why differentiate between them at all? If justification and sanctification are so closely related that you can’t have one without the other, why bother to define them differently? That question was the central issue between Rome and the Reformers in the sixteenth century, and it remains the main front in renewed attacks against justification.

Justification in Roman Catholic Doctrine
Roman Catholicism blends its doctrines of sanctification and justification. Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. In Catholic theology, then, the ground of justification is something made good within the sinner–not the imputed righteousness of Christ.

The Council of Trent, Rome’s response to the Reformation, pronounced anathema on anyone who says “that the [sinner] is justified by faith alone–if this means that nothing else is required by way of cooperation in the acquisition of the grace of justification.” The Catholic council ruled “Justification … is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just.” So Catholic theology confuses the concepts of justification and sanctification and substitutes the righteousness of the believer for the righteousness of Christ.

What’s the Big Deal?
The difference between Rome and the Reformers is no example of theological hair-splitting. The corruption of the doctrine of justification results in several other grievous theological errors.

If sanctification is included in justification, the justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. Our standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can’t be guaranteed. The ground of justification ultimately is the sinner’s own continuing present virtue, not Christ’s perfect righteousness and His atoning work.

What’s so important about the doctrine of justification by faith alone? It is the doctrine upon which the confessing church stands or falls. Without it there is no salvation, no sanctification, no glorification–nothing. You wouldn’t know it to look at the state of Christianity today, but it really is that important.

Here is the link below to the blog, I posted most of the article but not the full article. http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A194_Justification-by-Faith#.Tnj4fuvIbw4

Let us rejoice in what Christ has done for us, and find comfort in this truth knowing we are justified by the works of Christ and not our own.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Encouragement, Justification

 

Fulfilling God’s Law

Was reading today on MacArthur’s blog an excerpt from one of his books and wanted to share his blog post on here in the quotes below.

“In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:4

If the Holy Spirit resides within us, we will be able to fulfill the demands of God’s law.

Augustine once said, “Grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled.” When God saves us He, by His Spirit, creates within us the ability to obey His perfect law. Because we now live “according to the Spirit”—walking by the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit—we are able to do the righteous things God’s law requires.

Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord no longer expects His law to be lived out only by means of an external code of ethics? Now holiness, righteousness, and obedience to the law are internal, the products of the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Ezek. 11:19-20).

God’s salvation is more than a spiritual transaction by which He imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. It is more than a forensic action by which He judicially declared us righteous. As great and vital as those doctrines are, they were not applied to us apart from God’s planting His Spirit within our hearts and enabling our lives to manifest the Spirit’s fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). We need to remind ourselves regularly that God’s purpose for us after He redeemed us was that we might live a holy life filled with good works (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14). Whenever you are disobedient to God’s will and purpose, you are quenching the Holy Spirit and fighting against yourself and what you know is right. Such disobedience makes about as much sense as the person who holds his breath for no reason and therefore makes his lungs resist their natural function. The believer who disobeys, especially one who persists in a sin, prevents the Spirit from naturally leading him along the path of holiness. We are not perfect after our salvation—that won’t happen until glorification (1 John 3:2-3)—but the Holy Spirit will empower us to live in ways pleasing to God, which is the kind of righteousness that fulfills His law.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Justification

 

Justified through Christ

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh– though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul had every reason to boast in the flesh, to boast in the good works which he had performed in the religion which he had pursued for so long before his conversion to Christianity. Paul had every “good work” mastered, he pursued his religion with the utmost zeal, he had a very noble bloodline from which he had descended, he was circumcised on the eighth day and came from the tribe of Benjamin which was one of the two tribes who did not revolt against God centuries earlier. Everything about Paul’s life was perfect, or so he had thought. So often in our Christian lives we tend to act like Paul did prior to his conversion. We have a confidence in the flesh, thinking that our duties and relationship with God is dependent upon our own performance. Should we have a bad day where we sin and fail to live as we should, we view our relationship with God as broken and view ourselves as a failure and worthless to God. Instead we should remember what Paul reminds us here in this passage; our standing and position with God is not determined by our own works of the flesh, which even our best attempts are unclean and unfit for God, but our standing with God is determined by the finished work of Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross. It is in this we stand as followers of Christ, reminded that our position and relationship with God is never determined by our works by the work of Jesus Christ. As you go throughout your day and week, meditate on what Christ has done for you and be thankful for this wonderful truth we have to live by.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Encouragement, Justification

 
 
In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus