ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?

WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 PM

ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?

WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.[1]

Court rooms can be funny places but they can also be very serious. If the Court is good the goal will be to make sure justice is served. If we think of ourselves standing before God someday in our own righteousness (hint: we don’t have any) and if true justice is served, it will mean punishment for us in Hell for eternity.

But God….

Our human story would be over if our salvation depended on us and were reliant on our good works…But God. When a person has put their faith/trust in Christ then they have been justified. This is a work wholly of God and not the sinner. This search for understanding often comes up when trying to better grasp the doctrine of Salvation or in conversation with Roman Catholics. We will talk more about this but let’s understand why people often begin to investigate the doctrine of Salvation more deeply.

William Barclay notes, “It is not until a man finds his faith opposed and attacked that he really begins to think about the implications of that faith. It is not until the Church is confronted with some dangerous heresy that she begins to realize the riches and wonder of orthodoxy [the Sameness of the Christian Faith down through the centuries]. It is characteristic of Christianity that it has inexhaustible riches, and that it can always produce new riches to meet any situation.”- The Daily Study Bible.

If our faith is being questioned it often gives us a desire to dive deeper to more fully understand what we truly believe. Let us look at a definition of Justification – “the word in the Greek is dikaioo(verb) and dikaiosune (noun)  Throughout Scripture we will hear this word translated as justify, justification, righteousness, just, righteous, and justified.  So what is it?– Pipa notes that Paul uses ‘justified’ in a judicial sense, to express acquittal (A judgment that a person is not guilty of the crime with which the person has been charged: “the trial resulted in an acquittal“.[2]  This meaning is the primary way that the Bible uses the verb ‘to justify.’  This is the language used in a courtroom.  God speaks of His hatred of those who call good, evil and evil, good. We can see the idea of justification here,

Let’s look at Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

As we think of standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and if we have put our faith in Him, we will stand not in our own righteousness but in His righteousness.  Our names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Our sins have been blotted out.

Revelation 21:7  But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

This act of justification by God is called Sovereign Grace.  Grace is unmerited favor which means that we didn’t do anything to deserve it. It is God centered not man centered. – MacArthur notes the basic term of “justification” was originally used forensically of a judge’s declaring an accused person not guilty and right before the law…Throughout Scripture justification refers to God’s declaring a sinner to be guiltless on the basis of faith in Him.  It is the free and gracious act by which God declares a sinner right with Himself – forgiving, pardoning, restoring and accepting him on the basis of nothing but trust in the Person and work of His son, Jesus Christ.”

Let’s read a few passages before we get a few more definitions.

Titus 3:4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Ephesians 2:1-10

(1)And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  (2)  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–  (3)  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  (4)  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  (5)  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–  (6)  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  (7)  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  (8)  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  (9)  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (10)  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Notice the focus in Romans 8:28-30.  It is not on us!

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Let’s see another definition of Justification. Dr. Charles Hodge (1797-1878), professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary defined Justification….

Justification is defined in the Westminster Catechism, “An act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoned all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

There are two theological words that we often think of when we talk about salvation. These two words are Justification and Sanctification. We will talk more about Sanctification later but for now understand that at the point of salvation we are Justified. We are declared legally in right standing before God. Our Sanctification then begins at that point. Justification is wholly a work of God and we are sealed at Salvation. Sanctification is cooperation between us and God throughout the rest of our lives as we are made more into the image of Christ.

It is important to understand the difference between Protestant Christian theology and Roman Catholicism on this point because it is very different. John MacArthur notes:  “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.”

In Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology he has a chart[3] to help us better understand the difference between Justification and Sanctification.  Sanctification is defined as “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.[4]

Legal standingInternal Condition
Once for all timeContinuous throughout life
Entirely God’s workWe cooperate
Perfect in this lifeNot perfect in this life
The same in all ChristiansGreater in some than in others

Let’s understand Justification from the Scriptures a little more.

Romans 3:19-20 notes the futility of human works for justification when it says “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  (20)  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

God gave the OT Law to the Israelites but even during OT times they were saved by putting their faith in God, not following the Law. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:24 that the “law was our schoolmaster (or guardian) to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (KJV)

Having no righteousness in ourselves we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Philippians 3:9 …and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

II Corinthians 5:21 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Galatians 3:13 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)…

Romans 4:5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith lays out what Scripture clearly says about Justification:

1689 Baptist Confession of Faith On Justification:

(1) Those whom God effectually calls He also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting them as righteous, not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone. They are not justified because God reckons as their righteousness either their faith, their believing, or any other act of evangelical obedience. They are justified wholly and solely because God imputes (attributes) to them Christ’s righteousness. He imputes to them Christ’s active obedience to the whole law and His passive obedience in death. They receive Christ’s righteousness by faith, and rest on Him. They do not possess or produce this faith themselves, it is the gift of God.

(3) Christ, by His obedience and death, fully discharged the debt of all those who are justified, and by the sacrifice of himself through the blood of His cross, underwent instead of them the penalty due to them, so making a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice on their behalf. Yet because He was given by the Father for them, and because His obedience and satisfaction was accepted instead of theirs (and both freely, not because of anything in them), therefore they are justified entirely and solely by free grace, so that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

Colossians 1:19-22 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

The Scriptures clearly teach that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. When we are saved we are saved completely and justified completely. It is a one time event. We are justified completely and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This is in opposition to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

You may be wondering why is the idea of Forensic Justification so important.  “Martin Luther understood (along with the other Reformers) that the primary dispute with the Roman Catholic Church was over Justification. This means it was over Salvation.  The Roman Catholic Church traditionally says that justification means both acquittal (not guilty) from past sins and “a making righteous” in the full ethical sense but that the final declaration of “righteousness” awaits the last judgment.”  (Longenecker, 84) This is why a Roman Catholic must carry out the sacraments such as Birth, Last Rites, marriage, mass, confession, etc. I will write more about the views of Roman Catholicism and how and why they differ from Protestant Christianity and the Bible in another article.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider the thoughts in this article. If you like and agree, please share it with others. If you are interested in helping us continue to reach people with good resources, please check out the store where you will find resources like M.A.P.S. From the Ancients where I walk through Manuscripts, Archaeology, Prophecy and Science to show the reasons that we can trust the Bible. You will find the Light Project that looks at 8 cults and world religions and compares what they say to what the Bible says. You will also find the book Infiltration: The Tool of Socialism; The Christian Worldview Answer to Socialism and Social Justice. This book is basically like 6 books in one with everything referenced. It explains how we got to the largely Socialist thinking where we are in America by looking at Philosophy, Education, Media, Politics, Economics, and Religion and relating them to the Christian worldview. If you are just looking for something fun, check out some of the artwork that I create on the side!


[2] Joseph A Pipa, Jr., Galatians:  God’s Proclamation of Liberty.  (Christian Focus Publications, 2011)

[3] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology.  (Grand Rapids, Mi, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994) P. 746.

[4] Ibid.

Justification – The Story of Our Redemption Part 5

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