Chapter 11: Of Justification
Now we come to the great biblical and Protestant doctrine of justification. Calvin said that “Justification is the main hinge on which salvation turns.” There is no salvation without a proper understanding of justification. This is not a secondary issue, it is a foremost essential of true and biblical Christianity. It is one of the things which separates confessional PROTESTANTISM from Roman Catholicism. There will be a lot of things which I will point the interested reader to previous chapters, rather than expound again here.
§1 Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth
- Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, 1 not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; 2 not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; 3 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. 4
- Rom. 8:30; 3:24
- Rom. 4:5-8; Eph. 1:7
- 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 5:17-19
- 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Titus 3:5, 7; Rom. 3:22-28; Jer. 23:6; Phil. 3:9; Acts 13:38-39; Eph. 2:7-9; Phil 1:29; 2Pet 1:1
Now that we've dealt with the first three things in Romans 8:29-30, namely God (1) foreknowing us and (2) electing us in chapter 3 and (3) effectually calling us in chapter 10 we come to the to the 4th point in the five-pointed chain–justification. What is justification? Dr. Wayne Grudem defines it in this way:
Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.
Section one first deals with a distortion about justification and then gives the biblical position.
Not Infusion of Righteousness
Roman Catholics believe what may be called "infused righteousness." That means that at salvation the merits of the Lord Jesus on the cross are infused with the righteousness of the sinner and together they constitute the basis of salvation. Meaning, Christ’s righteousness is not enough, rather it is given to help us with our own righteousness through works and obedience to God and the Roman Catholic Church. In their words:
1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:
This “infused righteousness” is attained by a work, namely baptism. That is the way you get this righteousness. Basically, this position teaches that salvation by grace alone is not enough. You have to add your works and obedience to the work of Christ. It is wrong to think that Roman Catholics do not believe in the necessity of grace. Rather, they don’t believe in the sufficiency of grace. Grace alone is not enough to justify. In their own words from the Council of Trent:
"If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema," (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).
Rome, in these words, has denied the Gospel of Christ. They place their curse upon the Protestant and biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. which is the Gospel of our salvation. They have denied justification by faith alone, which I will seek to make a case for below. They confess that faith is necessary, but it is not enough. They confess that grace is necessary, but it is, again, not enough. I assert and will seek to prove that the Bible teaches that faith alone is that which justifies the wicked and not grace/faith plus anything in us.
Christ's active obedience is what was imputed to us, which we discussed in chapter 8 (see here). His active obedience refers Lord's keeping the Law of God perfectly for us and in our place. All that righteousness which the Lord Jesus earned, the Father credits to us. It is as though we had lived the perfect life of Christ in complete obedience to God. That is how God sees His children. But it is not only His active but also passive obedience which justifies us. His passive obedience refers to His obedience to the Father even to the point of death and torture. It is through Christ's righteousness and death that we are justified and are in the right with God. Christ provided us a perfect righteousness by perfectly obeying and living the Law of God in our place and He took the penalty of the Law, which was ours upon Himself. Christ’s righteousness is given and credited to us. It is not mixed and infused with our own righteousness. The Apostle Paul says:
Phil. 3:9 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—
Paul does not find comfort in his own righteousness, which comes through the law and doing "good" things which the law commands. But he finds his comfort, peace, and rest in the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ.
1Cor. 1:30-31 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The Lord Christ is our righteousness. We do not have a righteousness of our own. Indeed, Isaiah says that all our good works are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6) and Paul says that none is righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10). How could we, with our "righteousness", stand before a thrice holy God?! This is the promise of God since of old. Jeremiah speaks of a time when the LORD will become our righteousness (Jer. 23:6). It is He who forms the basis of our right-standing before and with God. That which will enable us to stand before the throne of God and not be consumed in His wrath is the fact that we have the righteousness of Christ credited to us, which is able to make us stand before the “holy, holy, holy” God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 is inescapable on this point:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
See our discussion of this passage in chapter 8 for the substitutionary atonement.
God was pleased (Isa. 53:10 KJV) to place our sins upon Christ and treat Him as though the Righteous and Sinless had done every sin we have done. There was a purpose for this (“so that”). The purpose is that we should become righteous and this righteousness would be the righteousness of God, not of our own in accordance with the promise of Jeremiah 23:6. In Romans 4 Paul largely argues for justification by faith alone by taking the example of David and Abraham. The theses which he is trying to establish is that justification by faith has always been the way people were saved. Concerning Abraham he says:
Rom. 4:22-24 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
This refers to the episode in Genesis 15 where the Lord promises Abram descendants as many as the stars of heaven and Abram believes the promise and then the words which Paul is referring to are written:
Gen. 15:6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Logizomai and Dikaioo
The Lord counted Abram’s faith as righteousness, not any deed he had done and Paul argues that this was the case under the OT and likewise now that Christ has been raised. It is important for us to note the concept of imputed/credited righteousness in Romans 4 and elsewhere. The Greek word used in these instances is verb λογίζομαι (logizomai, G3049), which means "to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over". Dr. William D. Mounce says that the "basic meaning of logizomai has to do with counting or thinking". The important distinction between the Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrine of justification has to do with the fact that the Protestant doctrine of justification declares the sinner to be righteous although he is not fully righteous, because of Christ's merits. While the Roman Catholic doctrine seeks to make the sinner righteous and only then will he be really justified and righteous. But no...