What is Justification?

Series Index

  1. What is Justification?
  2. What Does Justification Do? (Part 1)
  3. What Does Justification Do? (Part 2)
  4. Jesus Became Sin For Us
  5. Christ’s Imputed Righteousness
  6. Justification by Grace
  7. Justification by Faith
  8. Does James Contradict Paul?

Part 1 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther and others recaptured the beauty and glory of the doctrine of justification.  We contribute absolutely nothing to this wonderful doctrine, but gain everything from it. Over the next several days, we’ll look at what justification is, what it does, how it happens, and how we receive it.

First of all, why do we need to understand the significance and meaning of this doctrine? Wayne Grudem said:

A right understanding of justification is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith. Once Martin Luther realized the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the new-found joy of the gospel…Even today, a true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works.

Jonathan Edwards defined justification this way: “A person is said to be justified when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment; and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life.”

J.I. Packer said that it 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. Finally,Grudem says, “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.”

In short, justification is the legal act of God the Father in which he 1) forgives our sins and 2) declares that we are righteous before him.  According to this definition and what we will see in Scripture, we know that justification is something that is declared about a person, not something that is done to a person. In regard to this, John Murray wrote,

Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does — he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.

To be continued.