ciwlogo_sm.gif What is the Truth about Justification by Faith?

Introduction

In the introduction to his lectures on the Book of Galatians Luther said in 1531, “If the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost.”  In connection with Galatians 3:13 he said, “The doctrine of justification must, as I frequently urge, be diligently learned; for in it all the other articles of our faith are comprehended.  And when that is safe, the others are safe too.”

Luther’s statements impress on us that justification by faith is essential to a proper understanding of the Christian faith and the doctrines of Scripture.  If this doctrine is not understood, the Bible remains a sealed book, as Luther himself learned when the Lord enabled him to discover this doctrine through his study of Romans 1:16,17.  Upon learning this doctrine Luther said he felt like he had been reborn and had entered paradise.

The purpose of this lesson is to learn what this essential doctrine to the Christian faith is and why we cannot afford to lose it.

1. What is justification?

Dt.25:1  If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges settle their dispute, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, . . .

1. Justify means the opposite of condemn.  In court the judge declares the accused person innocent, that he is righteous and not subject to punishment.

Pro.17:15  He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them together are detestable to the Lord.

1. This verse speaks of unjust judges. It also shows that justify means the opposite of condemn.  There are about twenty Old Testament verses in which justify means to declare righteous.
2. Justification is a judicial act in which a judge declares the accused person righteous.

Lk.7:29  And when all the people, even the tax collectors, heard, they acknowledged God’s justice, . . .

1. In this verse the Greek word for justify is translated “acknowledged God’s justice,” which is another way of saying that the people justified God and declared God was right.  So it is clear that the word justify means to declare righteous in the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament.

Ro.3:23,24  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

1. In the Bible God is the Judge who graciously justifies sinners, that is, he declares them righteous, not because they are, but for the sake of Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.

Ro.4:6,7  Just as David also speaks about the blessedness of the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: BLESSED ARE THEY WHOSE TRANSGRESSIONS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED.

1. As proof that God justifies, or credits righteousness, apart from a person’s works and efforts, Paul quoted David’s words from the Old Testament that God forgives sins.
2. Justification, then, is a judicial act of God in which he declares the sinner righteous and his sins forgiven.  Justification, being declared righteous, is synonymous with being declared forgiven.

The Truth Is:

1. Justification is a judicial act of God in which he declares the sinner righteous for the sake of Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.
2. Forgiveness of sins is the same as justification.  It merely states the same truth in a different manner.

2. In justification what sins does God forgive?

Ps.103:2,3  Bless the Lord, . . . Who forgives all your iniquities, . . .

  1. In justification God forgives all our sins.

1 Jn.2:2  And he (Jesus Christ) is the reconciling sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.

  1. In justification God forgives the sins of all people everywhere.
The Truth Is:

1. In justification God forgives all our sins.
2. In justification God forgives the sins of all people everywhere, not just the sins of a certain elect number of people.
  Note: God’s forgiving all people their sins is called objective, or universal, justification.  See the Bible verses and explanations under Question #4 below for more information about this objective justification.

3. Who needs the forgiveness of sins and justification?

Ps. 51:5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

  1. Everyone needs the forgiveness of sins and justification, because everyone is conceived and born into sin.

Ro.3:10-12  . . . as it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no who does good, there is not even one.”

  1. Everyone needs the forgiveness of sins and justification, because everyone has failed to do the good that God requires.

Ro.7:18,19  For I know that no good thing dwells in me, that is in my sinful nature; for the willingness is present in me, but doing the good thing is not in me. For the good that I desire to do, I do not do; but the evil that I do not desire to do, this I keep doing.

  1. Everyone needs the forgiveness of sins and justification, because everyone has a sinful nature that is morally wicked and causes them to sin everyday.

Ps.19:12  Who can discern his errors? Pardon my sins of ignorance.

  1. Everyone needs the forgiveness of sins and justification, because everyone commits sins everyday, even sins they are not aware of.

Ro.6:23  The wages of sin is death.

  1. Everyone needs the forgiveness of sins and justification, because everyone is subject to the punishment of death and damnation for their sins.
The Truth Is:

We all need the forgiveness of sins and justification, for:
1. We all were conceived and born into sin.  We have a sinful nature which is morally wicked and inclined only to sin.
2. We all are sinners who have failed to do the good God requires.
3. We all commit sins every day, even sins we are not aware of.
4. We all are subject to the punishment of death and damnation for our sins.

4. What has God done to accomplish our justification?

2 Cor.5:21  He made him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for our sake, so we might become the righteousness of God in him.

1. God charged our sins against Jesus and credited Jesus’ righteousness to us.

Ro.4:25  (Jesus our Lord) was delivered for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.

1. Having charged our sins against Jesus, God made him suffer our punishment of death.
2. God raised Jesus from the dead to show us that he had accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins and that he has forgiven our sins.

1 Jn.2:2  (Jesus Christ) is the reconciling sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.

1. Jesus’ death was his reconciling sacrifice and offering to pay for the sins of all people and to restore them to God’s favor.

2 Cor.5:19  God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their transgressions against them.

1. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of all people God reconciled the sinners of the world to himself and restored everyone to his peace and favor.
2.
Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death for everyone’s sins, God does not charge people’s sins against them, nor will he punish them for their sins.

The Truth Is:

God accomplished the justification and forgiveness of all people:
1. By charging their sins against Jesus and crediting Jesus’ righteousness to them.
2. By punishing Jesus for the sins of all people and raising him from the dead to declare their sins forgiven.
3. By not charging people’s sins against them for the sake of Jesus’ sacrificial death, which has reconciled all people to himself.
Note:  This is called objective, or universal, justification.

5. To whom does God offer the forgiveness of sins and justification?

Lk.24:47  . . . and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations – beginning from Jerusalem.
Mk.16:15 
And he (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

The Truth Is:

God offers the forgiveness of sins and justification to all people everywhere.

6. Who actually receives the forgiveness of sins and is justified?

Ro.3:28  For we conclude a man is justified by faith without works of law.

  1. A person is justified, meaning he is declared righteous and forgiven, by means of faith in Jesus Christ.  So it is the believer in Jesus who receives forgiveness of sins and is justified.

Ro.3:21,22  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, namely a righteousness from God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe.

  1. Through faith in Jesus Christ a  person receives Jesus’ righteousness that God credits to all who believe in Jesus.
The Truth Is:

Those who believe Jesus Christ is their Savior receive the forgiveness of their sins and are justified.  Through faith in Jesus they are credited with his righteousness for their salvation.
Note:  This is subjective, or personal, justification, in which the believer receives through faith the righteousness of Christ and is declared righteous.  Through his faith the believer applies God’s objective, or universal, justification to himself.

7. What is saving faith?

Jn.17:3  And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

  1. This verse and the next one show us that saving faith includes knowing the one true God, Jesus Christ, salvation by faith, and the other essential teachings of the Bible.

Ro.10:14  How shall they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

1. Faith is a knowledge of God and his gospel of eternal life in Jesus Christ, his Son.

1 Tim.1:15  This is a dependable declaration worthy of all acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

1. Saving faith accepts as true the essential, or fundamental, teachings of the Bible, such as about the one true God, Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ did save the sinners of the world.

Pro.3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

1. Above all saving faith includes a personal trust in God and in his promise of salvation through faith in Jesus.

Ro.4:4,5  Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a gift but as what is owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who justifies the godless, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.

1. Trusting God and his promise of salvation in Christ Jesus is faith.  Such faith is not a work that God is obligated to repay with forgiveness.  Thus faith is not a good work the believer does by which he earns the right to be saved from hell and to be in heaven.
2. To the believer in Christ Jesus God credits Jesus’ saving righteousness.  This righteousness is God’s gift to the believer.  The believer’s faith itself has earned nothing.
3. It is not the faith itself that saves, in the sense that the faith is a good work which earns a saving righteousness, rather it is the object of the faith--Jesus Christ, which saves.

Eph.2:8,9  For by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast.

1. Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift of God.  The believer does not work that faith in himself.  Thus the believer cannot boast that he is righteous and has earned the right to be forgiven and in heaven because he believed while others did not.  If God had not worked the faith in the believer’s heart, he would not have believed either.

Ro.3:22  . . . namely a righteousness from God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe.

1. Faith is merely the means through which God gives Jesus’ righteousness that saves and enables the believer to be in heaven.  Faith is a hand that receives the saving righteousness of Christ which God gives to the believer.

The Truth Is:

Saving faith:
1. Includes a knowledge of the true God, of Jesus Christ the Savior, of the way of salvation through faith,
and the other essential, or fundamental, teachings of the Christian faith and Bible. (Knowledge)
2. Includes accepting the above as true and valid. (Assent)
3. Requires above all a personal trust in God and his promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. (Trust)
4. Is not a good work in itself which earns a righteous standing before God and saves.  It is a gift of God, the object of which--Jesus Christ--saves.
5. Is the hand which receives God’s gift of righteousness and salvation.

8. What blessings are received through justification by faith?

Ro.5:9  Therefore, having now been justified in his blood, by how much more shall we be saved through him from his wrath!

  1. Through justification by faith we are saved from God’s wrath and punishment.

Ro.5:1  Therefore, because we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Through justification by faith we have God’s peace; he is not angry with us anymore because of our sins.

Eph.2:19  Consequently, . . . you are fellow-citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.

  1. Through justification by faith we are God’s people and the members of his family.

Lk.23:43  “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

  1. Through justification by faith we have eternal life in heaven.
The Truth Is:

Having been justified through faith in Jesus Christ, the believer is blessed with:
1. Being delivered from God’s wrath and punishment and having God’s peace.
2. Being one of God’s people and a member of his family.
3. Eternal life in heaven.

9. Can we be certain justification saves us?

Tit.1:2  . . . on the basis of the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the beginning of time.

1. God cannot lie.  His word on justification by faith and his promise of salvation through it are true and certain.

Ro.8:38,39  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present things nor future things, nor powers, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  1. Justification by faith makes our salvation certain and convinces us that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
The Truth Is:

Justification by faith in Jesus Christ makes our salvation certain, for:
1. God’s Word, which is true, has said all who believe in Jesus Christ are justified and will be saved.
2. Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ.

10. Why is justification by faith so important to the Christian faith?

2 Tim.3:15  . . . the Holy Scriptures, . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

1. Justification through faith in Jesus Christ is the wisdom that comes from God for our salvation.  It teaches us what is the way to saved.
2. Justification through faith in Jesus Christ is the heart and core of Scripture.  It is the central truth of the Bible.  If one does not understand this teaching, he has missed the point of what the Bible is about.  The Bible remains a sealed book and its message a hidden mystery to him.

Gal.1:6,7  I am astonished that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ for another gospel, which is not really another gospel.

1. Justification through faith in Jesus is the only gospel and source of salvation.
2. Justification through faith in Jesus sets Christianity apart from all the other religions of the world, which are false religions that in some manner make salvation depend upon what people do to save themselves.  Christianity alone upholds what God in his grace has done to save us without any works or efforts on our part.

Tit.3:5,7  He (God) saved us, not because of works which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy,  by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

1. Justification alone gives us hope, confidence, and comfort.

Rev.7:10,12  . . . and they are crying out with a loud voice: “Salvation is our God’s, who sits on the throne, and the Lamb’s.” . . . “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever.  Amen!”

1. Justification gives all the praise and the glory for salvation to God and Jesus Christ.

The Truth Is:

Justification is all important to the Christian faith, because:
1. It is the central truth of the Bible, which teaches us that the way to be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. It separates and distinguishes Christianity from all the false religions of the world, which teach a salvation by works, not by the grace of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
3. It alone can comfort us and give us the confidence of salvation.
4. It gives all praise and glory to God for our salvation.

Review Questions

1. Define the term justification.
2. One church teaches that justification means to be made righteous, that God enables individuals to become more and more righteous in their manner of living until finally they have become saints who are able to enter into heaven.  How does this teaching compare to your answer above and to the Bible’s meaning of justification?
3. Some churches teach that Jesus Christ died only for the believers, so only they have been justified.  Compare their teaching to what the Bible teaches.  Are they correct?  What Bible verse can you cite to support your answer?
4. Some believe they can become perfect.  Compare their belief to what the Bible teaches.  Are they correct?  What Bible verse can you cite to support your answer?
5. Check which of the following statements are correct.

 a. Justification and forgiveness of sins are the same thing.
 b. A person is justified because his faith is a good work which he does that makes him  righteous and saves him.
 c. Those who are justified are considered by God to be holy and perfect.
 d. Objective, or universal, justification means God has declared all the believers to be righteous.
 e. God offers the forgiveness of sins and salvation to all people.
 f. All people have the forgiveness of their sins.
 g. Only believers in Jesus have the forgiveness of their sins.
 h. Subjective, or personal, justification means that the believer by his faith in Jesus has applied to himself the forgiveness of sins Jesus obtained for all people.
 i. Saving faith is a gift of God.

6. When was objective justification accomplished?
7. When does subjective justification take place?
8. True or false: The Bible and all its teachings can be correctly understood without an understanding of justification by faith.
9. What makes Christianity different from all the other religions of the world?



Unpublished work. Copyright 1995 JCS of Christian Inconnect. All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced for distribution or publication without prior permission from Christian Inconnect.

All Scripture verses on this web page, unless otherwise indicated, are a translation of the pastor of Christian Inconnect and are a part of the Christian Inconnect Version (CIV), on which he is working. He reserves all rights to his translated verses and to their copyright ©. They may not be quoted without his prior permission.
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