|By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|Justification is arguably the single most important doctrine in the Bible. It is without question a doctrine that is rejected and opposed by all cults and indeed all religions outside of Christianity.|
Justification is arguably the single most important doctrine in the Bible. It is without question a doctrine that is rejected and opposed by all cults and indeed all religions outside of Christianity. In his book Know Your Christian Life: A Theological Introduction, theologian Sinclair Ferguson discusses its importance, not only for the church but also for the Christian:
He then explains why this doctrine is difficult—for some to accept:
Here are the characteristics that distinguish justification:
1. Justification is an undeserved free gift of God’s mercy (Rom. 3:24; Titus 3:7).
2. Justification is entirely accomplished by God, once for all. (It is not a process like personal sanctification, but knowledge of it does help produce sanctification.)
One of the leading theologians of our time, James Packer stated:
In other words, if God the Father justified us at the point of belief, is it possible the Son would ever repudiate the Father’s legal declaration?
3. Justification involves an imputed righteousness entirely apart from works: the righteousness of God Himself has been given to the believer. It has nothing to do with a person’s own righteousness (Rom. 4:5, 6, 17-25).
It is not only that God overlooks our sin and guilt, but also that full and entire holiness is credited to our account. Bruce Milne describes the transaction this way:
Righteousness is imputed because the believer actually is united to Christ. In other words, because the believer is “in Christ,” the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him. Justification is the subsequent legal recognition of that fact. We are declared (past tense) righteous. We now have perfect righteousness before God (not personally, but legally).
In his book God’s Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes, J. I. Packer discusses the meaning of justification and contrasts it with the Catholic and Mormon view:
Thus, as Baker’s Dictionary of Theology points out, every believer in Christ is now treated by God as if they are righteous (on the basis of their imputed righteousness), not as if they are sinners:
4. Justification is accomplished in harmony with God’s justice. It displays His holiness; it does not deny it. The only way for the sinner’s justification to be truly just in God’s eyes is for two requirements to be absolutely satisfied. The first is that every requirement of the law must be satisfied. The second is that the infinitely holy character of God must be satisfied. J. I. Packer comments:
This is exactly what Scripture teaches—that God can be both just and the justifier of those who place their faith in Jesus:
1. Justification demands we trust in Christ’s righteousness alone and not our own.
2. Justification properly orients Christian morality.
a. The motive for Christian service and living becomes obedience out of love and gratitude to a Savior whose gift of righteousness made law keeping unnecessary, not pride and self-exaltation in self-righteousness and good works.
b. The Doctrine of Justification encourages morality and discourages licentiousness when we consider the One who redeemed us and the cost of our redemption (Cf. Rom. 6:10-18).
3. Justification means Christians may be assured that they now possess eternal life.
a. A divine gift is perfect and cannot be taken back. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:29).
Perfect righteousness is a gift (Jas. 1:17; Rom. 3:24). God can only give perfect righteousness if we are declared perfectly righteous by Him. What condition can exist in the future so that we can lose our righteous standing? If righteousness is a gift to sinners and enemies (if He did the most for us when we hated Him and were His enemies), will God do less for us now that we are His precious children (Rom. 5:8, 9)?
b. Eternal life could only be a present condition on a just basis: if from the point of belief we were “eternally righteous” i.e., declared eternally righteous. This is why Scripture teaches that the believer now has eternal life.