There is a lot of controversy over justification. Some believe that you can be justified by works while others believe you can only be justified by faith. The Bible supports justification by faith. It is clearly stated in the New Testament that we are justified by our faith in God and not by works which we commit. It is said that “those who have been justified have ‘peace with God’ and are no longer under the wrath of God” (White, 2). When we are justified in our faith we are no longer held under the law. We are now under grace. We no longer have to live in fear of God’s wrath. We are now excused from it. We can now live with peace in our hearts that we are forgiven for all of our sins. Justification is central to the entire gospel of Christ (White, 2). The whole concept of the gospel of Christ revolves around justification.
“If there is no justification, then there is no gospel-no good news, only bad news” (Sproul, 71). Justification supports the gospel. It is what gives us hope. It is by justification that we are forgiven. “Justification involves the forgiveness of the sins of those who are called […]” (White, 4). The act of justification is undertaken by God not by the believer (White, 5). We as believers can not justify ourselves. God is the one who must justify us. It is not by anything we do ourselves that we can become justified. Justification is a free act from God and is in no way dependent on human actions (White, 5). When we choose to accept Jesus into our hearts it is then that we become justified. It is not by something we have done, but rather by the act of Christ coming into our hearts and saving us. Justification is understood as something active instead of as an abstract idea (McGrath, 26).
Once we have asked Christ into our hearts we are said to be justified. Justification means to be declared to be right or in the right before God as judge (McGrath, 26). Now that we are saved and have Jesus in our hearts we are now restored before God. We are now made to be pure and holy before him. Now as we stand before God we are seen as spotless. It is now as if we have never sinned. All our past sin has been washed away and forgotten by God. Now when we stand before him in judgment we will be seen as righteous and not as the wretched sinner that we are. Those who stand before him as sinners and are lost will then face the judgment of God and spend eternity in hell.
Salvation is given to us as a gift, bringing with it the transformation of the individual” (McGrath, 27). When we are saved we are transformed into a new creature. The old man that we were is now passed away. We are no longer bound by the chains of sin. We have now been set free. We are now led by the Holy Spirit. We no longer rely on ourselves but on God. We can now turn to him for our source of strength. Salvation and justification are not just for the chosen but for all those who choose to believe. “God’s gracious justification of sinners is offered to all through faith in Jesus Christ, a justification accomplished once and for all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (McGrath, 27). Jesus went to the death on the cross not only to save us that we might be able to spend eternity in heaven but also that through him we might receive justification. “Justification respects a man as ungodly” (Edwards, 1). Before becoming saved we must realize that we are all sinners and that we are lost. We are without hope in this world. We only become godly when we have asked Jesus into our hearts. It is not until then that we are able to grasp the will of God and who he is.
God is the only one who can make us justified. It is not something we can do on our own. “A person is said to be justified when he is approved by God as free from guilt of sin and its deserved punishment, and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles him to the reward of life” (Edwards, 5). When we are saved, we are saved from death. We are saved out of bondage and hell. We gain a hope in Christ and eternal life through him. It is not until we are saved that we learn the true meaning of really living.
The believer’s justification implies not only remission of sins, or acquittal from the wrath due to it, but also admittance to the title to that glory which is the reward of righteousness (Edwards, 7). When we become justified we are no longer held responsible for our sins. We are no longer held responsible because Jesus was willing to go to the cross and die for our sins. He took it upon himself to be a payment for our sins. He loved us so much that he was willing to die for us. “The central figure in the process of justification is Christ Jesus” (Stuhlmacher, 55). As believers we must realize that it is Christ who paid the ultimate price for our justification not us. “God handed Jesus over to death for our trespasses and raised him for our justification” (Stuhlmacher, 56). It was not until Jesus was raised from the dead that we were truly able to become justified.
“In justification God acts as creator and gracious judge, sending his Son for the salvation of Gentiles and Jews as well as of the whole creation” (Stuhlmacher, 60). When God sent his son to die upon the cross he did not send him to save only a few people. He did not send him to save certain tribes or cultures of people. But rather God sent his son to die for all people, people of every shape, size, color and background. He came to save all those who were sinners. “Sinners are justified because God’s own Son died on the cross an accursed death, to which sinners themselves would need to be sentenced as soon as their iniquities were discovered in the final judgment” (Stuhlmacher, 61). If Christ had not come to die upon the cross each of us as sinners would have been expected to die as the final judgment for our sins. It is only by God’s grace and the death of his son that we no longer have to die that death.
“The doctrine of justification has to do with our status before the just judgment of God” (Sproul, 70). We will all one day be called to stand before God and give an account for our lives. “That every person will ultimately be called into account before God is central to the teaching of Jesus” (Sproul, 70). All of Jesus’ teachings state that we will all stand before God on the Day of Judgment. No one will be left out. Even those who chose to reject him will one day stand before him and give an account for their actions. Therefore justification is simply an act of faith in which we are restored to a righteous position before God. Once we have become justified God sees us as if we had never sinned. We are restored to our rightful place beside God the Father. We are no longer seen as wretched sinners but as joint heirs with Christ.
Edwards, Jonathan. Justification by Faith Alone. Soli Deo Gloria Publications, Pennyslvania:2000.
McGrath, Alister E. Justification by Faith: What it means to us today. Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan: 1998.
Sproul, R.C. Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. Baker Books, Michigan: 1995
Stuhlmacher, Peter. A Challenge to the New Perspective: Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification. Inter Varsity Press, Illinios: 2001.
White, James. Justification by Faith. Crowne Publications, Inc, Maine: 1990.