The following definition will clarify the scriptural doctrine of justification.
JUSTIFICATION — ‘In theology, remission of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ’ (Noah Webster, 1828). A sinner is justified when God declares him to be righteous.
ALL MEN NEED GOD’S JUSTIFICATION
None of Adam’s natural descendants are righteous — For by the first man Adam “sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). The word of the Lord plainly declares: “…There is none righteous, no, not one…There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).
The psalmist David wrote: “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1-3). The prophet Isaiah confirmed: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
THE FOREORDAINED RIGHTEOUS ONE
God foreordained his everlasting Son whom he loved “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24; 1Peter 1:18-21) to be sent into the world “in the fulness of the time” (Galatians 4:4) in a body he prepared for him (Hebrews 10:5). In his body, the Lord Jesus Christ lived a sinless life. Only one man, “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1John 2:1; 1Timothy 2:5), “the Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14), “the Just One” (Acts 7:52; 22:14), kept God’s holy law perfectly during his entire life on earth, when he “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
In his body, he was made “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Corinthians 5:21).
The “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10) is “the glorious gospel of Christ” (2Corinthians 4:4): “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:3-4).
Now God makes Christ Jesus unto all believers “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1Corinthians 1:30)! Even after God has justified a man, the righteousness in his life comes from God: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE
Other words for FAITH are TRUST and BELIEVE.
Outstanding truths from Romans Chapter Three — If you will read the entire chapter for yourself, you can verify that the following points are not taken out of context. Then your trust may be in “the words of God” (John 3:34) and not in the words of man.
Justification by religious works is impossible — The law scripture says “to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law [religious works] there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).
The apostle Paul made this doctrine clear when he said to Peter, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16).
The unbearable yoke — Although the “law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), nevertheless the law is a “yoke” which no natural man can bear (Acts 15:10-11).
The futility of religion — The brightness of the biblical doctrine of God’s justification of men by faith alone plainly reveals that man’s attempt to obtain righteousness by the practice of any religion is entirely futile—even the practice of “pure religion” (James 1:27)! The heathen, who hope to be justified through the practice of their many and various religions, are like unbelieving Israel who “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness [by “the Jewish religion” (Galatians 1:15-16)], have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3).
Faith without works is counted for righteousness — James does not contradict the doctrine of God’s justification of man by faith when he asked, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21); and then declared: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). By the scripture we know that James was not speaking of God’s justification of Abraham, but of Abraham’s justification by men:
“For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:1-5).
Righteousness must precede justification — The LORD said, “I will not justify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7). And the word of God says, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). Since the scripture declares: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Therefore, God cannot declare any unrighteous man to be righteous! Therefore, God must put upon a man’s account the righteousness of Jesus Christ before he can justify him!
Sinners receive the gift of God’s righteousness by faith — “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24):
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God… But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him… For if through the offence of one [“the first man Adam” (1Corinthians 15:45)] many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ [“the last Adam” (1Corinthians 15:45)], hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
“For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ). Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:1-21).
After our justification, Christ Jesus “is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1Corinthians 1:30). The prophet Isaiah wrote: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17). No wonder the wise psalmist declared: “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only” (Psalm 71:16)!
Innocent youth — According to the scriptures, every man is “born like a wild ass’s colt” (Job 11:12) and “at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah” (Psalm 39:5), and “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3; Job 11:12). All men are sinners (Romans 3:23; 5:12) who have been conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5); therefore, none of them are righteous. And yet God, whose “understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5), who is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6), reckons all men innocent from the time of their conception until they receive “the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4).
God counts all of the young children of men as innocent because they have “no knowledge between good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39). They are innocent, but they are not righteous. Righteousness exhibits ‘conformity of heart and life to the divine law,’ and these innocent ones do not yet know the law.
For example, the apostle Paul declared: “For I was alive without the law once [when he was innocent]: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9), “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). When Paul gained the knowledge of good and evil by the law, he passed from being spiritually alive in a state of innocence to being spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Speaking of these innocent ones, Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). This wonderful truth reveals that all men who die between the time of their conception, and before they come to know the truth, will be saved. Only God determines the age at which he will begin to hold any man accountable. God referred to the children of Israel under the age of twenty as “little ones” (Numbers 14:31). These were allowed to enter into the promised land. But with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all the men over twenty years of age died in the wilderness. God prevented them from entering into the promised land “because of unbelief” (Numbers 14:26-31; Hebrews 3:19).
Justification and salvation by believing the word of faith — “For Christ is the end [‘purpose’] of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4): “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
At whatever age a man understands his guilt before God, at that time he passes from innocence to unrighteousness! But thank God, “the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above🙂 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:4-9).
God is just to justify sinners because of Christ’s righteousness — “Whom [Christ Jesus] God hath set forth to be a propitiation [‘atoning sacrifice offered to God to assuage his wrath and render him propitious to sinners.’ The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross has made God ‘Disposed to be gracious or merciful; ready to forgive sins and bestow blessings’ (Noah Webster, 1828)] through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26) “…Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2).
No boasting! — “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:19-31).
GOD’S IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS
Because God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), he cannot declare any man just until he has imputed [which means: ‘To charge; to attribute; to set to the account of’] the righteousness of Jesus Christ to him! God will never justify [declare a man to be “just” or “righteous” (2Peter 2:7-8)] until the man—by his faith in the word of God, believes in his heart “the glorious gospel of Christ” (2Corinthians 4:3-4; Romans 10:9).
Father of the faithful — Abraham is “the father of all them that believe” (Romans 4:11). When the Lord GOD promised Abram [Abraham] that he would multiply his seed as the stars of heaven, “he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:1-6; Romans 4:3). God also imputes his righteousness to all that believe. The scripture declares: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-14).
Every man’s justification is based entirely upon God’s imputed righteousness (Genesis 15:4-6; Romans 4:6), for the word of God clearly says that “there is none righteous [by his own works], no, not one” (Romans 3:10)!
The scripture says “that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness…For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith…Therefore it [justification] is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all…And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
“And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:8-25).
The physical and spiritual seed of Abraham — The unbelieving Jews were the physical seed of Abraham, but they were not the spiritual children of God by faith. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews: “I know that ye are Abraham’s [physical] seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you…. If ye were Abraham’s [spiritual] children, ye would do the works of Abraham…. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me…Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:37-44).
Until I was forty-one years of age, I was a heathen Gentile according to the flesh and a spiritual child of the devil, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). But when I read and believed the glorious saving gospel of Christ, I passed from death unto life (John 5:24). I was “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:24). Now I have everlasting peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Now I am one of “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26), and Abraham is my spiritual father (Romans 4:11).
GOD’S JUSTIFICATION IS OFFERED TO ALL MEN
Even though “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), all sinners may receive the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ and be justified freely by God’s grace (Romans 3:21-24). The Lord Jesus Christ is “the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42; 1John 4:14): “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:29-31).