(3.) a forensic term, opposed to condemnation. As regards its nature, it is the judicial act of God, by which he pardons all the sins of those who believe in Christ, and accounts, accepts, and treats them as righteous in the eye of the law, i.e., as conformed to all its demands. In addition to the pardon (q.v.) of sin, justification declares that all the claims of the law are satisfied in respect of the justified. It is the act of a judge and not of a sovereign. The law is not relaxed or set aside, but is declared to be fulfilled in the strictest sense; and so the person justified is declared to be entitled to all the advantages and rewards arising from perfect obedience to the law (Ro 5:1-10).
(4.) It proceeds on the imputing or crediting to the believer by God himself of the perfect righteousness, active and passive, of his Representative and Surety, Jesus Christ (Ro 10:3-9). Justification is not the forgiveness of a man without righteousness, but a declaration that he possesses a righteousness which perfectly and for ever satisfies the law, namely, Christ's righteousness (2Co 5:21; Ro 4:6-8).
(5.) The sole condition on which this righteousness is imputed or credited to the believer is faith in or on the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is called a "condition," not because it possesses any merit, but only because it is the instrument, the only instrument by which the soul appropriates or apprehends Christ and his righteousness (Ro 1:17; 3:25-26; 4:20,22; Php 3:8-11; Ga 2:16).
(6.) The act of faith which thus secures our justification secures also at the same time our sanctification (q.v.); and thus the doctrine of justification by faith does not lead to licentiousness (Ro 6:2-7). Good works, while not the ground, are the certain consequence of justification (Ro 6:14; 7:6). (See Galatians, Epistle to.)
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(See IMPUTE.) "The just shall live by faith" (Hab 2:4) is thrice quoted by Paul:
(1) Ro 1:17, where the emphasis is on "just," the gospel plan of saving men sets forth "the righteousness (justice) of God" as excluding the righteousness of man, Gentile and Jew alike (Ro 1:17 ff; Romans 2; Ro 3:25).
(2) Ga 3:11, etc., where the emphasis is on "faith" as distinguished front works, either distinct from or combined with faith, in the act of justification, this is by faith alone.
(3) Heb 10:38-39, where the emphasis is on "live"; as in the first instance in the matter of justification, so throughout, spiritual life is continued only by faith as opposed to "drawing back."
Again, the gratuitousness of God's gift of justification is brought out by comparing Ro 3:24, "being justified freely (doorean) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," with Joh 15:25, "they hated ME without a cause" (doorean). As gratuitous as was man's hatred, so gratuitous is God's love justifying believers through Christ. Man had every cause to love, yet he hated, God; God had every cause given by man to hate, yet He loves, man. The Hebrew tsadaquw, Greek dikaioo, expresses, not to infuse righteousness into but to impute it to, man; to change his relation to God legally or forensically, not in the first instance to change his character. "Justification" is no more an infusion of righteousness than "condemnation," its opposite, is an infusion of wickedness, as is proved by De 25:1, "the judges shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked," Pr 17:15; Isa 5:23; Ps 143:2, which shows that by inherent righteousness no man could be justified.
In 40 Old Testament passages the Hebrew is used in the forensic sense, Isa 53:11, "by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many" is no exception, for the mode of His justifying them follows, "He shall bear their iniquities." So in Da 12:3 ministers "justify" or "turn to righteousness" their converts instrumentally, i.e. bring them to God who justifies them. In Da 8:14, margin, "the sanctuary shall be justified" means "shall be vindicated from profanation," shall stand in a relation of right before God which it had not done before its cleansing. Similarly the Greek verb means not to make righteous or pure, but to count righteous before God. Opposed to katakrinoo, "to condemn", Ro 8:33-34; "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?" Also Ro 5:16; Lu 18:14. Mt 11:19 means like Da 8:14, "wisdom is vindicated from the condemnation" east on her by "this generation."
Also Mt 12:37; Lu 7:29, the publicans "justified God"; i.e. vindicated His righteousness, showed they counted Him righteous in His "counsel" by accepting the gospel; opposed to the Pharisees who "rejected" it, to their own condemnation (Ro 2:13). Before man's bar, ordinarily, the righteousness on account of which he is justified or counted righteous is his own; before God's bar, the righteousness on account of which he is justified is Christ's, which is God's (2Pe 1:1). Therefore pardon accompanies justification before God's bar, but pardon would be scorned by one innocent and therefore justified before man's bar. Again, acquittal before man is not always accompanied with justification; but the sinner pardoned before God is always justified also. In 1Jo 3:7, "he that doeth righteousness is righteous even as He is righteous"; not his doing righteousness makes him righteous, but shows that he is so, i.e. justified by the righteousness of God in Christ (Ro 10:3-10).
A man "deceives" himself if he think himself "righteous," and yet does not righteousness, for "doing righteousness" is the sure fruit and proof of "being righteous," i.e. of having the only principle of true righteousness and the only mean of justification, faith. Paul's epistle to Romans proves Jew and Gentile guilty of breaking God's universal law, therefore incapable of being justified by their own righteousness, i.e. obedience to the law. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight; but now (under the gospel) the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, 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," etc. (Ro 3:20-23). Still plainer is Ro 4:3-8 "to hint that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (i.e. not as a merit, but Christ's merit apprehended by faith: Eph 2:5,8-10) is counted for righteousness.
David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works (as man has no righteousness of his own the 'righteousness imputed' to him can only be the righteousness of God in Christ) ... blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." The justified man is not only acquitted as innocent but regarded as having perfectly obeyed the law in the person of Christ. There is to him both the non-imputation of sin and the imputation of righteousness. "Being justified by God's grace he is made heir according to the hope of eternal life" (Tit 3:7; Ro 5:18-19). Christ is "of God made unto us righteousness," so that to believers He is "the Lord our righteousness" (1Co 1:30; Jer 23:6). Faith is the instrument or receptive mean of justification (Ro 3:28; Ga 2:16; 3:8).
We are justified judicially by God (Ro 8:33), meritoriously by Christ (Isa 53:11; Ro 5:19), instrumentally or mediately by faith (Ro 5:1), evidentially by works. This is the sense of James (Jas 2:14-26), otherwise James could no more be reconciled with himself than with Paul, for he quotes the same instance and the same scripture, "Abraham believed God and it (his faith) was counted to him for righteousness," as Paul does. (See JAMES; FAITH.) Luther called the doctrine of justification by faith only "the article (test) of a standing or falling church." Justin Martyr in the second century (Ep. ad Diog.) writes: "what else could cover our sins but His righteousness? in whom could we transgressors be justified but only in the Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable contrivance! that the transgressions of many should be hidden in one righteous Person and the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors." (2Co 5:21).
The Church of England Homily says: "faith doth not shut out repentance, hope, love, and the fear of God in every man justified, but it shutteth them out from the office of justifying." So: "faith, receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification, yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces." (Westminster Confession xi. 1-2). Rome makes justification the infusion of righteousness by God's Spirit and the rewarding of the good works done under His influence, at the day of judgment. This confounds justification with sanctification whereas Romans 5 and Romans 6 carefully distinguish them, and makes it a continuous process not completed until the judgment, whereas Scripture makes it completed on believing (Ro 5:1-9; 8:1; Joh 5:24).
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The word ????????? occurs but twice in the N.T., namely, Ro 4:25 and Ro 5:18. In the former passage it appears to be the equivalent in meaning of faith being imputed to the believer for righteousness, that is, of the believer being accounted righteous. Hence the word 'justification' may be said to be the estimation formed in God's mind of the believer in view of that order of things of which Christ risen is the Head. Such estimation has its expression in Christ Himself, and its consequences are seen in Rom. 5.
The question as to how a righteous God can justify a sinner is raised and answered in Romans 3. It is difficult to conceive a subject more momentous for every human being. What is set forth in the gospel at the outset is the vindication of God in righteousness as regards sin by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, where, in God's infinite grace to sinners, the question of sin and its judgement has been raised between Himself and the spotless Sin-bearer and settled to His glory. Of Him it is said, "Whom God hath set forth a mercy-seat, through faith in his blood, . . . . for the showing forth of his righteousness in the present time, so that he should be just and justify him that is of the faith of Jesus." It is then in the blood of Jesus that God's judgement of sin is seen, and it is on this righteous basis that He can justify all who believe in Him.
Justification of life (Ro 5:18) is the righteous bearing into life which is toward all through the one accomplished righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ even to death, in contrast with the bearing of the one offence of Adam which brought in death and condemnation upon all. What has been effected by the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounds in the scope of it, over all that has been brought in by the one man Adam. In the death of Christ there is seen the complete judgement and removal out of the sight of God both of the sins and of the man who sinned, believers having, through the Lord Jesus Christ raised from the dead, a new Head, in whom they live for God.
There is another aspect of justification referred to in the Epistle of James (James 2), where it is entirely a question of what appears before men. "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."
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JUSTIFICATION, in common language, signifies a vindication from any charge which affects the moral character; but in theology it is used for the acceptance of one, by God, who is, and confesses himself to be, guilty. To justify a sinner, says Mr. Bunting, in an able sermon on this important subject, is to account and consider him relatively righteous; and to deal with him as such, notwithstanding his past actual unrighteousness, by clearing, absolving, discharging, and releasing him from various penal evils, and especially from the wrath of God, and the liability to eternal death, which, by that past unrighteousness, he had deserved; and by accepting him as if just, and admitting him to the state, the privileges, and the rewards of righteousness. Hence it appears that justification, and the remission or forgiveness of sin, are substantially the same thing. These expressions relate to one and the same act of God, to one and the same privilege of his believing people. Accordingly, St. Paul clearly uses justification and forgiveness as synonymous terms, when he says, "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses," Ac 13:38-39. Also in the following passage: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," Ro 4:5-8. Here, the justification of the ungodly, the counting or imputation of righteousness, the forgiveness of iniquity, and the covering and non- imputation of sin, are phrases which have all, perhaps, their various shades of meaning, but which express the very same blessing under different views. But
(1.) the justification of a sinner does not in the least degree alter or diminish the evil nature and desert of sin. For we know "it is God," the holy God, "that justifieth." And he can never regard sin, on any consideration, or under any circumstances, with less than perfect and infinite hatred. Sin, therefore, is not changed in its nature, so as to be made less "exceedingly sinful," or less worthy of wrath, by the pardon of the sinner. The penalty is remitted, and the obligation to suffer that penalty is dissolved; but it is still naturally due, though graciously remitted. Hence appear the propriety and duty of continuing to confess and lament even pardoned sin with a lowly and contrite heart. Though released from its penal consequences by an act of divine clemency, we should still remember that the dust of self abasement is our proper place before God, and should temper our exultation in his mercy by an humbling recollection of our natural liability to his wrath. "I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God," Eze 16:62-63.
(2.) The account which has been given of justification, if correct, sufficiently points out the error of many of the Roman Catholic divines, and of some mystic theologians, who seem to suppose that to be justified is to be, not reckoned righteous, but actually made righteous, by the infusion of a sanctifying influence, producing a positive and inherent conformity to the moral image of God. This notion confounds the two distinct though kindred blessings of justification and regeneration. The former, in its Scriptural sense, is an act of God, not in or upon man, but for him, and in his favour; an act which, abstractedly considered, to use the words of Dr. Barrow, "respects man only as its object, and translates him into another relative state. The inherent principle of righteousness is a consequent of this act of God; connected with it, but not formally of it."
(3.) The justification extends to all past sins; that is, to all guilt contracted previously to that time at which the act of justification takes place. In respect of this, it is, while it remains in force, a most full, perfect, and entire absolution from wrath. "All manner of sin" is then forgiven. The pardon which is granted is a "justification," not merely from some things, from many things, from most things, but "from all things," Ac 13:39. God does not justify us, or pardon our innumerable offences, by degrees, but at once. As by the law of works he is cursed, who "continueth not in all things" which that law enjoined, so he who is truly absolved by the Gospel is cleared from all and every thing which before stood against him; and "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Well may that Gospel which reveals and offers such a benefit be termed a "great salvation!"
(4.) Another remark, which it may not be unnecessary to make, is, that justification, however effectual to our release from past guilt, does not terminate our state of probation. It is not irreversible, any more than eternal. As he who is now justified was once condemned, so he may in future come again into condemnation, by relapsing into sin and unbelief, although at present "accepted in the Beloved." Thus Adam, before transgression, was in a state of favour: but as he had not then fulfilled, to the end of his probation, the righteousness of that law under which he was placed, his ultimate and final acceptance was not absolutely certain. His privilege, as one accepted of God, might be forfeited, and was actually forfeited, by his subsequent sin. Now, our own justification or pardon only places us, as to this point, in similar circumstances. Though ever so clearly and fully forgiven, we are yet on our trial for eternity, and should "look to ourselves, that we lose not the things which we have gained." That justification may for our sin be reversed, appears from our Lord's parable of the two debtors, in which one who had obtained the blessing of forgiveness is represented as incurring the forfeiture of it by the indulgence of an unforgiving spirit toward his fellow servant, Mt 18:23-35. Let us therefore "watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation."
2. The immediate results of justification are
(1.) The restoration of amity and intercourse between the pardoned sinner and the pardoning God. For, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God," and, consequently, unforbidden access to him. The matter and ground of God's controversy with us being then removed by his act of gracious absolution, we become the objects of his friendship. "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness; and he was" immediately "called the friend of God," Jas 2:23; and so are all those who are similarly justified. This reconciliation, however, does not extend to their instant and absolute deliverance from all those evils which transgression has entailed on man. They are still liable, for a season, to affliction and pain, to temporal suffering and mortality. These are portions of the original curse from which their justification does not as yet release them. But it entitles them to such supports under all remaining trouble, and to such promises of a sanctifying influence with it, as will, if embraced, "turn the curse into a blessing." Whom the Lord loveth, he may still chasten, and in very faithfulness afflict them. But these are acts of salutary discipline, rather than of vindictive displeasure. His friendship, not his righteous hostility is the principle from which they all proceed; and the salvation, not the destruction, of the sufferer is the end to which they are all directed.
(2.) Another immediate result of justification is the adoption of the persons justified into the family of God, and their consequent right to eternal life of body and soul. God condescends to become not only their Friend, but their Father; they are the objects not merely of his amicable regard, but of his