Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION”

 

Granting that the holy and righteous God is, that His Word is true, that man is a fallen creature, and that Jesus is the only savior of sinful men’s souls, the most important question anyone can ask is how does a man come to be right with God? Christianity is the reality behind which every false religion is only a shabby imitation. Only orthodox Christianity, and by that I mean real Christianity and not the Eastern Catholic Church, features such things as real grace, real faith, a real reliance upon the truth of God’s Word, a real savior who is not a caricature of the Biblical Jesus, and a real application of the Biblical doctrine of justification. This word, justification, and the doctrine found in the Bible closely related to this word, together comprise the key to answering the question how does a man come to be right with God, for we shall see that no other concept is advanced in scripture by which any man comes to be right with God.

I am convinced beyond doubt that we who live in these modern times in the west have grown up to be the first generations in the history of mankind who are not primarily oral communicators, but are primarily visual communicators. That is the partial explanation, in my opinion, why we are so little affected by the preaching of God’s Word, and why so many who eventually come to Christ do so only after hearing very many sermons. To be sure, some few hear a good gospel sermon and respond in faith believing when they are exposed to the gospel for the first time. However, such conversions occur far less frequently in our day than in days gone by. I am persuaded that the cause of this is partly a general inability to pay attention for a long enough time to hear a sermon through, as well as a lack of the developed skill at hearing and gleaning truth by hearing that was so common among all classes of people in all but recent times.

Therefore, the gospel preacher faces a challenge on two fronts: He must not only preach sound doctrine as simply as possible for unskilled listeners to comprehend, but he must also preach sound doctrine repeatedly so that, little by little, the hearer will eventually grasp enough truth to so assemble it in his thinking and make right use of it to his advantage. Another challenge is how effective preaching is to be accomplished without so droning on in the minds of the converted listeners in attendance that they are not bored to distraction. The only way this can be accomplished, I think, is to bear down on subject matter that is of such profound interest to the child of God that it is nigh unto impossible to bore him with it.

What do Christians want to hear over and repeatedly? The old hymn tells us. “Tell me the old, old story.” Therefore, the gospel and those issues directly related to the gospel are never tiresome to the child of God when they are handled properly. Everything that adds to one’s understanding of the glorious gospel of God’s grace to sinners is too sweet for the Christian to ever pass by. We are always ready to hear about it again. Therefore, I am going to spend considerable time on Sunday evenings dealing with one facet of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Biblical doctrine of justification. Not only will the Christian benefit from a fuller understanding of God’s plan of saving sinners, but consideration of justification from every angle I can think of may well result in unconverted listeners grasping the means by which God brings to pass their salvation. As well, justification is such a profoundly interesting subject that you can be sure that no one who is elect could ever become bored by a proper consideration of the matter, and that when the lost reach the point of not wanting to hear about justification any more, you might suspect that the real cause of their reaction is a refusal of Jesus Christ on the basis by which God offers Him as the savior.

Before anything more is said, allow me to state for your encouragement that justification is a Bible doctrine, a teaching, that is understandable. There is not a child in this room who is not capable of getting his arms around the doctrine of justification. If attention is paid to what the Bible actually says, justification can be understood by anyone, once you understand that justification is a completely different concept than the way every sinner imagines it ought to be. Therefore, anticipating that you are being exposed to an approach to salvation that is different than you might have imagined, I urge you to consciously and intentionally open your mind and heart to God’s way of saving sinners.

Six points this evening will serve to introduce us to the doctrine, or the teaching in the Bible, of justification:

 

First, THE BIBLE TEACHES JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

 

As I quickly read a number of verses dealing with justification, I would like you to be mindful of but one thing at this point. At this time I seek only to establish that justification is obviously a very important concept in the Bible, and that the Bible teaches justification by faith: Job 25.4: “How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” This is the great question as the patriarch Job posed it. To be justified with God is to enjoy the standing of a man who is clean. Yet, how can any man be clean who is born of a woman? Acts 13.39: “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” What courageous words the Apostle Paul spoke to those Jewish men in that synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. The Jewish people had embraced the Law of Moses for almost 1500 years, but Paul declared they could not be justified by it. How then could someone be justified in the sight of God? Through faith. Paul said, “All that believe are justified,” with the word believe being a form of the Greek word for faith.[1] Romans 3.28: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” It is easier to see in this verse, obviously, than in the previous verse I read to you. The Bible teaches justification by faith, that faith is the means by which justification is accomplished. Romans 5.1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This verse not only shows that the Bible teaches justification by faith, faith being the instrumental means of justification, but that the result of justification by faith is peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is a very good thing. Romans 8.30: “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Justification is part of that golden chain that connects eternity past with eternity future in the life of the sinner who is justified. First Corinthians 6.11: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Galatians 3.24: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

Can there be any doubt that the Bible teaches justification by faith? None whatsoever. Be mindful that faith is the not the reason why justification occurs, as though Jesus saves sinners because they believe in Him. Thus, it is not precisely correct to say that sinners are saved because they believe in Jesus. Rather, faith is the means through which justification is accomplished, with Jesus saving sinners through their faith in Him. Therefore, sinners are not saved because they have faith, though sinners are saved through their faith. If that distinction is difficult for you to grasp this evening, be patient. In the next couple of weeks, you will come to understand it well.

I conclude this point with First Corinthians 13.13, which reads, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Thus, while charity (or love) is the greatest of these three, it is faith and only faith, which is the means through which the acquisition of God’s blessings is accomplished.

 

Next, THE BIBLE TEACHES JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE

 

If justification by faith shows us the means employed to accomplish this thing called justification, grace reveals to us the character of this thing called justification. Several verses reveal to us the character of this thing called justification: Romans 3.24: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Justification by God’s grace reveals to us that justification is a gift, that it is undeserved and unearned. If justification was earned or deserved it would not occur freely, as we have seen here. Titus 3.7: “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Again, justified by God’s grace. Romans 11.6 shows us the relationship between that which is the result of God’s grace and that which is the result of one’s works: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

Thus, whatever justification is, and remember that we do not yet know what it is, it is an important occurrence that is accomplished through the instrumentality of faith, while at the same time being the result of God’s grace. This means that it is unearned and undeserved. Justification is by its character always associated with a free gift. “Being justified freely by his grace.”

 

Third, THE QUESTION NEEDS TO BE ASKED, WHO JUSTIFIES?

 

Justification is obviously important in the Bible, since the word is so thoroughly connected to a person’s standing before God. Therefore, it is vital to understand who it is that justifies, the sinner or God, or perhaps someone else. Not yet knowing what justification actually is, per se, let me read some verses that show us who it is that justifies sinners: Romans 3.30: “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” Circumcision refers to Jewish people, uncircumcision refers to Gentile people. Thus, it is God Who justifies both Jews and Gentiles who are justified. Romans 8.30: “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” The “he” referred to repeatedly in this verse is God. First Corinthians 6.11: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” I would suggest to you that this verse shows the Holy Spirit of God to be the Agent of God the Father in applying justification to the sinner. Galatians 3.8: “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.” Again, God justifies the heathen, meaning it is God who justifies the Gentiles. Titus 3.7: “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The antecedent of the pronoun he, found back in Titus 3.4, is clearly God. Paul’s reference is to being justified by God’s grace.

Thus, it is God who does the justifying of sinners. Justification is by means of faith, is by its character gracious, or free and undeserved and unearned, and is something that is accomplished by God. The Spirit of God is His Agent, while it is shown that it is God that justifies.

 

Fourth, ANOTHER QUESTION IS, WHO IS JUSTIFIED?

 

We already know from the verses I have read to you that both Jewish people and Gentile people are justified by God. However, not all Jewish people, and not all Gentile people are justified by God. Of all the people who have lived on this earth, with each and every one of them being sinners, we know that only sinners are justified, since no one who has ever lived except Jesus has not been a sinner.

Indeed, Paul’s argument in chapters 1-3 of his letter to the Romans is that justification, which is by faith, is obviously needed by men because of their sinfulness. Turn to Romans 3.9-28:

 

9      What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

10     As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11     There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12     They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13     Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14     Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15     Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16     Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17     And the way of peace have they not known:

18     There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19     Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20     Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21     But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22     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:

23     For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24     Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25     Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26     To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

27     Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28     Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

 

Please do not allow the length of the passage to overwhelm you. The point that Paul seeks to make is that men are obviously very sinful, and that each of us is in great need to be justified. Sinners, and only sinners, are justified. However, not all sinners are justified. To remind you from the first point, only those sinners who have faith in Jesus Christ are justified.

 

Fifth, NOTE WHAT JUSTIFICATION IS NOT

 

I have placed this point in my message for the express purpose of reminding you that justification, whatever it may be, is not “just as if I’d never sinned,” despite how many children were taught this definition in Sunday School. I point this out because it is important to realize that when a sinner comes to Jesus Christ and is justified by faith, it is not a matter of God restoring that sinner to the state he was in prior to sinning.

We were all born with inherited sinful natures from our father, Adam, Romans 5.12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Thus, there is no restoring us to our sinless past, since we have never personally experienced any sinless past. As well, consider that so much of the New Testament is devoted to explaining how Christians should deal with their sinful natures after being justified, and exhorting them to fight the good fight against their indwelling sinfulness, it is clearly not the case that those who are justified are now just as if they had never sinned.

 

Finally, OBSERVE WHAT JUSTIFICATION IS

 

Justification is a very important term in the Bible. As well, it refers to something that is far removed from the thinking of natural man. Proverbs 14.12 and 16.25 both read, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Thus, what we think is the right way are the ways of death. Isaiah 55.8-9 shows how different are God’s thoughts and ways from our thoughts and ways about sins and the remedy for sins:

 

8      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

9      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

Having shown you from the Bible that God’s way of thinking and doing things is very different from yours and mine, allow me to read to you the definition of justification arrived at by two wonderful men of God, and then we can support what they say from scripture as being true: James Buchanan, a 19th century Scottish theologian, wrote that, “Justification is a legal, or forensic, term, and is used in Scripture to denote the acceptance of any one as righteous in the sight of God.”[2] Another says, “Justification is a most gracious and righteous act of God, whereby He, imputing the righteousness of Christ to a believing sinner, absolveth him from his sins, and accepteth of him as righteous in Christ, and as an heir of eternal life, to the praise and glory of His own Mercy and Justice.”[3] Notice that the essence of what both men say about justification includes the idea of justified while being sinful, without any hint at all that the sin problem must be solved before justification takes place. If this holds up under examination, it shows why justification is the most beloved of Bible doctrines to sinners, because it shows how sinners can be saved while being yet sinners!

Let me show you just a few of the many passages that support this understanding of justification by faith in the Bible: Romans 4.3: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” This occurred before Abraham was ever circumcised, and centuries before the Law was given to Moses, when Abraham was obviously justified by faith though he was a sinful man. Second Corinthians 5.19 & 21:

 

19     To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

 

21     For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

 

What Paul refers to as imputing in Second Corinthians 5.19 and what Moses writes about God counting Abraham’s faith for righteousness is the same. It is justification, assigning to a sinner a righteousness not his own and not attributing to him the unrighteousness which is his, and it is wrought by God when a sinner, a sinner mind you, comes to Jesus Christ by faith.

 

There are only two religions in the world, if you really get down to basics. There is the religion of man and the religion of God. Whatever trappings are associated with it, the religion of man features a salvation that is a process that comes about over time as a person labors to tip the scales to balance in his favor so that he will be good enough to be accepted by God, or Allah, or karma, or whatever that false religion substitutes for the true God. Call it Roman Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, liberal Christianity, or even Scientology, the basic scheme of each of these false religions is the same; doing something over time so that you become better, eventually coming to the place where you deserve to go to heaven, or paradise, or nirvana, or whatever else they call it.

The religion of God, however, features no salvation of men who have become good enough over time to deserve heaven, for there are no such men. The religion of God features a salvation that instantaneously so alters a sinner’s standing before God that though he was a condemned sinner before, he enjoys the standing of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, afterward. You might ask, before and after what? Before and after justification. God’s religion recognizes that no sinner can ever merit heaven, because sinners are all dead in trespasses and sins. Thus, there is no possibility of gradual improvement.

God’s religion features justification, whereby a sinner’s status is immediately and forever changed, so that when he is justified by faith in Christ, he is assigned the status of Jesus Christ, to him is imputed the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Does the sinner become a better person? Justification does not speak to being a better person, but to being given a better status. Thus, no matter who you are, and no matter what you are, if you come to Jesus, if you are justified by faith, you will have peace with God, because everything that separates you from God is judicially dealt with in an instant!

Romans 5.6 declares that “Christ died for the ungodly,” so the ungodly can be justified. That means you will be justified, in an instant, effortlessly, and without deserving it in any way, when you come to Jesus Christ.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 817.

[2] James Buchanan, The Doctrine Of Justification: An Outline of Its History in the Church and of Its Exposition from Scripture, (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006, reprinted from Baker Books 1970 edition), page 226.

[3] Bishop Downhame, cited in Buchanan, page 233.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org