Category Archives: Justification

The God Who Declares the Guilty Just

If anything could be considered my all-time favorite act of God in His relationship toward man, the act of God declaring the guilty to be just would be it. Without it I would stand condemned. The above title is the title to one of the lessons presented by D.A Carson in his series of lectures on “The God Who Is There”. This series of lectures is prepared for the “seekers” of God’s truth, and for the newly converted. I have also been blessed by the series. I have been listening to it on my 25 mile commute to and from work. The lesson I would like to focus on in this post is the 11th one in the series. The following is what I have gleaned from it.

The Bible goes to great lengths to show the reader that our sin is repulsive to God. Yet the Apostle Paul goes to great lengths as well to explain how the cross itself shows God to be simultaneously both just and the one to declare guilty people just.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes in great lengths how our sin makes us guilty before a holy God. This is accomplished in Romans 1:18 – 3:20. In these verses Paul unravels the truth that we all stand guilty before God. On every front we are a guilty people, no matter what our heritage is. As a matter of fact Paul contends that if you come from a heritage that knows what God’s standard is and yet still remain in rebellion, you may even be guiltier still. Paul drives home this guilty theme home with a shotgun blast of Old Testament quotations in Romans 3:10-18.

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now some might contend here that there are good people in the world. What about the doctors who discover the cure for illnesses and diseases? What about the folks like firefighters or police who risk their lives to help others? Those things are indeed good things but they do not in fact make the people good? The heart of evil is God’s creation, all of us, desiring to go our own way and rebelling against the God who made us. Don’t believe this? In Matthew 22:35 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. In the next four verses Jesus declares:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Does anyone truly do this? I know I fall completely short of it and should be considered guilty. We are all fallen and cursed. The only cure is provided through Jesus Christ the savior of the fallen and cursed. This is unpacked by the apostle Paul in Romans 3:21-26 and the following argument made in 27-31.

But now

I love that “But now” (ESV). Paul begins to write of how the guilty, the fallen and cursed, are declared just. The first thing Paul lays out (v. 21) is the revelation of God’s righteousness and its relationship to the Old Testament. He goes on to contend that this same righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. All have sinned (v. 23) and fall short of being just, but are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption (purchased back from our sin debt) that comes through Jesus Christ. Christ was put forward by God as a propitiation (satisfying) atonement by Christ’s blood shed. In other words instead of God showing His wrath toward us, God is now favorable to us through Christ’s blood. Through Christ our relationship with God drastically changes.

Verses 26 and 27 of Romans 3 drive home the conclusion of the title. They are so important. Because the text shows that not only does God provide the propitiation for our sin debt but he also demonstrates his justice by being the just God, and the justifier. God is the justifier by providing the satisfaction of the believer’s sin debt to Himself through Christ, but he also demonstrates His own righteousness by doing this. God’s justice is most powerfully demonstrated in the cross of Christ. In the audio, D.A. Carson puts it so eloquently: “There, Jesus, the God-man, bore Hell itself.” Because of this God can look at the believer as righteous. Because of this God can also look at the believer as justified. God is glorified. I am declared not-guilty.

The whole CD collection can be obtained free from Monergism Books here. I will also find a way to post the MP3 files for download below.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Short selling the righteousness of Christ

While studying through Romans chapter 3 in our Sunday morning sermon yesterday, Pastor Pat reminds us what justification is and is not. I think many of us who have been a teacher or learner through any evangelical church has heard the phrase definition offered for the justification believers receive at salvation. The phrase I am referring to is justification = just as if I had never sinned. But when we provide this definition we are in fact selling short, and I mean way short, the righteousness of Christ in our justification. You see, when we are saved by God’s grace, we are declared righteous by God. The only way a righteous and just God can declare the sinner righteous is by imputing the righteousness of Christ on the sinner. In other words, the sinless and righteous life Christ lived for us on this earth was imputed, or attached to the sinner when by God’s grace he believes. That, my friend, is the only justification that satisfies a righteous God. So when we say that justification means that it’s as if we hadn’t sinned, that only gives us a clean slate and short sells the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But when we look at the correct meaning for righteous justification we again are focused on Christ and his righteousness and what he accomplished on the cross. Amen?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Divine Righteousness and the Cross (Romans 3:21-31)


Who can charge God’s elect?

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. I have been a little sidetracked since the passing of my mother a few weeks ago. To be honest I have been having a hard time coming up with something to write about since attending the memorial. I had forgotten how natural it is to write about the things of Christ. As a believer in Christ and His gospel it should be at the forefront of your daily thoughts. Yesterday my son from Tennessee called to speak with my wife and I and in my conversation with him it naturally turned to the things of Christ. One of the many things we discussed were the promises to the believers found in Romans chapter 8. In particular verses 33 and 34. Two short verses with powerful implications for the believer. In verse 33 the apostle Paul poses the rhetorical question:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?

Much like what we read in Job, Satan stands in heaven accusing those that belong to God. How can he accuse? He does so because we still continue to sin. But as I mentioned above, Paul’s question is rhetorical because the believer should know full well that the punishment for our sins, past, present, and future, were satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Believers have not done anything to save their selves from the deserved punishment. For if we did, wouldn’t Satan’s accusations be credible? But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ that our sins were paid by Him and the rhetorical question has an answer. This is found in Paul’s proclamation in the next verse.

It is God who justifies.

If it is God who justifies the sinner through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, what leg does Satan have to stand on as he accuses? It is God who justifies the believer, His own, His elect. What this means for the believer is since God justifies, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer. In other words the sinlessness of Christ is attributed to the believer and God declares us righteous. If we have the righteousness of Christ then the accusations of Satan are null and void. He cannot make a charge against God’s elect. I am so thankful that God is the one who declares me righteous through Christ’s death and resurrection, and not something that I earn. God, who is rich in mercy and grace, is the only one who can declare you free from all charges. Forever!

Soli Deo Gloria!

1 Comment

Posted by on June 11, 2008 in Justification, righteousness, Romans, Theology


The definition of justification

With all the enthusiastic media coverage of the papal visit this week, I thought it best to post a simple reason why I do not share in the same enthusiasm. Nor would any of the eariler reformers who died opposing the doctrines of the papacy.

This reason is found in a single word, justification, as it relates to the salvation of your soul. It is one of, if not, the most significant differences in the doctrine of the papacy and the church reformers. Reformers teach that we are justified by faith apart from works (Rom. 3:20-28; 4:1-5; 9:30-32; Gal. 2:16; 3:1-14), but once we believe with true faith, the good works will flow out of the changed heart (Eph. 2:8-10; Js. 2:14, 17). The papacy teaches that we are justified by faith and the good works that come from that faith. Did you catch that little word “and“? That little word is a huge word relative to these doctrinal differences. I would contend that the word has eternal ramifications. The following is a very understandable definition from Ra McLaughlin: 

Part of the disagreement between the Calvinists and Roman Catholics on the issue of the relationship between faith, works, and justification, stems from a disagreement over the definition of “justify.” Roman Catholics generally argue that to justify someone is to recognize that the person really is righteous. Thus, they read James 2:21-22 to teach that Abraham reached a point of actual righteousness when he passed the test of being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22. Calvinists, on the other hand, recognize two definitions for “justify” (most words may have more than one meaning), seeing that it sometimes means “vindicate” or “validate,” and sometimes it means “to count a person as if he were righteous, even though he really isn’t.” For example, when Abraham believed God, God counted Abraham as if he were actually righteousness (Gen. 15:6), even though Abraham had not yet done any good works since believing. Calvinists teach that the only one who is truly righteous enough to be saved is Christ himself (Rom. 3:9-20; 5:15-19), and that Christ shares his own status as “righteous” with those who are united to him by faith (Gal. 3:17-29). The first definition, “vindication,” is the one Calvinists apply to James 2:21-22. Calvinists believe the context in James 2 is not contrasting, on the one hand, true faith plus good works, and, on the other hand, true faith without works. Rather, Calvinists argue that James is contrasting two kinds of faith, one that produces good works (true faith) and one that does not produce good works (false faith). “Vindication” seems the best definition in this passage, according to Calvinists, because Abraham was already reckoned as righteous when he believed God in Genesis 15 — many years before God “tested” (Gen. 22:1) his faith. The test was to determine whether or not Abraham’s faith was true (Gen. 22:12), not to cause Abraham to do enough good works to earn his justification.

Just something to discuss with your more enthusiastic friends.

Sola fide!


Who has clean hands?

While thinking about a song by Third Day, which is literally the lyrics from Psalm 2clean hands4, I made a note to look up the Psalm and read it again. I found some interesting stuff in verses 4 and 5.

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart ,who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Who has clean hands? In verse 6 the question is answered….well kind of.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Who are those that seek the face of God? I would have to use scripture to answer both of these questions. Romans 3 tells us that none is righteous, and no one seeks for God. So who has clean hands? No one has clean hands. Psalm 14:3 tells us as well that no one does good. Who seeks the face of the God? No one seeks the face of God. Only God can give us the desire through His grace to seek His face. Only God can declare us to have clean hands. He does this through justification. Justification that happens when God give us the faith to believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. God then declares us righteous.

Our senior pastor Patrick Abendroth has been leading us in a study of justification for the past few weeks. Ah….justification is such a sweet word that explains the believer’s position before a holy God. Pastor Pat has expressed that there is nothing he desires more to read about or study than justification. I would have to agree. It is amazing when it is foremost in your thinking how much it comes out in scripture. For when the psalmist asks in Psalm 24, who has clean hands, the believer can reflect that only through justification he has clean hands.

The recommended audio for the justification messages can be heard from the links below. Give them a listen.

Justification part 1 

Justification part 2

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 23, 2007 in Justification, Preaching, Theology