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How sinners are saved

How sinners are saved: Justification

Below are questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

Q: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?

A: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification1, adoption2, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them3.

1 Romans 8:30Romans 8:30
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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.  

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— 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.

2 Ephesians 1:5Ephesians 1:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  

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— Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.

3 1Corinthians 1:30 — But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

Q: What is Justification?

A: Justification is an act of Gods free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins1, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight2, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us3, and received by faith alone4.

1 Ephesians 1:7Ephesians 1:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;  

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— In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

2 2Corinthians 5:21 — 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.

3 Romans 5:19Romans 5:19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  

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— As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

4 Galatians 2:16 — 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.

 

The application of redemption involves personal experience of a number of direct and subsidiary benefits flowing to those who are effectually called by God’s Spirit. First among these benefits is justification.

 

I  JUSTIFICATION DEFINED.

The nature of justification is set out in this statement. It is:

1. A free act of Divine grace. Justification is an act of God. It is singular in nature, an act not a process or a series of acts. It is a forensic act relating to the legal standing of the sinner before God.  It is an act that proceeds on the grace of God and not on the personal merit of the sinner. Cp Romans 3:24, 8:33Romans 3:24, 8:33
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 8 And not rather, Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.  

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2. It is a pardoning act. It therefore deals with the guilt of the sinner. Effectual calling is the work of the Holy Ghost which enlightens the sinner’s mind as to his personal guilt before God. Justification is the Divine remedy for that guilt. In justification the sinner is forgiven and the guilt of his sin removed.

3. It is an act by which the sinner is permanently constituted as righteous before God. Cp Romans 5:19Romans 5:19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  

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. God accepts and declares the justified sinner as having a righteousness that fully satisfies the demands of the Law.

 

II  THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER INVOLVES THE IMPUTATION OF CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS.

The work of Christ is the basis of the sinner’s justification. Cp Romans 3:24Romans 3:24
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

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

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1. The righteousness that is the basis of our justification is the whole obedience of Christ to the Law in our place. It is a surrogate righteousness worked out by Christ as a man, the covenant head of His people. It is described as the righteousness of God. It is not that righteousness which is the Divine attribute but that which is the product of God, worked out by Christ on the behalf of His people. The righteousness of Christ is generally viewed in two ways:

a) His passive obedience, i.e. His fulfillment of the penalty of the Law against our sins. He submitted to death and dealt with the judgment our sins deserved. Christ’s passive obedience relates to the pardon element in justification.

b) His active obedience, i.e. His living out perfectly the demands of God’s law in a positive sense. Cp Romans 5:19Romans 5:19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  

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. It is this aspect of Christ’s righteousness that relates to the pronouncing of the justified sinner righteous before God

2. To be justified the sinner must have the righteousness of Christ legally imputed to him. I.e. Christ’s righteousness is reckoned as belonging to him even though it remains the righteousness of Christ. Cp Romans 4:6Romans 4:6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,  

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. The righteousness of the justified sinner is never his own absolutely but is always the righteousness of Christ, yet reckoned to his account by God. By imputation Christ’s righteousness is reckoned as being the product of the sinner himself.

 

III  THE SINNER RECEIVES THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH.

1. The righteousness of Christ is received and applied by faith, Romans 3:22. There is not the least role for human merit or works in justification. Cp Gal 2:16, Romans 4:4-5Romans 4:4-5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  

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. Human effort, being the works of the ungodly, cannot produce a perfect righteousness and so can never lead to justification. If meritorious works are involved in any way then justification would be reckoned as a debt, something that God owed the sinner. But it is a matter of grace and not of debt. Faith itself is not a work. Some suggest that God modified His requirements of the sinner, setting aside the demands of His Law and requiring only the work of faith. Romansans 4:5 makes it clear that faith is not to be viewed in this way at all. Faith is the absence of work and is simply a resting entirely upon the finished work of Christ.

2. Justification is by faith alone and yet the faith that justifies is never alone. Saving faith is always accompanied and evidenced by specific activity, James 2:18, 20. This is the role of works in justification — Christian works are the evidence of being justified, not its cause.

Next topic: Adoption into God’s family

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