For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:23-24)
Question 32: What is justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, (Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7) and accepts us as righteous in his sight (2 Cor 5:21) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, (Rom 5:19) and received by faith alone. (Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9)
The doctrine of Justification is one of the most important doctrines for the Protestant Christian faith. The German reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546), once said that the doctrine of Justification is “the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls.” He was absolutely correct in saying that for the doctrine of Justification by faith alone is the sine qua non of the gospel. It is the thing without which there is no gospel. To be justified in the Bible means to be declared not guilty before the law of God (Duet 25:1-2). This presents a problem for all of us because the Bible clearly tells us that we are all sinners and have all fallen short of God’s holy standard (Rom 3:23). We are also told by Christ in Matthew 5:48 that what God requires from all of us is perfection. Thus, if we are all sinners and have all fallen short of God’s holy standard, how can anyone be justified before God and attain to heaven? Paul gives us the answer in Romans 4:5 where he writes, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” But how is our faith counted as righteousness? Is it our faith itself that is counted as righteousness before God? Paul explains where this righteousness comes from in Philippians 3:8-9 where he says that for the sake of Christ he has suffered the loss of all things “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Thus, the righteousness upon which we are declared not guilty before God comes to us by faith from God. It is the righteousness which Christ himself has earned for us in his perfect life of obedience, which is credited to us at the moment we place faith in Christ.
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