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Justification a Declaration

Biblical Comparison To The Roman Catholic Tradition

"Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1).

Forgiveness Of Sins
A Judicial Act

Lewis Sperry Chafer in his monumental work, "Grace, The Glorious Theme," presents a very provocative argument stating that "grace does not appear in the immediate divine dealings with the sins of mankind." This seems at first to be a puzzling, contradictory statement to the evangelical believer because of the often muddled teachings regarding the believer's salvation and his life under grace. But the key word in his statement is "immediate." He goes on to maintain that God's immediate dealings with sin is not in mercy or leniency and that the sinner is never forgiven because God is big-hearted enough to remit the penalty or waive its righteous judgments. In fact, Chafer rightly points out that to present such an "immediate clemency" toward sinners would be a total distraction from the meaning of the cross since it was there, through God's unblemished Lamb, Jesus Christ, that God dealt not graciously but judicially with man's sins (Is. 53:10; 1Cor. 15:3; 2Cor. 5:21; 1Pet. 2:24).

On the cross the righteous Substitute (Jesus Christ) took upon Himself the world's sins and paid the ransom price, in full (His shed blood). So based on the forensic nature of Christ's work, it is concluded that the divine forgiveness of sins is not an immediate act of grace, but instead a divine act of justice in which God pardons forever the indebted sinner in view of the fact that his debt has been fully paid by Another and appropriated to the sinner, according to the Scriptures, not at baptism but at the time of personal belief.

A declarative Act

Scripture, on the other hand, reveals justification to be an immediate act of divine grace. When a sinner believes on Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins God, based on Christ's finished work on the cross, imputes to the believer the righteousness of Christ and based on that imputed righteousness, reckons (declares) the believer eternally justified in His Son.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24)
"For what does the Scripture say? 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor (grace) but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works." (Rom. 4:3-6)
The Scriptures reveal to us that justification is a divine, declarative act. It is not something wrought in man by his own works but is something, in view of Christ's work on the cross and who Christ is, divinely declared of man. It does not make him upright or righteous, but declared of him based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.

What Christ has done on the cross becomes the basis of the believer's divine forgiveness. What Christ is ("the righteousness of God," Rom. 3:21), when imputed to the believer, becomes the basis of his divine justification.

Imputed Through Faith

When a sinner believes in Jesus Christ he is "born again" out of Adam and into Christ Jesus the "last Adam" (1Cor. 15:45) who becomes the believer's new identity; He being the Progenitor of a new heavenly humanity (1Cor. 15:47). God declares the believer justified because he is IN CHRIST who is Himself our righteousness.

"But by His (God's) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption..." (1Cor. 1:30; cf. 2Cor. 5:21).
The believer not only has all his sins remitted and is redeemed and reconciled to God through Christ's shed blood, but being in Christ he is imputed a new standing. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Phillippians, after listing his accolades in the flesh, concludes that he counts them but rubbish compared to being found in Christ....
"...and may be found IN HIM, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law (or self-works) but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes FROM GOD on the basis of faith.." (Phil. 3:9)

Infusion Confusion

In spite of Biblical revelation Catholicism chooses to ignore the truth that justification is solely God's declarative act, a divine gift of grace toward the redeemed in Christ who have simply placed their faith in Him.

According to Roman Catholic theology justification occurs because of a so-called "infusion" of the grace of God into the soul at the time of baptism. At the time of baptism, it is said, the soul takes on the inherent characteristic of righteousness. Justification then becomes both an event and a process in that after the pollution of sin has been removed through baptism (not faith), the baptized one advances from virtue to virtue performing meritorious works and receives as a reward a greater measure of grace and a more perfect justification. It becomes the constant duty of the one baptized to co-operate throughout his life with the grace of God given to him (infused righteousness), especially by abiding in the sacraments of the church. However, during this life long process this infused grace may be lost, being restored by the sacrament of penance.

For the one born into the Roman Catholic religion, this process would begin at infancy since Romanism practices infant baptism. Therefore, personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a necessary requirement to begin this "process of justification." According to Catholic tradition, this imparted "infused" righteousness is called the "formal" cause of justification while the "meritorious" cause is Christ's passion and death.

In summary, Romanism's tradition of justification is Biblically unfounded. It is essentially a works process starting with baptism and meritoriously advanced, rather than as the Bible reveals, a sovereign, declarative act of God toward the redeemed who have personally believed on Jesus Christ as Savior. Tragically, Roman Catholic tradition can supply no assurance of salvation to those who follow it and therefore espouses the extra-biblical doctrine of purgatory which denies the sufficiency of Christ's work on the cross as the divine solution for man's sins (compare with Jo. 20:31).

In stark contradistinction the Word of God reveals that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a GIFT by His GRACE through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-24). That He (God) "might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). Christ's finished work on the cross is the basis for God declaring the believer (not the baptized one) righteous in His sight. "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law OF FAITH" (Rom. 3:27).

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5)
For a more thorough discussion on Christ's finished work on the cross see the BIBLICIST article, "The Finished Work Of Christ."

For a more thorough discussion on the penalty of sin see the BIBLICIST article, "Dying You Shall Die."

Written by Gary Nystrom

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