Justification Definition

What is justification?

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13 responses to “Justification Definition

  1. Individual justification, if we are limiting our discussion to that, is God’s reckoning us righteous in Christ. It is accomplished in time as we are united to Christ by faith in Him. It is more than a simple declaration.

    al sends

  2. Justification is simply put, to justify is to declare righteous; to make one right with God. Justification is God declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ. Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26:

  3. I agree with Al.

    Additionaly, I would add: It is the process whereby God counts us right with himself. It may occur in the heart of God from eternity, but from our perspective it happens at a point and time.

    The following should not be perceived as evil proof-texting, but merely a personal rationale for why I stated the stuff above.

    Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom5.1 ESV

    For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Rom. 10.10 ESV

    10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1Cor. 6.10-11 ESV

    However, I haven’t read Jonny’s paper yet and I may need to adjust my thinking.

  4. Strike that last comment I made. what was i thinking? my stomach is full of chicken cheese steak.

    People have said, “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”

    So do you think the terms in scripture – “salvation” or “saved” are equivalent to justification?

  5. Well, that is an interesting question. I’m inclined to think they are not equivalent terms. (This will make poo hit the fan, perhaps.)

  6. Dan & Rob,

    I think justification and salvation are not the same thing. Justification is a point in time declaration of God counting the regenerate and believing sinner righteous. Salvation, the state of possessing eternal life, is a result of that declaration of being declared righteous. It logically flows from it and is a direct and eternal result of being justified, but is distinct form it. Sort of like regeneration > faith > justification in the ordo salutis. They may all happen chronologically at the same time, but they logically depend on the previous.

  7. Rob, if all three of those are called “justification,” one must show where the actual “legal” (i.e., forensic) justification took place. Logically, one is either right with God or he is not (Law of Excluded Middle). Where does that take place? In eternity past? In time, when we are actually united to Christ by faith? Or at the final judgment?

    I have been giving this some thought, and i believe that the only real hope of reunion between Protestant Christians and Romanist Christians is the granting that what we call sanctification may properly be termed “justification,” not in the legal, but in the constitutional sense (i.e., constituting us as more and more inherently righteous, which is precisely what we see happening in sanctification). In that sense of “making righteous,” i believe that there may be some “justification” (pun intended) in using the term to refer to the process whereby we grow in our inherent righteousness by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit.

    For my part, though, while i admit of forensic justification (i.e., legally being reckoned righteous before God through faith alone in Christ) and final justification (i.e., where we are demonstrated to be actually righteous in the last day because of the work of Christ and his Spirit within us since we were united to him), i just don’t see an eternal dimension to justification. There is no sense in which we are “made righteous,” or “reckoned righteous” in eternity past. God planned that we would; he decreed that it would be; but that is no different than the fact that he decreed that i would marry my wife. So, am i right to refer to my “eternal marriage” to my wife, because God decreed that it would take place? I think that’s a very poor use of words and a confusion of concepts. If there were an eternal justification, we were never conceived or born under God’s wrath and as guilty sinners (Note: i grant that God can regenerate and justify even in the womb, but just not before there is a person in existence). And hence, regardless of what we believe, what we trust, and what religion we are in time, we are right with God, if eternal justification is true (this is what Hardshell Primitive Baptists believe).

    If you can give me a better definition of “eternal justification” i’ll think on it, but i just can’t see there being an eternal aspect to it, not only logically, but more important biblically (that’s a good test, is whether there are any passages of Scripture may properly be seen to refer to anything like making or reckoning a person righteous from eternity. I believe you will search in vain to find such references).

  8. Trey,
    Good response with some good points. To work from the back to the front, I’ll refer you first to a paper. There is a much clearer searching out of the topic there than I’m able to do here. Second, I am not (let me be clear…not, Not, NOT) a hyper-Calvinist of any stripe. My inquiry is not intended to shore up a position in defense of any brand of it. My questions really have to do with the logical implications of Calvinistic soteriology. (If we are elected and called in eternity, then our position in Christ is sure, and our justification is in him.)

    A question that nags at me is, If we position justification behind faith (as in the traditional ordo), does not faith become a condition of justification? While I absolutely affirm that we are justified by faith, I don’t know if the traditional Reformed reading of that is the best one. (Here I admit that I am an amateur theologian and I’m just trying to make sense of it all.) It seems like a reasonable and good possibility that faith is the manifestation in the life of the believer of the reality of justification. Faith, then, is a declaration of justification rather than the cause of it. I don’t mean to minimize faith in any way, but it seems a fair reading, at least, to say that our faith does not justify us, but is the vehicle through which justification is made a reality in our lives (experiential).

    I am far less concerned today with reconciliation with Rome (though, let me say clearly that I do have high hopes in that regard!), but within our own Reformed Protestant tradition. I am aware that a view of justification from eternity is the minority view, and I’m quite willing to be persuaded differently. I just keep hitting this logical block that says that it only makes sense that we are counted just in Christ from before the foundation of the world, with election, calling and decree.

  9. Rob, you said, “It seems like a reasonable and good possibility that faith is the manifestation in the life of the believer of the reality of justification.”

    If you wanted to take a classic reformed position on the position of faith it would read something like: Faith is the instrumental cause of our justification. Faith does not logically follow justification, but it rather precedes it.

    Faith is the tool God provides for us to lay hold of Christ. His righteousness is the formal ground of our justification and only when we are united to Him by faith are we justified in any sense of the word. So, the question then becomes are we united to Christ from eternity? I think not.

    al sends

  10. Yes, Al, and this is an important point, because many of the Hypers will use our being “elected in him” or “predestinated in him” as proof that the elect were united to Christ from all eternity. You see this tendency in Thomas Goodwin, as was quoted on the other thread. But being elected in Christ is not the same thing as being united to him to receive all of his benefits. That is clearly a distinction in Paul, where he sees our being in him and his being in us as our hope of glory (this is where my email address [xnuhopeofglory@nerdshack.com] and blog user name come from). Even in Ephesians, where many people begin down the road of holding to eternal justification, after speaking of the eternal planning that God made for his beloved people, he says that it was *AFTER* they believed the Gospel of their salvaiton, the word of truth, that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of their redemption (many of us see an allusion to baptism here, but even if you don’t the point is the same). The point is that there is no guarantee of our inheritance until we are sealed by the Spirit of God which happens in conjunction with the act of believing the Gospel.

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