This Day in Presbyterian History:
The Test of a Standing or Falling church
Q. 33. — What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Without significant happenings found in the history of Presbyterianism for this day, we return to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, looking at the first benefit of effectual calling, namely, justification. “Justification,” in question and answer 33, “is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”
First, we refer to “an act of God’s free grace.” God, the one God in three persons, is the only source of justification. We are objectively justified as the elect from eternity, and subjectively justified as individuals, when we appropriate Jesus Christ by faith alone.
It is also an “act of God’s free grace.” Justification comes from the gracious actions of His Son in particular. It is free to us, but certainly not to God’s Son. He met all the demands of the law to purchase it for us, both actively and passively.
Further, its ground is not something inherent in us, or something done by us for it. If we did were able to do it ourselves, then Christ’s whole life, death, burial, and resurrection would have no meaning. His statement on the cross that “it is finished,” would be a falsehood.
The sole ground of justification is ”the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.” This included his perfect obedience during His life, and His full satisfaction of the penalty of sin during His death, burial, and resurrection. All His redemptive life and work was laid to our account, or imputed to us, the elect of God.
The elements of justification are two in number. First, he pardons all of our sins. Our past sins, our present sins, and our future sins are under the blood of Christ, so that we cannot come into condemnation. There are fatherly displeasures and temporal judgments on this earth for our present and future sins, to be sure, but as we humble ourselves, repent of those sins and renew our faith, we are pardoned for them.
The second element of justification is that “we are accepted as righteous in his sight.” We who have no righteousness, being conceived and born in sin, now have in Christ His righteousness as a garment. God the Father looks at us and sees His Son in our stead.
Last, all this is “received by faith alone.” As we receive and rest upon Christ alone, we are justified before God.
Words to Live By: Paul said it best in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (ESV) and 8: 38, 39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ESV) This famous chapter begins with “No condemnation,” and ends with “No separation” for the believer.
Through the Scriptures: Proverbs 8 – 11
Through the Standards: Proof texts of perseverance of the saints.
“For I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
John 10:27 – 29
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is great than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (ESV)