(5.) What Christian ever felt, or can feel in the presence of God, that he has a right to demand justification in the name of Christ, as due to him on the ground of "exact justice?" Observe, the framers of the Confession just quoted, studiously represent all the grace exercised in the justification of sinners, as confined to the two acts of giving His Son and accepting the substitution. This done, Christ fully pays the debt, fully and exactly satisfies His Father's justice. You now need not, must not conceive of the pardon of sin as grace or favor. To do this is, according to the teaching of this Confession, to dishonor Christ. It is to reject His righteousness and salvation. What think you of this? One act of grace in giving His Son, and consenting to the substitution, and all forgiveness, all accepting and trusting as righteous, is not grace, but "exact justice." To pray for forgiveness, as an act of grace, is apostasy from Christ. Christian! Can you believe this? No; in your closet, smarting under the sting of a recently committed sin, or broken down and bathed in tears, you cannot find it in your heart to demand "exact justice" at the hand of God, on the ground that Christ has fully and literally paid your debt. To represent the work and death of Christ as the ground of justification in this sense, is a snare and a stumbling-block. This view that I have just examined, contradicts the necessary convictions of every saint on earth. For the truth of this assertion I appeal to the universal consciousness of saints.

2. Our own works, or obedience to the law or to the gospel, are not the ground or foundation of our justification. That is neither our faith, nor repentance, nor love, nor life, nor anything done by us or wrought in us, is the ground of our justification. These are conditions of our justification, in the sense of a "not without which," but not the ground of it. We are justified upon condition of our faith, but not for our faith; upon condition of our repentance, love, obedience, perseverance to the end, but not for these things. These are the conditions, but not the reason, ground, or procuring cause of our justification. We cannot be justified without them, neither are we or can we be justified by them. None of these things must be omitted on pain of eternal damnation. Nor must they be put in the place of Christ, upon the same penalty. Faith is so much insisted on in the gospel as the sine qua non of our justification, that some seem disposed, or at least to be in danger of substituting faith in the place of Christ; of making faith instead of Christ the Savior.

3. Neither is the atonement, nor anything in the mediatorial work of Christ, the foundation of our justification, in the sense of the source, moving, or procuring cause. This, that is the ground of our justification, lies deep in the heart of infinite love. We owe all to that merciful disposition that performed the mediatorial work, and died the accursed death to supply an indispensable condition of our justification and salvation. To stop short in the act which supplied the condition, instead of finding the depths of a compassion as fathomless as infinity, as the source of the whole movement, is to fail in discrimination. The work, and death, and resurrection, and advocacy of Christ are indispensable conditions, are all-important, but not the fundamental reason of our justification.

4. Nor is the work of the Holy Spirit in converting and sanctifying the soul, the foundation of our justification. This is only a condition or means of bringing it about, but is not the fundamental reason.

5. But the disinterested and infinite love of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the true and only foundation of the justification and salvation of sinners. God is love, that is, He is infinitely benevolent. All He does, or says, or suffers, permits or omits, is for one and the same ultimate reason, namely, to promote the highest good of universal being.

6. Christ, the second person in the glorious Trinity, is represented in scripture, as taking so prominent a part in this work, that the number of offices and relations which He sustains to God and man in it are truly wonderful. For example, He is represented as being King, Judge, Mediator, Advocate, Redeemer, surety, Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, Prophet, Priest, Passover, or Lamb of God the bread and water of life true God and eternal life our life our all in all as the repairer of the breach as dying for our sins as rising for our justification as the resurrection and the life bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows as He, by whose stripes we are healed as the head of His people as the bridegroom or husband of His church as the shepherd of His flock as the door by which they enter as the way to salvation as our salvation as the truth as being made sin for us that we are made the righteousness of God in Him that in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead that in Him all fullness dwells all power in heaven and earth are said to be given to Him the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world Christ in us the hope of glory the true vine of which we are the branches our brother Wonderful Counselor the mighty God the everlasting Father the prince of peace the captain of salvation the captain of the Lord's host.

These are among the official relations of Christ to His people, and to the great work of our justification. I shall have frequent occasion to consider Him in some of these relations, as we proceed in this course of study. Indeed, the offices, relations, and works of Christ, are among the most important topics of Christian theology.

Christ is our Justification, in the sense that He carries into execution the whole scheme of redemption devised by the adorable Godhead. To Him the scriptures everywhere direct the eyes of our faith and of our intelligence also. The Holy Spirit is represented not as glorifying Himself, but as speaking of Jesus, as taking of the things of Christ and showing them to His people, as glorifying Christ Jesus, as being sent by Christ, as being the Spirit of Christ, as being Christ Himself dwelling in the hearts of His people. But I must forbear at present. This subject of Christ's relations needs elucidation in future lectures.


The relations of the old school view of justification to their view of depravity is obvious. They hold, as we have seen, that the constitution in every faculty and part is sinful. Of course, a return to personal, present holiness, in the sense of entire conformity to the law, cannot with them be a condition of justification. They must have a justification while yet at least in some degree of sin. This must be brought about by imputed righteousness. The intellect revolts at a justification in sin. So a scheme is devised to divert the eye of the law and of the lawgiver from the sinner to his substitute, who has perfectly obeyed the law. But in order to make out the possibility of his obedience being imputed to them, it must be assumed, that He owed no obedience for Himself; than which a greater absurdity cannot be conceived. Constitutional depravity or sinfulness being once assumed, physical regeneration, physical sanctification, physical divine influence, imputed righteousness and justification, while personally in the commission of sin, follow of course.

(from C. G. Finney’s Systematic Theology)

The Meaning of Justification


Justification is not only one of the great benefits of the death of Christ but is also a cardinal doctrine of Christianity because it distinguishes it as a religion of grace and faith. And grace and faith are the cornerstones of the doctrine of justification.

A. The Meaning of Justification

To justify means to declare righteous. Both the Hebrew (sadaq) and the Greek (dikaioo) words mean to announce or pronounce a favorable verdict, to declare righteous. The concept does not mean to make righteous, but to announce righteousness. It is a courtroom concept, so that to justify is to give a verdict of righteous. Notice the contrast between to justify and to condemn in Deuteronomy 25:1; 1 Kings 8:32; and Proverbs 17:15. Just as announcing condemnation does not make a person wicked, neither does justification make a person righteous. Condemning or justifying announces the true and actual state of the person. The wicked person is already wicked when the verdict of condemnation is pronounced. Likewise, the righteous person is already righteous when the verdict of justification is announced.

Deuteronomy 25:1

25:1 When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. NIV

1 Kings 8:31-32

32 then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty, and so establish his innocence.

Proverbs 17:15

15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both an abomination [exceedingly disgusting and hateful] to the Lord. [Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 24:24; Isaiah 5:23.] AMP

B. The Problem in Justification

Since this is a forensic idea, justification is related to the concept of God as Judge. This theme is found throughout the Bible. Abraham acknowledged God as the Judge of all the earth who had to do what was right (Genesis 18:25). In the song of Moses, God's justice and righteousness were rehearsed (Deuteronomy 32:4). Paul called God the righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8). The writer of Hebrews called God the Judge of all, and James reminded his readers that the Judge stood at the door (James 5:9).

Genesis 18:25

25 Far be it from You to do such a thing — to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as do the wicked! Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth execute judgment and do righteously? AMP

Deuteronomy 32:4

4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are law and justice. A God of faithfulness without breach or deviation, just and right is He. AMP

2 Timothy 4:8

8[As to what remains] henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor's] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day — and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return).

James 5:9

9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you [yourselves] may not be judged. Look! The Judge is [already] standing at the very door. AMP

If God, the Judge, is without injustice and completely righteous in all His decisions, then how can He announce a sinner righteous? And sinners we all are. There are only three options open to God as sinners stand in His courtroom. He must condemn them, compromise His own righteousness to receive them as they are, or change them into righteous people. If He can exercise the third option, then He can announce them righteous, which is justification. But any righteousness the sinner has must be actual, not fictitious; real, not imagined; acceptable by God's standards, and not a whit short. If this could be accomplished, then, and only then, can He justify.

Job stated the problem accurately when he asked, "How can a man be in the right before God?" (Job 9:2).

Job 9:2

2 Yes, I know it is true. But how can mortal man be right before God?

C. The Procedure in Justification (Romans 3:21-26)

God does put into effect that third option: He changes sinners into righteous people. How? By making us the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), by making many righteous (Romans 5:19), by giving believers the gift of righteousness (v. 17). Five steps were involved in the outworking of this procedure as detailed in the central passage on justification, Romans 3:21-26.

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]. AMP

Romans 5:19

19 For just as by one man's disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man's obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him). AMP

Romans 5:17

17 For if because of one man's trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God's] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).