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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. Considerations on the history of the doctrine .-Justification by faith formulates the distinctive principle of Protestantism. It has been a war-cry and word of passion, and embodies a spiritual and theological conflict. It claimed to be an advance on the Catholic idea, as more true to apostolic experience and more adequate to the sinner’s need. It is advisable at the outset to investigate this claim as preparatory to a dispassionate analysis of the apostolic doctrine. Justification is a complex conception. Neither in Luther nor in the Council of Trent are ambiguities and inconsistencies wanting. The combatants on both sides in subsequent controversy have in consequence easily fallen into serious misunderstandings. The vital current re-animating modern religious theory is disclosing the fact,*[Note: particularly inter multos alios Ritschl in his great work, Die christl. Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, Bonn, 1870-74, i. and iii.]and producing a better-proportioned perspective. Rid of the war-dust, we see clearly the salient features of the main respective positions and their conspicuous divergences. What are these? It is a rich, fresh experience Luther describes in his finest statement of his faith. The Liberty of the Christian Man . It finds no commensurate exposition in the Lutheran or Reformed Confessions. Luther himself was no theologian; and his varying expressions are difficult to harmonize. But the tendency of his teaching is plain.†[Note: For Luther’s works consult the Erlangen ed., 1826ff.; H. Wace and C. A. Buchheim, Luther’s Primary Works, London, 1896.]The character of Tridentine teaching is as plain. Luther’s is aus einem Gusse (‘of one mould’), born of an intense travail of soul. The Catholic, polemical in import and comprehensive of aspect, has in view efficient discipline of souls. Grace, according to Luther, is known in personal relationship with Christ ( Com. on  Galatians 2:20); it is a sense of God’s favour; it saves from God’s wrath; it saves at once and wholly by God’s free mercy, is a complete and perfect thing, conditioned upon faith, bringing with it assurance of salvation (see Against Latomus ). It is, in his own words, ‘the favour of God not a quality of soul’ ( ib. 489), identical with forgiveness, release from His wrath, enjoyment of His favour, a present status rather than a new character. To receive such grace is to be justified. The Council of Trent*[Note: The best ed. of the ‘Decrees’ of Trent is that of A. L. Richer and F. Schulte, Leipzig, 1853.]defines its doctrine in reference to three questions: the manner of gaining justification, of maintaining it, and of regaining it when lost through mortal sin. The answers are that it is gained in baptism, through which are received not only remission of sins but sanctification and renewal of the inner man (sess. vi. ch. 7); it is maintained by performance of good works, keeping the commandments of God and the Church, resulting in an increase of justification (ch. 10); it is regained by penance and penitential ‘satisfactions’ (ch. 14). ‘That which truly justifies the heart is grace, which is daily created and poured into our hearts’ (J. Fischer’s Refutation of Luther , 1523). Grace on this view is a Divine substance,†[Note: For the recent ideas of Catholic divines on justification see art. In CE.] ex opere operato imparted, increased by man’s aid, dependent on faith and good works as co-ordinate in worth, all part and parcel of the same idea, ‘the infusion of grace’-the novel feature in Catholic dogma. Catholic dogma, equally with Protestant, safeguards the Divine initiative and the work of Christ, but neither the honour of Christ nor individual assurance, since, concerning the former, Christ, though His righteousness is available for our salvation, is not regarded as indwelling in us as our Righteousness; and, concerning the latter, the organized machinery of means of grace brings in all the elements of uncertainty, leaving the doctrine unsatisfactory in the most crucial point, Luther’s is a purely religious conception, vastly deeper within its limits than the other, comprising not only pardon of sin and escape from the Divine wrath, but peace of conscience and assurance of salvation. Its weakest features are the idea of faith, which is limited to belief and trust in Christ’s satisfaction, apart from subjective appropriation of its experience through the indwelling Christ which faith makes possible, and the resulting unbridged chasm between justification and sanctification; and the lack of any really vital relation between the new status and the new character of the justified.‡[Note: For Luther’s doctrinal position consult J. Köstlin. Life of Luther, Eng. tr., London, 1883, and T. M. Lindsay, Luther and the German Reformation, Edinburgh, 1900.]Judged by the standard of apostolic truth, both fall short. In the apostolic consciousness justification is more than merely God’s favour or pardon of sins: it is release from the power as well as guilt of sin, a new character, in principle at least, with the new status. Therein the Catholic opposition to Luther was justified. But the new character is erroneously regarded by Catholicism as the gradual transformation of human nature (which is sanctification), a process in this life always incomplete, and liable to be imperilled by stagnation and lapse. Nor are the Catholic formulae adequate to the profoundly spiritual and final representations in apostolic experience of the acts and operations of grace in the believing heart through the instrumentality of Christ’s Person and Spirit. This, however, is a deficiency only in theology; it is compensated for in actual religions practice in the Sacrifice of the Mass, where faith is more genially receptive and heartfelt devotion more warmly active in realizing the real presence of Christ in all His justifying force. The Mass is to the creed in the Roman system what, so to speak, ‘Hebrews’ is to ‘Romans’*[Note: See § 3, v. ‘Hebrews.’]in Pauline thought.

2. The problem of justification .-Justification is a religious problem, the answer to an interior inquiry of Christian experience. The OT cry, ‘How is man just with God?’ is deepened in the NT: ‘How is God gracious?’ and ‘How are we sure of His grace?’ That again is the problem of fellowship with God-the most engrossing of modern quests. Of fellowship with God the very foundation and certainty is justification. In consequence modern spiritual philosophy is eagerly interested. It is better equipped to cope with the exquisitely delicate character of the inquiry than any past age. The modern idea of Divine immanence in Nature and man adds immeasurably to our perception of the nature of the human spirit, its workings, their relation to the Divine Spirit; and furnishes a key to the representation and reconstruction of inner soul-processes beyond the apparatus of the older theology. The mystical emotion is its highest form, and is no exceptional super-addition to man’s nature; rather it is his natural consummation. It is not merely the secret action of the mind upon itself; while an inborn instinct, it comes to distinct form and growth from causes objective to itself, operating on it by the inworking of external and historical circumstance and the exercise and outworking of ethical faculty. Psychologically it is not of the ordinary emotive life; it is higher, inclusive of all the parts of human nature, gathering up into itself all those inner powers in whose interplay under its guidance and inspiration in one harmonious unity its life consists. In operation it is wholly personal, conscious, energetic, intensely individual. Into it enters the force of historic fact, out of it passes the power of moral life; but itself is a self inbreathing the one, out-breathing the other. The constitution of this self is the modern construction of justification. The life of that self is communion with God; justification is its origin and basis.

What is the origin?-the Divine graciousness†[Note: This in the sense of ‘grace’ Luther; cf. A. C. McGiffert, Prostestant Thought before Kant, London, 1911, p. 28.](Luther) or Divine grace (Catholic); a ‘reckoning righteous,’ or a ‘making righteous’‡[Note: The familiar contrast between Romanist and Protestant ideas.]by God? Neither of these alternatives standing solitary is to-day an intelligible concept applicable to the Divine or the human personality; nor is the one or the other a felt fact of religious experience, the ultimate test of every theory. These are otiose ideas, as useless as absolute ideas. God and His grace cannot be otiose. ‘He speaks and it is done.’ His grace is at once, as grace, prescient and prevenient, operans and co-operans , sufficient and efficient, and cannot be defined in merely legal or logical terms, or, in fact, in anything short of that ‘interpenetration of essence’ of God’s self or character§[Note: The Only adequate phrase to denote the NT conception of the relation of the ransomed soul to its Redeemer.]with man’s self or character, bestowing on man’s its profoundest promise and potency; and instanter translating it into the status and character of life that is being sanctified after His image, and on His initiative. What Protestant thought clumsily encloses within two notions, ‘justification’ and ‘imputation,’||[Note: | Imputation is specially offensive to modern ethical sensitiveness; the sense of responsibility insists that each is himself, not another.]may be regarded under one more modern-‘development.’ Then, man’s self is appreciated from the Divine standpoint, as God saw creation in its first being, not as it actually is in present attainment, nor as it will be in perfect fruition, but as it is ideally becoming when put upon the right basis and in the right atmosphere, the condition we find in ‘the stature of a perfect man’-Christ-the root and direction rather than the end or goal determining the judgment of its character. That appreciation is justification.

The faculty of self by whose exercise the new status and generation are attained is ‘faith.’ By ‘faith’ the Divine Life dwells in man’s soul and Divine truth becomes power. Faith here is more than spiritual insight, it is spiritual grasp; more than a receptive force, it is also the bestowing fact, softening the harsh independence of these two realities. The truth is that every approach of God to man has a true tendency to create the faith without which the approach can never become a real entrance. Faith is man’s welcome of Him, created in man’s heart, as the face of a friend coming towards us reclaims us for his friendship. Faith again is more than assent or trust: it is the soul’s entrance into healthy relationship to Him who is its true life; an entrance fuller or weaker according to the soul’s capacity, and ever growing with the soul’s growth. Faith thus understood widens its mental and emotional constituents. God and man underneath all obscuring media are of like nature; God is the ‘element’ of man’s true life.*[Note: St. Augustine, Confessions, i. 1: ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts restless till it find its rest in Thee.’]God is unceasingly solicitous in seeking man, and, finding man reciprocate, apprehends him, but as Life apprehending life, or the ocean refreshing the tide’s eddy, or the tree quickening the branch. The term ‘justification’ may be technically a juridical one, but that which it aims at expressing is in idea and fact a spiritual transaction unexpressible in forensic terms, not even conceivable as a process having acts and stages. It may better be compared to a gem†[Note: the soul us ‘pearl’ ( Matthew 13:46).] having many facets, simultaneous, not successive, and glowing in enhancing splendour with every further advance into light. This is the essence of the idea in believing experience. It is also the essence of the idea in the apostolic conscience-the love of God seeking the love of man and finding it.‡[Note: the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the perfect picture of ‘justification.’]

3. The apostolic doctrine of justification. -The apostolic doctrine is characterized by a singular originality, comprehensiveness, self-consistency, and spirituality. Its systematic statement is elaborate, developing itself consciously along three lines-experiential, historical, speculative. A careful analysis is necessary to separate its essential substance and abiding cogency from their first local form. Its originality is evident when compared with similar ideas in ethnic and Jewish religion; its comprehensive and self-consistent character by the exhibition of its contents; its spirituality by the demonstration of its purely religious validity; its permanent worth by the absoluteness with which it solves the religious problem of which avowedly it is an answer.

i. Originality.-The idea of justification does not originate with Christianity, although truly it comes to its full expression there. Wherever religion becomes personal in actual communion with God, it brings with itself inquiry as to the specific nature of the power known and felt and the peculiar character of its working in the soul. This we find occurring in religious history generally, and especially in Hebrew religion. Ethnic faiths for the most part are so lacking in belief in a personal God that the inquiry hardly anywhere attains more than rudimentary shape. Even in more advanced faiths the Divine personality is mingled with such unworthy elements that fruitful conceptions are rare. The indelible convictions won are only two: the gravity of the need, and the failure of provision to meet the need. A more positive impetus enters with Semitic religion, in whose religious observances the reception of the Divine life is increasingly the centre of attention. The growing consciousness of Divine force is mediated in the Hebrew spirit by sacrifice, prayer, wisdom, and prophetic inspiration; in the experience of suffering also very notably, as in Jeremiah and Deutero-Isaiah; in mystical union with the righteous spirit of the Law, as in the finer Psalms; and realized as pardon of sin (Psalms 32), life in God’s favour (Psalms 30), righteousness (Psalms 4, etc.), mercy, and salvation, covering all aspects of the soul’s state. ‘The Law’ at its best (Psalms 119) was spirit and life, obedience to its precepts clothing the spirit and life of man with their imperishable energy, which is none other than that of God who gave them. Pre-Christian evolution deepened the conscience in at least three directions-the difficulty in the way of justification, the possibility of its accomplishment, the mode and means of its reality. The advent of Christ, the tout ensemble of His Person and Work as one organic influence, raised the whole problem in apostolic experience and thought to an incomparably richer plane, on which, while the difficulty is enlarged, the possibilities are matured and a final mode with adequate means provided. Here the centre of gravity is Christ and His own justification ( 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 3, 5, 6): ‘being manifest in the flesh, he was justified in the spirit.’ Wherein consists His being justified? The true answer is-in all that by which His higher origin was made known (‘His glory’ in St. John, manifested in words, works, resurrection [ John 7:46 etc.  John 2:11;  John 3:2;  John 14:11; cf.  Matthew 7:29,  Romans 1:4,  Acts 2:36, etc.]; ‘His high-priesthood’[Hebrews 3, 5, 6]; ‘His righteousness’ [ Romans 10:4,  1 Corinthians 1:30,  2 Corinthians 5:21,  Philippians 3:9, etc., in St. Paul]). It is a description drawn in contrast with the preceding phrase, ‘manifest in the flesh’ and includes all by which He is proved to be the very Person He truly was.*[Note: His own use of the word ‘justified’ ( Luke 7:35).] This general proof is further specialized into the events of His Death and Resurrection, its ultimate and most impressive parts, which as such procured the redemption from sin through which we are justified ( Romans 5:9;  Romans 4:25, Hebrews 8, 9, 10). His own justification consisted in the accomplished fact of His perfect holiness and His risen life. It is ours after the same manner; only it is His righteousness that is mediated to us to become ours, and that in virtue of our union with Him by faith ( Romans 3:22-26; Romans 5). The old distress of man’s nature is irrevocably dissolved under the assured potency of the new condition in which it stands.

ii. Completeness.-The general meaning of justification is clear, nay simple; but the greatly simple is the organization of the complex. And the apostolic exposition is complex. It comprehends many elements, commands a variety of relations. It derives its material from the Apostle’s unique fellowship with the glorified Lord; and that experience, fundamentally the same in all, is varied by the diversity of individuality in each. Again, the reasoning of the apostles relates itself directly to immediate issues and is affected by the circumstances of the readers to whom it is addressed. Further, the intellectual equipment of the writers colours their statements. To all this we must add the fact that their doctrine had to establish itself on the successful displacement of two solutions already on the field, one of them strongly entrenched, viz. the ministration of the Law. The most systematic and dispassionate statement is given by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, with which is to be associated the subsidiary matter (more or less disputatious) in Eph., 2 Cor., Gal., etc. Isolated references and aspects of the doctrine, more or less complete, are to be found in Acts, the General Epistles, and Hebrews. The relation of these to one another, and of them all to the Synoptic teaching of Jesus Himself, has to be adverted to.

(1) St. Paul. -Justification is by God’s grace ( Romans 3:24;  Romans 4:5,  Ephesians 2:8,  Titus 3:7), by man’s faith ( Acts 13:39,  Romans 5:1), by Christ’s Death ( Romans 5:9), by His Resurrection ( Romans 4:25). It is a justification of the ungodly ( Romans 4:5,  2 Corinthians 5:19, etc.); it is not of works of the Law ( Romans 3:20,  Galatians 3:11, etc.), not of the law written in the heart, the uncircumcision ( Romans 2:15). It is not inconsistent with judgment by works ( 1 Corinthians 9:27,  Philippians 3:8-14). It is for remission of sins ( Romans 3:25), peace with God, access into grace and hope of glory ( Romans 5:1-2), righteousness ( Romans 4:22;  Romans 4:24;  Romans 5:17;  Romans 3:22,  2 Corinthians 5:21,  Philippians 3:9), for life ( Romans 5:18 : ‘a justification taking effect in life’), which is through the body of Christ ( Romans 7:4) and by His Spirit ( Ephesians 2:18,  Romans 5:15;  Romans 8:2;  Romans 8:4;  Romans 8:6;  Romans 8:10-11, etc.). To the foregoing add the corroborative statement in Romans 4 as to Abraham’s justification. There are five points. Justification is by faith, not works ( Romans 4:4-5), therefore by grace ( Romans 4:16). Being by grace through faith, it came not through law but through promise ( Romans 4:14; cf.  Galatians 3:18). It is not by circumcision or outward privilege ( Romans 4:9-11); it leaves no room for boasting or self-righteous confidence ( Romans 3:27,  Romans 4:2). According to the Apostle, justification is not an act of man but an act of God. It issues from His holy Fatherly love and righteousness, which can have no possible relation to unrighteousness but that of wrath. It is fundamentally related to believing self-surrender and trust (faith) on man’s part. It is manifested in the historical work of Jesus. Its force resides in God, the object of faith, as He in His righteousness and clemency appears in the Death and Life after Death of His Son, by whose life we are saved ( Romans 5:10). This justification it not cogently interpreted as ‘a reckoning righteous,’*[Note: The meaning of the term, a Judicial word.]nor as ‘a making righteous’; it is more than the first, and other than the second. It includes the juridical features within the larger personal and spiritual, for there enter into it ( a ) grace and ( b ) faith, ( c ) Christ’s Spirit and ( d ) the believer in Christ, all in a plane of spirit and life. Here God cannot just be understood as a Judge acquitting a criminal;†[Note: To Him as Judge the situation is a legal impasse out of which there is no legal way; recourse is had to the Divine clemency.]the culprit has his position completely reversed, and is advanced to the honours and privileges to which he would have been entitled by a perfect obedience.‡[Note: W. P. Paterson, Pauline Theology, London, 1903. p. 71.]He not only goes free from merited penalty; he is transferred in to a new freedom for righteous service, gains unrestricted admittance to the operations of grace, the right of sonship, with all the glorious future involved. All that future is here in its initial stage in germ, so that the whole is regarded as already in the potential possession of the believer, and God gives as God and Father, not after the manner of an earthly tribunal. The stress of the Pauline statement rests on the fact that he conceives the energies of the Spirit to be liberated for the believer by the justifying Death of Christ, and mediated to the believer by the present life of ‘the Lord, the Spirit’ ( 2 Corinthians 3:17), to whom the believer is joined to form ‘one spirit’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:17). It is a statement of spirit, not logic; experience and life, not legal forms.§[Note: Paul uses metaphors, some drawn from juristic terminology, others from the ceremonial on the Great Day of Atonement. These metaphors are to be interpreted not in separation but in their combined cumulative effect, if the comprehensive character of his idea is to be maintained.]

The Apostle proceeds next to plead for its efficacy by contrasting it with two earlier attempts in the history of the race to restore man’s righteousness-attempts which had miserably failed. There was first the working of the natural conscience in the Gentile world. There is a light of nature which offers knowledge sufficient to impress on men the fact that their just due to God is full obedience to His will. By their wilful disobedience that light that was in them had been turned to darkness, with the result not of heightening the possibilities of human nature, but rather of increasing its unrighteousness, in fellowship with the god of this world, the Devil; and now the world was lying in wickedness under God’s wrath ( Romans 1:22;  Romans 1:25;  Romans 3:9-10,  Galatians 3:22,  Ephesians 2:2), and, in the individual heart, earnestly endeavouring to keep from its contamination, the conflict proved the prepotency of sin (Romans 7). Then there was the moral conscience trained under the Law of Moses. It was designed to remedy the moral disaster of the natural conscience. Was it successful?-It had been most ineffectual. Law could ‘not make alive’ ( Galatians 3:21) either in its precepts or in their sanctions. It might furnish an ideal of right and deepen the consciousness of sin, and it might educate to a higher type of virtue. It could also, on the contrary, incite to larger disobedience and to fresh vices. Its rigours working on sensitive souls tended to paralyze the will. But the only solution must lie in re-inforcement of the will. In Christ alone was that end won. He is ‘the Wisdom and Power’ of God, to them who believe, ideal and motive force in one Spirit. Nothing short of the religious conscience renewed by Him could suffice. The religious conscience begins in one subjective act on man’s part, the act of faith. It is preceded or accompanied by repentance, but it is itself the simple, childlike, submissive, enthusiastic, unconditional self-surrender of the man’s whole being, intellect, affections, purpose, to the will of God in Christ.*[Note: We are not here concerned with the ‘Rabbinic’ form of St. Paul’s argumentation nor with the character of his judgment on Gentile and Jew, but only with his thought.]

(2) St. James .-The Epistle of St. James emphasizes two practical consequences of faith. ( a ) It works in the heart as a new law, obedience to the perfect, royal law of liberty ( James 1:25;  James 2:8). The point here is the contrast between the external compelling force of the older Law and the internal impelling force of the new, the ‘word’ in the heart, able to save the soul ( James 1:21). ( b ) It works in the conduct as good works. The controversy that has arisen over the supposed antagonism between St. Paul and St. James is barren, and need not detain us. ‘Faith’ and ‘works’ have two different connotations in the two instances. St. James means by ‘faith’ not self-surrender so-much as mental assent, and by ‘works’ not the legal deeds enjoined by the Law, but acts of mercy and kindness prompted by the law of love in the soul. The motive and interest of the two apostles differ; there is no room for opposition. Faith to St. James, as to St. Paul, is the pre-condition of good works, and the condition of acceptance with God. Like St. Paul also, he sees justifying energy active in the concrete circumstances of life-‘a man is blessed not through but in his deed.’ Further, there is no suggestion of merit in these good works of faith. The sub-apostolic age was not slow to materialize both ‘the new law’ and the ‘merit of works,’ but St. James is not responsible.†[Note: For a different view of St. James’s position, see Piepen-bring, Jésus et les Apôtres.]

(3) St. Peter .-From the speeches (Acts 3) and First Epistle we gather three features. ( a ) In justification the pardon of sins and clearing of guilt are explicitly connected with Christ’s sufferings ( Acts 3:18 f.,  1 Peter 1:19;  1 Peter 2:24); also, as the righteous suffering for the unrighteous, Christ ‘brings us to God’ ( 1 Peter 3:18). ( b ) The gift of grace is the result of Christ’s Resurrection ( 1 Peter 1:21); it is the ground and guarantee of the new life and of the gift of strength to overcome Satan. ( c ) The coming of grace into the heart finds its necessary complement in the life of love for the brethren. In the Second Epistle both freedom from sins and the power to work the righteousness of God depend upon faith in and knowledge of Christ ( 2 Peter 1:5;  2 Peter 1:9). Knowledge here is akin to the Johannine idea-the inner personal apprehension of the saving Spirit of Christ.

(4) St. John .-The Epistles and Apocalypse do not share in the fullness of volume of mystical idealism pervading the Gospel. Yet the essential elements are here-the unity of life with God in Christ, the significance of Christ’s Person, Death, Resurrection, fellowship with Him in ‘sonship.’ Especially emphatic is the writer on the two facts, that it is God’s love to sinners, not sinners’ love to God, that is the ground of faith and healing; that in sonship are to be included religious as well as moral ideals. In the Apocalypse the same ideas are central-but under sacrificial designations: Christ’s Sacrifice (the Lamb) and Resurrection (alive for evermore) are the source of the stream of life proceeding from the very essence of God which, received by man, is in him a life of uninterrupted sacrifice.

(5) Hebrews .-This Epistle is a continuation of the Pauline ‘apologia’ for the gospel as against the claims of the Old Covenant. What is done in Romans for grace as against law is here done for Christ’s sacrifice as against Levitical offerings. Justification by faith is expounded in connexions different from those St. Paul and St. John have in view, and the exposition stands midway between theirs, filling up an evident lacuna. Some scholars assert that the problem is here less deeply discussed, justification being narrowed to forgiveness and faith to spiritual insight apart from spiritual grasp. That would be to leave Hamlet out of the play. The author has a definite aim, and, notwithstanding an obscuring vocabulary and analogies, elaborates it admirably. His aim is to demonstrate the accessibility of God through Christ’s sacrificial work. His demonstration puts in bold relief two aspects hitherto untouched in apostolic thought: ( a ) justification as a subjective fact as well as an objective act; ( b ) the principles of its mode. The justification of Christ (above, § 3. i.) is constituted by His sinlessness, effected as a spiritual fact in His own experience. The justification of the sinner as a spiritual fact in his experience is effected after the same manner as in Christ, and by Christ: viz. in ‘the purging of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God,’ and in resisting unto blood ( Hebrews 9:14 ff.). These aspects are set forth in detail and give the book its character. In both Christ and the believer the inner experience is identical (α) ‘through eternal Spirit’ ( Hebrews 9:14) and (β) through their vital union: ‘he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one’ ( Hebrews 2:11). The word ‘sanctify’ is used in this Epistle in its Hebraic sense of ‘consecrate.’*[Note: the NT use of ‘saint’-one or the covenant-people, the potentially holy-of whom moral qualifications are asserted not as a fact but as a duty. See F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter, I. 1-11. 17, London, 1898, p. 70.]Just as in St. Paul the justified are accepted and become members of the Body of Christ, so in virtue of membership in the New Covenant, the believer, according to Hebrews, is set in right relation to God, receives forgiveness, cleansing of conscience, and is ἁγιαζόμενος, even τετελειωμένος: ‘by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified’ ( Hebrews 10:14). The faculty in man rendering this possible is faith, whose full content it takes ‘hope’ ( Hebrews 6:19,  Hebrews 7:19), ‘obedience’ ( Hebrews 5:8;  Hebrews 5:11), as well as ‘faith’ ( Hebrews 11:1), to express. It is not merely spiritual perception of the unseen; it is rather the power of soul which makes the unseen future present, the unseen present visible, and by so doing unites us to Christ in His present and future plenitude ( Hebrews 10:38-39), from whom flows the transforming influence creative of the graces of life which are never separated from faith nor faith from them.

The efficacy of His Sacrifice rests fundamentally on the majesty of His Person. His High-Priestly act is an expression of the eternal Spirit of the Divine love. By it He has destroyed every barrier of sin which lay between man and God. He has, as the sin-offering for humanity, freed all men potentially from the guilty consciousness of sin, and brought Christians to the heavenly rest of God. The emphasis is on what follows, viz.: ‘the entering within the veil,’ less the surrender of His life than its presentation within the veil, implying that the love and merciful kindness of God, which were manifested in time and in the earthly ministry, are eternal and changeless principles perpetually operative on our behalf. This must ultimately be the ground of our acceptance and the assurance of our life in communion with Him. The benefits and efficacy of His perfect Sacrifice are conditioned by our attitude of faith and trust.

(6) The apostolic doctrine in relation to Christ’s teaching .-Is the apostolic teaching a necessary consequence of Christ’s self-witness? Yes; if certain considerations be kept in view. We see, e.g. , that it was not drawn by conscious deduction. It is an original construction derived from life, from their experience of Christ revealing Himself in them ( Galatians 1:16), as Christ’s is from the manifold fruitfulness and insight of His own sublime Personality. Then we see it elaborated under stress of the Judaistic and Hellenistic environment of that age, in the endeavour to establish and justify itself in the intellectual atmosphere of the nascent Church-life. It was not possible to accomplish this with success except by a process which should display the hidden significance of what at first seemed so simple, and is so simple to simple hearts.*[Note: As, e.g., in Christ’s teaching.]That age, however, was not simple-hearted;†[Note: , for a popular description, M. Arnold’s Obermann.]it was a highly intellectual, profoundly perplexed, saddened age, sobbing its heart out in weakness; requiring accordingly the doctrine that would strengthen and comfort with effect to be in the mould of its own speculation and intuition. Christ’s teaching is a plain, positive statement on the practical religious plane, delivering itself as easily as the flow of the stream, in conflict only with the hindrances of indifference and want of faith. That attitude characterizes the General Epistles, which are close echoes of the Master’s style, and directed to the same general consciousness of religion as His was. It is otherwise with the Pauline and Johannine Epistles: in them we have the underlying universal quality and principle of His teaching disclosed, beaten out inch by inch on the hard anvil of bitter controversy (Pauline); or reflecting the more lambent genius of the mystic (Johannine). The differences are great, but they are not oppositions, nor vitiations. The same facts are looked at and loved, by means of the same great powers of soul, and within the same great principles and convictions.‡[Note: , for an able vindication of this view of the relation of the apostolic doctrine to Christ’s, J. Denney, Jesus and the Gospel, London. 1908.]Nor must we forget that since Christ’s Person is the source of this inspiration and enlightenment, their statement is coloured throughout its whole extent by that all-pervading fact. It is a fact which leaves the writers free to be careless of superficial harmonizations, conscious as they are of the substantial unity below all apparent divergences and dissonances. That unity is impressive; its outlines strong and vivid. In contrast with Gentile wisdom and Jewish Law, which were both powerless to redeem men from sin, Christ stands out as Saviour. He is the answer to the age-long cry, ‘How shall man be just with God?’ He is ‘the new and living way’ of access into God’s presence ( Hebrews 10:20), as He Himself claimed ( John 14:6). By Him is proclaimed ‘the forgiveness of sins’ ( Acts 13:38). He is exalted to give forgiveness ( Acts 5:31), and gives it ( Ephesians 1:7,  Colossians 1:14, etc.). He has broken down the ‘wall of partition’ ( Ephesians 2:14) and ‘rent the veil’ of the Temple ( Matthew 27:51,  Mark 15:38,  Luke 23:45). He has effected ‘so great salvation’ ( Hebrews 2:3) in His own body on the tree ( 1 Peter 2:24), by eternal Spirit ( Hebrews 9:14), in Himself and for Himself, as the Author and Finisher of our faith, really, vitally, consciously, not with a dull sense of unintelligible burden, but wholly rationally, intensely spiritually, in an experience where the issues are of life and death, fought out in a fiery heat of thought and emotion, of deeply moving religious conscience. The apostolic consciousness has caught the rich impress of this travail of soul. It sets it forth for mankind in varying form and mode-the picture of the great and guiltless sorrow bearing the sins of the world, and, in bearing them, bearing them away. As the soul of the age was sobbing itself out, here a nobler soul shares the fellowship of its suffering and of all suffering, but not in weakness; for the pain is fully faced and taken up into conscious life, there to be transmuted into abiding life. Thus was Christ justified; thus are we.

iii. Spirituality and absoluteness.-Justification is a purely religious problem. The apostolic solution is purely religious. Its spirituality may be vindicated by reference to its source, its ground, its results.

( a ) Grace the source .-Justification presupposes the election of grace ( q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ), to which is traced its unconditional freeness ( Romans 3:24,  Ephesians 1:7), its plenitude ( Colossians 1:14,  Romans 5:17, etc.), its Divine provision ( 1 John 4:10,  Romans 5:8;  Romans 5:10). The riches and freeness of God’s grace are manifested in the redemption they provide. It is a manifestation in which there is nothing else than a free, unprompted, unsolicited expression of God’s own nature and love to mankind. It is conditioned by nothing in man but man’s clamant need, by nothing in God but His own holy love. Men are not pardoned on account of their faith or by their faith. Pardon already is in God’s attitude toward them; what they have to do is to realize it by faith, and enjoy its blessing.*[Note: Theology even in its most dreary day never made faith the operative but simply the instrumental cause of justification.]Nor does God pardon because of Christ’s satisfaction. Christ’s sacrifice is the outcome of His forgiving mercy. It does not create or impel God’s love, it displays it ( Romans 5:8;  Romans 5:10). The Atonement, so far from being inconsistent with the Fatherhood of God, is its most distinct proof. Faith in Christ’s atoning love only makes more conspicuously clear God’s paternal love, for it is the marvellous way He took to struggle down through human experience to give us healing. This assured love of God is the living root of the justified life;†[Note: Calvin’s Institutes, in which justification is related to predestination: ‘comprehension of the divine purpose creating confidence in the elect’ (bk. iii. ch. 2).]in its amplitude all are pardoned it they would only realize it in actual standing. It is the cause also of confident and bold access to God ( Ephesians 3:12,  1 John 2:28;  1 John 3:21) and the ceasing from confidence in the flesh ( Philippians 3:3). Assurance of the Divine love in the forgiveness of sins already contained in it the whole idea of salvation, and holds together all the parts of the Divine life in their necessary nexus: the justification of the sinner before God and the principle of freedom for the consciousness of the justified subject himself in all his relations.*[Note: It is the permanent worth of Luther’s doctrine to have set forth these two points with passionate cogency (The Liberty of the Christian Man).]In that principle lies securely embedded, along with our acceptance by God, our assurance of salvation.†[Note: Not the same as assurance of the love of God.]Starting from God, who from eternity has been beforehand with us, held by His predestinating love, creating, calling, pardoning, we raise our fabric of life in continual growth for eternal glory ( Romans 8:31-39). All along it is of God’s initiative, of grace; all along it is an appeal to faith; man’s dependence is absolute.

( b ) Christ’s mediation the ground .-Here the apostolic teaching assumes the form of a three-fold presentation; (α) Christ’s righteousness is made peace; (β) Christ’s blood is made obedience; (γ) Christ’s life is made presence. The first in Pauline, the second that of Hebrews, the third Johannine-in such a way that, while each of the three has its predominant element as thus classified, we are not to suppose that each has no affinities with the others; on the contrary, the fullness of troth is in each, but ranged around the predominant element of each type.

(α) The new righteousness .-‘Christ is made unto us righteousness’ ( 1 Corinthians 1:30); ‘he is our peace’ ( Ephesians 2:13-16). The argument is in  Romans 3:10;  Romans 3:19-24, and proceeds by a winding course through the following chapters to the eighth. There are three kinds of righteousness: ‘God’s righteousness,’ ‘our own righteousness,’ and ‘the righteousness of faith.’ Before God’s righteousness no man can stand. The attempt was made through His Law, given by Moses. The result was a self-righteousness that failed to bring peace between God and man for two reasons-firstly, the righteousness of the Law consisted in our own unaided obedience; and secondly, that self-righteousness was the condition of our acceptance with God. It contained all the elements of uncertainty of salvation. It was ineffectual. There is another righteousness never lost sight of under the Old Law, which has now appeared in Jesus Christ. By Him it is made ours. Presented in Him, it awakes in the sinner penitence and faith-a love of Christ’s holiness, a hatred of his own sinfulness; this by God’s grace. There is nothing in the self-righteousness of the righteousness of the Law to bridge the chasm between God and sin. The provision for that end is the very thing provided in Christ. How so? In Christ God gives His own righteousness, which is the end and meaning of all faith. He who receives it in initio receives it virtually in extenso  ; such is the mode of God’s gift of it. The condition of possible or future righteousness is the right attitude or intention of mind towards actual present unrighteousness. It is possible to justify or accept as right only that attitude which at the time is the nearest right possible for the person. In the initial moment of contrition, the only possible and right posture of the sinner is that consciousness of himself which could not be the beginning of his hatred of sin if it were not to the same extent the beginning of a love of holiness. Where this exists in truth and sincerity, even though it be but the beginning of an infinite process, it is possible and right to accept and treat as right that which as yet is only a first turning to and direction towards right (cf.  1 John 1:8-10). Thus the righteousness of faith begins with our sense of sin and experience of impotence, and God’s loving acceptance of this repentance in us is the condition, starting-point, and earnest of a righteousness in us which is maintained and increased through Christ’s, in whom we see revealed all the presence and power of God in us, and in consequence all the power in ourselves necessary to its actual attainment and possession. Faith in Christ as our righteousness can justify us because it is based on the one condition in ourselves of becoming righteous-a loyal disposition-and the one power without ourselves to make us righteous-the righteousness of God. The grace of God in Christ makes the sinner righteous, by enabling him to make himself righteous. It starts the process by regarding and treating as righteous the penitent believer:*[Note: For a full discussion see DuBose, The Gospel according to St. Paul, chs. 6 end 7.]‘justifying freely through grace by faith.’

(β) The new obedience .-‘He learned obedience by the things which he suffered’; ‘the obedience of faith’ ( Hebrews 5:8,  Romans 5:19;  Romans 16:26,  Hebrews 3:14;  Hebrews 4:11;  Hebrews 10:7;  Hebrews 10:23-24;  Hebrews 10:12). A. B. Bruce†[Note: HDB, art. ‘Hebrews,’ vol. ii. p. 333.]has made the invaluable suggestion that by the author of Hebrews the blood of Christ has been translated from body to spirit, and as such enters into heaven, and is available for our benefit. The blood of Christ, says St. John, is ever actively cleansing us from all sin ( 1 John 1:7). That blood-spirit becomes to us the law of all life because it is the law of the Spirit of life itself ( Romans 8:2). Obedience to that law clothes us with its power. How so?-Manifestly not simply as a general consequence of that which Christ has done for us, as if we found ourselves through the Atonement on the Cross under such changed relation to God as enables us to approach Him at will. That view is little distinguishable from the main position of Rationalism (Socinianism), whose central conviction is the assumption of a general order of Divine forgiveness independent of Christ, in accordance with which pardon is bestowed on the condition of the active obedience of faith. Ritschl‡[Note: Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, ch. viii.]has demonstrated the hollowness of this assumption. Both ‘faith’ and ‘obedience’ lose their peculiar quality: for faith becomes merely assent to past teaching or trust in past acts; and obedience, instead of being motived by faith in the sense of surrender to Christ’s spirit, is merely conformity to certain legal requirements. Nor is it enough to go a step further, and to conceive that Christ by His Death established a fund of merit of which we can on certain conditions make ourselves participants (Romanism). Scriptural figures of speech there are that seem to give some warrant to such a view of a spiritual reservoir of grace which waits only for our willingness to dive into it.

Faith’s view of the High Priest’s intercession in heaven will correct such notions. Nay, the narrow notion of faith may become a snare to us. It is, we admit, the first condition in our conscious looking for the new spirit of life. But we must not confound the possession of the condition with the bestowal of the gift, or make our qualification to receive supersede the act of the Giver. Something far more effectual happens. As we invoke His intercession, we do not merely awake an ancient memory; we hear a living voice and see a living form, our Advocate and Comforter, against every accuser ( Romans 8:33-34), and discern them reproduced in our hearts by His Spirit ‘who maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ ( Romans 8:26-27). It is God that justifieth. It is the Son risen for our justification.

(γ) The new presence .-‘It is expedient that I go away; for I will send the Spirit’ ( John 16:7,  Acts 1:8); ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One and know all things’ ( 1 John 2:20;  1 John 2:27); ‘If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God’ ( 1 John 3:21); ‘I saw in the midst of the Church the Son of man all glorious’ ( Revelation 1:13-18). St. John views the justified life as a new life in the deepest sense-not a doctrine merely for the mind to embrace; not an event simply to be remembered with faith; not the constitution only of a new order of spiritual relations for fallen man; but a new power into the very centre of human nature, the power of a new Divine principle. Because of this new principle it is a new creation, a new creation which indeed does not annihilate the old but transmutes it, and fulfils it-a process possible because the principle of the new is, if not continuous with the organic principle of the old, still consistent with that principle, the Logos being the cosmic counterpart of the Spirit. That new power, new principle, in the very centre of humanity is Spirit, presence. How so? By organic, living, universal development. Christ’s force was not intended to stop in the person of one man to be transferred soon after to heaven. Nor was it intended to be a fund or quantum to be applied subsequently in the way of outward imputation. It goes forth to heal and justify the world, not as something standing beyond itself and by a power external. He gathers humanity rather into His own Person, stretches over it the law of His own life, so that it holds in Him as its root. Into this new order of existence we are not transferred wholly at once. We are apprehended by Him, in the first place, only, as it were, at a single point. But this point is central. The new life lodges itself, as an efflux from Christ, in the inmost core of our personality-the inmost self (above, § 2, ‘Problem of justification’). Here it becomes the principle or seed of our sanctification, conceived always not as a substance but as personal, a presence; Christ is in the soul as a magnetic centre ( John 12:32), producing in its life continually an inward nisus in the direction antagonistic to sinful impulse, a process which, if continued, will at last carry all in the soul its own way, as the soul’s forces increasingly yield themselves in their totality to the totality of His Presence. The soul thus grows into His very nature. It is with reason that Schleiermacher speaks of the communication which Christ makes of Himself to believers as moulding t

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

in common language, signifies a vindication from any charge which affects the moral character; but in theology it is used for the acceptance of one, by God, who is, and confesses himself to be, guilty. To justify a sinner, says Mr. Bunting, in an able sermon on this important subject, is to account and consider him relatively righteous; and to deal with him as such, notwithstanding his past actual unrighteousness, by clearing, absolving, discharging, and releasing him from various penal evils, and especially from the wrath of God, and the liability to eternal death, which, by that past unrighteousness, he had deserved; and by accepting him as if just, and admitting him to the state, the privileges, and the rewards of righteousness. Hence it appears that justification, and the remission or forgiveness of sin, are substantially the same thing. These expressions relate to one and the same act of God, to one and the same privilege of his believing people. Accordingly, St. Paul clearly uses justification and forgiveness as synonymous terms, when he says, "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,"  Acts 13:38-39 . Also in the following passage: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,"  Romans 4:5-8 . Here, the justification of the ungodly, the counting or imputation of righteousness, the forgiveness of iniquity, and the covering and non- imputation of sin, are phrases which have all, perhaps, their various shades of meaning, but which express the very same blessing under different views. But (1.) the justification of a sinner does not in the least degree alter or diminish the evil nature and desert of sin. For we know "it is God," the holy God, "that justifieth." And he can never regard sin, on any consideration, or under any circumstances, with less than perfect and infinite hatred. Sin, therefore, is not changed in its nature, so as to be made less "exceedingly sinful," or less worthy of wrath, by the pardon of the sinner. The penalty is remitted, and the obligation to suffer that penalty is dissolved; but it is still naturally due, though graciously remitted. Hence appear the propriety and duty of continuing to confess and lament even pardoned sin with a lowly and contrite heart. Though released from its penal consequences by an act of divine clemency, we should still remember that the dust of self abasement is our proper place before God, and should temper our exultation in his mercy by an humbling recollection of our natural liability to his wrath. "I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God,"   Ezekiel 16:62-63 .

(2.) The account which has been given of justification, if correct, sufficiently points out the error of many of the Roman Catholic divines, and of some mystic theologians, who seem to suppose that to be justified is to be, not reckoned righteous, but actually made righteous, by the infusion of a sanctifying influence, producing a positive and inherent conformity to the moral image of God. This notion confounds the two distinct though kindred blessings of justification and regeneration. The former, in its Scriptural sense, is an act of God, not in or upon man, but for him, and in his favour; an act which, abstractedly considered, to use the words of Dr. Barrow, "respects man only as its object, and translates him into another relative state. The inherent principle of righteousness is a consequent of this act of God; connected with it, but not formally of it."

(3.) The justification extends to all past sins; that is, to all guilt contracted previously to that time at which the act of justification takes place. In respect of this, it is, while it remains in force, a most full, perfect, and entire absolution from wrath. "All manner of sin" is then forgiven. The pardon which is granted is a "justification," not merely from some things, from many things, from most things, but "from all things,"   Acts 13:39 . God does not justify us, or pardon our innumerable offences, by degrees, but at once. As by the law of works he is cursed, who "continueth not in all things" which that law enjoined, so he who is truly absolved by the Gospel is cleared from all and every thing which before stood against him; and "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Well may that Gospel which reveals and offers such a benefit be termed a "great salvation!"

(4.) Another remark, which it may not be unnecessary to make, is, that justification, however effectual to our release from past guilt, does not terminate our state of probation. It is not irreversible, any more than eternal. As he who is now justified was once condemned, so he may in future come again into condemnation, by relapsing into sin and unbelief, although at present "accepted in the Beloved." Thus Adam, before transgression, was in a state of favour: but as he had not then fulfilled, to the end of his probation, the righteousness of that law under which he was placed, his ultimate and final acceptance was not absolutely certain. His privilege, as one accepted of God, might be forfeited, and was actually forfeited, by his subsequent sin. Now, our own justification or pardon only places us, as to this point, in similar circumstances. Though ever so clearly and fully forgiven, we are yet on our trial for eternity, and should "look to ourselves, that we lose not the things which we have gained." That justification may for our sin be reversed, appears from our Lord's parable of the two debtors, in which one who had obtained the blessing of forgiveness is represented as incurring the forfeiture of it by the indulgence of an unforgiving spirit toward his fellow servant,   Matthew 18:23-35 . Let us therefore "watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation."

2. The immediate results of justification are (1.) The restoration of amity and intercourse between the pardoned sinner and the pardoning God. For, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God," and, consequently, unforbidden access to him. The matter and ground of God's controversy with us being then removed by his act of gracious absolution, we become the objects of his friendship. "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness; and he was" immediately "called the friend of God,"   James 2:23; and so are all those who are similarly justified. This reconciliation, however, does not extend to their instant and absolute deliverance from all those evils which transgression has entailed on man. They are still liable, for a season, to affliction and pain, to temporal suffering and mortality. These are portions of the original curse from which their justification does not as yet release them. But it entitles them to such supports under all remaining trouble, and to such promises of a sanctifying influence with it, as will, if embraced, "turn the curse into a blessing." Whom the Lord loveth, he may still chasten, and in very faithfulness afflict them. But these are acts of salutary discipline, rather than of vindictive displeasure. His friendship, not his righteous hostility is the principle from which they all proceed; and the salvation, not the destruction, of the sufferer is the end to which they are all directed.

(2.) Another immediate result of justification is the adoption of the persons justified into the family of God, and their consequent right to eternal life of body and soul. God condescends to become not only their Friend, but their Father; they are the objects not merely of his amicable regard, but of his paternal tenderness. And, admitted to the relation of children, they become entitled to the children's inheritance; for, "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together,"   Romans 8:17 .

(3.) With these results of justification is inseparably connected another, of the utmost value and importance; namely, the habitual indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,"  Galatians 3:13-14 . "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,"  Galatians 4:6 . With the remission of sins, St. Peter also connects, as an immediate result, as a distinct but yet a simultaneous blessing, "the gift of the Holy Ghost,"

 Acts 2:38 . And in the fifth verse of this chapter, the Holy Ghost is said to be given to those who are justified by faith. Of this indwelling the immediate effects are, (i.) Tranquillity of conscience. For he testifies and manifests to those in whom he dwells their free justification and gracious adoption. The spirit which such persons have received is "not the spirit of bondage to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,"

 Romans 8:15-16 .

(ii.) Power over sin; a prevailing desire and ability to walk before God in holy obedience. No sooner is the Holy Spirit enthroned in the heart, than he begins to make all things new. In his genuine work, purity is always connected with consolation. Those to whom he witnesses their freedom from condemnation he also enables to "walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,"   Romans 8:1 .

(iii.) A joyous hope of heaven. Their title results from the fact of their adoption; their power to rejoice in hope, from the Spirit's testimony of that fact. "We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith,"

and "abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost,"  Galatians 5:5;  Romans 15:13 .

3. To have a complete view of the method by which justification and all its consequent blessings are attained, we must consider the originating, the meritorious, and the instrumental cause of justification.

(1.) The originating cause is the grace, the free, undeserved, and spontaneous love of God toward fallen man. He remembered and pitied us in our low estate; for his mercy endureth for ever. "After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. The grace of God bringeth salvation,"   Titus 2:11;  Titus 3:4-5 . We are justified freely by his grace;"  Romans 3:24 . But God is wise, and holy, and just, as well as merciful and gracious. And his wisdom determined, that, in order to reconcile the designs of his mercy toward sinners with the claims of his purity and justice, those designs should be accomplished only through the intervention of a divine Redeemer. We are justified "through our Lord Jesus Christ,"  Romans 1:5 .

(2.) Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sole meritorious cause of our justification. All he did and all he suffered in his mediatorial character may be said to have contributed to this great purpose. For what he did, in obedience to the precepts of the law, and what he suffered, in satisfaction of its penalty, taken together, constitute that mediatorial righteousness, for the sake of which the Father is ever well pleased in him. Now, in this mediatorial righteousness all who are justified have a saving interest. It is not meant that it is personally, imputed to them in its formal nature or distinct acts; for against any such imputation there lie insuperable objections both from reason and from Scripture. But the collective merit and moral effects of all which the Mediator did and suffered are so reckoned to our account when we are justified, that, for the sake of Christ and in consideration of his obedience unto death, we are released from guilt, and accepted of God.

From this statement of the meritorious cause of justification, it appears that while our pardon is, in its origin, an act of the highest grace, it is also, in its mode, an act most perfectly consistent with God's essential righteousness, and demonstrative of his inviolable justice. It proceeds not on the principle of abolishing the law or its penalty; for that would have implied that the law was unduly rigorous, either in its precepts or in its sanctions. But it rests on the ground that the law has been magnified and vindicated, and that its penalty, or sufferings, which where fully equivalent to that penalty in a moral view, when the dignity of the sufferer is considered, have been sustained by our voluntary Substitute. Thus "grace reigns through righteousness," not at the expense of righteousness. "Now, the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,"

 Romans 3:21-26 .

(3.) As to the instrumental cause of justification, the merit of the blood of Jesus does not operate necessarily so as to produce our pardon as an immediate and unavoidable effect, but through the instrumentality of faith. The faith by which we are justified is present faith, faith actually existing and exercised. We are not justified by to-morrow's faith foreseen; for that would lead to the Antinomian notion of justification from eternity, a notion which to mention is to confute. We are not justified by yesterday's faith recorded or remembered; for that would imply the opinion that justification is irreversible. The justification offered in the Scriptures is a justification upon believing, in which we are never savingly interested until we believe, and which continues in force only so long as we continue to believe. On all unbelievers the wrath of God abides. The atonement of Jesus was indeed accepted, as from him, at the time when it was offered; but it is not accepted, as for us, to our individual justification, until we individually believe, nor after we cease to believe. The Object of justifying faith may be inferred from what has been before said, as to the originating and meritorious causes of justification. It has respect, in general, to all that Christ is set forth in the Gospel as doing or suffering, by the gracious appointment of the Father, in order to our redemption and pardon. But it has respect, in particular, to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, as exhibited by divine authority in the Scriptures, and as attested to be acceptable and sufficient by his resurrection from the dead, and by his mediatorial exaltation at the right hand of God.

The acts or exercises of this faith seem to be three; or rather, that faith which is required in order to our justification is a complex act of the mind, which includes three distinct but concurrent exertions of its powers. It includes, (1.) The assent of the understanding to the truth of the testimony of God in the Gospel; and especially to that part of it which concerns the design and efficacy of the death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin.

(2.) The consent of the will and affections to this plan of salvation; such an approbation and choice of it as imply a renunciation of every other refuge, and a steady and decided preference of this. Unbelief is called a disallowing of the foundation laid in Zion; whereas faith includes a hearty allowance of it, and a thankful acquiescence in God's revealed method of forgiveness.

(3.) From this assent of the enlightened understanding, and consent of the rectified will, to the evangelical testimony concerning Christ crucified, results the third thing, which is supposed to be implied in justifying faith; namely, actual trust in the Saviour, and personal apprehension of his merits. When, under the promised leading and influence of the Holy Ghost, the penitent sinner thus confidently relies and individually lays hold on Christ, then the work of justifying faith is complete; then, and not till then, he is immediately justified. On the whole, it may be said that the faith to which the privilege of justification is annexed, is such a belief of the Gospel, by the power of the Spirit of God, as leads us to come to Christ, to receive Christ, to trust in Christ, and to commit the keeping of our souls into his hands, in humble confidence of his ability and his willingness to save us.

The grand doctrine of the Reformation was that of justification by faith, and was therefore held by all the Lutheran and Reformed churches. The Papists assert that man's inherent righteousness is the meritorious cause of his justification: many Protestant divines have endeavoured to unite the two, and have held that men are justified by faith and good works; and others have equally departed from the opinions of the earliest reformers on the subject of justification, in representing it as resulting from the imputation of Christ's active and passive righteousness to those that believe, instead of confining the imputation to the moral consequence and effect of both. In other words, that which is reckoned to us in our justification for righteousness is our faith in Christ's merits, and that not because of any intrinsic value in faith; but only for the sake of those merits.

In a mere moral sense man's sin or righteousness is imputed to him, when he is considered as actually the doer of sinful or of righteous acts. A man's sin or righteousness is imputed to him in its legal consequence, under a government of rewards and punishments; and then to impute sin or righteousness signifies, in a legal sense, to reckon and to account it, to acquit or condemn, and forthwith to punish, or to exempt from punishment. Thus Shimei entreats David, that he would "not impute folly to him," that is, that he would not punish his folly. In this sense, too, David speaks of the blessedness of the man whose "transgression is forgiven,"

and to whom the Lord "imputeth not sin," that is, whom he forgives, so that the legal consequence of his sin shall not fall upon him. This non- imputation of sin, to a sinner, is expressly called the "imputation of righteousness, without works;" the imputation of righteousness is, then, the non-punishment, or the pardon of sin; and if this passage be read in its connection, it will also be seen, that by "imputing" faith for righteousness, the Apostle means precisely the same thing: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness; even as David also describeth the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin." This quotation form David would have been nothing to the Apostle's purpose, unless he had understood the forgiveness of sins, and the imputation of righteousness, and the non- imputation of sin, to signify the same thing as "counting faith for righteousness," with only this difference, that the introduction of the term "faith" marks the manner in which the forgiveness of sin is obtained. To have faith imputed for righteousness, is nothing more than to be justified by faith, which is also called by St. Paul, "being made righteous," that is, being placed by an act of free forgiveness, through faith in Christ, in the condition of righteous men, in this respect, that the penalty of the law does not lie against them, and that they are the acknowledged objects of the divine favour. See Faith .

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

A forensic term, and signifies the declaring or the pronouncing a person righteous according to law. It stands opposed to condemnation; and this is the idea of the word whenever it is used in an evangelical sense,  Romans 5:18 .  Deuteronomy 25:1 .  Proverbs 17:15 .  Matthew 12:37 . It does not signify to make men holy, but the holding and declaring them so. It is defined by the assembly thus: "An act of God's free grace, in which he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone." The doctrine of justification, says Mr. Booth, makes a very distinguished figure in that religion which is from above, and is a capital article of that faith which was once delivered to the saints. Far from being a merely speculative point, it spreads its influence through the whole body of divinity, runs through all Christian experience, and operates in every part of practical godliness. Such is its grand importance, that a mistake about it has a malignant efficacy, and is attended with a long train of dangerous consequences.

Nor can this appear strange, when it is considered, that the doctrine of justification is no other than the way of a sinner's acceptance with God. Being of such peculiar moment, it is inseparably connected with many other evangelical truths, the harmony and beauty of which we cannot behold while this is misunderstood. It is, if any thing may be so called, an essential article, and certainly requires our most serious consideration. Justification, in a theological sense, is either legal or evangelical. If any person could be found that had never broken the divine law, he might be justified by it in a manner strictly legal. But in this way none of the human race can be justified, or stand acquitted before God. For all have sinned; there is none righteous; no, not one,  Romans 3:1-31 : As sinners, they are under the sentence of death by his righteous law, and excluded from all hope and mercy. That justification, therefore, about which the Scriptures principally treat, and which reaches the case of a sinner, is not by a personal, but an imputed righteousness; a righteousness without the law,   Romans 3:21 . provided by grace, and revealed in the Gospel; for which reason, that obedience by which a sinner is justified, and his justification itself are called evangelical.

In this affair there is the most wonderful display of divine justice and boundless grace. Of divine justice, if we regard the meritorious cause and ground on which the Justifier proceeds in absolving the condemned sinner, and in pronouncing him righteous. Of boundless grace, if we consider the state and character of those persons to whom the blessing is granted. Justification may be farther distinguished as being either at the bar of God, and in the court of conscience; or in the sight of the world, and before our fellow-creatures. The former is by mere grace through faith; and the latter is by works. To justify is evidently a divine prerogative. It is God that justifieth, Rom 7: 33. That sovereign Being, against whom we have so greatly offended, whose law we have broken by ten thousand acts of rebellion against him, has, in the way of his own appointment, the sole right of acquitting the guilty, and of pronouncing them righteous. He appoints the way, provides the means, and imputes the righteousness; and all in perfect agreement with the demands of his offended law, and the rights of his violated justice.

But although this act is in some places of the infallible word more particularly appropriated personally to the Father, yet it is manifest that all the Three Persons are concerned in this grand affair, and each performs a distinct part in this particular, as also in the whole economy of salvation. The eternal Father is represented as appointing the way, and as giving his own Son to perform the conditions of our acceptance before him,  Romans 8:32 : the divine Son as engaged to sustain the curse, and make the atonement; to fulfil the terms, and provide the righteousness by which we are justified,   Titus 2:14 : and the Holy Spirit as revealing to sinners the perfection, suitableness, and freeness of the Saviour's work, enabling them to receive it as exhibited in the Gospel of sovereign grace; and testifying to their consciences complete justification by it in the court of heaven,   John 16:8;  John 16:14 . As to the objects of justification, the Scripture says, they are sinners, and ungodly. For thus runs the divine declaration: To him that worketh is the reward of justification, and of eternal life as connected with it; not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth

whom? the righteous? the holy? the eminently pious? nay, verily, but the ungodly; his faith, or that in which he believes, is counted unto him for righteousness,  Romans 4:4-5 .  Galatians 2:17 . Here, then, we learn, that the subjects of justification, considered in themselves, are not only destitute of a perfect righteousness, but have performed no good works at all. They are denominated and considered as the ungodly, when the blessing is bestowed upon them. Not that we are to understand that such remain ungodly. "All, " says Dr. Owen, "that are justified, were before ungodly: but al that are justified, are, at the same instant, made godly." That the mere sinner, however, is the subject of justification, appears from hence. The Spirit of God, speaking in the Scripture, repeatedly declares that we are justified by grace. But grace stands in direct opposition to works. Whoever, therefore, is justified by grace, is considered as absolutely unworthy in that very instant when the blessing is vouchsafed to him,  Romans 3:1-31 . The person, therefore, that is justified, is accepted without any cause in himself.

Hence it appears, that if we regard the persons who are justified, and their state prior to the enjoyment of the immensely glorious privilege, divine grace appears, and reigns in all its glory. As to the way and manner in which sinners are justined, it may be observed that the Divine Being can acquit none without a complete righteousness. Justification, as before observed, is evidently a forensic term, and the thing intended by it a judicial act. So that, were a person to be justified without a righteousness, the judgment would not be according to truth; it would be a false and unrighteous sentence. That righteousness by which we are justified must be equal to the demands of that law according to which the Sovereign Judge proceeds in our justification. Many persons talk of conditions of justification (see article CONDITION;) but the only condition is that of perfect righteousness: this the law requires, nor does the Gospel substitute another. But where shall we find, or how shall we obtain a justifying righteousness? Shall we flee to the law for relief? Shall we apply with diligence and zeal to the performance of duty, in order to attain the desired end? The apostle positively affirms, that there is no acceptance with God by the works of the law; and the reasons are evident. Our righteousness is imperfect, and consequently cannot justify. If justification were by the works of men, it could not be by grace: it would not be a righteousness without works.

There would be no need of the righteousness of Christ; and, lastly, if justification were by the law, then boasting would be encouraged; whereas God's design, in the whole scheme of salvation, is to exclude it,  Romans 3:27 .  Ephesians 2:8-9 . Nor is faith itself our righteousness, or that for the sake of which we are justified: for, though believers are said to be justified by faith, yet not for faith: faith can only be considered as the instrument, and not the cause. That faith is not our righteousness, is evident from the following considerations: No man's faith is perfect; and, if it were, it would not be equal to the demands of the divine law. It could not, therefore, without an error in judgment, be accounted a complete righteousness. But the judgment of God, as before proved, is according to truth, and according to the rights of his law. That obedience by which a sinner is justified is called the righteousness of faith, righteousness by faith, and is represented as revealed to faith; consequently it cannot be faith itself. Faith, in the business of justification, stands opposed to all works; to him that worketh not, but believeth.

Now, if it were our justifying righteousness, to consider it in such a light would be highly improper. For in such a connection it falls under the consideration of a work; a condition, on the performance of which our acceptance with God is manifestly suspended. If faith itself be that on account of which we are accepted, then some believers are justified by a more, and some by a less perfect righteousness, in exact proportion to the strength or weakness of their faith. That which is the end of the law is our righteousness, which certainly is not faith, but the obedience of our exalted substitute,  Romans 10:4 . Were faith itself our justifying righteousness, we might depend upon it before God, and rejoice in it. So that according to this hypothesis, not Christ, but faith, is the capital thing; the object to which we must look, which is absurd. When the apostle says, "faith was imputed to him for righteousness, " his main design was to prove that the eternal Sovereign justifies freely, without any cause in the creature. Nor is man's obedience to the Gospel as to a new and milder law the matter of his justification before God.

It was a notion that some years ago obtained, that a relaxation of the law, and the severities of it, has been obtained by Christ; and a new law, a remedial law, a law of milder terms, has been introduced by him, which is the Gospel; the terms of which are faith, repentance, and obedience; and though these are imperfect, yet, being sincere, they are accepted of by God in the room of a perfect righteousness. But every part of this scheme is wrong, for the law is not relaxed, nor any of its severities abated; there is no alteration made in it, either with respect to its precepts or penalty: besides, the scheme is absurd, for it supposes that the law which a man is now under requires only an imperfect obedience: but an imperfect righteousness cannot answer its demands; for every law requires perfect obedience to its own precepts and prohibitions. Nor is a profession of religion, nor sincerity, nor good works, at all the ground of our acceptance with God, for all our righteousness is imperfect, and must therefore be entirely excluded. By grace, saith the apostle, ye are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast,  Ephesians 2:8-9 . Besides, the works of sanctification and justification are two distinct things: the one is a work of grace within men; the other an act of grace for or towards men: the one is imperfect, the other complete; the one carried on gradually, the other done at once.

See Sanctification If, then, we cannot possibly be justified by any of our own performances, nor by faith itself, nor even by the graces of the Holy Spirit, where then shall we find a righteousness by which we can be justified? The Scripture furnishes us with an answer

"By Jesus Christ all that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses, "  Acts 13:38-39 . "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, "  Romans 4:25 . "Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him, "  Romans 5:9 . The spotless obedience, therefore, the bitter sufferings, and the accursed death of our heavenly Surety, constitute that very righteousness by which sinners are justified before God. That this righteousness is imputed to us, and that we are not justified by a personal righteousness, appears from the Scripture with superior evidence. "By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous, " Rom 19. "He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, "  2 Corinthians 5:21 . "And he found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ; the righteousness which is of God by faith, "  Philippians 3:8 .

See also  Jeremiah 23:6 .  Daniel 9:24 . the whole of the 2nd chapter of Galatians.

See articles Reconcilliation, Righteousness As to the properties of justification:

1. It is an act of God's free grace, without any merit whatever in the creature,  Romans 3:24 .

2. It is an act of justice as well as grace: the law being perfectly fulfilled in Christ, and divine justice satisfied,  Romans 3:26 .  Psalms 85:10 .

3. It is an individual and instantaneous act done at once, admitting of no degrees,  John 19:30 .

4. It is irreversible, and an unalterable act,  Malachi 3:6 . As to the time of justification, divines are not agreed. Some have distinguished it into decretive, virtual, and actual

1. Decretive, is God's eternal purpose to justify sinners in time by Jesus Christ.

2. Virtual justification has a reference to the satisfaction made by Christ.

3. Actual, is, when we are enabled to believe in Christ, and by faith are united to him. Others say it is eternal, because his purpose respecting it was from everlasting: and that, as the Almighty viewed his people in Christ, they were, of consequence, justified in his sight. But it appears to me, that the principle on which the advocates for this doctrine have proceeded is wrong. They have confounded the design with the execution; for if this distinction be not kept up, the utmost perplexity will follow the consideration of every subject which relates to the decrees of God; nor shall we be able to form any clear ideas of his moral government whatever.

To say, as one does, that the eternal will of God to justify men is the justification of them, is not to the purpose; for, upon the same ground, we might as well say that the eternal will of God to convert and glorify his people is the real conversion and glorification of them. That it was eternally determined that there should be a people who should believe in Christ, and that his righteousness should be imputed to them, is not to be disputed; but to say that these things were really done from eternity (which we must say if we believe eternal justification, ) this would be absurd. It is more consistent to believe, that God more consistent to believe, that God from eternity laid the plan of justification; that this plan was executed by the life and death of Christ; and that the blessing is only manifested, received, and enjoyed, when we are regenerated; so that no man can say or has any reason to conclude, he is justified, until he believes in Christ,  Romans 5:1 . The effects or blessings of justification, are,

1. An entire freedom from all penal evils in this life, and that which is to come,  1 Corinthians 3:22 .

2. Peace with God,  Romans 5:1 .

3. Access to God through Christ,  Ephesians 3:12 .

4. Acceptance with God,  Ephesians 5:27 .

5. Holy confidence and security under all the difficulties and troubles of the present state,  2 Timothy 1:12 .

6. Finally, eternal salvation,  Romans 8:30 .  Romans 5:18 . Thus we have given as comprehensive a view of the doctrine of justification as the nature of this work will admit; a doctrine which is founded upon the sacred Scriptures; and which, so far from leading to licentiousness, as some suppose, is of all others the most replete with motives to love, dependence, and obedience,  Romans 6:1-2 . A doctrine which the primitive Christians held as constituting the very essence of their system; which our reformers considered as the most important point; which our venerable martyrs gloried in, and sealed with their blood; and which, as the church of England observes, is a "very wholesome doctrine, and full of comfort."

See Dr. Owen on Justification; Rawlins on Justification; Edwards's Sermon on ditto; Lime Street Aspasio, and Eleven Letters; Witherspoon's Connexion between Justification and Holiness; Gill and Ridgley's Div. but especially Booth's Reign of Grace, to which I am indebted for great part of the above article.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal, a fact that makes it unpalatable to many in our day. We tend to distrust legalism and thus we dismiss anything that savors of a legalistic approach. We should be clear that our hesitation was not shared by the biblical writers. In their day it was axiomatic that a wealthy and important citizen would not be treated in a law court in the same way as an insignificant person. Indeed this was sometimes written into the statutes and, for example, in the ancient Code of Hammurabi it is laid down that if a citizen knocked out the tooth of another citizen his own tooth should be knocked out. But if the victim was a vassal it sufficed to pay a small fine. Nobody expected strict justice in human tribunals but the biblical writers were sure that God is a God of justice. Throughout the Bible justice is a category of fundamental importance.

It mattered to the biblical writers that God is a God is a God of perfect justice, a truth expressed in Abraham's question, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" ( Genesis 18:25 ). God can be relied on to act in perfect justice and without giving preference to the wealthy and the highly placed in our human societies. "The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people" ( Isaiah 3:13-14 ). Over and over the punishment of evil is put in legal terms ( Exodus 6:6;  7:4 ) and specifically Israel's sin is brought out with the use of legal imagery ( Micah 6:1-2 ).

Accordingly it is not surprising that salvation is often viewed in legal terms. The basic question in all religion is, "How can sinful people be just (i.e., be justified) before the holy God?" Justification is a legal term with a meaning like "acquittal"; in religion it points to the process whereby a person is declared to be right before God. That person should be an upright and good person, but justification does not point to qualities like these. That is rather the content of sanctification. Justification points to the acquittal of one who is tried before God. In both the Old Testament and the New the question receives a good deal of attention and in both it is clear that people cannot bring about their justification by their own efforts. The legal force of the terminology is clear when Job exclaims, "Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated" ( Job 13:18 ).

Justification ( dikaiosis []) is connected linguistically with righteousness ( dikaiosune []); in the first century it is clear that all the words with this root were concerned with conformity to a standard of right. And in Scripture it is not too much to say that righteousness is basically a legal term. The law that mattered was, of course, the law of God, so that righteousness signified conformity to the law of God.

The Old Testament . We do not find the full New Testament doctrine of justification by faith in the Old Testament, but we do find teachings that agree with it and that in due course were taken up into that doctrine. Thus it is made clear that sin is uNIVersal, but that God provides forgiveness. For the first point, "All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" ( Psalm 14:3 ). And when God looks down from heaven he sees that "they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" ( Psalm 53:2-3 ). Many such passages could be cited. And for the second point, "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness" ( Psalm 130:3-4 ). The end of Micah's prophecy emphasizes that God is a God "who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance" and that he "delights to show mercy" (7:18-20).

Sometimes we find the thought that God imputes righteousness to people. He did this to Abraham, who believed God "and he credited it to him as righteousness" ( Genesis 15:6 ). Again Phinehas took decisive action so that the plague was checked and "This was credited to him as righteousness" ( Psalm 106:31; Phinehas is described in the words, "as zealous as I am for my honor among them, "  Numbers 25:11 ). And the prophet can say, "He who vindicates (or justifies) me is near" ( Isaiah 50:8 ).

The New Testament . When we turn to the New Testament we must be clear that the righteousness and justification terminology is to be understood in the light of its Hebrew background, not in terms of contemporary Greek ideas. We see this, for example, in the words of Jesus who speaks of people giving account on the day of judgment: "by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" ( Matthew 12:37; the word NIV translates "acquitted" is the one Paul normally uses for "justified" ). Those acquitted on the day of judgment are spoken of as "the righteous" ( Matthew 25:37; they go into "eternal life, " v. 46 ).

The verb translated "to justify" clearly means "to declare righteous." It is used of God in a quotation, which the New International Version renders "So that you may be proved right when you speak" ( Romans 3:4; the NRSV has more exactly, "So that you may be justified in your words" ). Now God cannot be "made righteous"; the expression obviously means "shown to be righteous" and this helps us see that when the word is applied to believers it does not mean "made righteous"; it signifies "declared righteous, " "shown to be in the right, " or the like.

Paul is fond of the concept of justification; indeed for him it is the characteristic way of referring to the central truth of the gospel. He makes much more use of the concept than do the other writers of the New Testament. This does not mean that he has a different understanding of the gospel; it is the same gospel that he proclaims, the gospel that the death of Christ on the cross has opened a way of salvation for sinners. But he uses the concept of justification to express it whereas the other writers prefer other terms. He says, "Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" ( Romans 5:19 ). We should not understand "were made sinners" in any such sense as "were compelled to be sinners." It signifies "were constituted sinners, " "were reckoned as sinners." Paul is saying that the whole human race is caught up in the effect of Adam's sin; now all are sinners. Paul speaks of God "who justifies the wicked" ( Romans 4:5 ): it is not people who have merited their salvation of whom he writes, but people who had no claim on salvation. It was "while we were still sinners" that Christ died for us ( Romans 5:8 ). But the effect of Christ's saving work is that now all believers are "made righteous, " "accepted by God as righteous."

Paul insists that people are not justified by what they themselves do. Justification is not the result of the infusion of new life into people, but comes about when they believe. The apostle points to the important example of Abraham, the great forbear of the Jewish race, as one who was not justified by works ( Romans 4:2-3 ). And, of course, if Abraham was not justified by works, then who could possibly be? Specifically Paul says, "a man is not justified by observing the law"; indeed, "by observing the law no one will be justified" ( Galatians 2:16; cf. also  Galatians 3:11 ).

There is something of a problem in that, whereas Paul says quite plainly that justification is by faith and not by works, James holds that "a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone" (2:24). James chooses Abraham and Rahab as examples of people who were justified by works (2:21,25). He points out that Abraham "offered his son Isaac on the altar" and that Rahab lodged the spies and sent them away.

But we should notice that both these Old Testament worthies are elsewhere singled out as examples of faith. Paul cited Abraham to establish the truth that we are justified by faith rather than by works. Indeed, he quotes Scripture, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" ( Romans 4:3 , citing  Genesis 15:6; he cites it again in v. 22 ). In Romans 4Paul has a strong argument that it was not works that commended the patriarch to God, but faith: Abraham is, for Paul, the classic example of a man who believed and who was accepted by God because of his faith. And the writer to the Hebrews says plainly that it was "by faith" that Rahab welcomed the spies ( Hebrews 11:31 ).

If we look more closely at what James says we see that he is not arguing for works in the absence of faith, but rather for works as the evidence of faith. "Show me your faith without deeds, " he writes, "and I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18) and goes on to cite the demons who believe that there is one God as examples of the kind of faith he deprecates. James is sure that saving faith transforms the believer so that good works necessarily follow; and he complains about people who say they have faith, but whose lives show quite plainly that they have not been saved. When people have saving faith God transforms their lives and James' point is that in the absence of this transformation we have no reason for thinking that those who profess to be believers really have saving faith. We should not overlook the fact that James as well as Paul quotes  Genesis 15:6 to make it clear that Abraham was justified by faith. And we should bear in mind that this was many years before he offered Isaac on the altar; indeed it was before Isaac was born. While the offering of Isaac showed that Abraham was justified, his justification, even on James' premises, took place long before the act that showed its presence.

And we must say much the same about Paul. He certainly calls vigorously for faith, but he calls equally vigorously for lives of Christian service. And when he writes, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" ( Galatians 5:6 ), he is saying something with which James would surely agree. For James says, "I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18).

Paul continually emphasizes the importance of justification by faith. In his sermon at Antioch in Pisidia he points out that "through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you" and immediately adds, "Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses" ( Acts 13:38-39 ). More than once he quotes the words from Habbakuk 2:4, "the righteous will live by faith" ( Romans 1:17;  Galatians 3:11; cf. also  Galatians 2:16;  Hebrews 10:38 ). He says explicitly that justification is by faith and not by observing the law ( Romans 3:28 ), or simply that "we have been justified through faith" ( Romans 5:1 ).

Paul does not, of course, argue that faith is a meritorious act that of itself brings about justification. He is not saying that if we believe strongly enough we somehow get rid of our sins. But real faith means trust in God and when we trust God we are open to the divine power that works in us to make us the sort of people we ought to be and to accomplish the divine purpose. When we insist on our own moral performance we cut ourselves off from the good that God works in believers.

At the center of Paul's religion is the cross of Jesus, and faith means trusting the crucified Lord. Thus Paul says that Jesus "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" ( Romans 4:25 ). We should not, of course, put too strong a distinction between the effects of Jesus' death and the effects of his resurrection. Paul is saying that Jesus' death and resurrection meant a complete dealing with sins and a perfectly accomplished justification. We are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" ( Romans 3:24 ), which means that Jesus' atoning death is critically important in our justification. Similarly we are justified "by his grace" ( Romans 3:24 ), "by his blood" ( Romans 5:9 ), "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 6:11 ), and "in Christ" ( Galatians 2:17 ), which are all ways of saying that it is the saving work of Jesus that brings about the justification of sinners.

Salvation by the way of the cross was so that God would be "just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus" ( Romans 3:26 ). This will be in mind also in the reference to God as presenting Christ "as a sacrifice of atonement (better, "a propitiation") through faith in his blood" ( Romans 3:25 ). That we are "justified by his blood" ( Romans 5:9 ) points to the same truth: It is the death of Jesus that makes us right with God. This is the meaning also when we read that we are "justified by his grace" ( Titus 3:7 ). It was God's good gift that brought justification, his "one act of righteousness" in Christ that effected it ( Romans 5:16,18 ). Another way of putting it is that the saved are saved not because of their own righteousness (they are sinners), but because of the righteousness that is from God and which they receive by faith ( Philippians 3:9; cf. 2Col 5:21).

It is plain from the New Testament teaching throughout that justification comes to the sinner by the atoning work of Jesus and that this is applied to the individual sinner by faith. That God pardons and accepts believing sinners is the truth that is enshrined in the doctrine of justification by faith.

Leon Morris

See also Atonement; Crucifixion Cross; Death Of Christ; Faith; Paul The Apostle; Works Of The Law

Bibliography . M. Barth, Justification  ; G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification  ; J. Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification  ; F. Colquhoun, The Meaning of Justification  ; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross  ; idem, The Cross in the New Testament  ; P. Toon, Justification and Sanctification  ; F. B. Westcott, The Biblical Doctrine of Justification .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

The English words ‘justification’ and ‘righteousness’ are different parts of the same word in the original languages of the Bible. This applies to the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New (see also Righteousness ).

Meaning of ‘justify’ in the Bible

Most commonly the Bible uses the word ‘justify’ in what might be called a legal sense. The picture is that of a courtroom where the righteous person is the one whom the judge declares to be right. The person is justified. In other words, to justify means to declare righteous, to declare to be in the right, to vindicate. It is the opposite of to condemn, which means to declare guilty, to declare to be in the wrong ( Deuteronomy 25:1;  Job 13:18;  Isaiah 50:7-8;  Matthew 12:37;  Luke 18:14;  Romans 8:33).

Those who try to show that they are in the right are said to be trying to justify themselves. They are trying to declare themselves righteous ( Job 32:2;  Luke 10:28-29;  Luke 16:14-15). They may even go to the extent of condemning God in order to justify themselves, declaring God to be wrong and themselves to be right ( Job 40:8). It is in this sense of declaring someone to be right or wrong that the Bible may speak of God as being justified. People acknowledge that he is in the right and that his judgments are correct ( Psalms 51:4;  Luke 7:29;  Romans 3:4; cf.  Revelation 16:5).

Some may argue that to justify means to make righteous (cf.  Romans 5:19 RSV), but if such is the case it is important to understand what is meant by being ‘made’ righteous. People are not made righteous in the sense that a piece of metal placed in a fire is ‘made hot’. They are made righteous only in the sense of being declared righteous. They are put in a right relationship with God ( Romans 5:19 GNB). The word has to do with a legal pronouncement, not with changing people from one thing to another by placing some new moral power within them ( Romans 4:1-3;  Romans 5:17-19;  Philippians 3:9).

Just as condemn does not mean ‘make wicked’, so justify does not mean ‘make good’. Nevertheless, one result of the justification of believers is that their lives are changed so that righteousness (in the sense of right behaviour), not sin, becomes the chief characteristic ( Philippians 3:9-10;  James 2:17-23;  1 Peter 2:24;  1 John 3:7; see Sanctification ).

Justification by faith

The fullest explanation of justification is in the writings of Paul. There the teaching centres on God’s great act of salvation by which he declares repentant sinners righteous before him. Instead of having the status of those who are guilty and condemned, sinners now have the status of those who are right with God. God brings them into a right relationship with himself, giving them a right standing before him ( Romans 5:1-2;  Romans 8:33).

This is entirely an act of God’s grace, for no one can have a right standing before God on the basis of personal good deeds. Even a person’s best efforts to keep the law will not help. Since all are sinners and under God’s condemnation, there is nothing anyone can do to gain acceptance with God ( Psalms 143:2;  Romans 3:28;  Romans 9:31-32;  Galatians 2:16). God accepts people not because of anything they do, but solely because of his mercy ( Isaiah 55:7;  Micah 7:18;  Romans 3:24;  Ephesians 2:8).

However, this gracious work of justification takes place only in those who trust in God. It is through faith that people are justified; more specifically, through faith in Jesus Christ. Christ has done the work and they accept the benefits of that work by faith ( Romans 1:17;  Romans 3:22;  Romans 3:28;  Romans 4:2-5;  Romans 5:1;  Galatians 2:16;  Galatians 3:11; see Faith ; Grace ).

The basis of God’s merciful act of justification is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ( Romans 3:24-25;  Romans 4:23-25;  Romans 5:9;  Romans 5:17-19;  Galatians 2:21). God now sees believers as ‘in Christ’ and therefore he declares them righteous. And those whom God declares righteous are righteous – not in the sense that they are perfect people who cannot sin any more, but in the sense that God gives them a righteousness that is not their own, the righteousness of Christ. God accepts believing sinners because of what Christ has done. Jesus Christ becomes, as it were, their righteousness ( 1 Corinthians 1:30;  2 Peter 1:1).

Justification and substitution

Although the word ‘justification’ tells us that God declares sinners righteous, it does not tell us the hidden mysteries of divine activity that make it possible for God to do this. The mysteries of God’s will and the wonders of his salvation are in some ways beyond human understanding. But since justification is concerned with the processes of law, a further illustration from the law court may suggest the way God has worked.

In this courtroom scene, God is the judge and sinners are on trial ( Romans 2:2;  Romans 2:5-6;  Romans 3:23). God loves them and wants to forgive them ( 1 John 4:16;  2 Peter 3:9), but his love requires that he act justly (i.e. righteously). If a judge acquitted the guilty merely because they were people he liked, he would be unjust. He might claim to be loving, but his love would be no more than an irrational emotion divorced from moral justice and righteousness. True love, by contrast, is so zealous for the other person’s well-being that it reacts in anger against all that is wrong (cf.  Hebrews 12:6).

God is love and wants to forgive sinners, but because he is a God of love he cannot ignore sin or treat it as if it does not matter. His act of forgiveness, if it is based on love, will involve his dealing with sin.

Being a God of love, God must punish sin, but at the same time (being a God of love) he provides a way whereby sinners need not suffer the punishment themselves. He has done this by taking human form in the person of Jesus Christ, living with sinners as a fellow human being in their world, and then, without himself being a sinner, taking sin’s punishment on their behalf ( Romans 3:24;  Romans 5:9;  2 Corinthians 5:18). God is both the judge and the one against whom people have sinned, but at the same time he is the one who bears the penalty of their sin. He forgives sinners only at great cost to himself ( John 3:16;  2 Corinthians 8:9; see Sacrifice ).

Jesus died in the place of, or as the substitute for, guilty sinners ( 1 Peter 2:24). Whereas Adam’s sin brought death, Christ’s death brings life ( Romans 5:15;  Romans 5:18). Being fully human, Jesus could be a substitute for his fellow human beings, but only because he was sinless and completely obedient. He fulfilled all God’s righteous requirements under the law ( Matthew 3:15;  Philippians 2:8;  1 Peter 2:22;  1 John 3:5). One who broke God’s law would be under condemnation himself and could not take the place others ( Galatians 3:10). Jesus, however, kept God’s law perfectly. He was absolutely righteous in the fullest moral sense of the word, and so was able to bear the law’s punishment on behalf of those who had broken it ( Galatians 3:11-13;  Galatians 4:4-5).

When he died, the sinless Jesus suffered the punishment that sin deserved. ‘He bore our sins’ ( 1 Peter 2:24). Because of the death of Christ, God can now forgive repentant sinners and accept them as righteous before him. Believers are now in a right relationship with God, because Christ is in a right relationship with God ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s justice and God’s mercy operate in harmony, because both are outworkings of his love. His justice is satisfied in seeing sin punished, and his mercy flows out in seeing sin forgiven. In his love God justifies guilty but repentant sinners, yet he does so justly and righteously ( Romans 3:26;  Romans 4:5; see also Propitiation ).

Justification and forgiveness

God’s forgiveness is more than what people usually mean when they talk of forgiveness. It is more than merely the removal of hostility or the ignoring of wrongdoing. When God forgives sinners, he also justifies them, bringing them into a right relation with himself ( Romans 5:6-11). God not only removes condemnation, he also gives righteousness ( Romans 4:6-8;  Romans 4:22;  Romans 5:17;  Romans 5:19;  2 Corinthians 5:19;  2 Corinthians 5:21;  Philippians 3:9). Forgiveness is something that believers continue to be in need of because they are still likely to sin ( Matthew 6:12); justification is a once-for-all act, a declaration by God that he accepts them in his Son ( Romans 5:1-2).

The forgiveness that believers need day by day is concerned not with the basic work of justification, but with their daily enjoyment of fellowship with God. Although the penalty of sin has been paid, the evil effects of sin are still in the world and believers cannot escape them. Their failures may disappoint themselves and God, but as they confess those failures they are assured of God’s forgiveness ( 1 John 1:7;  1 John 1:9; see Confession ; Forgiveness ). Their justification, however, is never in question.

Christ’s death deals with sin’s penalty for all believers, whether they belong to generations past, present or future. In like manner it deals with the penalty for all the sins of each individual believer, whether those sins be in the past, present or future  Romans 3:22-26;  Hebrews 9:15).

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

Old Testament In its simplest form, the cardinal theme of Scripture could be described as God's relationship with His people. Justification is a term which explains how an individual enters into that relationship with God, contrasts the life of participants in that relationship with those outside, and outlines the obligations of that relationship. Justification is the remedy for the chief problem of sin which separates God and sinners.

God called Abraham and promised to make him into a great people ( Genesis 12:1-3 ). Effectually, Abraham was called to counteract the sin of Adam. The only proper response to that call was faith. Although advanced in years, Abraham was promised a child Isaac, through whom innumerable descendants would emerge. Abraham's response to this promise is the crux of the whole idea of justification in the Old as well as in the New Testament.  Genesis 15:6 captures this response: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (NIV). Righteousness is not something Abraham possessed that prompted a reward from God. Quite to the contrary, a condition was fulfilled on the part of Abraham, and subsequently on the part of God. The Old Testament teaches that to be righteous is to fulfill the conditions of the covenant relationship. Therefore, to act righteously is to act in compliance with the covenant. The Hebrew word translated “credited” (or imputed or reckoned) originally described the important priestly task of endorsing the offerings presented to God (  Leviticus 7:18;  Leviticus 17:4;  Numbers 18:27 ). On the basis of this understanding, God accepted the response of Abraham's faith. This covenant was no mere abstraction. It was a term of relationship encompassed by the concrete, dynamic action of God. Similarly, righteousness is a term of relationship. The covenant establishes the terms of the relationship. A person who fulfills the terms of the covenant relationship is called righteous.

The search for the abstract noun “justification” in the Old Testament is fruitless. However, the verb, “to justify,” is found occasionally, often in the passive “to be justified,” pointing to some kind of agency involved in the action (see  Job 11:2;  Job 13:18;  Job 25:4;  Psalm 51:4;  Psalm 143:2;  Isaiah 43:9 ,Isaiah 43:9, 43:26;  Isaiah 45:25 ). All of these references clearly reveal the nature of justification: it is something that God does. The elemental sense in which the Old Testament employs the idea of “justifying” is best expressed in the phrase “proclaiming to be within the covenant relationship.”

Ironically, God's chosen people Israel continually displayed a bent toward rebellion which can best be rendered, in covenantal language, as infidelity more than immorality. This is why the Hebrew prophets strongly decried Israel's proclivity to prostitute themselves with foreign gods. Hosea provides the best example of this infidelity because it was personified in his life. Hosea's personal experience in marriage served also as a parable of God's relationship with Israel. The names of his three children, Jezreel (God scatters), Lo-Ruhamah (not pitied), and Lo-Ammi (not my people) show the extent of the rebellion. God's perennial problem with Israel caused Him to act “justly,” that is, He had to render a judgment or He would be characterized as a bad judge. This is how Hosea interpreted God's judgment upon sin and unfaithfulness to the covenant. The actions taken by God were not arbitrary; rather, they are to be seen as actions resulting directly from a major disruption in the covenantal bond. Balancing this view, the Hebrew conception of justice also included an important redemptive element. Even in the midst of Israel's rebellion, Hosea vividly portrayed God saying to them, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” ( Hosea 11:8 NIV). Justification always requires obedience on the part of God's people, but justification also always requires judgment and restoration on the part of God. Anything less would greatly diminish the meaning of the term “justification.”

New Testament The New Testament's posture, with respect to the idea of justification, is also dependent on the concrete activity of God. The major difference is that, in the New Testament, God dealt with the sin of humankind by the highest and most intimate form of revelation, His Son Jesus Christ. The earliest Christians believed that they were “made right” with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ( Romans 3:21-26;  Romans 4:18-25;  1 Corinthians 1:30;  1 Corinthians 6:11;  1 Timothy 3:16;  1 Peter 3:18 ). In his letter to the Romans, Paul conveyed the message that God did not consider sin lightly. Sin created a massive gulf between God and people. This gulf required a bridge to bring all of humanity into a right relationship with God. Theologians call God's bridge building “reconciliation.” Reconciliation functions to bring humans “justification.” The main character who effected this divine plan was Jesus Christ. Uniquely, His death on the cross made it possible for God and people to be reconciled ( Romans 5:10 ) and thus for humans to be justified.

Not found in the Old Testament, justification is almost as scarce in the New Testament, occurring only three times ( Romans 4:25;  Romans 5:16 ,Romans 5:16, 5:18 ). The necessity of justification, however, is sufficiently expressed by Paul in  Romans 5:12-21 . Paul advanced this theme of sin and its effects no doubt with the story of  Genesis 3:1 in mind. Paul described sin almost as a personal power controlling people, preventing them from obeying God, and leading them to death. No one is excluded from sin's domain. All people are in the deplorable state of being separated from God due to sin. All people desperately need deliverance. The redemptive activity of Christ provides the only avenue to a right relationship with God.

Justification does not encompass the whole salvation process; it does, however, mark that instantaneous point of entry or transformation which makes one “right with God.” Christians are justified in the same way Abraham was, by faith ( Romans 4:16;  Romans 5:1 ). Human works do not achieve or earn acceptance by God. The exercise of faith alone ushers us into a right, unmerited relationship with God ( Galatians 2:16;  Titus 3:7 ). Biblically, the spiritual journey begins at the point of justification. This immediate act has far-reaching consequences. It establishes the future. God in the present moment announces the verdict He will pronounce on the day of final judgment. He declares that trusting faith in Jesus Christ puts people in the right with God, bringing eternal life now and forever.

Paul taught that faith in Jesus Christ is an obedient response which results from hearing the Gospel ( Romans 10:17 ). He drew a connection between the Christian's faith and the faith of Abraham. Abraham's faith in God can be seen as an exemplary foreshadowing which would find ultimate expression in every Christians' relationship to God through Jesus Christ.

Two related questions present themselves for consideration: (1) What is the relationship between faith and Old Testament law?, and (2) What is the relationship between faith and works? Paul found no room in his theology for an elitist righteousness. Special privileges were not administered by God in direct proportion to blood (nationality), brawn (strength), or brains (intellect). No justification within the law would allow anyone (Jew or not) to sidestep faith in Jesus Christ. Paul eliminated all doubt when he argued that being a Jew is neither a prerequisite ( Romans 4:1-25 ) nor a prerogative ( Romans 9:1-33 ) for justification. The only stipulation, accessible to all, is faith.

Some confusion results when a comparison is made between faith and works. Paul is not the only adherent or spokesman for the doctrine of justification by faith. The apostle James, among others, taught this crucial doctrine also. However, premature appraisals of  James 2:14-26 have caused some to see a contradiction in comparison with Paul's instruction. Nothing is further from the truth. The two writers merely expressed different concerns. James' idea of faith summarily eliminated all instances of imagined belief which had no observable or corresponding behavior. Paul's concept of faith emphasized a shift of focus from the world to Jesus Christ on the part of the believer. It was a reorientation which resulted in good works (see   Romans 12:1 ). By God's grace we are offered salvation, which we accept by faith. This faith results in a radical change of our natures ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ) in order that we might do good works. See Paul; James; Reconciliation; Faith; Eternal Life .

Paul Jackson

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [7]

(See Impute .) "The just shall live by faith" ( Habakkuk 2:4) is thrice quoted by Paul:

(1)  Romans 1:17, where the emphasis is on "just," the gospel plan of saving men sets forth "the righteousness (justice) of God" as excluding the righteousness of man, Gentile and Jew alike ( Romans 1:17 ff; Romans 2;  Romans 3:25).

(2)  Galatians 3:11, etc., where the emphasis is on "faith" as distinguished front works, either distinct from or combined with faith, in the act of justification, this is by faith alone.

(3)  Hebrews 10:38-39, where the emphasis is on "live"; as in the first instance in the matter of justification, so throughout, spiritual life is continued only by faith as opposed to "drawing back."

Again, the gratuitousness of God's gift of justification is brought out by comparing  Romans 3:24, "being justified freely ( Doorean ) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," with  John 15:25, "they hated ME without a cause" ( Doorean ). As gratuitous as was man's hatred, so gratuitous is God's love justifying believers through Christ. Man had every cause to love, yet he hated, God; God had every cause given by man to hate, yet He loves, man. The Hebrew Tsadaquw , Greek Dikaioo , expresses, not to infuse righteousness into but to impute it to, man; to change his relation to God legally or forensically, not in the first instance to change his character. "Justification" is no more an infusion of righteousness than "condemnation," its opposite, is an infusion of wickedness, as is proved by  Deuteronomy 25:1, "the judges shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked,"  Proverbs 17:15;  Isaiah 5:23;  Psalms 143:2, which shows that by inherent righteousness no man could be justified.

In 40 Old Testament passages the Hebrew is used in the forensic sense,  Isaiah 53:11, "by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many" is no exception, for the mode of His justifying them follows, "He shall bear their iniquities." So in  Daniel 12:3 ministers "justify" or "turn to righteousness" their converts instrumentally, i.e. bring them to God who justifies them. In  Daniel 8:14, margin, "the sanctuary shall be justified" means "shall be vindicated from profanation," shall stand in a relation of right before God which it had not done before its cleansing. Similarly the Greek verb means not to make righteous or pure, but to count righteous before God. Opposed to Katakrinoo , "to condemn",  Romans 8:33-34; "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?" Also  Romans 5:16;  Luke 18:14.  Matthew 11:19 means like  Daniel 8:14, "wisdom is vindicated from the condemnation" east on her by "this generation."

Also  Matthew 12:37;  Luke 7:29, the publicans "justified God"; i.e. vindicated His righteousness, showed they counted Him righteous in His "counsel" by accepting the gospel; opposed to the Pharisees who "rejected" it, to their own condemnation ( Romans 2:13). Before man's bar, ordinarily, the righteousness on account of which he is justified or counted righteous is his own; before God's bar, the righteousness on account of which he is justified is Christ's, which is God's ( 2 Peter 1:1). Therefore pardon accompanies justification before God's bar, but pardon would be scorned by one innocent and therefore justified before man's bar. Again, acquittal before man is not always accompanied with justification; but the sinner pardoned before God is always justified also. In  1 John 3:7, "he that doeth righteousness is righteous even as He is righteous"; not his doing righteousness makes him righteous, but shows that he is so, i.e. justified by the righteousness of God in Christ ( Romans 10:3-10).

A man "deceives" himself if he think himself "righteous," and yet does not righteousness, for "doing righteousness" is the sure fruit and proof of "being righteous," i.e. of having the only principle of true righteousness and the only mean of justification, faith. Paul's epistle to Romans proves Jew and Gentile guilty of breaking God's universal law, therefore incapable of being justified by their own righteousness, i.e. obedience to the law. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight; but now (under the gospel) the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference, for all have sinned," etc. ( Romans 3:20-23). Still plainer is  Romans 4:3-8 "to hint that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (i.e. not as a merit, but Christ's merit apprehended by faith:  Ephesians 2:5;  Ephesians 2:8-10) is counted for righteousness.

David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works (as man has no righteousness of his own the 'righteousness imputed' to him can only be the righteousness of God in Christ) ... blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." The justified man is not only acquitted as innocent but regarded as having perfectly obeyed the law in the person of Christ. There is to him both the non-imputation of sin and the imputation of righteousness. "Being justified by God's grace he is made heir according to the hope of eternal life" ( Titus 3:7;  Romans 5:18-19). Christ is "of God made unto us righteousness," so that to believers He is "the Lord our righteousness" ( 1 Corinthians 1:30;  Jeremiah 23:6). Faith is the instrument or receptive mean of justification ( Romans 3:28;  Galatians 2:16;  Galatians 3:8).

We are justified judicially by God ( Romans 8:33), meritoriously by Christ ( Isaiah 53:11;  Romans 5:19), instrumentally or mediately by faith ( Romans 5:1), evidentially by works. This is the sense of James ( James 2:14-26), otherwise James could no more be reconciled with himself than with Paul, for he quotes the same instance and the same scripture, "Abraham believed God and it (his faith) was counted to him for righteousness," as Paul does. (See James ; FAITH.) Luther called the doctrine of justification by faith only "the article (test) of a standing or falling church." Justin Martyr in the second century (Ep. ad Diog.) writes: "what else could cover our sins but His righteousness? in whom could we transgressors be justified but only in the Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable contrivance! that the transgressions of many should be hidden in one righteous Person and the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors." ( 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Church of England Homily says: "faith doth not shut out repentance, hope, love, and the fear of God in every man justified, but it shutteth them out from the office of justifying." So: "faith, receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification, yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces." (Westminster Confession xi. 1-2). Rome makes justification the infusion of righteousness by God's Spirit and the rewarding of the good works done under His influence, at the day of judgment. This confounds justification with sanctification whereas Romans 5 and Romans 6 carefully distinguish them, and makes it a continuous process not completed until the judgment, whereas Scripture makes it completed on believing ( Romans 5:1-9;  Romans 8:1;  John 5:24).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Justification. A term used to imply the declaring or accounting of a person just or righteous before God. If any one were free from sin, if he perfectly obeyed God's commandments, he would really be just, not exposed to the penalty of transgression.  Romans 2:13. But mankind, as sinful, are not just in this sense, and cannot be so treated.  Psalms 143:2;  Romans 3:19-20;  Romans 3:23;  1 John 1:8. If, then, they are to be freed from the condemnation of sin, if they are to be dealt with as those not amenable to God's law, it must be not by the establishment of their innocence, but by the remission of their guilt. And it was for this that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, and offered himself a sacrifice for sin, that men might be delivered from the condemnation into which their sins had cast them.  Romans 3:24-25;  2 Corinthians 5:21;  1 John 1:7;  1 John 2:2. The Scripture therefore teaches that we are justified by faith in Christ.  Romans 3:28;  Galatians 2:16. This doctrine is thus expressed in the eleventh article of the Anglican church: "We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." The originating cause of justification is God's free grace and loving pity for a fallen world.  John 3:16;  Romans 6:8;  Ephesians 2:4-8. The meritorious cause is the sinless life and sacrificial death of Christ,  Romans 4:25, for the virtue of which God could without moral fault, or detriment to justice, remit sin. The instrumental cause is faith, whereby we receive the atonement, accepting God's mercy on the terms on which he offers it.  Romans 3:30;  Romans 5:11. Those who are so justified are at peace with God, and have all the advantages of such a state of reconciliation.  Romans 5:1-2. Justified men desire and endeavor to walk in holiness of life.  Romans 8:1. Gratitude for the mercy received will incline them to do that which is well pleasing in God's sight. They feel that they have been purchased to be his, and must glorify him in their body and their spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:20. This will be their mark, the token, the proof that they are no longer enemies, but friends; not sentenced culprits, but beloved children. Should any not so walk and act, they cannot be God's children. Such a faith as theirs, a faith which worketh not by love, is empty and useless.  James 2:17;  James 2:26. Abraham's obedience was the proof that he possessed that faith which was counted to him for righteousness. Of justification, then, it may be briefly said that—1, its source is the grace of God; 2, its ground the mediatorial work of Christ; 3, faith the way by which we receive it; and, 4, the holy life of a believer the evidence of its possession; or, yet more briefly, it is originally by grace, meritoriously by Christ, instrumentally by faith, evidentially by good works.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

The word δικαίωσις occurs but twice in the N.T., namely,  Romans 4:25 and   Romans 5:18 . In the former passage it appears to be the equivalent in meaning of faith being imputed to the believer for righteousness, that is, of the believer being accounted righteous. Hence the word 'justification' may be said to be the estimation formed in God's mind of the believer in view of that order of things of which Christ risen is the Head. Such estimation has its expression in Christ Himself, and its consequences are seen in  Romans 5 .

The question as to how a righteous God can justify a sinner is raised and answered in  Romans 3 . It is difficult to conceive a subject more momentous for every human being. What is set forth in the gospel at the outset is the vindication of God in righteousness as regards sin by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, where, in God's infinite grace to sinners, the question of sin and its judgement has been raised between Himself and the spotless Sin-bearer and settled to His glory. Of Him it is said, "Whom God hath set forth a mercy-seat, through faith in his blood, . . . . for the showing forth of his righteousness in the present time, so that he should be just and justify him that is of the faith of Jesus." It is then in the blood of Jesus that God's judgement of sin is seen, and it is on this righteous basis that He can justify all who believe in Him.

Justification of life ( Romans 5:18 ) is the righteous bearing into life which is toward all through the one accomplished righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ even to death, in contrast with the bearing of the one offence of Adam which brought in death and condemnation upon all. What has been effected by the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounds in the scope of it, over all that has been brought in by the one man Adam. In the death of Christ there is seen the complete judgement and removal out of the sight of God both of the sins and of the man who sinned, believers having, through the Lord Jesus Christ raised from the dead, a new Head, in whom they live for God.

There is another aspect of justification referred to in the Epistle of James ( James 2 ), where it is entirely a question of what appears before men. "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Romans 5:1-10

It proceeds on the imputing or crediting to the believer by God himself of the perfect righteousness, active and passive, of his Representative and Surety, Jesus Christ ( Romans 10:3-9 ). Justification is not the forgiveness of a man without righteousness, but a declaration that he possesses a righteousness which perfectly and for ever satisfies the law, namely, Christ's righteousness ( 2 Corinthians 5:21;  Romans 4:6-8 ).

The sole condition on which this righteousness is imputed or credited to the believer is faith in or on the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is called a "condition," not because it possesses any merit, but only because it is the instrument, the only instrument by which the soul appropriates or apprehends Christ and his righteousness ( Romans 1:17;  3:25,26;  4:20,22;  Philippians 3:8-11;  Galatians 2:16 ).

The act of faith which thus secures our justification secures also at the same time our sanctification (q.v.); and thus the doctrine of justification by faith does not lead to licentiousness ( Romans 6:2-7 ). Good works, while not the ground, are the certain consequence of justification (6:14; 7:6). (See Galatians, Epistle To .)

Webster's Dictionary [11]

(1): ( n.) Adjustment of type by spacing it so as to make it exactly fill a line, or of a cut so as to hold it in the right place; also, the leads, quads, etc., used for making such adjustment.

(2): ( n.) The act of justifying, or the state of being justified, in respect to God's requirements.

(3): ( n.) The act of justifying or the state of being justified; a showing or proving to be just or conformable to law, justice, right, or duty; defense; vindication; support; as, arguments in justification of the prisoner's conduct; his disobedience admits justification.

(4): ( n.) The showing in court of a sufficient lawful reason why a party charged or accused did that for which he is called to answer.

King James Dictionary [12]


1. The act of justifying a showing to be just or conformable to law, rectitude or propriety vindication defense. The court listened to the evidence and arguments in justification of the prisoner's conduct. Our disobedience to God's commands admits no justification. 2. Absolution.

I hope, for my brother's justification, he wrote this but as an essay of my virtue.

3. In law, the showing of a sufficient reason in court why a defendant did what he is called to answer. Pleas in justification must set forth some special matter. 4. In theology, remission of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment or an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

jus - ti - fi - kā´shu ( צדק , cedheḳ , verb צדק , cādhēḳ  ; Septuagint and New Testament δικαίωμα , dikaı́ōma , δικαίωσις , dikaı́ōsis , verb δικαιόω , dikaióō , "justification" "to justify," in a legal sense, the declaring just or righteous. In Biblical literature, δικαιοῦν , dikaioún , without denying the real righteousness of a person, is used invariably or almost invariably in a declarative or forensic sense. See Simon, Hdb , II, 826; Thayer, Grimm, and Cremer under the respective words):

I. The Writings Of Paul

1. Universality of Sin

2. Perfection of the Law of God

3. Life, Work and Death of the Atoning Saviour

(1) Paul's Own Experience

(2) The Resurrection Connected with the Death

(3) Faith, Not Works, the Means of Justification

(4) Baptism Also Eliminated

(5) Elements of Justification

(a) Forgiveness of Sins

(b) Declaring or Approving as Righteous

(6) Justification Has to Do with the Individual

II. The Other New Testament Writings

1. The Synoptic Gospels

2. John's Writings

3. 1 Peter and Hebrews

4. Epistle of James

III. The Old Testament

IV. Later Development Of The Doctrine

1. Apostolic and Early Church Fathers

2. Council of Trent

3. Luther

4. Schleiermacher

5. Meaning and Message to the Modern Man


I. The Writings of Paul.

1. The Universality of Sin:

In this article reference will first be made to the writings of Paul, where justification receives its classic expression, and from there as a center, the other New Testament writers, and finally the Old Testament, will be drawn in. According to Paul, justification rests on the following presuppositions:

The universality of sin. All men are not only born in sin ( Ephesians 2:3 ), but they have committed many actual transgressions, which render them liable to condemnation. Paul proves this by an appeal to the Old Testament witnesses ( Romans 3:9 ff), as well as by universal experience, both of the heathen (  Romans 1:18-32 ) and Jews ( Romans 2:17-28;  Romans 3:9 ).

2. Perfection of the Law of God:

The perfection of the Law of God and the necessity of its perfect observance, if justification is to come by it ( Romans 3:10 ). The modern notion of God as a good-natured, more or less nonchalant ruler, to whom perfect holiness is not inexorable, was not that of Paul. If one had indeed kept the law, God could not hold him guilty ( Romans 2:13 ), but such an obedience never existed. Paul had no trouble with the law as such. Those who have tried to find a difference here between Galatians and Romans have failed. The reminder that the law was ordained by angels ( Galatians 3:19 ) does not mean that it was not also given by God. It might be reckoned in a sense among the elements of the world ( kosmos ),  Galatians 4:3 ), as it is an essential part of an ordered universe, but that does not at all mean that it is not also holy, right and good ( Romans 7:12 ). It was added, of course, on account of transgressions ( Galatians 3:19 ), for it is only a world of intelligent, free spirits capable of sin which needs it, and its high and beautiful sanctions make the sin seem all the more sinful ( Romans 7:13 ).

3. Life, Work and Death of the Atoning Savior:

It was fundamental in Paul's thinking that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures ( 1 Corinthians 15:3 ). In due season He died for the ungodly ( Romans 5:6 ); while we were yet sinners He died for us ( Romans 5:8 ); we are justified in His blood ( Romans 5:9 ), and it is through Him that we are saved from the wrath ( Romans 5:9 ). While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son ( Romans 5:10 ), being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth as a propitiation ( Romans 3:24 ,  Romans 3:25 ). There is no reconciliation, no justification, except through and by and for Christ.

(1) Paul's Own Experience.

Paul's own experience cannot be left out of the account. He lived through the doctrine, as well as found it through illumination of the Spirit in the Old Testament. It was not that he had only outwardly kept the law. He had been jealous for it, and had been blameless in every requirement of its righteousness ( Philippians 3:6 ). What was borne in upon him was how little such blamelessness could stand before the absolute standard of God. Just how far he was shaken with doubts of this kind we cannot say with certainty; but it seems impossible to conceive the Damascus conversion scene in the case of such an upright man and strenuous zealot without supposing a psychological preparation, without supposing doubts as to whether his fulfilling of the law enabled him to stand before God. Now, for a Pharisaically educated man like himself, there was no way of overcoming these doubts but in a renewed struggle for his own righteousness shown in the fiery zeal of his Damascus journey, pressing on even in the blazing light of noonday. This conversion broke down his philosophy of life, his Lebensgewissheit, his assurance of salvation through works of the law done never so conscientiously and perfectly. The revelation of the glorified Christ, with the assurance that He, the God-sent Messiah, was the very one whom he was persecuting, destroyed his dependence on his own righteousness, a righteousness which had led him to such shocking consequences. Although this was for him an individual experience, yet it had universal applications. It showed him that there was an inherent weakness in the law through flesh, that is, through the whole physical, psychical and spiritual nature of man considered as sinful, as working only on this lower plane, and that the law needed bracing and illuminating by the Son, who, though sent in the likeness of the flesh of sin, yet (as an offering) for sin condemned sin and cast it out ( Romans 8:3 ), to the end that the law might be fulfilled in those who through Him walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit ( Romans 8:4 ). That was the glory of the new righteousness thus revealed. If the law had been able to do that, to give life, Christ need not have come, righteousness would have been by the law ( Galatians 3:21 ). But the facts show that the law was not thus able, neither the law written on the heart given to all, nor the law given to Moses (Rom 1:18 through 3:19). Therefore every mouth is stopped, and all flesh is silent before God. On the ground of law-keeping, what the modern man would call morality, our hope of salvation has been shattered. The law has spoken its judgment against us ( Galatians 3:10 ). It cannot therefore lead us to righteousness and life, nor was that its supreme intention: it was a pedagogue or tutor (" paidagōgós ") to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (  Galatians 3:24; see Ihmels in RE3 , 16, 483-84). What made Paul to differ from his companions in the faith was that his own bitter experience under the revelation of Christ had led him to these facts.

(2) The Resurrection Connected with the Death.

It was remarked above that the ground of justification according to Paul is the work of Christ. This means especially. His death as a sacrifice, in which, as Ritschl well says ( Rechtfertigung und Versohnung , 3. Aufl., 1899, 2 157), the apostles saw exercised the whole power of His redemption. But that death cannot be separated from His resurrection, which first awakened them to a knowledge of its decisive worth for salvation, as well as finally confirmed their faith in Jesus as the Son of God. "The objective salvation," says Ritschl (p. 158), "which was connected with the sacrificial death of Christ and which continued on for the church, was made secure by this, that it was asserted also as an attribute of the resurrected one," who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification (  Romans 4:25 ). But this last expression is not to be interpreted with literal preciseness, as though Paul intended to distinguish between the forgiveness of sins as brought about by the death, and justification, by the resurrection, for both forgiveness and justification are identified in  Romans 4:6-8 . It was the resurrection which gave Christians their assurance concerning Christ ( Acts 17:31 ); by that resurrection He has been exalted to the right hand of God, where He maketh intercession for His people ( Romans 8:34 ), which mediatorship is founded upon His death - the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ( Revelation 13:8 m; compare Greek text).

B. Weiss well says: "It was by the certainty of the exaltation of Christ to Messianic sovereignty brought about by the resurrection that Paul attained to faith in the saving significance of His death, and not conversely. Accordingly, the assurance that God cannot condemn us is owing primarily to the death of Christ, but still more to His resurrection and exaltation to God's right hand ( Romans 8:34 ), inasmuch as these first prove that His death was the death of the mediator of salvation, who has redeemed us from condemnation.... The objective atonement was accomplished by the death of Christ, but the appropriation of it in justification is possible only if we believe in the saving significance of His death, and we can attain to faith in that only as it is sealed by the resurrection" ( Biblical Theology of the New Testament , I, 436-37).

(3) Faith, Not Works, the Means of Justification.

The means or condition of justification is faith ( Romans 3:22 ,  Romans 3:25 ,  Romans 3:26 ,  Romans 3:28 , etc.) which rests upon the pure grace of God and is itself, therefore, His gift ( Ephesians 2:8 ). This making faith the only instrument of justification is not arbitrary, but because, being the receptive attitude of the soul, it is in the nature of the case the only avenue through which Divine blessing can come. The gifts of God are not against the laws of the soul which He has made, but rather are in and through those laws. Faith is the hand outstretched to the Divine Giver, who, though He sends rain without our consent, does not give salvation except through an appropriate spiritual response. This faith is not simply belief in historical facts, though this is presupposed as to the atoning death ( Romans 3:25 ), and the resurrection ( Romans 10:9 ) of Jesus, but is a real heart reception of the gift ( Romans 10:10 ), and is therefore able to bring peace in our relation to God ( Romans 5:1 ). The object of this faith is Jesus Christ ( Romans 3:22 , etc.), through whom only comes the gift of righteousness and the reigning in life ( Romans 5:17 ), not Mary, not angels, not doctrine, not the church, but Jesus only. This, to be sure, does not exclude God the Father as an object of faith, as the redeeming act of Christ is itself the work of God ( 2 Corinthians 5:19 ), whose love expressed itself toward us in this way ( Romans 5:8 ). Faith in the only one God is always presupposed ( 1 Corinthians 8:6 ), but it was the apostolic custom rather to refer repentance to God and faith to Christ ( Acts 20:21 ). But the oneness of God the Father and Christ the Son in a work of salvation is the best guaranty of the Divinity of the latter, both as an objective fact and as an inner experience of the Christian.

The justification being by faith, it is not by works or by love, or by both in one. It cannot be by the former, because they are lacking either in time or amount or quality, nor could they be accepted in any case until they spring from a heart renewed, for which faith is the necessary presupposition. It cannot be by the latter, for it exists only where the Spirit has shed it abroad in the heart ( Romans 5:5 ), the indispensable prerequisite for receiving which is faith. This does not mean that the crown of Christianity is not love, for it is ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ); it means only that the root is faith. Nor can love be foisted in as a partial condition of justification on the strength of the word often quoted for that purpose, "faith working through love" ( Galatians 5:6 ). The apostle is speaking here only of those who are already "in Christ," and he says that over against the Galatian believers bringing in a lot of legal observances, the only availing thing is not circumcision or its lack, but faith energizing through love. Here the interest is, as Ritschl says ( II , 343), in the kingdom of God, but justification proper has reference to the sinner in relation to God and Christ. See the excellent remarks of Bruce, Paul's Conception of Christianity , 1894, 226-27. At the same time this text reveals the tremendous ethical religious force abiding in faith, according to Paul. It reminds us of the great sentence of Luther in his preface to the Epistles to the Romans, where he says: "Faith is a Divine work within us which changes and renews us in God according to  John 1:13 , 'who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' This destroys the old Adam and makes new creatures of us in heart, will, disposition, and all our powers. Oh, faith is a living, active, jealous, mighty thing, inasmuch as it cannot possibly remain unproductive of good works" (Werke, Erl. Ausg ., 63, 124-25).

(4) Baptism also Eliminated.

Not only are good works and love removed as conditions or means of justification of the sinner, but baptism is also eliminated. According to Paul, it is the office of baptism not to justify, but to cleanse, that is, symbolically to set forth and seal the washing away of sin and the entrance into the new life by a dramatic act of burial, which for the subject and all witnesses would mark a never-to-be-forgotten era in the history of the believer. "Baptism," says Weiss ( I , 454), "presupposes faith in Him as the one whom the church designates as Lord, and also binds to adherence to Him which excludes every dependence upon any other, inasmuch as He has acquired a claim upon their devotion by the saving deed of His self-surrender on the cross." So important was baptism in the religious atmosphere at that time that hyperbolical expressions were used to express its cleansing and illuminating office, but these need not mislead us. We must interpret them according to the fundamental conceptions of Christianity as a religion of the Spirit, not of magic nor of material media. Baptism pointed to a complete parting with the old life by previous renewal through faith in Christ, which renewal baptism in its turn sealed and announced in a climax of self-dedication to him, and this, while symbolically and in contemporary parlance of both Jew and Gentile called a new birth, was probably often actually so in the psychological experience of the baptized. But while justification is often attributed to faith, it is never to baptism.

(5) Elements of Justification.

What are the elements of this justification? There are two:

(a) Forgiveness of Sins

Forgiveness of sins ( Romans 4:5-8; compare  Acts 13:38 ,  Acts 13:39 ). With this are connected peace and reconciliation ( Romans 5:1 ,  Romans 5:9 ,  Romans 5:10; compare  Romans 10:11 ).

(b) The Declaring or Approving as Righteous

The declaring or approving as righteous or just ( Romans 3:21-30;  Romans 4:2-9 ,  Romans 4:22;  Romans 5:1 ,  Romans 5:9-11 ,  Romans 5:16-21 , etc.). C.F. Schmid is perfectly right when he says that Paul (and James) always uses dikaioun in the sense of esteeming and pronouncing and treating as righteous, both according to the measure of the law ( Romans 2:13;  Romans 3:20 ) and also according to grace ( Biblical Theology of the New Testament , 1870, 497). The word is a forensic one, and Godet goes so far as to say that the word is never used in all Greek literature for making righteous ( Commentary on Romans , English translation, I , 157, American edition, 95). This is shown further by the fact that it is the ungodly who are justified ( Romans 4:5 ), and that the justification is a reckoning or imputation ( logı́zesthai ) of righteousness ( Romans 4:6 ,  Romans 4:22 ), not an infusing or making righteous. The contrast of "to justify" is not "to be a sinner" but is "to accuse" or "to condemn" ( Romans 8:33 ,  Romans 8:14 ), and the, contrast of "justification" is "condemnation" ( Romans 5:18 ). Besides, it is not the infusing of a new life, of a new holiness, which is counted for righteousness, but it is faith which is so counted ( Romans 4:5;  Philippians 3:9 ). That upon which God looks when He justifies is not the righteousness He has imparted or is to impart, but the atonement He has made in Christ. It is one of the truest paradoxes of Christianity that unless a righteous life follows, there has been no justification, while the justification itself is for the sake of Christ alone through faith alone. It is a " status , rather than a character," says Stevens ( The Pauline Theology , 1892, 265); "it bears the stamp of a legal rather than of an ethical conception," and he refers to the elaborate and convincing proof of the forensic character of Paul's doctrine of justification," in Morison, Exposition of Romans, chapter III, 163-200. An interesting illustration of how further study may correct a wrong impression is given by Lipsius, who, in his Die Paulinische Rechfertigungslehre , 1853, maintained that righteousness or justification meant not "exclusively an objectively given external relation to God, but always at the same time a real inner condition of righteousness" (p. 10), whereas in his Lehrbuch der evangelisch-protestantischen Dogmatik , 1876, 3. Aufl ., 1893, he makes the righteousness of God properly an "objective gift of grace, not simply in the sense in which the Old Testament just one judged his position of salvation as a gift of grace, but as a righteousness specially reckoned and adjudicated by way of grace and acknowledged before the judgment (or court, Gericht ) of God ( Romans 4:6; compare  Romans 4:1-8 ,  Romans 4:11;  Romans 3:23;  Galatians 3:6 ). This is always the meaning of dikaioun , dikaioústhai , or dikaiōsis in Paul. It consists in the not-reckoning of sins," etc. (p. 658). Of course justification is only a part of the process of salvation, which includes regeneration and sanctification, but these are one thing and justification is another.

(6) Justification Has to Do with the Individual.

Finally it is asked whether justification in Paul's mind has to do with the individual believer or with the society or Christian congregation. Ritschl ( 2 , 217 f) and Sanday-Headlam ( The Epistle to the Rom , 122-23) say the latter; Weiss ( I , 442), the former. It is indeed true that Paul refers to the church as purchased with Christ's blood (  Acts 20:28 , or God's blood, according to the two oldest manuscripts and ancient authorities; compare  Ephesians 5:25 ), and he uses the pronoun "we" as those who have received redemption, etc. ( Colossians 1:14;  Ephesians 2:18 ); but it is evident on the other hand that faith is an individual matter, a thing first between man and his God, and only after a man has been united to Christ by faith can he enter into a spiritual fellowship with fellow-believers. Therefore the subject of justification must be in the first place the individual, and only in the second place and by consequence the society. Besides, those justified are not the cleansed and sanctified members of churches, but the ungodly ( Romans 4:5 ).

As to the argument from baptism urged by Sanday-Headlam, it must be said that Paul always conceives of baptism as taking place in the Christian community with believers and for believers, that that for and to which they are baptized is not justification, but the death and resurrection of Christ ( Romans 6:3 ,  Romans 6:4 ), and that the righteousness of God has been manifested not through baptism but through faith in Jesus Christ unto all that believe ( Romans 3:22 ), being justified freely, not through baptism, but through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ( Romans 3:24 ). With Paul baptism has always a mystical significance as symbolizing and externally actualizing union with the death of the Lord, and would be both impossible and impertinent in the case of those not already believers in Christ and thus inwardly united to His society.

II. The Other New Testament Writings.

So much for Paul. Let us now take a glance at the other New Testament books. It is a commonplace of theology that is called "modern" or "critical," that Paul and not Jesus is the founder of Christianity as we know it, that the doctrines of the Divinity of Christ, atonement, justification, etc., are Paul's work, and not his Master's. There is truth in this. It was part of the humiliation of Christ as well as His pedagogical method to live, teach and act under the conditions of His time and country, on the background of Palestine of 30 AD; and it was specially His method to do His work and not His disciples', to live a life of love and light, to die for the sins of the world, and then go back to the Father that the Holy Spirit might come and lead His followers into all truth. A full statement of the doctrines of Christianity on His part would have been premature ( John 16:12 ), would have been pedagogically unwise, if not worthless. First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear ( Mark 4:28 ). It would also have been spiritually and philosophically impossible, for Christianity was not a set of teachings by Christ - but a religion springing out of His life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, mediatorial activity in history through the Spirit who works in His disciples and on the world through and by that life, death, etc. The only question is whether the apostles were true to the spirit and content of His teachings in its moral and religious outlines. And especially in this matter of justification, a teaching by Christ is not to be looked for, because it is the very peculiarity of it that its middle point is the exalted Lord, who has become the mediator of salvation by His death and resurrection. Did the Pauline doctrine fit into the concrete situation made by the facts of Christ mentioned above, and was it the necessary consequence of His self-witness? Let us look into the Synoptic Gospels.

1. The Snyoptic Gospels:

So far is it from being true, as Harnack says ( What Is Christianity? 2nd edition, revised, New York, 1901,68), that the "whole of Jesus' message may be reduced to these two heads: God as Father, and the human soul so ennobled that it can and does unite with Him," that an essential part of His message is omitted, namely, that salvation is bound up in His (Christ's) own person. (The reader is asked to verify the references for himself, as space will not allow quotation.) See   Matthew 10:37-39;  Matthew 16:24-27 . Confession of Him (not simply of the Father) determines acknowledgment above ( Matthew 10:32 ), where judgment is rendered according to our attitude to Him in His unfortunate ones  Matthew 25:35 ff). No sooner was His person rightly estimated than He began to unfold the necessity of His death and resurrection (  Matthew 16:21 ). The evening before that death occurred, He brings out its significance, perpetuates the lesson in the institution of the Supper ( Mark 14:24 ), and reenforces it after His resurrection ( Luke 24:26 ). Paul himself could hardly have expressed the fact of the atonement through Christ's death more decisively than  Matthew 20:28;  Matthew 26:28 . With this foundation, could the Christian doctrine of salvation take any other course than that it actually did take? Instead of referring men to the Father, Christ forgives sins Himself ( Matthew 9:2-6 ), and He reckons all men as needing this forgiveness ( Matthew 6:12 ). While the time had not arrived for the Pauline doctrine of righteousness, Jesus prepared the way for it, negatively, in demanding a humble sense of sin ( Matthew 5:3 ), inner fitness and perfection ( Matthew 5:6 ,  Matthew 5:8 ,  Matthew 5:20 ,  Matthew 5:48 ), and positively in requiring recourse to Him by those who felt the burden of their sins ( Matthew 11:28 ), to Him who was the rest-giver, and not simply to God the Father, a passage of which  Romans 5:1 is an echo. For it was specially to those to whom, as to the awakened Paul, the law brought condemnation that He came, came to heal and to save (  Mark 2:17;  Matthew 9:13;  Luke 15:7 ). It was for sinners and to sinners that He came ( Luke 15:2;  Luke 7:39;  Luke 19:7;  Matthew 11:19 ), just as Paul understood; and the way for their salvation was not better law-keeping, but trusting prayer in the confession of sin ( Luke 18:13 ), really equivalent to faith, the humble heart and a hunger for righteousness (= faith). See  Matthew 5:3 ,  Matthew 5:6 . He who brings most of himself, of his own pride and works, is the least likely to obtain the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 18:3 ,  Matthew 18:1;  Mark 10:14 ). Not only entrance, but the final reward itself is of grace ( Matthew 19:30; 20:1-16), a parable in the true spirit of Paul, and in anticipation of whose message was the promise of Paradise to the penitent robber ( Luke 23:43 ). At the very beginning the message sounded out, "Repent ye, and believe in the gospel" ( Mark 1:15 ), the gospel which was summed up in Christ, who would gather the people, not directly to God the Father, but to Himself ( Matthew 23:37 ). All this means justification through that faith in Himself, in His Divine-human manifestation ( Matthew 16:13-16 ), of which faith He expresses Himself with anxiety in  Luke 18:8 , and the presence of which he greeted with joy in  Matthew 8:10 . Ihmels is right therefore in holding ( RE3 , Xvi , 490) that Paul's proclamation was continuous with the self-witness of Jesus, which conversely pointed as a consequence to the witness of Paul.

2. John's Writings:

Justification by faith is not more implicit in John's Gospel than in the first three; it is only more explicit ( John 3:14-16 ). Eternal life is the blessing secured, but this of course is only possible to one not under condemnation ( John 3:36 ). The new Sonship of God came also in the wake of the same faith ( John 1:12 ). The Epistles of John vary from Paul in word rather than in substance. The atoning work of Jesus is still in the background; walking in the light is not conceivable in those under condemnation and without faith; and the confession of sins that leads to forgiveness seems only another name for the justification that brings peace ( 1 John 1:9 ,  1 John 1:10; compare  1 John 2:1 ,  1 John 2:2 ). Everything is, as with Paul ( Ephesians 2:7;  Titus 3:4 ), led back to the love of God ( 1 John 3:1 ), who sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins ( 1 John 4:10 ).

3. 1 Peter and Hebrews:

Seeberg's point that the "Pauline doctrine of justification is not found in any other New Testament writer" ( History of Doctrine , I, 48) is true when you emphasize the word "doctrine." Paul gave it full scientific treatment, the others presuppose the fact, but do not unfold the doctrine. Peter's "Repent ye, and be baptized ... in the name of Jesus Christ" (  Acts 2:38 ) is meaningless unless faith were exercised in Christ. It is He in whom, though we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable ( 1 Peter 1:8 ), receiving the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls ( 1 Peter 1:9 ). It is only, however, through the precious blood as of a lamb without blemish, even that of Christ ( 1 Peter 1:19 ), and is only through Him that we are believers in God ( 1 Peter 1:21 ). The familiar expression, "Come to Jesus," which simply means have faith in Jesus for justification and salvation, goes back to Peter ( 1 Peter 2:4 ). The Epistle to the Hebrews has other interests to look after, but it does not deny faith, but rather exhorts us to draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith ( Hebrews 10:22 ), which it lays at the foundation of all true religion, thinking and achievement (Hebrews 11). The writer can give no better exhortation than to look unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith ( Hebrews 12:2 ), an exhortation in the true spirit of Paul, whose gospel of faith for justification is also summed up in  Hebrews 4:16 .

4. Epistle of James:

We come lastly to the core of the matter in regard to New Testament representations of justification - the famous passage in  James 2:14-26 , which at first sight seems a direct blow at Paul. Here we are met by the interesting question of the date of James. As we cannot enter into this (see James , Epistle Of ), what we say must be independent of this question. A careful look at this vigorous and most valuable letter (valuable in its own place, which is not that of Paul's letters, in comparison with which it is a "right strawy epistle," as Luther truthfully said ( Erl. Ausg. , 63, 115; see also pp. 156-57), in saying which he did not mean to reject it as useless (straw has most important uses), but as giving the doctrine of salvation, for which we must look to Paul) will show us that contradiction on the part of James to Paul is apparent and not real.

(1) In this section James uses the word faith simply for intellectual belief in God, and especially in the unity of God ( James 2:19; see also context), whereas Paul uses it for a saving trust in Christ. As Feine well says (Theol. d. New Testament, Leipzig, 2 1911, 660-63), for Paul faith is the appropriation of the life-power of the heavenly Christ. Therefore he knows no faith which does not bring forth good works corresponding to it. What does not come from faith is sin. For James faith is subordination of man to the heavenly Christ ( James 2:1 ), or it is theoretic acknowledgment of one God ( James 2:19 ). Justification is for James a speaking just of him who is righteous, an analytical judgment. (Feine also says that James did not understand Paul, but he did not fight him. It was left to Luther through his deep religious experience first to understand Paul's doctrine of justification.) (2) James uses the word "works" as meaning practical morality, going back behind legalism, behind Pharisaism, to the position of the Old Testament prophets, whereas Paul uses the word as meritorious action deserving reward. (3) When James is thinking of a deeper view, faith stands central in Christianity ( James 1:3 ,  James 1:6;  James 2:1;  James 5:15 ). (4) Paul also on his part is as anxious as James vitally to connect Christianity and good works through faith ( 1 Thessalonians 1:3;  Galatians 5:6;  1 Corinthians 13:2;  Romans 2:6 ,  Romans 2:7; see Mayor, The Epistle of James , 1892, lxxxviii ff; Franks, in DCG , I, 919-20; Findlay in HDB , 1-vol edition, 511). (5) The whole argument of James is bent on preserving a real practical Christianity that is not content with words merely ( James 2:15-16 ), but shows itself in deeds. He is not trying to show, as Paul, how men get rid of their guilt and become Christians, but how they prove the reality of their profession after they receive the faith. He is not only writing to Christians, as of course Paul was, but he was writing to them as Christians ("my brethren,"   James 2:14 ), as already justified and standing on the "faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" ( James 2:1 ), whereas Paul was thinking of men, Gentile and Jew, shivering in their guilt before the Eternal Justice, and asking, How can we get peace with God? "There is not," says Beyschlag ( New Testament Theology , Edinburgh, 1895, I , 367-68), "an objective conflict between the Pauline and Jacobean doctrines; both forms of teaching exist peacefully beside each other. James thought of justification in the simple and most natural sense of justificatio justi , as the Divine recognition of an actually righteous man, and he thought of it as the final judgment of God upon a man who is to stand in the last judgment and become a partaker of the final sōtēría ('salvation'). Paul also demands as a requisite for this last judgment and the final sōtēría right works, the love that fulfills the law and the perfected sanctification, but he (except in  Romans 2:13 ) does not apply the expression dikaiousthai ('to be justified') to the final judgment of God, which recognizes this righteousness of life as actual. He applies it rather to that first sentence of God with which He graciously receives the believing sinner returning to Him, and takes him into fellowship with Himself." Beyschlag rightly insists that James undoubtedly taught with the first apostles that whoever believes in Christ and is baptized receives the forgiveness of sins ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 3:19;  Acts 10:43 ), and that he would not have contested the Pauline idea of justification by grace on account of faith, insisting only that works must follow. Theologically, the chief if not the only difference is that James has not yet made the cross of Christ the center of his point of view, while the atonement was fundamental with all Paul's thinking. See, further, James , Epistle Of .

III. The Old Testament.

A word in conclusion as to the Old Testament. All the New Testament writers built on the Old Testament. That there should be a cleft or contradiction between the Old Testament and what we call the New Testament would have been to them inconceivable. But they realized that that was the early dawn, while they lived in the light of day. Abraham believed in Yahweh; and He reckoned it to him for righteousness ( Genesis 15:6;  Romans 4:3 ). Who does not keep all parts of the law all the time is condemned ( Deuteronomy 27:26 Septuagint;   Galatians 3:10; compare  Psalm 14:1-7;  Psalm 143:2;  Romans 3:20; see  Romans 3:9-20 , and the references to the Old Testament in the American Standard Revised Version). The prophets insisted upon the practical works of righteousness - "What doth Yahweh require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" ( Micah 6:8 ). No religious attitude or services could take the place of uprightness of life. This does not mean that the Old Testament writers understood that men were justified simply by their good deeds, for it was always believed that underneath all was the mercy and lovingkindness of God, whose forgiving grace was toward the broken and contrite spirit, the iniquities of whom were to be carried by the Servant of Yahweh, who shall justify many ( Psalm 103:8-13;  Psalm 85:10;  Isaiah 57:15;  Isaiah 53:11 , and many other passages).

IV. Later Development of the Doctrine.

1. Apostolic and Early Church Fathers:

A brief statement now on the development of the doctrine in the Christian church. It is humiliating to confess that the witness immediately after the apostles (the apostolic Fathers) did not reach the serene heights of Paul, or even the lower levels of his brethren. There are passages which remind one of him, but one feels at once that the atmosphere is different. Christianity is conceived as a new law rather than as a gospel of the grace of God. We cannot go into the reasons for this: suffice it to say that in GentileChristendom the presuppositions for that gospel failed, and the New Testament writings were not yet in the consciousness of the church to the extent that they dominated her thinking. The fine passage in Clement of Rome (97 AD, chapter xxxii: "They all therefore (i.e. Abraham and other early saints) were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doings which they wrought, but through His (God's) will. And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that ever have been from the beginning; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.") is not at all on a paragraph with his whole Epistle, as he coordinates faith with other virtues in chapter xxxv, makes hospitality and godliness the saving virtues for Lot in chapter xi, couples hospitality and faith together as equal for Rahab in chapter xii, and represents forgiveness of sins through keeping commandments and love in chapter l. Ignatius (about 110-15 AD) speaks in one place about Jesus Christ dying for us, that believing on His death we might escape death ( Tral . 2), but with him the real saving things are love, concord, obedience to bishops, and the indwelling God = Christ, though he has also the excellent passage: "None of these things is hidden from you if ye be perfect in your faith and love toward Jesus Christ, for these things are the beginning and end of life - faith is the beginning and love the end, and the two being found in unit are God, while all things else follow in their train unto true nobility" (  Ephesians 14 ). The so-called Barnabas (date uncertain) puts the death of Christ Jesus at the foundation of salvation, which is expressed by the remission of sins through His blood ( Ephesians 5 ), the kingdom of Jesus being on the cross, so that they who set their hope on Him shall live forever ( Ephesians 8 ), while at the time even believers are not yet justified ( Ephesians 4 ), for which finally a whole series of works of light must be done and works of darkness avoided ( Ephesians 19 ). The Shepherd of Hermas and the Ancient Homily = 2 Clem are even more moralistic, where with whatever praise of faith we have the beginning of merit. The same legalistic tone sounds through that invaluable little roll found by Bryennios in 1873 and first published by him in Constantinople in December, 1883, The Teaching (Didache) of the Twelve Apostles . That Catholic trend went forward till it is almost full-fledged as early as Tertullian (fl. 200 AD) and Cyprian (250 AD). See a full statement in my Cyprian, 1906,146 ff. And thus it continued until - as far as our outline is concerned - it struck Augustine, bishop of Hippo (396 ff), who in a masterly and living way united, so far as they could be united, the Pauline thoughts of sin, grace, and justification with the regular Catholic legalism. His book, De Spiritu et Litera (412 AD), was largely after Paul's own heart, and the Reformers hailed it with joy. But the Catholic elements he still kept, as for instance, that in justification a good concupiscence and a good-will are infused, that justification grows, that our merits must be taken into the account even though they are God's merits, that the faith which justifies is a faith which works by love, that faith is the holding true what God (and the church) says, though occasionally a deeper view of faith is seen, and that works are emphasized, as in De fide et operibus , in a Catholic fashion. With profound and thoroughly Christian thoughts, Augustine had not so worked himself clear of his Catholic inheritance that he could reproduce Paul purely. He made a bridge by which we could go either back to Paul or forward to Aquinas. As Harnack well says, Augustine experienced, on the one hand, the last revival in the ancient church of the principle that "faith alone saves," and, on the other, he silenced that principle for a thousand years. The very Catholic theologian who stood nearest to that principle overcame it ( Zeitschrift f. Theol. u. Kirche , 1891,177). His misunderstanding of Paul's "faith that worketh through love" had momentous consequences.

2. Council of Trent:

Those consequences are best seen in the decrees of the Council of Trent (Session 6,1547), to which we now turn, and which are the definite and final crystallization of the medieval development, so far as that development was Catholic. (1) Justification is a translation from a natural state to a state of grace. With this works prevenient grace, awakening and assisting, and with this in his man cooperates and prepares himself for justification. This cooperation has the merit of congruity, though the first call comes before any merit. (2) Faith is an element in justification. "Receiving faith by hearing, they of free will draw near to God, believing those things to be true which have been Divinely revealed and promised." Faith as a living trust in a personal Saviour for salvation is lacking. Among the truths believed is the mercy of God and that He wishes to justify the sinner in Christ. (3) This faith begets love to Christ and hatred to sin, which are elements also of the justifying process. (4) Now follows justification itself, "which is not a bare remission of sins, but also sanctification and renewal of the inner man through the voluntary reception of grace and of gifts." (5) But this renewal must take place through baptism, which, to the prepared adult, both gives and seals all the graces of salvation, forgiveness, cleansing, faith, hope and love. (6) Justification is preserved by obeying the commandments and by good works, which also increase it. (7) In case it is lost - and it can be lost, not by venial, but by mortal sin and by unbelief - it can be regained by the sacrament of penance. (8) To get it, to keep or regain it, it is also necessary to believe the doctrines as thus laid down and to be laid down by this Council (see the decrees in any edition, or in Mirbt, Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsttums , 2. Aufl., 206-16, or in Buckley's or in Waterworth's translations, and for an admirable and objective summary see Seeberg, History of Doctrine , 2 , 433-38).

3. Luther:

Recent researches in Luther's early writings have shown that almost from the beginning of his earnest study of religious questions, he mounted up to Paul's view of justification by faith alone (Loofs, Dg , 4. Aufl ., 1906,696-98). Faith is the trust in the mercy of God through Christ, and justification is the declaring righteous for His sake, which is followed by a real making righteous. From the beginning to the end of his life as a religious teacher these are the elements of his doctrine. Speaking of 1513-15, Loofs says (p. 697): "Upon these equations (to justify = to forgive, grace = mercy of the non-imputing God, faith = trust in His mercy) as the regulators of his religious self-judgment, Luther's piety rests, and corresponding to them his view of Christianity, and even later" (than 1513-15); and he adds that "to reckon as righteous" ( reputari justum ) must not be understood with Luther as an opposition "to make righteous," for his "to be justified without merits" in the sense of "to forgive" ( absolvi ) is at the same time the beginning of a new life: remissio peccati ... ipsa resurrectio . "His constantly and firmly held view, even more deeply understood later than in 1513-15, that 'to be justified without merit' = 'to be resurrected (to be born again)' = 'to be sanctified' is a pregnant formulation of his Christianity." So much being said, it is not necessary to draw out Luther's doctrine further, who in this respect "rediscovered Christianity as a religion," but it will suffice to refer to the Histories of Doctrine (Seeberg gives a full and brilliant exposition), to Kostlin, Luthers Theologie , 2. Aufl ., 1901 (see Index under the word "Rechtfertigung," and I , 349), and especially to Thieme, Die sittliche Triebkraft des Glaubens: eine Untersuchung zu Luthers Theologie , 1895,103-314.

From Luther and the other reformers the New Testament doctrine went over to the Protestant churches without essential modification, and has remained their nominal testimony until the present. A classic expression of it, which may be taken as representing evangelical Christendom, is the 11th of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England: "We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings: wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification." It is true that at one time Wesley's opponents accused him of departing from this doctrine, especially on account of his famous Minute of 1770, but this was due to a radical misunderstanding of that Minute, for to the last he held staunchly Paul's doctrine (for proof see my article in Lutheran Quarterly , April, 1906,171-75).

4. Schleiermacher:

A new point of view was brought into modern theology by Schleiermacher, who starts from the fundamental fact of Christian experience that we have redemption and reconciliation with Christ, which fact becomes ours by union with Christ through faith. This union brings justification with other blessings, but justification is not considered as even in thought a separate act based on Christ's death, but as part of a great whole of salvation, historically realized step by step in Christ. The trend of his teaching is to break down the distinction between justification and regeneration, as they are simply different aspects of union with Christ.

Ritschl carried forward this thought by emphasizing the grace of the heavenly Father mediated in the first instance through the Son to the Christian community, "to which God imputes the position toward him of Christ its founder," and in the second instance to individuals "as by faith in the Gospel they attach themselves to this community. Faith is simply obedience to God and trust in the revelation of his grace in Christ." This brings sinners into fellowship with God which means eternal life, which is here and now realized, as the Fourth Gospel points out, in lordship over the world (compare Franks in Dcg , I , 922-23). The judicial or forensic aspect of justification so thoroughly in-wrought in Paul's thought is denied by Ritschl. "In whatsoever way we view the matter," he says, "the attitude of God in the act of justification cannot be conceived as that of a judge" ( Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation , English translation, 1900,90). W.N. Clarke agrees with Schleiermacher in eliminating justification as a separate element in the work of salvation, and harks back to the Catholic view in making it dependent on the new life and subsequent to it ( Christian Theology , 407-8). No book has had as much influence in destroying the New Testament conception of justification among English-speaking readers as that of J. H. Newman, Lectures on Justification , 1838,3edition, 1874, which contains some of the finest passages in religious literature (pp. 270-73,302, 338-39), but which was so sympathetic to the Catholic view that the author had nothing essential to retract when he joined Rome in 1845. "Whether we say we are justified by faith, or by works, or by sacraments, all these but mean this one doctrine that we are justified by grace which is given through sacraments, impetrated by faith, manifested in works" (p. 303).

5. Meaning and Message to the Modern Man:

Lastly, has the New Testament conception of justification by faith any message to the modern man, or is it, as Lagarde held, dead in the Protestant churches, something which went overboard with the old doctrine of the Trinity and of Atonement? After an able historical, survey, Holl concludes ( Die Rechtfertigungslehre im Licht der Geschichte d. Protestantismus , Tubingen, 1906,40-42) that there are two principles thoroughly congenial to modern thought which favor this doctrine, namely, that of the sanctity and importance of personality, the "I" that stands face to face with God, responsible to Him alone; and second, the restoration of the Reformation-thought of an all-working God. Whoever feels the pressure of these two principles, for him the question of justification becomes a living one. "The standard on which he must measure himself is the Absolute God, and who can stand in this judgment? Not simply on account of single acts, but with his 'I' and even with his good-willing. For that is just the curse which rests upon a man that his 'I' is the thing with which alone he wills and can seek God, and that it is this very 'I' which by its willfulness, vanity and self-love poisons all his willing. Accordingly, it remains true, what the Reformers said, that man is entirely corrupt, and that he can do no otherwise than to despair when the majesty of God dawns upon him" (p. 41). There is, then, no other solution than the venture of faith that the same God who crushes our self-deceit lifts up with His sovereign grace, that we live through Him and before Him. Luther is right that religiously we can find no hold except on the Divine act of grace, which through faith in the Divine love and power working in us and for us ever makes us new in Christ. To give up the doctrine of justification, says H

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

(some form of the verbs צָדִק Δικαιόω ), a forensic term equivalent to Acquittal , and opposed to condemnation; in an apologetic sense it is often synonymous with Vindication or freeing from unjust imputation of blame.

I. Dogmatic Statement . This term, in theological usage, is employed to designate the judicial act of God by which he pardons all the sins of the sinner who believes in Christ, receiving him into favor, and regarding him as relatively righteous, notwithstanding his past actual unrighteousness. Hence justification, and the remission or forgiveness of sin, relate to one and the same act of God, to one and the same privilege of his believing people ( Acts 13:38-39;  Romans 4:5;  Romans 4:8). So, also, "the justification of the ungodly," the "covering of sins," "not visiting for sin," "not remembering sin," and "imputing not inequity," mean to pardon sin and to treat with favor, and express substantially the same thing which is designated by "imputing or counting faith for righteousness." (See Pardon).

Justification, then, is an act of God, not in or upon man, but for him and in his favor; an act which, abstractly considered, respects man only as its object, and translates him into another relative state; while sanctification respects man as its subject, and is a consequent of this act of God, and inseparably connected with it. (See Regeneration).

The originating cause of justification is the free grace and spontaneous love of God towards fallen man ( Romans 15:3;  Romans 15:24;  Titus 2:11;  Titus 3:4-5). Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sole meritorious cause of our justification, inasmuch as it is the result of his atonement for us. The sacrificial death of Christ is an expedient of infinite wisdom, by which the full claims of the law may be admitted, and yet the penalty avoided, because a moral compensation or equivalent has been provided by the sufferings of him who died in the sinner's stead ( Ephesians 1:7;  Colossians 1:14;  Revelation 5:9). Thus, while it appears that our justification is, in its origin, an act of the highest grace, it is also, in its mode, an act most perfectly consistent with God's essential righteousness, and demonstrative of his inviolable justice. It proceeds not on the principle of abolishing the law or its penalty, for that would have implied that the law was unduly rigorous either in its precepts or in its sanctions. (See Atonement).

Faith is the instrumental cause of justification, present faith in him who is able to save, faith actually existing and exercised. (See Faith). The atonement of Jesus is not accepted for us, to our individual justification, until we individually believe, nor after we cease to live by faith in him. (See Imputation).

The immediate results of justification are the restoration of amity and intercourse between the pardoned sinner and the pardoning God ( Romans 5:1;  James 2:23); the adoption of the persons justified into the family of God, and their consequent right to eternal life ( Romans 8:17); and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 2:38;  Galatians 3:14;  Galatians 4:6), producing tranquillity of conscience ( Romans 8:15-16), power over sin ( Romans 8:1) and a joyous hope of heaven ( Romans 15:13;  Galatians 5:3). (See Fruits Of Spirit).

We must not forget that the justification of a sinner does not in the least degree alter or diminish the evil nature and desert of sin. Though by an act of divine clemency the penalty is remitted, and the obligation to suffer that penalty is dissolved, still it is naturally due, though graciously remitted. Hence appear the propriety and duty of continuing to confess and lament even pardoned sin with a lowly and contrite heart ( Ezekiel 16:62). (See Penitence).

II. History Of The Doctrine.

1. The Early Church Fathers And The Latin Church . Ecclesiastical science, from the beginning of its development, occupied itself with a discussion on the relation of faith to knowledge; but even those who attributed the greatest importance to the latter recognized faith as the foundation. A merely logical division into subjective and objective faiths and an intimation of a distinction between a historic and a rational faith (in Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata. 2 , 454; Augustine, De Trinitate, 13, 2), were of little consequence. Two conceptions became prevailing: Faith as a general religious conviction, particularly as confidence in God, and the acceptance of the entire doctrine of the Church, Fides Catholica . The formula that faith alone without the works justifies is found in the full Pauline sense in Clemens Romanus (1 Ad Corinthios. C. 32) and is sometimes used by Augustine polemically in order to defend the freedom of grace and the priority of faith. More generally it is used as an argument against the necessity of the Jewish law (Irenaeus, 4:25 Tertullian, Adv. Marcell. 5, 3). The oecumenical synods were instrumental in gradually giving to the conception of Fides Catholica the new sense that salvation could be found only by adherence to ecclesiastical orthodoxy. But as a mere acceptance was possible without a really, Christian sentiment, and as the Pauline doctrine was misused by heretics in an antinomian sense, it was demanded that faith, be proved by works. Church discipline developed this idea with regard to the sins of the faithful, so as to demand a satisfaction through penances and good works (Augustine, Serm. 151, 12). It became, therefore, the doctrine of the Church that such faith alone works salvation as shows itself in acts of charity, while to merely external works faith or charity is opposed as something accessory. Pelagius assumed only a relative distinction between naturally good works and the good works that proceed from faith; in opposition to which Augustine insisted that the difference is absolute, and that without faith no good works at all are possible. As salvation was thought to be conditioned by works also, it was, even when it was represented as being merely an act of God, identified with sanctification. The importance attributed to abstention created gradually a distinction between commands and advices, and the belief that through the fulfilment of the latter a virtue greater than required would arise (Hermas, Pastor Simil. 3, 5, 3; Origen, In Epistolam, ad Romans 3; Ambrose, De Viduis, 4, 508).

2. The Greek Church. Little discussion and little controversy has occurred on this doctrine in the Greek Church. Faith and works together are regarded as the conditions of salvation. The words of James are referred to first, yet faith is declared to be the stock from which the good works come as the fruits. The description of faith proceeds from the definition in the Epistle to the Hebrews to the acceptance of the entire ecclesiastical tradition. Man is said to participate in the merit of the Mediator not only through faith, but also through good works. Among the latter are comprised the fulfilment of the commandments of God and of the Church, and, in particular, prayers, fastings, pilgrimages, and monastic life. They are considered useful and necessary not only as a means of promoting sanctification, but also as penances and satisfaction.

3 . Doctrine Of The Roman Catholic Church During The Middle Ages . The Scholastics regarded faith as an acceptance of the supersensual as far as it belongs to religion, differing both from intuition and from knowledge; and although essentially of a theoretic character, yet conditioned by the consent of the will; which, however, in the description of faith, is reduced to a Minimum. Originally only God is an object of faith, but mediately also the holy Scriptures; as a summary of the Biblical doctrines, the Apostles Creed, and, as its explication, the entire doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. As an accurate knowledge of the doctrines of the Church cannot be expected from every one, the subjective distinction was made between fides Implicita and Explicita; the former sufficient for the people, yet with the demand of a developed belief in some chief articles. There was, however, a difference of opinion on what these articles were, and even Thomas Aquinas wavered in his views. Faith may, even upon earth, partly become a science, and appears in this respect only as the popular form of religion. It is a condition of salvation, but becomes a virtue only when love, as animating principle [forma], pervades it [fides formata]; with a mere faith [informis] one may be damned. The fides formata includes the necessity of the good works for salvation, but they must be founded in pious sentiment. All other works not proceeding from faith, are dead though not entirely useless. The necessity of good works is fully carried out only by the inculcation of penance as satisfactiones, but with constant reference to a union of the soul with Christ, and the moral effect of the good works. Justification, according to Thomas Aquinas, is a movement from the state of injustice into the state of justice, in which the remission of sins is the main point, though it is conditioned by an infusion of grace which actually justifies men. As an act of God which establishes in man a new state [habitus], it is accomplished in a moment. Among the people the Pelagian views prevailed, that man, by merely outward works, had to gain his salvation, and the Church became, especially through the traffic in indulgences, a prey to the immoral and insipid worship of ceremonies. In opposition to this corruption, many of the pious Mystics pointed to the Pauline doctrine of faith.

4. Doctrine Of The Reformers Of The 16 Th Century And The Old Protestant Dogmatics . The Reformation of the 16th century renewed the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone, emphasizing in the sense of Augustine, the entire helplessness of man, and made it the fundamental doctrine of the Reformed Church. This faith is represented as not merely an acceptance of historic facts, but is distinguished as Fides Specialis from the general religious conviction, arising amidst the terrors of conscience, and consisting in an entire despair of one's own merit and a confident surrender to the mercy of God in the atoning death of Christ. Worked by God, it does not work as virtue or merit, but merely through the apprehension of the merit of Christ. Its necessity lies in the impossibility of becoming reconciled with God through one's own power. Hence this reconciliation is impossible through good works, which are not necessary for salvation, though God rewards them, according to his promise, upon earth and in heaven; but, as a necessary consequence, the really good works will flow forth from faith freely and copiously. The opinion of Amsdorf, that good works are an obstacle to salvation, was regarded as an unfortunate expression, which may be taken in a true sense, though it is false if understood in a general sense. As man is unable to satisfy the law supererogatory works and a satisfaction through one's own works are impossible. Justification through love is impossible, because man cannot love God truly amidst the terrors of conscience. Hence justification is a divine judicial act, which, through the apprehension of the justice of Christ, apprehended in faith, accepts the sinner as just, though he is not just. This strict distinction between justification and sanctification was maintained on the one hand against Scholasticism, which, through its Pelagian tendencies, seemed to offend against the honor of Christ, and to be unable to satisfy conscience, and on the other hand against Osiander, who regarded justification as being completed only in sanctification. The works even of the regenerated, according to the natural side, were regarded by the Reformers as sins. The Reformed theology in general agreed with the doctrine of justification as stated above, yet did not make it to the same extent the fundamental doctrine of the whole theology. According to Calvin, justification and sanctification took place at the same time. The dogmatic writers of the Lutheran Church distinguished in faith knowledge, assent, and, confidence, assigning the former two to the intellect, the latter to the will. From the fides generalis they distinguished the justifying faith (specialis seu salvifica), and rejected the division into fides informis et formata. As a distinguishing mark, they demanded from a true faith that it be efficient in charity. For works they took the Decalogue as a rule; a certain necessity of works was strictly limited. But, however firmly they clung in general to the conception of justification as something merely external (actus forensis) and foreign (imputatio justitiae Christi), some dogmatic writers held that justification had really changed something in man, and indeed presupposed it as changed. Hollaz pronounced this doctrine openly and incautiously, while Quenstedt designated these preceding acts as merely preparatory to conversion.

5. Doctrine Of The Roman Catholic Church Since The Reformation . The Council of Trent, in order to make a compromise with the Pauline formula, recognized faith as the beginning and the foundation of justification, but the full sense which Protestantism found in it was rejected. This faith is the general belief in divine revelation, though in transition to a special faith, yet a mere knowledge which still gives room to mortal sins. Justification is remission of sins and sanctification, through an infusion of the divine grace, in as far as the merit of Christ is not merely imputed, but communicated. It is given through grace, but as a permanent state it grows through the merit of good works according to the commandments of God and the Church, through which works the justified, always aided by the grace of God in Christ, have to render satisfaction for the temporal punishment of their sins and to deserve salvation. Not all the works done before justification are sins, and to the justified the fulfilment of the commandments of God is quite possible, although even the saints still commit small, venial sins. A further development of this doctrine is found in the writings of Bellarmine. He admits faith only as fides generalis, as a matter of the intellect, yet as a consent, not a knowledge. Though only the first among many preparations for justification a certain merit is ascribed to faith. The Council of Trent had rejected the imputation of the merits of Christ only as the exclusive ground of justification; Bellarmine rejected it altogether. He explicitly proclaimed the necessity of good works for salvation, though only a relative salvation. "The opera supererogationis, which were not mentioned at Trent, though they remained unchanged in tradition and practice, are further developed by Bellarmine. According to him, they go beyond nature, are not destined for all, and not commanded under penalties.

6 . Modern Protestantism . Socinus denied any foreign imputation, also that of the merit of Christ. When supranaturalism in general declined, the points of difference from the Roman Catholic Church were frequently lost sight of Kant found in the doctrine of justification the relation of the always unsatisfactory reality of our moral development to the future perfection recognized in the intuition of God. De Wette declared it to be the highest moral confidence which is founded on the communion with Christ, and turns from an unhappy past to a better future. Modern mystics have often found fault with the Protestant doctrine as being too outward, and approached the doctrine of the Roman Church. The Hegelian School taught that justification is the reception of the subject into the spirit, i.e. the knowledge of the subject of his unity with the absolute spirit or, according to Strauss, with the concrete idea of mankind. According to Schleiermacher, it is the reception into the communion of life with both the archetypal and historical Christ, and the appropriation of his perfection. Justification and sanctification are to him only different sides of the carrying out of the same divine decree. Many of the recent dogmatic writers of Germany have again proclaimed this doctrine to be the essential principle of Protestantism, some (Dorner, Das Princip unserer Kirche, Kiel, 1841) taking justification in the sense of a new personality founded in Christ, others (Hundeshagen, Der deutsche Protestantismus. Frankft. 1847) in the sense that God, surveying the whole future development of the principle which communion with Christ establishes in the believer, views him as righteous. One of the last dogmatic manuals of the Reformed Church (Schweizer, 2, 523 sq.) distinguishes conversion and sanctification as the beginning and progress of a life of salvation, and assigns justification to the former. See Hase, Evangelische Dogmatik (Leipzic, 1850) p. 310 sq.; C.F. Baur, Lehrbuch der christlichen Dogmengeschichte (Stuttgart, 1847); Hahn, Das Bekenntniss der evangelischen Kirchengeschichte in seinem Verhaltniss zu dem der Romischen und Griechischen.

III. Literature . See, for Roman Cath. views, M Ö hler, Symbolism, ch. 3; Willett, Syn. Pap. 8, 67 sq.; Cramp, Text-Book Of Popery, ch. 5; Bossuet, Works, vol. 1 and 2 Stud. und Krit. 1867. vol. 2; D'Aubigne, Hist. Reformation, vol. 2; Forbes, Considerations, 1, 1; Nicene Creed; 1, 173; Hughes, Works, 1, 410. For Protestant views, see Buchanan, Justification (Edinb. 1867, 8vo; reviewed at length in Lond. Review, Oct. 1867, p. 179); Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. Oct. 1867, art. 6; Wesley, Works, 5, 255; 6, 106; Calvin, Instit. vol. 2; Cunningham, Reformers, p. 402; Planck, Hist. Prot. Theol. (see Index); Knapp, Theology (see Index); Wardlaw, System. Theology, 2, 67.8 sq.; Graves, Works, vol. 4; Monsell, 4, 232, 240; Waterland, Works, vol. 6; T. Goodwin, Works (see Index); Wilson, Apostol. Fathers (see Index); Martensen, Dogmatics, p. 390 sq.; Pye Smith, Introd. to Theol. (see Index); Burnet, On the 39 Articles (see Index); Carmich, Theol. of the Scriptures, vol. 2; Neander, Prot. and Cath. p. 131-146; Ch. Dog. 2, 66 sq.; Planting and Train. of Christian Church, vol. 2; Riggenbach, in the Stud. und Krit. 1863, 4:691; 1867, 1, 405, 2, 294; 1868, 2, 201; North Brit. Review, June, 1867; p. 191 sq.; Dr. Schaff, Protestantism, p. 54-57; Good Words, Jan. 1866 Heppe, Dogmatics, p. 392; Biblioth.-Sacra, 1863, p. 615; Bibl. Repos. 11, 448 Christ. Review, Oct. 1846; Jahrb. deutsch. Theol. 7, 516; Ware, Works, 3, 381; Journal of Sac. Lit. 21; 1869, 3, 545; Christian Monthly, 1845, Jan. p. 102; Feb., p. 231; New Englander (see Index); Hauck, Theolog. Jahresber. Jan. 1869, 59; 1867, p. 543; Bull. Theologique. 1, 25, 41; Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. July, 1868, p. 537; Brit. and For. Rev. Oct. 1868. p. 683, 692; Amer. Presbyt. Review, Jan. 1867. p. 69. 202; Evang. Quart. Rev. Oct. 1869, p. 48; British Quart. Rev. Jan. 1871, p. 144; Church Rev. Oct. 1870, p. 444, 462; Zeitschr. wissensch. Theol. 1871, 4.