Four Aspects of Justification by Don Fortner
“Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.”
The Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself our nature. As a man, the Son of God rendered unto God the perfection and righteousness which he required of us. He made an infinite satisfaction for sin, by pouring out his life’s blood unto death at Calvary. He did these things as the Representative and Substitute of God’s elect; and all that he did for us we did in him.
Every true believer has both rendered perfect righteousness to God and made an infinite satisfaction for his sin in the Person of our all glorious Christ.
As the result of Christ’s finished work as our Representative, it is a perfectly just thing for God to justify all who believe on his Son. In saving our souls and bringing us to heaven the Lord God deals with us in exact accordance with justice. He gives us that which in Christ we deserve. Here are four things which are plainly revealed in the Word of God about our justification in Christ. God’s elect are justified by…
First, God’s elect were justified by the decree of God the Father in eternity. In the mind and purpose of God all his elect were justified from eternity. Our justification was actually accomplished by God’s sovereign purpose of grace in eternal predestination before the worlds were made. This is not a matter of speculation or a hair-splitting theological precision. It is a matter of unmistakable revelation. Read it for yourself in the Book of God. Romans 8:30 declares that God justified his elect when he chose them and predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his dear Son before the worlds were made.
Our justification did not commence in time, but in eternity. Paul, speaking of God’s eternal decree of predestination, declares that all of God’s elect were justified in his eternal purpose of grace. — “The works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3).
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
Second, God’s elect were justified by the death of God the Son, our Divine Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, at Calvary. Though Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, he was also slain in time for the redemption of our souls. And though God’s elect were justified by his sovereign decree in eternal predestination, we were also justified by the precious shed blood of God’s dear Son at Calvary.
The Bible does not teach that justification was provided, or made possible by the death of Christ. The Bible declares that justification was accomplished at Calvary. If it was merely provided or made possible for us, but is not accomplished until we believe, then our faith would be as much the cause of justification as the purpose of God and the sacrifice of Christ. But that is not the case. The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that when Christ died, those for whom he died were justified (Romans 3:24-26).
Third, God’s elect are justified by faith in Christ in the sweet and blessed experience of grace, by the declaration of God the Holy Spirit in conversion. When God the Holy Spirit regenerates the chosen, ransomed sinner, giving him faith in Christ, as that sinner looks to Christ alone as his Savior, the blessed Spirit of God sprinkles the blood of Christ upon the conscience and speaks like a bailiff reading the verdict in court — “JUSTIFIED!” Thus every believing sinner receives justification by faith in Christ (Romans 4:25-5:1).
Faith does not cause God to justify us. The obedience of Christ has done that. But faith, resting upon Christ alone as Savior, obtains peace with God, even the peace of perfect, complete justification.
Fourth, God’s elect are justified by the display of good works before men. Yes, there is a sense in which we are justified by works, not before God, but before men. We justify our professed faith in Christ by our works. Believers do not show their faith by creeds, confessions, and catechisms, but by their conduct (James 2:14-26). Just as Abraham and Rahab justified their professed faith by their works, so today all true believers justify their claim of faith in Christ by their obedience to Christ.
May God grant you this blessed gift of free justification in Christ. May he now grant you faith in his dear Son by the power and grace of his Holy Spirit, for Christ’s sake.