Part 1d - Justification: Three Views

1. Martin Luther

  • The word “justify” does not mean actually make us righteous, but declare that we are righteous
    • (Luther is absolutely correct here)
  • But the problem is that we are still sinners
  • So how can we be sinners and yet righteous at the same time
  • His answer is that in justification, it is as if there is a mirror in front of us.
  • “Legal fiction”

2. Catholic church at the time:

  • What Christ does for you is just the starting point
    • Start off with a clean robe (at baptism) but then you have to keep washing it.
    • Any failure to wash it is paid for:
      • purgatory
      • indulgences
      • penance


  • Arose from the concepts that -
    • The punishment for a sin could be converted to a monetary value (as originally set forth in the Mosaic law for civil crimes)
    • The church had a treasury of grace (from its good works) and accumulated suffering of the saints
    • The extension of forgiveness of past sins to forgiveness of future sins
      • a realization that the only place that the forgiveness made a difference was after this life anyway
  • Selling Indulgences in Luther’s time:
    • “At the very instant,” continues Tetzel, “that the money rattles in the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory, and flies liberated to heaven. [15] Now you can ransom so many souls, stiff-necked and thoughtless man; with twelve groats you can deliver your father from purgatory, and you are ungrateful enough not to save him! I shall be justified in the Day of Judgment; but you—you will be punished so much the more severely for having neglected so great salvation. I declare to you, though you have but a single coat, you ought to strip it off and sell it, in order to obtain this grace. . . . . The Lord our God no longer reigns, he has resigned all power to the Pope.”
  • Story of the weathly Barron who wanted to buy forgiveness for all future sins...

3. What Paul is teaching

  • Relational, not “a cold legal thing”
    • This is because the law we have broken is about a relationship (a covenant)
  • Real transformation by redemption
  • Much of Paul’s concern is to show that God is not unjust to freely pardon people
  • The basis is union with Christ, as we shall see later

Good explanation on Catholic website:

  • The simplest way to explain the differences between Catholic and Protestant [Luther’s] Justification is using analogy.
    • Suppose our state before justification is like wearing a dirty robe, which does not entitle us to enter heaven.
    • We cannot clean our robe using our own efforts.
  • In Protestant’s [Luther’s] Justification, Christ will give us His spotless robe to cover up ours at the time we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour.
    • Christ needs to do it only once.
    • We still wear our dirty robe, but it is now covered with Christ’s.
    • When God look at us He will see us wearing the spotless robe of Christ and declares us clean.
    • Note that with the robe from Christ we are renewed outwardly but inside we still have our dirty robe.
  • In Catholic justification, on the other hand, God through Christ will help us to wash our dirty robe.
    • At our conversion, Christ makes it clean for the first time through Baptism (if we have the chance to have it).
    • After this whenever we dirty our robe through sinning, Christ will again help us to wash it (through sacrament of penance). -The process is continued through out our life.
    • When we die with our robe still stained with venial sins, it will be cleansed in purgatory because nothing unclean can enter heaven (Revelation 21:27).
    • At the end of Justification, we enter heaven wearing our clean robe. Obviously what is made clean is also declared clean.

Paul teaches that we are united with Christ

  • so our dirty robe is washed in his blood, not merely covered up
    • and we are truly clean and acceptable to God
  • Also we enter a new relationship in which our faith is counted as righteousness
    • so he takes joy in our faith and our sins are truly washed away

Summary of Paul’s teaching

  1. Enemies [5:10]
    • as an unbeliver, we have a broken relationship with God
    • we are guilty of sin
      • living self-centred lives and breaking God’s perfect standards
      • rejecting the love he has shown us which was designed to draw us to himself [2:4]
  2. The “faithfulness of Jesus” in dying for all who believe [3:22]
    • His death satisfies God’s justice [3:25]
    • It makes it possible for God to forgive people without being unjust [3:25-26]
  3. Redemption, forgiveness of sins [3:24]
    • On the basis of Jesus shed blood, God give us the free gift of forgiveness
    • God gives this gift to those who trust him, not by merit, but as a free gift
    • Our sins are really cleansed and put as far as the east is from the west [Ps 103:12]
    • and we become white as snow [Is 1:18]
    • Jesus promises to continually intercede for us [Heb 7:25] and provide us ongoing purification [Heb 9:12-14]
  4. Justification: God then declares the verdict that we are “not guilty”
    • Justification does not do anything to us, it just declares our status as a result of what has already been done
    • It is not a fiction, but on the basis of redemption [3:24]
  • Note that Paul often speaks of “justification by faith” as a shorthand for “justification through redemption by the blood of Christ which is a free gift given to those who have faith”
  • There are three important implications of Justification
    1. We walk in freedom from condemnation [8:1].
    2. We walk in a restored relationship with the Father. Our sin was personal against God, resulting in a broken relationship, and so justification is a statement that the relationship is restored and we are part of his family in good standing.
    3. Justification is an action as well as a statement:
      • A judge speaks the words “not guilty”, but he also commands the removal of chains and setting free
        • Justification is both of these and both are required
      • Romans [4:25] says Jesus was “raised for our justification”
        • Jesus’ resurrection was the action of justifying Jesus, and us as well (through our unity with him)
      • So, Justification brings us freedom at a deep and fundamental level, and releases us from the authority and power of darkness and the grave
        • The importance of this for the Christian life cannot be understated!
        • It is clearly expressed in Romans [6:8-11] where it says that “death no longer has dominion” over Jesus
        1. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
        2. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
        3. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.
        4. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.