Topical studies

Justification by faith

1. Introduction

Many Christians know little about this doctrine of justification by faith alone. We have forgotten that this was the teaching that set on fire one of the great revivals of the church age. On the basis of this teaching began the Reformation period in the history of the church and the birth of the Protestant movement. During this time millions of people turned from the bondage of the then established church and found the Lord in reality. While there are today many divisions among the Protestant churches as to minor doctrinal differences this basic doctrine is held firmly by all.

The Roman church apposes this teaching and justification by faith alone is a major difference between Protestant and Roman doctrine.

2. The meaning of justification

Justification means the “legal” sentence of the judge of heaven where He declares the guilty sinner righteous before Him. The sinner is accounted righteous by God. Righteousness is put to his account.

In this act God looks upon the sinner as righteous for the whole period of his earthly existence. This does NOT mean MAKE righteous, (which is sanctification.) but is a term speaking of relationship NOT of personal quality. The justified person is in right standing before God even though their character is not changed. Righteousness is IMPUTED and IMPARTED. The sinner is acquitted of the guilt and right standing restored.

3. The problem

Job realised the problem…………

(Job 9:2 NIV) “Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God?

Down through the ages thinkers of all countries and religious beliefs have come to face this problem as they realised their state of corruption and sinfulness and have seen in their hearts the great gulf between them and a holy God.

Most have come to realise that if God acquitted the guilty He would not be just, but if He punished would this be loving?

(Ezek 18:4 NIV) For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

The sentence has already been passed. How can this dilemma be resolved ?

Because God is both just and loving He found a way to JUSTIFY the sinner JUSTLY and He himself remain just. The sentence must still be carried out.

4. The cause of justification

The cause of this act on the part of God was His love for mankind.

(John 3:16 NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A loving Father reached out in love to a depraved world lost and condemned and banned from heavenly fellowship. That love moved to restore humankind into the grace of God.

5. The ground of justification

It is the grace of God (unmerited favour.) which offers to every offender a free pardon in regard to what they justly deserve.

(Rom 3:23 NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
(Rom 4:4 NIV) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
(Rom 5:6 NIV) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

6. The means of justification

The means are seen in the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ when He died on the cross. In this act of “taking our place” He completed all that was necessary to satisfy the justice of God.

i. Jesus our substitute

(2 Cor 5:21 NIV) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us , so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

ii. Jesus our mediator.

(1 Tim 2:5 KJV) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

iii. Jesus our ransom..

(1 Tim 2:6 KJV) Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

iv. Jesus our sacrificial lamb.

(John 1:29 KJV) The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God , which taketh away the sin of the world.

v. Jesus our sin-bearer

(John 1:29 KJV) The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

vi… Jesus the sinless one.

(Heb 4:15 KJV) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus because He was perfect, sinless and righteous did not need the righteousness that he merited by living a life of complete obedience to the Father. By Jesus taking the place of the sinner, dying the sinners death, God could JUSTLY forgive us, for the debt had been paid. We are still unrighteous, but the righteousness that Jesus earned is put to our credit

(Rom 4:22 KJV) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Thus our legal standing before God is restored. This standing depends not on our WORKS but on the work and merit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

7. Justification by faith

How can the sinner participate in this freely offered justification ? Scripture teaches……..

a. By faith.

(John 1:12 KJV) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
(John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(John 3:36 KJV) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
(John 5:24 KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
(Rom 3:28 KJV) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
(Rom 5:1-2 KJV) Therefore being justified by faith , we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: {2} By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(Gal 2:16 KJV) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

b. NOT by Works

(Rom 3:20 KJV) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
(Rom 3:27-28 KJV) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay : but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
(Gal 2:16 KJV) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law : for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

8. The problem (?) of James

The so called “problem of James does not exist. James is not contradicting Paul. Paul in his teaching says that faith is the instrument by which justification is received. He insists that justification is not received by doing anything i.e. WORKS. James in his epistle is dealing with the nature or quality of this justifying faith and how it may be recognised.


(Eph 2:8-9 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.


(James 2:17-18 KJV) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. {18} Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works .

9. Justification realised

Justification is realised in:

a. The forgiveness of sins.

(Acts 13:38-39 NIV) … I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone that believes is set free from every sin, a justification that you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
(1 John 2:1-2 KJV) My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

b. Adoption into the family of God.

(Rom 8:15-16 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. {16} The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
(Gal 4:5 KJV) To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

c. Sealing and witness of the Spirit

(Gal 3:14 KJV) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Gal 4:6 KJV) And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
(Eph 1:13 KJV) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

d. Baptism and the Lord’s supper.

(Rom 6:1-6 KJV) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? {2} God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? {3} Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? {4} Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. {5} For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:{6} Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
(1 Cor 11:23-26 KJV) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: {24} And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. {25} After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. {26} For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.

10. Summation