Volume. XXXii, No. 30
Sunday, 21 January 2018

From the Pastor’s Heart: Justification (Part 2)

Salvation in Christ means that we are delivered from the condemnations of our sins.  Words like condemnation or sin require the existence of the divine law, without which we cannot know God’s standards and subsequently cannot know of sin, which is a breach of the law/standard of God.  The best word that could explain “salvation” is probably “justification.”  However, this word has been understood very differently by different groups.  For example, the Church of Rome argues that we are made inherently righteous and holy when we are justified.  Thus, justification refers to the actualization of righteousness and holiness in us.  Thus, we cannot be justified until we reach perfection in righteousness and holiness.  It indicates that no one of us can be sure that he/she is justified, because no one is able to know whether he/she has reached that level yet.  It is true that only God knows such a state and condition.  As for such teachings, another way to define justification is of different stages, by which justification is a process.  It is an interesting idea that opens doors for many more questions and ingenious answers.  For example, if a person is in the middle of the process to be justified, what happens to him?  If justification is a process, we may say that this person has begun the process of justification but has not completed it yet.  Is he justified or not?  Whatever the answer may be, we can say that he is not saved for sure, because he is not completely justified yet.  God is just, and He must judge and condemn him.  From this line of logic, two totally different questions come up: (1) If that is the case, then what is the role of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for his sins?  He believes in Jesus as his personal Savior, but he has not completed his journey of justification yet.  Can he be saved or not?  Can he be forgiven or not?  (2) It leads to the next puzzling thought.  Jesus died for his sins, and he believes in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, even though he has not reached the end of his justification process yet, he may have a chance to be saved.  After all, does he not believe in Jesus?  But, how can he be saved?  At this point, human ideas are brought in.  He must contribute to the completion of his justification by good works.  If his good works are not good enough to save him, then he must continue to pay for his sins after he dies.  Or he must ask the dead saints for help, etc.  Or he can buy indulgences with money!  Or, he may keep asking Virgin Mary for her kind assistance.  Or he may obtain a tooth of saint so-and-so and pray to it.  The list is endless.


The Reformers objected this view by saying that our justification is of a forensic nature.  Thus, God declares us to be righteous in Christ.  In this case, it is not our perfection but the finished work of Christ that makes us justified.  We are legally declared to be righteous in Christ Jesus.  It explains lots of things.  (1) It makes us rest on Christ alone for our justification, not our own works.  (2) It helps us understand the present reality of our struggles in sin.  Though we believe in Jesus and are saved, we still fall into errors and sins.  We are still living in depravity, though we strive to come out of it completely.  Justification does not change our moral character, but declares us to be righteous so that we will not be condemned according to our sins, and our sins are paid by Christ’s death for us.  (3) It also helps us to be assured of our salvation, and salvation does not depend on our perfection but on the perfection of Christ.  We can have Christ-centered justification.  (4) Justification we obtained through faith in Jesus Christ causes and encourages us to experience inner and outer changes in moral character.  It also implies that we are justified fully and completely in Jesus and that we may feel guilt whenever we sin against God and do not keep the commandments of God.  It is because though we are already received by God through His grace of justification, we are still living in the flesh.  We begin to experience changes in our inclinations.  We desire to serve God and to please Him.  We desire to minister to our neighbors.  We desire to be better and to do good. 


John Calvin said, “We simply explain justification to be an acceptance, by which God receives us into His favor, and esteems us as righteous persons; and we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ... Justification, therefore, is no other than an acquittal from guilt of him who was accused, as though his innocence has been proved.  Since God, therefore, justifies us through the mediation of Christ, He acquits us, not by an admission of our personal innocence, but by an imputation of righteousness; so that we, who are unrighteous in ourselves, are considered as righteous in Christ.” 


Westminster Confession of Faith 11.1 reads: “Those whom God effectually calleth He also freely justifieth;1 not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone: nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness, by faith: which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.” 


H. Witsius wrote in 1693, “We thus define the gospel of justification of a sinner: It is a judicial, but gracious act of God, whereby the elect and believing sinner is absolved from the guilt of his sins, and hath a right to eternal life adjudged to him, on account of the obedience of Christ, received by faith.”


Having considered all, “justification, then, refers not to any subjective change wrought in a person’s disposition, but is solely an objective change in his standing in relation to the law.  That to justify cannot possibly signify to make a person inherently righteous or good, is most clearly to be seen from the usage of the term itself in Scripture” (Arthur Pink, The Doctrine of Election and Justification, 192).  Pink’s further explains with a few biblical examples to make this thought clear.  “For example, in Proverbs 17:15 we read, ‘He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord’: now obviously he who shall make a ‘wicked’ person just is far from being an ‘abomination of the Lord,’ but he who knowingly pronounces a wicked person to be righteous is obnoxious to Him.  Again; in Luke 7:29 we read, ‘And all the people that heard Him, and the publicans, justified God’: how impossible it is to make the words ‘justified God’ signify any moral transformation in His character; but understand those words to mean that they declared Him to be righteous, and all ambiguity is removed.  Once more, in 1 Timothy 3:16 we are told, that the incarnate Son was ‘justified in [or ‘by’] the Spirit’: that is to say, He was publicly vindicated at His resurrection, exonerated from the blasphemous charges which the Jews had laid against Him.”


All these examples show that justification has to be a legal term.  God declares the believers of Jesus to be freed from the condemnation of their sins.  The biblical understanding of justification refers to the change of status and display of the divine favour.  This particular understanding of justification is also supported by its antithetic concept, which is condemnation.  When we are justified, we are not condemned, and vice versa.  To condemn is not a process but a declaration.  To condemn the offenders by a judge is to hand down his sentences to them.  It is an act of declaration.  Paul clarifies it in Romans 4:6, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”  We are righteous without works by the imputed righteousness of God.  Righteousness is a gift transferred to our account. 



Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



  • Deepest condolences to Sis Rachel Tan & family on the home-going of Bro Rhys Tee Diang Tan (Sis Rachel’s father).
  • Cambodia Missions (2nd Team) currently in Sihanoukville: Elder Michael & Sisters Alice Lee (16-23, 25-31 Jan), and others.
  • Laos Missions: Elder Michael & Sisters Alice Lee & others (23-25 Jan).
  • Those who completed BBK course & would like to have Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or Membership Transfer, please see the Elders by next Lord’s Day, and submit your testimonies by 4 Feb.
  • Wednesday Prayer Meeting & Bible Study will commence on 7 Feb. Fellowship groups’ meetings will start soon. All worshippers are encouraged to attend.
  • New Basic Bible Knowledge Class will start soon. Anyone wishing to know about the Christian Faith, or seeking Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or membership Transfer is encouraged to attend. If interested, please see the Elders.
  • Kitchen Duty helpers - This week: Team C. Next week: Team A.



  • God’s Comfort in grief: Sis Rachel Tan & family.
  • Healing: For those who are sick and those recuperating.
  • Journey mercies: Cambodia Missions 2nd Team & others who are travelling.
  • Cambodia & Laos Missions: God’s guidance, protection & wisdom.
  • Preaching Ministry in New Life BPC (London) today – Elder David Yeo.
  • Session Meeting: God’s wisdom & guidance.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Journey mercies: Cambodia Missions 2nd Team (Sihanoukville) and others who have travelled and arrived safely to their destination.
  • New worshippers.




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