Volume. XXXii, No. 31
Sunday, 28 January 2018

From the Pastor’s Heart: Justification (Part 3)

We have studied that the believer’s righteousness is the imputed righteousness of God, which is an act of God called justification.  It appears to be very clear that the biblical justification of saints is a forensic work of God, or declaration of God that believers are righteous.  Then, why are there still confusions over this particular doctrine?  Today, we are going to learn this doctrine from a negative viewpoint, i.e., what justification is not.


First, justification is not the same as regeneration.  If we expand it, justification is not the same as rebirth.  If we go even one step further, justification is not the same as God’s calling.  Every one of these theological concepts is difficult to understand.  All of them are inter-related and inter-connected, but each of them emphasizes its own particular aspect in the doctrine of salvation.  Regeneration cannot mean justification, because regeneration is needed first to bring life into the dead.  Man is depraved and dead in sins and trespasses.  In order to be declared righteous, he must have a life first, which demands the grace of regeneration beforehand.  God’s effective calling for our salvation is not the same as justification either.  Romans 8:30 says, “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.”  Those who are called will be justified.  The biblical truth is that no one is justified until he believes, and that no one is justified until he is regenerated or quickened to life.  Through regeneration, we have the privilege to be brought into the community of God’s people, while we have a secure standing before God through justification.  Regeneration is God’s work within our souls, which is internal, while justification is an external work of God, the imputation of the work of Christ for us.


Second, justification is not the same as sanctification.  Probably, most confusions over the doctrine of justification come from confused views of sanctification.  Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible defines sanctification as “The act of making something or someone clean or holy. In Christian theology, sanctification is usually understood as an act or process subsequent to salvation which renders the believer holy in fact (as opposed to justification, which is a legal declaration of innocence).”  In other words, sanctification is moral and experimental, while justification is legal or judicial.  There are many differences between them.  Justification is instantaneous and immutable as an act of God to declare us to be righteous based on the work of Christ, while sanctification is an outcome of the internal work of the Spirit of God through us, which is gradual and progressive.  Justification is complete without any deduction from or addition to it, while sanctification may have different degrees because it is a process.  This concept is not too hard to understand, but rather it is a natural outcome of proper logic and reasoning.  For example, we are justified by God and stand before Him.  If we admit different degrees to it, then we have to talk about 1%, 50%, 99%, or 100% of righteousness, which is untenable.  It is because 99% righteousness is 1% unrighteousness, which inevitably invites God’s condemnations upon us.  That is why we imperfect people will never be able to attain to perfect righteousness, and thus, we must depend on the finished work of Christ.  We are declared to be righteous by receiving His imputed righteousness upon us.  It is the reason why justification does not allow any degrees.  In the meanwhile, sanctification is a process, in which we experience transformation of character.  That is why justification is God’s gratuitous act.  One thing that we need to remember is that justification accompanies sanctification.  In other words, the justified believers desire to be holy and bear fruits, which is a part of the sanctification process.


Third, justification is not the same as forgiveness.  It requires careful thinking to understand the differences between justification and forgiveness, because there are a lot of similarities.  It is also true that the justified are also pardoned as Romans 4:6-8 says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”  In order to understand this lesson, we need to know the meanings of forgiveness and justification better.  We know that we are justified, and God is the justifier.  And also, Romans 3:4 says, “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”  This verse is a mixture of quotations from Psalm 62:9 and 51:4.  In particular, the second half of the verse is from Psalm 51:4, which is King David’s repentant prayer.  The second person personal pronouns, “thou” and “thy,” are referring to God.  We need to notice that God is justified.  Hence the lesson comes: God is justified, and it cannot mean that He is forgiven. Therefore, there are at least a couple of differences between justification and forgiveness to be found.  (1) Justification is not the same as forgiveness, as the latter includes the sense of pardoning sins.  God cannot be pardoned, but man needs to be pardoned.  Pardon removes punishment, while justification removes the ground of the infliction of punishment by declaring that we are righteous.  (2) A huge difference between them is understood when we understand that our acts of sins must be forgiven, and that we ourselves must be justified.  This understanding is related to the meaning of the imputed righteousness upon us.  What we do needs forgiveness, but who we are must be justified.  We are not able to produce righteousness (self-justification).  We are justified by the alien righteousness of Christ (justification by faith alone).


Having studied about biblical justification, we may want to know the reasons why justification is a precious truth we ought to cherish.  We may trace our thoughts all the way back to the law.  The law does not exist for the righteous.  Even the world describes good people as people who are able to live without laws.  (1) The law awakens our conscience to know the sins we have committed.  Without the law, how can we know if we have transgressed?  Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”  (2) The law, thus, condemns.  In a more positive term, it executes justice.  The law is not of mercy but of justice.  (3) The law does not pardon, because it is not the purpose of the law.  It is to condemn, judge, and punish the offenders.  The law is not designed for forgiveness but for punishment.


By contrast, God is just and the Judge, but He is also merciful.  He pardons sinners.  In order to do so, He even provides a ransom for them.  The Judge loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  Whosoever believes in Him should not perish!  With such a deliverance from perishing, sinners need more than forgiveness.  They need justification.  They need to be righteous.  Mere remission of punishment will not take us to heaven, but we need righteousness to go to heaven.  Thus, the Second Person in the Trinity gave His life, and His blood procured our pardon as in Ephesians 1:7.  The righteousness of Christ was imputed upon us for our justification.  Romans 5:18 says, “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.”  Thank God for our justification!



Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



  • Welcome back  those who returned from Cambodia Missions.
  • Those who completed BBK course & would like to have Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or Membership Transfer, please see the Elders by today, & submit your testimonies by 4 Feb.
  • Wednesday Prayer Meeting & Bible Study will commence on 7 Feb. Fellowship groups’ meetings will start soon. All worshippers 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.
  • First Easter Family Camp Committee Meeting today @ 1pm in the rectory junior classroom. Anyone interested in serving the Lord in this committee please bring your lunch to the rectory.
  • Kitchen Duty helpers - This week: Team A. Next week: Team B.


  • God’s Comfort in grief: those mourning for the loss of loved one.
  • Healing: Those who are sick and hospitalised and those who are recuperating.
  • Journey mercies: For all who are travelling who are travelling.
  • Cambodia & Laos Missions: God’s guidance, protection & wisdom.

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Journey mercies: For all those who have travelled and have arrived safely.
  • Cambodia & Laos Missions: successful and safe trip.
  • New worshippers.




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