Guest post by Jeff Mindler. [Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where he serves as an elder. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]
“Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”Such is the answer to question 37 in the Baptist Catechism, which mirrors the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the subject of justification.
The beauty of a catechism is that it summarizes Christian doctrine and provides a framework for thinking through a subject like justification. Justification is a doctrine that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked or misunderstood and that to the detriment of those who do so. Justification was at the heart of the protestant reformation in the 16th century, and is still a topic of vital importance today. With such an important topic, it is critical to have clarity on the subject, and the above catechism does this by providing a brief and Biblical definition that is easy to memorize while also providing Scriptural texts that accompany each question and answer. We would all do well to memorize this question and answer.
In this post I want to highlight one important element regarding the doctrine of justification as outlined by the Baptist catechism question and answer 37, namely that justification is an act of God’s free grace.Justification is an act of God (Rom 5:1, 8:33), not something man works himself to or accomplishes himself. Justification is what God does, not what man does. It is not a process that man undergoes overtime but is a declaration by God that He makes regarding the status of that person: God declares them just. James White elaborates on this more fully in his definition of justification, which includes all of the major elements found in the doctrine:
To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believers sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.
Pay close attention to the fact that justification is centered upon what God does, not upon what man does. Romans 8:33 states, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (ESV. Emphasis mine) Justification is fundamentally an act of God, a declaration upon sinful man, not a process that man undergoes that can be undone and that therefore he would need to be re-justified. It is a once for all declaration based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf and therefore results in our being accepted in the sight of a Holy God (Rom 5:1).
May we all pause to consider the great comfort it is to know that we do not earn our justification; rather we are justified before God by His grace alone and receive it through faith alone and therefore, all the glory for our justification belongs to God alone. That is good news indeed!
The Baptist Catechism. Question and Answer 37.
White, James. The God Who Justifies. 74