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Catechism Class: LD23 Q60, Justification – 2


Justification Part 2.

In our last lesson we learned what justification is. In Lord’s Day 23 Q60, the catechist asks us, “How are you righteous before God?” Our answer is, “Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.  He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.

READ: Romans 3, where Paul teaches the believers in Rome, and us, that everyone who lives in this world is a sinner, – there is no difference in any of us, yet, he claims, we are all freely justified, by God’s grace, only through the redemption that we have in Jesus. READ Romans 3:23-28 One thing is for sure. When a justified sinner, a Christian, looks at himself or herself, they know for sure that they can boast of nothing, that they are the unworthy recipients of God’s grace, that there is nothing within them to merit their salvation, no works, no inherent goodness, – only Jesus is the justifier of them who believe on him through faith. Philippians 3:8-9  Let’s look firstly at:-

Read the notes here.

1. My Conscience and the Word of God.

This really is the background to the catechist’s teaching here. My conscience often bothers me, and I’m sure that you will know exactly what that means too. Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, This is an important line in the answer, and the catechist lays it on thick and heavy. This doctrine needs to be properly understood. Let’s try to work it out –

  • When we are saved – regenerated, – justified – we do not stop sinning! Nor can we ever achieve a state of sinless perfection in this world. We are sinners until the day we die. So our catechist is correct to say that “I am still inclined to do evil.” BUT We must not confuse our status before God with our condition in this life! 
  • Because we are inclined to sin, in thought, word and deed, – our conscience accuses us! It’s at times like this that we need to remember this important doctrine. Your conscience may say “You’re NOT a Christian – you can’t be – you’re not good enough. You haven’t prayed enough, you haven’t tithed enough, you haven’t worked hard enough, you havent improved your life enough”… READ Titus 3:5  So, who are you going to believe, God’s inerrant, infallible word, or your own deceitful sinful heart?  Our justification, our status before God is not cancelled by our conscience, but our conscience points us to Him, for forgiveness and pardon, and repentance from our sins.  BUT REMEMBER…
  • There is a usefulness in the accusations of the conscience though. When we sin it should drive us in sorrow to Christ in repentance for  his forgiveness. You see, when we are regenerated, we are given a new nature. READ 2 Corinthians 5:17  That’s the difference, or rather, one of the differences between an ungodly person and a believer. The ungodly person enjoys their sin – they revel in it. That’s why they flaunt their sin, in their dress and activities and political lobbying, – it’s why we have to suffer the indignity of having “Pride Parades” and “Drag Queen Story Times.” But the Christian is different. We have a new nature, that makes us loathe our sin and want to, – long to – obey the law of God, to  live to please the God who loved us and saved us.  Now that brings us to Paul’s classic passage on this subject, Romans 7. PLEASE READ: Romans 7:21-25 

So our catechist has taken Luther’s classic doctrine, and used it, not to condemn us for our worthlessness as Christians, but to comfort us when tempted and tested and to drive us to the Word of God, where we find assurance that we are new creations in Christ Jesus, who mourn over our sin, repent of it, and seek his help to live in obedience, pleasing God in our ways.  

2. No Human Merit – Just Grace.

It is God who is active in our justification – the sinner is entirely passive. He takes the initiative. There are two doctrines involved in this statement…

  1. We are saved by a righteousness that is OUTSIDE us. “God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.” God sees nothing of worth in me. Ephesians 2:8-9  We depend on the righteousness of another, – of Christ. We call this ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS.   Think of the practical benefits of this understanding of justification:

Firstly, it is a warning that we cannot search within us for peace with God.  In more modern society, we hear people being taught to ‘follow your heart’ – ‘be yourself’ – they make their inner self their ‘god.’ For the Christian, a correct understanding of the doctrine of ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS will prevent us from falling into this self-centred trap.

Secondly, it teaches us not to rely on our inner feelings. I don’t know about you, but there are days when I’m on top of the world (Well – one or two… ) and there are days I’m pretty down in the dumps – life’s circumstances greatly affect how we feel. Again we are reminded that our justification does not come from within us – it is external to us – it comes from Christ, from his atoning work and is declared and confirmed in the Word of God.

  1. Our response is passive. Grace is a free gift, or it wouldn’t be grace. if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.  Look at what this gift consists of – Christ’s perfect satisfaction – Christ’s righteousness, – Christ’s holiness –  2 Corinthians 5:21 Salvation is a gift, so we simply take it. We cannot earn it or deserve it or work for it, it is a gift, and a gift costs us nothing. Our response, when someone offers us a gift, is simply to receive it, believing it to be ours!  

Do you remember the famous words of Paul to the Philippian jailer, when he was under conviction of sin? Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Today, if God has convinced you that you are a sinner, and you are anxious about your eternal destiny, don’t look inwardly for help. Believe in Christ! Believe that on the cross he bore all your sins in his own body, and took all the punishment for sin demanded under the law, and God in his grace will give you faith to believe and repent, and you will be born again!

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