We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in the 17th Century. Today I want to begin looking at the communion the church has with Christ and the mediation he brings. We’ll start with the justification God gives.
What is justification? Justification is a legal declaration that someone is in the right. If I say something and my wife doubts the truth of my statement, then I may seek to justify my words by showing evidence that I am speaking the truth.
So when God justifies us, he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight. Paul says: ‘…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). God has reconciled us to him by not holding our sins legally against us.
But how could God be a just God and let sinners be counted as righteous? It is only by the work of Jesus Christ that we can be counted righteous. If we believe that Jesus Christ died for us, his death pays the penalty for our sins and his righteous life is imputed to our account. Paul says: ‘But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 15:15-21).
So God is not unjust in deeming us righteous. If you commit an offence and receive a fine from the police, it is perfectly reasonable for someone else to pay your fine for you. Justice is still met. So it is with God. Jesus has paid your debt and you can go free. You no longer need to suffer in hell for your sins, Jesus has suffered on your behalf.
So how can you have Christ bring justification to your life? You must trust in him. Paul writes: ‘So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified’ (Galatians 2:16).
This is marvellous news! If you trust in Christ, God no longer sees you in your sinfulness, he sees us in Christ’s righteousness. You are justified.
Won’t you trust in Christ today and be justified?