We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in the 17th century. In particular, we’ve been examining the doctrine of justification, which is a legal declaration that you are right before God. We’ve seen that justification comes by God’s word and the Spirit. But who is justified?
Firstly, those who are justified are people who are convinced of their own sin. The Bible testifies that all humans are sinners: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ (Romans 3:10).
And the Christian will admit this truth. For example the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to Titus: ‘At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another’ (Titus 3:3).
Another example is his letter to the church in Ephesus: ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:1-3).
And it’s not just Paul who admits his sinfulness. Again and again in the New Testament we see people being convinced of their sin and their hopelessness, before they are justified before God. An example is in Acts 2 as Peter preaches to the Jews. Peter tells the people that they have sinned against God by crucifying the Messiah: ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36).
The people then respond with conviction about their sin: ‘When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”’ (Acts 2:37).
Peter answers with an exhortation that they turn from sin: ‘Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation”’ (Acts 2:38-40).
And following Peter’s encouragements, we read that some Jews respond with acceptance of their sin: ‘Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day’ (Act 2:41).
So if you wish to be justified (right with God), you must recognise that you’re not justified (not right with God). Once you do that, you’re on a sure path to salvation.
Do you recognise your sinfulness and need of a saviour?