The doctrine with which we are concerned is both the divine heart of the Gospel and the Gospel for the human heart. To seek an answer to the question, How can a man be just before God? is to be launched out into the profundities of our faith and to be occupied with the deep things of the Spirit. Virtually every great truth of the Gospel is grounded upon and linked up with this. Justification by faith—the answer of God to the needs of man—is the one unchanging message and method by which God receives sinful men.
But men readily forget, as William Temple has said, that “The only thing of my very own which I can contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed” (Nature, Man and God, p. 401).
Justification is that judicial act of God’s free mercy whereby he pronounces guiltless those sinners condemned under the law, and constitutes them as actually righteous, once and for all, in the imputed righteousness of Christ—on the grounds of his atoning work, by grace, through faith alone apart from works—and assures them of a full pardon, acceptance in his sight, adoption as sons, and heirs of eternal life, and the present gift of the Holy Spirit; and such as are brought into this new relation and standing are by the power of this same Spirit, enabled to perform good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk therein; yet such works performed, as well as the faith out of which they spring, make no contribution to the soul’s justification, but they are to be regarded as declarative evidences of a man’s acceptance in the sight of God.
A number of very important points present themselves in this comprehensive definition.
The Nature of Justification. The Hebrew term tsadek and its Greek equivalent dikaioō ...1
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