God’s Word clearly teaches the precious doctrine of justification by faith alone. All who believe “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:24–25). While this doctrine is of tremendous theological importance and can be a subject of deep scholarly study, here are five truths all God’s people should know about the doctrine of justification.
1. Justification is a wonderful comfort.
First, we should know the wonderful comfort of this doctrine. Justification reminds us that Jesus Christ has done everything necessary for our salvation. He paid the penalty that our sins deserved by His sacrificial death on the cross. His death satisfied God’s justice and turned away His wrath from us. Jesus also lived a perfect life by His righteous obedience to God’s law. Both Christ’s satisfaction and His perfect righteousness are imputed to us by grace through faith. Therefore, all believers should take comfort in knowing that the Father looks upon us in Christ as if we had been as sinless and as perfect as Jesus is.
2. Justification brings supreme blessing.
Second, we should know the supreme blessing God bestows upon us in justification. By grace through faith, we are righteous before God and heirs to eternal life. The blessing of eternal life has been conveyed upon us now, just as Jesus promised: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). Eternal life is a particular kind or quality of life. Eternal life means the perfect blessedness of hearts that rightly love God, minds that truly know Him, and wills that completely follow Him. Already the beginning of this new and eternal life dwells in us. We are heirs who have spiritually received eternal life as our inheritance now. And one day soon, when Jesus returns in glory, we will experience eternal life fully, body and soul. Jesus bestows upon us the eternal life of perfect and indestructible fellowship with God. We should celebrate the supreme blessing of eternal life enjoyed by those who are justified by faith.
3. Justification means present peace with God.
When we keep these blessings in mind, they lead us to a third truth regarding justification: the present peace we have with God. In Christ, all of our obligations to God have been met. Nothing stands unaccounted for between us and God. But the reality of this peace can be very hard for a sinner to accept. Casper Olevianus, one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, wrote “there is nothing more difficult than to believe the forgiveness of sins.” But if we do not believe we are truly forgiven, we will not believe that we have peace with God. Dr. R.C. Sproul put it well: “It is often a difficult thing to accept the grace of God. Our human arrogance makes us want to atone for our own sins or make it up to God with works of super-righteousness. But the fact of the matter is that we can’t make it up to God. We are debtors who cannot pay. That’s what justification by faith is all about.” We cannot find peace with God through our own sacrifices or our own obedience. And we don’t need to try. Christ has made peace through His sacrifice and His obedience. Faith calls us to look away from ourselves and to trust in Christ’s work alone. Everything that was between us and God—our sin, guilt, and condemnation—has been cleared away by the saving work of Jesus Christ. By faith in Christ, we have peace with God now (Rom. 5:1).
4. Justification provides future hope.
Our present peace with God leads us to a fourth truth: we have future hope. We have peace with God now and forever on account of Christ’s work. Christians do not need to live in any fear of the future, not even when we think about standing before God’s final judgment. Justification is God’s once for all declaration that we are righteous in His sight. This decree of God will never be revoked or annulled. Even the final judgment will simply confirm and prove the truth of Christ’s promise: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Justification also gives us hope for the future, particularly when it comes to standing before the judgment seat of God.
5. Justification gives eternal glory to God.
Finally, everything we have considered thus far leads us to the last and best thing we should know about the doctrine of justification. It gives eternal glory to God alone. The glory is all God’s because He does everything from everlasting to everlasting for our salvation. The Father set His everlasting love on His people from all eternity. Out of this eternal love, He sent His Son into the world to save His people from their sins. Jesus Christ willingly came into this world and accomplished our salvation by His life, death, and resurrection. Both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit who creates faith in us through His Word. Our faith is His gracious gift, by which we are justified. The Holy Spirit dwells in us forever, uniting us to Jesus and making us partakers of all Christ’s benefits. The doctrine of justification helps us glorify the triune God who Himself does all that is necessary to make us righteous before Him. May our reflection on the precious doctrine of justification always help us to praise and glorify God our Savior.
This article is part of the 5 Things You Should Know collection.