Statement on Justification

It has been brought to my attention that on an Expositor Podcast, I made a statement that justification is “paperwork” in heaven. That was a poor choice of words on my part that comes across in a dismissive manner of this glorious doctrine that is the heart of the gospel. As I spoke extemporaneously without notes, I searched for an analogy without giving previous forethought. In the spur of the moment, my spontaneous words fell short of the mark. If I have caused confusion or offense, I apologize. 

I want to clarify and reaffirm what I have taught for half a century. Justification is a forensic declaration by God that imputes the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to the one who believes in Him. This judicial pronouncement immediately and eternally affects the believer’s standing before God. This is the glory of the gospel. Apart from any human works or self-merit, God makes the forensic declaration that the believer is given a right standing before Him and full acceptance with Him. In justification, God clothes the believer with the perfect righteousness of Christ. He credits or reckons the righteousness of Christ to the one who believes in Him. Previously under divine wrath, there is now no condemnation for the believer because of this core truth of justification by faith alone.

Concerning one’s daily life, it is regeneration that gives new life in Christ. The new birth gives a new heart, new mind, new affections, and a new disposition. In the one who is born again, God produces a radical change in the human nature. This includes definitive sanctification, which leads to lifelong progressive sanctification. The divine act of regeneration gives eternal life to the spiritually dead soul. It is the beginning of a new life that changes one’s daily walk in sanctification.

To be clear, justification declares the guilty sinner who believes in Christ to be righteous, but it does not infuse righteousness into the believer. Justification is not a divine work in us, but one that is pronounced about us. Regeneration and sanctification is the work of God in us that radically changes how we live our daily life. Justification affects my eternal standing before God, while regeneration and sanctification affects my daily walk with Christ. 

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