JUSTIFICATION (Heb. tsedheq, tsādhēq; Gr. dikaioō, to make valid, to absolve, to vindicate, to set right). Justification may be defined as “that judicial act of God by which, on the basis of the meritorious work of Christ, imputed to the sinner and received through faith, God declares the sinner absolved from sin, released from its penalty, and restored as righteous.” Expressed simply, it is being placed by God in a right relationship with himself (see Righteousness). The doctrine is found in Paul’s letters, chiefly those to Galatia and Rome.
The major emphasis in justification is that it is an act of God. It is an act, however, from three perspectives: (1) an act in process of completion, as a continuous operation of the work of Christ (
Although an act of God, it necessarily leads in the life of the believer to a “walking in the Spirit,” “bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit,” and “serving righteousness,” for the God who justifies also gives new birth and a call to wholehearted commitment. Saving faith leads to faithfulness to God in life, as Paul clearly shows in Galatians and Romans.
II. The Essentials of Justification. Four basic essentials in the act of justification are taught by Scripture. Justification involves:
A. Remission of punishment, in which the justified believer is declared to be free of the demands of the law since they have been satisfied in Christ (
B. Restoration to favor, in which the justified believer is declared to be personally righteous in Christ, and therefore accepted as being in Christ’s righteousness. Mere acquittal or remission would leave the sinner in the position of a discharged criminal. Justification goes further in that it implies that God’s treatment of the sinner is as if that one had never sinned. The sinner is now regarded as being personally righteous in Christ (
C. Imputed righteousness of God, which is granted the justified believer through Christ’s presence. Salvation in Christ imparts the quality and character of Christ’s righteousness to the believer (
D. New legal standing before God in which, instead of being under the condemnation of sin, the justified believer stands before God in Christ. There has been an absolute interchange of position: Christ takes the place of the sinner, the place of curse (
The instrumental cause of justification is faith, as the response of the soul to God’s redeeming grace (
Bibliography: G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 1954; H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 1976; John Reumann, Righteousness in the, 1982; Peter Toon, Justification and Sanctification, 1983.——CBB
(Lat. justificatio, Gr. dikaiosis). Any consideration of this term in the end resolves itself into an argument over etymology: the verb justificare undoubtedly has the “forensic” connotation of pronouncing a guilty person acquitted. Dikaioun, on the other hand, while clearly having this meaning in the majority of cases, is understood by some to imply making or becoming actually righteous.
The doctrine of Justification is clearly adumbrated in the gospels, but is brought to full realization by Paul, particularly in the Roman and Galatian epistles. Here it is presented as the result and completion of the redemptive work of Christ when man in faith responds to Him, and God in His mercy treats him as though he were righteous.
The clarity of Paul's teaching was obscured in the patristic period: Augustine at first sight seems to reaffirm the Pauline position, but really conflates the immediacy of the act of justification with the later process of sanctification. This became the accepted medieval view, reaffirmed byfor whom justifying grace was a supernatural quality infused like hope or love into the human soul, with faith its preliminary rather than its channel. Justification is thus no longer the acquirement of a status, but the production of a state, dependent especially on loyal observance of the sacraments. When the Renaissance threw men back onto the original Greek text of the NT and highlighted once more the significance of individual personality, the way was opened for 's most vital contribution to Reformation theology: his rediscovery after agonizing search of the Pauline emphasis that in justification Christ's righteousness becomes our righteousness, or is imputed to us, by faith through grace.
This central belief of the Reformers, reiterated by Melanchthon and later by Calvin, Wesley, and Spurgeon, theanathematized in favor of the medieval view. Justification in post-Tridentine Catholicism became again an imparted gift, not a pronouncement of acquittal; a gradually realized psychological condition, not a once-for-event in the believer's experience. The way was opened, as before, to salvation by merit.
In later Protestant theology the theme of justification was variously handled. The basic Protestant emphasis was never entirely obscured, but Calvinists, particularly under the influence of Federal theology, dwelt on the highly contentious doctrine of eternal justification, others depressed faith at the expense of grace or vice versa, still more treated justification as progressively realized through different stages, others subsumed it under the general idea of reconciliation, while Ritschl's teaching that the community of believers is the object of justification raised the issues of the interdependence of justification, church, baptism, and the. More recently Hans Küng has argued impressively that the differences between the Catholic and Protestant views are largely imaginary and capable of reconciliation, a theory more deserving of study by evangelicals than recent and impatient radical dismissals of justification as an “archaic term” (Macquarrie), its significance having been “vastly exaggerated” in previous debate.
W. Cunningham, Historical Theology (1863); C. Hodge,, vol. 3 (1873); A. Harnack, History of Dogma (ET 1894-99); A. Ritschl, Critical History of the Christian Doctrines of Justification and Reconciliation (ET 1900); J. Denney, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation (1917); K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, I, 2 (ET 1956); F. Gogarten, The Reality of Faith (ET 1959); G. Ebeling, Word and Faith (ET 1963) and The Nature of Faith (ET 1966); H. Küng, Justification: The Doctrine of and a Catholic Reflection (1964); J. Jeremias, The Central Message of the (ET 1965).
JUSTIFICATION (δικαίωσις, G1470, justification; δικαιου̂ν, to justify). In Christian theology justification is that act of God by which the sinner, who is responsible for his guilt and is under condemnation but believes in Christ, is pronounced just and righteous, or acquitted, by God the judge (
The terms “justification” and “justify.”
The noun or substantive “justification” (dikaiosis) is not used frequently in the Bible—only twice by Paul in his famous, which may be regarded as the greatest single treatise in the Scriptures and in all lit. on the subject. The infrequent occurrence of the term does not imply that the doctrine of justification is not important in Biblical theology, only that the Biblical writers are prone to speak of justification in dynamic terms of the verb “justify” (diakaioun) which is found also in the LXX tr. of the OT. The term “justification” is closely related in both the OT and NT to the concept “righteousness” (zadik, dikaiosyne) which is not always apparent in Eng. “Righteousness” is a pregnant dynamic term of action describing God’s act of “pronouncing righteous,” “making righteous,” or even “doing righteousness.”
The word “justification” is derived from two Lat. words, justus and the verb facere, which together literally mean, “to make righteous” or “to do righteousness” (justificare). In the Scriptures, however, the terms “justification” or “to justify” are used in a special Biblical, forensic, or judicial sense, “to declare or pronounce righteous,” not to make righteous. Godet says “As to dikaioun (to justify), there is not an example in the whole of classic literature where it signifies: to make just” (Romans, p. 157). It is thus a declarative act of the God of grace by which He declares sinners free from the guilt and consequences of their sin through faith in the atonement of Christ.
One should not be misled by the familiar use of these terms today. In common speech today the words “justify,” “justification,” are used in a different sense from their original meaning. In present-day usage the “justified man” is an innocent man. The term is used to excuse action or to prove one was right in acting as he did, to vindicate himself either in the eyes of man or of the law. A person may say, “The man accused of murder did not commit murder. He was ‘justified’ in killing the intruder because he acted in self-defense.” A reliable dictionary today will define justification as “a reason, a fact, circumstance, or explanation that justifies or defends, for example, ‘the insult was sufficient justification for her to leave the party’.” In the art of printing, justification means the spacing of words and letters in a line so that all lines in a column have even margins. Used in these ways the term has little in common with the prevalent meaning in Scripture.
Justification according to the Apostle Paul.
Accordingly, the old Lutheran theologian,(Loc. II 250), writes of Paul’s teaching on justification; “Paul everywhere describes justification as a judicial process, because the conscience of the sinner accused by the divine Law before the tribunal of God, convicted and lying under the sentence of eternal condemnation, but fleeing to the throne of grace, is restored, acquitted, delivered from the sentence of condemnation, is received into eternal life, on account of obedience and intercession of the , the Mediator, which is apprehended and applied by faith.” According to this, justification signifies “to be pronounced righteous,” or “to be acquitted.”
Justification by works.
Justification and the righteousness of God.
In the broader concept of justification in both OT and NT, the idea of the righteousness of God (dikaiosyne theou) is closely related to God’s judicial act of salvation. At times the terms justification by faith and righteousness of God can be used interchangeably. Paul speaks of this righteousness in
The well-known phrase “righteousness of God” as Paul uses it in
Justification and the atonement of Christ.
If God’s righteousness is the saving act of God in Christ for man’s salvation, then justification is closely related to our Lord’s atonement. In fact, Christ’s atonement is the grounds for justification. Christ’s person and activity is the justification or reconciliation with God and the basis of all individual justification. It is the only basis upon which God can and does justify the sinner (
By making Christ a substitute for man, God preserves His own justice and the same time achieves salvation for the sinner (
God is involved in the justification-atonement syndrome in three ways: (1) He is the Initiator, who first loved man. (2) He is the Instrument or Means, who gave Himself in the incarnate Christ as the once-for-all sacrifice for man’s sin. (3) He is also the Object of His saving work, who satisfied His wrath and justice over sin through Christ’s all-atoning sacrifice. At one and the same time God satisfies Himself and forgives the sinner. Therefore, only in Christ does God justify the sinner by imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to the sinner who has none of his own (
Objective and subjective justification.
Objective or universal justification is important for what may be called personal or subjective justification. It is clear that if God did not justify the ungodly, then man would be justified by works and there could be no justification by faith. Also, if God had not justified all mankind, the individual sinner might doubt that he was included. Subjective or personal justification is simply this: when a sinner hears the Gospel and the
Justification and forgiveness.
Justification is really legal picture language for forgiveness of sins. Christian theologians have considered justification above all else as forgiveness of sins and have used the two expressions interchangeably. Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son illustrates this concept dramatically (
Justification as imputation of righteousness.
Justification as forgiveness of sin involves God’s act of imputation. Imputation is both negative and positive: in justification there is non-imputation of sin, and on the other hand, imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The merits of Christ are imputed to the sinner. He is given a righteousness alien to himself, namely, Christ’s righteousness just as his sins are not imputed or counted to him (
Justification by faith.
Because of the emphasis given faith in the Bible, Christians speak of justification esp. as justification by faith. The phrase “by faith” is just as vital as the term “justify” in understanding the nature of justification as taught in the Scriptures. Paul, for instance, in stating the theme of the Book of Romans, stresses faith without using the term “justification”: “The righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith” (
In justification, what exactly is the significance of the phrase “by faith”? Christians have always been aware of pitfalls at this point. Justifying faith is not faith in one’s works or merit; neither is it faith in a church, faith in an organization, faith in a certain system of theology, or knowing a certain set of facts. While saving faith is an act of the human intellect and will, it is much more than intellectual accepting the fact that God exists, that Christ died on the cross, etc.; saving faith is believing in the Gospel, relying on Christ’s merit, and receiving God’s declared righteousness.
For Paul, “by faith” essentially meant three things: (1) Salvation is without works. Faith and works in justification itself are mutually exclusive. Works never influence God in justifying a person; justification is “by grace.” Works always follow faith. No one can add to the atonement of Christ because Christ has done all (
The reality of this teaching staggers the human mind. Men have balked at the doctrine that God declares guilty men innocent, that He pronounces unrighteous sinners “not guilty as charged.” Men protest when they hear the teaching that God declares men to be what they are not and does so in strictest justice. They say, “In secular courts every effort is made to pronounce guilty men guilty and innocent men innocent. Every man must be responsible for his own sin. How can God do otherwise?” They label justification by faith as “a shocking doctrine,” “unjust,” “unworthy of God,” “unethical and immoral,” and “a license to sin.” Justification by faith is not reasonable, but theological. This is what it means to be justified by faith. It takes faith, which is the gift of God, to receive God’s forgiveness in this matter. Human protests and criticisms only document the fact that it is justification by faith.
Justification by faith is always total and complete. There are no degrees of justification as in sanctification. When God justifies, a man is forgiven completely, and that not in a long drawn-out process but in an instant. Also, all people are justified in the same way. Justification by faith is not regeneration, if this term is used to describe the entire life of a Christian; nor is it some psychosomatic or physical act which magically transforms an evil person into a righteous person. Justification by faith is complete and once-for-all; it involves nothing of injustice, since it is God who justifies man (
Justification by faith as central doctrine of Christianity.
Justification by faith has been called the apex of all Christian teaching, the central and cardinal truth of Christianity. Paul declares: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (
Justification and the OT.
It has been said that justification by faith is only a NT doctrine or only “Pauline theology.” In reality, however, justification by faith is derived from the OT and simply spelled out in greater detail in the NT under various pictures. In both Heb. and Gr. the words “justify,” “justification,” “righteousness,” and related terms have a common background. The LXX uses the same Gr. terms as the NT. Paul did not invent either the words or their contents. From his epistles, we know that Paul was acquainted with both the Heb. OT and the Gr. LXX well.
Paul often quotes the OT for support of his doctrine of justification. An example is
Perhaps the crowning example of the teaching of justification by faith in the OT is the believing patriarch Abraham. It is stated in Genesis “And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (
Several important items may be pointed out concerning Abraham as an example of justification by faith: (1) Justification is reckoning or imputing to a man something he did not possess before, namely righteousness before God.
(2) God reckoned righteousness to Abraham entirely without merit on Abraham’s part as seen by the fact that it took place long before Abraham was circumcised or before the Jewish law was given.
(3) It was, therefore, justification by faith, because he received righteousness through simple trust in God’s precious promise of the Messiah through his people.
(4) This led to his obedience to God so that by faith Abraham left the land of his fathers and went to a strange country (
Jesus and justification.
The relevance of justification for modern man.
Men have justly criticized the doctrine of justification by faith, or forensic justification, when it simply remains “forensic” in the lives of Christians. Some have said that Paul, for instance, took the simple Gospel of the fatherhood of God and changed it into a drama of redemption through blood and antinomian justice. The point is made that Paul never heard of Darwin, Freud, or Dewey. What can a doctrine of forensic justification, through process of mind and intangible faith, say to modern man in an illogical world who has walked on the moon? “Who feels guilty?” they ask, “and who wants to be saved by works?” Involved is the fact of human sin and shortcoming, as well as man’s inhumanity to man, which cannot easily be written off as ignorance or something which can be cured by education and better social-economic arrangements. Since the doctrine of justification by faith is central to the Christian religion, the important question must be asked, “Is this Biblical diagnosis of sin and a cure through justification relevant and meaningful for modern man?”
The predicament of modern man, of which he does a great deal of talking and uses vast resources to remedy, is really of his own making, whether he traces evil back to Adam, or looks around at his own existence. After centuries of conflict and many ineffective solutions from the greatest minds, the man on the street today knows that his world is not a delusion. More and more men have come to realize that the problem of the world is a theological one. The modern predicament of man, found in various forms throughout the centuries, is the old predicament of sin of which the Scripture speaks. Justification by faith says that man is not hopeless and helpless in his situation, but that God has heard his cry and offers deliverance. Three important areas immediately suggest themselves: (1) For the meaningless and emptiness of many men today, the doctrine of justification by faith should mean “by the Gospel alone.” The heart of Biblical Revelation should teach mankind that God has not abandoned His creatures or His world. They are not cut off. He has adopted the sons of this world as His own, freely and fully out of a compassion He would give them to live by. He has not only reconciled man, but the cosmos to Himself (
(2) Just when modern man needs it most, justification by faith in Christ is a source of limitless spiritual and moral power for man in his world (
Justification by faith should lead to all the Christian virtues. If the teaching is empty and meaningless today, it is because it has not been completely seen and taught in all its dimensions, or has been accepted as a mere credal statement, that it is finally only legal fiction and man remains as before. Not only the act of justification, but also the results must be emphasized: peace, freedom, responsibility, compassion, the Spirit life, love, meekness, patience, strength to do well—the whole life of the Spirit of God. Luther once referred to the doctrine of justification as the periculosissima doctrina, the “most dangerous teaching,” because it has been used to allow license to sin and be irresponsible. He pleaded that the teaching be proclaimed so as to inspire gratitude to God, daily repentance, and resolve to serve God and man in a life of newness and obedience. Man has not been accounted righteous in some distant world, but here and now in the Church, and in and for our world.
(3) Justification by faith assures all men of God’s love and eternal life with God after death. He can face the future with confidence. Final judgment does not appall him, for he has already met his Judge and is forgiven. All systems of religion and philosophy which use or imply works for salvation result inevitably in wretchedness and tension of doubt. Those who trust in the doctrine of justification by faith, therefore, need no longer be the “devil’s martyrs.” In his commentary on Galatians, Dr. Luther used this pungent expression to describe those who worked harder trying to get to heaven by works than the wicked did in going to hell without them, only to arrive in the same place. When God says He justified the ungodly, all men know they are included. When God says to all men “It depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants” (
Summary of doctrine of justification.
The following items or aspects may be considered a summary of the doctrine of justification as taught in the Holy Scriptures: (1) Justification is an act of God. In both the OT and NT, God is the initiator and actor in the Covenant and man’s salvation. It is a once-for-all act which is already accomplished in Christ (
It is more than pardon of sin, but a declaration by God. The sinner, though guilty, is relieved of the consequences of his guilt and sin.
L. Petersen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith the Leitmotif of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (Thesis 1940); J. Fritz, Justification and Sanctification In the Daily Life of the Christian (1948); F. Kramer, Through Justification to Sanctification (1952); G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification (1954); A. Hunter, Interpreting Paul’s Gospel (1954); J. Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (1955); L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (1955); H. Hammann, Justification by Faith in Modern Theology (1957); J. Murray, The Epistle To The Romans, Vol. I. (1959); H. Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1961);Assembly, A Study Document on Justification (1963); H. Stob, C. Bergenhoff, G. Forell, J. Leith, A Reexamination of Lutheran and Reformed Traditions III: Justification and Sanctification (1965); H. Huxold, Is Justification For Moderns? (1965); Arndt, Greek-English Lexicon (194-197); J. F. Crosby, From Religion To Grace; The Doctrine of Justification (1967); W. Dantine, Justification of the Ungodly (1968); R. Preus, Lutheran Trends in Regard to Justification (1968).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(tsedheq, verb tsadheq; Septuagint anddikaioma, dikaiosis, verb dikaioo, "justification" "to justify," in a legal sense, the declaring just or righteous. In Biblical literature, dikaioun, without denying the real righteousness of a person, is used invariably or almost invariably in a declarative or forensic sense. See Simon, HDB, II, 826; Thayer, Grimm, and Cremer under the respective words):
I. THE WRITINGS OF PAUL
1. Universality of Sin
2. Perfection of the Law of God
3. Life, Work and Death of the Atoning Saviour
(1) Paul’s Own Experience
(2) The Resurrection Connected with the Death
(3) Faith, Not Works, the Means of Justification
(4) Baptism Also Eliminated
(5) Elements of Justification
(a) Forgiveness of Sins
(b) Declaring or Approving as Righteous
(6) Justification Has to Do with the Individual
II. THE OTHER NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS
2. John’s Writings
3. 1 Peter and Hebrews
III. THE OLD TESTAMENT
IV. LATER DEVELOPMENT OF THE DOCTRINE
1. Apostolic and Early Church Fathers
5. Meaning and Message to the Modern Man
I. The Writings of Paul.
1. The Universality of Sin:
In this article reference will first be made to the writings of Paul, where justification receives its classic expression, and from there as a center, the other New Testament writers, and finally the, will be drawn in. According to Paul, justification rests on the following presuppositions:
The universality of sin. All men are not only born in sin (
2. Perfection of the Law of God:
The perfection of the Law of God and the necessity of its perfect observance, if justification is to come by it (
3. Life, Work and Death of the Atoning Savior:
It was fundamental in Paul’s thinking that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures (
(1) Paul’s Own Experience.
Paul’s own experience cannot be left out of the account. He lived through the doctrine, as well as found it through illumination of the Spirit in the Old Testament. It was not that he had only outwardly kept the law. He had been jealous for it, and had been blameless in every requirement of its righteousness (
(2) The Resurrection Connected with the Death.
It was remarked above that the ground of justification according to Paul is the work of Christ. This means especially. His death as a sacrifice, in which, as Ritschl well says (Rechtfertigung und Versohnung, 3. Aufl., 1899, II 157), the apostles saw exercised the whole power of His redemption. But that death cannot be separated from His resurrection, which first awakened them to a knowledge of its decisive worth for salvation, as well as finally confirmed their faith in Jesus as the
B. Weiss well says: "It was by the certainty of the exaltation of Christ to Messianic sovereignty brought about by the resurrection that Paul attained to faith in the saving significance of His death, and not conversely. Accordingly, the assurance that God cannot condemn us is owing primarily to the death of Christ, but still more to His resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand (
(3) Faith, Not Works, the Means of Justification.
The justification being by faith, it is not by works or by love, or by both in one. It cannot be by the former, because they are lacking either in time or amount or quality, nor could they be accepted in any case until they spring from a heart renewed, for which faith is the necessary presupposition. It cannot be by the latter, for it exists only where the Spirit has shed it abroad in the heart (
(4) Baptism also Eliminated.
Not only are good works and love removed as conditions or means of justification of the sinner, but baptism is also eliminated. According to Paul, it is the office of baptism not to justify, but to cleanse, that is, symbolically to set forth and seal the washing away of sin and the entrance into the new life by a dramatic act of burial, which for the subject and all witnesses would mark a never-to-be-forgotten era in the history of the believer. "Baptism," says Weiss (I, 454), "presupposes faith in Him as the one whom the church designates as Lord, and also binds to adherence to Him which excludes every dependence upon any other, inasmuch as He has acquired a claim upon their devotion by the saving deed of His self-surrender on the cross." So important was baptism in the religious atmosphere at that time that hyperbolical expressions were used to express its cleansing and illuminating office, but these need not mislead us. We must interpret them according to the fundamental conceptions of Christianity as a religion of the Spirit, not of magic nor of material media. Baptism pointed to a complete parting with the old life by previous renewal through faith in Christ, which renewal baptism in its turn sealed and announced in a climax of self-dedication to him, and this, while symbolically and in contemporary parlance of both Jew and Gentile called a new birth, was probably often actually so in the psychological experience of the baptized. But while justification is often attributed to faith, it is never to baptism.
(5) Elements of Justification.
What are the elements of this justification? There are two:
(a) Forgiveness of Sins
Forgiveness of sins (
(b) The Declaring or Approving as Righteous
(6) Justification Has to Do with the Individual.
Finally it is asked whether justification in Paul’s mind has to do with the individual believer or with the society or Christian congregation. Ritschl (II, 217 f) and Sanday-Headlam (The Epistle to the Rom, 122-23) say the latter; Weiss (I, 442), the former. It is indeed true that Paul refers to the church as purchased with Christ’s blood (
As to the argument from baptism urged by Sanday-Headlam, it must be said that Paul always conceives of baptism as taking place in the Christian community with believers and for believers, that that for and to which they are baptized is not justification, but the death and resurrection of Christ (
II. The Other New Testament Writings.
So much for Paul. Let us now take a glance at the other New Testament books. It is a commonplace of theology that is called "modern" or "critical," that Paul and not Jesus is the founder of Christianity as we know it, that the doctrines of the
1. The Snyoptic Gospels:
2. John’s Writings:
3. 1 Peter and Hebrews:
Seeberg’s point that the "Pauline doctrine of justification is not found in any other New Testament writer" (History of Doctrine, I, 48) is true when you emphasize the word "doctrine." Paul gave it full scientific treatment, the others presuppose the fact, but do not unfold the doctrine. Peter’s "Repent ye, and be baptized .... in the name of Jesus Christ" (
4. Epistle of James:
We come lastly to the core of the matter in regard to New Testament representations of justification--the famous passage in
(1) In this section James uses the word faith simply for intellectual belief in God, and especially in the unity of God (2:19; see also context), whereas Paul uses it for a saving trust in Christ. As Feine well says (Theol. d. New Testament, Leipzig,2 1911, 660-63), for Paul faith is the appropriation of the life-power of the heavenly Christ. Therefore he knows no faith which does not bring forth good works corresponding to it. What does not come from faith is sin. For James faith is subordination of man to the heavenly Christ (2:1), or it is theoretic acknowledgment of one God (2:19). Justification is for James a speaking just of him who is righteous, an analytical judgment. (Feine also says that James did not understand Paul, but he did not fight him. It was left to Luther through his deep religious experience first to understand Paul’s doctrine of justification.)
(2) James uses the word "works" as meaning practical morality, going back behind legalism, behind Pharisaism, to the position of the Old Testament prophets, whereas Paul uses the word as meritorious action deserving reward.
(3) When James is thinking of a deeper view, faith stands central in Christianity (1:3,6; 2:1; 5:15).
(4) Paul also on his part is as anxious as James vitally to connect Christianity and good works through faith (
(5) The whole argument of James is bent on preserving a real practical Christianity that is not content with words merely (2:15-16), but shows itself in deeds. He is not trying to show, as Paul, how men get rid of their guilt and become Christians, but how they prove the reality of their profession after they receive the faith. He is not only writing to Christians, as of course Paul was, but he was writing to them as Christians ("my brethren," 2:14), as already justified and standing on the "faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2:1), whereas Paul was thinking of men, Gentile and Jew, shivering in their guilt before the Eternal Justice, and asking, How can we get peace with God? "There is not," says Beyschlag (
See, further, JAMES, EPISTLE OF.
III. The Old Testament.
1. Apostolic and Early Church Fathers:
2. Council of Trent:
Those consequences are best seen in the decrees of the Council of Trent (Session 6, 1547), to which we now turn, and which are the definite and final crystallization of the medieval development, so far as that development was Catholic.
(1) Justification is a translation from a natural state to a state of grace. With this works prevenient grace, awakening and assisting, and with this in his man cooperates and prepares himself for justification. This cooperation has the merit of congruity, though the first call comes before any merit.
(2) Faith is an element in justification. "Receiving faith by hearing, they of free will draw near to God, believing those things to be true which have been Divinely revealed and promised." Faith as a living trust in a personal Saviour for salvation is lacking. Among the truths believed is the mercy of God and that He wishes to justify the sinner in Christ.
(3) This faith begets love to Christ and hatred to sin, which are elements also of the justifying process.
(4) Now follows justification itself, "which is not a bare remission of sins, but also sanctification and renewal of the inner man through the voluntary reception of grace and of gifts."
(5) But this renewal must take place through baptism, which, to the prepared adult, both gives and seals all the graces of salvation, forgiveness, cleansing, faith, hope and love.
(6) Justification is preserved by obeying the commandments and by good works, which also increase it.
(7) In case it is lost--and it can be lost, not by venial, but by mortal sin and by unbelief--it can be regained by the sacrament of penance.
(8) To get it, to keep or regain it, it is also necessary to believe the doctrines as thus laid down and to be laid down by this Council (see the decrees in any edition, or in Mirbt, Quellen zur Geschichte des Papsttums, 2. Aufl., 206-16, or in Buckley’s or in Waterworth’s translations, and for an admirable and objective summary see Seeberg, History of Doctrine, II, 433-38).
Recent researches in Luther’s early writings have shown that almost from the beginning of his earnest study of religious questions, he mounted up to Paul’s view of justification by faith alone (Loofs, DG, 4. Aufl., 1906, 696-98). Faith is the trust in the mercy of God through Christ, and justification is the declaring righteous for His sake, which is followed by a real making righteous. From the beginning to the end of his life as a religious teacher these are the elements of his doctrine. Speaking of 1513-15, Loofs says (p. 697): "Upon these equations (to justify = to forgive, grace = mercy of the non-imputing God, faith = trust in His mercy) as the regulators of his religious self-judgment, Luther’s piety rests, and corresponding to them his view of Christianity, and even later" (than 1513-15); and he adds that "to reckon as righteous" (reputari justum) must not be understood with Luther as an opposition "to make righteous," for his "to be justified without merits" in the sense of "to forgive" (absolvi) is at the same time the beginning of a new life: remissio peccati .... ipsa resurrectio. "His constantly and firmly held view, even more deeply understood later than in 1513-15, that `to be justified without merit’ = `to be resurrected (to be born again)’ = `to be sanctified’ is a pregnant formulation of his Christianity." So much being said, it is not necessary to draw out Luther’s doctrine further, who in this respect "rediscovered Christianity as a religion," but it will suffice to refer to the Histories of Doctrine (Seeberg gives a full and brilliant exposition), to Kostlin, Luthers Theologie, 2. Aufl., 1901 (see Index under the word "Rechtfertigung," and I, 349), and especially to Thieme, Die sittliche Triebkraft des Glaubens: eine Untersuchung zu Luthers Theologie, 1895, 103-314.
From Luther and the other reformers the New Testament doctrine went over to the Protestant churches without essential modification, and has remained their nominal testimony until the present. A classic expression of it, which may be taken as representing evangelical Christendom, is the 11th of the 39of the : "We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings: wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification." It is true that at one time Wesley’s opponents accused him of departing from this doctrine, especially on account of his famous Minute of 1770, but this was due to a radical misunderstanding of that Minute, for to the last he held staunchly Paul’s doctrine (for proof see my article in Lutheran Quarterly, April, 1906, 171-75).
A new point of view was brought into modern theology by Schleiermacher, who starts from the fundamental fact of Christian experience that we have redemption and reconciliation with Christ, which fact becomes ours by union with Christ through faith. This union brings justification with other blessings, but justification is not considered as even in thought a separate act based on Christ’s death, but as part of a great whole of salvation, historically realized step by step in Christ. The trend of his teaching is to break down the distinction between justification and regeneration, as they are simply different aspects of union with Christ.
Ritschl carried forward this thought by emphasizing the grace of the heavenly Father mediated in the first instance through the Son to the Christian community, "to which God imputes the position toward him of Christ its founder," and in the second instance to individuals "as by faith in the Gospel they attach themselves to this community. Faith is simply obedience to God and trust in the revelation of his grace in Christ." This brings sinners into fellowship with God which means eternal life, which is here and now realized, as the Fourth Gospel points out, in lordship over the world (compare Franks in DCG, I, 922-23). The judicial or forensic aspect of justification so thoroughly in-wrought in Paul’s thought is denied by Ritschl. "In whatsoever way we view the matter," he says, "the attitude of God in the act of justification cannot be conceived as that of a judge" (Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, English translation, 1900, 90). W.N. Clarke agrees with Schleiermacher in eliminating justification as a separate element in the work of salvation, and harks back to the Catholic view in making it dependent on the new life and subsequent to it (Christian Theology, 407-8). No book has had as much influence in destroying the New Testament conception of justification among English-speaking readers as that of J. H. Newman, Lectures on Justification, 1838, 3rd edition, 1874, which contains some of the finest passages in religious literature (pp. 270-73, 302, 338-39), but which was so sympathetic to the Catholic view that the author had nothing essential to retract when he joined Rome in 1845. "Whether we say we are justified by faith, or by works, or by sacraments, all these but mean this one doctrine that we are justified by grace which is given through sacraments, impetrated by faith, manifested in works" (p. 303).
5. Meaning and Message to the Modern Man:
Lastly, has the New Testament conception of justification by faith any message to the modern man, or is it, as Lagarde held, dead in the Protestant churches, something which went overboard with the old doctrine of the Trinity and of Atonement? After an able historical, survey, Holl concludes (Die Rechtfertigungslehre im Licht der Geschichte d. Protestantismus, Tubingen, 1906, 40-42) that there are two principles thoroughly congenial to modern thought which favor this doctrine, namely, that of the sanctity and importance of personality, the "I" that stands face to face with God, responsible to Him alone; and second, the restoration of the Reformation-thought of an all-working God. Whoever feels the pressure of these two principles, for him the question of justification becomes a living one. "The standard on which he must measure himself is the Absolute God, and who can stand in this judgment? Not simply on account of single acts, but with his `I’ and even with his good-willing. For that is just the curse which rests upon a man that his `I’ is the thing with which alone he wills and can seek God, and that it is this very `I’ which by its willfulness, vanity and self-love poisons all his willing. Accordingly, it remains true, what the Reformers said, that man is entirely corrupt, and that he can do no otherwise than to despair when the majesty of God dawns upon him" (p. 41). There is, then, no other solution than the venture of faith that the same God who crushes our self-deceit lifts up with His sovereign grace, that we live through Him and before Him. Luther is right that religiously we can find no hold except on the Divine act of grace, which through faith in the Divine love and power working in us and for us ever makes us new in Christ. To give up the doctrine of justification, says Holl rightly (p. 42), is to give up conscious personal religion. Holl writes as a liberal, and he quotes a stronger liberal still, Treitschke, as saying that in the 19th century it was the orthodox preachers who proclaimed this doctrine, who built better than the liberals. Nor, says Holl in another book (Was hat die Rechtfertigungslehre dem modernen Menschen zu sagen? Tubingen, 1907, 26), can anyone who has experienced justification as an inner transformation be misled into moral unconcern. A moral ideal becomes his, much stronger and more compelling than worldly ethics. The new attitude toward God constituted by justification impels to an unending movement in the service of God and man. The doctrine has not had its day. It is a part of the eternal gospel. As long as sinful man has to do with an all-holy God, the experience of Paul, Luther and Wesley becomes in a sense normative for the race.
Besides the books mentioned in the text, the following on justification itself may be consulted (those marked with a star are Protestant, those with a dagger are Catholic or High Church Anglican): Goodwin, new edition, with preface by Wesley, 1807; Junkins, 1839; Hare, new edition, 1839 (1st edition with preface by Jackson, 1817); Kerwick,t 1841; Heurtley, 1846 (for 1845); McIlvaine, 1861, 3rd edition, 1868 (Righteousness of Faith, important); Buchanan, 1867 (important); Body, 1870; Bunyan, new edition, 1873; Harkey, 1875; Davies, 1878; Sadler, 1888; and Holden, 1901. Besides these, Laurence, Bampton Lectures for 1804, sermon 6; Drummond, Apostolic Teaching and Christ’s Teaching (see index); Schlatter, New Testament Theology, 2 volumes, 1909-10; the various systematic Theologies; Theologies of the New Testament, and Commentaries may be consulted; also Menegoz, Die Rechtfertigungslehre nach Paulus und nach Jakobus, 1903; Kuhl, Die Stellung des Jakobusbriefes z. alttest. Gesetz u. z. Paulinischen Rechtfertigungslehre, 1905.
John Alfred Faulkner