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July 21, 2007 / vivator

on Justification

The Council of Trent (Chapter 4 of the Decrees on Justification ) defines Justification as a translation from the state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  According to Martin Luther Justification is redemption from sin, death, and the devil and we are made partakers of life eternal, not by ourselves but by help of Christ (What Luther Says, page 701).  John Calvin defined Justification as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favour as if we were righteous (Institute of Christian Religion, III.11.2). Catholics and Protestants consider justification as important and prime issue.  The Catholic Church declares that Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1994). Citing Augustine’s words, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that Justification of the wicked is even greater than the creation of the world.  Luther wrote that the article of Justification is the master and prince, the lord, the ruler, and the judge over all kinds of doctrines.  It is the head and the cornerstone and it alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God (What Luther Says, pages 703-704).  To John Calvin Justification is the principal ground on which religion must be supported (Institute of Christian Religion, III.11.1).

Catholics and Protestants (and “Bible only” Christians) agree that Justification comes from God’s grace (Titus 3:7) and has been merited by Christ (Romans 3:23-25, 5:9).  By ourselves, using only our own efforts, we can never reach the justified state to enter heaven.

“Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1992

“Our justification comes from the grace of God.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1996

However though they use the same word, Justification, Catholics and Protestants do not mean the same thing.  Their disagreement arises from different understanding in the scriptural term “Righteousness”.  In Greek, Justification (dikaiosis) and Righteousness (dikaiosune) have the same root (Greek dike means righteous or just) or they are related.  Justification has something to do with righteousness as the Scripture testifies: the righteous will go to eternal life (Matthew 25:46) while the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).  To Protestants and “Bible only” Christians, “to justify” means “to declare righteous” because their Justification is one time event while to Catholics it means “to make righteous” because to them Justification is a process.  The following Table compares Catholic and Protestant’s understanding of Justification.



Justification is a process that starts with our genuine conversion to Christ and ends at our entrance to heaven.

Justification is one time event in our life, i.e. at our genuine conversion to Christ.

Because it is a process, Justification comprises our genuine conversion to Christ and Sanctification.  Justification is conferred in Baptism.

We are justified only by faith in Christ.  Sanctification is not part of Justification.

In Justification the righteousness of God through Christ is infused (by the Holy Spirit) in us. 

The righteousness of God becomes inherent part of us or through Justification we are made just/righteous. 

In Justification the righteousness of Christ is imputed on us.

The righteousness of Christ remains external, covering our unrighteousness or through Justification we are declared just/righteous.

Catholics use Family Analogy for Justification.

Protestants use Forensic (courtroom style) Analogy for Justification.



Leave a Comment
  1. Newchasm / Jul 23 2007 9:25 am

    This is essentially right but protestants can hold that the real righteousness for our life is hidden with Christ. Some place the actually being made righteous as a future event of ressurection on the last day into new bodies.

    It is from this that the righteousness is forensic. We do not have it. Nor are we to have it in this life. We are to try and conform to it but our best efforts are filthy rags. Throw in perserverance of saints and you might as well hold forensic righteousness justifies is sufficent for that alien righteousness has substance in christ. It is from our union with him that he justifies. It is not from works done in righteousness.

    Protestants understand the union with christ differently.

  2. Newchasm / Jul 23 2007 9:35 am

    It is to say that we don’t have our eternal life yet. We don’t have the actual righteousness. Yet, we are sure to have it and are not found lacking. Until then were are treated as in Christ.

    It is to say that the imperishable inheritance. Is exactly that. An inheritance we don’t have. Using a family analogy, it is one we cannot disinherit for nothing shall keep us from the love of christ. The federal headship priciple of imputation for justification fits just as well as a familiar one for the protestants.

    It is part of the already/but not yet aspect of the Bible.

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