Objections to Real Justification

Justification is a real thing in the Bible. The authors truly believe a person can be made righteous, not just in standing, or in God’s mind, but actually made to be righteous people who do righteous things.

Modern definitions of justification usually talk about accounting terms and God moving you from the Unrighteous column to the Righteous column in His ledger book. God doesn’t see you; He only sees Christ. Christ’s works have been credited to your account. Christ kept the law for you.

All these sorts of definitions of justification, imputation, or being accounted righteous, are inventions based on hundreds of years of redefining terms to match underlying theological points.

If you tell people that you think Justification actually means that God makes us righteous not just in standing but in actual behavior, you will receive opposition.

You will be charged with teaching:

Perfectionism
Legalism
Replacing the Yoke of Bondage or Salvation By Law-Keeping
Loss of Salvation

I will address these criticisms in the coming days. I have been charged with all of them. I know the arguments and I have examined them.

Justification is real. The only way you would ever get the idea that justification is not real, is if you listen to people more than God’s Word.

God’s Word clearly teaches that justification results in a righteous life. If there is no righteous life; there is no grounds for claiming you’ve been justified.

This is scary ground. I understand people’s reservations about it, and why there has been so much effort to downplay this doctrine.

But people are going to hell while believing a false gospel. This is no trivial matter.

Whether you agree with me or not, you should at least examine the issue very carefully as your eternity depends on whether you’ve been justified or not. It seems like you’d want to slow down and get this one right.

Please think on it very carefully.

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The Gospel and the Vomitous Slop Cycle

Sin is a huge deal.

We love our sin. We find it very difficult to leave it off. As a dog returns to his vomit and the pig returns to his slop, so does our sin pull us back.

Certainly people can get tired of the vomit and the slop, usually right after we indulge our flesh and feel dirty.

But the lead-up to sin and the momentary enjoyment of the sinful act is all pleasure. And it feels good. Really good.

Then there’s after, when you have to restore relationships, apologize, repair all the broken things, and clean up the mess your flesh made. We feel bad and we feel shame.

We vow to never do it again. Why would I sin again? Look at how miserable it makes everything.

Then the temptation comes again. Your flesh tells you there won’t be guilt this time, you deserve a break, you’ve been so good. Or maybe it tells you to not worry about the future, live in the now, man! All of a sudden, the gross thing you concluded you’d never do again, feels like it’s the only thing left in life to do. So you return to the vomit and the slop.

You will go through this process thousands of times.

Some, at this point, seek deliverance in the Gospel.

Unfortunately, the Gospel message most prevalent in our day will say, “Sin? Yeah, you shouldn’t do that, but you know what? Grace. Love. Jesus. It’s ok. You’re ok. God loves you just the way you are. Sin is inevitable; don’t worry about it. God expects you to do that.”

So, we go back to the not wanting to be in vomitous slop, to being tempted to be in vomitous slop that actually doesn’t look that bad anymore, to being in the vomitous slop, and finally regretting having gone into vomitous slop again.

But now we console ourselves that grace says this cycle is ok. Jesus died so I can live in this cycle until I die and then, because Jesus died, God won’t judge me for my vomitous slop of a life and I can go to heaven.

The Gospel becomes a thing that makes sin seem not so bad. This gospel tells you that vomitous slop really aint all that vomitous nor sloppy. Don’t worry about it; you’re human, you have to be vomitously sloppy.

But here’s the thing: The Gospel does not exist to tell you that sin is OK to do; the Gospel exists to free you from sin.

The Gospel doesn’t just cover up God’s eyes so He doesn’t see your vomitous slop. The Gospel takes you out of the vomitous slop, cleans you up, continues to clean you, and can actually set you free from the vomitous slop cycle.

It really can. Unfortunately, most people would rather stay in their vomitous slop cycle. It’s a sad thing to watch a person fight the Gospel. To see the agony of defeat and yet the pull is so strong, they can’t make a cut with the old and bring in the new of the Gospel.

It’s heartbreaking.

The Gospel can deliver you from sin and make you a servant of righteousness. The problem does not lie with a powerless Gospel.

No, the problem lies within you. You don’t want to be a servant of righteousness; you want to be a servant of yourself. You’d rather stay in your vomitous slop that half the time you hate.

So you do. The Gospel is right there with all the power, but none of it will do you any good if you don’t want it.

Are you tired of the vomitous slop cycle? Do you want to be delivered from sin? Do you want to be equipped to do what is right and good and holy and just? The Gospel awaits your faith.

Justification, Being Declared Righteous, Is Like, For Real

Christianity in the past 500 years or so views justification–accounted or imputed righteousness–as a mind game. That God simply thinks differently about us even though we’re exactly the same sinful person.

But justification is not some floaty concept. He who doeth righteousness is righteous. If you’ve been accounted righteous, you do righteous things. Don’t be deceived.

Paul focuses on this problem in Romans and Galatians quite a bit.

Galatians 2 is all about this idea of justification.

In doing research on this topic, I read Vincent’s Word Studies on Galatians 2. He was talking about justification and how it’s commonly viewed as a floaty thing by many, an issue in God’s mind. But this cannot be Paul’s meaning when he speaks of justification. Here is the pertinent paragraph.

The meaning to declare or pronounce righteous cannot be consistently carried through Paul’s writings in the interest of a theological fiction of imputed righteousness. See, for example, Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 6:11; and all passages where the word is used to describe justification by works of the law, as here, Galatians 3:11; Galatians 5:4. If one is a real righteousness, founded upon his conformity to the law. Why is the righteousness of faith any less a real righteousness?

Notice that he refers to imputed righteousness as a “theological fiction.” It’s always nice to hear someone else come to the same conclusions! Especially when that someone knows more than me and is way more qualified!

If righteousness were merely a mind game concept, a floaty, non-real thing, then how can it be compared with a law-keeping righteousness?

If you kept all the law, you would indeed be counted as righteous. The problem is that you can’t keep all the law, and if you fail in one point, you are guilty of breaking the whole thing.

Therefore, we need another means of justification besides keeping all the law.

The answer: FAITH. Everyone who has ever been justified has been justified by faith through the gracious provision of God. No flesh has ever been justified by deeds of the law.

We place our faith in God that He can indeed justify us, that He can make us righteous and that we, through Him, can now do righteous things.

The righteousness provided by faith is just as legitimate as a righteousness that kept the whole law. It would be just as practical and evident.

That’s Vincent’s point above.

The righteousness that the Gospel provides, the same Gospel that was preached before unto Abraham, gives us an active, living righteousness.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

I sure hope you catch those words! The righteousness of the law will be fulfilled in us. Not in a mind game, but in reality.

The Spirit will mortify the deeds of the body and equip us to be servants of righteousness.

There is no way that Paul thinks justification is a floaty, non-real concept. Paul actually believes that people can be made righteous, not just in standing, but in actual action.

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
–Romans 6:16-18

Making People Righteous is the Power of the Gospel

Justification is often viewed as God switching us from the Unrighteous column to the Righteous column in His heavenly ledger book.

Being counted righteous, or being justified, is not just a switch in God’s mind about you.

To be counted righteous, to be justified, means you have been made righteous!

Actually, in a real-life way, you can be made righteous, to the extent that righteousness shows up in your life.

This is the regenerating power of the Gospel!

You who were born in sin, a child of wrath, have been reconstituted, remade to do what is righteous!

Nothing else has that power. Nothing and no one can make unrighteous people suddenly do righteous things except God alone.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ rebirths us. It raises us up to newness of life. It is the power of God unto salvation.

There is power, re-creative power, in the Gospel. It frees from sin, it liberates the soul from the clutches of Satan and his evil, and frees you to do righteousness.

Nothing else can do this. You can’t do it. The law can’t do it. Good intentions can’t do it. Happy thoughts can’t do it.

Christ alone can do it.

And He does every time someone believes that He can.

The whole point of God redeeming a person is so they would do righteousness.

We are created to do good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

He redeemed unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Salvation is not there so when you die you don’t go to hell.

Salvation is here to transform your life. To remake you with a desire and the ability to finally be able to do what God desires.

This is the longing of the soul that Christ answers. This is the glorious water of life that is poured into those who thirst after righteousness.

Unfortunately, we’ve sucked the Gospel’s power away. We tell people they are saved because they did a thing we told them to do and then pat them on the back as they go back to their sin.

We bring people to the Gospel without even mentioning sin or a new life. We make it about what happens after death. We make it all about later and nothing about now.

Release from sin now is what the Gospel can do. To not want to be released from sin is to not want the Gospel.

Instead of dealing with the sad fact that most people don’t want the Gospel, we invent a false Gospel that tells people “Jesus is fine with your sin. Nothing can stop it, you have to sin.” Oh well, guess even Jesus and the Gospel can’t stop your awesome power to sin.

How sad. If only God were more powerful than sin. Imagine what the Gospel would look like if that were true?

Guess what? It is true!

Stop believing lies and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel’s power, which is able to make you a child of God, freed from sin, and released into righteous service.

You’re Probably Deceived About Your Righteousness

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

That’s 1 John 3:7, a verse in your Bible.

There’s a reason John warns us not to be deceived on this issue. It’s because he knows we’re going to be deceived on this issue.

The issue is that righteousness is real. If you are righteous, you will do righteous things. In fact, doing righteous things is what makes you qualified to be called “righteous.”

Don’t be deceived into thinking you can live in sin and yet call yourself “righteous.”

Yet living in sin and calling yourself “righteous” is fairly standard Evangelical Christian doctrine at this point.

We’ve been taught, and our flesh has desperately grabbed onto, the lie that we are righteous in Jesus Christ, therefore I can still sin and it’s no big deal.

We are deceived into thinking that God only sees Christ; He doesn’t see me.

The official doctrinal name for this teaching is Imputed Righteousness:

Christ obeyed the law. His law-keeping is added to my account, so even though I don’t keep the law, Jesus did for me. When God sees me; He sees the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This is standard evangelical doctrine.

It is also insane.

Seriously, insanity is thinking things are one way when they are clearly another.

The idea that you can borrow someone else’s righteousness is never taught anywhere in Scripture, and, in fact, is explicitly refuted in Scripture (read Ezekiel 14 for one).

The Bible is also clear that we are not saved by works of the Law. Not by your works of the Law, nor even Christ’s! Think about it: if I’m saved by Christ’s law keeping added to my account, then I am saved by deeds of the law and Christ died in vain! A teaching the Bible repeatedly shoots down.

Calling someone righteous only happens if that someone is actually righteous.

To call someone who is unrighteous “righteous” would be lying. Deceit. Be not deceived.

Yet explaining this to people now, after hundreds of years of having it drummed into our heads, does not go over well. I will be the heretic for maintaining this very obvious, Scriptural, and common sensical idea.

It is explicitly stated in 1 John 3:7. It can’t be said any clearer.

So, instead of taking those clear words, we come up with reasons to explain why we don’t have to listen to John, or how John was talking about some other such doctrinal thing that way more educated people can confuse you about.

Nope. John, one of the best authors in Scripture at keeping things simple, is simply telling you that only righteous people alone are actually, get this, righteous.

None of us are naturally righteous. We are sinners. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again to bring deliverance from sin. We, as placed into the Body of Christ, are now servants of righteousness. We do righteousness. A thing we never did before salvation.

The ability and power to do righteousness is a gift of the Gospel. God grants that power and His Spirit indwells us to mortify the deeds of the body and wake us up to an active, real righteousness in our lives.

If this new righteousness has not shown up in your life; you are not saved. You are not righteous.

You are not saved by working righteousness out of your own power. You are saved by working out the righteousness that Christ has worked in you through the power of the Gospel.

If that righteousness does not show up; you are not righteous and Christ is not in you and you are not in Christ.

We have reached the age where saying this is the oddball, heretical thing.

The deception is real. It’s already at work. Don’t fall for it. Wake up. Hear the clear words of Scripture. The Judgment is coming.

Their Strength is to Sit Still

When Judah was about to fall into the hands of the Babylonians, the prophets warned Judah not to fight them, not to run from them, and don’t even think about getting Egypt to step in and help.

To survive the captivity as an individual, just give up. Surrender. Daniel and his three friends did that. Jeremiah did that. They were all taken care of just fine. In fact, under Babylonian rulers, many Jewish people were allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Isaiah warned Israel about getting Egypt to intervene by saying these words:

For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.

Now, I have my interpretation of these words. It’s an interpretation which isn’t correct, but I like it better than the right one!

The right interpretation of, “Their strength is to sit still” means that Egypt’s strength and might will be powerless to stop Babylon. Their strength will be nothing to you. Their strength will be ineffectual and inactive.

Yeah, yeah, so that’s the right interpretation, how boring.

If I’ve learned anything from my Reformed Friends, it’s that you can make the Bible say anything you want through an allegorical interpretation of Scripture.

Therefore, the interpretation I prefer of “Their strength is to sit still” is this:

Hey, Judah, you aint gonna make it. Stop thinking, stop planning, stop conniving, stop plotting. Just sit still. Give up. Listen to what God said and give up. Their strength is to sit still.

Wow, how fun! No wonder Reformed people like the allegorical interpretation of Scripture!

I have also learned from my Modern Evangelical Friends that any phrase from the Bible can be mercilessly ripped out of context to mean whatever you want it to mean.

Therefore, I’m sticking with this interpretation.

Starting to get worried and panicked?

Your strength is to sit still.

Starting to plot and get carried away with your human notions and plans?

Your strength is to sit still.

Worried about how to pay the bills and whether God will provide?

Your strength is to sit still.

Go with what God said. Be still and know that I am God. That is your strength.

Or, it would be anyway, if that’s what the verse meant.