The Ground of Justification – Conrad Lindberg
The ground of justification is, therefore, only the merit of Christ. God could not have justified man without a ground or foundation. The will of God is revealed in His Law and this cannot be broken. Satisfaction had to be made and perfect obedience rendered. In Adam we all sinned and by being implanted in the second Adam or Christ we become righteous. A comparison is made in Rom. 5 : 18, 19 : “So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” But we must be in the second Adam as in the first. We are not righteous outside of Christ, but, believing in Him, His acquired righteousness is imputed to us. Then there is no imputation of sin. Ps. 32 : 1, 2. The acquired righteousness of Christ, the second Adam, is sufficient to save or justify all the children of the first Adam, but only by faith can justification take place. Faith justifies, not by itself, but by embracing the merits of Christ. Justification is the work of God. When a converted sinner is justified, it is as if the obedience of Christ had been rendered by the man himself. The act of justification is not, like regeneration, a work of God within man, but is an external work in the mind of God. The effect, however, is experienced in the heart of man. There is nothing in us, as, e. g., our love, etc., which justifies, but we are justified through faith for Christ’s sake. The Bible verses in the next paragraph show the juridical character of justification and how God justifies the individual.
Justification is a judicial or forensic act. The following Scripture passages make this clear from different points of view. The “judge” is spoken of in John 5: 27; Heb. 12: 23; the “judgment-seat” in Rom. 14: 10; Matt. 18: 21, 35; the “sinner” or “criminal” in Rom. 3: 19; Matt. 18: 24 ; the “accuser” in John 5 : 45 ; the “witness” in Rom. 2 : 15; the indictment or “bond written in ordinances against us” in Col. 2 : 14 ; the “debt” in Matt. 18 : 24 ; the “advocate” in 1 John 2 : 1 ; the “trial” in Isa. 1 : 18 ; Zech. 5 ; Matt. 18 : 24, 35 ; the “acquittal” in Ps. 32 : 1 ; Isa. 1 : 18 ; Luke 18 : 14.
Some theologians who distinguish sharply between the general and individual acts of justification will not acknowledge that the so-called individual justification is a judicial act, only the so-called general justification is such an act. Many theologians who take a mediating position on the question consider the individual justification in a figurative sense and limit it to a nova relatio mentis et voluntatis divinse. Among their objections may be mentioned that a Christian cannot be certain of his justification if it is made contemporaneous with the genesis of faith. It is further objected that the attribute iteranda is improper if the individual justification is considered a forensic act. Justification is considered by these theologians in the following way: That at the death of Christ God pronounced the judgment of justification upon the whole race, and that the Holy Ghost makes this known through the Gospel and transfers or applies this judgment of acquittal upon the sinner at the time of the genesis of faith. In proof of the general justification the following passages are used: Rom. 5: 18, 19; 2 Cor. 5: 21, etc.
According to this view, however, justification and reconciliation are apt to be confused or identified. It is much better to keep them distinct and to use the expression justification exclusively in relation to the application of reconciliation upon the individual. The objection that God does not act in a judicial way in the case of each individual does not hold, inasmuch as the Word of God clearly sets forth the providence of God in relation to the individual in all things and therefore with all the greater emphasis in the matter of salvation. In the application of salvation men must be justified as individuals. Inasmuch as justification is a forensic act of acquittal, therefore God must perform this act in relation to every believer. The divine act need not be considered in a formal and human way, it being performed in a divine way which harmonizes with the activity of God. God enters into direct relationship with each individual believer, forgives all his sins and imputes to him the righteousness of Christ. There arises therefore a judicial relationship between God and the penitent sinner, who through faith for Christ’s sake is adjudged righteous.
Terminus a quo in justification is the state of man as deserving of the wrath and punishment of God not only in time, but subject also to the eternal punishments, both the privative and positive, which in a forensic way are removed through justification. Terminus ad quem is justitia imputativa.