For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q33


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q32-33) is The Benefits of Redemption: Justification. (see Harmony Index)
The preceding catechism study dealt with the several benefits flowing from our effectual call in Christ. Those benefits are justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several other benefits which accompany our life in Christ. This study begins an examination of each of these blessings, beginning with justification.
Again, we pray that the Lord would strengthen our understanding and faith in the things of Christ. May the grace of our God guide all our thoughts, words, and actions.
***********
WSC Q33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace[a], wherein he pardoneth all our sins[b], and accepteth us as righteous in his sight[c], only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us[d], and received by faith alone[e].
[a] Rom. 3:24
[b] Rom. 4:6-8; II Cor. 5:19
[c] II Cor. 5:21
[d] Rom. 4:6, 11; 5:19
[e] Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9
Question 33 asks what justification is and answers that justification is the act of God’s free grace by which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight, doing so only because he counts the righteousness of Christ as ours, received by faith alone.
Comments and considerations:
The doctrine of justification is central to the gospel message. 
The great question that this doctrine answers is this: How can a guilty sinner be righteous before God? How can one who has sinned against God’s perfect law, thus becoming guilty, and subject to condemnation, be freed from this guilt and condemnation? What we need to think of, if we are to understand justification, is a guilty person standing before a just judge. “If there be controversy between men,” says Moses, “and they come into judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked” (Deut. 25:1). It can easily be seen, from this text, that when a judge justifies a man, he simply declares that man to be righteous. Likewise, when a judge condemns a man, he simply declares that he is wicked. This is very important. Justification is a declaration. It is God’s judgment pronounced. It is His testimony that a particular person is not guilty in His sight, and therefore under no condemnation. But since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), the great difficulty is this: How can God declare a sinner to be righteous?
The answer to this is that God himself makes sinners righteous. 
G.I Williamson, The Shorter Catechism for Study Classes Vol. 1, p. 130-131
He makes sinners righteous by pardoning all their sins, and accepting them as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, an act of free grace received by faith alone. It is essential that we understand what G.I. Williamson so clearly states: “Justification is a declaration.”
Justification means to absolve, to vindicate, or to set right. It is a judicial act of God based upon Christ’s completed work. It is his divine declaration of “not guilty” expressed toward sinners. It is the very opposite of condemnation. While justification does not ignore God’s righteous requirements, it nevertheless declares that these requirements are fully met in Christ and his work of redemption. A sinner is declared righteous, based upon the righteousness of Christ imputed or applied to him. (The business of making people righteous takes place in a second great work of redemption, that of sanctification. This second work speaks of the drastic change in character accompanying those who have been justified.) In justification, Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to that sinner’s account, and he is now “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), clothed in righteousness not his own. As Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
I recall a trick question used by a beloved pastor when discussing this topic. He would ask, “How many imputations are there?” The response would invariably be two—our sins to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to us. The pastor would respond, “No, there are three, beginning with Adam’s sin imputed to his posterity (I Cor. 15:22). Next come the imputation of our sin and guilt to the Lord Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:21a), and the imputation of his righteousness to his people (II Cor. 5:21b).” The double imputation of justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ. What an excellent definition of justification the catechism provides for us!
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor. 5:20-21).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     God is holy and just, righteous in his attributes and being. No one can appear before God without perfect righteousness. What does Rom. 3:22-24 say about how God’s righteousness may be acquired? Can we earn it for ourselves? On what basis is it received?
2.     Justification has two important parts. Looking at Ps. 32:1-2 and Rom. 4:3-5, what are they? (1)
3.     How can a sinful person be made righteous in God’s sight? See I Cor. 5:21.
4.     Is there anything that we need to do, or can do, to be justified before God? See Rom. 3:27-28.
5.     Read Zech. 3:1-5. What does this vision describe? How does it illustrate the topic of justification?
(1) Pardoning of sin (forgiveness), and being made (or accounted) righteous.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 33, WLC #70 - 71, & WCF XI.I-VI.
WSC Q33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace[a], wherein he pardoneth all our sins[b], and accepteth us as righteous in his sight[c], only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us[d], and received by faith alone[e].
[a] Rom. 3:24
[b] Rom. 4:6-8; II Cor. 5:19
[c] II Cor. 5:21
[d] Rom. 4:6, 11; 5:19
[e] Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9
WLC Q70. What is justification?
A.  Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners[a], in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight[b]; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them[c], but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them[d], and received by faith alone[e].
[a]   Rom. 3:22, 24-25; 4:5
[b]   2Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 3:22, 24-25, 27-28
[c]   Titus. 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7
[d]   Rom. 5:17-19; 4:6-8
[e]   Acts 10:43; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9
WLC Q71 How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A.  Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified[a]; yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son[b], imputing his righteousness to them[c], and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith[d], which also is his gift[e], their justification is to them of free grace[f].
[a]   Rom. 5:8-10, 19
[b]   1Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 10:10; Mat. 20:28; Dan. 9:24, 26; Isa. 53:4-6, 10-12; Heb. 7:22 Rom. 8:32; 1Pet. 1:18-19
[c]   2Cor. 5:21
[d]   Rom. 3:24-25
[e]   Eph. 2:8
[f]   Eph. 1:17
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XI.
Of Justification.
I.    Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth;[a] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[b] they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[c]
[a]  Rom. 8:30; Rom. 3:24; Rom. 5:15-16
[b]  Rom. 4:5-8; II Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 3:22-28; Titus 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7; Jer. 23:6; I Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 5:17-19
[c]. John 1:12; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38-39; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 2:7-8; John 6:44-45, 65; Phil. 1:29
II.  Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[d] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.[e]
[d]  John 3:18, 36; Rom. 3:28; Rom. 5:1
[e] James 2:17, 22, 26; Gal. 5:6
III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice in their behalf.[f]  Yet, in as much as he was given by the Father for them;[g] and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead;[h] and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace;[i] that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.[k]
[f]  Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8-10, 18-19; Gal. 3:13; I Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 10:10, 14; Dan. 9:24, 26; see Isa. 52:13-53:12
[g]  Rom. 8:32; John 3:16
[h] II Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:6-9; Isa. 53:10-11
[i]  Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7
[k] Rom. 3:26; Eph. 2:7; Zech. 9:9; Isa. 45:21
IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,[l] and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:[m] nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.[n]
[l]  Rom. 8:29-30; Gal. 3:8; I Pet. 1:2, 19-20
[m] Gal. 4:4; I Tim. 2:6; Rom. 4:25
[n] Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3-7; Gal. 2:16; cf. Col 1:21-22
V.  God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified;[o] and, although they can never fall from the state of justification,[p] yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.[q]
[o] Matt. 6:12; I John 1:7, 9; I John 2:1-2
[p] Rom. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:30-39; Heb. 10:14; cf. Luke 22:32; John 10:28
[q]  Ps. 89:30-33; Ps. 51; Ps. 32:5; Matt. 26:75; Luke 1:20; I Cor. 11:30, 32
VI. The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.[r]
[r]  Gal. 3:9, 13-14; Rom. 4:6-8, 22-24; Rom. 10:6-13; Heb. 13:8
Questions for further study:

Note how the Short Catechism’s answer is in the first person and the Larger is in the third person in the answering what is justification.  Is it possible to read into our father’s thoughts in might they might have wanted to convey in this arrangement?  Consider XI.II - Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[d] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

No comments:

Post a Comment