Posted in , ,

It Keeps me Alive

28 September 2012 by Brad Williams

Q. 70. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

One of the reasons that I love this Gadfly writing gig is because it gives us a chance to add a little verve to the catechism. The catechism is a tool for instruction, and as such it reads a little bit like a dictionary. The answers it gives are concise definitions, and as such I think they come often come off as understatements at best.

Question 70 of the catechism asks "What is justification?", and while the answer is technically and wonderfully correct, it just doesn't do the subject justice. Imagine my child asking me, "Papa, what does it mean when you tell mommy you love her?" And to answer I said, "It means I am in a covenant relationship with her wherein I have forsaken the companionship of all other women and given myself to her only for the glory of God." Amen to that, right? But is that what it means? Is that what I am saying when I tell my wife, "I love you?" I'm not blaming the catechism; it is doing what it is supposed to do, but if we want people to love theology, it takes the art of life and words to glorify what it means to be justified.

I once had a young man ask me what it means to be justified. Except he didn't ask it like that. He asked, "What keeps you from becoming a Roman Catholic? Is it prayer to saints? The ecclesiology? The issue of authority? What is it that keeps you from crossing the Tiber?" I told him that while those things are real issues, that wasn't the thing that keeps me firmly on my side of the river. The issue is how a person comes to be justified before a holy God.

Justification does not just keep me away from Rome, it keeps me alive. It is why I wake up happy. It is why I do not live in despair. It is the fount of all my joy and hope. Justification teaches me that Christ did not just die to give me a clean slate, as if he just wiped out my sins and let me start over. He gave me His righteousness. I get credit for His obedience. When Jesus sent the devil away by saying, "You will worship God and serve Him only." I got credit for that. When Jesus loved His friends to the end, I got credit for that. When Christ trembled in the garden and prayed, "Not my will but yours be done", I got credit for that. It is as if I have been the sort of son the Father would be proud of, not the sorry dog I actually turned out to be.

 What is justification? It is life. It is the good news. Our sins have been taken away by Christ, and He has clothed us in His righteousness. This truth gives us life and reason for being. That's what justification is.