“The basic religious question is that of our relation to God. How can a man be just with God? How can he be right with the Holy One? In our situation, however, the question is much more aggravated. It is not simply, how can man be just with God, but how can sinful man be just with God?”[1]

-John Murray 

How can a sinner have a right relationship with God? Is that even possible? When one looks at the holiness of God, and the fact that God hates sin, how is there hope for any of us? God is just, so how can a just God accept a sinner in His sight? How can any of receive the favour of Almighty God? 

“Truly I know it is so,
But how can a man be righteous before God?”[2]

–Job 9:2

These were the types of questions which troubled Martin Luther’s mind prior to his conversion. He saw that he as a sinner who could not meet God’s righteous standard. He saw this as unattainable for sinful man. The more sinful man honestly looks at the righteous standard of God’s law, the more he sees how far short he falls. We sin in thought, in word and in deed. 

Luther finally found hope in God’s Word when we saw that salvation was by faith alone, and not of his own works or performance. Luther finally found that comfort, that there was hope for those who trusted in Christ alone, as seen in Romans 1:17 which states:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.

What does that all mean? What is faith? On what grounds are we justified before God, or accepted before God? Is it some kind of “legal fiction” as some claim? Is it really as important as the Reformers claimed?

“On this article stands all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubt about it. Otherwise everything is lost, and the pope and the devil and whatever opposes us will gain victory and be proved right.”[3]

-Martin Luther

“[T]here cannot be a more effectual engine plied for the ruin of religion, than for men to declaim against the doctrine of justification by faith alone…”[4]

-John Owen

A Popular Slogan

While many professing Christians will no doubt say they believe in salvation by faith alone, justification can often be misunderstood with the popular slogan “just as if I’d never sinned”. What is wrong with this slogan? Surely it displays some of the truth?

Yes, it speaks of some of the truth of justification, but not all of it. Justification includes the forgiveness or removal of sin, but it is not only that. It is not having your score reset to zero, as it is not about being merely morally neutral. Justification has a positive element to it. This element is that there is a positive righteousness. The demands of the law of God must be met. God cannot change. God is just. So in order to be accepted by God as justified He must look upon us as one who has kept the law of God perfectly.

Original Languages 

צָדַק is the Hebrew verb translated “to justify”. In Hebrew the Hiphil form is usually causative, which is צַדִּיק and this form can mean to declare righteous. This is the case in Deuteronomy 25:1 which states:

“If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous [וְהִצְדִּיקוּ אֶת־הַצַּדִּיק] and condemn the wicked”

כִּֽי־יִהְיֶה רִיב בֵּין אֲנָשִׁים וְנִגְּשׁוּ אֶל־הַמִּשְׁפָּט וּשְׁפָטוּם וְהִצְדִּיקוּ אֶת־הַצַּדִּיק וְהִרְשִׁיעוּ אֶת־הָרָשָֽׁע׃

On this passage of scripture John Murray said the following: 

“It is not the function of judges to make people righteous. The meaning is simply and only that the judges were to give a just judgment and therefore they were to declare the righteous to be righteous, just as they were to declare the wicked to be wicked.”[5]

The Greek Septuagint translation of this passage shows us that the equivalent Greek verb, which speaks of declaring someone to be just before God, is the verb δικαιόω (to justify) and the noun δικαιοσύνη (righteousness). This verb is used in the New Testament and it is used in this sense of declaring someone to be righteous before God. While it can be used to indicate that a sinner is declared righteous before God, but it can also be used with regard to God being shown or declared to be righteous. 

And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified [δικαιόω] God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 

–Luke 7:29

καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἀκούσας καὶ οἱ τελῶναι ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν Θεόν, βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου· (Lk. 7:29 SCR)

Here δικαιόω is used to declare that the sinner who has faith in Christ alone is righteous before God. 

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified [δικαιόω] in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

-Romans 3:20

διότι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ· διὰ γὰρ νόμου ἐπίγνωσις ἁμαρτίας. (Rom. 3:20 SCR)

The word δικαιόω does not mean to make righteous as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Rome teaches that justification means that the sinner is made righteous and that this is what the word “justification” means. This misunderstanding of the word “justification” is from the Latin word iustificare. The church borrowed heavily from the Latin as Greek fell out of use in the Western Church. The Latin word ficare means “to make” or “to do”. In this sense iustificare was seen to mean “to make righteous”. This is a possible correct understanding of the Latin word, but not of the original Greek.[6]  The error shows how important it is that we continue to use the original languages as δικαιόω certainly does not mean “to make righteous”. 

A Forensic Act of God

William Webster stated: 

“The word ‘justification’ is primarily a judicial or legal term. Justification is declarative in nature; it refers to a person’s right standing, or status, before God. To ‘declare righteous’ or ‘to justify’ are different translations of the same word and they are identical in meaning. Justification is the act of God whereby the sinner is accepted and set free from all judgment and condemnation on the basis of Christ’s righteousness which is accounted to him.”[7]

What is the difference between saying that someone is “declared righteous” rather than “made righteous”? Well the difference is over whether a person’s justification depends on righteous infused into them, or if it depends on an alien righteousness imputed to their account. With the former it really is the person themselves being changed and based somewhat on that the person who is justified, with the latter it depends not on their inherent righteous, but on the righteousness of Christ. 

Protestantism teaches that justification is a forensic (legal) declaration by God which is based on Christ’s righteous alone. Roman Catholicism, at least since the Council of Trent, teaches that justification is based on both Christ’s righteousness and works done by the sinner. In Rome’s view, after initial justification, grace is given which enables works to be done. The Protestant view is that justification is apart from the works of the law. 

Is this some type of “legal fiction”? This is a common Roman Catholic objection to the teaching that a believer is a sinner, and yet just before God. The person is truly just before God as the sinner is represented before God by Christ. Christ has become the legal representative of the sinner. This is union with Christ. When our legal standing is considered, it is based on the righteous of Christ, not on the performance of the justified sinner. Christ is our Advocate. 

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

-1 John 2:1

“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)”

-Romans 5:17

“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”

-Ephesians 1:4


As stated earlier, the justification of the sinner in Christ does not depend on his inherent, or infused, righteousness, but on that of Christ. This is called imputation. Imputation is “an act of attribution; specifically, either (1) imputatio peccati, the imputation of sin, or (2) imputatio satisfactionis Christi, the imputation of the satisfaction of Christ”.[8]

Imputation can refer to the elect sinner’s sin being attributed to Christ, in which He paid for in His life, death, burial and resurrection. It can also refer to the attribution of the sin of Adam to those represented by Adam in the garden of Eden. Adam was the federal head or representative of all mankind in the garden of Eden. When Adam sinned, his sinned was attributed to those represented by him. 

Here our main focus will be on that of Christ’s righteousness and the imputation of that righteousness to our account, that is those who have been justified in Christ. The realistic view of imputation was common among the early church. This was due to the belief of how Adam’s sin was transmitted to his seed. It focused on ontological categories rather than on forensic ones. This view believed that sin was transmitted by natural descent, rather than covenantally. This view of natural transmission impacted how Augustine and others looked at justification. This ontological focus remained popular until the Middle Ages. In this justification developed into an understanding where “Justification is a process that begins with the infusion of sanctifying grace in baptism”, and then continues if the person continues in that grace. This erroneous understanding of justification leads it being partially of the sinner’s own inherent merit or work.[9]

From the Middle Ages nominalism developed and grew. Nominalism is “the idea that universals do not have a real existence but are merely names applied to qualities found in certain objects”.[10] This development allowed theologians to look at these categories with non-ontological lenses. Therefore, during the Reformation, Luther and others looked at justification as a legal act, and not as some process within the sinner. In this sense the confusion, and lack of distinction, between justification and sanctification ended. Justification was now seen rightly as a final declaration made by God (not a process), and sanctification was a process which would necessarily follow, but it is distinct from justification. Rome’s view of justification continues to confused these two.[11]

How did Rome respond to this development? Diego Laynez, a Spanish Jesuit priest, who was a delegate at the 16thcentury Council of Trent, oddly illustrated the importance of this doctrine better than most ever could. Laynez spoke on the importance of imputation to the Reformation and its relationship to merit at the Council. He argued, while opposing it, that imputation eliminates the merit of good works and it completely removes any place for inherent righteousness.[12] It truly does eliminate the merit of good works and for this is reason the Apostle Paul could pen these words: 

“just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works”

–Romans 4:6

Active & Passive Obedience of Christ

How does imputation of Christ’s righteous remove any possibility of our inherent righteousness playing any part in our justification? This is because of what is imputed to our account. No longer is it the case of an infusion of grace into the sinner and this sinner becomes righteous, but rather it is the perfect fulfilment of the law of God fulfilled by Christ, and not merely our sin washed away. It is more than just forgiveness due the nature of what Christ did. It is even greater and more glorious. 

When Christ obeyed the law, he obeyed the law in the place of His people, His elect. He came to be the second Adam, in place of our first representative, Adam himself. Adam broke the law of God. Adam was required to keep the law of God, perfectly in the garden of Eden. 

“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

-Romans 5:18-19

This obedience required by the law of God has never gone away for God has not changed and His perfect standard will never change. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded as our representative. When the law demands that we love God in heaven, Christ has done that in our place; when the law of God demands that we love our neighbours as ourselves, this has been fulfilled in Christ. This is seen when Christ comes to be baptized by John the Baptist. Why did Christ need to be baptized? Christ was not a sinner. He did not need to be washed from His sins, for he did not have any of his own. John’s baptism was one of repentance, how could this apply to our sinless Saviour. John himself even tried to prevent Him from coming for this reason. 

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 

–Matthew 3:13-17

Why was he baptised? To fulfill all righteousness (δικαιοσύνη, which is the noun of the verb δικαιόω, as mentioned earlier). Christ obeyed all of the law, not for Himself, but so that we would be pleasing before God, in Christ. That way when God looks upon His people, because of the active and passive obedience of Christ, he does not treat them as their sins deserve; rather God can now delight in them as the law was kept for them. 

The active obedience of Christ is not some separate aspect of Christ’s obedience, but of an aspect of Christ’s righteousness. It refers to Christ’s law keeping, while the passive obedience refers to Christ’s suffering for the sins of his people. When we hear passive we should think of His suffering obedience, and we should not think of passive in the modern English sense of the word. In modern English the word passive can and often does mislead.  

The active obedience has been distinguished from Christ’s passive obedience because this law keeping part of Christ’s obedience has been rejected by some in Church history. One notable example was Johannes Piscator in the 17th century. Piscator denied that Christ’s active obedience was imputed to the believer’s account.[13] The problem here is if Christ’s active obedience is not imputed, then it leaves a door open for the sinner’s own righteous to provide that positive aspect of what the law of God demands. If Christ provides this righteousness, however, the door is firmly shut to any other source of righteousness being needed. We are not just saved by Christ’s death, but we are also saved by His life. 

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” 

-Romans 5:10

Saving Faith

How does someone take hold of this righteousness of Christ? What is the part played in the sinner? What is it that we are commanded to do, and does this make it “a work” of sorts? The scriptures are clear that we are to believe on Christ Jesus; all sinners are commanded to believe the gospel He preached. As Jesus preached when He began His Galilean ministry, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”[14]

Sinners are required to have faith in Christ, what is this faith? True saving faith is one that has three aspects. The first aspect is notitia, which is the content of saving faith, or what we place our faith in. We must have something which we believe in. The second aspect of saving faith is assensus, or assent to the truth. We must believe that the gospel is true. We must believe that Christ is sufficient to save those who trust in Him. We must believe that he is good. We must not believe that these things are false. The third and final aspect of saving faith is fiducia, or trust. This is described by Richard A. Muller as “faithful apprehension, which appropriates savingly, by an act of the will, the true knowledge of the promises of God in Christ.”[15]

How can a dead sinner trust in Christ? When we consider the condition with which man is in following the fall of man in Adam, we see that man is incapable of saving faith originating from within himself. The Bible describes those who are not saved as “dead in trespasses and sins”[16] and as “the sons of disobedience”, so how can these dead sinners trust in Christ? They must be given spiritual life; they must be born again of the Spirit of God. 

“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”

-Titus 3:5

Before we are given this spiritual life we have no desire to trust God. Once we have been made alive by the Spirit of God, we now see our sin and flee to Christ. This faith, saving faith is not of ourselves, as it is a gift of God. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

-Ephesians 2:8-9

Whether the gift is only the faith itself, or includes grace, does not change the fact that faith is a gift of God. Even the command we are given, that is to believe on Christ, can only be done if the Lord provides us with the faith needed to lay hold on salvation. Question 72 of the of the Westminster Larger Catechism says that: 

Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

The Instrumental Cause of Justification

How does faith save? Is there some merit inherent in faith? How exactly is faith a cause of justification? Is faith itself, in and of itself, that which saves, as our faith is imperfect? No, we are saved by that which saving faith lays hold of. Saving faith here is called the instrumental cause of justification, and not the efficient cause of justification. 

How do we distinguish causes? What is the difference the efficient cause and the instrumental cause of justification? These distinctions in causes is based on Aristotle’s categories of causality and in order to under to understand this an analogy is needed. Our analogy is of a sculptor working on a block of stone. The efficient cause of the sculpture is the sculptor, and the instrumental cause of the piece being made is the chisel used by the sculptor to make the piece. The chisel is the means or instrument by which the sculptor works.[17] In salvation the efficient cause is God, and faith is the instrument by which justification is attained. 

Faith is the only instrument of justification, but this is not held to by all professing Christian groups. The Roman Catholic Church sees baptism as the instrument by which faith is infused into the person baptised. This makes the sacrament of baptism the instrumental cause of salvation for the Roman Church, as stated in their catechism:

“The grace of the Holy Spirit has power to justify us, that is, to cleans us from our sins and to communicate to us ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ and through Baptism”[18]

“Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms on us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.”[19]

It is claimed, however, that that this whole process is indeed of grace. It is claimed that this is still God doing the act of justification, however in reality it places the process firmly in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. This all makes the Roman Church take the role of mediator in the dispensing of saving grace. 

“It is the genius of the Romish conception of salvation to intrude mediators between the soul and the Saviour – the Church, the virgin, the sacraments. On the contrary, it is the glory of the gospel of God’s grace that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”[20]  

John Murray

Faith Alone and Grace Alone

Anything else apart from faith as the alone instrument of our justification must be rejected. Faith is graciously given, and our salvation is by grace alone. The Roman Catholic Church argues around this by making this teaching of grace alone as referring to the initial part of salvation and that no one really deserves this initial part. Afterwards is where works place a role in the person’s justification, according to Rome’s view. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life…”[21]

Once you do works after initial conversion which merit, then the initial grace in a sense is by grace alone, in Rome’s view. This error is all to do with Rome confusing justification and sanctification, where here their version of justification is really inward sanctification.[22] While the justified man will be sanctified, and will grow in sanctification, justification is distinct from that process of sanctification. Failure to distinguish the two here will corrupt the gospel, as John Murray put it:

“The purity of the gospel is bound up with the recognition of this distinction. If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its centre.”[23]

The merit which proceeds from the person who is justified, according to Roman Catholicism, is really rooted in grace. Rome has never denied the necessity of grace in justification,[24] but what they do with this grace is the issue. Here they are careful to avoid the dreaded accusation of Pelagianism, which they were keen to avoid during the 17th century. Pelagianism essentially denied the necessity of grace in salvation. They did not want to be seen as being clearly teaching against Augustine’s teachings on grace. William Cunningham said this: 

“The Church of Rome has always professed to revere the authority of Augustine, while yet the general strain of the practical teaching of most of her writers has been commonly of a Pelagian cast; and in so far as it has been so, the authority of some of the leading schoolmen may be adduced against it, and in support of the leading truths which have been held by the great body of Protestants.”[25]

Rome has, since the 16th century Council of Trent at least, been in a middle view between the Pelagian view of a merited salvation, and that of Augustine’s view on grace. The first two canons on Justification at the Council of Trent condemn Pelagian teaching, while other canons on Justification deny that Justification is by faith alone.[26]

Rome mixes grace and works when she has another instrument other than faith. Faith is not a work; it is a saving grace. Grace cannot be mixed with works, in the same way we cannot mix oil and water. 

“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”

-Romans 11:6

This faith is apart from the works of the law, as the Apostle Paul clearly points out here:

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” 

-Romans 4:28

The Importance of Faith Alone to the Gospel

What if we are wrong on faith alone, does this necessarily mean that a person believes a false gospel and is under anathema?[27] Is faith alone central and essential to the Reformation understanding of the gospel? This a question which arose over the controversy relating to the signing of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) document in 1994, especially with regards to well respected evangelicals such a J.I. Packer. How can a man who has written extensively on the issue of justification, come to sign with Roman Catholics a document which contains the following statement?

“We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ.”

“All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.”[28]

This seems to indicate that faith alone is not important to the gospel, or that it is not essential to believe. Both the evangelicals and Catholics who signed the document have very different ideas of what “by faith” means, but both were able to sign a document which omitted the solas from grace and faith. Was it an oversight? Not according to Richard John Neuhaus, one of the Roman Catholic signers of the document, as he stated: 

“The solas are conspicuous by their absence, and it is not by accident that they are absent.”[29]

This would have to mean, that while Packer believes in faith alone, it is not something which a believer has to hold to in order to be saved. It is correct in theory, but it is not an essential part of the gospel to be understood. In essence the belief in “faith alone” is relegated to “small print” in this view. R.C. Sproul comments on the significance of the ECT document and Packer’s defence of it:

“What Packer in 1961 described as the “Atlas” of biblical doctrine that carries the world of the doctrine and life of the church on its shoulders, how now relegates to the “theory level” of doctrine. Atlas has shrugged, and the evangelical house totters on the brink of collapse.”[30]

In the book Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Towards a Common Mission, which was edited by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus, Packer wrote the following in defence of the ECT document:

“Evangelicalism seeks to lead people into salvation, and what brings them salvation is not any theory about faith and justification, but trusting Jesus himself as Lord, Master, and divine Savior…”[31]

This is an astonishing claim. There is an element of truth in there. Of course, a new convert might not be able to articulate the whole doctrine of justification by faith alone in great detail like some of the evangelical signers of ECT, but this is irrelevant. If anyone is trusting themselves, or seeking to establish their own righteousness then they are without hope. The Roman Catholic doctrine, if believed, condemns someone under the wrath of Almighty God. 

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

-Romans 10:3-4

The removal of the word “alone”, or “sola” in latin, leaves the door open to works. Roman Catholics can happily agree to a document which would not call on them to reject their works. Evangelicals then are giving the impression that they have agreement on the gospel, whatever explanations may surface after such a signing. If justification by faith alone is ever downplayed it will lead to the downfall of the church, as we are all naturally inclined towards adding our own works for salvation. 

“But some fanatics could stop this blessed progress of the Gospel in a hurry, and in one moment he could overturn everything that we have built up with the hard work of many years. This is what happened to Paul, the chosen instrument of Christ (Acts 9:15). With great toil and trouble he had gained the churches of Galatia; but in a short time after his departure the false apostles overthrew them, as this and all his other epistles testify. So weak and miserable is this present life, and so beset are we by the snares of Satan, that one fanatic can often destroy and completely undo in a short time what it took faithful ministers the hard labour of many years day and night to build up. We are learning this by bitter experience today, and yet there is nothing we can do about it.”[32]

-Martin Luther

The Necessity of Works 

Justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but what role do works play? A caricature can arise of being able to do whatever we want and that the works of a believer do not matter. This is the type of accusation which the Apostle Paul anticipated in Romans when he said: 

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

-Romans 6:1-2

It makes no sense to carry on in sin if we have been united to Christ. If we are born again we will produce good fruit, but it does not contribute in any way to our justification. Fruit is the necessary evidence of conversion. If there is no fruit, then the person is still dead in their trespasses and sins. This why James could say that faith without works is dead: 

“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

-James 2:17

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans is focusing on how we are saved by grace alone, and not by our works, but James is focusing on the danger of antinomianism. This danger is the dangerous thinking that because we are saved we can live any way we like. However, without works that show evidence of a regenerated heart we should know that we are not justified before God. James, when he says “a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24), he does so declaratively. This is the context which is shown in this verse in which James says “show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18b). 

This section of scripture in James’ epistle, which could be taken out of context to show our works make us righteous, is saying nothing of the sort. Rather this justification is one before other men, not before God. We have no reason to think we are justified without good works. They will necessarily be the fruit of saving faith and of a person who has been justified before God.[33]


Is there anything more important than this, of knowing whether we have the favour of God upon us? What would happen to the church if we would pour our hearts into the wondrous and glorious truths found in our justification before God. How much more grateful would we be? How much more in awe of God would we be? If we neglect to study this truth, and allow it to be replaced by the popular slogan “just as if I’d never sinned”, then we rob ourselves of the riches, the freedoms and blessings of knowing what God has done for His people. If we neglect this precious doctrine, how long before it will become corrupted in our own understanding and also in the collective understanding within the body. Oh how we ought to pray that the church would be in love with this doctrine once again! Oh that we would see more of what Christ has done, and how the door is completely shut to our works in justifying us before God! Oh that we would rejoice in these very things!


[1] John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, Pg. 117. 

[2] The NKJV Translation in English is used in this paper.

[3] J.V. Fesko, Justification, Pg. 67.

[4] John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, Pg. 7. 

[5] Murray, Pg. 119-120.

[6] R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone, Pg. 99. 

[7] William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, Pg. 138.

[8] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, Pg. 164.

[9] J.V. Fesko, Death in Adam, Life in Christ, Pg. 38-41

[10] J.V. Fesko, Ibid., Pg. 49

[11] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 1995.

[12] Fesko, Ibid., Pg. 61.

[13] Ibid., Pg. 80.

[14] Mark 1:15

[15] Muller, Pg. 121.

[16] Ephesians 2:1

[17] Sproul, Pg. 74.

[18] Catholic Catechism, Para 1987.

[19] Ibid., Para 1992.

[20] Murray, Pg. 112. 

[21] Catholic Catechism, Para 2027.

[22] Para. 1989 of the Catholic Catechism, which is a quote from the Council of Trent, says: ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.’

[23] Murray, Pg. 121.

[24] Rome’s view denies the sufficiency of grace.

[25] William Cunningham, Historical Theology, 1:420.

[26] See Canons Concerning Justification in The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Pg. 41-47.

[27] Galatians 1:6-9

[28] Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (“ECT” hereafter), Pg. xviii.

[29] Ibid., Pg. 200.

[30] Sproul, Pg. 183.

[31] ECT, Pg. 168.

[32] As quoted in Sproul, Pg. 184.

[33] See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 16:2. 


In order of reference

John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961).

J.V. Fesko, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine (P&R Publishing, 2008).

John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ Explained, Confirmed and Vindicated (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006).

William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003).

Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology. Second Edition. (Baker Academic, 2017). 

J.V. Fesko, Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation (Christian Focus Publications, 2016). 

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Popular and Definitive Edition (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999). 

R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Baker Books, 1995). 

William Cunningham, Historical Theology, 2 Volumes (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960). 

The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Translated by Rev. H.J. Schroeder (Tan Books, 1978). 

Charles Colson & Richard John Neuhaus (eds.), Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (Word Publishing, 1995). 

Westminster Confession of Faith (Free Presbyterian Publications, 2003).