Justified by Christ's Righteousness; The Heart of The Gospel

Scott Price

It has been well said that Justification is the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls. This means if a person is straight on the doctrine of the church or eschatology and is wrong on Justification, it does not matter one bit. A church, so-called, that has all their "ducks in a row" on every single doctrine in the Bible with the exception of Justification is wasting their time and their entire ministry is all in vain. This is to say the foundational message of the gospel of Justification by the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is our chief concern, then we build from there, not the other way around.

Justification is the heart of the gospel of grace. The message of grace is that a person is only justified by the absolute perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ imputed to the account of His people. It is by the merit of The Lord Our Righteousness, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, His Person and His work, which is the good news. The work, as far as the ground and basis for Justification is concerned, is a finished, historical, completed, victorious, successful and effectual work. This is all based on the effectual life and death of Christ with no works of any sort added by us to complete or aid His work. The honor and preeminence sits on the crowned head of the Savior. His work is not at all hypothetical, potential, universal, conditional, based on anything we think, do, or say.

This gospel doctrine brings honor to the name of God. It shows how the only true, eternal, unchanging God can be a God of justice, righteousness, and holiness while at the same time also be a loving, merciful, gracious Savior without being unfaithful to His own character. This shines forth the knowledge, wisdom, power and majesty of the only LORD of lords. If a person is off on Justification they are off on God, simple as that! If they disobey, transgress, reject, ignore, don't believe, or do not abide in the doctrine of Christ they are not saved. In other words; to be wrong on this gospel, in which Justification by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ as it's basis is to not be a Christian, not be converted, to be not regenerate, and needs to be evangelized. I am being redundant here to be clearly understood.

So who cares if you may be Baptist or Presbyterian and are ate up with pride about it, or if you scream till you are blue in the face about the King James Version Bible being the only acceptable version, or about your stripe or view of end things (eschatology), IF you do not have a gospel view of the ground of Justification, then throw away the rest because it is useless. Now, should this be the basis of fellowship?? Why all the denominations and sectarianism? Why all the pride of special interests? The gospel of grace crosses denominational lines and allows God's people to put aside other non gospel issues, in love, submitting themselves to one another and embracing any and all as brothers and sisters in Christ, extending the right hand of fellowship to them who hold this gospel. God's people are to judge by the same gospel you believe.

Preeminence of Christ in Justification
The Scripture is clear in many places that the Father has sovereignly seen fit, in His wisdom to give the preeminence in salvation to the Lord Jesus Christ. As it says in Isaiah 9, "the government shall be upon His shoulder". He is the King of Righteousness, The Lord Our Righteousness, There Sun of Righteousness, sitting on the throne of grace (and we know "grace reigns through righteousness" Rom 5:21), holding the "scepter of righteousness", etc. All these things and more speak loud and clear of His Meditorial Kingdom in which He rules and reigns now as He sits exalted on His throne as King of kings and Lord of lords, still making intercession for His people.

Christ has preeminence in all of salvation. First, in election as the Father chose, he did so in Christ. This is the heart of unconditional election. It was not conditioned on man at all but rather for the sake of Christ only. Christ in the Covenant was appointed and anointed the Representative and Surety of God's chosen. Of course, in the work of Christ He performed the gospel by His obedience to the Law as a Representative, also paying the penalty of the broken Law. He alone did this in His life and death suffering as a "man of sorrows" alone with no mercy given in His cross-work. He successfully put away the sin of His people by the sacrifice of Himself.

The Holy Spirit's purpose is testifying of Christ and does not to testify of Himself. This is His chief work to testify of and reveal Christ. This 3rd aspect of salvation also gives all preeminence to Christ. Preeminence shows emphasis. This is not in any way to show that the Father and the Spirit do not have a vital part in the process of salvation. The whole Trinity is vital for salvation! But preeminence is a word that reflects math in the form of measurement. It has to do with emphasis as pushed forward out front or lifted up higher. Some will go to the extreme and would show the decree of God to justify and to be enough by itself for Justification. Not all who hold to eternal justification emphasize this, but some do. This is to emphasize God's sovereignty over the work of Christ. As vital as sovereignty is to salvation, sovereignty in and of itself is not the gospel. Preeminence must go to Christ in all of salvation, even in the decree of God.

No part of the Spirit's work IN us justifies us. The righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is imputed to the account of His people. The fruit and immediate effect of righteousness is life, both legal and spiritual. The first thing we see is "that Holy Thing", the One who is The Lord Our Righteousness. He is shown to be irresistible to us in all His saving value. He is our source of peace and joy. God's people know Christ is the Preeminent One in our Justification.

Faith, which is a blessed gift earned by Christ, is given by the Spirit in the context of the preaching of the gospel. Those who both preach the gospel and those who hear the gospel are clear on the fact that it is not faith itself that justifies the sinner. They know faith is not a condition that causes justification. They know faith cannot merit forgiveness and remit sin. They know faith did not live and die a perfect obedient sacrifice. Christ alone did these things and that is exactly where faith looks. Justification is only as good as the object of one's faith. If faith itself is the object of faith, like in most all false religion, then damnation will follow. God-given faith is effectual and looks to the Person and work of Christ. The sinner will not steal preeminence from Jesus Christ. Christ is Lord alone and this Justification by the righteousness of Christ is all about Him. Christ is the Living Preeminent Gospel Himself.

Justification and the Law
"knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ; even we believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law. For all flesh will not be justified by works of law."
Galatians 2:16 MKJV

"For as many as are out of works of the Law, these are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God is clear, for, "The just shall live by faith." But the Law is not of faith; but "The man who does these things shall live in them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree"); Galatians 3:10-12 MKJV

The ground of Justification is completely outside the realm of our personal character and conduct or obedience to the Law in any form. This is what we are getting at when we say that salvation is NOT by works and good deeds. Any who preach that Salvation, which also includes Justification, is totally without works will be persecuted for the "offense of the cross." In short, the offense of the cross is the consistent preaching of the gospel in its clarity. It is preached in such a way with the idea that God will accept no other righteousness besides the absolute, perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. This allows no room in Justification for boasting or glorying in man's will, pride, work, or his merit. God does not accept it, but calls it the sin of self-righteous unbelief.

Most all men automatically have the preconceived notion that since disobedience got us into the mess we are in, then our obedience will surely get us out. This is the greatest deception that mankind can fall under. This self-righteous attitude of unbelief is the first and foremost evidence of Total Depravity. So if space is made for man to occupy a part of the ground of Salvation by some work then the offense of the cross is removed and the message is to be put in the false gospel category. Why is this such a big deal? Paul summed it up in Galatians 2:21; "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness is through law, then Christ died without cause."

Also, many who know nothing about the gospel go around to spread a message still with no proper ground for Justification. They insist that Salvation and Justification have nothing at all to do with the Law. In short they are saying that the gospel is NO LAW. But gospel preachers insist that the message is not merely "no Law", but rather "Law SATISFIED." In this way there is a real foundation for grace to reign through righteousness (Rom 5:21). This way shows God to be both a just God and a Savior. God's character is vindicated in the process. This way focuses on what happened on the cross between the Father and His Son. This way asserts a particular ingredient missing in 99.9% of all religion and that is Propitiation.

Propitiation is the action of Jesus Christ to satisfy Law and justice as He lived in obedience and died paying the penalty, as a sacrifice, of that same Law broken. Any successful propitiation will result in a successful reconciliation. If it does not result in that then the former was lacking or incomplete. Universal Atonement has this idea as its foundation that God had all in mind and Christ died for all with no real satisfaction to the Law once and forever for those Her died in the place of. It was rather a general and or potential work based on further conditions fulfilled by the sinner to complete it. This is an abomination in God's sight. It is self-justification based on the will and works of the sinner that would raise Man high and bringing God low.

Is Justification a matter of the Law? You better believe it. Our Law keeping? No! His Law keeping and satisfaction of it in His obedience and death. Praise God He effectively saves all He intends and has purposed to save! Praise God that in His wisdom He used the proper legal tender to purchase Justification and satisfy Himself......the precious blood of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ!! He is The Lord Our Righteousness!

Effectual Atonement Cannot Be Separated From Justification
Justification of any sinner is based on the merit of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ established and imputed to their account. What goes into the establishment of this righteousness is the perfect life and death of Christ. This is the basic content of the gospel of grace.

Why do some sovereign grace and Reformed preachers and theologians want to compromise in tolerating Universal Atonement as a legitimate form of the gospel? Why have they totally divorced the doctrine of the atonement of Christ from the doctrine of Justification? They are speaking out of both sides of their mouth. They write articles saying Arminianism is a false gospel but they let the famous ones slide without holding them to the same gospel standard as us regular folks. This is respect of persons! This is dishonoring to God Almighty!

There is no Justification for anybody if the death of Christ is not effectual. If one person who ends up in hell for whom Christ died, nobody will be justified. Besides that, Christ would not have risen from the grave if he failed to save all whom He died for. If He "be not raised our faith is in vain" (I Cor 15). Every person that God intended to save will be saved because the effect of Christ's death was designed to save all for whom He died.