What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:1-8)

Justification Defined

I begin by sharing something that the great Church Reformer Martin Luther wrote in the preface to his comments on Paul’s letter to the Romans:

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.

By the way thousands of ministers have taken up Luther’s sage advice and have indeed daily read this great Book of the Bible upon their knees. In this age influenced as it is by universalism and becoming increasingly hostile to the Reformed theology it becomes very important to really look more deeply into what the Bible actually says about this crucial issue of justification. And the above Scripture comes from a kind of a focal passage concerning the biblical doctrine of salvation by God’s grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ alone.

Today if we are to have any hope of reaching people with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ then we are going to have to be prepared to tell people exactly where the Bible actually says about what we are trying to teach them. Men and women in our warped and relativistic society it is of the utmost importance toward where the people of this lost and pagan culture will spend eternity. Remember God will always honor what He has said, but the Lord is under no obligation whatsoever to respond to our interpretations about what we think He’s saying.

At this point let me give you a good definition of what the historic orthodox Christian Church means by justification. The following comes from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:

The basic fact of biblical religion is that God pardons and accepts believing sinners (see Pss. 32:1-5; 130; Luke 7:47-50; 18:9-14; Acts 10:43; 1 John 1:7-2:2). Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith is an analytical exposition of this fact in in its full theological connections. As stated by Paul (most fully in Romans and Galatians, though see also 2 Cor. 5:14-21; Eph. 2:1-18; Phil. 3:4-11), the doctrine of justification determines the whole character of Christianity as a religion of grace and faith. It defines the saving significance of Christ’s life and death by relating both to God’s law (Rom. 3:24-31; 5:16-21).

It displays God’s justice in condemning and punishing sin, his mercy in pardoning and accepting sinners, and his wisdom in exercising both attributes harmoniously together through Christ (Rom. 3:23-26). It makes clear what faith is – belief in Christ’s atoning death and justifying resurrection (Rom. 4:23-25; 10:8-12), and trust in him alone for righteousness (Phil. 3:8-9)… It is the heart of the gospel. Luther justly termed it…(“the article by which the church stands or falls”) a church that lapses from it can scarcely be called Christian (647).

Emerging Christian Agnosticism

Let me give you an illustration of just how far some professing Christians have fallen and why the new evangelicalism of the Devil’s Ecumenical Church of Deceit (ECoD) is so very dangerous to the advance of God’s Truth. The Christian agnosticism which is inherent in the postmodern poppycock of Emergent men like Emergent Guru Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, the Elvis of Emergent, and Tony Jones has undoubtedly warped many minds among our impressionable young. Having been educated in secular schools endemic with humanism and relativism they are already naturally skeptical about the concept of absolute truth.

At the same time the reimagined Gnostic mysticism of Contemplative Spirituality as taught by Living Spiritual Teacher Richard Foster, himself a Quaker and who also happens to be a key mentor in the Emergent Church, has gained widespread acceptance through the endorsement of more mainstream Christian leaders. This so-called “Christian” mysticism with its rotten root in apostate Roman Catholicism is a core doctrine within the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church, and is also being promoted by Rick Warren in his own brand of centered on self Schulleresque religion through his Purpose Driven Church.

And now even more mainstream evangelicals like Chuck Swindoll and David Jeremiah have been quoting from its sordid spiritual sources. Through this mystic muddying of proper Christian spirituality the leaders in the ECoD have become successful in duping the average evangelical into thinking that somehow the Reformation is over and that now Christians have grounds for fellowship with the apostateChurch of Rome. Well it’s not; and we don’t have any more reason to be aligned with the Roman Catholic Church today than Luther and Calvin did. And O how the Lord could use just one like those men right now.

But largely through the false sense of love and the “presence” of what they think is God that these deceivers experience in their interfaith “worship” together practicing Contemplative/Centering Prayer, which is nothing less than transcendental meditation in Christian terms, they are literally getting people to forget all about the Gospel itself. However, though the selling of God’s forgiveness brought about the Reformation in the first place at the center of what it was actually all about was the doctrine of justification, which is the very heart of that Gospel of Jesus Christ in the first place.

Roman Catholicism Has Not Changed Regarding Justification

And the truth is that absolutely nothing has actually changed in the Roman Catholic Church concerning her view of justification since the Council of Trent began pronouncing the anathemas upon the Reformers that Christ Himself raised up to restore His Church to true Apostolic doctrine. In their article What Does the Roman Catholic Church Teach About the Doctrine of Justification?—Part One Dr. John Ankerberg and his colleague Dr. John Weldon point out:

When we consider the differences that exist between the Catholic and Protestant view of justification by faith, there are six key terms that represent what the Protestant Reformers were teaching.

Then they go on to tell us that the Church of Rome came up with their own set of “six terms that represent Roman Catholicism’s understanding of justification. “For Protestants, the first key term is forensic; for Catholics it is legal fiction. The term “forensics” has to do with speech” (ibid). The dictionary defines the word forensic as “the art or study of argumentative discourse.” So as Ankerberg and Weldon point out we as Evangelical Protestants:

believe that the ultimate basis of justification involves the speech or declaration of God. Thus, when God declares a man just, he is, in fact, just. This concept is based on the scriptural passage in Romans 4 where the Apostle Paul appeals to the life of Abraham. Abraham believed God and Scripture says that God reckoned or counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. In other words, God declared Abraham to be righteous in His sight because of his faith.

For Luther and the Protestant Reformers, the basis of Abraham’s justification—and every believer’s justification—is found in God’s declaring a person fully pardoned or justified simply through faith (Romans 3:23-4:6). Thus, forensic justification is an act of God that God does outside or apart from an individual. The one who exercises faith in Christ has been officially declared righteous by God (ibid).

Legally Declared Justified By God

And this is why I opened with the above passage of Scripture in Romans 4. As you can plainly see the most natural understanding would be a literal one. Meaning that Yahweh Elohim–the LORD God Almighty–forensically declared Abraham righteous based solely on his faith in Him. But as Ankerberg and Weldon further note:

Roman Catholicism considers this forensic justification to be a “legal fiction.” They argue it would be unjust for God to declare a sinner righteousness when, in fact, he remains a sinner. Thus, Rome teaches that God will only declare a man righteous after he works in cooperation with God’s grace, performs works of merit, and has actually become righteous (ibid).

Next time we’ll dig into the text of Romans 4:1-8 itself and look more closely at what God the Holy Spirit is teaching us here in this key passage of the Bible about the critical doctrine of justification. Because the issue is clear: If a man tries to be forgiven of his sin in a way in which God has not offered forgiveness, then he is not forgiven and as John 3:36 informs us – the wrath of God remains on him.