Dead or Alive? The Ordo Salutis

A summary statement of the Ordo Salutis: Justification

When you study the doctrine of the justification of sinners, the Scriptures are very clear that the basic meaning of “justify” is to declare righteous, not make righteous. This distinction is vital and is the heart of the difference between justification, to declare righteous, and sanctification, to make righteous.

[This is also why I made the comments above regarding why I chose to not include sanctification and perseverance in the Ordo Salutis.]

Both the OT and NT presentations of justification offer the same working definition of justification. A very useful and modern verb to use as a synonym for “justify” is “acquit”; that is, someone is acquitted of a charge and is therefore viewed as no longer guilty. The action of acquittal does not change the nature of the person so acquitted; rather, it changed the nature of the relationship of that person to the governing authority. Before the acquittal (justification), relative to the governing authority the person stood condemned; after acquittal (justification), relative to the governing authority the person stands not condemned.

One of the common OT texts which proves this assertion is found here:

Pro 17.15
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

It would be nonsensical to say that an already wicked person was “made wicked” by means of the action of justification. What’s being contrasted here is the evil pretense that the wicked could be viewed in a favorable relationship with the LORD when His holiness demands righteous behavior. The wicked person stands in a very precarious relationship with the authority of the Almighty. To view it otherwise is an abomination.

One of the best texts in the NT is the opening of Romans chapter 5:

Rom 5.1-10
1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while 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. 11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Our justification from the guilt of sin rests solely on the substitutionary death of the Lord Christ. In fact, the last verse of Romans chapter 4 teaches us that the resurrection of the Lord Christ occurred because His death actually justified His people:

Rom 4.25
… He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

[The remainder of Romans chapter 5 details the wonderful and powerful doctrine of the representation of Adam and the Lord Christ of their respective peoples. The doctrine of representation is the “legal precedent” which enables justification (simply because the LORD does not overlook sin). Adam’s sin was imputed to his people—the human race. Likewise, the obedience of the Lord Christ was imputed to His people—the elect.

I provide considerable detail on this topic in my article Backsliding? Or… on this site. Please refer to chapter 1, The problem of sin and the representative positions of Adam and the Lord Christ.]

It bears repeating that the sacrifice of the Lord Christ is the sole foundation of the justification of sinners. It has been common in human cultures that, for those who accept the notion of a “higher power” and some indistinct sense of a “coming judgment”, that an accounting will simply sum all the actions of a person’s life. If the "balance" of “good actions” outweighs the “bad actions”, then the person expects some type of reward; otherwise, the end is unpleasant.

Such is the very common error of people who attempt to build a morality without the Bible.

This humanistic and simplistic approach is doomed to fail because by “the works of the Law no flesh will be justified”:

Gal 2.15-16
We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

Did you notice the great truth expressed above?

Rom 5.9b
… Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Those justified will be saved from wrath. This is why the Apostle can confidently proclaim,

Rom 8.30
… and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

The completion, glorification, can never be in any doubt.

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