Justification in the Old Testament -- By: Charles H. Ray

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 07:20 (Mar 2003)
Article: Justification in the Old Testament
Author: Charles H. Ray


Justification in the Old Testament

Charles H. Ray

Associate Editor
The Conservative Theological Journal

The apostle Paul exuberantly writes in Ephesians 1:3 that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”1 Two things come to the mind of the average Christian when he reads or hears this verse. The first is best understood in the form of a dialogue. “What does Paul mean by EVERY spiritual blessing? I have salvation, so what else is there?”

There’s plenty else! Salvation is a broad term that encompasses wondrous concepts like expiation, redemption, atonement, reconciliation, eternal life, remission, forgiveness, regeneration, adoption, propitiation, and of course justification, the theme of this article.

The second item that comes to mind is the New Testament. Rare is the believer whose thoughts turn to the Hebrew Scriptures. That reaction is not wrong, however, because the images of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are a vivid and crucial facet of our beliefs. It’s not wrong, but it’s rather limited.

This article will scrutinize the doctrine of justification from the viewpoint of the Old Testament. This is not to the complete exclusion of the NT, but the primary emphasis will be on the OT. Two passages in particular will be examined in some detail with supporting evidence from other verses. Those 2 passages are Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4. It behooves us, however, to first address this question, what is justification?

What Is Justification?

Evangelicals utilize different wording in an attempt to define justification but the same basic concept is present in all of them. One book has this denotation: “God’s pronouncement of a believer as righteous (Rom. 4:25; 5:16, 18). In Protestant theology, justification occurs at the moment of salvation, when righteousness is imputed instantaneously to the believer.”2

Another understands it this way: “Justification is the act of God by which a sinner who believes in Christ is declared righteous on the basis of what Christ has done for him or her on the cross.”3

A great theologian of a previous generation...

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