Justification, The Central Article of Faith: A Biblical and Theological Analysis -- By: Pieter DeVries

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:2 (Jul 2011)
Article: Justification, The Central Article of Faith: A Biblical and Theological Analysis
Author: Pieter DeVries

Justification, The Central Article of Faith:
A Biblical and Theological Analysis

Pieter DeVries

The doctrine of justification determines whether the church stands or falls. The church stands when she proclaims this God-honoring and liberating message, and she falls when she neglects to do so. Our answer to the question, “How can we be just in the sight of our Maker?” manifests the character of our religion. Do we trust in our own righteousness or in the righteousness of God revealed in the cross of Christ? We are only righteous when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. We are justified by faith and not by works.1

The doctrine of justification by faith is a biblical doctrine. In God’s purpose, it was the task of the Apostle Paul to give a full exposition of this doctrine. The letters he wrote to the Galatians and the Romans are especially important in this connection. However, the kernel of the message of justification by faith we already find in the Old Testament. Paul himself argues from the Old Testament. The faith of Abraham teaches us that a man is justified by faith alone and not by works. The prophet Habakkuk testified, “but the just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4).

Our Lord Jesus Christ made clear not only in His teachings, but also through His actions, that He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. He received sinners and ate with them. The message of our Lord Jesus Christ was a message of unconditional forgiveness—forgiveness not based on man’s merits but only on God’s free grace and sovereign mercy. Jesus gave a most striking example of this message in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The publican pleaded in Luke 18:13:“God be merciful to me a sinner.” And this man went down to his house justified.


When we study the Bible, we can greatly profit from the insights of former generations. We are not the first generation who has read the Bible. Neglecting the rich sources of insight from former ages and generations stands in contradiction to confessing that we “believe an holy, catholic church, the communion of saints.” Spurgeon once made the following remark: “People who pay very great attention to what God revealed to them usually pay very little attention to what God revealed to others.” We must try to understand the Scriptures in communion with other saints. At the same time, we must caution that the insights from other generations in the Scriptures must be tested by the Scriptures themselves. Neither the church nor the Lord’s people but onl...

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