This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
In justification, God declares us righteous. In sanctification and glorification, which we explore in future columns, He makes us so. These interlocking works of God ensure that followers of Jesus are fully conformed to the image of Christ.
The Greek noun dikaiosis, or justification, describes the act of God declaring sinners righteous on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Believing sinners are acquitted – freed of all guilt – as their sins are transferred to the account of Christ and exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.
Theologians often refer to justification as forensic, which means “having to do with legal proceedings.” This legal declaration does not change our internal character. A judge does not make defendants guilty or innocent; he simply declares them to be one or the other.
Regeneration, indwelling, and sanctification are ways God works salvation inus, making us spiritually alive, taking up permanent residence in our spirits, and conforming us to the image of Christ. But justification occurs outsideof us. Put another way, the location of justification is heaven, where God declares believing sinners in right standing before Him.
The apostle Paul penned his letter to the Galatians for several key reasons: 1) to defend his authority as a true apostle of Christ; 2) to affirm the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith; and 3) to illustrate that the Christian life is to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, not through self-imposed bondage to the law. Throughout this epistle Paul declares that there is true freedom in Christ.