A New False Protestant View Of Justification

 

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In recent times, some Protestant authors have taught that being justified by God’s grace through Christ means being both made righteous by nature and declared righteous. This view is wrong because of the following reasons:

 

a)        A believer is made righteous by regeneration and not by justification. Ephesians 4:24 refers to being made righteous through regeneration when it states: “the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness…” In Ephesians 4:24, the word “righteousness” is “dikaiosune”. Refer to my Chapter “Righteousness through Jesus” for more details on other usages of this Greek word.

b)        In the original Greek New Testament, the word “dikaioo” or “justify” means “declare righteous or just” or “show to be righteous or just”, but not “make righteous by regeneration”.

c)        The Greek word “dikaioo”, which is translated “You may be justified” is used in Romans 3:4 of God. God cannot be made righteous by nature. He has always been righteous from eternity past. Romans 3:4 uses “dikaioo” in the sense of “to show righteous” – the same sense “dikaioo” is used in James 2:21 and 2:24-25.

d)         As stated in the “Relevant Greek words” section in Chapter “Justification”, “dikaioo” is used in Luke 7:29 in relation to tax collectors declaring God to be justified or righteous. This verse could not mean they made God righteous.

e)        “Dikaioo” is used in Romans 2:13 in relation to the Final Judgement Day. No human will be made righteous on that Day. They will be declared right or condemned on that Day by God the Supreme Ruler and Judge.

f)         A form of “dikaioo” is used in 1 Timothy 3:16. If “dikaioo” means “to make righteous”, this would mean wrongly that the Holy Spirit made God the Son’s divine nature righteous when He was manifested in the flesh and/or resurrected. The Son of God’s divine nature is eternally righteous. His nature was not made righteous just at some point in time. In 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul uses “dikaioo” to mean to be declared and/or shown to be righteous.

g)        Further proof “dikaioo” in the New Testament relates to “declaring to be righteous” or “showing to be righteous” but not “making righteous by nature through regeneration” can be seen in Luke 10:29 and 16:15.

Luke 10:29 refers to a Jewish expert in the Law “wanting to justify himself”. In context here, the teacher of the Law wanted to limit the application in his own life of the two great love commands from the Law. He did this in order to show or declare to others how just or righteous he supposedly was before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge. This expert in the Law did not have the supernatural ability to make himself righteous by changing his nature through regeneration.

In Luke 16:15, Jesus criticized the Pharisees for justifying themselves before other humans: “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God’.” The Pharisees did not have the power to make themselves righteous by regeneration. The word “justify” in Luke 16:15 refers to them declaring and/or showing themselves righteous before men. In Greek, the word “justify” used in Luke 10:29 and 16:15 are forms of “dikaioo”.

h)        Romans 8:33-34 uses the word “dikaioo” as an opposite to the Greek word “katakrina” meaning “condemns”. Condemnation is a legally declared sentence by a judge. To condemn someone means to declare someone guilty, not to make the person wicked by nature. Similarly in the New Testament, to justify means to declare someone just or right, not to make them right by nature.

i)          Romans 4:2-25 continually links “dikaioo” or being justified to being accounted or imputed as righteous and not to being made righteous.

j)          Also, note in the Old Testament, those who were righteous by God’s grace through faith were not regenerated by the Spirit of Christ (see Colossians 1:27, John 7:37-39 and 14:16-17). These Old Testament believers were justified only in the sense of being declared righteous. They were not made righteous by nature. When in Romans 4:1-8, Paul refers to Abraham being justified by grace through faith and mentions David’s words about Old and New Testament believers being justified by grace, Paul relates this only to credited or imputed righteousness.

When 1 Samuel 10:6 and 10:10 says Saul was given another heart, this relates to the Holy Spirit anointing Saul for his special ministry as king of God’s people. This was not a conversion experience related to Saul turning to the Lord from his sins. 1 Samuel 16:14 reveals the Holy Spirit later departed from Saul. But then on one even later occasion, the Holy Spirit came back briefly upon Saul and he prophesied even though he was very backslidden (see 1 Samuel 19:23-24). These operations of the Holy Spirit recorded in 1 Samuel 10:6, 10:10 and 19:23-24 were not regeneration.

Numbers 11:25-29 reveals that not all of God’s people had the Holy Spirit in Old Testament times. So Old Testament believers are proof God can justify people by His grace purely in a legally declared or credited sense.

k)        Leon Morris states some authors argue that Greek verbs ending in “o” (short) “o” (long) like “dikaioo” always have the meaning ‘to make…’ He said that this is true of a large number of these verbs but not when some moral quality like righteousness is being referred to. [1]

 

In the New Testament, “dikaioo” means “to declare to be right” and sometimes “to show to be right”, but not “to make right” by nature.


 

[1] Leon Morris, “The Epistle to the Romans”, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, page 145, footnote 175.


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