Continuing with questions concerning justification taken from Wayne Grudem's book, Bible Doctrines, we will consider question 5.
- Briefly explain the difference between a belief system which teaches you are declared righteous and justified based on an internal change God has done in you -- verses having the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to you? Contrast how these might affect the practical living out in an individual, how it would affect the way they view their relationship to God if they held to one or they other view. Contrast how these reflect on these two differing ideas of justification relate to the glory of God.
A. IF righteousness is based on internal change God has done in me, then I WILL HAVE NO PEACE. For sins still remains in me, I am not yet what I shall be, I am not PERFECT as my Father in HEAVEN IS PERFECT.
Rom 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
My merit for heaven under such a system based on finally being declared righteous after a life well lived would leave me doomed never living well enough. Such a system would try to mix grace and works so that my final merit before God would ultimately rest on the works I have done – even though I say these works are the fruit of grace done in me.
But being justified by faith so that the righteous declaration is declared upon me based on what CHRIST PERFECTLY DID – I have now PEACE, peace with God. Peace and liberty to joy in God and rejoice in HIM.
Wayne Grudem explained as follows:
It is essential to the heart of the gospel to insist that God declares us to be just or righteous not on the basis of our actual condition of righteousness or holiness, but rather on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness, which God thinks of as belonging to us. This was the heart of the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism at the Reformation. Protestantism since the time of Martin Luther has insisted that justification does not change us internally and it is not a declaration based in any way on any goodness that we have in ourselves.
If justification changed us internally and then declared us to be righteous based on how good we actually were, then (1) we could never be declared perfectly righteous in this life, because there is always sin that remains in our lives, and (2) there would be no provision for forgiveness of past sins (committed before we were changed internally), and therefore we could never have confidence that we are right before God. We would lose the confidence that Paul has when he says, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). If we thought of justification as based on something that we are internally we would never have the confidence to say with Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We would have no assurance of forgiveness with God, no confidence to draw near to him “with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). We would not be able to speak of “the free gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17), or say that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
(italics in original)
Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, Zondervan 1999, p. 319.