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Matt Clark wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • How can God justify and forgive at the same time?

If we are justified that means that we have been declared righteous and that the charges against us have been dropped.

If I understand this correctly, that means there is nothing to be forgiven.

Forgiveness equals no penalty.
(We are guilty but we are forgiven.)

Justification equals no charges.
(We are not guilty meaning there is nothing to forgive.)

  • If we are not charged with anything what is there to forgive?

Matt Clark

  { How can God justify and forgive at the same time and if there is no charge, what is forgiven? }

John replied:


You have an incorrect understanding of what justification is.

Yes, on one level it is a static declaration of being Just but not because the charges were dropped but because Jesus paid the penalty for our crime and because He was and is Just, His Righteousness is both imputed as the Protestants hold but is also infused in our soul.

The legal model is only one understanding of Justification. It comes from Paul's letter to Romans. Some say there were Jews living in Rome and the internal content of the letter would seem to support that but, Jew or not, these people were heavily influenced by Roman thought and thus they understood the Mosaic Law in much the same way as they understood Roman Law.

They viewed salvation almost strictly in a juridical paradigm so Paul, in attempt to explain that we are Justified by faith apart from works of the law, talks about legal declaration but even in Romans he makes it clear that when we are Justified we receive the life of grace and Holy Spirit by which we can both overcome sin and, if need be, repent.

In other Epistles, Paul and others use different paradigms to describe Justification.

  • In Ephesians Paul talks about being In Christ and also compares salvation to marriage.
  • In Galatians, it's more about adoption and divine sonship although we see some of that in Romans.
  • In Revelation, the Marriage is played on again

So justification is not just a Not Guilty verdict, in fact, it's not that at all. It's that Christ paid the penalty for guilt.

Now, objectively every sin was forgiven at the Cross when Jesus said it is finished . . . that's past, present, and future, for all men so to use a paradigm or model:

  • Jesus took all those sins and left them at the dump.
  • When we commit that sin, we go back and pick that sin up and take it home with us and so we must repent in order to receive Mercy that has been there all along.

I hope this helps.


Matt replied:


  • If by imputation of Christ's righteousness we are made righteous, and seen as sinless as Jesus was, why is there need for forgiveness of sins?

I don't understand why do we have to be forgiven if we are already made righteous as Jesus was.

  • How can you be declared righteous and still be sinful?


John replied:

Matt —

You are to focused on a paradigm or model that is being used to describe a Mystery of Faith.

That doesn't work.

Let me take another shot at this:

Again, get off the legal paradigm. Think of justification:

  • as adoption
  • of being made a son.

Once you are adopted, when you continue to misbehave, you need to ask your Father to forgive you and, prior to the adoption, a condition of adoption is repentance.

When we are adopted we receive the Holy Spirit and the Life of God that gives us the ability to overcome sin [and/or] repent when we sin but we don't lose our free will.

Yes, we are made righteous, as we are infused with the righteousness of Christ, but we are still human and imperfect.

That righteousness must manifest itself by our free will cooperation.

I hope this helps,


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