The Reformers pointed out the words “justify” and “justification” are legal and judicial words connected with courts of law and closely related to trials, judgment, penalties and justice (Deut 25:1; 1Kings 8:32; 1Cor 4:3; Matt 12:37; Rom 3:4). The words refer, and directly point to  a declaration and pronouncement from the divine court in heaven, whereby a sinner will have right-standing with God upon believing what God has already done for him. Christ has fulfilled the law on his behalf and therefore paid the penalty for his sins. “Justification” does not mean a change in the man, but a declaration of how he appears in God’s eyes.


EXTRINSIC RIGHTEOUSNESS: Our righteousness is not inherent, inborn or originate from within ourselves.

ALIEN RIGHTEOUSNESS: It’s foreign to us. Like an alien coming to earth in the science fiction movies, our righteousness comes from another planet – that is, from heaven, and his name is Jesus Christ. As the manna came from heaven, Christ our bread has come from heaven.

FORENSIC RIGHTEOUSNESS: Our righteousness can be forensically examined and is based on facts and the science of objective enquiry.

OBJECTIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS: Our righteousness does not involve the human experience. It is not subjective or dependent on what we think. “I think I have enough? Maybe I don’t!”

It is impartial, pre-determined and promised.  

IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS: If the righteousness of God was all the water in the world’s oceans, you would have to drink the whole lot to be righteous before God. An impossible task! Therefore we have spiritual bank account where we keep all this water in safe keeping for us, and the account name is “The Lord Jesus Christ”.

EXTERNAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: It comes from outside of us.

LEGAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: Our righteousness comes from a judge who pronounces and declares our liberty and freedom even though we are not righteous within ourselves. The law has been satisfied – as the saying goes “We did crime but Christ did the time.” The fine has been paid by someone else.

JUDICIAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: A jury has decided and it is a jury of one – God Jesus Christ, God the Father and God the Holy Ghost “…and these three are one … and these three agree in one.” 1 John 5:7-8

VICARIOUS RIGHTEOUSNESS: For some parents, their child’s success is their success. Christ’s achievements and ‘success’ are our success. His right standing before God the Father is our right-standing. Christ’s fulfilment of God’s law is our fulfilment of God’s law.

“FOR US” RIGHTEOUSNESS: If you inherited 100 trillion, quadrillion, billion, gazillion dollars you couldn’t collect this in a couple of suitcases. It would have to be kept in a bank account – you couldn’t keep it in your house. Similarly our ‘body-house’ cannot contain the immeasurable amount of God’s goodness we need. We have a ‘spiritual bank account’ where this equivalent and uncountable amount of God’s spiritual righteousness is kept. The account name is “The Lord Jesus Christ”. Our righteousness is kept in safe keeping for us.

PASSIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS: We did not work for it. We were passive. It was put to our account by the active work of Christ who performed the Law of God. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

DECLARED RIGHTEOUSNESS: We are declared, pronounced, righteous from God’s court of law, even though we are not (Rom 3:26). The flesh stills sins but the soul has been saved (Col 2:11)

DONE RIGHTEOUSNESS: Christ has done all the work needed on our behalf. There remains no more sacrifice for sins (John 19:30; Heb 10:26). No other sacrifices or work are needed. They are a total waste of time.

“AS IF” RIGHTEOUSNESS that is a pasted-on righteousness. Our righteousness has been pasted onto us like a “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” game. Or like a cut out picture that is glued to another picture.

“SIMUL JUSTUS ET PECCATOR” RIGHTEOUSNESS: The war cry, the slogan and the rallying cry of the Reformation tearing down the bastions of Rome’s darkness. Yes, as Christians we are “SINFUL YET RIGHTEOUS AT THE SAME TIME”. A saved soul trapped within a sinful fleshy body.

As a paraphrased St Paul said: “God has left enough fleas on this dog, myself, to let me know I am still a dog, but a saved dog, lest I be exalted above measure. My soul is righteous but my body is sinful.” (2Cor 12:7)



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Harley Hitchcock

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