The Dilemma of Forensic Justification

By Colin and Russell Standish

Many terms have been used to describe justification as an objective act of God, independent from any subjective human element. Believing this doctrine, men proclaim that neither confession nor any response whatever from humans is required before justification is appropriated to every human. Terms used include: forensic, judicial, legal, universal, corporate and temporary justification. Those who believe in a forensic justification adamantly reject the concept that justification in any way refers to being "made righteous." The proponents of forensic justification hold that the justified one is "accounted righteous" or "declared righteous" through the death of Jesus Christ. Proponents of this view usually state that when Jesus died we were all in Christ, and all were legally justified. Manifestly if our justification was bestowed two thousand years ago, no subjective element could be involved.

If our God were to justify us and grant us salvation against our will, He would be a manipulator of man's conscience. The very fact that sin entered heaven is proof beyond dispute that God grants freedom of the will to all.

There can be no question that justification is God's perfect work for man through the death and ministry of His Son Jesus Christ. True Christians believe in that concept. Most agree that there is no merit in any human works. But does justification take place irrespective of the transformation of the life and of the individual? It must be kept in mind that those who are advocating forensic justification are proclaiming that salvation is granted by justification alone. Thus it is held that there is no subjective element necessary for our salvation. This belief creates a serious dilemma. Taking the concepts of forensic justification together with justification-alone salvation, we are forced to conclude that universally all humanity was saved by the death of Christ on Calvary. We must then reckon with the concepts of universalism, which would logically argue that ultimately every human being will be saved. But the Bible insists that the majority of mankind will be lost.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. John 5:28-29

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15

Some, who recognize that in the light of these and many other texts there can be no concept of universal salvation, have postulated that the only way we can lose salvation is to reject persistently and consciously the justification that was accomplished on Calvary. In so doing, they reject any aspect of salvation that requires active acceptance of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. But while the Bible presents a salvation that is freely offered, that salvation can be appropriated only by the acceptance or receiving of that salvation.

And if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him. 1 Kings 18:21

And the spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17

For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

Let it not be forgotten that the five foolish virgins lost salvation, yet they still earnestly desired it. The Bible states that even after the door of mercy was closed they still sought entry to God's kingdom.

Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Matthew 25:11-12

They lost salvation because they failed to meet the heart conditions God in His wisdom has set for the receipt of His grace. They did not lose salvation because they willfully and persistently rejected salvation. This fact is true of many Christians who will fail to receive eternal life.

Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21-23

These texts in no way negate the truth that God has chosen each of us. But as in any covenant or contract, both sides must ratify the agreement. There are those who proclaim that there are no conditions for the reception of salvation. But the Bible is rich in examples of the conditions for the bestowal of salvation.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. James 1:12

Hearken, my beloved brethren. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him? James 2:5

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him. Isaiah 64:4

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. Psalm 103:11

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. Psalm 103:13

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but One, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. Matthew 19:16-17

Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in His ways. Psalm 119:2-3

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them. Psalm 103:17-18

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Titus 3:5

Thus Scripture sets forth many subjective conditions for the provision of salvation. As seen above, these include enduring temptation, love to God, waiting for God's coming, loving Christ's appearing, belief in Christ, fearing God, walking in the light, keeping the commandments, seeking God with the whole heart, doing no iniquity, walking in God's ways and being washed by the washing of regeneration.

The confusion comes because of an unwarranted extrapolation from the truth. The truth makes it wholly evident that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.

And He also is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14

It is the will of God that all men be saved.

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

The concept of forensic justification falls short of the gospel in the light of the very message that Jesus preached.

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mark 1:14-15

There are subjective elements to salvation.

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The concept of a salvation that does not involve the confession, repentance and forsaking of sin is an empty gospel that cannot be sustained from the Word of God, nor can it lead men and women into the eternal fellowship of God. It is a most dangerous deception, for it convinces men and women that their salvation is assured while they are yet in their sins. Surely Evangelicals must soberly address the fateful consequences of such a teaching.

To learn more about the danger of the false doctrines seen in the Evangelical movement today and the extent of their spread order your own copy of the entire book The Evangelical Dilemma, by Colin and Russell Standish, from which this article was taken. This book is available through Hartland Publications: PO Box 1, Rapidan, VA, 22733. Phone: 1-800-774-3566. Or order online at

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