The doctrine of the justification of a poor sinner before God is the central doctrine of Christian faith, the doctrine with which the Church stands and falls. “If this article of justification is lost, then there is lost at the same time the entire Christian doctrine.... For in it are contained all the other articles of our faith, and if this one is considered in the right light, then all the others will be judged properly.... If this article is put aside, then nothing remains but error, hypocrisy, godlessness, idolatry, no matter how much it may appear as the highest truth.” 10) “From this article we can yield or recede nothing, no matter if heaven and earth fall and everything that will not remain. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4, 12. And by His stripes we are healed, Is. 53, 3. And upon this article everything rests that we teach and live against the Pope, devil, and the world. Therefore we must be altogether sure of it and not doubt, else everything is lost, and Pope and devil and everything will have and keep the victory and right against us.” 11)

Every effort has been made by the sectarians and false teachers to weaken the force of the glorious passage, Rom. 3, 21-28. Some have maintained that the righteousness of God here referred to is merely the divine attribute, the justice, mercy, and general rectitude of God. If this were true, however, then this quality of God would be revealed outside of the Law, v.22, and would become the actual property and attribute of the believer by faith, v.23. Others have declared that the righteousness of God is the quality of being good, as demanded by the Law and wrought through the power of God in the hearts of men. But the righteousness spoken of in the text is revealed without the cooperation of the Law, and a perfect moral and civic righteousness is not possible without the Law as given by God. The righteousness which the apostle speaks of is one without the Law, with which the Law has nothing to do. It is God’s method of justification. “The method of justification by works being impossible, God has revealed another, already taught indeed, both in the Law and prophets, a method which is not legal (without Law), i.e., not on the condition of obedience to the Law, but on the condition of faith, which is applicable to all men, and perfectly gratuitous.” Justification, therefore, is the act of God by which He declares a man to be righteous, pronounces him righteous, states that he is free from the sentence of condemnation, openly asserts that the accused is no longer guilty or worthy of punishment.

This justification, this merciful declaration of God, is imputed to the sinner by faith, Acts 13, 38. 39, without the deeds of the Law. All merit on the part of man, both as to righteous deeds and a proper attitude toward God and His mercy, are excluded, and even faith itself as the fountain or root or germinating power of good works. Even when faith exercises its own peculiar office and quality, and in this way takes hold of, accepts, the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ, faith comes into consideration only inasmuch as it is the creation of God in the heart of man for the purpose of receiving the judgment of mercy. It is not the act of apprehending that justifies the believer, but only the thing which is apprehended. The factor that induces God to declare a man righteous and just is altogether and alone the object of faith. Truly, “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,” Eph. 2, 8. 9. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law; for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified,” Gal. 2, 16.