The Justification Catechism

The Justification Catechism

Have you ever wanted to go deeper in knowing what the Scriptures teach, but didn’t know where to start? Maybe reading academic books or even popular books was too much for you. Throughout the history of Christianity, the main way an orthodox understanding of the Scriptures was taught was through catechisms. Catechisms aren’t an exclusively Roman Catholic thing. Every Protestant church formulated a catechism in order to help their parishioners gain a simple, yet sufficient, understanding of the basic tenets of the Christian religion, such as who God is, who we are, who Jesus is, and how we can be saved. Catechisms are simply a group of questions and answers, typically logically structured, that answers these basic questions, especially through the lens of a specific tradition. 


The Justification Catechism

The most important question that one can have answered is “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Every true Christian tradition is united upon the answer.

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. – Acts 16:31

Although this seems pretty straightforward to the common eye, many believe that one has to do more than merely trust Christ in order to be saved. This is what divides Protestants from other Christian traditions. We believe we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. In order for Protestant Christians to remain orthodox in this conclusion, I have formulated a catechism exclusively on the doctrine of justification. This catechism is based upon the structure of the book of Romans. In order for a catechism, which is not the Word of God, to be good and useful, it must teach the Word of God. It is my hope that this catechism represents the Scriptures truly and prayer that it is useful to you.

I. Of God and Man

Who is God?

God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7).

Who am I?

We are made in the image of God and have been endowed with the faculty of reason and the will in order to know and obey Him (Genesis 1:26-27, Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:24).


II. Of the Law and Sin

What must I do to have eternal life with God?

We must obey His law (Luke 10:26-28, Matthew 18:16-17, Romans 2:6-13, Galatians 3:12). 

What does His law require of me?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18).

How much do I have to obey the law in order to have eternal life?

God requires perfect obedience to His law in thought, word, and deed in order to be justified (Luke 10:26-28, Matthew 19:21, Romans 2:16).

What does it mean to be justified?

To be justified is to be declared righteous by God. (Romans 2:13)

What does it mean to be righteous?

To be righteous means that you are a doer of God’s law (Romans 2:13).

Is there anyone who is righteous?

No, none is righteous, not one (Romans 3:10, Ephesians 2:1-3, Genesis 6:5).

Can anyone be justified by being a doer of the law?

No, because we are all under sin to the extent that that sin corrupts every work we perform, so we cannot be truly doers of the law (Romans 3:9-20, 8:7-8). 

What is sin?

Sin is the corrupted condition of our hearts which results in corrupted works due to the fall (Matthew 15:18-19).

What does sin deserve?

Sin deserves the eternal wrath of God (Romans 2:5, 8-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

What is the purpose of the law if it cannot justify us?

The purpose of the law is to reveal our sin and our need for salvation (Romans 3:20).


III. Of Faith and Justification

Is there another way to be righteous before God? What must I do to be saved?

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. – Acts 16:31

Why am I righteous and justified before God by faith?

Not that there is anything worthy about you that makes you righteous, but it is the object of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 2:1, John 8:29, Psalm 24:3-10).

What did Jesus do so that I may be righteous before God?

He died for your sins, exhausting the wrath of God, thereby saving you from eternal death and condemnation (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, Colossians 2:14). Moreover, He lived to be your righteousness by loving God and His neighbor perfectly, thereby giving you eternal life and justification (Romans 5:19).

What does it mean to be justified by faith?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that “justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (Romans 3:24, Galatians 2:16).

What is faith? 

Faith rests and receives Christ, as our Savior and redeemer of our sins (Romans 3:25, 4:5, John 3:16). 

Must I change my life and do good works in order to be justified by faith?

No, for the Scriptures teach that we are justified through faith alone and not works. So, rest and receive the finished work of Christ (Romans 4:5).


IV. Of Christ and Justification

What does it mean when the Scriptures say that Christ was raised for our justification? What is the significance of the resurrection for my justification?

As you have learned, only the righteous deserve eternal life. Jesus, being righteous, is justly declared righteous by His resurrection from the dead. You, being unrighteous, are justly declared righteous by faith, which unites you to the person of Christ. God’s judgment upon Christ becomes His judgment upon you through faith in Christ (Romans 1:2-4, 1 Timothy 3:16, Romans 4:24-25). 

But how does God judge as me as He judges Christ? 

Before the foundation of the world, God decreed that Christ would be the representative of all who would believe in Him (John 17:1-4). 

Is this idea of a representative found anywhere else in Scripture?

Yes, for Adam is the representative of all the human race (Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45).

What did Adam do for the human race?

Adam, by his sin of eating of the tree that God forbade him to eat, plunged the whole world into sin, condemnation, death, so that when God sees us, He sees us as those who have eaten from the tree and deserve condemnation (Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:12-14, 19).

Isn’t it unfair to be blamed for another’s sins?

Not if this was the agreement beforehand.

What is this agreement beforehand that was established in the garden?

The agreement established in the garden is known as the covenant of works, wherein God promises to Adam eternal life and communion with Him in an indestructible body if Adam obeys the commands to be fruitful and multiply across the face of the earth and to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eternal life and communion with God are impossible by nature (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:16-17, Job 41:11, Luke 17:10).

What is the relationship between Adam and Christ?

Adam represents all of humanity; Christ represents all who believe. Through Adam came sin, death, condemnation, and wrath. Through Christ comes righteousness, life, justification, and peace (Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49)


V. Of the Practical Benefits of Justification

What is the result of justification by faith?

The result of justification by faith is that you have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

What is peace with God?

Peace with God may be summed up in the Benediction when it says, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Will not my sins end my peace with God?

By no means! If He loved you and saved you while you were yet ungodly, He will love now. Moreover, nothing can we do can undo the work of Christ (Romans 5:6-11). 

Do my good works strengthen my justification?

By no means! For Christ has already been perfect in thought, word, and deed for you as your representative.

How does God see me?

When God sees you, He sees Jesus. When God sees you, He proclaims, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Through our faith, we are His children (Matthew 3:17).

Will not believing in justification by grace alone through faith alone make me unwilling to strive for holiness?

Whereas true believers have abused this doctrine, their lack of holiness was due to their own misunderstanding. Justification breaks the very power of sin, which is the law, and allows us to obey freely since we are no longer under condemnation and the obligation to obey God’s law to have eternal life. We obey God because He loves us and our love for Him will grow to the degree that we believe in Him (1 Corinthians 15:56, Romans 6:14, 7:1-6, Titus 2:11-12, 1 John 4:19, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15)


Should the Bible Be Trusted? Is It Really the Word of God?

trust bible

To validate the Bible as the inspired Word of God, we must look into internal and external evidence. However, some internal evidence might seem as if the Bible is claiming itself as the Word of God, and some people criticize this as circular reasoning, which basically means that it will not serve as substantial evidence. Even though for some this evidence is not enough to prove its authenticity, it is crucial we examine it. 


Internal Evidence of the Bible

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says: 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This extract from the second book of Timothy, written by Paul, clearly states that the Bible is the Word of God. This is one of the internal pieces of evidence we can find inside the Bible, alongside many other verses that testify of its divine origin. 

In addition, we can find in the Bible detailed prophecies regarding Israel and other nations, along with prophecies of the Messiah. Approximately 2,500 prophecies have been fulfilled exactly as they were described centuries before they even occurred. These prophecies were 100 percent accurate in their predictions, meaning there were no errors. For example: 

In the fifth century BC, a prophet named Zechariah declared that the Messiah would be betrayed for the price of a slave—thirty pieces of silver, according to Jewish law-and also that this money would be used to buy a burial ground for Jerusalem’s poor foreigners. – Zechariah 11:12-13

Bible writers and secular historians both record thirty pieces of silver as the sum paid to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus, and they indicate that the money went to purchase a “potter’s field,” used—just as predicted—for the burial of poor aliens (Matthew 27:3-10). 


External Evidence of the Bible

On the other hand, external evidence also suggests that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible narrates historical events accurately and truthfully, and it has been proven by archaeological discoveries. It is said that the Bible is the “best-documented book from the ancient world” (Got Questions Ministries). The Smithsonian Department of Anthropology said that the Bible is “more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories.” Many monuments found in Egypt, Assyria, and others had the names of at least 29 kings, who are mentioned in the Bible. 

Now, the most controversial issue while trying to justify the authenticity of the Bible is the fact that the authors of all 66 books are humans. It is to note that God used these men to write down His words. If we take a look at the lives of these men, they were respectable men, and some were well-known in other countries. 

For example, King David, the writer of many psalms, was recognized as a ruler by multiple countries in the region. Another example is the life of Paul, formerly known as Saul, who went from killing Christian to becoming an Apostle. Most of the Apostles lived with Jesus while He was on Earth until His ascension to heaven, and they were also first-hand witnesses. The lives of these men and their willingness to die for what they believe in is proof that the Bible is the Word of God.

Throughout history, many have tried to destroy the Bible, but it has been demonstrated to be indestructible. How after many attempts to vanish it is it still the best-selling book of all time? Why do many people read the Bible? What else is there to actually rely on the Bible? Maybe the answer is to test it personally, and by reading the Bible we can become convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God.

Finding Joy in a World of Work

Joy work

Why should we work? Should we work to have enough to live? Should we work to have enough to live comfortably? To live well off? Can we find joy in work? People often say that they are “married to their career”. Others say they can’t wait for 5 PM on a Friday night when they are done with their drudgery and can get on to what they actually want to do. If someone doesn’t have a passion, we think of them as lost. When we meet people, we often ask “what do you do?” Or, in college, “What are you majoring in? What are your plans after college?” As I considered the classic question of what I wanted to do after college, I found myself asking myself these questions: Why should I work, and what should I work for?

I have always heard in church and around that I should work for God, but I know that I can work for God no matter what I do. Beyond finding the topics that interest me and the ones that I am skilled in, how do I work in a way that allows me to be the most faithful daughter of God?

Ecclesiastes has a simple answer. Enjoy your work and/but find joy in God.

Enjoy: To see good

Something that always surprises me in the Bible is the way it calls us to view life. Every passage in the Bible almost seems to add a whole new dimension to what I see daily. Whether it be the lens of godliness, the lens of love, or the lens of the Gospel, the Bible always challenges me to see the world differently than how I saw it before. Ecclesiastes is no different. Overall, it calls readers to view the world through the glasses of “vanity.”

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 5:10

In most sections of Ecclesiastes, everything is given the label of “vain”. Whether it be money or youthfulness or honor, the writer concludes prioritizing any of these things ultimately has no impact on our lives. I wonder if we were to actively realize all the “vain” things we do in life if our lives would look extremely different.

Instead of spending those extra minutes worrying about that spot on our faces that doesn’t look “perfect” (after all, vanity is vain), or instead of spending those extra minutes dreaming about the perfect meal, would we be living differently? Would our lives prioritize different concerns?

When it comes to work, Ecclesiastes strongly suggests yes.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

As I read these words, I wondered what it means to “take pleasure” in work. So, I looked in the Bible for other places where the same Hebrew words were used. It turns out that the same phrase is first used all the way back in Genesis 1.

God saw that the light was good – Genesis 1:4

The Hebrew words used for “was good” are the same words used for “take pleasure” in Ecclesiastes. God was working during the creation of the world. He was focused on creating a world that He could see the “good” in. When we work, we must also look to create “goods” that are “good”. This is what will allow us to enjoy our work.

Instead of looking to work as purely a means of making money or a means to find our lives’ purpose, Ecclesiastes suggests that work should be a lot simpler. It should be enjoyable, knowing that we are creating something good. Whether it be knowledge (for those working in education), health (for those working in healthcare), experiences (for those working in service), or anything else (for those in other careers), the final products should be good.

Joy: Only from God

Although the previous section may have challenged many of us who work without enjoying our jobs, those who are career-driven may have felt pretty comfortable. Unfortunately or fortunately, for us who are career-driven, Ecclesiastes does not stop there.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart – Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 [Emphasis added]

At first glance, the passage above seems purely encouraging. The word for “enjoyment” above is again the same term of finding the good. However, the passage is also challenging. Although we should “see the good” in our work, Ecclesiastes 5:20 reminds us that our lives are short and that we should be living for more than ourselves.
Ultimately, the passage points to the fact that God and only God should be our source of joy. This joy is different from enjoyment. Joy is more than seeing the good in something. It is entering into a state of being.

As one theologian explains:

Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the centre of the self. – Peter Kreeft

Joy is deep-rooted. It transforms our perspective and our life. Work often tries to become the space that we use to find joy. However, work can only be used to create goods that allow us to enjoy our labor. Work cannot give us ultimate joy.

No matter how many “goods” you create, how many hours you work, how successful and famous you become because of your work, you cannot find ultimate satisfaction in the fruit of your hands. When we turn our eyes to God, everything else fades away. Our fruit become background noise in the light of the glory of God. God takes over our minds in giving us joy and transforming us.

Conclusion: Consider your fruit

So, at the end of the day, let us all work to create good products in the world and still find our ultimate joy in God. Let us especially consider the “fruit”, the products that we are creating.

Are we creating products that give us a source of identity? Are we creating products that are second-rate just to get a paycheck? Are we putting work over God? I hope we all can grow and find joy in producing the fruit of our work with our hands that please God and that impact the world for Him.