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)