Catechism Insight – Doctrinal Standard WSC #33

Doctrinal Standard #33 (1 of 2 weeks)

  • Q. What is justification?
  • A. Justification is the act of God’s free grace by which He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight. He does so only because He counts the righteousness of Christ as ours. Justification is received by faith alone.

Memory Verses

  • “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23–24, ESV).


  • Study Passage: Romans 5:1-11, John 6:41-71
    • Support Passages: Romans 3:24-25, 4:5-6, James 2:21-25, II Corinthians 5:11-21, Galatians 2:15-18, Titus 3:5-7, Colossians 1:19-23, Isaiah 44:22-23
    • Bible Story: II Samuel 12:1-28, Psalm 51


  • Martin Luther calls justification the “wonderful exchange.” He explains Justification as “mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.”
  • As Scripture declares and Martin Luther explained justification has two components.  The sins of all those who believe in Christ were placed or imputed to Jesus and paid in full at his crucifixion. Second, if the taking away of sins was the only aspect of justification a believer’s spiritual state would only revert back to that of Adam and Eve’s prior to the Fall. Not only do believer’s need their sins taken away they also need Christ’s righteousness imputed to them. God requires perfect obedience to His Law. The Scriptures and the history of mankind has revealed that man’s effort to live righteously before God (covenant of works) is unable to save anyone. Since Christ lived in perfect obedience to the Law and was accepted before God, believers benefit by having His righteous life imputed to them as their own. This is the pinnacle of the covenant of grace. What believers are unable to do Christ did for them.

Discussion Questions

  • There are two components of justification. What are they?
  • Martin Luther calls justification the “wonderful exchange.” What does that mean?
  • The righteousness that Jesus imputes onto believers comes from him doing what?
  • What would be the problem if Jesus only took our sins away?
  • What would be the problem if Jesus only gave us His righteousness?
  • Jesus has done the work of justification but how must the believer receive it?

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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