Gospel Herald

What IS Legal Justification?

Forgiveness Was Extended Before Adam Asked

One significant statement that is often overlooked states, “Jesus became the world’s Redeemer, rendering perfect obedience to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. He redeemed Adam’s disgraceful fall, uniting the earth [which in context must include the entire human race; Adam was corporate mankind], that had been divorced from God by sin [again, this has to include the entire human race — “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”], to the continent of heaven.” (Bible Echo; Aug. 6, 1894; also found in Bible Commentary vol. 1, p. 1085). “In Adam” the entire human race became “divorced from God” when he sinned in Eden. “In Christ,” the entire human race was restored from the foundation of the world, but in a far more profound way than had ever before been presented in the halls of academia or from the pulpits of the world.

Romans 5:15-19 is a discourse on this subject using parallelism to explain what God has done for all humanity to satisfy the legal claims of His holy Law. As a result of what God has already done, He can make the claim found in Isaiah 44:22: “I have blotted out, as a think cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee.”

This one verse seems more than clear that God did something before there was any repentance found in His people. The “blotting out” of our transgressions in this verse is a past tense event; then God called His people to recognize what He had done for them (“I have redeemed thee”). This fact is not clearly understood as demonstrated by the marginal note for Isaiah 44:22 in many Bibles, which states: “Pardon Promised.” This is not what the verse says; pardon (legal justification) is not just“promised” and waiting contingently upon something else which must happen first (this is the Arminian position). The verse says that God has already done the pardoning and forgiving.

A.T. Jones stated:

Now what is the meaning of forgive”? The word “forgive” is composed of “for” and “give,” which otherwise is give for. To forgive, therefore, is simply to give for. For the Lord to forgive sin is to give for sin. But what does the Lord give for sin? He declares “His righteousness for the remission of sins.”

Therefore when the Lord forgives — gives for — sin, He gives righteousness for sin. And as the only righteousness that the Lord has is His own, it follows that the only righteousness that God gives, or can give, for sin is the righteousness of God.

This is the righteousness of God as a gift. As all men have only sinned and if they are ever clear must have forgiveness entirely free, and as the forgiveness of sin — the righteousness of God given for sin — is entirely free — this is the righteousness of God as a free gift “upon all men unto justification of life.” Rom. 5:18. (Lessons on Faith; p. 40).

God now asks that His people recognize this fact and return to Him, the only true God and Saviour (Isaiah 43:3). Such a demonstration of God’s love and grace found in His legal declaration that we are already forgiven should cause us to “return” to Him in heart-felt appreciation. This is God’s intention. What remains is for us to recognize what God has already done, respond to it through a heart-appreciation of the cost of salvation,9 and live like we are sons and daughters of the King of the universe.

A heart-appreciation (receiving into the heart, not just a mental assent) of the gift of salvation will transform the characters of believers, bringing us into conformity to all the commandments of God (see footnote 8). Thus in one revolutionary message is presented both aspects of justification: legal (objective as relates to the Law of God) and justification by faith which is sanctification (subjective as relates to the transforming of our characters). This is the truth of the 1888 message which was given by God to prepare a people for translation out of this world of sin. It is the fundamental basis of the cleansing of the sanctuary teaching!


  1. “You may say that you believe in Jesus, when you have an appreciation of the cost of salvation. You may make this claim, when you feel that Jesus died for you on the cruel cross of Calvary; when you have an intelligent, understanding faith that His death makes it possible for you to cease from sin, and to perfect a righteous character through the grace of God, bestowed upon you as the purchase of Christ’s blood. The eyes of fallen men may be anointed with the eye-salve of spiritual comprehension, and they may see themselves as they really are,—poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked. They may be brought to realize their need of repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (E.G. White; Review and Herald, July 24, 1888).
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