The Westminister Confession of Faith in Plain Language1. God declares righteous every person that he brings to himself. This is called justification. Some people believe that God accepts people as righteous because he makes them do good things. No, he accepts them as righteous only because he forgives their sins and accepts Jesus’ righteousness instead of their own. He does not accept them because he makes them better people, or because they do good things. He does not even accept them because they have faith, or believe in Jesus, or do anything else demanded in the Gospel. The only reason they are accepted as righteous is because he gives them Jesus Christ’s righteousness in the place of their own. Only Jesus’ righteousness satisfies God’s justice. Those who receive this righteousness rest in Christ by faith. But even this faith is a gift from God—No one earns righteousness by having faith.
2. Faith is the only means God uses to justify those who rest in Christ and receive his righteousness. But true saving faith is never alone. When God gives faith, he also gives everything that goes along with salvation. Faith that is alone is not really true faith. True faith works itself out in love.
3. God justifies sinners in order to glorify both his justice and his rich grace. He glorifies his justice through Christ’s obedience and death—Christ completely satisfied God’s justice for sinners. Their debt to God is marked “paid-in-full.” God glorifies his rich grace by giving them Jesus as a gift and by accepting Christ’s obedience and death instead of their own. This is grace because justification is a free gift that God is not obligated to give anyone.
4. God’s decision to justify certain people took place before time began. But at the appointed time in history, Christ carried out this decision by dying for their sins and coming back to life so that they could be justified. However, their justification does not take effect until the Holy Spirit actually applies it to them at the right time in their lives.
5. After people are justified, God continues to forgive their sins. It is impossible to lose justification. However, God is still not pleased with them when they sin, just like a loving father is not pleased when a child rebels. Sometimes God will show his displeasure by withholding his blessings and fellowship from them. He does this until they humble themselves, confess their sins, ask for forgiveness, and once again repent and believe in Christ.
6. Old Testament believers were justified the exact same way that New Testament believers are justified.