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Do justification and condemnation work the same way?


If God’s creative word in justification makes Christians righteous (as Catholic theologians such as Newman and Schmaus claim), rather than merely declaring them to be righteous but not changing them in their essence (as Reformed theologians teach), does God’s declaration that a man is unjust make him so?


No, because there’s an antithesis between justification and condemnation as well as a parallel. That antithesis is summed up in Romans 3:22: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Both justification and condemnation have declarative aspects to them, but this shared declarative quality doesn’t negate the more fundamental differences between them. Condemnation is earned as the “wages of sin,” whereas justification is received as a gift from God through faith in Christ.

Although both justification and condemnation are declarative, the basis on which they are received is not the same (condemnation is earned; justification is freely received). We can’t conclude, based on the declarative nature of justification and condemnation, that if God makes one righteous by declaring him so this means he must make him unrighteous when he pronounces him so.

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