It is understood in Christendom that 'justification' is tantamount to the forgiveness of sins. All major Christian streams, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants agree essentially that when one is justified, one is forgiven. Where they differ is how that justification occurs. Except for Reformation based Protestants, the others teach a mixing of faith + works to be justified.
In the Lutheran confessions we have these words...
"86] But since we receive remission of sins and the Holy Ghost by faith alone, faith alone justifies, because those reconciled are accounted righteous and children of God, not on account of their own purity, but through mercy for Christ's sake, provided only they by faith apprehend this mercy. Accordingly, Scripture testifies that by faith we are accounted righteous, Rom. 3:26. We, therefore, will add testimonies which clearly declare that faith is that very righteousness by which we are accounted righteous before God, namely, not because it is a work that is in itself worthy, but because it receives the promise by which God has promised that for Christ's sake He wishes to be propitious to those believing in Him, or because He knows that Christ of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. 1:30."
71] But when it is said that faith justifies, some perhaps understand it of the beginning, namely, that faith is the beginning of justification or preparation for justification, so that not faith itself is that through which we are accepted by God, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, That Faith in Christ Justifies.
I offer further proof that the Lord Jesus Himself taught that faith in him is justification and so is also forgiveness of sins when we look at how the BoC view repentance.
In the Apology, Article XII (V) on Repentance, the Apology broke repentance into two parts - contrition for sin and faith in Christ.
In Mark 4, Jesus spoke the parable of the sower and the seeds. His disciples asked what this parable meant and why he spoke to the people in parables. He replied...
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
- Repentance results in the forgiveness of sins. So says Jesus and repentance is contrition of sins and faith in Christ, so says the BoC.
- Repentance occurs through the Word. Note that repentance is linked to understanding the mystery of the Word, i.e. in this case the parable. Jesus said that to the disciples it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, to understand his Word.
- Clearly then, repentance comes from the Word. Since this comes no other way except through the Word of Christ, repentance is never the work of Man and is completely in a different category from works.
- If we observe faith, it is really an amazing thing. It is really of a divine origin to see when someone believes or trusts in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. There is indeed a mysterious aspect of faith in Christ. See John 20:29, how blessed are people who have not seen yet believe in Christ. It is not a trivial matter no matter how many times we see it often in Christians.
This passage dispels many UOJ gambits. It dispels the UOJ contention that if you do not believe in UOJ, then you must believe that faith is a work of Man. It dispels the idea that man can repent before the Word is proclaimed, i.e., before the Means of Grace is applied. It also dispels the UOJ error that everyone is forgiven before repentance, before they could believe, before they were born.