Summary: One prominent religious website said the doctrine of Justification was "controversial". Really? Why would that be?

OPEN: How many of you have ever read “Fox in Socks”?

I’ve read many Dr. Seuss books to my kids, though I’m not sure I’ve ever read this one.

But there are many people who love this book. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it features 2 main characters Mr. Fox and Mr. Knox who converse almost entirely in densely rhyming tongue-twisters.

Years ago, there was a TV sitcom about aliens who came to earth and tried to figure out “earth culture”.

One episode dealt with the “leader” of this group examining “Fox In Socks” as a way of understanding the literature of human beings. He read a short segment of the “tweetle beetle battle” that I’m going to read for you next and recited it flawlessly without seeming to take a breath.

This part of the book goes this way:

“What do you know about tweetle beetles?

Well… when tweetle beetles fight, it’s called a tweetle beetle battle.

And when they battle in a puddle, it’s a tweetle beetle puddle battle.

AND when tweetle beetles battle with paddles in a puddle,

They call it a tweetle beetle puddle paddle battle.

AND…when beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle

And the beetle battle puddle is a puddle IN a bottle…

They call this a tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle muddle.

AND… when beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles

and the bottle’s ON a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles

… they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle.”


After reciting part of the poem, the “alien” paused dramatically and said “The man’s a genius!”

That sitcom character was clueless about the fact that this was simply a children’s book. But in that one statement, there was a great deal of insight. The alien associated genius with something being complicated.

If it was complicated, it had to be intelligent.

And I’ve noticed that – when it comes to the Bible - there are people who think the same way. There are PhD’s and theologians and Bible commentators that aren’t satisfied until they can make the most common Bible ideas unrecognizable to folks like you and me.

A case in point is on the Biblical doctrine of justification.

Romans 3:23 says it plainly: “… all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

And in verse 24 we’re told we “are JUSTIFIED freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

The message is simple.

God JUSTIFIES us freely – even when we didn’t deserve it:

All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have no good within us that God should look down upon us and say “Hey you deserve Heaven!”

No. The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners; all under God’s righteous wrath; all under condemnation. And there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. Neither your own righteousness nor mine could buy our salvation.

So HOW could we be saved?

The only way it is possible to be saved is if God did it for us.

And that’s what justification is all about.

God “justified” us.

It’s a legal term. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that being justified is the “legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as Judge”.

Our sins made us guilty in God’s presence

We were in danger of being imprisoned by our sins.

We all had warrants out for our arrest.

But God (the righteous judge) pardoned us.

We didn’t deserve it… but God pardoned us. He justified us.

As one person once said

“Being Justified means God made it JUST AS IF I’D never sinned”

It’s a cute simple phrase that helps us realize what a powerful thing God has done for us.

But one scholar didn’t like that that phrase.

He thought it was too simple to do justice the term “justified”.

He wanted something more complicated.

And he’s not alone.

ILLUS: I receive e-mails from various religious sites.

One in particular ( was celebrating John Calvin’s 500th birthday. As a result they were dedicating several articles to Calvin’s contribution to Reformation theology.

One article in particular dealt with Calvin’s teachings on justification.(


justificationalajohncalvin.html -

I had to breakup the website address in order for it to fit properly on sermoncentral’s page)

The first line in the article caught my attention.

The author wrote:

“Justification remains a controversial doctrine.”


He went on to say that New Testament scholars were “reexamining” Paul’s teaching of justification, and that Lutherans and Roman Catholics had produced a “Joint Declaration” on the doctrine.

And then the author of the article examined John Calvin’s writings on the subject.

Now why all this hubbub in the religious community about justification?

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