The Storm Center of the Protestant Reformation

by Mike Ratliff

[1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

I shared in a previous post how I had in an incident in a Bible Study class while attempting to teach about the Doctrine of Election back in 2006 by a couple of men who were dead set on stopping me from simply reading certain texts from Sacred Scripture. I have had similar experiences when teaching on the Doctrine of Justification, which is what this post is about. Justification by Faith is a doctrine that was the storm center of the Reformation. It was also a major concern of the Apostle Paul. As we study his epistles we can plainly see that he considered this doctrine to be the heart of the gospel. (Romans 1:17; 3:21-5:21; Galatians 2:15-5:1) It also shaped both his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion and spiritual life (2 Corinthians 5:13-21; Philippians 3:4-14)

Justification is a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (Romans 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with Himself. This sentence of justification is God’s gift of Righteousness (Romans 5:15-17) as well as His bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Both the 1689 London Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly deny that justification involves an infusion of righteousness. Instead, they make it clear that Justification by Faith does not change a person directly. It is a sentence or declaration of a person’s change of status. Justification involves the forgiveness of the sins of those who are called, as well as “accounting and accepting their persons as righteous.” Justification is a declaration on the part of God relevant to the believer. It is a judicial or forensic proclamation about the person’s relationship with God.

If Justification is wholly outside of the believer, meaning it is simply a declaration of righteousness, how is that beneficial to believers in the here and now? Let’s look at some scripture. I placed a passage from Romans at the top of the article. Here it is again.

[1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

What can we learn from these two verses? First, our justification is based on our faith. Is this faith that we generate or is it part of the gift of salvation?

[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

The Greek grammar of these two verses tells us that the antecedent of “gift” is “faith.” Grace can’t be the antecedent because the word essentially means gift. It isn’t the faith that saves us. We are saved by grace through faith and that is not our doing, instead it is the gift of God. Look at the next two phrases. This gift of faith cannot be earned. Why? Our salvation is a work of God and He has structured it in such a way that there is no possibility of any of us taking credit for it. We cannot boast because we are saved. Why? God saved us by His good work.

Okay, let’s go back to Romans 5:1-2. As a result of being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The word peace here from the Greek means “an absence of strife.” This means that prior to salvation there is strife. Who are the enemies in this strife? Many liberals will tell us that God loves everyone the same. They have made up doctrine based around this omni-benevolence of God whereby they say that man is the one who is striving against God while God passively loves all mankind. But this is not scriptural. If it were true then God is psychotic because in most of the Bible they have God being nothing but Love for all Men equally, but after death, those who died in their sins are sent to an eternal Hell because of God’s wrath. Many teach that this isn’t true either and Hell isn’t real, etc. However, The Bible is very clear in teaching us that God is Just and His wrath burns against all sin. When we use the term “salvation” we are actually saying that we are saved or rescued from something. From what are we saved ? God saves His people from His Wrath. (Romans 5:9) Liberals discount the Wrath of God and distort the Love of God, however, we must be biblically accurate. If we are consistent with what the Bible teaches then we must reject the teachings of these people.

Besides this peace with God we also have His grace in which we stand. This Christian walk would be impossible outside of God’s grace. We must never forget this. As a result of our salvation we also rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 8:30)

[3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:3-8 ESV)

Does Justification by Faith erase suffering? Nope. What role does suffering play in our lives? It produces endurance which produces character which produces hope. This is why those godly believers we all admire and want to be like are the ones who have been through the fire. When the ungodly suffer they are shamed, but when God’s people suffer they love God even more and rejoice in their sufferings. This passage also shows us the futility of trying to make the Bible say that we earn our salvation. Christ died for our sins when we were ungodly sinners. Justification by faith is by God’s grace as an undeserved gift.

[9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11 ESV)

It makes no sense for professing believers to be joyless. Why? If they are then they are not living their lives with the awesomeness of their salvation in focus. God saved us when we did not know Him nor did we love Him. He went out of His way to save His people in a way that was more costly to Him than we can imagine. Since He did that do you think that He might love us? Since He loves His people this much having saved them this way do you suppose He might answer prayer, open His Word to us, teach us, mature us and meet our needs according to His will? Rejoice my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “The Storm Center of the Protestant Reformation

  1. You got this one right, my friend. Natural man hates the Gospel and will argue for his ability to do good apart from God. The subtle but important truth that one must be regenerated by the Spirit of the Living God before one can believe irks those natural people to no end.

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