Justification by Faith

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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)

Back in February of this year I was teaching an Adult Sunday School class one Sunday morning when the weather was bad and my wife was sick. That day I had one of my regular couples in the class, another couple that rarely attended and one man who I hadn’t seen in about a year. The lesson was from Ray Pritchard’s He’s God and we’re not. Every lesson in that book is based in and through the Sovereignty of God. That Sunday everything was going fine until someone asked a question.

The couple that rarely attended was engaged. My wife and I both liked the woman, but had reservations about the man. She asked me a question about election. I went through some scripture from Ephesians 1, Romans 8 and 9 then tried to get back to the lesson. However, her fiancé and the other fellow who came rarely started badgering me about every aspect of Reformed Theology that they could think of. We never got back to the lesson. I spent the rest of the hour refuting every objection they had from scripture. It was not a pleasant experience. However, one benefit from this fiasco was that I spent much more time the following week digging into the topics that seemed to rub these guys the wrong way. Also, I went to my local Christian bookstore that week and bought a book by James R. White titled The God Who Justifies, which I read to completion in just a matter of days.

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.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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)

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?

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

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. What are we saved from? God saves His people from His Wrath. (Romans 5:9) Liberals discount the Wrath of God and distort the Love of God. We must be biblically accurate though. 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)

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:3-8)

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.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 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. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)

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!





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18 thoughts on “Justification by Faith

  1. Praising our Sovereign God who did not leave salvation in the hands of the dead…which is what we are apart from Christ! (Ephesians 2:1) God’s infinite grace that awakens the dead to hear Christ’s call simply amazes me! He is the Captain of our salvation…the author and perfector of our faith. Your refusal to compromise truth honors and glorifies His exalted Name, Mike. He is worthy!

  2. Jessica, yes, He is worthy! We are 100% in His debt. That is why I suspect the validity of some believers who are NOT totally floored, on their face, grateful for their salvation. When I see professing believers taking their salvation for granted it makes me wonder…

    Well said Jessica!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. I just wrote a piece on “Total Surrender” on my blogsite. I think you may find it interesting. No Bible scriptures on this at all. This came from his spirit through me. It is something that is so true. So many people of different denominations of Christianity argue about who is right and who is wrong. This would never happen if they would just surrender their hearts, souls, minds and bodies to Chist. Once they surrender to Christ completely, other’s will see him through you on the outside as well. Many thanks to Cristina for the piece I wrote.

  4. Sherry,

    Yes, you are right about praying for God’s Will to be done. However, and God knows this, we must journey to that realization as God leads us into the truth. For instance. John MacArthur’s son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was hard to detect, but was causing some strange symptoms. John started praying for healing, etc. Then the doctor told them that it was going to be fatal.Well over the next several weeks John prayed longer and deeper until he reached the point where he was on his face before the Father fully agreeing that God’s will for His son was right no matter what. Then they went to the Mayo clinic and found that his son was simply very athletic and the headaches were due to fluid loss. No tumor.

    In other words, God will take us on these spiritual journeys so that we will LEARN to line up with His will in all parts of our lives, seeking only to live for His glory alone. We are all unique. Some of us can see these things very clearly, while others may need to suffer much before they surrender to His will. I’m somewhere in the middle.:-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Speaking of John MacArthur… He wrote an insightful book called “Charismatic Chaos” with a message the church today needs to hear. I read it this summer…and it forced me to look clearly at some unbiblical thinking that had weaseled its way into my theology. Thank God for gifting the church with such teachers committed to His truth… You are one of His instruments, too, Mike… Thanks!

  6. Jessica,

    I will have to get that book! Thanks for letting me know about it. I think John is a modern day John Owen or Luther or even a John Calvin. We need these uncompromising men to show us the way. I don’t feel much like an instrument, but thank you for saying that. I woke up this morning desperate for encouragement because the enemy was busy telling me how worthless I am. Now two seperate people I have a great deal of respect for have encouraged me. God is good!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. He is good! The enemy fire becomes more intense as we near the target… Dont’ shrink back! You are not alone… God is with you, and He is leading the way to victory for His glory and our ultimate good. God bless… Jeremiah 1:17-19

  8. Jessica,

    That passage from Jeremiah is powerful. Lest we forget in our self-focus we need to be reminded that is it God who is with us and that with Him working in us who can stop us? Very encouraging! Thank you!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. Mike, I seem to have a HUGE problem with Jehovah’s witnesses coming to my house. I will quote them scriptures after scriptures proving the Trinity and Christ’s deity and proving them wrong. I have been nice to them but they seem BENT on trying to persuade me. It’s killing them!. However, I smile because they cannot, I mean CANNOT, persuade me. I told one woman to get a REAL Bible and read it, then she will know the truth. I need some advice from good people as to how I can make it clear to them without being harsh or cruel not to preach their false doctrine to me. If anyone wants to help me in this situation, let me know here or on my blog http://christiandreamsnvisions.blogspot.com Thanks Mike!

  10. Sherry, I went to your blog and could find no way to email you in regards to your expressed concern above about JW coming to your house.

    Christ’s final instructions to HIS own, with regards to the gospel, is to preach the WORD. We are to faithfully share the gospel.

    God will supernatually regenerate those whom HE will regenerate. That is HIS job. HE is Sovereign.

    You, nor me, nor any human can change a goat into a sheep.

    Kim T

  11. Last Sunday my pastor was talking about justification through faith. He worded it in a different way that I think is really great. He said that faith is a gift from God and the only thing that faith does is it RECEIVES. What a great concept! The faith we have is a gift given to us to be able to receive His justification along with all other truths that God gives us. He said faith doesn’t act it just receives. Once we have faith and receive God’s justification and His truths, then we begin our santification process through good works that are ordained by God for us to do.

    “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,”

    The last part of this Scripture always confused me as to why suffering would produce hope. It doesn’t anymore. God has been putting me through what is great suffering for me (little suffering to those who really suffer). When I surface from the suffering, I keep learning that God doesn’t let me drown and so when I go back under I remember His deliverance and that gives me hope through the suffering. Oh, the sin that still lies within me. Layer upon layer of sin…sometimes it just seems like that’s all there is in me. I thank you God that You own me.

  12. Sarah,

    I like that part about faith receiving grace. If we really think about it, faith is just believing. God does the rest after giving us the ability to believe. I agree about that suffering as well. As God allows the enemy to attack me viciously I know that He has encouragment awaiting which builds hope. He never fails me. He owns me. He does with me as He wills and that is fine.

    Thanks Sarah.

  13. And Mike, you have identified another error that the emergents and others make concerning dividing Scripture. If you base your church doctrine on the Gospels you will hard pressed to find a clear teaching on justification by faith. And so emergents say that Jesus separated the sheep and goats as per their humanitarian efforts. But the Epistles, and predominately Paul, ARE the translation of the Gospel narratives. Many unsuspecting babes in Christ will be led by spurious Bible teaching which substatiates everything by the Gospels, when in fact Paul’s Epistles are written to the church while the Gospels are primarily written to hold up Christ as the Divine Savior of the world. The Scriptures you quoted, Mike, were taken from Paul’s writings because he was the revelator to the Gentile church. Remember, Paul received his revelation directly from Christ(as well as his salvation experience) and he himself had to correct the other Apostles several times. Even Peter referred to Paul’s revelations as “hard to understand”. So people need to not only glean the truth of your writings, they need to understand the Scriptural way in which God led you to teach them! Thanks!

  14. 2 Cor 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

    Praise be to God for the faithfulness shown, here on Possessing the Treasure, to the WORD of GOD. The faithful destroying of arguments and lofty opinions raised up against the knowledge of God is much appreciated. Also much appreciated is the faithful instruction and teaching, founded upon the WORD of God, assisting HIS Church (body of believers) to take every thought captive to obey Christ.

    Let us submit to HIM in everything by allowing HIS WORD to examine all we think to be true and good.

    Thank you Mike, for your assistance in encouraging us by example of biblical reliance, as you serve HIM.

    Kim T

  15. Rick,

    That’s a good point. I have asked (a long time ago) a former pastor why the teachings of Jesus seemed so different from the teachings of Paul. The answer I got back then was that the teachings of Jesus from the Gospels were mostly prior to His crucifixion. Your point about the teachings of Jesus being prior to the Church while the rest of the N.T. was written directly to the Church makes more sense. A little over a year ago I ran head on into a fellow who was trying to get me to follow his teachings, but he refused to believe any part of the BIble except the Red Letter portion. When I rebuked him, he told me that I was mired in orthodoxy. Needless to say, I severed that relationship. Thanks for your great comment Rick.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  16. Kim T,

    The Word of God, worship, fasting and prayer were invaluable gifts given to the Church. In their proper function these things enable us to be instruments of Righteousness in the hands of the King. Thanks for the encourgement Kim.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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