Justified by Faith

by Mike Ratliff

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 KJV)

The Protestant Reformation was used by God to restore the lost doctrine of Justification by Faith. Also, all of the reformers were adamant that the Bible be available to all people in a language they could read and understand. The Roman Catholic Church of that era was apostate and taught a corrupt gospel based on works. The Bible was kept locked up and away from non-scholars. It was always read verbally to the people in Latin, which few understood.

As the Bible was translated from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into German, English, French, etc. the doctrine of Justification by Faith became central. Why would our enemy and his seed seek to bury this doctrine within religion?

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:11-16 KJV)

Never forget that even though we are in Christ and are regenerate and have the Holy Spirit, we can also fall into the sin of seeking to be justified by our actions. Even the Apostle Peter fell into this sin. Peter traveled to Antioch of Syria to the church there. It was made up of mostly Gentiles. He ate with and fellowshipped with them. However, when James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, came to visit, Peter withdrew from fellowship with the Gentile Christians. As a result, the other Jewish Christians, except for Paul, did as well. Why would Peter, or any of the other Jewish Christians do this? Think with me. Let’s move forward to the 21st Century. I hear this a great deal so I know that this following sin is prevalent in the Church today. Pornography is rampant and it has a grip of death in the hearts of many professing Christians. However, to a man, I contend that they who are in bondage to it can control their addiction and not pursue it if their wife, or mother, or friend, or Pastor, or their children, or anyone else is with them. They go after it only when they are alone. Isn’t this revealing that their fear of man is greater than their fear of God?

That was Peter’s sin. He knew that he had been justified by faith alone and not by keeping the Law. However, when pressure was put on him from the leaders of the Jewish Christians, he succumbed to the fear of men rather than abiding in the fear of God. Our works do not justify us. If so, then we would all have to keep the Law perfectly. In God’s economy, our works are totally unacceptable as a means of salvation. Why? The root of sinfulness is in the fallenness of man’s heart, not his actions. The Law serves as a mirror to reveal sin, not as a cure for it.

All genuine believers have been justified by faith. The Greek word that is translated as “justified” is a forensic word that describes a judge declaring an accused person not guilty and therefore innocent before the law. Throughout scripture this word refers to God’s declaring a sinner not guilty and fully righteous before Him by imputing to him or her the divine righteousness of Christ and imputing the person’s sin to our sinless Saviour.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 KJV)

All genuine believers are saved by grace through faith. It is by God’s unmerited favor that we are saved through the conduit of faith. It is God’s work not ours. For if we did it then it would be a work and that would not be by Grace. If we did it then we could boast. However, it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. The way this passage is structured in Greek, the word “that” in the phrase, “and that not of yourselves,” refers to the entire previous statement of salvation. The grace and the faith are God’s work. We are required to believe in order to be justified by faith, but even that faith is part of the gift of God that saves and cannot be exercised by one’s own power. If so, then this passage is false. I prefer to believe what the Bible says rather than what my pride wants to believe. Therefore, I reject what my “common sense” says about this and believe that God saved me despite myself.

Believers are New Creations who are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. These good works cannot produce salvation but are subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidences of it. God has ordained that all of His children walk in these good works. We are to walk before the face of God, our Coram Deo, by His grace, in obedience, and in our fear of Him. We are most definitely capable of relapsing into walking in the fear of men, but when we do that we are walking outside of the good works within which God has ordained for us to walk. It does not alter our justification because that came to us by faith through grace, not works. However, if we are genuine believers we will abide in our Lord’s Word. We will not fall away.

Now we return to our original question. Why would our enemy seek to bury the doctrine of Justification by Faith in religion? If people believe they are Christians by their own works then they may not be saved, but unfortunately those in this group  who are genuine will also believe their “walk” is entirely up to them as well. It is imperative that we preach the whole Gospel. People must understand their fallen nature and hopelessness of being reconciled to God by works. Then as they hear the good news of the salvation available to those who believe, the Holy Spirit will open their hearts to do so. It is through this that God justifies those who believe. On the other hand, if this doctrine is ignored as well as man’s fallen nature, then a corrupt gospel is preached that saves no one

SDG

18 thoughts on “Justified by Faith

  1. I had no ggood works, only sin. And even the faith I exercised was a gift from Almighty God by His grace. That was especially good about being able to control addictions until it can be done in secret. The fear of man brings a snare.

    There is a counterfeit justification by faith today, it says believe in God for what He can do for you rather than believe on Christ and what He has done. This was an excellent piece, Mike, and the doctrine of justification by faith is the bedrock of our confession.

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  2. Mike, can you clarify what you said?

    You said, “If people believe they are Christians by their own works then they may not be saved, but those who are will also believe their “walk” is entirely up to them as well.”

    Are you saying that true believers believe their “walk” is up to them?

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  3. No Kevin. I am saying that those who believe they are saved by something they did also are deceived into believing that their walk is up to them. It keeps them in a self-oriented walk.

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  4. Maybe I am confused, Mike. A true believer will believe himself saved by grace through faith alone. This is non-negotiable. But our walk with Christ still does not hinge upon our works, but indeed it hinges upon our faith in Christ and our corresponding surrender to His will four our lives.

    I think that is what you were saying, Mike. We have a child to Father responsibility before our God, and if our desire is not toward His pleasure we should check ourselves because either we have never known Christ or we have grown cold. It is somewhat of a conundrum in that we strive to please Him by resting in Him. Only a believer can understand that.

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  5. Thanks Mike, the wording kind of threw me off. It’s so liberating to find the Doctrines of Grace, free will is the “gospel” in America today and it has blinded so many, of which I once was. It’s only been in the last month that I’ve learned the truth about God’s grace and it has empowered me to live according to the Spirit, putting to death the sins of the flesh. I spent most of the last 18 years as a “christian” enslaved to my sin and could never figure out why I didn’t have the power to overcome my sinful nature. I finally figured it out – I don’t have the power, it’s only by God’s grace through continual repentance. I now understand that I am truly a failure, my heart ever-wandering and rebellious, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Therefore, I must continually humble myself before the Lord and ask him for the grace to do what I can’t do, for the will to obey Him, for the desire to seek His face, and for Him not to utterly cast me away from His presence.

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  6. True. The Law serves as a mirror to show us that we are dirty. Now, if you look in the mirror and see that you are dirty, you wouldn’t take the mirror off of the wall and wash your face with it. You would use soap (the cleansing power of the cross) to wash your dirty face.

    Fulfill means to satisy and not to copy. There are a large number of people out there who imply that Jesus kept 613 commandments of the Law perfectly. He fulfilled the Law perfectly. There is a large difference between “keeping” and fulfilling. Fulfillment of the law came by offering of a worthy substitute on our behalf. The “fulfilling” work of the Holy Spirit relies on the Holy Spirit’s authority and power to purify and make whole. The Old Testament “keeping” action relies on man’s work to purify himself. Jesus never had to try to purify himself because he had no reason to. His nature is incorruptible, thus having no reason to bind himself by a yoke of bondage. He is a consuming fire and humans are not.

    The “keeping” of the 613 commandments means that the Law functions “probationally.” The “fulfilling” of the Law enables the Holy Spirit to operate under the Law of Liberty in Christ, which is no longer probationary, but Grace. Only by regeneration, dying to sin and self, can we lose our desire to sin. I know that “keeping” of the Law did not fix my sinful nature. It told me that I was at fault, but it did not remove the dirt. I was still a filthy wretched sinner who could not wash my own sins away. My efforts to make myself clean were futile when trying to be religious under the Law. I still was relying on self to achieve victory by faithful observance. The desire to sin was still there, no matter how faithful I had tried to be to its ordinances. I was trying in my own effort to please God. It was impossible to enter into his rest because I was not allowing the cross to “fufill” the Law on my behalf since I was so impressed with my own works. Sinners are required to “keep” the Law perfectly if they want to be justified by it, while a perfect man is capable of “fulfilling” it on our behalf. Jesus is not bound by Law because he has no sin. We humans tend to bind ourselves when we think that we must observe the Law by “keeping” it instead of “fulfilling” it. A good example of the “fulfilling” work is the Unleavened Bread. Jesus is now our daily unleavened bread. Because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the outwardly observance of this Holy Day is not necessary because Jesus is our worthy subsitute. What about the Old Testament priesthood? Since that has changed, then there is a need for a change also of the law. Look at all the laws concerning the priesthood and their garments. Did Jesus “keep” those laws or fulfilll them? He fulfilled them without copying them. Did Jesus walk around with 12 stones on his chest, eating the portions of meat given by sinners? What about the headress of the priests? Did Jesus “keep” those commandments? No, he fulfilled them without having to copy them by offering a worthy substitute. He is our holy garment now. Those physical garments and outwardly wardrobes, combined with religious ordinances are not capable of changing a man’s inner being. The Holy Spirit is now our garment which is white as snow. The Old Testament wardrobes and ordinances do nothing for the inner man. Paul explained this clearly by saying that the Law is a yoke of bondage which none of his ancestors could bear. The Law did however need to be in place so that there would be something to “fulfill.” Jesus is the high priest. Religiosity is opposite of “fulfilling” the Law.

    Jesus is not bound by the OT ordinances. Neither are we, if we understand the difference between “keeping” the Law and fulfilling it. Eat the bread of life (Jesus the unleavened Bread) on a daily basis. That is fufillment of the festival of the Unleavened Bread. Put on the “new man” called Christ Jesus. Those Old Testament commandments concerning the priestly garments will not save you. The Holy Spirit is the garment which fixes our sin problem.

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  7. Mike,
    Peter was giving (by his company with those) credit to their belief.

    This is a great example to bring up other ‘works’ many believe are why they are ‘saved’.
    While evangelizing, many will say, “I’m saved”. If you take the time to ask, “Why do you say, ‘I’m saved’.”
    MOST all responses are similar to this: “Oh…because I have been baptized and have had my communion.” or the most professed ‘work’, “because I said the prayer.”
    These proud souls have been led to DO something ‘to be saved’.
    When I preach the Gospel, I preach it in it’s entirety, God the Creator, man’s fallen sinful condition (John 3:18 the condemnation), God’s wrath, God’s offer of His grace alone through the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ’s (John 3:16), sacrifice, death, burial, resurrection, repentance, faith, by His grace alone. Then I allow the Holy Spirit to DO the work of salvation, by Him convicting the person and showing them their ‘condemned already’ condition. He alone can ‘add to the church those being saved’. I also don’t keep company with those who add works to His grace alone. That includes ‘evangelizing’ those works also. This is the main works based ‘method’ of planting tares into the field of the Lord. Then those blind guides, teach other how to do the same.

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  8. It happens every time I share the Gospel-they say they are good people and not deserving of hell. After explaining that no one is good enough save Jesus Christ then they want to say that there is then no need to do good if Christ alone saves us and forgives us, making us fit for salvation from hell. Then I say to them that our good works can not save us, but our faith in Christ will, in gratitude, cause us to do good works. We have no licence to sin because of our Lord’s sacrifice. Our works can’t save us because the requirement for perfection was ruined at our very conception inheriting the sin nature. There are many moral people in hell. Only in Christ’s sinless life and unblemished sacrifice are we saved. God showed the truth of this by resurrecting Jesus from the dead. Our works now are because of the salvation we have in Christ which is the gift of grace through the gift of faith in Him.It is not for salvation, but because of it, that we seek to please God and live for His glory. We cannot plead His mercy if we live in sin nor if we think we can work for our salvation.

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  9. Sherry C,

    The natural man loves the darkness which is tied directly to our fallen nature. Also, Christians who are enslaved to their flesh cannot witness effectively. We are to give an account at the Bema Seat of Christ. Let’s come before the throne of grace in our brokenness and humility seeking forgiveness and the grace to be bold for our Lord.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  10. Mike,

    Thanks for this post. I have heard this so many times, but it never ceases to amaze and convict me. It always seems fresh, not repeated.

    I guess every lick from a hammer on a nail is the same, but each one drive the spike further.

    God bless you brother

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  11. Mike, I am thankful for the zeroing in (with no escape route) on sinning motivated by the fear of man. As the LORD reveals one level of how I am controlled by the fear of man, and leads me in repentence, a deeper and more subtle level becomes apparent. And today it did because of this post. Glory be to God.

    As well, I read and reread Josh’s comment several times. I am one of the many of whom he says, “There are a large number of people out there who imply that Jesus kept 613 commandments of the Law perfectly. He fulfilled the Law perfectly.” Though, at times, I have been aware that Jesus did not actually do all 613 commandments/statutes/laws, I also knew that scripture tells us he fulfilled the law. And I knew and know that scripture never contradicts itself. I know that when it seems to me the scripture has contradicted itself that the error is in my reading or understanding/interpretation…. and that I need to go back and better understood. Unfortunately, I did not seek understanding this and have repeated confidently to others, that Jesus did keep all 613. I am glad for a better understanding. That being true, the ball has not completely dropped. Can you make any reading or listening recommendations to more fully understand this biblical truth?

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  12. We are saved by God’s grace alone by Faith alone through the atoning work of Jesus Christ alone, and the sanctification works until our glorious, final, and eternal glorification is not ours but God’s works in us.

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