by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
Not everyone who claims the name of “Christian” is truly part of the genuine Church. Many of those claimants see Christianity as simply a religion and their religiosity within it as that which assuages their guilty consciences that condemn them for their fleshly lifestyles. Others strive with their entire being to do good and not sin while being very active in their churches. In this they believe that they are in the “group” that God will accept and proclaim righteous. There are others who believe that they are Christians because at some point in the past they “asked Jesus to come into their life or heart.” However, they were taught that that “act of faith” is all that Jesus requires of them. They are now “saved” and should not doubt their salvation. In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries Martin Luther was a very well educated monk in an Augustinian order in Germany. He deeply desired to have assurance of his salvation, but all that he was taught told him to be religious, to be obedient to the demands of the Church in Rome, to obey the Pope and that was all he needed. However, he had a problem.
The following is an excerpt from a sermon my John A. Broadus from the late 19th Century. The sermon is titled: Let us have peace with God.
“It is nearly four centuries ago now, that a young professor from the north of Germany went to Rome. He was a man of considerable learning and versatile mind. Yet he did not go to Rome to survey the remains of antiquity or the treasures of modern art. He went to Rome because he was in trouble about his sins and could find no peace. Having been educated to regard Rome as the centre of the Christian world, he thought he would go to the heart of things and see what he could there find. He had reflected somewhat at home, and had talked with other men more advanced than himself, on the thought that the just shall live by faith; but still that thought had never taken hold of him. We read—some of you remember the story quite well—how one day, according to the strange ideas that prevailed and still prevail at Rome, he went climbing up a stairway on his knees, pausing to pray on every step, to see if hat would not help him about his sins. Then, as he climbed slowly up he seemed to hear a voice echoing down the stairway, “The just shall live by faith; the just shall live by faith.” And so he left alone his dead works, he arose from his knees and went down the stairway to his home to think about that great saying: “The just shall live by faith.””“It is no wonder that with such an experience, and such a nature, Martin Luther should have lived to shake the Christian world with the thought that justification by faith is the great doctrine of Christianity, “the article of a standing or a falling church.” It is no wonder that John Wesley, rising up with living
earnestness, when England was covered with a pall of spiritual death, should have revived the same thought—justification by faith.” – John A. Broadus
How are believers, then, justified by faith if it isn’t simply a religious act? What is this faith? From where does it come? It begins with the truth, God’s enduring Word.
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.
1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3 (NASB)
God’s truth never changes. College textbooks on subjects such as Chemistry, Archeology, Biology, Medicine, etc. have to change constantly because the “truths” in them are constantly being updated or changed. However, the truth from God’s Word never changes. It remains forever. Therefore, when people believe God’s truth they can be assured that that truth will always be the truth. Of course, there are countless cults out there that take God’s truth and impress upon it their own religious beliefs coming up with a version of it that is no longer the truth, but when we rightly divide God’s word, never impressing upon it views that are man made, we will know what the truth is. People can believe it and God works in their hearts according to His will through it. Those whose hearts are regenerated by God as the Good News from God’s Word was preached to them are called to be conformed to the image of Christ, to put away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. They are new creations whose regenerate hearts long for the pure spiritual milk from God’s Word. By consuming it they will grow up to salvation. Again, not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is. Those who really are have tasted that the Lord is good. The rest have not and, therefore, are not genuine Christians.
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, A precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:4-10 (NASB)
Jesus Christ was the living stone rejected by men. However, to God the Father, He was chosen and precious. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of their Sins as they submit to the Lordship Jesus Christ, are regenerated by God. They are growing from this new creation as living stones that fit together in the Body of Christ, the True Church, as a spiritual house. They are also to be a holy priesthood that will serve and minister to their Lord for eternity. Their lives as living sacrifices are acceptable sacrifices to God through their Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 12:1-2) All who believe on Him, the precious chief cornerstone, will not be put to shame because their sins are forgiven. They are God’s precious children who have believed the truth and become one in spirit with the Son. However, those who have not believed the truth are still in their sins. They have rejected Christ as their Lord and Saviour, but they are not aware that the one they have rejected is on the throne right now, ruling and reigning His Kingdom. He is the cornerstone, but to those who have rejected Him, He is the stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. God destined these to eternal punishment because of their disobedience and unbelief. Judgment on unbelief is as divinely appointed as salvation by faith. (Romans 9:22; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16)
Those in Christ are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. Christ bought them with His blood. Why? He did this so that they may proclaim the Excellencies of the Father who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13) All who are in the light now were formerly in darkness. They have received mercy in their regeneration through which they were made able to believe. They now have faith through which they live. They are now the just who live by faith.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12 (NASB)
“Peter points out here that no believer is completely perfect and pure. Some think this passage refers only to sinners. As if believers don’t have any evil desires. But study Scripture carefully and take note: On one hand, the prophets sometimes speak of believers as if they were pure in every respect. On the other hand, they also speak of them as still having evil desires and struggling against sin. Some people cannot get comfortable with both truths. So look at Christians as having two parts—the inner being, which is faith, and the outer being, which is the sinful nature. If you look at Christians only according to faith, they appear pure and totally clean, for the Word of God finds nothing impure in them. When faith enters a person’s heart and the heart accepts it, the Word makes it completely clean. Therefore, all things are perfect in faith, and we are kings, priests, and God’s people. But because faith lives in us and we still live on earth, we at times feel evil inclinations, such as impatience, fear of death, and so on. These are sill short-comings of the sinful nature, for faith doesn’t yet have full power over our outer being.”“In Luke 10:30-37, a man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers who beat him and left him lying half-dead. Later, a Samaritan bound his wounds, took him, and had him cared for. Because this man was being taken care of, he was no longer deathly ill and was sure to live. He had life, but he didn’t have complete health. In the same way, we have Christ and we are certain of eternal life, but we don’t yet enjoy total health. Some of our evil desires still remain with us. – Martin Luther
As we see, Martin Luther made much spiritual progress after leaving Rome from his pilgrimage. He no longer believed the lie that religion is the answer for our sin problem. Instead, he knew that the just shall live by faith and they can do so because they are New Creations whose hearts are brand new and capable of living that way. This is why we must never stop preaching the truth from God’s Enduring Word about the Living Stone through whom God’s chosen people receive mercy by being drawn from darkness to His marvelous light to become His Holy people.
Soli Deo Gloria!