Justification by Faith

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) 

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, 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) 

What can we learn from these two verses? First, our justification is based on 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 that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

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)

3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:3-8 (NASB) 

Does Justification by Faith erase suffering? No, it does not. 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 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:9-11 (NASB) 

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 as you spend as much time as possible in prayer and fellowship with our Lord as you study His Word.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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