Justification (Rom. 3:19-28) Part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 14 June 2017

Justification highlights how our salvation is God's work, not our work. It is not that we don't do anything and just wait around for God to lift us up out of this world into heaven. No, we do have a lot to do, especially in our sanctification. Even in justification, we must believe. But none of what we do actually counts toward our salvation: "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment…" (Isa. 64.6). If what we do as Christians is acceptable to God, it is only because Christ's righteousness covers the deficiency of our actions.

 

 

How, then, are we justified in Christ? In Rom. 4:5 we read, "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…." This is a wonderful statement, affirming the amazing grace by which sinners like us are saved. But to know how truly wonderful this statement is, we need to first understand how troubling this statement is from a legal perspective. Here, God is described as the One "who justifies the ungodly…." If we take our gospel lens off and read this statement, we should be horrified. To justify in the legal setting is to declare someone innocent because he is innocent (cf., Deut. 25:1, NASB).

Justification (Rom. 3:19-28) Part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 14 June 2017

At this point, I'd like to talk about this idea of "faith alone," particularly in regards to the position of justification in ordo salutis. As it stands, conversion, which consists of faith and repentance, comes before justification. A question, then, arises: do we have to repentbefore we are justified? If so, we'd have to say that we are justified by faith and repentance. But isn't one of our Reformation sloganssola fide--that we are justified by faith alone? Are we really justified by faith alone or are we justified by faith and repentance?

When the Reformers taught the doctrine of justification by faith alone, they really meant by faith alone--that is, faith alone withoutrepentance: "Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification" (WCF 11:2). This immediately raises an alarm, doesn't it? We can easily imagine a scenario in which a person claims that he believes without changing his life in any way. Can we say he is justified?  

Justification (Rom. 8:19-28) Part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 14 June 2017

What is justification? Our Catechism provides an excellent answer: "Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone" (WSC, #33). Justification is God's judicial act. In it, He declares two things about us: 1) that we are pardoned (based on Christ's sacrifice for our sins); 2) that we are accepted as righteous in His sight (only for the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, who lived a life of perfect obedience to God on our behalf). This grace is not for everyone: it is only for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for them. God imputes, or credits, Christ's righteousness to them. This grace of justification we receive by faith alone.

Conversion: Faith (John 1:12-13) Part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 01 June 2017

When people think of faith as a gift of God, they often think that it is God who has to make our faith great by some mysterious, supernatural action on His part. This kind of thinking is damaging to our spiritual life. We neglect the means God has given to us for that very purpose. We also end up blaming God for our stagnant Christian life--if God is the One who gives us faith and our faith is small, whose fault is that? You see, if faith is a gift of God, it is not like a rare painting we hang on the wall just to look at and admire. It is like grains of wheat we are to plant and cultivate so they can produce thirty, sixty or even a hundred fold! We nurture our faith through the means of grace--the Word of God, the Sacraments and prayer. And we nurture our faith by exercising it and practicing it in our daily life. We do that by choosing each moment to live according to what we believe about God and His will for our life, what we believe about Christ and who we are in Christ and what we are called to do in this life, etc.

 

 

The great thing about faith is that it doesn't cost anything. Anyone can be a man/woman of great faith. We don't have to be rich, powerful, intelligent, or good-looking. In fact, the poorer we are in spirit, the easier it is! This is because, though we are small and our faith is little, our God is so great and trustworthy. How good it is to have someone worthy of our trust--for this life and for all eternity! And if we can't trust God, whom can we trust? God wants to bless us far beyond our wildest imagination! (Can we doubt that when He did not spare even His only begotten Son for us?) God wants to bless us so much but not against our will! For God wants a covenant relationship with us, which involves our whole being--intellect, emotion, and will! So then, let us open our arms of faith wide toward our wonderful God! To that end, let us be diligent in nurturing and increasing our faith in Christ and enjoy a greater measure of God's rich blessings for His people!

Conversion: Faith (John 1:12-13) Part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 01 June 2017

If we are saved by Christ alone, then how does "faith alone" fit in to our salvation? This is where we have to get a little technical. When we add "alone," this is what we should say: we are saved by Jesus alone but we are justified by faith alone. You see, salvation is more than justification. There are effectual calling and regeneration and conversion prior to justification as well as adoption and sanctification and glorification after it. And as we will see later, while justification is by faith alone, sanctification is not by faith alone; it requires also our works of faith (1 Thess. 1:3)--that is, our faith working itself out in obedience to God, which our faith will do if it is genuine. Faith and its works are inseparably connected like fire and its heat. But they are not the same thing.

 

Faith is what indicates that the inner transformation is taking place. It shows that the Spirit of God has blown over us and given us a new birth from above, which is the beginning of that inner transformation. As such, faith has an intellectual dimension: we have to know what it is that we believe. We cannot just believe: our faith has to have an object--that which we believe: in God, or in science, or in fate, or Buddha, etc. And we have to know something about that something to actually believe it.

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