Written by Brad Caldwell on 9/4/15.
The central and blessed doctrine of Christianity is simple – that of Justification by Faith.
Why Is It Such a Great Doctrine?
Justification by faith is great because it means hope for lost sinners. It means the possibility of instantaneous forgiveness and right-standing with God. It means the proximity of the Kingdom of God. It means that you can know Jesus. It means that you can experience the blessedness of serving Him. God is not a far-off thing, but can fill your soul in a moment of time!
On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. – Romans 10:8-10, HCSB
Justification by faith is what I would call a sinner’s “nuclear option” – there are a lot of religious folks who will be glad to shut you up and say “there, there” concerning you if you become a Christian. There are people ready to point to your past; there are people that will point to your present; and there are naysayers that would take away your future. But this doctrine places in your hand a weapon more powerful than all of that combined! It’s the antidote for church hypocrisy, discouragement, and frustrated seeking of truth. Because if you’re willing to believe this Gospel, that faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection is sufficient to save you, you can endure the whole onslaught of false religion (and there’s a lot of that out there!). You can rise above it all to walk with God!
Why Do People Need to Be Justified?
We are all born into the world with a sinful nature inherited from the first man and woman God created – Adam and Eve. Theologians have deduced that we would have all chosen to rebel like they did, if given their opportunity; and anyway, we all prove ourselves to be sinners by being blind to God and doing things against Him that we may not have realized were wrong. When God justifies a person, they see that hate of their fellow man is wrong; they see that purity and respect matter; they see things in quite a new fashion.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. – Romans 10:3, KJV
Because God is so morally wonderful, He cannot have fellowship with those who are alienated from Him through their sins.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing. – Habakkuk 1:13a, HCSB
People often scoff at the idea, but God’s moral beauty and perfection is so great that His abhorrence of sin calls for a place of eternal torment for those people who never believe His Gospel. It is not human anger or wrath, but a perfect righteous indignation that is morally right.
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: – 2 Thessalonians 1:8, KJV
God’s love and benevolence is also so boundless that He made a way to reconcile people to Himself. Jesus, the Son of God, died on a cross. In doing so, somehow in the metaphysical dimension, and because Jesus is God, His suffering expiated the sins of the world. If you believe in Him as your Savior from sin and your God, you will recognize your sins, be forgiven, hate your sin, and love the new life He gives you!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – Jesus, in John 3:16, KJV
A Few Deductions from This Doctrine
1. If Justification Is by Faith, It Is Necessarily Instantaneous
There are some that say you must be baptized, must speak in tongues, or must do some other thing to “complete” your salvation. Though they may be well-meaning, such ideas compromise the doctrine of Justification by Faith, and the very foundation of the Gospel. If salvation is a process, then it is certainly not faith, because believing something obviously happens in a moment of time. Such people were around in the time of the early church, and Paul, the first church leader or apostle, didn’t put up with it:
Some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom prescribed by Moses, you cannot be saved!” But after Paul and Barnabas had engaged them in serious argument and debate, the church arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem concerning this controversy. – Acts 15:1-2, HCSB
2. If Justification Is by Faith, It Is Not by Works
You can pile a list of things up from here to the moon that “aren’t enough” to get you to heaven, but always remember that one thing is enough – having believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior and God.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. – Romans 4:5, KJV
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. – Galatians 5:4, KJV
Martin Luther led a religious revolution to restore this truth – be sure you fight just as hard for it! Paul even goes into a bit of poetic back-and-forth to make it plain to folks that grace (or faith) cannot be mingled with works:
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. – Romans 11:6, KJV
3. Justification by Faith Naturally Leads to Dynamic Godliness
The kindness and love of a God who freely forgives sinners upon faith in Christ, and promises to keep them, is the best way to cultivate a closer walk with God. Godliness grows best (or only!) in the environment of grace, and it grows naturally.
What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes from faith. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written:
Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over
and a rock to trip over,
yet the one who believes on Him
will not be put to shame – Romans 9:30-33, HCSB
4. Justification by Faith Has Eternal Security As a Corollary
The idea that God would not keep you once He has saved you is incongruous with the doctrine of Justification by Faith. The whole point of Justification by Faith is that you are trusting God to save you. To completely save you! If you allow doubt in the keeping power of God, you have doubted the promise of God, a most heinous sin. And the thing is, you don’t really have any choice. If you choose to doubt that God will keep you, then you’re back into your own hands, to try to save yourself, and if you’re not sure how that will work out, take a look at Israel in the wilderness, where they were all overthrown because they did not believe in a good God. You will end up in spiritual ruin if you doubt the promise of God!
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. – Jesus, in John 5:24, KJV
Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, had this to say:
“I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort.”