Faith and Justification

faith alone

There was a man who had made his way in the world. He lived by himself, for himself; spent much of his time in his nice condominium on the 5th floor of a nice building, away from the fray and cares of the world. One day a fire broke out in his building, on his floor. By the time he noticed the danger, the way out was impassible. Fire was breaking into his condo, causing the roaches and other vermin that had lived out of sight to seek escape in the open rooms. Desperation was setting in on the man, as he was seeing the stuff of his life consumed and his hidden companions revealed.

Through the open window he heard people yelling. On the ground below he saw men from the fire department, holding a net and yelling for him to jump. But jumping would not save him unless the firemen caught him. If he missed the net, if the net failed, if the men couldn’t hold it or cruelly moved out of the way; he would die. His jump would not save him. The fire had revealed the passing nature of his life trophies and the hidden pests he had been sharing his home with. But the fire could not save him – it only revealed the condition he was in and threatened his safety.

Do you see the spiritual lesson? The fire represents law, which reveals sin. While we Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law, we were a law unto ourselves before Christ saved us and we were convicted by our own consciences that we were guilty. Unless we are made aware of this danger, we won’t notice it – man is naturally blind to spiritual truth. Jumping represents faith, a necessary component of our salvation, but not the entire scope. Faith in the firemen and their net wouldn’t save our man but it would get him to the safety they could provide. The firemen called the man, he jumped, the net held. Creator God calls men to Himself, (just as He did Lazarus) and they come to Him and are saved. Far more trustworthy than mere men and their net, our Savior is certain to save His elect. Our anchor holds!

Let’s take a closer look at faith and its part in our salvation. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. As a footnote, I want to remind us that this faith is itself a gift from God, not something we contribute. Salvation is monergistic – all God and none of man. We also know that without faith no man can please God (Hebrews 11:6) and that not all men have such faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2). And lastly, we know that demons have some sort of faith which does not save them (James 2:19). This faith that God gives so that we can answer His call to “repent and believe” is special, necessary, and always present in the Christian’s life. This faith is not present in the lost person and the lack thereof keeps him from knowing and loving Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

This verse describes people who do not have the Spirit and do not believe in Christ: “the natural man.” This question must be asked: What work of the Holy Spirit is lacking? Does the unbeliever simply need a non-saving form of illumination (which would support faith preceding regeneration) or does he need regeneration itself (which would demand regeneration preceding faith) to overcome his deficiency? Stated plainly, can one who is classified as dead in sins and trespasses be illumined, given faith, without being regenerated?

Natural or unregenerate man is darkened in his understanding (Eph 4:17), hostile to God (Rom 8:7), incapable of pleasing or trusting God (Rom 8:7–8), and dead (Eph 2:1–5; Col 2:13). This is his nature, and he always discerns, evaluates, and chooses in keeping with this nature. The only satisfactory solution to this condition is for him to be given a new nature and become a spiritual man, a man with the indwelling Spirit—he must be regenerated before he can be illuminated with spiritual understanding that comes with faith. (Mark A. Snoeberger)

As important as faith is, to rightly comprehend its meaning and use, we must understand its role in our salvation. For how a man gets saved is the most important thing we can comprehend.

While faith is important, it is not most important. Faith is not what turns away the wrath of God, the blood of Christ does that. Although by faith we have peace with God, faith does not save us; the finished work of Christ dos that. We cannot be saved without faith, but faith cannot save us. And while the righteousness of God comes to us by faith (Romans 3:22), it is Christ’s righteousness that grants us God’s favor: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21) Reconciliation with holy God is possible because we become His righteousness by having been bought by the blood of His Son.

Therefore, in everything we do; Bible study, evangelism, personal devotions, discipleship; Christ Jesus and His glory is to be our focus. The gospel is the proclamation of His sinless life and atoning death. The redemptive plan of God is revealed as the core theme of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Once we are born again by the Holy Spirit, we are no longer the carnal human we used to be – drawn and driven by the sinful desires of our flesh; we are new creatures in Christ, no longer regarding one another “in the flesh” but seeing all things through spiritual eyes of faith.

If we have been saved, we walk by faith and not by sight. We are no longer hostile towards God but anxious to know and please Him. While some would tell us sin is no big deal – we’ve been forgiven! – Scripture tells us that if one’s mind is set on the flesh, he is a dead man:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:5-9)

If you and I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, His Spirit does dwell in us and we are pleasing to God for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:24 & 25) We are justified and redeemed, by grace alone received by faith alone in Christ alone.

Some teach that justified means “just as if I’d never sinned.” If you say it just right, it sounds really cool. But that catchy phrase does not begin to describe the depth of our need nor the scope of Christ’s provision. The truth of our situation is that we were dead in sins and trespasses and Christ died for us while we were His enemies. A Man of sorrows, He stood in our place, having no sin of His own. His blood paid the price we could not pay. We were great sinners who were even more greatly forgiven by our great and holy God. We are forgiven, redeemed, ransomed, and reconciled – by the blood of Christ; to be shielded from the wrath of God and the Lamb on that great Day of Judgment. Are we to consider ourselves as if we’d never sinned? God forbid! Such a view does violence to the cross and the ongoing intercession our Lord provides. Our sin debt was not merely dismissed as a bad grade on an elementary school report card. Jesus hung on the cross and suffered the wrath of God on our account and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

The haunting lyrics of Matthew Smith’s rendition of “All I Owe” portrays how the sinner praises Christ for His sacrifice:

And all I owe you paid for me
From all I owe I’ve been set free
And all I owe proves your great mercy to me

We were bought at a price, we do not belong to ourselves any longer. The Spirit of the living God dwells within us, so we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). Paul went on to tell us (Gal 5:16-25) to walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. He contrasts the fruit of the natural man with the fruit of the spiritual man and finishes with an exhortation: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. This is a life of faith; we struggle against sin, take measures to avoid sin, keep our focus on the unseen realm where we are seated with Christ. We are to be heavenly minded so we can be of earthly good. We won’t walk perfectly, for the flesh will always be tempted and sin too often; which is why no flesh can inherit the kingdom of God. But we have not been left to walk this path alone. We have the Holy Spirit within us, working in us to will and to do that which pleases Him (Phil 2:13). And we have an advocate, the Lord Jesus, Who is ever interceding on our behalf!

Walking in Spirit means we are sensitive to the sinful desires of our flesh and repent from those things that grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). It also means our focus is to cooperate with Him and do, speak, and think things that please Him.  We have been translated from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life!

Justification and Regeneration, Charles Leiter

Page 34 – 35: There is nothing in man that causes God to justify him, including his repentance and faith. Repentance does not pay for sin. A criminal’s remorse for his crimes does not satisfy the just demands of the law. Neither does faith pay for sin! Only the blood of Jesus can pay for sin! Justification is based on the blood of Christ.

This explains why a person can have a very weak faith and still be justified. Imagine two bridges crossing a chasm: One is very weak and untrustworthy; the other is very strong. A man may have a very strong faith in the weak bridge and confidently step out onto it. His strong faith will not keep him from plunging to his death. On the other hand, a man may have a very weak faith strong bridge and only barely manage with fear and trembling to venture forth upon it. The bridge will hold him securely, regardless of his weak faith. All that is necessary is for him to have enough faith to get him onto the bridge! When someone told Hudson Taylor that he must be a man of great faith, he replied, “No, I am a man of very little faith in a very great God.”

This little snippet reveal something else about faith that we must understand. The object of our faith is what is important. As the strong bridge in the story was essential, so the right Jesus for us. This is why the Roman Catholic Church is a synagogue of Satan: they have an unbiblical Jesus who cannot save. One can have all the faith in the world in a false savior and be certain of doom. As 1 Corinthians 15 declares, Christ Jesus dies for our sins according to the Scriptures; was crucified according to the Scriptures; He was resurrected according to the Scriptures. The Jesus Who saves is the Jesus of the Scriptures, not of man’s imagination!

Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Beloved, we who have been bought by the blood of Christ have died to self and this world, our life is hidden from the world because we are in Christ and they cannot see Him unless they are born again (John 3:3). Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6), crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). It is only our mortal body, our flesh, which has not been redeemed; that and our mission of reconciliation is all that ties us here. We are to put to death our members that are upon the earth (Col 3:5) and present our bodies as a living sacrifice unto our God (Rom 12:1). We are to resist being conformed into the pattern of the world and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds on the word of God so we will know discern that which pleases Him (Rom 12:2).

This is the life of faith! Having been raised to new life in Christ, we are able and will want to be people who bring honor and glory to Him. He alone is worthy of all praise and we are those living stones He raise up to be His temple and to sing His praises now and throughout eternity!

John’s apocalyptic view of the end of this age (Revelation 5:1-9):

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

What a glorious Lord and Savior is Christ Jesus! He conquered hell and death and sin; He is the author of life and holds the keys of David. By His obedient life He earned the privilege to open the scrolls that spell out God’s consummation of history. The Lamb Who suffered and died, rules all of creation and will judge the quick and the dead. He is worthy of our praise, our devotion, our lives. And He is faithful even when we are faithless and tempted by the devil.

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tell me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free,

For God, the Just, is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

(Charitie L. Bancroft)

4 thoughts on “Faith and Justification

  1. Many thanks for your kind words. I taught this recently at the church we’ve been visiting. How sweet to be welcomed by saints who love the Word rather than be called a heretic for preaching it.

    Like

  2. Thanks brother for, “tying it all together,” as they say and for showing it to be monergistic and not synergistic as many would believe.

    Liked by 1 person

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