Saturday, July 30, 2011

Observation # 3: Justification is Received by Faith Alone

There are two important elements to note in this statement. One, justification is something received, not earned. Second, the means by which it is received is through faith.

If justification is an act of God, whereby he declares us righteous based on the merit of Christ, then justification can only be received by faith. In fact, being a Christian consists of turning from self-justification and turning to justification through faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul states it beautifully in his letter to the church at Galatia,

"yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." Galatians 2:16

Again, justification has to do with trusting in the work of another. At times this can be a very difficult concept to functionally accept. There are two reasons this is true....

First, as Martin Luther said, our default mode is religion. In other words, our sinful, human tendency is to attempt to justify ourselves through 'doing'. This is religion. If we do x,y,z....then God will justify us. If we perform enough religious rituals, then we are OK with God. If we are nice people then we are righteous. If I get good grades and perform well on the sports field then I'm good. If I try to be moral and be a good parent, then God must accept me. The list is endless, and in some way, shape or form, applies to us all. Our default mode is to try to earn or merit our rightness with God. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that we can never do enough ______(fill in the blank) and we can never be good enough, so Jesus lived the perfect life and died for our shortcomings. Therefore, to be accepted by God, to be justified, we must look to Christ in faith, trusting only in Him.

The second reason justification by faith can be a hard reality to accept is that we are constantly falling into sin. Even as Christians, those redeemed from sin, being renewed in the likeness of Christ, we still struggle with sin. It can be hard to believe that we are justified when we keep messing up. It is hard to rest in the work of another and trust that His pardoning favor is sufficient. However, this is exactly what faith is. Fully casting ourselves upon, and trusting in the work of another. Growing as a Christian means to grow in ones faith in Christ's finished work. If our trust is in the fact that we are justified by faith in Christ, then our faith will be as solid as a rock. However, if we are trusting in ourselves, we will have no comfort, peace or rest. Martin Luther used to say that a Christian is able to simultaneously call himself both 'sinner' and 'saint'. Sinner because he still struggles with sin, and still cannot earn salvation. Saint because he is hid in Christ.

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