As I continue to study for my counseling preparation here is the next entry:
“Justification by faith alone.” Discuss the meaning of this phrase.
The shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation. What is justification? ―Justification is an act of God’s free grace (Rom 3:24), wherein he pardon all our sins (Rom 4:6-8; IICor 5:19), and accepts us as righteous in his sight (IICor 5:21), only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Rom 4:6; 5:19), and received by faith alone (Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9).
Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ‘s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.( Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Chapter 36, pg 723 ). Luther said this is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. The doctrinal dispute in mainstream Christianity is found in the addition of the word alone.‘ Protestantism says our justification is Forensic, or a one-time legal declaration based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Roman Catholicism claims our justification is based on infused righteousness, or the internal change in moral character resulting from our acting upon the actual righteousness God places within us. In other words, sanctification plays a significant part in justification. They say Scripture does not say we are justified by faith alone but in James 2:24 it does say ― You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
While Paul does not say faith alone in Romans 3:20 he does say ―Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. And in Romans 3:28 ―Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. This seems to be a biblical contradiction between Apostles or at least a contradiction in the Apostle Paul who seems to quote the Apostle James in Romans 2:13 ―For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. And again in Ephes. 2:10 ―For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Context is the key to harmonizing these passages. The context of Paul is justification in his [God‘s] sight‘ while the context of James is justification in our [man‘s] sight.( Rom 3:20; Jas 2:18; 1Sam 16:7 )
Furthermore, James refers to Abraham in Genesis 22 where Abraham shows himself to be righteous, whereas, Paul refers to a younger Abraham in Genesis 15:6 where it says ―And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. James and Paul agree ―faith without works is dead, however, Paul makes it clear works is the evidence of‘ not- the cause of‘ our justification. He declares it is the love of Christ that constrains us not our effort to merit acceptance. ―Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. .Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but work by love. Our justification does not merely entail the forgiveness of past sin as that would simply render us morally neutral requiring a second plank of salvation for future sin but it is also based on the imputed righteousness of Christ who kept the law perfectly on our behalf thereby keeping our soul eternally secure—thus, we are said to be clothed in garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness. Imputation is an important biblical and legal concept; we find Adam‘s guilt imputed to us, our sin imputed to Christ, and Christ‘s righteousness imputed to us. Without this approach we could have no assurance of forgiveness, no confidence to approach the His throne boldly, and no ability to speak of a free gift (grace vs. debt).
Justification and salvation are for all who believe.
Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the prerequisite for justification and salvation. Among the many verses of Scripture which speak of this are John 3:16 and 36, Acts 13:39, 16:31, Romans 3:21-30, 5:1, 10:9-11, Galatians 2:16, 3:24.
We should think of faith as a pipeline. It does not produce salvation; it merely connects us to God, the Giver of salvation. Faith is the pipeline or linkage through which salvation is channeled to us. For this reason it can truly be said that we are saved if we believe, but we are not saved for believing.
H. C. Thiessen speaks of this when he states that faith “. . . is the condition of our justification, not the meritorious ground of it. . . . It is not ‘for’ faith that we are justified, but ‘by’ faith. Faith is not the price of justification, but the means of appropriating it” (Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 366).
Think of repentance, then, as the turning from sin and faith as the turning to God, and you will see that these are simply two aspects of one whole. To have one is to have the other also. You cannot turn from sin without turning to God, for God is the only alternative to sin. Nor can you turn to God without turning from sin, for the two are mutually exclusive. Thiessen again puts it well, “. . .true repentance never exists apart from faith. That is, one cannot turn from sin without at the same time turning to God. Conversely we may say that true faith never exists without repentance. The two are inseparably bound together” (H. C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 354).
Saving faith is “repentant faith.”
Repentant faith is a gift from God. It is something which God will produce in the hearts of those who are open to His grace. Among the Scripture texts which imply that repentance and faith are gifts of God are Acts 5:31, 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25, Luke 17:5, Romans 12:3, and Ephesians 2:8.
God uses various means to produce repentance and faith in the lives of the elect. Primary among these is His Word (Romans 10:14-17). When we read and proclaim the Word of God, we are working with God’s primary instrument for producing saving faith in people’s lives.
Even the faith to believe is a gift which precedes our justification and, therefore, is not the cause of it. ―..faith is the one attitude of heart that is the exact opposite of depending on ourselves.. This is why the Reformers from Martin Luther on were so firm in their insistence that justification comes not through faith plus some merit or good work on our part, but only through faith alone.―Were faith the ground of justification, faith would be in effect a meritorious work, and the gospel message would, after all, be merely another version of justification by works—a doctrine which Paul opposes in all forms as irreconcilable with grace and spiritually ruinous (cf. Rom 4:4; 11:6; Gal 4:21-5:12). It‘s all of Christ or none of Christ.