Friday, June 29, 2018

Redeemed by Faith

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

The doctrine of justification by faith alone, over which the Protestant Reformation was fought, means that justification is by Christ alone. There is nothing we can do to merit our salvation. Rather, redemption from slavery to sin is freely given to all who trust in God.

Theologians representing the papacy argued against the Reformers that James 2:24 says, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” They argued that human works contribute to meriting salvation, though the primary work was done by Christ alone.

The Reformers replied from Romans 4:2–3, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ ” Obviously, they said, it is belief, not meritorious works, that makes us just in God’s sight.

How can we reconcile James and Paul? We have to remember the theme of James 2. James is arguing against those who profess faith but have no good works to prove it. Consider this question: Is justification by faith or by profession of faith? Clearly, justification is only by true, humble faith, which always and inevitably issues in faithful works. Thus, James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save Him?” (James 2:14).

Like Paul, James illustrates his principle from the life of Abraham who, he says, was justified by his deeds. When? When he offered up Isaac in obedience to God (James 2:20–24; Genesis 22). Was this at the beginning or toward the end of Abraham’s life? Obviously, the latter. Paul, however, uses Abraham as an example of justification by faith alone because Abraham believed God before he did the works of the law (Romans 4; Genesis 15).

Thus, Paul is speaking of legal justification before the eyes of God, while James is speaking of visible justification before the eyes of men.

If you were on trial as a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? True submissive faith always produces faithful works of obedience. Ask God to help you manifest your faith through good works.