Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Justification by Faith

"He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Romans 4:25).

Today we will consider two aspects of the doctrine of justification. The first is whether our justification is due exclusively to the work of Christ or to His work together with our individual efforts. If we claim to contribute to our own salvation, we are guilty of inflating the importance of the sinner and of deflating the work of Jesus Christ.

To say that the sinner partakes in his or her salvation inflates the sinner because it attributes to him something he does not have: a righteous attitude. The Bible says that the thoughts of the wicked are only evil continually and that there is no one who does any good. Because of this, the sinner never assists in his own salvation but, by sovereign grace alone, is brought into the kingdom.

What is at issue is not how much assistance a person can add, but rather whether it is even possible to add any. To say that the sinner assists in his salvation deflates the Savior because it removes from Him some of the credit. The old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.” We make no contribution to our salvation, which is why the only way we can be saved is to receive it by faith as a gift.

The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1545–1563), in rejecting the historic Christian faith that was being preserved by the Protestant Reformers, came up with some very complex and sophisticated ways of explaining how we contribute slightly to our own salvation. Ultimately, however, it all boils down to this: Either I am saved by Christ or by Christ plus myself.

Justification before God’s law court involves two things. First, Jesus Christ removed the guilt for our sins by enduring the wrath of God for us. Yet, there is something even more wonderful: We are also clothed in Christ’s righteousness. The filth of our sin is washed from our naked bodies, and then we are clothed in the robes of son-ship. We are not just made neutral and guiltless in God’s sight, but are adopted as holy and beloved members of His royal family. From that point on the Spirit’s work brings sanctification. The fruit that evidences change is our conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.

Read Romans 8:30, noticing that the last verb in this verse is past tense. How does today’s blog post explain this? Read on through the end of Romans 8 as a meditation on what it means to be justified in the full sense.