Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Justification by Faith (Romans 3:21-4:25)

"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed …" (Rom. 3:21).

The Bible tells us that without holiness no one will see God, only the righteous can ascend His holy hill. The question, then, is how can an unrighteous person, or an unjust person, be justified before a holy and just God? This question is loaded with theological significance that has direct bearing on the essence of the Gospel.

To discover the biblical answer, we must understand not only how Christ died, but how He lived. For His death to mean anything, He had to live a righteous and holy life. He had to fulfill the covenant that God had made with Adam, a covenant requiring perfect obedience in order for mankind to obtain eternal life. Adam, of course, broke the covenant, not only for himself but for his posterity. In Adam’s place, Christ fulfilled the requirements of the covenant by living a blameless and perfect life. He was the spotless lamb of God, the unblemished sacrifice.

To be justified, God must declare us righteous. This is forensic, a legal declaration. This means that we are justified through imputation. Imputation means to charge something to another’s account. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself our unrighteousness. Then, His righteousness is transferred to our account. If we were left only with our unrighteousness transferred to Him, we would be innocent but not righteous. Only when His righteousness is transferred, or imputed to us, are we declared legally righteous.

Because this is a legal transaction, we are declared just while still sinners (we still have indwelling sin to deal with). The righteousness we possess unto salvation is a foreign righteousness, a righteousness that belongs to Christ. We can only obtain that righteousness through faith, through the acceptance of that righteousness to cover us from God’s judgment; we cannot earn it.

We must insist at this point, however, that this is not all that takes place in redemption. We are not left to be ruled by our sin while being legally covered by Christ’s righteousness. God gives us the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, to make us actually righteous—a righteousness that grows each day. If a person does not grow in righteousness, then he has not been justified. Those whom God justifies by faith in Christ, He sanctifies by the work of His Spirit.

Read Ephesians 2:1–10 and today’s passage from Romans. What do these passages say about the role of faith in salvation? Why do you think it is so difficult for people to trust completely on Christ for their salvation? Using the verses from today construct a defense of justification by faith alone. (Read Rom. 3:1–20 as a help.)