Justification by Christ 1

1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 11
1._____ Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.

Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls. Martin Luther

The Reformation was a time of great turmoil and change. The Reformers went back to Scripture as the standard though they used the Church Fathers extensively. What each person must come to grips with is what the Gospel is and to whom do we look for guidelines on the Gospel. We must also wrestle with what it means to believe the Gospel and to truly be saved. We must also know that there is a huge difference between believing that justification by grace alone through faith alone is true and actually being justified by grace alone. Unbelievers can know the facts of the Gospel but they cannot see the glory and beauty of the Gospel and are not justified by God apart from His grace. It is not believing that the biblical truth of justification is true that one is saved, but one must actually be declared just by God in order to be saved.

In the modern day there is no doubt that there is a widespread departure from the doctrines set out during the time of the Reformation. But of course that is not a huge problem unless the magisterial Reformers were wrong about what Scripture taught on this subject. However, if they were right, then any person and any professing church that does not teach that is teaching a false gospel. If the Church or churches stand or fall on this doctrine, then many churches have fallen. Just as bad in one sense, though perhaps more deceitful, are those professing churches that hold to this in creed and yet never really talk about it or preach on it. This great doctrine may be mentioned, but it is never taught or emphasized from the pulpit.

If justification is at the very heart of the Gospel, then the Gospel cannot be taught apart from teaching on justification. One can also think of justification as being the teaching where the great doctrines are collected and emphasized, but the reality of the matter is that Christ is the heart of the Gospel and Christ is the heart of justification and all Christian teachings. This is to say that each church stands or falls not only on if it teaches justification, but how it teaches it. One can teach justification in such a way where it is all doctrine full of true propositions, but if Christ is left out then it is not taught properly and biblically.

The Church stands or falls upon this article. It is quite shocking that something that the Church stands or falls upon is not taught clearly and more often. The only thing that one can conclude is that the professing Church no longer really believes that it stands or falls upon the great and glorious doctrine of justification. People seem to be more concerned with morality and propriety than with the great and glorious Savior and how He saves sinners. People seem to think that the “Church calendar” is so important and yet the Gospel is of such little importance. People seem to think that the Sacraments are so important and that church order is so important and the Gospel is left begging to be taught.

When the professing Church leaves or simply ignores justification it ignores the Savior and Lord of the Church. When this great doctrine is not thought important enough to focus on and spend time on, the professing Church certainly appears not to be standing any longer. One can be quite conservative and hold to a good creed, but that is not the same thing as preaching the resurrected and living Jesus who is at this moment reigning and ruling and who saves sinners through the Gospel. People are not saved in any other way than by Jesus Christ Himself saving them in accordance with the Gospel. Those in the churches are only brought up and nourished in the faith by this Gospel.

The Gospel is all about the glory of God in the face of Christ and it nourishes and strengthens doubting souls who are assailed daily by false teaching and the deceptions of sin, the world, their own hearts, and the devil. Apart from preaching this great Gospel of grace alone, how will sinners live by grace to the glory of God? God has revealed Himself in Christ and at the cross of Christ, yet this will not truly be taught unless the doctrine of justification captures our hearts. When God breaks the hearts of sinners from their pride, this is the doctrine that they must have. When God sends true revival among His people, this doctrine is set forth and taught. Without question we are not in a time of revival in this land today but instead we are in the midst of a great famine.

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