Justification by Christ 16

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

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” — Romans 4:5

Subject: We are justified only by faith in Christ, and not by any manner of goodness of our own. The following things may be noted in this verse:

1. That justification respects a man as ungodly. This is evident by these words — that justifieth the ungodly, which cannot imply less than that God, in the act of justification, has no regard to anything in the person justified, as godliness or any goodness in him, but that immediately before this act, God beholds him only as an ungodly creature, so that godliness in the person to be justified is not so antecedent to his justification as to be the ground of it. When it is said that God justifies the ungodly, it is as absurd to suppose that our godliness, taken as some goodness in us, is the ground of our justification, as when it is said that Christ gave sight to the blind to suppose that sight was prior to, and the ground of, that act of mercy in Christ. Or as, if it should be said that such an one by his bounty has made a poor man rich, to suppose that it was the wealth of this poor man that was the ground of this bounty towards him, and was the price by which it was procured. Jonathan Edwards, Justification by Faith Alone

In viewing the text (Romans 4:5) it is plain to see that there is nothing in the human being that would move God to declare the person just in His sight. The justification that God declares only respects the human being as ungodly. If God regards the person or beholds the person as ungodly, then the person is ungodly and there is nothing in the person that would move Him to save that person and there is nothing in Him that could declare the person justified in His sight. This is an important teaching regarding the experimental aspect of justification. The soul of the person that is seeking God asking Him to convert the person must not come to God with any hope in anything that the person has done or can do.

There is no room for pride in the person that desires for God to declare him or her just on the basis of Christ alone. Instead, the proud heart must be humbled and broken and stand naked before God. The proud heart of the natural person that looks to self for something and looks to self for some sufficiency cannot have those things if s/he is going to be justified by Christ alone. The heart of man must look to Christ and no one else, especially self. The proud heart that thinks that it can please God and be converted because it now believes or that it came up with faith is still looking to self with trust. If God regards the soul as ungodly, then the soul should regard itself as ungodly and seek the Lord to open its eyes in order to see self in that way.

Edwards is showing all who will read his writings that justification is all of grace and nothing else but grace. In other words, sinners are justified by Christ and Christ alone and there is nothing but ungodliness in the soul of the person. This is seen in the following illustrations. First, when Christ gave sight to the blind, we never assume that there was some sight before the act of mercy in granting sight. No, the person was born blind and Christ gave the person sight. Second, if a rich man saw a man that was totally impoverished and made him rich, we should not assume that the rich man saw that the totally impoverished man had some riches and then gave him more to make him even richer. Both of these illustrations show the absolute folly of trying to attribute something to the ungodly that would move God to save them.

The justification of sinners is by Christ alone and He is moved by Himself and His grace alone. When sinners hear the truth of justification, they will either look to self to some degree or they will seek the Lord to empty them of all of their hope and trust in self. There is no middle ground. If the soul that has Christ trusts in Christ alone and the proud soul is not right before God, then souls should seek the Lord to humble them and break them from their trust in themselves. If God saves the humble, yet unregenerate souls are full of pride and enmity against God, then those who see the truth of justification should seek the Lord to empty them of pride and to break their hearts from their enmity toward God. The soul that God declares just before Him based on Christ alone by grace alone will work the trust that sinners have in themselves out that they may rest in Christ alone.

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