Justification by Christ 18

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

“4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” — Romans 4:4-5

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:

It is evident in the words, that by the faith here spoken of, by which we are justified, is not meant the same thing as a course of obedience or righteousness, since the expression by which this faith is here denoted, is believing on him that justifies the ungodly. — They that oppose the Solifidians, as they call them, greatly insist on it, that we should take the words of Scripture concerning this doctrine in their most natural and obvious meaning, and how do they cry out, of our clouding this doctrine with obscure metaphors, and unintelligible figures of speech? But is this to interpret Scripture according to its most obvious meaning, when the Scripture speaks of our believing on him that justifies the ungodly, or the breakers of his law, to say that the meaning of it is performing a course of obedience to his law, and avoiding the breaches of it? Believing on God as a justifier, certainly is a different thing from submitting to God as a lawgiver, especially believing on him as a justifier of the ungodly, or rebels against the lawgiver.     Jonathan Edwards, Justification by Faith Alone

Whatever else faith is, the context utterly demands that it is not a way of obedience and is not a way of earning wholly or partially any righteousness to add to the righteousness of Christ. It is true that James teaches us that faith without works is dead, yet James is not teaching that works that flow from faith contribute in any way to God justifying sinners by Christ alone. The faith spoken of here is opposite to good works for justification and is opposite to merit. The faith spoken of here is not what faith can do, but it is all about Christ. The person with faith is the person with Christ. It is not about the works that one does with faith, it is the works that Christ has done and is imputed to the one with Christ.

The phrase of Scripture in its own context is crystal clear on this. We are told that the one whose faith “is counted for righteousness” is the one who does not work for justification and is the one who believes on Him “that justifies the ungodly.” There is no mysterious teaching here, but instead this is plain and straight to the point. The way of the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of grace is the way of faith. It is not that faith is the single work we come up with that God rewards it with salvation and it is not a way of working harder or better. The way of faith is in accordance with the doctrine of election and in accordance with the way of grace alone. Romans 4:16 tells us this:

Romans 4:16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

The passage just above (Romans 4:16) is in the direct context of Romans 4:4-5. Faith is not a way of doing good works in order to be justified. Faith is not a way of obtaining merit before God so that He will justify us. The biblical doctrine of faith teaches us that it is by faith in order that it may be in accordance with grace, that is, that based totally on the grace of God He will justify sinners by Christ alone. Faith is in accordance with grace so that the promise will guaranteed to all the descendants. In other words, since it is by grace all that the promise is for will be saved. The promise could not be carried out if it depended on the works of men, but instead it depends on the works of God and the promises of God. When sinners are justified by promise, that is, by Christ alone and grace alone, salvation does not depend on their own works and godliness. This is indeed good news.

In terms of the experience of the soul, this is profound. It does not depend upon the soul doing works and gaining merit, but instead the soul must learn not to depend upon itself and look to God alone to justify it by grace alone. The soul must learn to look to God as justifier by grace alone through Christ instead of the lawgiver who gives laws to be obeyed as a way of justification. Instead of working, the soul must learn not to work for justification. Instead of obtaining godliness, the soul must learn to look to God who justifies the ungodly. This is not an easy task, and instead it is as impossible to do this as it is to work for justification. It is Christ who alone can teach the soul and guide the soul in the way of humility and brokenness.

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