Justification by Christ 20

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:
And in the next verse, which immediately precedes the text, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt,” the word there translated reckoned, is the same that in the other verses is rendered imputed and counted, and it is as much as if the apostle had said, “As to him that works, there is no need of any gracious reckoning or counting it for righteousness, and causing the reward to follow as if it were a righteousness. For if he has works, he has that which is a righteousness in itself, to which the reward properly belongs.” This is further evident by the words that follow, Rom. 4:6, “Even as David also described the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” What can here be meant by imputing righteousness without works, but imputing righteousness to him that has none of his own? Verse 7, 8, “Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” How are these words of David to the apostle’s purpose? Or how do they prove any such thing, as that righteousness is imputed without works, unless it be because the word imputed is used, and the subject of the imputation is mentioned as a sinner, and consequently destitute of a moral righteousness? For David says no such thing, as that he is forgiven without the works of the ceremonial law. There is no hint of the ceremonial law, or reference to it, in the words.           Jonathan Edwards, Justification by Faith Alone

It is true that Luther said something that is translated “Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls.” But he did not mean that the mere intellectual apprehension of a few facts about it was what upheld the Church or what the Church was built on. It is not the mere recitation of a doctrine that matters; it is Christ in the soul that matters. It is not that the soul is truly justified by faith as such; the soul is actually justified by Christ and by Christ alone. That is the essence of the teaching and that is the essence of the Church.

What our hearts must learn and that in the inward man is that is that our adding a work or works destroys the truth of the Gospel of grace alone. We must not miss this. If the righteousness of Christ is imputed or reckoned to sinners who are saved, and sinners must rest/trust/have faith in Christ alone, then sinners must not look to themselves for any contribution to what Christ has done and gives by grace alone. The concept behind the idea of one work needed by a human being is that Christ Jesus has not done enough. When human beings try to add (whether they think they are or not) one work of a few works to the finished work of Christ, they destroy the whole Gospel and it is no longer of Christ alone.

We have hard heads and hearts and we have learned the ways of Arminianism and Pelagianism well since those are the ways we are born in. We can learn the doctrine that Christ imputes His righteousness to us and yet we can not search our hearts to see if we have lost all hope in our own righteousness and our own works. While we can believe the doctrine, our hearts must truly lose hope in our own works and our own righteousness if we are going to truly believe the doctrine from the depths of our souls. Our proud hearts trust and rest in our own works (though perhaps hidden from us) and must be broken and humbled so that we will not trust in them. We cannot just simply believe from the head that Christ imputes His righteousness to us when our hearts hold tightly to our own works.

Our hearts want to do anything they can to hide the glare of the light of truth from them. We want to hold to works of the moral law and dismiss the words of Paul by saying that those things are only from the ceremonial law. However, as Edwards so clearly shows, there is no real way to read the text except to say that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us quite apart from our keeping the moral law. Those who are dead in sin are completely and utterly destitute of righteousness and any ability to do anything righteous in the sight of God. If sinners are not saved by Christ alone, they will never be saved. If sinners have to come up with one work to add to the work of Christ, they cannot come up with that one work. Besides that, the work of Christ is perfect and complete. There is nothing that He left to do and there is nothing we can do. It is by grace alone.

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