Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, August 25, 2005

JUSTIFICATION: Part III - Justice and Faith

3) Justification is a judicial declaration – that is, a declaration having to do with God’s justice and God’s law.

The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)

But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. (Psalm 9:7-8)

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

For the wages of sin is death... (Romans 6:23)

...since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16)

God is perfectly holy. He cannot tolerate sin and injustice without violating His own nature. Therefore, His wrath against sin must be satisfied. A guilty sinner He will never accept, unless their sin has been punished.

Justification has to do with how a perfectly Holy God can accept and adopt, as His own, human beings tainted with sin. And so the salvation of man must be consistent with God’s Law – that is, that sin must be punished with death, and that only holiness and perfection can be tolerated in God’s presence.

Justification is God's solution to this dilemma. God's holiness and justice are respected and fulfilled; His wrath is appeased; His mercy and love are expressed.

4) In justification, God does not count our sins against us, but declares our sins punished in Christ.

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:2)

...that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." (Romans 4:4-8)

Paul, in Romans 4, points out why justification is all of God, and why it cannot be earned or deserved in any way. He points out that if it were by works, God would owe something to us and that we would have something to boast about (verse 2). But he immediately describes how it actually works - instead of condemning us for our sins, God does not count our sins against us, because they are "covered". Isaiah 53 tels us that they are "covered" by being laid on Christ:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

And notice Paul's comment in verse 5 - our faith counts as righteousness. Not because our faith is righeousness, but because it gives us access to Christ's. Our trust in Jesus Christ is the means, the vehicle, the hand by which we lay hold of Christ's work on our behalf:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Justification comes through faith. Why? Because faith is trust in another, not yourself. Faith is belief that Christ already suffered our punishment. When we put faith in Christ, we are attached to and identified with Christ.

A VITAL thing to remember: we are not justified / saved because of our faith; we are saved because of Christ's work on our behalf. Faith is not a deserving act in itself; it does not earn salvation, or merit justification in any way. An army officer who has faith in his men doesn't win the battle because of that faith; he wins because of the training and performance of the object of that faith - his men. God doesn't save us because we have faith; he saves us through our faith and trust in Christ and God's grace, so that we have no reason to boast. He receives all the glory.

More on this in the next installment!


Anonymous Nicole said...

Hey Jeff! I dont understand this statement you made "God doesn't save us because we have faith; he saves us through our faith and trust in Christ and God's grace" I always understood we were saved BECAUSE of our faith? ....little confused maybe you could straiten that out for me? Thank you!!!

8:48 AM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

More than happy...

What I was trying to point out is an important nuance: faith is not the ground or basis or underlying reason for our salvation - that is grace. Faith is a vehicle or means for grasping salvation.

In more detail:

Faith requires two things: a subject and an object.

The subject is he or she who has faith. The object is that thing or person in which the faith is placed.

Faith, in itself, is neutral and has no power of its own. If I place my faith in a vacuum cleaner for salvation, that faith won't save. If I place my faith in Christ, I am saved. My faith could be just as sincere and stong, either way, but the result is the same. What's the difference? The object of my faith.

Think of it another way: you're drowning, and a friend jumps in to save you. You know she's a very strong swimmer - you trust her to save you. In other words, you have faith in her. Now, if you try to save yourself, and swim back on your own, you will drown - that's trying to be saved through works. Faith is trusting your friend to save you, and not trying yourself. But, ultimately, the reason you're saved from drowning isn't because of your faith; it's because of her work to save you.

So we see that it is the object of faith that has power, not the faith itself. It is He in whom we place our faith who saves, not our faith itself.

And so salvation is by grace alone (that is, God's unmerited, unearned favour and mercy towards us, expressed through God's gift of His Son), and it is through faith alone. As Romans 5:2 says, faith is how we obtain access into grace, and it is that grace in which we stand where we find salvation.

For this reason, I prefer to say we were saved through faith, or by faith, rather than because of faith.

One analogy I read is that of a starving man lifting food to his mouth. It is the food (grace) that nourishes and saves the man's life. Faith is the hand - that is, the means or the access - by which it is lifted to the man's mouth.

Does that help?

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

YES! Thanks Jeff! That was very clear.

6:08 PM  

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