Justification by faith alone Message for 2.8.20 Reading Romans 4:13-25
I have been studying Church History recently and the last block was the reformation in Europe, this included Luther, Calvin and others. Reading the history was a light bulb moment for me. I had known that Luther’s spiritual revelation was that we are justified by faith and not by works but I had not appreciated what the Christian culture of the day looked like and how revolutionary this concept was. The Church in the 1500’s preached a very different message. Sins were punished by confession and then a penance but you could buy indulgences which meant someone else would do your penance for you. You could even ‘Put money in the bank’ but paying for a Mass to be said on your behalf or getting a Monk or Friar to say prayers not for you but as if you were saying them yourself thereby building up your savings in the bank. We will hear this metaphor again a little later on.
The Romans passage Jim just read has always mystified me a bit and when it has been read in Church, I have struggled to fit it into my understanding of the NT. The long story of Abraham justified before Jesus came? So this is why I took a deeper look into justification after learning about Luther.
So what is this big word Justification – right legal standing before God – so what does this mean -how about: to have acted in the right way in God’s eyes even though we are sinners and this is impossible.
How and when do we gain this right legal standing before God where God sees that we have acted in the right way. Surely this is not possible!
When we become a Christian there is a process we go through and Justification is part of a process. What is this process?
- Is the message of the Gospel – God is calling us to trust in JC for salvation
- Being born again – God gives us a new spiritual life
We were dead to God and then immediately we have a new spiritual life given by God.
It happens only once and covers every part of us.
- Conversion this is where we respond to the gospel call by repenting of our sin and putting our faith in JC
But what about the guilt that we have for our sin?
- The Gospel message invites us to trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins
- Being born again makes it possible for us to respond to the invitation
2 Cor 5.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
- When conversion takes place we are actually responding and trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sins
- But there is a 4th step in the process, it is what God has promised to do in response to what we have done, that is to actually declare our sins to be forgiven and take them away.
This is where the justification comes in – our right legal standing before God – being seen as being right in God’s eyes even though this is impossible.
Paul says ‘Those whom he has called he also justifies.
It is God’s response to our faith. This is a theme we see all through Romans
Let’s look at the legal side a bit more.
To condemn someone is to declare them guilty
The opposite of condemnation is justification, to declare someone not guilty or innocent
Paul frequently uses the word justify to speak of Gods justification of us – we are not guilty – we are innocent in his sight.
Rom 3.28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
Rom 4:5 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness (having a right standing with God)
Rom 5:1 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gal 2:16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Let’s go back to the legal stuff again -This legal declaration by God does not change our internal nature or our character in any way, we have not changed.
Eg – a surgeon will remove a tumour and has thereby changed the inside of the person.
A judge will declare a person guilty or innocent but has not changed anything inside.
So, this means God declares us not guilty, innocent, meaning we have no penalty to pay for sin past, present or future even though we are no different inside.
Rom 8:11 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
Meaning those who are justified, declared innocent have no penalty to pay for sin.
We are not guilty and have not been condemnation and will not be punished.
Wow how does God do this?
Rom 4:6-8 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”[a]
Forgiveness of past sins is one part of justification, being declared innocent
Past sins forgiven = morally neutral – we are ok
Now we come to the most important part,
the giving of Christs righteousness to us is the other part of justification, being declared innocent.
Moraly neutral + Jesus righteousness = makes us perfect in the sight of God.
God thinks of Christs righteousness as belonging to us and our sin was given to Jesus on the cross, God thought of them as belonging to him and he paid the penalty.
God gave Christs righteousness to us and he thinks of it now as belonging to us.
God declares us innocent and perfect not on the basis of our actual condition of but rather on the basis of Christs perfect righteousness, which God thinks of, as belonging to us.
Let’s go back to the bank analogy
Picture money being transferred from one account to another. Banks do this every day. Imagine yourself totally destitute and unable to pay your bills. Then in an amazing act of grace and love someone takes over all your debts and pays them off. Not only that but they transfer so much money into your account that you will never have to work again. That’s what happened at the cross when God gave all our sin to Jesus account and gave all his righteousness to our account.
This was Luther’s thinking at the very heart of the reformation mentioned earlier.
Justification does not change us internally and it is not based in any way on our goodness.
It is based on the pure unconditional love of god through Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 1:30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Phil 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Paul knows that the righteousness he has before God is not anything he has done; it is the righteousness of God that comes through JC.
Rom 3:21-22 Righteousness Through Faith
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
Rom 5:1 Peace and Hope
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Nicky Gumbel tells this story to illustrate this fact. The former televangelist Jim Bakker in his autobiography tells of his descent into poverty and imprisonment for accounting fraud. He lost his freedom, his sanity, his dignity, his confidence in his faith and eventually his wife. Prisoner no 07407-058, one time friend and advisor to Government, hit rock bottom. At his lowest point a prison officer said to him. Billy Graham is here to see you! Jim thought – Billy Graham has come here… to this place… to see me? When he walked into the room, Billy Graham turned towards him and opened his arms wide. At that moment Jim Bakker felt total acceptance and love: He writes ‘I will never forget that the man who had just been voted one of the most influential men in the world and who had ministered to millions of people took the time out of his busy day to come to see one prisoner. He describes how in the midst of his depression and hopelessness Billy Graham’s visit refreshed his heart and boosted his spirit. He writes ‘I felt as though Jesus Himself had come to visit me.
The only appropriate response to God’s amazing grace revealed in Jesus Christ is to give him thanks, to praise and worship him, to surrender your life to him and say ‘I am willing to do whatever you want.’
At the heart of the Christian faith is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is to know and love Jesus. It is a relationship of the closest possible intimacy. It is like that of a perfect loving parent for their child.
We will still feel guilt when we sin and so we should! But when Christ took away all our sin, He took away our guilt. What we are feeling is inner conflict! Our reborn spirit is telling us that we can’t continue to sin; it’s not who we are anymore. IT’S NOT WHO WE ARE ANYMORE.
Lord, thank you that at the cross we see both your love and justice together. Thank you that you have mercy on me. I am forgiven, I am justified and righteous. I am loved unconditionally. Help me to show your love and bring your justice to others., in Jesus name.