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Declared Righteous by Faith Alone

     Many in today’s Christianity do not understand the true essence of faith and also do not understand the doctrine of justification. A short definition of justification would be that act of God when He declares or pronounces a sinner to be righteous. We’ll come back to this shortly.

     The issue of faith is also a misunderstood concept. In many Christian circles an “easy believism” is being promoted. People are being told to have faith in Jesus as if faith was a human act to receive the benefit of salvation from God. There are those as well who believe that “faith” is tied to some religious work or duty. Things such as baptism, confession, self-improvement, praise and worship, and ceremonies such as mass are sadly mixed in with the definition of faith. Most often people that have been influenced by these religious teachings have given a mere nod or intellectual assent to belief in Christ. God knows hearts so He also knows the difference between a person’s assent and the Bible type of true saving faith which is a deep and abiding trust in Jesus Christ, apart from any personal self-improvement or religious activity.

     The Apostle Paul was adamant about the separation between human activity in salvation and the issue of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. He wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law”(Rom. 3:28).Elsewhere the scriptures tell us that the law is holy; yet, we are to believe that even the law of God cannot justify a sinner. Why? Not because the law has a problem but because we do! We don’t keep God’s law; thus, we are condemned as sinners by it. (Please read Romans 3:9-19). In this same passage of God’s Word we read, “. . . by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). So, if God’s law cannot bring about justification, then what religious activity could? The answer is that no human effort can save a sinner.

     Justification is completely accomplished by God and God alone. As I said earlier, justification is the act of God when He declares or pronounces a sinner to be righteous. In Romans four, Paul writes, “And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (verse 5). Notice, it is not the religious, the baptized, confessed, self-improved, ritual attending person that is justified but the “ungodly.” Jesus told the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. . . I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt.9:12, 13).

     The fact is that sinners (of which we all are) come short of being accepted by God because, as Jesus said, we have not “believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Paul says, “. . . no one seeks for God . . . no one does good, not even one” (Rom.3:11-12). This being the case, some would say, “You need to get faith, somehow believe!” This is why so many churches offer programs and events to try and conjure up faith. What people are so often left with is an emotional feeling or activity that brings a sense of being secure; yet, they still stand condemned before God because they have not truly believed. Seeking religious experience does not count for saving faith. Many groups stop at assent and fail to teach the real Biblical meaning and source of saving faith.

     Faith in the Bible sense is not just knowing and believing the gospel but is that which brings about an abiding trust and surrender to Jesus Christ. The one that has saving faith is the one that is trusting the Savior for mercy and pardon, no longer claiming his own righteousness and seeing his sin as God sees it. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come to me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.”The reaction to this, by many, is to seek self-improvement so that they could “get saved.” A sinner must go to God as he is, no facade, in other words no cover-up, but honest and open, telling it like it is before one’s Creator. Self-denial! This is a crucial part of faith; it is repentance which breaks the pride and turns the eye to one’s only hope, Jesus Christ the Redeemer.

     Justification will not occur without this saving faith. Remember, there were many in Jesus’s day that said they believed (assent) and even followed for a while; yet, when trials came they vanished into the night. Those of true repentance and trust in Christ are guaranteed forgiveness and eternal life, never to be lost in sin again.

     How does one get such saving faith? The Bible fact is that human beings, due to their extreme sinfulness, will not and do not believe as is required. However, God has made a way for some to be saved. Why do I say “some?” Because Jesus said, “. . . those who find it are few” (Matt.7:13-14).

     After trying to buy the Holy Spirit from the apostles, a magician named Simon was sharply rebuked by Peter. This was after he was said to believe and was even baptized. Peter said, “You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God; repent therefore of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart be forgiven you” (Acts 8:18-24). Simon had assent but not true faith; he gave the show of faith by baptism, yet without repentance.

     What a person needs, to gain this saving faith, is a miracle from God. It is the miracle of saving grace of which no human being has power to achieve. Paul spells it out in Ephesians, chapter two. He explains to this church family at Ephesus how God saved them from being “dead in sins and trespasses” (v.1, notice“dead”). God showered “rich mercy” and “great love” upon them by His grace (grace is getting what you do not deserve – that’s God’s mercy, love, and salvation). Paul says, “. . . when we were dead in our trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (v.5). This is the miracle of God apart from any and all human activity. Again, Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God(v.8). And we must not forget verse nine which tells us, “. . . not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

     Justification (being pronounced righteous by God) is by the “free gift” that only God can give. Romans 3:24 says we “. . . are justified by grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ died for us sinners as a substitute sacrifice which has the power to remove all our guilt of sin and in its place give the gift of Christ’s righteousness. This is salvation! This is justification!

      If you are aware of your terrible sinfulness before your holy Creator, then it’s best that you cry out to Him for mercy. No religious activity can take the place of repentance which is the honest, open rejection of your own righteousness. Appeal for God’s unmerited favor; it is grace and grace alone that gives saving faith in Christ alone.

- David B. Parker

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