Justification through Faith Alone

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 in Justification, Reformation

solasFor by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. Some might look at this and say, “Well, there is nothing I can do about it.  God by His grace will do what God will do.  All I have to do is sit back and wait to see what happens.”  If that be your thought, it is a fatalistic and foolish response.  Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, does not allow for such a response.  God, he proclaimed, has provided the vehicle, the means, the instrument, or the way for man to respond to His grace.  This is what the Bible calls “faith.”

What is faith? James Montgomery Boice shared three aspects of biblical saving faith[1]:

 1.  Knowledge

This must be first because it is impossible to believe in a thing unless we know what it is we are believing. In the biblical sense this knowledge is of the gospel.  It is knowledge of the very things Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:  that in our natural state we are all dead in transgressions and sins, that we are objects of God’s just wrath, but that God nevertheless has reached out to save us through the work of Jesus Christ—and that this is of grace.

Ephesians 2:4-7 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This knowledge, however, must also have an understanding of how God’s grace of salvation is accomplished through the work of Christ:

Ephesians 1:7 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

So the beginning of faith is knowledge.  One must know that their sin separates them from a holy God; that their sin has them under the just wrath of God.  As Michael Horton suggests, “Where God’s wrath is no longer a problem, Christ’s cross is no longer the solution.”[2] Then one must know the remedy provided by God to satisfy His wrath, about Jesus person and His work.  This is followed by…

2.  Heart response

Faith is not a mere intellectual assent to certain truths.  It is also a response to such knowledge. Calvin said, “It now remains to pour into the heart what the mind has absorbed.  For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart that it may be an invincible defense to withstand and drive off all the stratagems of temptation.”  Here then we see the importance of believing that the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, is true.

Acts 16:30-31 – 30 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

They did not tell the Philippian jailer to get his theology right, to go to seminary, to know all there is to know about sub-, infra, or supra-lapsarianinism, to have a proper belief concerning the millennium, etc.  He was simply told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.”  Believe that His work, His penal substitutionary atonement, is sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath.

 3.  Commitment

The final element is commitment.  Or, as Spurgeon said, “trust.”   It means casting yourself upon Christ, resting on his promises and accepting his finished work on your behalf.  It is entrusting yourself to Jesus as your Savior and Lord. It is a confidence that our sins have been forgiven and that we have received Christ’s righteousness and that nothing can ever change that — if we are truly in Christ.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians, 67.

[2] Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life, 52


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