SALVATION BY DIVINE POWER NOT BY HUMAN EFFORT
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:23-26
There are three major words related to what happens in salvation. Propitiation……is averting the wrath of God by the offering of a gift. Redemption….. an act of redeeming or atoning for sin. Justification…. legal declaration in which God pardons the sinner of all his sins and accepts and accounts the sinner as righteous in His sight. And Paul proves this point by calling upon the most esteemed figure in Judaism, and that is Abraham. A man who was called out of the land of Ur of Chaldea which was a pagan and idolatrous city. A man who demonstrated a heart of faithfulness when he offered his out of obedience. “ Gen 22:9-18
A man who was called by God as Moses penned these words “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless,…..And Abram said, "Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir." And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: "This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir." And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess." Gen 15:1-7
Paul echoes this truth revealed in the Book Of Beginnings. He demonstrates that Abraham was justified (declared righteous) by God based on faith, not works. (v3) Paul says our works or our wages only leave us owing, they contribute nothing to our righteousness in God. (v4) Our works only leaves us lacking…..Why? Our sin makes it impossible to reach the divine standard of righteousness that God requires….. because God is perfect. No matter how hard we work or sacrifice; our works cannot atone for sin. If we could be saved by works then Christ’s death is pointless and has no eternal value.
See! If there is any doctrine that Satan would love to undercut or distort, it would be the doctrine of salvation. If Satan can keep mankind confused and living in their sin, and that they are under divine judgement, Satan will try to distort the workings of our justification. Unfortunately we see that in Roman Catholic Church.. This is why on Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther marched up to the castle church in Wittenberg and nailed his 95 Theses to the door, thus lighting the flame of the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church preaches and teaches a different gospel.
The Council of Trent says…..
Session 6, Canon 9 states “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.”
Session 6, Canon 11 states “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.”
They preach a different gospel and this contradicts what Paul taught in the New Testament. What they teach is a different gospel because it requires you to work in co-operation with God’s grace. But what did Paul say? “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Gal 1:6-9. The gospel that Paul preached was all Christ alone, who atones, redeems, and justifies, for His glory and our eternal good.
Michael Horton said “The gospel isn’t, What Jesus would do? Now go and do it. The gospel is, What Jesus has done? Now believe that.”
This portion of Paul’s letter uses Abraham to makes it very clear that we are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Those who are in Christ belong to the family of Abraham and Paul dedicates this whole chapter to Abraham and the doctrine of justification. “Our boasting is excluded” as Paul said in 3:27. There is no room for boasting, because we are saved in Christ through His saving and keeping work in the gospel. “Justification” simply means “is an act of God whereby He pronounces a sinner to be righteous because of that sinner’s faith in Christ.” There is nothing in man that causes God to justify him, including our repentance and faith. Repentance does not pay for sin, it only acknowledges our sin. Just as a criminal remorse for their crimes does not satisfy the just demands of the law. Your faith does not pay for your sins. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can pay for your sins.
Our justification is solely based on
the blood of Christ.
Augustus Toplady wrote this…
“Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
all of sin could not atone;
Thou must save and Thou alone.”
This explains why a person can have a weak faith and still be justified. Our justification is not based on our workings, but in Christ alone who has appeased the Father’s wrath on our behalf through His shedding of blood. Job understood this reality that in our own strength or workings we will never attain justification. “Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.” Job 9:20. Sinner that I am! God justified, declared me righteous, at the moment of my salvation through Christ. Jesus Christ finished the work required for our justification on the cross. Paul said, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 1 Cor 1:30-31. Think about this in light of the Passover. When the Angel Of Death was passing through Egypt on the night of the Passover. God was looking for what? “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
We read, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, "This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. "Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. "This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” Exodus 12:1-14
Those inside might be full of fear, little of faith, or astronomical faith, but it made no difference as long as the blood had been applied to the door post. They believed and it was accounted to them as righteousness, because of the blood on their door posts and the angel of Death passed over their homes. They didn’t work to win favours with God; they believed what Moses had said. The same is true of you and me as Paul explains in this chapter about Abraham.
A man is either 100% righteous or
he is 100% condemned.
If a murder is charged with seven counts and only convicted of one, he is still a condemned man. One theologian said “If you have even one sin that you have to pay for yourself, you will be in Hell forever. This is why you’re either 100% righteous or your 100% condemned.
There are no degrees of justification or stages because Paul says “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.” Rom 5:1-2
Our justification is all of grace as we see in this text before us. “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,.” Rom 4:16
The previous chapter Paul said, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Rom 3:23-24
Not only do we rejoice in this truth but we are also free from the slavery of sin. And Paul would later affirm this truth, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Rom 8:1-4
A man is either 100% righteous or
he is 100% condemned.
Do we truly understand what that means for the child of God? Our justification is perfect, and absolute, and there is nothing more for you or me, need to do. It has all been done in Christ. And we rest in His perfect righteousness over our lives. Our justification is greater than just being pardoned. We haven’t just been pardoned of a crime, because according to law of the land those crimes haven’t been paid for, they just been expunged. A pardon has been given to the criminal, but those crimes are still unpaid for. In our justification, God takes a guilty sinner like you and me and He declares our fines are paid in full on the grounds of His only Son, Jesus Christ. They are not just erased, but paid for in full, through His redeeming grace as our appeasement. And it’s through this act of love by God, that we are given the imputed righteousness of Christ by His grace. (v9-v12)
Faith adds nothing to what Christ has
done for us in justification.
Although faith is required for salvation it has no power in itself to save. Faith merely receives the righteousness of Jesus Christ offered in the gospel. If man were able to save himself by his works, then salvation would not be a gift of God’s grace.
“And mankind would have
something to boast in”
But as Paul said, “And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” Rom 5:16-19
This is what it means when Paul said this about Abraham, “counted to him as righteousness” Our working faith authenticates our righteousness in Christ, because it’s an outward demonstration of an inward transformation. Anyone can have an intellectual knowledge of God and say they know Him, but truly don’t. But that isn’t true until you see a child of God stepping out in their faith, whether it’s in large steps or small steps for His glory. This is why James said “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-18
This was in no way a contradiction to what Paul says here. God didn’t have to wait until Mount Moriah to see whether or not Abraham’s faith was authentic. God already declared that when He called Abram out of the land of Ur. James letter is about examining authentic faith; is it real or is it fake. When we read the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22……is for you and me to see if Abraham is authentic or not, God already knows. Same is true in the James letter, as we examine our own hearts in light of the gospel and our confession. Our faith only lays hold of Christ; faith is the instrument by which we are linked to Jesus. Only Christ’s righteousness is the grounds of our justification, as it was for Abraham. It’s a faith that desires to please, not to win favor, it’s a life of active obedience to a Holy and Righteous God. (v20-v25)
A W Tozer said “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ."
Martin Luther said "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works."
Faith is a gift from God and we as His adopted children, were created for good works according to Jesus! "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" Eph. 2:10
Augustine said "Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe."
It’s a working faith, which is a required attribute in the believer by a holy God, through Christ alone. A working faith that James speaks about when he uses Abraham and Rehab as examples. An action that works to display your faith in God. The very same faith that our father Abraham had and it was accounted, credited, imputed to him, the righteousness that God requires. He didn’t earn it or worked towards it, God gave it as a gift, and that gift was demonstrated by the new life Abraham had in Christ.
The Reformers added a foot not to the phrase Justification by faith alone. “Justification is by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.” What we’re they trying to say or mean by this? If we have a true faith, it will immediately and necessarily be manifested in a changed life. If no change follows from our profession of faith, all we have is a profession of faith. We do not possess the real thing, because real faith will manifest a changed life through the gospel confession. Works in the life of the believer don’t save you or justify you, they only authenticate a transformed life in Christ. When we understand this truth we will find peace for a broken soul that needs His forgiveness and restoration. As David said (v7-v8). According to Paul it strengthens our faith as it did for Abraham. (v20) To become weak in faith… is to allow doubt to cloud our promise that we have in Christ through the written Word. When times are going well it’s easy to trust in God. When times are weary and look impossible, we tend to be reserved and doubt sets in and it’s easy to distrust God, as Sarah did in Gen 18. To Sarah’s credit, she couldn’t see past their age and her barrenness, to have a child….as she laughed to herself about God’s promise. But for Abraham, every time he was tested only strengthened his faith all the more. (v20) This brings forth the fruit of true faith….a living faith
John Calvin said, “Godly faith is not full of understanding but full of trust.”
Our lives by faith, characterize the glory of God, because He has accounted to us His righteousness. Many religious people and sinners approach the gospel this way! “There was this woman who had a sick child. The child was in need of some fresh fruit. It was wintertime and fresh fruit was hard to find. She was by the Kings Palace one day and looking into the house, she saw some fresh fruit. She went into the Palace with only a few coins and offered to try buying some fruit. The daughter of the King said no I will give you some fruit. You will take them free or not take them at all.” You know everyone comes to Lord the same way. We can come with our coins, and works, but salvation to the soul is free and cannot be bought. No works of man can earn salvation! Only the perfect Son of God can. Jesus has already paid it in full with his life and it was sufficient once and for all. All who come to Jesus receive the free gift of salvation and are set free from the bondage of sin and death. This is where we believe and belong. Believe the great gospel of Christ, and do not nullify the grace of God. Because we have been declared righteous by God’s standard, not ours. All our fitly deeds and our lawless deeds are what? (v7-v8) “Forgiven and removed by the sole work of Christ.” God looks upon us and all He sees is Christ and Christ alone. He sees the covering of Christ and His righteousness.
Understand! If God were to give us what we earn, deserve, we would face and feel the full wrath of God for our sin for all eternity. But praise God for giving what was earned by His Son. I want you to read along with me (Gal 2:20-21) together; and want you to add you name where you see “I, me,” “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
“Jesus got what He did not deserve,
but you and I got what He did deserved.”
“it was accounted to you and me, as righteousness” Paul reminds us in this chapter that we are justified by and through His Son alone as he reminded the church in Ephesus. “Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not 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, that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:8-10