Justification by Faith
Justification by faith in Christ should
be a humbling experience for it leaves one person no more or less justified
than another. There are no degrees of justification for belief
in Christ justifies all alike. Whether one has just entered into the body
of Christ or has been in Christ for 75 years, both are justified on the
same basis, the blood of Christ. A person with a weak faith is just as
safe as the person with a strong faith. (Romans 14:1) One may be more Christ
like because of certain degrees of spiritual maturity due to the sanctifying
work of God over the years, but faith declares both equally justified before
This righteousness from God comes through
faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all
have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely
by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Through justification God provides the
solid foundation of security needed for spiritual growth. Often
sanctification and justification are confusing. Sanctification is the process
whereby we become more and more Christ like. There are differing degrees
of sanctification due to differing levels of spiritual maturity. One may
be more Christ like than another, but justification is not due to our level
of spiritual maturity in Christ. One may be more qualified to fill one
office than another, due to the level of maturity. But one is no more justified
than the other. Justification is equally enjoyed by the mature and the
Abraham’s Justification came through Faith
Abraham had no knowledge of the church, Jesus
Christ, the prophets, Moses or the Ten Commandments but he was saved through
faith in God's promises. Abram had no real knowledge of what the promises
of God entailed through Jesus Christ, but he chose to believe in God's
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country,
your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show
you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will
make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who
bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you." So Abram left, as the LORD had told him;
and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out
from Haran. (NIV)
We can position our minds at these verses
and see all the way to the cross with an understanding of what these promises
entailed. However, historically Abraham was standing at Genesis 12, long
before Genesis was even written with no knowledge of the rest of the story
revealed in Genesis; and absolutely no knowledge of the 66 books of the
Bible yet to be revealed. But he chose to step out upon God’s promises
although he couldn’t see what tomorrow would bring.
One night a house caught fire and a young
boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father
stood on the ground below with outstretched
arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to
jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke,
and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His
father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy,
I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all
The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.
The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because
we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all
the answers, but that we are known.
Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot
see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy fearful enclosures of
life that entraps. Abram chose to step into the unknown and God reckoned
it to him for righteousness.
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can
you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate
is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children;
so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of the LORD
came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your
own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at
the heavens and count the stars-- if indeed you can count them." Then he
said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD, and
he credited it to him as righteousness. (NIV)
However, to the man who does not work but
trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man
to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose
transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord will never count against him." (NIV)
Abraham was righteous because God did
not count his sin against him. Abram wasn't saved because of his
sinlessness or the strength of his faith. The Bible says God did not hold
his sin against him; therefore he was a sinner. In Genesis 15:6 God declared
Abram righteous because he believed God would give him descendants, in
Genesis 16 Abram and Sarai set out to fulfill God's plan through their
own scheme. His faith wavered more than once. In famine he fled to Egypt,
more than once in an effort to protect his family he resorted to lying,
in having a son he trusted in his handmaid and on at least one occasion
we find him laughing in God's presence at how ridiculous God's promise
sounded. It is easy to understand Abraham was not justified because of
his righteousness, but in spite of his unrighteousness. He was justified
because he trusted in God's promises, however feeble his attempts were
in understanding and following them.
Abraham was like many who believe today, he
trusted God, but if all else failed he had a backup plan to make life work.
The second time he lied about Sarai being his sister, he told Abimelech,
"I said to my self, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and
they will kill me because of my wife.' Besides, she really is my sister,
the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her, 'This
is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go say of me. "He is
my brother."'" (Genesis 20:11-13 NIV) He stepped out on faith,
but apparently had a survival plan in case all else failed. It took Abraham
at least 25 years to whole heartily trust in God. The last 75 years of
his life seemed to be lived in total trust, but initially it was tough.
Abraham Hoped Against Hope
As it is written: "I have made you a father
of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed--the
God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though
they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the
father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your
offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his
body was as good as dead-- since he was about a hundred years old-- and
that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief
regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave
glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had
The difficulty with faith is that God
wants us to believe the impossible. Faith does not operate in the
realm of the possible. "There is no glory for God in that which is humanly
possible. Faith begins where man's power ends." (George Muller)
"In one sense, the command of God to Abram
was very specific. Abram was told in detail what he must leave behind.
He must leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s house. God was
going to make a new nation, not merely revise an existing one. Little of
the culture, religion, or philosophy of the people of Ur was to be a part
of what God planned to do with His people, Israel.
"On the other hand, God’s command was deliberately
vague. While what was to be left behind was crystal clear, what lay ahead
was distressingly devoid of detail: ' . . . to the land which I will show
you.' Abram did not even know where he would settle. As the writer to the
Hebrews put it, ' . . . he went out, not knowing where he was going.' (Hebrews
"The faith to which we are called is not faith
in a plan, but faith in the person who gives the plan. Much more important
than where he was, God was concerned with who he was, and
in Whom he trusted. God is not nearly so concerned with geography
as He is with godliness." (Robert Deffinbaugh, Genesis, Lesson 12: The
Call of Abraham, http://www.bible.org/docs/ot/books/gen/deffin/toc.htm/)
Faith is the ability to trust in what
we cannot perceive. "God does not expect us to submit our faith
to him without reason, but the very limits of our reason make faith a necessity."
(Augustine) Abram's faith forced him to face the impossible. Abram's faith
was tested at its extremities. His love life, his family life, his business
life, his physical life were all subjected to pressure, but he learned
that even though his faith was often shaky, his God was steadfast at all
times. (D. Stuart Briscoe, Genesis, The Communicator's Commentary, Word
Books, Publisher, Waco, Texas, 1987, pg. 128)
When we discover the deadness of all
our faithful schemes, we must eventually realize that it is God who makes
life work. Abram learned his best schemes and finest plans could
not direct his life to God's desired end. Paul told the Philippians to
" . . .work out your salvation with fear and trembling . . ." (Philippians
2:12b NIV) Abram definitely trembled in fear as he wondered as a nomad.
He was doing everything to make his life work for God because he believed.
However there was another part to making his life work for God, it is found
in Philippians 2:13, " . . .for it is God who works in you to will and
act according to his purpose."
It is when we believe and move toward
what we know is hopeless without God that God reckons our belief as righteous.
A few years ago, the Associated Press released a study done by an agricultural
school in Iowa. It reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from
one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of the farmer’s labor,
required 4,000,000 pounds of water, 6,800 pounds of oxygen, 5,200 pounds
of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium, 75 pounds of
yellow sulfur, and other elements to numerous to list. In addition to these
things, which no man can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are
critical. It was estimated, the report went on to say, that only 5 per
cent of the produce of a farm can be attributed to man’s efforts.
The Jews to whom Paul is speaking in Romans
didn't want to be told that salvation was due to God's choice and not their
own effort. God's choice to save Abraham's descendants was not due to circumcision
or the law. They were saved before either was given. They were saved because
they believed and not because of their adherence to the rituals and commands.
Obedience of the rituals and commands was the result of their faith. God
would not reckon their sin against them because of their faith.
Abraham had nothing to boast about before
God. The most moving moment in Abraham's life was when he offered his son
upon the altar. It was there he declared his ultimate faith in God.
When they reached the place God had told
him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He
bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then
he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel
of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I
am," he replied.
"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do
not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have
not withheld from me your son, your only son." Abraham looked up and there
in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the
ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So
Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is
said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." The angel
of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear
by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have
not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make
your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on
the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their
enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,
because you have obeyed me." (NIV)
Throughout Abraham's life we find him articulating
his faith. He told Abimelech that God had called him. (Genesis 20:13) When
Isaac asked him what they were going to sacrifice, Abraham said, "God will
provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." (Genesis 22:8)
His faith, which began with articulating his knowledge of what God did
or would do eventually led to a life, which experienced God's providence.
When God provided a lamb as a substitute for Abraham's son, Abraham named
that place, "The Lord will provide."
Therefore, the promise comes by faith,
so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's
offspring-- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who
are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written:
"I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight
of God, in whom he believed-- the God who gives life to the dead and calls
things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope
believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been
said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith,
he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-- since he was about
a hundred years old-- and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not
waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened
in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had
power to do what he had promised. (NIV)
God sacrificed his own Son almost 2000 years
later to provide for our salvation.
This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness."
The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but
also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-- for us who believe
in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered
over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Justification is a legal matter.
Jesus Christ satisfied the legal requirements of the law for all who believe
as Abraham believed. Our willingness to become more Christ-like through
the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians
2:13), declares our faith in Christ, but sanctification is not our means
of justification. It is because of our faith in the provisions of Christ
sacrifice that God declares us righteous.
Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous
for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that
his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made
complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham
believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was
called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does
and not by faith alone. (NIV)
Abraham’s life demonstrated his faith in God
although his faith was very weak at times. It is easy to put all the emphasis
on positional theology rather transitional theology. Positional theology
is concerned about where we are positionally. We may be baptized, we may
be in the body of Christ, we may members of a particular congregation and
we may be in attendance each Sunday. However, the question is, Does your
walk demonstrate you trust in God? Are you making a transition from trusting
in your position which has been attained by your obedience or are you trusting
in God to salvage your life?
The moment we begin to think we are justified
through our longevity in the body of Christ, or degree of knowledge, or
our level of spiritual maturity, or our good works we begin to boast. Having
to accept Christ as my only means of justification eliminates all boasting,
for I must recognize that I am no better than anyone else regardless of
how good I may think I am.
Most of us feel like a little boy at a certain
Children's hospital, he had gained a reputation for wreaking havoc with
the nurses and staff. One day a visitor who knew about his terrorizing
nature made him a deal: "If you are good for a week," she said, "I'll give
you a dime when I come again." A week later she stood before his bed. "I'll
tell you what," she said, "I won't ask the nurses if you behaved. You must
tell me yourself. Do you deserve the dime?" After a moment's pause, a small
voice from among the sheets said: "Gimme a penny."
There are many things in life that we are
very capable of doing, aren’t there? But for all of us there will come
a time when we need to recognize our own inabilities . . . and needs. There
are many times when we need to reach out to one another and help one another,
but there are those times when mere human help just isn’t enough. "I lift
up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from
the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalms 121:1-2 NIV)
This morning I ask you?
Have you come to that point in your life?
A time of recognizing that you can’t do life all alone, that you need help
beyond yourself. You need someone or something bigger than you are.
The African impala can jump to a height of
over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent
creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The
animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall.
Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot
see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life, which
entraps us through our fears.
Not many people enjoy going to the doctor,
but according to Reuters, in 1994, one London accountant took that to an
extreme. The sixty-three-year-old man knew he needed bladder surgery but
he could not overcome his fear of doctors and hospitals. So he self-reliantly
did what had to be done: He tried to perform the surgery on himself. Tragically
he got an infection from the self-surgery and later died. The coroner said,
"Unfortunately, [his] drastic remedy went wrong. A simple operation would
have solved the problem."
Just as this man didn't trust doctors or hospitals,
many people don't trust God. In their self-reliance, they destroy themselves.
In the following verses Paul concludes his
argument, which began with Abraham in chapter 4.
Therefore, since we have been justified through
faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom
we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And
we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice
in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into
our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
You see, at just the right time, when we
were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone
die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare
to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were
still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by
his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
In January 1985, a large suitcase, unmarked
and unclaimed, was discovered at the customs office at Los Angeles International
Airport. When U.S. Customs agents opened the suitcase, they found the curled-up
body of an unidentified young woman.
She had been dead for a few days, according
to the county coroner. As the investigation continued, it was learned that
the woman was the wife of a young Iranian living in the U.S. Unable to
obtain a visa to enter the U.S. and join her husband, she took matters
into her own hands and attempted to smuggle herself into America via an
airplane's cargo bay. While her plan seemed to her simple though risky,
officials were hard pressed to understand how such an attempt could ever
succeed. Even if she survived the journey in the cargo bay, she would remain
an illegal alien, having entered through improper channels.
Some people believe they'll enter the kingdom
of God on their own since they've been reasonably good citizens or church
attendee's. But entry plans of our own design prove not only foolish but
Offer plan of salvation.