Justification is by Faith Alone: Page 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
God gave us His Son, because He was the only suitable sacrifice by which we could be saved—by His blood. We are not told to put our faith in His blood; Christ Himself is the object of our faith. It is only a resurrected and living Christ Jesus who can save. He is the propitiation. Faith in Him is the condition by which we avail ourselves of the propitiation. His blood is the price that was paid.
Through faith. Two of the greatest verses in the Bible have to do with faith and grace: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Grace is God’s provision; faith is man’s appropriation. Faith is not a commendable act, but the indispensable channel through which man receives God’s free gift: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Grace doesn’t come to man due to his great effort or goodness. It the free gift of God. Faith means that man takes his place as a lost, guilty sinner, and receives the Lord Jesus as his only hope of salvation. True saving faith is the commitment of a person to a Person. Any idea that man can earn or deserve salvation is forever exploded by the words, and that not of yourselves. Dead people can do nothing, and before a person is saved, the Bible declares that he is dead in sins and trespasses; and sinners deserve nothing but punishment—“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Forbearance is tolerance or mercy. Although human sin deserves punishment, God in His forbearance, or longsuffering patience, gives an opportunity for repentance. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). The Old Testament period was a time of the forbearance of God. For at least 4000 years He held back His judgment on sin. Then in the fullness of time He sent His Son to be the Sin-bearer. When the Lord Jesus took our sins upon Himself, God unleashed the full fury of His righteous, holy wrath on the Son He loved.
26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Now, the death of Christ declares God’s righteousness. God is just because He has required the full payment of the penalty for sin. And He can justify the ungodly without condoning their sin or compromising His own righteousness because a perfect Substitute has died and risen again. Albert Midlane has stated the truth in poetry:
The perfect righteousness of God
Is witnessed in the Savior’s blood;
’Tis in the cross of Christ we trace
His righteousness, yet wondrous grace.
God could not pass the sinner by,
His sin demands that he must die;
But in the cross of Christ we see
How God can save, yet righteous be.
The sin is on the Savior laid,
’Tis in His blood sin’s debt is paid;
Stern justice can demand no more,
And mercy can dispense her store.
The sinner who believes is free,
Can say, “The Savior died for me”;
Can point to the atoning blood,
And say, “That made my peace with God.”
Just and the justifier. The wisdom of God’s plan allowed Him to punish Jesus in the place of sinners, and thereby justify those who are guilty, without compromising His justice.
Christ’s death on the Cross did more than vindicate God in regard to saving those in the past. Christ’s death paved the way for those in the future. The Cross is still as necessary as it ever was. The Lord is just or righteous in the present time when He declares one who believes in Jesus to be righteous. He didn’t pass a law that he who believes in Jesus would be declared righteous simply because He said so. Rather, He acted. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit entered into the arena of human sin. The Almighty laid the basis on which He could declare sinners righteous and still himself be righteous.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Where is boasting then in this wonderful plan of salvation? In view of the fact that it is God who justifies us by providing Christ Jesus as our propitiation, what does this do to boasting? Paul’s answer is It is excluded. Boasting is shut out, there is no room for man’s boasting in the plan of God. By what law? of works? What is it that caused boasting to be inappropriate? Is it the law of works? Paul’s answer, No, but by the law of faith. If man could work to be justified, then he would have reason to boast. But we are saved by God’s grace through faith, not of works. And why? “Lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8–9). The justified person says, “I did all the sinning; Jesus did all the saving.” True faith denies any possibility of self-help, self-improvement, or self-salvation, looking only to Christ as Savior. Its language is:
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
—Augustus M. Toplady
The Gospel excludes all human boasting. Man has nothing to boast about. If we received our just reward, what we deserve, we would be screaming in hell today for one drop of water to cool our parched tongue. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, you can hear Paul crying out again that no flesh can glory in the presence of God. In Romans 4:2 he said, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” It is only in Jesus that God accepts us, because in Jesus God has given us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. There is no boasting. Men dare not boast. In the words of Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor. 15:10)
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
Paul now comes to a conclusion which is the key to his theology. He concludes that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. This is the same conclusion which came to the heart of Martin Luther and spawned the Protestant Reformation. When this concept is understood, we too come to the conclusion that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone; to God alone be the glory.
The Lord is the one who declares men righteous. He is the God of both the Jews and the Gentiles. Faith is the cause of God’s declaration. Both Jews and Gentiles find acceptance with God in the same way—through a personal commitment to Him, a personal trust in Him. This doesn’t mean that the Law has been done away with. Rather the Law is confirmed in its role of making men conscious of sin. The Law confronts men not only with their sin, but with the Law-giver as well. When men trust God, the Law-giver, they are at the place where the law was meant to bring them.
29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,
Is he the God of the Jews only? This question naturally arises in the Jewish mind, which still cannot conceive of the heathen being loved and justified by faith alone. Paul’s answer to the question is Yes, of the Gentiles also. The reason is—there is one God only. There is not a god of the Jews and another god of the Gentiles. There is but one God of Jews and Gentiles. In Christ, Jews and Gentiles are made one. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). There is no distinction of race, rank, or sex at the foot of the Cross. God is impartial. The only ultimate dividing line among people is the condition of the individual soul.
Paul admits that there were many so-called gods in heathen mythology, such as Jupiter, Juno, and Mercury. Some of these gods were supposed to live in heaven, and others, such as Ceres and Neptune, here on earth. In this sense there are many gods and many lords, that is, mythological beings which people worshiped and were in bondage to. It says in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” Believers know that there is one true God, the Father, who created all things. And we for Him means that we were created for Him. In other words, He is the purpose or goal of our existence. We also know that there is one Lord, namely Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. The expression through whom are all things describes the Lord Jesus as the Mediator or Agent of God, whereas the expression through whom we live indicates that it is through Him that we have been created and redeemed. When Paul says that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, he does not mean that the Lord Jesus Christ is not God. Rather he simply indicates the respective roles which these two Persons of the Godhead fulfilled in creation and in redemption.