Sunday, October 28, 2012

Justified by Faith in Christ Alone!

I made a statement about the difference between the faith of the demons (certainty of present condemnation and future torment) and the faith of the Christian (certainty of present forgiveness and future blessedness). The faith of the Christian is saving faith, and James 2 explains very well how this can be seen by us to be different. We *see* that a man is justified not by their profession of faith only, but by how their faith produces the fruit of thankful obedience in them. The examples given are very clear - we see that Abraham had saving faith by his obedience in bringing Isaac to be sacrificed, and as Hebrews 12 explains, he had faith that God could raise the dead, since he believed the promise that God had already given him, that in Isaac the promised seed would be called, and that in this seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. We see that Rahab had saving faith by her attempt to protect and hide the spies in Jericho. This is very helpful, because although we see from this that she genuinely had faith in Jehovah to save her, her act in itself was clearly not sinless, although mixed with good motives, she lied to protect them. So, James is not teaching against what Paul clearly teaches in Romans, that God declares men righteous on the basis of their works, but that we see that they are righteous by the works which their faith produces. They are justified in our sight by works consistent with their profession of faith (where as, those who claim to believe, yet live ungodly, only have "faith" like demons do), but in God's sight, "no flesh shall be justified by the deeds of the law."

This is because neither faith nor works is or can be the basis of justification before God. God's holy standard is perfect and unchangeable as He is perfectly righteous and unchangeable. He cannot deny Himself. Therefore the only one who can be declared righteous (justified) before God, is one who is legally perfectly righteous. Christ alone is perfectly righteous, and He suffered the punishment for the sins of His elect people on the cross. Since He has already taken all our punishment, as our representative Head (as we are His body, in Him), there is no longer any condemnation. God will not, cannot, according to His perfect justice, punish us for what He has punished Christ in our stead. It is explained in Romans, especially chapter 5, that we are justified on the basis of Christ's perfect sacrifice for us. Faith is then, not the basis of justification (which is Christ alone), but the means by which we know in our own conscience, the declaration of God that we are righteous in Christ, only because of what He has done. This is the saving faith miraculously worked in the elect by the Holy Spirit, by which we know the Gospel and are comforted by the knowledge that Christ has fully accomplished our redemption from sin.
"1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." - Romans 5:1-11.
Romans 3 & 4 emphasises that we are justified through faith in Christ, apart from any works of the law:
"23 For all [both Jew and Gentile] have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."
We see here that boasting is specifically excluded because justification is on the basis not of anything we have done or will ever do, but on the basis of Christ's blood. That we are justified (declared righteous by God) only through faith in Him, excludes all boasting of ourselves against anyone else. Saving faith sees Christ as the only ground of our righteousness, and therefore humbles, and removes all boasting. But that both Jew and Gentile are justified in Christ does not make void what was taught in the Old Testament, since this is also how these saints were justified. Paul points to the examples of Abraham and David:
"1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
This teaches (v.4) that if a man was justified by his works, then the reward would be a debt of God to that person, and not grace at all. But these examples show that justification is only by grace. Saving faith believes on him that justifies the ungodly - a Christian believes that he is not worthy to be justified on the basis of his works (because he sees that even his best works are still corrupted by sin, as Isaiah 64:6 says). So, a Christian, is one who, like David, see himself as one who has iniquities and sins, but which have been covered and forgiven on the basis of Christ's sacrifice, so that they are not imputed to him, but instead, the righteousness of Christ, his Head and representative, as a second Adam, is imputed to him. Such is the blessedness of the Christian who is justified by saving faith, despite his sinful works.

Now, Romans 6 and 7 make clear the God delivers these justified believers from the dominion and power of sin, so that we can begin to serve righteousness, while making clear that in this life there will still be struggle against the old sinful flesh until it is finally destroyed, and so Romans 8 teaches how we long and hope for this day, ultimately, the day of resurrection at Christ's return. The firm confidence and full assurance of the Christian is expressed clearly:
"15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"
And that we do not yet experience sinless perfection is taught:
"24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?"
If we had attained sinless perfection, we would not still be groaning inwardly, and longing, and hoping for that. Further Romans 8 teaches that all of the elect are justified, again demonstrating the absolute confidence of a true believer, on the basis of Christ's saving work alone:
"28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
So, to whoever denies that a Christian knows with full assurance through faith that he is justified on the basis of Christ's work alone, I quote again:
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Happy Reformation Day!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"He made reconciliation with God a POSSIBILITY"?

"He made reconciliation with God a possibility." Where is this taught in the 66 books of the Bible? That is a denial of the work of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. The Lord Jesus did not simply make salvation a possibility for every single person. He actually saves His people (those graciously unconditionally chosen in love) from their sins by His Spirit bringing us to faith in His propitious sacrifice and to repentance from sin.
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21.
"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." - Isaiah 53:11. 
There is not even a hint in Holy Scripture that Christ just makes it possible for us to save ourselves. He is the Saviour, not us. His is the glory, not ours. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself as the Head of His elect church (which is His body - Ephesians 5). He suffered the punishment dues to us for our sins, that is what it means that He died FOR us, as a substitute. He propitiated the wrath of God therefore, satisfied God's holy justice and righteousness. We know through faith in Christ that we will not be cast into hell, only because Christ has suffered all the just punishment of God already.

God, in His justice cannot send anyone for whom Christ sacrificed Himself to hell, otherwise Christ's sacrifice was not an atoning sacrifice. Can God deny what Christ has done on the cross because many do not believe? Absolutely not. As Christ said in John 17: "I pray not for the world, but for those whom you have given me." As our High Priest, offering Himself as a fully sufficient sacrifice, He prayed not for every single person, but only for those God has given Him. No-one can come to Him unless the Father draws him, as the Lord teaches in John 6. So it is that only those for whom Christ died, are given the gift of the Spirit who creates true faith in us.

 To reduce Christ's work to making salvation a mere possibly for everyone, rather than a reality accomplished for many, but not all, is a denial of Scripture's teaching about the nature, perfection, efficacy, power, and sufficiency of His sacrifice. On the cross Christ purchased the gifts of faith and repentance for His people, so that He does not leave it up to us to make His sacrifice effective - of ourselves we cannot do any good, being dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2), because apart from the Spirit, the carnal mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to His law (Romans 8). And those who have the Spirit belong to Christ, are known by Him, and saved. These are the sheep for whom He laid down His life, who are brought graciously to believe in Him - not the goats as He teaches in John 10. God alone determines who is saved and who is not. We are not masters of our own destiny - God alone is the King over the universe who determines all things, especially the salvation or damnation of sinful men.