What’s the Big Deal About Justification by Faith?

I have always been fascinated by Romans 5-8. If ever I doubt the inspiration of Scripture, I think of these four chapters. Only God could be so brilliant! So often, however, we take the theology there for granted. I believe we don’t really understand the ramifications of what God has done for us through Jesus. In Xenos, these four chapters have been taught and retaught. And yet, I often wonder if that, for many of us, they have become merely words on a page or knowledge in our heads. As one of those who feels that this may be true for me, I have started studying them again. While doing my own study using that wonderfully stupendous tool, Wordsearch, I have also been listening to Ray Stedman teach on them. I decided the best way to think this through was to think them through out loud, so to speak, and to share some of what Ray teaches on this.

Paul spends the first four chapters of Romans making the case that “none are righteous, not even one.” He begins with the rank, nonbelieving group of people who know of God’s existence, but deny Him to go their own way. He moves on to talk about the so-called “righteous,” those who believe they are already righteous in God’s eyes and view all others as the “heathen.” Paul is clear that no one can stand before God on the basis of their own goodness or righteousness. However, God loves us so much, He gave us Jesus to die in our place, and on the basis of our faith in what He has done, we are then DECLARED righteous. As you may remember, Paul uses Abraham’s faith as an example of how we, too, can be declared righteous.

Romans 4:20-25 (NASB)

20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore It was also credited to him as righteousness.23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Justification, as a review for those who may have forgotten, simply means to have been declared by God to be His friend, to be acceptable to Him, to be loved by Him. Just as Abraham was not declared a friend of God because of any righteousness of his own, we, too, merely receive it by faith. This faith is in a God who sent His only and perfect Son to die in our place to make a payment for our sin. God has promised that if we come before Him humbly, offering no good works of our own but accepting Jesus’ work on the cross, and ask that this payment apply to us, we then become justified by Him.

In chapter 5 Paul moves on, then, to trace the results that justification by faith brings. This struck me as profound not  because I’ve never heard it before but because it is not often the mode in which I operate. Therefore, I wanted to share it.

Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

The word “exult” (also often translated “rejoice”) is the key to this whole chapter. See also verses 3 and 11.

Romans 5:3 (NASB)
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

Romans 5:11 (NASB)
11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Exultation is a product of justification, and it is what we learn to exult in that matters. Paul states that we can exult even in our tribulations!

Many Christians never seem to rejoice. To my detriment, this often applies to myself. But true Christian doctrine and an understanding of the facts produces a spirit that can’t help but rejoice! Not pretend rejoicing, either, but real rejoicing. Since this word “exult” or “rejoice” is repeated, we should come to the conclusion that this is important. As is often true in Scripture, the more something is repeated, the more important it is.

Ray Stedman states that we should learn to rejoice in three areas – our spiritual position, our present troubles, and in God Himself, our powerful friend. In this blog, I just want to deal with the first one found in the first two verses of Romans 5.

Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

There are three ways in which we can test whether we believe that we have been justified.

The first is that we now have peace with God. This is an important result as we remember that previous to our justification, we were at war with God. This war is now over. The conflict has ended and peace reigns supreme.

From what I understand from history books and classes and from talking to those who lived during World War II, fear dominated our country. The Japanese had actually attacked the United States. Germany and her allies had defeated most of Europe. The enemy seemed all-powerful and unstoppable. The loss of life on both sides of the war was incredible, not to mention the innocents that were murdered. This threat hung over the world for years and for some, it brought horrible death. I can only imagine what it was like at the end of World War II. After almost six years of the most horrific war ever seen by man, the joy on VE (victory in Europe) Day and VJ (victory in Japan) day was overwhelming. The Nazi threat had been eliminated. The Japanese suffered an ignominious defeat. The celebrating lasted for days and the following years brought an incredible increase in the quality of life for those in the West. Freedom! Peace! Security!

Now imagine being at war with the Creator God of the universe who not only has the power to destroy His creation but has every right to do so! But then suddenly, through no act of your own, there is suddenly peace with God. Freedom! Peace! Security! We lost our fear of God. He is no longer our judge, but our Father – loving, tenderhearted, compassionate. Although He still disciplines (for this is part of love,) He no longer has to act as our judge.

And because we are now at peace with God, there no longer remains any fear of death! Death is the shadow that looms over all of us from the moment of our birth.

Hebrews 2:14-15 (NASB)
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

The devil has access to our thoughts in the sense that he can insert fear into our minds without our being aware of it. If our peace goes away, we need to review our justification because justification means we no longer need to fear death.

Peace with God also provides us with an answer to the accusations of our own conscience when we sin. Justification by faith reminds us that our standing and acceptance before God NEVER depended on us. My own sin doesn’t even cancel out my justification. God has found a way to set aside my sin. What a wonderful balm to the guilty soul! We need to remember that it doesn’t matter how long we have walked with the Lord or how much we have served, we can still only stand on the ground of the merits of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

The second result of our justification is that we now have access to continued grace that enables us to stand amidst trials and difficulties. Imagine that for a moment. We have CONSTANT access to the God of the universe.

This may not be a concept that we often contemplate. In our western democracy, we take pride in the equality of all people. Each vote counts. But imagine a country where the king has the only vote that counts, where only his opinion and decrees have any power. This is the God who exists. He cannot stand to be in the presence of sin. He must judge sin and the sentence is death. However, this God is a loving God, unlike fallen and capricious, earthly rulers. Our God provided a free way out. Jesus has made payment for sin, and now we can boldly walk into God’s presence.

Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)
16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The last result of our justification is that we rejoice in the glory of God. We have an anticipation of something beyond this present life. Jesus says,

John 14:19 (NASB)
19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.

Regardless of the conditions we live under here, we have the promise of God that we will live forever with Him in a new heaven and earth where sin and its consequences are forever gone. Even as we all live under a death sentence here, whether the prospect of an imminent demise or the surety that we will all die at some point, we are under the authority of a higher power. We can be killed in this life for our faith or we can die a more common death; but nevertheless, another country has our loyalty and it is waiting for us to arrive.

John 14:2-3 (NASB)
2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

I can’t wait. Thank you, Lord, for my justification!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.