Justification By Faith
What is Justification by Faith?
Welcome to this page. This could be the most important thing you ever read. This is about life and after life. Don't you think that is important too?Justification is a long word. In this context it is to do with being made right with God. It happens when we put our trust in Jesus. This lens is adapted from one of my sermons, preached on May 15, 2011. In it I show that Jesus is the only way to find ourselves put right with God. I use Jesus's own words to show this and also what St. Paul has to say about Abraham and his relationship with God.
The Bible Readings
The Hymn Before The Sermon
You Need To Enter In The Right Way
Now how do you think you would have been able to get into Westminster Abbey on April 29th 2011? Yes, it was the wedding of Prince William and Katharine Middleton. Could you have gone around to a backdoor and sneaked in? Could you have talked yourself in at the front door? No, how could you have got in? You would have needed an invitation. You would need to have been recognised as someone who belonged there. "This is a friend of the Queen, with an invitation, let them in."
Only One Way In
Just in the same way you can't sneak into the kingdom of God. Those who say you can are the thieves and robbers the passage in John 10 tells us about. They say you can get in another way than the way God has provided. I expect you have heard people say, "I do my best, God can't expect more than that." But he can and he does. God is holy and he requires absolute perfection from us. This should make us be very afraid, until we realise that God is also love and loved His children so much that he provided a way for us to be perfect. That way was the way of the cross which we have recently been remembering. This cost God separation from his, own, dear son. This was most costly for God. He has made Jesus the door of the sheepfold for us. He is the only way into the kingdom of heaven. How do you think God feels if we say, "I do my best, God Will accept me"; When God has made his own way for us to have fellowship with him. It is a huge insult to say to God, "I do my best, I'll get to you my own way." Jesus tells us in this passage that he is the only way into the kingdom. Again in John 14 Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the father but by me."
Jesus never patted anyone on the head and said, "You just do your best and everything will be alright." No there is only the way that God has provided, faith in Jesus.
What Does Paul Say About Justification By Faith
Paul is someone who believed in doing his best. If anyone could get to heaven that way it would have been Paul. He was a zealous Pharisee committed to keeping every little detail of the law, but once he had met Jesus he saw all those things as just like farmyard manure to be thrown out. He realised that nothing he had done or could do came up to God's standard. In a moment we will sing "All I once held dear." This hymn is a paraphrase of some words by Paul, that we find in Philippians 3 v 7 - 10 " But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
What About Doing Good Things?
Paul had come to realise that none of his strict religious observance had done him any good when it came to being in favour with God. No, he had found that the righteousness he needed could only be found in Jesus. He needed to be clothed with His righteousness.
Does this mean we should not do good things? Of course not, but we cannot reach up to God with our good deeds, but once we have accepted Jesus as the only way to God we can, out of gratitude and to show our love to God, do good things, but never to gain salvation. So we can only go in the designated door of the sheep fold, Jesus himself.
How Was Abraham Made Right With God?
Paul spent a lot of time in synagogues explaining the way of salvation to both Jews and gentiles. Some people will tell you that the people in the Old Testament came to God through keeping the law and sacrificing, but this is not the case. Paul explains that always the way to God was through faith. He speaks a lot about Abraham and how God accepted him as his friend, not because of any good he had done but because he believed God and this believing was counted as righteousness. Paul explains how Abraham lived before the law of Moses was given, so he couldn't be accepted through that. Some Jews thought Abraham was accepted because he circumcised himself and his family, but Paul points out that God accepted Abraham and made a covenant with him before Abraham was circumcised. It was definitely because he believed that he was accepted by God.
Absolute Perfection Needed
Many Jews hated Paul for preaching this. There is a natural tendency in ourselves to want to make things right between ourselves and God in our own strength, but even if we started keeping the whole law from this day forward there would always be our yesterdays when we had failed. God's requirement is perfection. If we look at the Ten Commandments, we fall down at the first hurdle. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength." Do we love God with all our heart, and soul, mind and strength? I fear we do not. You may think you have not committed murder or adultery but Jesus tells us that just to imagine these things is to break the commandment; And how about bearing false witness. That sounds like the sort of thing we would not do, but who is there among us who has not gossiped about our neighbour, saying such things as,"She did this and that, well Mary tells me she did, but I'm not sure it's true." That is character assassination of our neighbour. Those seemingly little commandments at the end of the list, don't get talked about much. There is also coveting. I fear we all do that. We wish we had a bigger car or a bigger house. These commandments matter too. And God requires perfection.
Justification By Faith Or The Law
Let's look at Galatians 3: 24, 25." [Is] the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
Paul tells us that the law was never intended to save us, but to be a school master to bring us to Christ, to teach us that we cannot keep the law and we need Jesus. When we feel frustrated because we cannot reach perfection that is a good thing. It is only then that we will be ready to put our trust in Jesus alone.
Justification By Faith, For Jews And Gentiles
See what Jesus says about giving his life for the sheep. John 10 verse 14-18
"I am the good shepherd; and I know My [sheep], and am known by My own. "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
"And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock [and] one shepherd. "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."
When Jesus spoke about other sheep not of this fold he was speaking about the gentiles, you and me. He wants to gather us into his sheep fold. Jesus laid down his life for us, it wasn't some terrible mistake that he died, he went to death to save us and then was able to take his life again in resurrection He has made the only possible way for us back to God. So to sum up, your best and my best can never be good enough for God who is holy and pure, only as we put our trust in Jesus alone can we receive the righteousness of Jesus and in him be made perfect. When we do that God looks at us and instead of seeing the tatters of what good we can do, our own righteousness, which Isaiah tells us is like filthy rags, instead he sees the perfection of Jesus and we are accepted in the Beloved; that is Jesus himself. I pray that all of us will put our trust only in Jesus.
Rest in Faith
Suppose you had a benefactor who said that he had paid all your bills, for all of your life. The groceries were paid for, the clothes were paid for, the college bills were paid for, everything. And you had been a pauper up till then with nothing. It gave your benefactor great pleasure to provide everything for you. How would he feel if you said, "Thanks very much but I want to pay for these books myself. I want to feel just a bit independent." How would the benefactor feel, being slighted in this way? Well this is a poor illustration. God is all splendid and does all things well. If He says he has provided everything for our salvation we are most foolish to try to do some saving of our own. It is our duty, and should be our pleasure to accept his salvation, perfectly obtained for us by Jesus. Throw away your foolish notions of saving yourself, you cannot do it.
More Teaching on Justification by Faith from John Piper - Well worth listening to
If you would like to discuss the things I have spoken about here or on any of my other pages you are welcome to contact me on my e-mail address. firstname.lastname@example.org I will get back to you as quickly as I can. I will use material from the Bible to help you not just my own thinking.