The supreme and most vital teaching of Christianity about salvation – the key to knowing God – is the teaching of justification by faith alone. What does it mean, in plain terms, and why is it essential for any personal discovery of God?
‘Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
And our subject is ‘obtaining access to God.’ These words enshrine the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Justification – being declared righteous by God, though we are most certainly not righteous. How to be accepted by Him, being declared righteous by a judicial act of God, because we believe in the atoning death of Jesus Christ on our behalf, bearing the punishment due to us for our sin – the great and central teaching of the entire Bible, the doctrine of justification by faith. Of course I ought to say that the way it is expressed is not strictly correct. It’s essential to express it this way: we are not at the end of the day justified or made righteous before God by our faith. We are of course made righteous by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, who bore the punishment of sin on our behalf and offered up his own perfect righteousness on behalf of all who [believe]. It is his work, his act that makes us righteous but from the human side it is justification by faith.
What Christ does is take the punishment for us and offer up the perfect righteousness; all we do is exercise faith in Christ, so the doctrine is after all rightly called the doctrine of justification by faith alone – not by faith plus some good deeds of our own, not by faith plus anything which is meritorious on our part (for we can do nothing to satisfy the standards of God) but by faith alone. Now this has been down the centuries the teaching of Christian faith, even at times when there has been wrong teaching and justification by faith has been put in the background, and rites and ceremonies have come in. Still there have always been those who have preached justification by faith alone, the sole ground of our acceptance with God, the righteousness and death of Christ and our believing in Him.
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