Settling every Bible based question or studying every Bible based topic can hardly be resolved with a single verse every time, but there are times when a single verse is so clear and concise in what is being said, the point cannot be missed by any honest Bible student.
For example, take the question and topic of faith alone when it comes to justification with God. Despite its popularity throughout the religious world, of all the topics that can be settled with a single verse perhaps this topic is the easiest! There is only one single book in the entire Bible where the words “faith” and “alone” appear together in the same sentence, and in that book there are actually a couple of verses (depending upon the translation) that spell out the error of advocating for the faith alone position so plainly! One of these verses is James 2:24, (with which numerous translations use the same two words) and it says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (NET)
The other verse that declares the same truth about the error of the faith alone doctrine is James 2:17. A few translations actually use the words faith and alone in James 2:17, but most paint a plain enough picture by using the words faith and itself … just wanted to give a bonus verse in case James 2:24 does not ring a bell.
The popularity of a doctrine does not justify its position anymore than faith alone justifies an individual with God, and all it takes is one verse to prove it.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4, ESV)
1. What could the Law of Moses not do? It could not save; it was not designed by God to save (Acts 13:39). The Law of Moses was not designed by God to bridge the gap between man and God. The Law of Moses was designed by God to show the nature of sin (Rom. 3:20) and those guilty of sin will be punished (4:15).
2. However, it is not God’s desire that any perish (2 Peter 3:9)
3. God bridged the gap with His gift to man, His Son (John 3:16); His Son (Jesus) condemned sin in the flesh (Hebrews 2:17-18; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. It is my view the righteous requirement of the law is best understood in relation to John 6:44-45 and Galatians 3:24-25, tied in with Paul’s earlier words in Romans 1:17, justification by faith.
5. Justification by faith means one walks in accordance with faith (Romans 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7) because there is a clear realization of man’s nature, a nature that cannot bridge the gap between himself and God (cf. Romans 7:24-8:1).
- Justification is by faith (C-4), Abraham illustrating this, it is by faith that one enters into the spiritual realm of God’s grace; in this realm there is peace and hope (5:1-5). When a person responds in obedient faith, as with Abraham, God declares that one righteous (justified). One’s positive response to God brings knowledge and understanding, but it also brings rejoicing. This is all in relation to how God looks upon His creation.
- It is hardly likely that one will sacrifice himself for another, though there may be a rare occasion for this to occur (5:6-7). God, however, did this for man when he was (is) a sinner, one who is blackened by the evil of missing the righteous mark of God (5:8). Thus, the rejoicing is not in what the individual did, but what God did (5:6-11).
- Man was thrust into the realm of death (sin) as a result of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden.(a) For a period of time, sin and death reigned (from Adam to Moses) without there being any codified law given to man, any name (or nation), whereby this problem plaguing man could be addressed. Those who lived during that time faced death, which was (and is) the consequence of sin.(b) Then the Law of Moses was given to man, but only to a specific people, starting with Moses, who in turn gave this to the Hebrew people (or Israelites). Still, sin and death reigned, only this time, the Lord gave a temporary remedy/solution to addressing it. (c) Before the Law of Moses was given to man, each person who lived faced the consequence of sin, which was (at the very least) physical death. Paul said, however, they had no sin “imputed” or counted against them. (d) Once the Law was given to a specific people (Israel, or the Hebrew people), it was to those people who God called upon to own up to the consequences of sin, their own sin (5:12-14). They were given information/knowledge from God and came to understand what sin was (is) and why it stood against God. The issue/problem of sin in life was initially addressed by God.
- Sin was not a gift to man, but now there is a gift from God that thoroughly and completely addresses the problem of sin in the life of man, all men (women) everywhere (5:15-17). No matter the comprehensive nature of sin’s stain against man (which brings God’s judgment), “grace abounded much more” (5:18-21).
- This “Abrahamic response” is Paul’s point in this chapter. One has peace and hope when justification comes from God as a result of one’s faith or trust in God (5:1-2). (a) Thus, while the Law of Moses educated (brought knowledge and understanding) a specific people, it also brought knowledge and understanding of God’s judgment to the same people when His Law was violated. (b) Jesus, on the other hand, brought something that could save man from God’s judgment, a judgment that will surely be experienced by those who reject what He brought (5:9; cf. Acts 17:30-31). (c) However, whether one was declared guilty by the codified law (Law of Moses), or whether one was guilty without such a Law, Jesus came to save both! This means that both Jew and Gentile can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12).
- In the remainder of the chapter Paul makes the point for the significance of Law in God’s plan of salvation and judgment. (a) Sin was in the world, but the penalty of sin (physical death) was only that which was counted against man. (b) There was another penalty for sin that was not counted against those who had no codified Law from God, a law that declared a righteous and moral standard of measurement. That other penalty was God’s wrath, or eternal separation of Himself from the individual man guilty of sin.(c) This is called the second death, which is a spiritual death.
- Death is the penalty that came to man because of the deed of one man (Adam in the Garden). Life is the reward (promise) that came to man because of deed of one Man (Jesus). How, then, can one get free from underneath this burden of sin/death? One must die to sin.
For similar studies on Romans 1-4, please see my site www.rv85.net.
Here’s a link to the latest PDF issue of the Christian Worker.
Here are the topics that you will find:
- “God Was Manifest in the Flesh” (Tom Moore)
- “Great is the Mystery of Godliness” (Sam Willcut)
- “Justified in the Spirit” (Trent Kennedy)
- “Seen of Angels” (Kris Groda)
- “Preached unto the Gentiles” (Bobby Burris)
- “Believed on in the World” (Sean Embree)
- “Received up into Glory” (Jacob Rutledge)
Christian Worker is an edification effort of the Southwest church of Christ in Austin, Texas.
You can subscribe to the email version of the Christian Worker paper by clicking on the publications link on their website and then following the given instructions…or by clicking on the link provided here in The Fellowship Room under the “Friends” category to your right.
Copyright © 2015 Southwest church of Christ, All rights reserved.
What does it mean to be justified by faith? We know the Bible teaches it, and it might be that we are quick to give a correct answer, but what does it mean? In Romans 4, the apostle Paul gives an illustration to help us understand what it means to be justified by faith. In the previous chapter, Paul made clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (3:23), and but a little further ahead he states that sin leads to one’s spiritual death (6:23). Sandwiched between these two thoughts is an illustration from the life of Abraham to help us understand what the Holy Spirit wants us to know.
A great many people will tell you that to be justified by faith means to pray what is known as the “sinner’s prayer,” but that is not what Paul said. In fact, what is commonly known as the “sinner’s prayer” is not even found in the Bible, much less did Abraham know anything about it. In Romans 4 we learn that to be justified by faith means do what Abraham did. Let me explain.
Abraham trusted in God. This trust in God was Abraham’s total reliance on God to accept what he offered. What did Abraham offer? His heart. But this was not all that he offered. In Genesis 15, the Lord attributes to Abraham justification because Abraham not only believed (trusted) God, but obeyed Him as well. Twice we learn that Abraham obeyed when he was told by the Lord to do particular things. First, he was told to pick up his family and depart for a land he knew nothing about (Genesis 12). Second, he was told to keep covenant with God by having all the males in his family circumcised (Genesis 17). In both cases, there was nothing easy about that which was required of him. To complicate matters more for Abraham, the Lord promised Abraham that from his wife would come a son. Some had doubts. For Abraham, however, though he may not have understood how such a thing could occur with a woman past the normal time of child-bearing—Abraham was fully convinced and did not waver in unbelief (Romans 4:19-21).
What does it mean to be justified by faith? It means that one fully trusts God and obeys Him in everything He said. Why would anyone want to call Jesus Lord, but then not obey Him (Luke 6:46).
No man can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:65). This interesting remark by the Lord tells us much about why people are not saved. People are not saved because they are not listening to the Father via the word He proclaimed (John 6:44-45). That which is more important to a large percentage of humanity are the following:
Recreation: life is stressful and when there is opportunity to get away from familiar surroundings one feels to need to exercise it. Thus, remarks like the following are spoken: “On the weekends my family gets out on the lake because we don’t go boating very much and, besides, we can’t find a better day than today.” (This is said about camping also.) “Are you telling me that I can’t go on vacation with my family because I need to go to church?!”
As you listen to the one who speaks this way or in a similar way, they will tell you much more than they want known. The guilty ones who offers excuses like these attributes words and motivations to the “accuser” because of their own guilt. What they really desire is to get away from the stress of life in their normal surroundings, and this includes attending services where the Lord’s church meets.
Work: rather than taking necessary time away from their work environment there is an effort to justify missing Sunday services in order to get caught up on whatever is felt as lagging behind. This perceived notion of getting caught up is like having a carrot tied to a string and placed on a stick and put in front of an animal who chases it continually.
Family: some justify their refusal to come to the services of the Lord church because problems occur in the family. Jesus said, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” Matthew 10:32-38, ESV).
Unfortunately, these same people who make attempts at justification are the same people who do have an affinity for the Lord. On judgment day, however, that affinity (sympathy) will have the Lord showing none to them. RT
My new article, Preparing to Teach Salvation, is based on something that has been percolating in my mind for years. I don’t think that people are going deep enough in their studies of salvation. Many in the brotherhood seem to focus too much on baptism.
Of course, baptism for the remission of sins is essential. However, starting with baptism, is missing most of the story. I had an article years ago entitled, Is Baptism Always the Right Argument? In that article I wrote:
If the student perceives baptism as a violation of grace and constitutes salvation by works then we need to back up and address their misunderstanding. The debates that have occurred through the years on baptism have been useful but thousands have left unimpressed. If we can help them see the truth on grace and works then we can possibly reach more souls for Christ.
In my article today, I am returning to this theme. We need more study and discussion on justification, reconciliation and sanctification in the brotherhood. They frame baptism, rather than replace it.
Your thoughts on these articles will be much appreciated. I hoped they would provoke a discussion.