Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When God is no longer mad - Justification

Romans 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets

The Cathedral of the New Testament
The Book of Romans has been called "The Cathedral of the New Testament".  Much like those great churches in Europe, when we enter into Romans we stand with our eyes toward the sky with open mouths in awe of Christ's accomplishment of salvation.  Romans 1:16 summarizes the whole point of the book: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the Power of God unto salvation unto everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek." 

Three reasons why mankind cannot please God
The first three chapters of Romans communicate why man fails to please God.  By nature man is an enemy of God. (Romans 1:18-31)  Morally man is guilty before God in the realm of his conscience. (Romans 2:1-16)  Legally man is declared a lawbreaker, incapable and unwilling to comply with God's revealed law in the ten commandments. (2:17-3:20).  Man as a guilty, lawbreaking enemy is lost in Adam and subject to judgment.  In short, God is rightly just to pronounce the sentence of eternal judgment over mankind. (Romans 3:20)

The Crown Jewel of salvation - Justification
The chief concern in the biblical teaching on salvation is: how can a man be made right with God?  Humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden has attempted to achieve right standing with God (righteousness) through law-keeping or some sort of moral improvement.  However the Gospel tells us that the righteousness demanded of God is not and cannot be achieved by man - for it is apart from the Law.  All the law of God can do is demand righteousness.  It cannot grant it nor impart it. (Romans 3:19-20) 

What is Justification by Faith?
Justification is when God declares to me that "He is no longer mad at me".  In justification the declaration by God is made: "Just-as-if-I-never-sinned".  My guilt, my enemy status and my law-breaking record before God are erased at the moment when I by grace through faith believe on who Christ is and what He has done. (Ephesians 2:8-9)  Grace initated faith by itself is both necessary and sufficient to receive all the benefits of Christ's accomplishment. (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9)  Amazingly, those throughout the centuries who have claimed to be working for Christ's Kingdom have fought and tried to change this truth.

Justification by faith alone - a seemingly simple teaching that has been subject to much attack
At the epicenter of Paul's teaching of the Gospel, Justification (or more specifically: Justification by Faith) has endured much warping and attack over the centuries.  It is critical in every generation that the Gospel be both explained, defined, proclaimed and lived out by Christians.  How is a man made right with God?  Is Grace based faith by itself enough?  Do I need to bring something to the table at salvation to cooperate with God in making sure that I am "good enough"?  How one tackles such questions as these will determine whether or not they have truly grasped this central truth of Justification by faith. 

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