“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” —Romans 1:16-17
Justification by faith was the clear cry of the Reformation. Martin Luther’s nailing his famous 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s “Castle Church” is seen by many as the spark of the beginning of the Reformation while others, like myself, see this as an awakening of what the Lord Christ had been doing all along among His saints; moving them to hold fast to those things that remain, those truths of Scripture, that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for God’s glory alone.
Yet, nearly in the same breath, every saved sinner today, whether they acknowledge it or not, owe tremendous thanks to God for His providential hand upon that 16th century German monk, Martin Luther.
Before Martin Luther posted his non-cyber blog on the door of Wittenberg’s church, he struggled with the question, “How can sinful man stand in righteousness before a holy God?” His answer came through the truth of Romans 1:17, “the just shall live by faith,” as the apostle Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4. This was NOT a faith that included other things. It was not faith plus baptism or faith plus good deeds, &etc. Dr. Luther declared that the Scriptures, working together in unison and harmony, present that justification of man by God came through faith alone by God’s grace alone. Man does not muster up enough faith to believe on Christ because of his own acknowledgement of the truth; for apart from a supernatural work of God, man’s mere acknowledgement of the facts will never produce salvation or warrant justification in the sight of a holy God.
When God justifies a sinful man, it is entirely by His grace alone, because the Bible declares the radical DEPRAVITY of fallen man. Romans 1:16-32 expresses in no uncertain terms that, apart from the grace of God through Jesus Christ, sinful man suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness, professes utter foolishness and rebellion against God, chases after the uncleanness of his lusts, the filth of his affections, and the corruption of his mind, and ultimately hates God.
Because of man’s depraved, fallen condition, Romans 2:1-3:8 declares the utter CERTAINTY of God’s judgment upon wicked man.
Since man is so desperately lost, wicked, and deserving of eternal wrath and condemnation, Romans 3:9-20 declares the CALAMITY of man’s state and affairs.
Yet, Romans 3:20-31 declares the absolute BEAUTY of God’s grace to save man in justifying those who, by faith in Christ Jesus, are redeemed by God as Christ has been “set forth to be a propitiation… for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God” (v25).
Finally, Romans 4:1-25 declares the REALITY of Christ’s righteousness imputed to saved men by God’s grace. The righteousness of God is placed upon our account, not by any virtue for things that we have done, but for Christ’s sake alone. By faith in Christ crucified, God counts Christ’s righteous life, Christ’s obedience, Christ’s humility, and every excellence of Christ’s majesty as the perfect Man and righteous, sinless Substitute upon the sinner’s account.
This is done entirely by God’s grace alone and is FOUND at the Cross of Jesus Christ.
First, we were completely helpless and without God until God intervened to awaken us to our condition through the proclamation of Christ crucified. Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Next, there was nothing good in us or righteous about us to warrant salvation because we were sinners through and through. Romans 5:7-8 says, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Since we know that “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12), then there was nothing in man to prompt such a salvation from God, nor anything desirable of man to warrant any justification apart from God’s good pleasure.
Finally, Romans 5:10 says that we were the enemies of God, separated from Him: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Apart from the grace of God, we had carnal minds, making us God’s enemy (Romans 8:7) because we sought friendship with the world (James 4:4). We were also separated from God, requiring reconciliation by God, because as sinners that loved the world, we hated God (Romans 1:30).
Therefore, justification by faith is entirely by the free grace of God. God has willed it according to His good pleasure; He has decreed it according to His sovereign plans and purposes; He has executed it by the crucifixion of His Son; He has applied it to men’s souls by the power of His Spirit. THIS IS FOUND only in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Unless it is in the Cross of Jesus Christ, unless the Son of God is the sufficient Substitute for our atonement, we will not have justification for that faith alone is, not only by God’s grace alone, but it is also found in Jesus Christ alone, as Peter tells the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”