1 December 2013

The Sufficiency of Faith

Is faith enough for our justification, that is, to become right with God? Or do we need to add something more - such as the merits of our work?

The Bible answers this important question directly: 'To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness' (Romans 4:4-5). Please read this scripture again and again until it sinks in your heart.

What an amazing statement! It is the person ‘who does not work but believes’ who is justified. The Bible does not say that God justifies the man who both works and believes. No! God justifies the one who believes and does not work!

Surely the Apostle Paul does not mean that a Christian should not do good works during his life. That would be contradictory to what he himself and the rest of the Bible emphasizes over and over again. But what does he mean? In what sense then are works excluded?

Paul leaves out human works as the basis for justification. He does not allow the addition of a single tiny bit of human effort to that end. This is hard for human pride to accept! If I want to be justified I need to come to God empty-handed, believing in him, without claiming any merit for any good that I may have done or any good that I will do during my Christian life. If it was not so, if I contribute any merit of my own, justification would not be a matter of grace or favour on God's part.

Imagine a poor beggar sitting in a corner, hungry, and destitute. You pity him. So you go into a food outlet and buy him a meal and a warm drink. When you offer him the gift this man insists on giving you a few coins. You would not accept any money, would you, because you want to help him as an act of generosity and kindness. You simply want him to take the food, thank you, and eat! In the same way, God wants us to receive the gift of righteousness by faith and enjoy it with grateful hearts. He is not asking us for any payment whatsoever.

Faith points away from ourselves and our merits; faith points to Christ, who by his sinless life and sacrifice on the cross had procured the gift of righteousness for his people. Faith says, "Though I’m not worthy, though I am guilty, I am fully convinced that Christ takes away all my sins, and therefore God declares me righteous for his sake. With all my heart I trust in him alone."

Faith is the hand that receives from God the gift of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Faith is sufficient because it takes hold of Christ, and he is all we need to stand righteous before God.