1 October 2014

Right with God

(Gospel e-Letter - October 2014)

This is a summary of the biblical teaching on justification, or how a sinner could be 'right with God'. 
  1. The biblical doctrine of justification teaches us how guilty sinners can be declared righteous by God through faith in Christ and be acquitted of all condemnation. 
  2. We are created moral beings and are accountable to God for our deeds. We ought to obey God’s law whether written in our conscience or in the Holy Scriptures. 
  3. All people, Jews and Gentiles, have disobeyed God – first, in our representative head, our father Adam, who disobeyed God’s command and brought condemnation and death on himself and all humanity. We are also responsible for our many personal sins which pile guilt upon guilt upon our heads. 
  4. God’s ruling on humanity is fearful and true: all have sinned, all are in peril of eternal condemnation and eternal perdition. For our sins we merit death and the fire of hell. 
  5. We cannot be justified by the works of the law. The law demands perfection, and evidently we have missed the mark. The law condemns us, exposes our sins, and if rightly used, it brings us to a point where we despair of ourselves and turn to Christ for justification. 
  6. Justification is an act of God the Father. Negatively he does not count the sins of his people against them; positively he imputes to them a righteousness which they did not work for. 
  7. God can be just and yet justify sinners because of Christ, the incarnate eternal Son of God, who became the representative head and Saviour of his people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the divine Law throughout his life, and ultimately gave himself as a sacrifice to pay the full penalty for their sins. God puts their sins on Christ, for which he died on the cross; God puts Christ’s righteousness to their account that they may share eternal life with their Saviour. 
  8. Justification is given freely by grace, God’s unmerited favour, not for any merit of our own works. The payment, or redemption, for our justification was made by Christ on the cross. Justification is free for us; for God the cost was the life of his Son. 
  9. Justification is received by faith alone in Christ, that is, by faith apart from the merit of our works. Faith implies the complete rejection of any personal merit, confidence in the promise of God, a sure belief in the sufficiency of his death and resurrection, and complete trust and reliance on Christ for justification. 
  10. An idle, barren ‘faith’ cannot save because it is dead. The faith that justifies is living, working and fruitful. The works that follow justification are the indispensible evidence and necessary fruit of faith, for which God also rewards his children. Yet these works are not the basis for our justification; believers are justified on account of Christ’s work, not their own. 
  11. Justification is the legal aspect of salvation – an act of God who declares believers righteous for Christ’s sake. There is another aspect, called sanctification. It is the life-long process of making believers righteous in their thoughts, words and deeds. God changes the heart, teaches, enables and disciplines his children to shun sin and pursue holiness and righteousness. The two aspects are distinct, but inseparable; if one is absent, the other is absent too. 
  12. Every individual Christian is fully justified from the moment of faith, throughout his life and in all eternity, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, and will therefore never be condemned in judgement. 
  13. The church is duty bound to guard and proclaim the Gospel of justification by faith in Christ alone. It is God’s good news and only hope to a lost and guilty world; the same blessed truth gives liberty, life and joy to God’s people. 
  14. Every individual should earnestly apply the doctrine to himself. Humble yourself and come before God with a broken heart, admitting your guilt and shame. Plead with God for mercy and grace, that for Christ’s sake, he will take away your sins and count you righteous in his Beloved Son. 
  15. May God be eternally praised and glorified for his wisdom, justice and grace in the justification of his people, the church, through Christ Jesus his Son. Amen!