1]The question before us is, "How are we justified before God?" I submit to you that the biblical evidence states that it is by faith apart from works (including works done in the state of grace), therefore faith alone. First of all, the testimony of Scripture is clear that the only righteousness that will prevail before the judgment seat of God is a perfect righteousness. This is proven by God's constant demand of perfect obedience to His law in order to inherit eternal life. This perfect obedience is not just in the form of outward conformity to the law of God as the Apostle Paul found out(Phil.3:6), but a loving of God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul. In brief, it is a perfect obedience of the whole person. Second, if we cannot measure up to this standard then how can we be saved? Thanks be to God there is a righteousness that is available that can measure up to God's unbending demands. This righteousness was achieved by the work of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and is now available as a gift. He lived the perfect life, suffered the horrible death, and was resurrected not to make us savable, but to save His people from their sins(Matt.1:21). Finally, since Jesus Christ has fulfilled God's demand and merited this righteousness that is available, the question now becomes how do we received it? The only way we are given by the Scriptures to receive this righteousness is by faith, therefore faith alone. So when I say we are justified by faith alone, I am in essence saying we are saved by the work of Christ alone because of grace alone through faith alone . These are the points I will expound on now.
IS A PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS MANDATORY?
2]Here is a fact you can always count on. All systems that attempt to justify themselves in any way by their own works, whether grace infused works or not will do one of three things. 1)They will exaggerate the level of their obedience so that they can claim they are fulfilling the law's demand. 2)They will weaken the demands of the law so that it is attainable in their sinful state. 3)They will do a combination of 1 and 2. My opponent contends that God does not require perfect obedience from his children, because they are under grace. This under grace judgment according to works is what I called God's "grading curve". Almost everyone has experienced this "grading curve" mechanism used in school. Normally it is implemented when the scores are low on a test or in a class. My opponent in essence claims that God will do the same thing. However, the consistent testimony of the Scriptures is to keep all the commandments. These commandments are not only to be kept in an outward conformity, but also in unqualified love for God and neighbor from the heart. Anything short of that is disobedience. The first Scriptural evidence I will use to prove this comes from the quintessential book of the law, Deuteronomy.
1)""Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it,
2)so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.
3)""O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
4)""Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
5)""You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
3]Here we have Moses giving revelation directly from Yahweh to His covenant people in reference to His commandments. Is there a distinction mention in reference to the demand given to those who are under grace vs. does who are not? No. Does God command the Israelites to love Him to their best of their ability? No. God commands total obedience to all His commandments for the receiving of the promises. God commands them to love Him with ALL their heart, soul, and might.
4]This demand for perfect obedience to the law is not only present in the OT, but also permeates the NT. When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment he says exactly what the book of Deuteronomy says.
And He said to him, YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.
5]This is God's righteous requirement for any that will be justified by their own works before His judgment seat. Not only Jesus, but also the Apostle Paul agrees when he states the following:
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.
6]If you want to be justified by the law, then you must keep it perfectly. This even applies to so-called believers under grace that attempts to merit their own salvation. David, a man under grace and a man after God's heart knew better when he made the following prayer:
1)Hear my prayer, O LORD, Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
2)And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
7]It is important to note a few things about these verses. First of all, David is praying to God. Second, he is not repenting of any mortal sins. Finally, David calls himself the LORD's servant. Why do I point this out? To make the point that David is in a state of grace. However, David says something damaging to the position my opponent holds. David says, "do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no man living is righteous. Not only does David claim that he is not righteous according to the judgment of God, but also he claims that no living person is! David understands the grace of God and instead of pleading his grace infused righteousness, he pleads not to be judged at all by the Lord. David knows only a perfect righteousness will withstand God's judgment and he doesn't have it. One more passage to demonstrate this point is found in the book of Hebrews:
1)For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
2)For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,
3)how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
8]Here we have the demand of perfect obedience that was spoken through angels. How much more is this obedience required when spoken through the Son of God? Every transgression and disobedience will received a just penalty. The inspired author states we cannot escape unless we are saved. He calls it so great a salvation! This so great a salvation is what will save us from the punishment of every transgression and disobedience. It will be interesting to see if my opponent believes he is saved from the penalty of every transgression and disobedience or if he still must suffer the penalty himself either in the form of temporal punishment and/or eternal damnation. These are a few of the verses that show God's demand for perfect obedience to His commandments. Therefore, I submit that if your righteousness is not perfect as God demands then you should search to see if that righteousness is available by any means. In the next section we will see that the Scriptures say, yes it is available.
WHERE IS THIS PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS AVAILABLE?
9]The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of this righteousness long ago when he spoke against the unfaithful shepherds in Jeremiah 23. He prophesized that God would raise up a righteous branch who will reign wisely and do what is right(23:5). Jesus is this Righteous Branch. Jeremiah goes on to say in those days Judah and Israel will be saved and they would call Him, The Lord Our Righteousness.(23:6) You see Jesus is not just righteousness for himself, but He is Our righteousness!
10]Isaiah also prophesized of one that would be anointed to preach the good news to the poor and set the captives free(61:1). In Luke 4:18-21 we have Jesus fulfilling this prophesy. The LORD then states in verse 61:8 that He will faithfully reward His people and make an everlasting covenant with them(61:8). The people then respond to this good news with the following:
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11]Here we have garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness that will be provided by the Lord. This is the righteousness that we all need. This prophesy is also played out in a dramatic scene in the book of Zechariah:
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
2 The LORD said to Satan, "" The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?''
12]Here we have Satan accusing the chosen of the Lord and what happens? The Lord rebukes him, because the Lord has chosen Jerusalem. That is why in Romans 8:33-34 the question is asked Who will bring a charge against God's elect? Of course the answer is many will, but this rhetorical question proves that it will not make a difference. They question is why doesn't it make a difference if we are accused? Furthermore, not only are we accused but also as the following text shows we are guilty because of our sin:
3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.
4) He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, ""Remove the filthy garments from him.'' Again he said to him, ""See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.''
13]The previous verses shows that we are indeed sinful. They also show that our accuser may seem to have a valid accusation. However, his charge will not stand, because God will take our sins away and give us not clothes. This same situation is mentioned in Romans 8:33 when the question is asked, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect?" Just as in the case of Joshua charges maybe brought forward. However, just as in the case of Joshua the answer is, "God is the one who justifies;" Therefore, no accusation will stand, because Christ Jesus died, was raised, and is at the right hand of God interceding for us.(Romans 8:34) He is the Lord Our Righteousness!(Jer. 23:6;33:16). Is this righteousness just a metaphor or some figure of speech mentioned only in the OT? Of course not, it is just as clear in the NT. In unambiguous language Paul makes the following statement:
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
30) It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
31) Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
14]Paul states that Christ Jesus has become our redemption, therefore He is our redemption and we do not plead our own redemption. In the same way He is our righteousness, therefore He is our righteousness and we do not plead our own righteousness. This verse is not talking about us being made righteous in Him, just as it is not talking about us being made our own wisdom or our own redemption. Instead, He has become for us wisdom and redemption, just as he has become for us our righteousness. The words of the Prophet Jeremiah ring so true, "the Lord our righteousness"(Jer.23:6;33:16)! We cannot meet the demands of God's righteous requirements, however there is a righteousness that is available in Christ. The question now becomes how do we receive it?
RIGHTEOUSNESS RECEIVED BY FATIH ALONE
15]How do we receive this gift of righteousness that is mentioned in the Scriptures? The Scriptures give us no other way of receiving this righteousness except by faith and faith alone. The Apostle Paul tells us that this righteousness is revealed in the Gospel and it is from faith to faith(Rom 1:17). This righteousness was manifested in his present time and was witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets. This righteousness is available through faith in Christ to all who believe, because we are all sinners(Rom. 3:21-23). We are justified as a gift through the redemption that is Christ whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith(Rom. 3:24-25). He did this to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ Jesus. Paul then makes the following statement:
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
16]Of course the Apostle could anticipate the reply from the typical Jew and that is "What about Abraham?" If works justified anyone it was Abraham. The following quote from the Apocrypha Prayer of Manasseh gives a general idea of the status given to Abraham:
Therefore thou, O Lord, God of the righteous,
hast not appointed repentance for the righteous,
for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against thee,
but thou hast appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.
17]If anyone was justified by his works or could boast it would be Abraham. Therefore, Paul refutes this argument with the Scriptures themselves. Paul first states that Abraham has no ground to boast before God(Rom.2:2) and then he tells us why:
For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
18]This quote does not settle the matter, because the Jews could easily claim that faith is a meritorious work. Therefore the Apostle Paul continues to build his case in the following verses:
4)Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
5)But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness
19]If you are earning your justification on the basis of works, infused with grace or not, you are the one working. However, the Apostle Paul says, to the one who does not work, but believes! In the thoughts of the Apostle belief is clearly not a work, because he contrasts the two and the believing one is not working. It is also noteworthy that nowhere in Genesis 15:6 is Abraham performing any kind of work! The Apostle has made it clear that faith is not a work. Therefore, if the only thing that Abraham is doing is believing and he is justified, then he is justified by faith alone. I asked my opponent to show what work justified Abraham in Genesis 15? If he cannot show any work that Abraham performed then the point is proven. He was justified by faith alone.
20]Paul goes on to say that you must believe in Him that justifies the ungodly. Paul is saying that Abraham was ungodly when he was justified. Therefore, this must be the first time that Abraham was justified unless according to my opponent's theology he committed a "mortal sin". However, there is not only no evidence for such a thing, but as we have seen from the Apocryphal prayer it was common to believe Abraham didn't even sin. So any claim of a "mortal sin" must provide at least some cogent reasons for this belief besides the reason that our current theology demands it. The amazing thing is Paul doesn't stop here, but instead makes his case stronger by appealing to the words of David:
6) David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7) "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
8) Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
21]Paul makes the point that "David says the same thing". What same thing is he talking about? "The blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works". Paul then gives the quote from David that proves his point, which are verses 7-8. Therefore, the forgiving of transgressions, covering of sins, and never counting those sins against an individual is equivalent to crediting righteousness apart from works. I must ask my opponent, "Who in his system will never have their sins counted against them?"
22]This statement shows that David is in agreement with Abraham and Paul. He is agreeing that we are justified by faith apart from works. One more important point to mention and it is Good News. Verse 7 is plural! Therefore this blessing is not only for David and Abraham. This blessing is not only for the circumcised(v.9). Instead this blessing is for all that believe in the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and risen Christ. This blessing is for all who acknowledge that they are indeed the ungodly. For those who put their trust and hope in this God they will never be put to shame(Rom. 9:33;10:11).
23]For another proof of this righteousness being received by faith alone we have the following:
2)For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
3)Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.
24]Paul's point is simple and direct. You either establish your own righteousness or submit to the righteousness of God. The question arises again, "How do we submit to and receive this righteousness of God?" Thanks be to God the Apostle tells us. Does he say it is by graced infused works? Or does he only mention faith as the means for attaining this righteousness?
4)Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5)Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them."
6)But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, `Who will ascend into heaven?'"(that is, to bring Christ down)
7)"or `Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
8)But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
9)That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
25]Did you see the Apostle's answer? "Righteousness is for everyone who believes"(v.4). Not only that, but he goes on to distinguish between the righteousness that is achieved by works and one that is achieved by faith. The righteousness of law(v.5) says "do these things", the righteousness of faith(v.6) says "believe in your heart"(v.9). There is only one that has "done those things" and achieved the former righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now for the rest of us we can only attained this righteousness by the latter means, which is faith. Again we see no mentioning of works to achieve this righteousness, but instead only faith or faith alone. The Apostle continues on with the following words:
10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
11) As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
26]It is with the heart that one believes and is justified. Here is that word belief again being mention as the instrumental cause of our justification. Where are the grace infused works? Not here. Instead you have, if you trust in him you will never be put to shame!
27]Paul makes the point that we are justified by faith alone also in the book of Galatians. He asked the foolish Galatians the following question:
So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
28]There are two choices to this question, works of the Law or hearing with faith. I now asked my opponent and you readers the same question, "Were you provided with the Spirit by works of the Law or by hearing with faith?" Of course the correct answer is hearing with faith, which is faith alone. There is no doing in this verse except the hearing of the promises and believing in them that causes God to give us His Spirit. Finally, there is one more passage that I would like to discuss. Here again we will see that the Apostle Paul clearly distinguishes between faith and ALL other works.
8)For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
9)not by works, so that no one can boast.
10)For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
29]The previous verses clearly point out that we are saved by grace, through faith. This is the gift of God and not by works. Again the distinction is made between faith and works. The important thing in these verses is that grace infused works are mentioned, but not as a means our salvation instead as a fruit of the salvation we already have. In verse 9 in states we are saved "not by works". In verse 10 it states we are "created in Christ Jesus to do good works,, which God prepared in advance for us to do". It does not say, "created in Christ Jesus by good works". The good words inevitable follow after we are in Christ. However, the question is, "How do we get in Christ ?" Verse 8 has already given us the answer. It is by grace through faith, therefore faith alone.
30]We know that God demands a perfect righteousness to be justified before His judgment seat. We also know that we are not capable of producing this righteousness. As a matter of fact we acknowledge that we are the ungodly and therefore God's righteous judgment against us is vindicated as the Scriptures state:
"... let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, 'THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.'
31]However, the good news is that this righteousness is available to the ungodly. The only means given in the Scriptures to attain this justifying righteous is by faith in the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and risen Christ. Therefore, it is by faith alone!