The doctrine of justification by faith was the subject of much of Sunday’s sermon, “The Gospel of Abraham.”
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:7, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” so it is with all those who believe. Our salvation is owing to God’s free gift of righteousness and no work of our own. Even our faith is merely a receiving of this gift, and not a work performed in exchange for God’s favor.
This doctrine is a comfort for us in death, for sure. We will stand before God, “dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before his throne,” as the old hymn goes.
But the doctrine of justification by faith is a comfort in life as well as it makes possible the assurance that we are safe with God. Here’s how Martin Luther put it:
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”
And here’s how this doctrine is expressed as our comfort in life in the song, “Before the Throne,” written by Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863:
When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there,
who made an end to all my sin;
Because the sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.
To explore the doctrine of justification by faith further, listen to the audio from Clarus ’09, Galatians and the Problem of Self Justification, and especially D.A. Carson’s talk, ”Justification/Righteousness and the Cross of Christ.” Then, consider reading, Justified by Faith Alone, by R.C. Sproul, available on Amazon.