(Continued from page 324)Justification by Faith Alone?
The Bible teaches that justification is a once-for-all event based entirely on God's grace and received through faith alone. Scripture teaches that: 1) justification is a singular and instantaneous event; 2) justification involves a legal declaration by God; 3) justification is external to man; 4) justification is once-for-all; 5) justification is based on the work of Christ on the cross; 6) the result of justification is peace with God; 7) justification comes through faith alone; 8) justification is based entirely on God's grace; and 9) good works are a consequence of justification, not a condition of it.
The Bible portrays justification as a singular event in which God declares the believing sinner to be righteous. It is not based on performance or good works. It involves God's instantaneous pardoning of the sinner, declaring him or her to be absolutely righteous at the moment he or she trusts in Christ for salvation (see Romans 3:25,28,30; 8:33,34; Galatians 4:21-5:12; 1 John 1:7-2:2), hence our confidence that, like the thief on the cross, we can be certain of spending eternity in heaven with Christ.
Negatively, this word means that a person is once-for-all pronounced not guilty before God. Positively, the word means that a person is once-for-all pronounced righteous before God. The very righteousness of Christ is imputed (or credited) to the believer's life. From the moment a person places faith in Christ the Saviour, God sees that person through the lens of Christ's righteousness - He views us as if He were viewing His Son (in terms of righteousness!). This view is often referred to as 'forensic justification.' 'Forensic' comes from a Latin word meaning 'forum' which has its roots in the ancient Roman forum, where a court could meet and make judicial, or legal, declarations. Forensic justification, then, speaks of God's judicial declaration of the believer's righteousness before Him. The believer is legally acquitted of all guilt, and the very righteousness of Christ is imputed to his account. Henceforth, when God sees the believer, He sees him in all the righteousness of Christ.
Justification is external to man, and does not hinge on man's personal level of righteousness or on anything that man does. It hinges solely on God's declaration. Even while the person is still a sinner and is experientially not righteous, he is nevertheless righteous in God's sight because of forensic justification. This view of justification has support from the Old Testament. For example, in Deuteronomy 25:1 we read of judges who 'justify the unrighteous and condemn the wicked' (emphasis added). The word justify here clearly means 'declare to be righteous' just as condemn means 'declare to be guilty.' The word is used in a forensic sense here and elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Job 27:5 and Proverbs 17:15). When the apostle Paul (an Old Testament scholar par excellence) used the word justify in the Book of Romans, he did so against this Old Testament backdrop.
So, to use modern terminology, at the moment a person places personal faith in Christ, God makes an incalculable 'deposit' of righteousness into that person's personal 'spiritual bank account.' It is a once-for-all act on God's part and is irrevocable. It is a 'done deal' in modern parlance and cannot be 'lost' . God's pronouncement is final. This is the wonderful gift of salvation that the apostles, Church Fathers and Reformers and pre-Reformers died for.
Justification is based solely on the work of Christ on the cross. God did not just subjectively decide to overlook man's sin or wink at his unrighteousness. Justification has an objective basis. Indeed, Jesus died on the cross for us. He died in our stead and paid for our sins. Jesus ransomed us from death by His own death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21: 'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God').
Martin Luther definitely understood this fact, for he wrote: 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what You were not so that I might become what I was not.' But he so wished to emphasise the folly of his old Papal ways that he determined to stress that works were in no way part of salvation to the point where he encouraged Antinomianism (literally, 'against law') in his efforts to live by grace alone.
The result of justification is peace with God. Romans 5:1 states:
'Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'
Because there is peace between the Father and Jesus, there is also peace between the Father and believers, since believers are 'in Christ' (Romans 8:1). When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, God looks at us through the Lord Jesus Christ. He sees us in all absolute purity and holiness of His Son.
Scripture clearly teaches justification by faith in Christ alone (Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:6-14). God justifies 'the one who has faith in Jesus' (Romans 3:26). 'A man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law' (Romans 3:28). 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness' (Romans 4:3). 'Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1).
Justification is based entirely on God's grace. Romans 3:24 tells us that God's declaration of righteousness is given to believers 'freely by his grace'. The word grace literally means 'unmerited favour.' It is because of God's unmerited favour that believers can freely be 'declared righteous' before God. The Bible makes virtually no reference to 'sanctifying grace.' In the Bible, grace is quite simply grace - and it refers to the unmerited favour of God. 'Unmerited' means it cannot be worked for, but the cults teach that one must do meritorious works to earn grace. If grace is not free, though, it is not truly grace and Scripture makes this absolutely clear:
'If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace' (Romans 11:6).
Further, the idea that God's grace is repeatedly communicated to His people through 'sacramental good works' has no biblical basis. God's grace is given to us not through ritual ceremonies but comes straight from Him to all who believe in the person of Jesus Christ:
'Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God' (Romans 5:1,2).
Contrary to the cults, merit plays no role in obtaining eternal life. From a biblical perspective, opting for the merit system can only be bad, since all of us merit one thing -eternal death - as the Bible makes clear:
'For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 6:23).
We simply cannot do good works to earn favour with God. Rather, our favour with God comes only as a result of placing faith in Christ, after which time the Father sees us as being 'in Christ.' Experientially we may still be quite imperfect, but the Father sees us as having the very perfection of Christ since we are 'in Christ' (Romans 8:1). As a result of our relationship with Christ, and as a result of walking in dependence on the Spirit, good works are increasingly produced in our lives. Good works are the result of our relationship with Christ, not the source of it.
Psalm 130:3,4 makes this very clear: 'If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness'. This passage exemplifies grace. The phrase 'kept a record' referred, among the ancients, to keeping an itemized account. The point of the psalmist is that if God were keeping a detailed account of all our sins, there would be no way for us to have a relationship with Him. It would be impossible. The good news is that God does not keep such an itemized account but rather forgives those who trust in Christ.
True grace is sometimes hard for people to grasp. After all, our society is performance-oriented. Obtaining good grades in school depends on how well we perform in school. Climbing up the corporate ladder at work depends on how well we perform at work. In our society, nothing of any real worth is a 'free ticket.' But God's gift of salvation is a grace-gift. It is free! We cannot attain it by a good performance. Ephesians 2:8,9 affirms this:
'By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.'
Titus 3:5 affirms this truth that God:
'He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.'
By contrast, Romans 3:20 says that 'by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [or declared righteous] in His sight' (insert added). In Galatians 2:16 the apostle Paul tells us that 'a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.'
We repeat - gifts cannot be worked for - only wages can be worked for as Romans 4:4-5 tells us:
'When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness'.
Since salvation is a free gift, it cannot be earned. I hope we are clear on this point for it is irrefutable.
Good works are a consequence of justification, not a condition for it. Good works are a by-product of salvation (Matthew 7:15-23; 1 Timothy 5:10,25). Good works result from the changed purpose for living that salvation brings (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
We are not saved by our works, but in order to do good works. We do works not to gain salvation, but because we have already gained it.
So at the end it all comes down to this simple choice - do you believe the clear teaching of the Bible given through inspired men such as the apostle Paul (Romans 3:20):
'by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [or declared righteous] in His sight'
This is the reason that many churches are allowing believers to waive the baptismal rite - they accept that we are saved by grace, but have lost sight of the importance of baptism as a declaration of faith in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. They are clearly in error in this matter but, like the thief on the cross, still expect to receive their heavenly reward. On the other hand cultists seek to obtain their justification by works which Scripture clearly declares to be in error. Who are you going to believe - the Bible or the errors of fallible men like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Bruce McConkie?
Desrae, consider this fact. Your church has replaced the use of wine to represent the blood of Christ with water. Why? We are familiar with the excuses about alcoholic wine and its purchase from non-Mormons being unpleasing to God, and contradictory to the 'Word of Wisdom', but none of this is true to the facts. Consider these facts proved by the excellent researchers at:
It is a sad fact that, just as your leaders switched from blood-red wine to water, so they watered down the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to produce a sad spiritual counterfeit lacking any power at all.
Please do some serious research yourself. Try and prove the facts that we, and the Tanners and others, present you with - you have nothing to lose except eternal life.
We have nothing but love for Mormons and it would be showing hatred for us to tell you anything but the truth.
We will be praying for you.
In the Name of the Precious Saviour God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
3rd April, 2003 - 21.03
Thank you for your reply. I will consider your words and respond later after some study and prayer.
God bless you,
3rd April, 2003 - 22.35
I have read your words and fear that we will come to an impasse. You call our gospel a "cursed" gospel and talk about its devastation, so I am afraid your mind is made up, but I will try.
I have accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I have prayed and accepted him as my Lord and the ony true way to get to eternal life, yet you say I cannot get to heaven. Under your own definition that should be enough--regardless of our different interpretation of the scriptures.
You say we believe more in good works than grace. This is not true. We believe in them equally. We believe whole heartedly that we cannot reach the presence of our Heavenly Father without the Saviors intercession for us. The grace (divine help) he gives to us helps us to do what he has asked "If ye love me Keep my commandments," because no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
When Christ was asked in Matthew 19:16 what men have to do to have eternal life, why didn't He just say,"Just believe. It is enough." Verse 17 is very clear and this story is repeated in the Saviors own words in other gospels.
I still believe that water baptism is referred to in John 3:5. I concede that your interpretation is possible. However, mine has equal force. Why then would Christ be baptised in this way? He showed us the way. He is our exemplar. All the other scriptures that talk of water baptism--John the baptist baptizing, Christ himself baptizing, Paul baptizing, all point to them thinking it was important enough to spend their time doing it. Mark 16:16 still says "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Luke 7:30 says "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the cousel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." You discount Acts 2. What about Acts 10:47-48? Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the HOly Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord..." Why would he "command" this if they didn't need it after already having the Holy Ghost. Romans 6:4 is also still essential. I could list more, but I'm afraid you and I will interpret them differently.
I believe in spiritual rebirth to change the heart, but it has to be constantly reoccuring as we repent. Can you honestly say that when you accepted the Savior that you never backtracked and had to be reborn again? Don't you wish you could be reborn again on a daily basis? You can. I can. The Holy Ghost does this. Thank God it is so, because we as humans forget. "Remember" is one of the most frequently used words in the scriptures along with repent.
I'm afraid I find my church very consistent with the teachings of Christ, so Galatians 1:6-9 cannot apply to our church.
I don't think you explained what will happen to someone who has never been introduced to the gospel of Christ? 1 Peter 3:19 talks about preaching to the spirits in prison and other scriptures refer to this same prison. This doctrine is very important to understand. The spirit world as you have probably already read is divided into two parts--prison and paradise. We believe that the Christ said to the thief "Today we will be together in the "world of spirits" and paradise was what the Catholic priests interpretted that to mean misunderstanding the concept. I can't prove this, but it makes sense to me that the thief will have to learn a little more about Christ and will do so there and then when he knows the "word" well enough he too can accept Christ as his Savior. Like you said--The word can cleanse and knowledge of the word is important.
I don't follow your explanation of the reason there is no second chance. I do read in that passage that we must be doers of the law to be justified, but the passage is very difficult to understand and open to much interpretation.
In fact, I'm sorry but the more I research in the Bible alone, the more I find it goes in circles and seems to contradict itself due to what I can only see as total mistranslations by those who were so far from the source and uninspired. Of course there is no way of proving what is mistranslation and which is not without another source, so I am sorry that you do not have the Book of Mormon which is very simple and clear and full of the Spirit of God.
Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have prayed about him and the Book of Mormon and the gospel and I know it is true. I am no Bible scholar, but this I know because flesh and blood has not revealed it to me but God Himself. The Book of Mormon bears beautiful testimony of Jesus as the Christ the Savior of the world. It draws people closer to the Savior. It has brought me closer to my Savior. I also know Heavenly Father loves each of us as His children and that Jesus is the Christ and is my personal Savior. I feel the spirit now as I bear this testimony to you, but I understand that what I say will scare you. Questioning beliefs is scary. I have been there. I have studied with many protestant bible studies--Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Navigators, Elizabeth George, etc, but I did not find all the answers. I did feel portions were true and helped me in my life, but the Church of Jesus Christ is the most logical answer and the spirit confirms the truth of it.
Have you ever been to one of our services? Have you read the Book of Mormon? I am no authority in our church, so I can make mistakes, but your research would be helped by doing these two things.
As I write to you I hear the apostles of our church bearing profound, spiritual testimony that Jesus is the Christ. He says his whole life is given purpose because he knows that Jesus is the Savior. Doesn't this sound like he has been born again spiritually.
Thanks for your time. I'll understand if you don't want to write again since you can see I am firm in my faith.
God bless you. I admire you for your knowledge of the Bible and faith in Christ. It will lead you to truth and make you a good person.
7th April, 2003 - TCE replies:
thank you again for taking the time to write to us.
It is taking us longer than originally anticipated to fully address all the points you brought up in your last e-mail, but we will reply fully in the very near future.
In the love and grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ
9th May, 2003 - 18.07
we apologise for taking longer than anticipated to fully address all the points you brought up in your last e-mail, but we trust the time has been effectively used.
To address your e-mail, point by point:
I hope you realise that our judgement regarding the gospel according to Joseph Smith is an entirely logical conclusion from Scripture (as found in the Bible alone) based on his doctrines, including those regarding law-keeping and salvation by good works. It is very clear that the Mormon gospel according to Smith and Young, et al, which exists largely unchanged since their days, is very different from that presented by the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples - which is why Paul wrote (Galatians 1:6v9):
6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
(Continued on page 326)