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Justification by Grace

Romans 3:24 — “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

The Protestant Reformation was born with much emphasis on the Scriptural truth of justification by faith; and faith is the way that God has said that a sinner will receive justification.  The conclusion — “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28).

Now some may say, and often have over the centuries, that faith and works are not mutually exclusive.  This is a true statement.  In fact, the Israelites under the law showed their faith by keeping the law:

Luke 1:6 — “And they [Zacharias and Elisabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

Many, among what is known as Christianity, are not sure what to do about the question of works or faith.  An assistant professor of theology at Quincy University recently wrote a book with the title “Salvation by Allegiance Alone:  Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King”, in which he argues that the word translated faith should really be interpreted “allegiance” rather that “belief” or “trust”.  From the very title of this book, we can see that he misses the distinction between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of grace, so by this mixing, he becomes confused.  This argument essentially puts salvation in the hands of the sinner, and is what has become known as “lordship salvation” to the fullest.  He argues that we are saved solely by our allegiance to “Jesus as king”¹.  He also argues that one will be finally saved or finally lost on the basis of his allegiance, so forget security, buddy — it’s all up to you!

But a Scriptural truth that is seldom grasped and much underappreciated even since the Reformation is spelled out clearly in Romans 3:24 — “Being justified freely by His grace”.  No one is finally justified because of his own allegiance;  we are justified by God’s grace.  One may argue from James 2 that faith without works is dead², but justification by grace shuts the sinner up to the grace of God alone.  There is no room for works of any kind by the sinner.  He must freely receive what God gives freely … the righteousness of God without the law (Romans 3:21).

Read the verse again:  “Being justified freely”…

How?

Freely

How?

FREELY

How?

FREELY!!!!

The word translated freely is also translated “without a cause” (John 15:25), “in vain” (Galatians 2:21), and “for nought” (2 Thessalonians 3:8).  In each case, the sense is “undeservedly”.  We did nothing to deserve this gift of grace, and no amount of allegiance will make us deserve it.  We are saved and justified because of God’s grace — alone. 

Ephesians 2:4 – 9 — “But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Now I realize that I did not continue the passage with verse 10.  Many may stress the importance of verse 10 here, almost as though it modifies the rest of these great words.  But here is verse 10:

Ephesians 2:10 — “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Notice that even here, there is mo emphasis on our works — “For we are HIS workmanship”  This is not about our works, but about God’s work.  We are a display of HIS workmanship.

Sir Robert Anderson, in his book “Redemption Truths”³, relates this story of a conversation that he had with a Roman Catholic friend on the subject:


“There is one great truth of Christianity of which your Church knows absolutely nothing.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“Justification by grace,” I answered.

“You mean justification by faith,” said he.

“No,” I said, “I mean justification by grace.” After a little fencing, he told me plainly that he did not understand me; and, with frequent interruptions on his part, I went on to explain what I meant.

Between justification by faith and salvation by works, as explained by my friend, there is, in theory at least, no necessary antagonism. But the whole position is absolutely inconsistent with justification by grace. For if a sinner has a claim of any kind for blessing or mercy, there is no room for grace. Therefore it was that grace could not be revealed till Christ came. Till then, men held relationships with God, based either on creation, or on covenant, or on promise. But relationships are in their very nature twosided; and as the Cross of Christ outraged every claim which God had upon man, it destroyed every claim which man had upon God. The whole world now stands on a common level of sin and wrath. For neither Church, nor sacrament, nor personal effort, can avail to establish a difference, since God has declared that there is no difference. The Cross has leveled all distinctions, and shut men up to judgment; this is the dark background on which “the grace of God, salvation-bringing to all men, has been manifested.” (Titus 2:11.)

And the grace of God is not, as some seem to think, a kind of good influence imparted to the sinner to fit him to receive Divine blessing. It is the principle on which God blesses sinners in whom He can find no fitness whatsoever. And grace has now been manifested. In the Old Testament it was implied, indeed, but veiled; in the New, it is an open revelation. Grace was behind the promises. But neither in the case of God nor of man, is it grace to fulfill a promise. There is no grace in bestowing favor upon one who has a claim to favor, whether that claim depend upon promise or upon relationship. But when men became “the betrayers and murderers” of the Son of God, every promise was forfeited, every relationship sacrificed; sin reached its climax, and a lost world was shut up to judgment, stern, relentless, and terrible.

But now, judgment waits on grace. For all judgment has been committed to the Son; and He has been “exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins.” All amnesty has been proclaimed, and during this day of grace the judgment throne is empty. GRACE is reigning through righteousness unto eternal life, by our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 5:24; Acts 5:31 (cf. 11:18); Romans 5:21.) The sinner, then, is “justified by grace” because God can find no reason, no motive, save in His own heart, for blessing him at all.


That we are justified by faith is a necessary extension of God’s gift of justification by grace. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace”4 is the end of the matter as the Apostle Paul speaks of the justification by faith principle.  Furthermore, when discussing a remnant in Israel “according to the election of grace”, we see a principle that should be the end of discussion on the matter:

Romans 11:6 — “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

Whether “faith” and “works” are or are not mutually exclusive might be argued.  Grace and works are mutually exclusive.  It is either by grace, or by works.  It cannot be both.

Romans 4:4 – 5 — “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

The redemption that is in Christ Jesus, the price that God paid to justify us freely, came at great cost to Himself, in that it cost Him the cruel death of His beloved Son by the hands of sinners.  But because He is fully satisfied by the price paid, He can offer redemption through His blood, and forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace5.  This is not “cheap grace”, but the costliest grace ever purchased.  It is, however, offered freely “unto all”, and actually conferred “upon all them that believe”.

You, whoever you are that is reading this, may also be partaker in this super-abounding grace of Almighty God.  You may be justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus by simply taking God at His word, and believing the gospel by which we are saved, that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures6 By Him, all that believe are justified from all things7, and only disbelief in this wonderful gospel would seek to add anything to its completion.  You may be saved, and fully assured of your salvation and justification by God — by God’s grace, through faith:

Titus 3:7 — “That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”


Footnotes:

  1. Sometimes it is telling when writers speak of “Jesus” simply by His common name.  He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and when we refer to Him, we should be conscious of the manner that we speak of Him, not to bring Him down to our level, but to exalt Him as Lord.
  2. There is a dispensational distinction between what Paul was speaking of in Romans 4, and what James is speaking of in James chapter 2 when discussing Abraham and justification.  Paul goes back to Abram in Genesis 15, in uncircumcision, while James speaks of Abraham as under the covenant of circumcision.  Understanding this distinction in these 2 chapters will help to rightly divide the word of truth on this matter and not make a mess of these doctrines.
  3. Anderson, Sir Robert. “Justification and Sanctification Through Redemption.” Redemption Truths, Kregel Publications, 1980, pp. 82-84.
  4. Romans 4:16
  5. Ephesians 1:7
  6. 1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4
  7. Acts 13:39

 

Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

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