Justification by faith is a difficult doctrine. As part of the fallen race of Adam, we long to participate in our own salvation. We want desperately to contribute something, but God does not want our gifts or good works for salvation; He wants our faith and our faith alone. He will do the rest.
God understands our dilemma. He knows that justification by faith can be understood only with the help of the Holy Spirit, our faithful Counselor. He is able to quench our desire for a works-based approach to salvation. It is virtually impossible for the average person, especially unbelievers, to grasp the concept of justification by faith apart from the Holy Spirit.
I know first-hand because I’ve been there. I’ll never forget the day the Spirit turned on the light in my brain. I was explaining to a pastor how I tried to live by the Golden Rule and to be a good person. His response shocked me to my very core – he told me my plan was futile and had a zero chance of success. His words ran totally against what the world had told me.
I’ve now seen this phenomenon from the other side and you probably have too. Perhaps you’ve talked with a person who is not yet a Christian about how a person is not saved or made right with God through self-effort or self-works. You explain how a person is made right with God simply by believing on Jesus Christ by faith and then God forgives them of their sin and imputes the righteousness of Christ to their life. Frequently the person will look back with a momentary blank stare, say, “Uh huh”, and then go right on talking about how they aren’t really such a bad person and they are doing their best to “please the big guy upstairs”. That was me until the Holy Spirit enlightened me.
I have come to believe the great Truth of justification by faith can only be understood with the enlightening help of the Holy Spirit. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the average person (unbeliever) to grasp this basic spiritual concept of justification by faith. It should not be that hard to grasp, yet it remains a huge stumbling stone (Isaiah 8:14). Doing your best does not save you. You are saved as a free gift of grace. The only requirement is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. Yet plenty of highly intelligent people are unable to grasp this concept. In fact, intelligence commonly acts a hindrance.
It is only through the assistance of the Holy Spirit whereby people can come to faith in Christ. The Bible confirms it. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Cor.2:14). This is why intelligence is often a roadblock, not a facilitator.
An even more amazing observation is that, all too often, people who sit in church week after week, where the doctrine of justification by faith preached with power and consistency, often don’t understand this great Truth. When you talk to these people, many of them talk about salvation by works. They do not even use the “grace vocabulary” of justification by faith.
The Bible speaks the Truth, however. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law.” (Romans 3:28). But it’s the verse that precedes this that gives one reason God’s plan of salvation works the way it does. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of Works? No, but by the Law of Faith.” (Romans 3:27).
If man can contribute anything to his own salvation in way of meritorious works, then he has something of which to boast, provided he complies and makes the necessary contribution to his own salvation. This method is not normal in God’s eyes. Boasting is pride, which is sinful, so how can sin contribute to righteousness? If, however, man contributes absolutely nothing to his own salvation, but is saved exclusively by divine grace through faith, then he has nothing to boast in. His salvation is an absolutely free, totally undeserved gift of grace. He can find no reason to boast. This method is normal in God’s eyes.
The normal way to being right with God is clearly stated in Romans 3:27-28. We contribute nothing to our own salvation because we have nothing to contribute. We bring nothing to the table. We are spiritually bankrupt and destitute apart from Christ (Matthew 5:3). We have no righteousness to invest in our salvation because “All our righteous acts are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We are saved on the righteousness of Christ because He alone has the righteousness to save us. Thus, we are not saved by works, or by grace plus obedience to the Law of God, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation? Are you believing in Jesus and His atoning work on your behalf as your only hope of salvation, or are you still trying to impress God with your efforts? Do you want to be right with God today? The path is simple: You are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. “Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). Be normal and be right with God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
“I’m Normal.” – I AM
It’s God talking to you.
In His love and service,
A servant of Jesus Christ
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