What is justification by faith, part 4?

by Rick Brentlinger
(Pace, FL, USA)

Our works cannot justify us

Our works cannot justify us



Justification by faith may be the most neglected doctrine in the church today. This neglect has deadly consequences for cultural christians who have a head knowledge of Jesus but have never been saved.

Michael Horton, in his book, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ, makes the point that the spiritual adoption of a sinner into the family of God, Galatians 3:26, 4:5, Ephesians 1:5, carries both a relational and also a forensic or legal emphasis.

“Before orphans can enjoy the love and care of a new family,” writes Horton, “they must be legally adopted.” Covenant and Salvation, p. 248. Great point!
We must take care not to emphasize the forensic side of justification as a legal declaration from God so much that we forget the dramatic love story involved in redemption.

Jesus stepped out of eternity into time, took our sins upon Himself, paid for our sins and rose from the dead, proving that God accepted the payment Jesus made for our sins.

Justification by faith is intimately related to other Bible doctrines like sanctification and adoption. Far from being a cold and impersonal Judge, God is also our loving heavenly Father. Beyond the legal relational aspect of justification, we “are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26. God’s purpose was both to redeem and to adopt us according to Galatians 4:5.
“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Instead of simply redeeming slaves from sin, God in His amazing grace, also adopted the redeemed slaves and made them His sons, no longer slaves but sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. “Adoption, like justification, is simultaneously legal and relational.” Covenant and Salvation, p. 247.
God loves us so much it’s not enough to pay for our sins and redeem us from death. God also wants to be our Father, in intimate loving relationship for all eternity so He also makes us, by faith, His sons and daughters.


Justification by faith is the
focal point of the gospel


The entire gospel is bound up in justification by faith. Without J-B-F, there is no gospel, 1 Cor 15:1-4. The Biblical gospel is “according to the scriptures.” The gospel is not someone’s personal belief that God’s wrath against sin doesn’t matter. The gospel is not someone’s personal belief that God would never really punish sin.

Israel was devoted to God yet Jesus blasted the Jews for their legalism and religiosity, for, in effect, trusting their own righteousness instead of the righteousness of God. Read Matthew 23 and see if you can find gentle Jesus, meek and mild in that chapter.

Israel was religious and had great zeal for God yet their religious zeal could not save them. Their zeal was not according to the knowledge God has revealed in Holy Scripture, Romans 10:2. Israel’s problem during the life of Christ was the same problem we see in our dear Catholic friends and other religious folk today.
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:3-4.
You see, God’s righteousness comes via justification by faith, apart from any human works. God never imputes (freely gives us) His righteousness based on human works.
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 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.” Romans 4:3-5
Justification by faith, our salvation, is received from God as the free gift of His grace. It is not something we earn with good works. It is not something God gives us because we got baptized or joined the church or tried to clean up our life.

No one can earn
justification by faith


The difference between Catholicism and the Bible is outlined in Romans 10. By going about to establish their own infused righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Believing that God infuses righteousness into them through the Catholic church as they do good works ignores the finished work of Christ on the cross and substitutes their human righteousness for the righteousness of Christ.

When Jesus, hanging on the cross, said, “It is finished,” His work of atonement, paying the full penalty for our sins, was done, John 19:30. We cannot add anything to what Jesus already did. It is finished and no matter how good our intentions, God will not allow us to add anything to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Please don’t miss
this basic truth


Your eternal destiny hangs on getting this right. If you miss this truth, you miss the righteousness of God in Christ. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." Romans 10:4. Human righteousness is not good enough. We need the righteousness of Christ yet that is only available as a free gift from God, Romans 5:17, 6:23.

Israel missed the righteousness of Christ because they tried to establish their own righteousness. Many dear Catholics make the same mistake, believing their righteousness comes from taking sacraments and doing good works. God and the Bible beg to differ. The bottom line is, God will not accept our human righteousness. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

Justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ are the definitive issues. We are not saved 99% by grace and 1% by works. Salvation is 100% by grace through faith plus nothing, with no human works involved. Justification is always by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

The law was powerless to produce righteousness for us but instead was our school master, Galatians 3:24. The law points out that we cannot keep the Ten Commandments and we could not keep the 613 commands of the law of Moses. God intended us to discover that and then trust Christ instead of trying to produce our own righteousness.

How do we get
God’s righteousness?


God demands perfect righteousness and only on the basis of perfect righteousness will God ever justify anyone. Back in the first century, the issue was God’s righteousness. Everyone needs it but how do we get it? The Bible points out that God’s righteousness is a free gift given to everyone who believes on Jesus apart from works, Romans 4:3-5.

The only righteousness God will accept is Christ’s righteousness. His righteousness alone meets the demands of a holy God. Protestants emphasize justification by faith alone which really means justification by the righteousness of Christ alone because our righteousness is inadequate to satisfy God, Isaiah 64:6.

That word, alone, is our line in the sand. It means God never mixes our works with His righteousness. God's salvation is all of grace and only by grace. Human works are never a factor in getting saved. Human works come after we get saved by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:10, as testimony to the fact that God has saved us and changed us from the inside out.

Beware of skubalon


God views every attempt to earn righteousness as skubalon, a Greek word for rubbish, garbage, dung. Paul was one of the most moral legalistic Jews who ever lived. But even his righteousness was not good enough to please God. Paul realized that his righteousness was dung, Philippians 3:6-9.
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28
The divine pronouncement through the gospel, that God justifies undeserving sinners entirely by faith without any works, can be difficult for human minds to grasp. The free gift of salvation and justification is so magnificent it drives us to unceasing gratitude.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin.
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall it’s praise begin?

Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free.
For the wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaches me!


What is justification by faith, part 1?

What is justification by faith, part 2?

What is justification by faith, part 3?

What is justification by faith, Part 5

Is blood atonement
necessary for salvation?


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