Tuesday: The Basis of Our Justification
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“And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3:9, NKJV).

We should not assume Jewish Christians were suggesting that faith in Christ was not important; after all, they were all believers in Jesus. They all had faith in Him. Their behavior showed, however, that they felt faith was not sufficient by itself; it must be supplemented with obedience, as if our obedience adds something to the act of justification itself. Justification, they would have argued, was by both faith and works. The way that Paul repeatedly contrasts faith in Christ with the works of the law indicates his strong opposition to this kind of “both and” approach. Faith, and faith alone, is the basis of justification.

For Paul, too, faith is not just an abstract concept; it is inseparably connected to Jesus. In fact, the phrase translated twice as “faith in Christ” in Galatians 2:16 is far richer than any translation can really encompass. The phrase in Greek is translated literally as “the faith” or “the faithfulness” of Jesus. This literal translation reveals the powerful contrast Paul is making between the works of the law that we do and the work of Christ accomplished in our behalf, the works that He, through His faithfulness (hence, the “faithfulness of Jesus”), has done for us.

It’s important to remember that faith itself doesn’t add to justification, as if faith were meritorious in and of itself. Faith is, instead, the means by which we take hold of Christ and His works in our behalf. We are not justified on the basis of our faith but on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness for us, which we claim for ourselves through faith.

Christ did what every individual has failed to do, and that is: He alone was faithful to God in everything He did. Our hope is in Christ’s faithfulness, not our own. As one author puts it, “We believe in Christ, not that we might be justified by that belief, but that we might be justified by his faith(fulness) to God.”—John McRay, Paul: His Life and Teaching(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 355.

An early Syriac translation of Galatians 2:16 conveys Paul’s meaning well: “Therefore we know that a man is not justified from the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus the Messiah, and we believe in him, in Jesus the Messiah, that from his faith, that of the Messiah, we might be justified, and not from the works of the law.”



Read Romans 3:22, 26Galatians 3:22Ephesians 3:12; and Philippians 3:9. How do these texts, and what we read above, help us understand the amazing truth that Christ’s faithfulness for us, His perfect obedience to God, is the only basis of our salvation?

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Tuesday: The Basis of Our Justification — 14 Comments

  1. It is my understanding that we obtain justification from God as a gift simply because we believe in His willingness and in His authority to justify us before the entire universe.

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  2. Is coming to Jesus itself not something we DO? Is it not an action itself? Seems there is a dichotomy when we do not make the distinction of distinctions.
    What is a requirement? What is discipline? What does work mean? Why does it gets distinguished as though what we do does not matter?
    [Off-topic edit]
    It comes down to being saved in or from our sin and the degree to which we fool ourselves into thinking that behavior is an aside and that Christ does it for us. If so why did he say "follow me" or take up your own cross"? Seems to me we have let the term "legalism" undermine every single concept of distinction starting with the concept God.
    [Off-topic edit]
    It appears to me that we need to refocus and not let the words of Paul come to us misconstrued thereby undermining the words of Jesus.
    Be sure to let God be God when reading the word and be sure to note what was said by Jesus in Matt 5.19:20

    19 "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."

    This should quell any doubts one might have as it relates to God, divinity, and the law. Gary

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    • Gary, what you are saying is important and has been on the mind of everyone in the church at one time or another.

      I will try to answer what you have said the best that I can and even then it may not be good enough for a discussion this important.

      First of all I didn’t say that what we do isn’t important – it is very important. Even so we can’t put the cart before the horse and expect things to work the way they should. We don’t come to Jesus, He comes to us, He is the one that initiates the path to salvation not sinful man, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NKJV; see also Rom 5:8). In our condition in this sinful world we have no power or will to do a turn around, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom 8:7 NKJV). Our total helplessness is something that we desperately need to understand. We can’t even repent on our own it is a gift from God (Acts 5:31) just like justification is.

      When Christ comes to us we are given a choice between lords and governments, it is a decision we must make and is the only thing we have power over. Beyond that, “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NKJV). If we choose the Lord then he justifies us and begins a rework. Perhaps a quote from Ellen White might clarify things.

      It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Job 14:4; Romans 8:7. Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life. There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness. (Steps to Christ, p 18.1)

      Think of it like the power steering in a large ore truck. The driver turns the steering wheel and the hydraulic servo unit senses the driver’s wishes and does all the muscle work for him. Like it you can will but you cannot do. That is the limit of man and the start of God’s power in our lives.

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      • Tyler I know this is gets circular quickly. But, do you think God asks us to do anything we cannot do? What about the woman caught in adultery? .. Jesus asked her where her accusers went and then a very direct "go and transgress against the law (sin) no more". Would He have asked her to do something she could not have done?
        Why doesn't Jesus tell us to not worry about it - He'll just do it for us? He really never states that. Oh yes there are the light yokes and lay your burden down. Do you think that was a dismissal of aspiring to righteousness?
        I worry about the effect of putting aside the law through misconstruing Paul especially in leu of the fact that when the law is mentioned, *which* law is not, and thus evangelicals rush in with fingers wagging exclaiming "legalism, legalism"!
        It destroys the very idea that God is God and we are not, which undermines the essential essence of what any good law embodies: selflessness.
        Two things get lodged in place when we obey. We are selfless as it relates to God and dialectics (ownership of truth) and as a well it keeps us selfless as it pertains others.
        Gary

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  3. I think that is impossible to be justified by works of law because we are already under the condemnation for our guilt. Even if we obey the law now, this is not enough to compensate for our guilt. A good deed can not compensate for a bad. Therefore, the only our hope is relying on Christ’s faithfulness.

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    • I agree it is impossible to be justified by the law only. Look at it this way if only the laws we had to obey to reach heaven dont you think every one would be prepared to go? It takes more than the law to get us there. for if it was the law only many would kept them but only half heartedly. Thats why we have to have faith. With faith it come from the heart.

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  4. Our justification is based entirely on our faith. It is also because of our faith that we keep the law. Our works can be seen as a showing of our faith, a 'concretizing' of it, faith in action.

    We can sit, saying I have faith but our works show, profess "I have faith in the faithfulness of Christ for me".

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  5. I believe that for me, without faith in Jesus, I as an addict to sin am incapable of following the law of God. I may have an outward appearance of following the law, but of course what is in my heart is only known by God. Only through faith in Jesus, and a desire to be like him, will I find peace in following Gods law. Personally I am very thankful that my salvation isn’t dependant on following the law solely. However my faith in Jesus, and asking Him to help me transform my evil heart/ways will I be able to follow the law of God.

    I like the scene on Calvary where Jesus forgives, and there by saves the thief on the cross next to him, only because the thief believed Jesus was the Son of God. For the thief his last act on earth was to confess his belief in Christ, he never had a chance to follow the “law of God”, and yet was saved only because of faith. I do not believe this is the case for everyone, and the notion “once saved, always saved” is not the case. I find it more of an example of salvation by faith in Jesus. As my love of Jesus grows, I will follow the law almost automatically. Will I be tempted to sin, absolutely! Even more so once Satan knows he is losing his grip on me. Will I give in to the temptation? Unfortunately more than likely. However my faith in Jesus gives me hope, in knowing I can fall to His feet and ask for forgiveness, and have faith that I shall receive it! That for me is the Blessed truth.

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  6. Justify by faith alone means that who by faith reach the justice of Jesus Christ, will be saved. Thanks, Eulices

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  7. Gary, I know where you are coming from because I’ve been there. The entire New Testament is filled admonition about doing good works. Therefore, the question is not over whether we do them or not but rather how we are to do them.

    The problem is that since the fall in Eden man cannot do the good he is supposed to do. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer 13:23 NKJV). That is why we are justified by faith alone. It is something we are unable to do ourselves. Likewise because of our total bent to sin (Rom 8:7; Rom 7:14-15) we are unable to do the good we know we should do.

    In order for us to do those things we first must make a firm decision to do them. That means exercising the power of the will. By that I don’t mean some power within man as the world would have us think for to them man is his own God who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps. It is the philosophy of evolution that teaches that man himself has the power to do what he wants to do. What I mean by the power of the will is the freedom of choice. It is the one thing no one else has power over unless we give them that option.
    The second thing we do is to ask for the help we need in order to do what we have decided to do. Jesus gave us reasons for this in His teaching of our connection to Him in John 15.

    “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:4-7 NKJV).

    Jesus also said something similar to that concerning our witness under stress, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mk 13:11 NKJV).

    An even more striking statement of Jesus is this, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works (John 14:10 NKJV).

    If we don’t invoke the power of Jesus to do His will through us then we are no longer under the new covenant but have placed ourselves back again under the old covenant where man does the works on his own. I won’t go into the covenants any further because we will get into that in a couple of weeks. For now it is enough to understand that it is Jesus that has the power to do what needs to be done “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27 NKJV) for He is, “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3 NKJV).

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  8. “And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3:9, NKJV).

    "We should not assume Jewish Christians were suggesting that faith in Christ was not important; after all, they were all believers in Jesus. They all had faith in Him. Their behavior showed, however, that they felt faith was not sufficient by itself; it must be supplemented with obedience, as if our obedience adds something to the act of justification itself. Justification, they would have argued, was by both faith and works. The way that Paul repeatedly contrasts faith in Christ with the works of the law indicates his strong opposition to this kind of “both and” approach. Faith, and faith alone, is the basis of justification."The author

    "And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law"....is a reference to the law of Moses[re "teaching the Jews to forsake Moses"]This righteousness is the same as the righteousness of which the Pharisee boasted...Luke 18:10-12 and for which the Pharisee saw himself as just before God. The same concept was held in Christian Judaism...and Paul, a Pharisee himself was now declaring that the righteousness of which he spoke, is now not the righteousness that comes from the keeping of the law. The righteousness of which he spoke, he said, comes directly from God....a stark contrast from the righteousness of which the Pharisee boasted, that was based on what the Pharisee did as commanded by the law.

    Paul also makes the point that while the righteousness that comes as a result of the keeping of the law can be seen/observed...yet the righteousness that comes from God can only be received in faith in God's son. He[Paul] must have faith in the belief that he is proclaimed righteous, without ever entertaining the thought that he is deserving of being righteous by his own actions.

    It is also true, that some professing Christianity today, find it difficult to accept that they are saved, despite their being sinners...and like the Pharisee, want to justify that they are worthy to be saved because they are following the commands of God; of whatever they perceive such commands to be. They, like those with whom Paul had this discussion, must like Paul, let go of the thought that any good works of any stripe can be efficacious in justifying said sinner in the eyes of God. They must see and understand that they are as condemned as the Pharisee was condemned by God, for any work, that the sinner considers as recommending him to God for the bestowing of salvation.

    Courtney

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  9. I agree with you Tyler God gives us power to choose good or bad.Remember me in your prayer to have this power.wilfred

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  10. I guess what throws me is that we attach the word law with the legalistic caveat and the word then connotes a negative that includes not just the portion of law that was in question by Paul, but ANY law, thus the idea of right and wrong itself is attacked.
    That is why today if you dare to amplify distinctions of right and wrong you are under instant attack; not by non-Christians but by >>Christians<<. The people leading the way into lawlessness are those that are supposed to be making a courageous stand. It is so bad that any absolute unmoving precept of God is itself repulsive.
    I think the *alone* part of this seems to undermine the very essence of the fact that what we get to own is a conscience, not truth. The ether created when selfless law is gone provides an antinomian platform from which opinion dissolves accounting and accountability.
    And we then wonder why people are more often offended than convicted. How far into this do we go before we see that it is the negative connotation of law that has led from being free to have a conscience to being free from having one?

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