"Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Romans 3:21-28, NASB).

Devotion 27 of 30

Faith Justifies the Individual

The legalist does not talk much about justification. Words like that are not found in his corrupted vocabulary. Perhaps it would be profitable to explain what I mean by "legalist." I am using the word concerning those more attracted to the letter of the law than to its spirit. They insist the punctilious fulfillment of the law, but rarely, if ever, mention the Divine resources provided for that purpose. This is the type of approach Jesus rebuked in the Scribes and Pharisees. "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matt 23:4). The legalist presumes those to whom he speaks are basically recalcitrant, and that unless law restrains them, they will wander out of the way. Because of this way of looking at things, the legalist emphasis what is seen. Like the Pharisees, they "have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" (Matt 23:23). Their theology overlooks the power of the Gospel, the effectiveness reconciliation, and the reality of the new creation.

Because of the very nature of this approach to life in Christ, justification, grace, mercy, and Divine provision are rarely, if ever, mentioned. People who have been subjected to this form of religion know little of the grace of God, do not have full assurance before Him, and rarely know they have eternal life, or that their names are written in heaven. Their religion has robbed them!

But this word (justification) IS in the Divine nomenclature, and is central in patterns of heavenly thought. It is also at the very heart of Apostolic doctrine. Because we have already touched upon this subject, a few observations will suffice.

Concerning justification, Scripture sets faith in juxtaposition to law. You are justified either because of what you do, or because of your faith. This is foundational to our understanding of salvation. Your faith enables you to join in the affirmation of the Spirit. "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Rom 3:28). This is also why Abraham was pronounced righteous, or justified, BEFORE he was circumcised, BEFORE Isaac was born, and BEFORE he took Isaac to the mountains of Moriah to sacrifice him to God (Rom 4:10-11).

This (that we are justified by faith) is not a mere creedal statement, to be embraced without discerning the case. Here is something you can know, and of which you can be fully persuaded. "Nevertheless KNOWING that a man is NOT justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and NOT by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal 2:16). We offer no apologies for the strength of this confession. If it does not mesh with preconceived notions of salvation, then throw away the preconceived notions. Truth never opposes itself. It is, however, set in firm opposition to what is NOT true!

I know that some will still contend works have justified us and not our faith, citing James 2:24; i.e., "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Yet, James was speaking of the PROOF of justification, and not the fact of it. We know this because his statement follows this affirmation: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God" (James 2:21-23). By James own teaching, "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness," a quotation of Genesis 15:6. The event related in the Genesis text took place BEFORE Ishmael was conceived, BEFORE Abraham and his house were circumcised, BEFORE Isaac was born, and BEFORE the event took place that James describes in 2:21--the offering up of Isaac. Thus, it is clear that James is saying Abraham's faith was proved to be true, and that his justification was shown to be real, when he obeyed God. Those who view the justification of Abraham as taking place when he offered Isaac know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. They understand neither Paul nor James, and are unqualified to speak on the subject of justification.

Faith is the cause of justification, and works are the evidence of it. Faith as small as a grain of mustard seed is more productive than a mountain of disciplined work and human effort. It justifies the soul, something that no amount of work can do. Praise the Lord for its effectiveness.

PRAYER POINT: Father, through Jesus Christ, in the matter of justification, teach me to place the accent where You have placed it.