PAUL'S DOCTRINE ON JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
The doctrine of justification by faith, through the righteousness of Jesus
Christ, is the grand characteristic of the Gospel, which distinguishes it
from all 'human' schemes of salvation. It is the revelation and work of God
himself. Its design is– to humble the sinner, to exalt the Savior, and to
promote holiness. This doctrine is founded on the Fall of Man, and on the
Justice of God; for while God demands a sinless obedience to his holy Law,
man is utterly unable to satisfy the least of its righteous claims.
Through the Fall, we lost the image of God, and all power to serve him
aright. Being destitute of every holy principle, and enslaved by every evil
passion, we can neither atone for past transgressions, nor perform one act
of acceptable obedience.
Foreseeing our wretched state, through original and actual sin; a God of
love has provided a RANSOM, a RIGHTEOUSNESS and a REFUGE for us. Paul was
honored of God to proclaim these heavenly truths- "There is one Mediator
between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a RANSOM for
all, to be testified in due time." "Of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of
God is made unto us RIGHTEOUSNESS." "We have strong consolation, who have
fled for REFUGE to lay hold upon the hope set before us." O that our hearts
could expand with faith and hope, then, with the Apostle we should delight
to dwell upon this exhaustless theme, and with feelings of the liveliest
joy, should thank our God for his Unspeakable Gift.
Being taught by the Spirit to know himself as a sinner, this enlightened
Apostle had learned to value Christ as a Savior. Wholly weaned from self,
this heart was fixed upon Christ, the true foundation. With uncompromising
firmness he could therefore assert, "A man is not justified by the works of
the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus
Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works
of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
This glorious truth of the Gospel, so opposed to all his ancient views and
feelings, he saw with a distinctness which no carnal reasoning could
obscure. Beholding by the light of Revelation, the wide extent of Adam's
transgression, he could unite with David in declaring. "There is none
righteous, no not one; there is none who understands, there is none who
seeks after God; they are all gone out of the why, they are together become
unprofitable; there is none that does good– no not one." Hence the Apostle
was led to this humbling confession; "The law has concluded all under sin,
that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before
Hearing the voice of justice in all its awfulness, with Job he abhorred
himself in dust and ashes. Hearing the voice of mercy speaking peace through
the blood of Jesus, with Mary he rejoiced in God his Savior.
Full of grateful love, he went forth into all lands, to make known these
unsearchable riches of Christ– that Jesus is the end of the Law for
righteousness to every one that believes- that Christ has redeemed us from
the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us- that all who believe, are
justified from all things, from which they could not be justified, by the
Law of Moses- that, the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Jesus
Christ, is unto all, and upon all those who believe, for there is no
difference; for the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on him shall not be
ashamed'- that, there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for
the same Lord over all is rich unto all who call upon him; for whoever shall
call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Knowing these statements to be the Truth of God, and knowing also the
legality of the natural heart and its enmity to the doctrines of grace, he
boldly asks the self-righteous opposer, "Do we then make void the Law
through faith?" Do we lessen the sanctions, or lower the standard of a Law
so holy in its nature, so just in its requirements, so good in its
tendencies? "God forbid- yes, we establish the law;" -we maintain its
unalterable holiness, its inflexible justice, its irreconcilableness to the
Through the light of the Holy Spirit, he saw with an inspired clearness of
perception, that no sinner can be saved by any obedience of his own; since,
"all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," unable to screen us from the
wrath of God, who has declared, "the soul that sins it, shall die." He
therefore fled to Christ for refuge; found shelter under the covering of his
perfect righteousness, and rejoiced in hope of the glory of God.
This fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, so destructive to pride and
self-sufficiency, this divinely taught Apostle found to be the very source
of consolation, strength, and hope.
Having given the church at Philippi a catalogue of those things which once
constituted his Pharisaical treasure, he makes the noble declaration, "I
once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider
them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is
worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that
I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own
goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For
God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I
can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from
the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his
death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!"
Then, with his usual humility and self-abasement, he acknowledges his need
of still increasing supplies of spiritual blessings; "I don't mean to say
that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached
perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all
that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear friends, I am
still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one
thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain
to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through
Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven."
If the Apostle, than whom perhaps no saint was ever more holy, thus
confessed his shortcomings; if he regarded his attainments as nothing, when
compared with what remained to be attained; if all his hopes of heaven were
reposed upon the finished work of his beloved Savior; how humble, how
dependent ought we to be, who stand at so great a distance from the honored
servant of Christ!
Yet how encouraging is the view of his character and experience. He, who
converted Saul of Tarsus, can now change the heart of the hardest sinner!
Let none then despair of mercy, who feel a longing desire after salvation.
"Let not conscience make you linger;
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requires,
Is to feel your need of him;
This he gives you;
'Tis the Spirit's rising beam."
The "offence of the cross" has not yet ceased, nor ever will, so long as
pride bears its sway in our hearts. We cannot part with the fond conceit
which we naturally have of our own works. If Christ must be our justifier,
we hope, at least, to have some share in the meritorious act of justifying.
We cannot brook the thought of being wholly indebted to another.
Owing to this proud attachment to our supposed goodness, much error exits in
the Christian world. The great doctrine of justification by faith only,
cannot, therefore, be too clearly and scripturally stated. How many, even in
this our day, darken counsel by words without knowledge. They are blind
guides, groping, as in the dark, amid the full blaze of Gospel, light. With
all humility of mind, and earnest prayer, we should seek for light to
discover the Truth, and for a heart to embrace it when discovered.
Let us then consider in what way a sinner is justified in the sight of God,
that we may rightly apprehend and thankfully embrace, through the Spirit,
this inestimable blessing.
1. We are justified MERITORIOUSLY, through the righteousness of Jesus
Christ, who became obedient unto the Law for man; and who, while we were yet
sinners, died for us, that being justified by his blood, we might be saved
from wrath through Him.
2. We are justified INSTRUMENTALLY, by faith alone, which is the gift of
God, the hand that receives the blessed Jesus, and puts him on with all his
saving merits, as the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation.
3. We are justified DECLARATIVELY by good works, which are the fruits of
faith, and evidence our union to Jesus Christ as living branches in the true
Every blessing flows from the throne of mercy through Jesus Christ, who is
the only medium of communication between earth and heaven; while all our
services ascend with acceptance, only as they are covered with his infinite
merits, and washed from their pollution through his precious blood.
Jesus is the Lord Our Righteousness; he is made unto us righteousness; and
we are made the righteousness of God in him. Hence God can be just, and yet
the justifier of all who believe in Jesus. The way of access is now opened.
In Christ, we have boldness and access with confidence, to the Father of
mercies; and obtain, through faith in his blood, a right and title to the
purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Thus we are made
complete in Him, and the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers. It
must, however, never be forgotten, that there is nothing meritorious in
faith. Faith is a grace, wrought in the heart of the sinner, through the
power of the Holy Spirit, whereby he apprehends Christ, and is made an heir
of God, through Him.
We have nothing whereof to glory, being "justified freely by his grace,
through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." The language of our heart
must ever be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name give
glory, for your mercy, and for your truth's sake."
As faith is the gift of God, and the root of holiness, so works which do not
spring from faith, cannot be acceptable to God; because, without faith it is
impossible to please him.
By nature, our hearts yield nothing but evil fruit, and this evil produce
continues, until we are united to Christ by faith. When grafted by the
Spirit, into Jesus the living vine, we receive a new nature, and bring forth
new fruit, in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. This good fruit
manifests itself by holy obedience to the will of God; it is declarative of
our interest in the righteousness of Christ through faith, and prepares us
for the enjoyment of heaven.
From this scriptural view of a sinner's acceptance with God, it is evident,
that we cannot be justified without faith; and yet, we must not look to our
faith as that which justifies us. Our eye must be fixed on the righteousness
of Christ only. When our acts of faith are the strongest, we must not rely
upon them, as yielding any merit, or as recommending us to God. Our language
must then be; I have believed in Christ, and God has justified me; but I
will not believe, that God has pardoned the for my faith; I know that I must
trust in Christ, if I am accepted of my Judge; therefore I will banish
forever, all thoughts of my being pleasing to God, for the sake of my act of
Whoever steers this course will provide for his present comfort, and future
safety; for it is only men's ignorance of themselves, of the Law, and of the
essential righteousness of God, that puts them upon trusting in anything
they can do for their justification before God, and hinders them from
submitting to the righteousness of Christ.
Faith resigns up the soul to the mercies of God, and the infinite merits of
Christ, and has no confidence in the flesh; it brings the sinner to look on
all things as nothing, and not fit to be joined to Christ, who is the only
foundation for his reliance; and then his care is, how to be found in the
righteousness of Christ, and to place the crown of glory on the head of his
Redeemer. This was the experience of Paul, who counted all things but loss
for Christ, desiring only that he might be found in Him.
If the doctrine of justification by faith were therefore rightly
apprehended, as set forth by the great Apostle under the immediate
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it would prevent that unscriptural mixture
of faith and works, as the ground of our acceptance with God, which destroys
its nature, tarnishes its glory, and endangers our salvation.
"O how unlike the complex works of man,
Heaven's easy, artless, unencumbered plan.
Its stand like the cerulean arch we see,
Majestic in its own simplicity.
Inscribed above the portal from afar
Conspicuous as the brightness of a star.
Legible only by the light they give,
Stand the soul-quickening words- Believe and live!
Too many shocked at what should charm them most,
Despise the plain direction and are lost."
Although Paul was the champion for this glorious doctrine of justification
through faith, yet with equal ardor he enforced the necessity of holiness on
the hearts and consciences of believers.
As those who preach the Gospel with faithfulness, should exemplify its
excellence by their superior sanctity, the apostle exhorted Titus to the
practice of universal holiness- "Speak the things which become sound
doctrine; in all things showing yourself a pattern of good works."
Equally comprehensive was his charge to this young minister of the Gospel,
whom he called his son after the common faith- "These things I have told you
are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trusts in
God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and
beneficial for everyone." "Put them in mind to be ready to every good work."
This faithful pastor over the Lord's flock closed his Epistle with a general
admonition both to ministers and people, who professed an attachment to the
Gospel of Christ- "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what
is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live
unproductive lives." So decided were his views respecting the nature and
necessity of sanctification, that, in perfect accordance with the doctrine
of grace, he declared- "For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, it
makes no difference to God whether we are circumcised or not circumcised.
What is important is faith expressing itself in love. For it makes no
difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is
to keep God's commandments." "For the grace of God has been revealed,
bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless
living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with
self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to
that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus
Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of
sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to
doing what is right."
With these earnest desires for the fruitfulness of believers be prayed in
behalf of the Hebrew converts, "May the God of peace, equip you with
everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing
to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever."
Some people, who are opposed to the doctrine of free justification, endeavor
to set James in array against his brother Apostle, as if he were anxious to
counteract Paul's statements, and to disprove his conclusions. If they will
study the Epistles of Paul and James, with simplicity and prayer, they will
soon find that there is neither antinomianism in the one, nor any ground for
legality in the other- but that the Apostles are in perfect agreement with
each other. Like the radii of a circle, they meet in one common center. They
both select the case of Abraham. Paul says; "Abraham believed God, and it
was counted unto him for righteousness." James says; "Abraham believed God,
and it was imputed unto him for righteousness;" each quoting the words of
Moses, "He believed God, and he counted it to him for righteousness."
Thus they conjointly build on the same foundation, that is, that Abraham was
justified by faith. Where then is the difference of their statements? It
arises from the abuse which was made of this divine truth. Paul declared,
that all works, whether ceremonial or moral, are excluded from the office of
justifying the sinner in the sight of God; that we are justified freely by
his grace, as the source, and by the blood of Christ, as the meritoriously
But this blessed doctrine, so full of comfort to the broken-hearted
penitent, was soon perverted by men of corrupt minds, destitute of the
truth. They slanderously affirmed, that Paul had said- "Let us do evil that
good may come;" -and hence, they took occasion to sin, on the impious
principle that grace might abound. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans,
expresses his abhorrence of such vile inferences, drawn from his preaching;
and strenuously enforces the necessity of good works. James, with equal
force, levels his Epistle, not against the holy doctrine preached by Paul,
but against those abusers of divine grace, who, under pretense of exalting
Christ, only wanted a license to sin. So early did Satan labor to bring an
odium upon the Gospel, by the unholy lives of hypocritical professors.
To counteract this evil, James declares that the faith which justifies is a
working faith- that as kind words, and good wishes will not feed a starving
brother, while unaccompanied with the needful supply, so neither will faith
profit us, if it has not works; for as the body, without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also; that by works, faith is made perfect;
and therefore, that such a barren faith, as these corrupters of the truth
propagated, could never save the soul; since by works a man is justified, or
declared to be in a state of justification, and not by faith alone, (that
is, a faith unproductive of good works).
The sum of the matter then is this; What God has joined, none must divide;
and what God has divided, none must join. He has separated faith and works
in the business of justification, according to Paul, and none must join them
in it. He has joined them in the lives of justified people, as James speaks,
and, there we must not separate them. Paul assures us, that works have not a
co-efficiency in justification itself; but James assures us, that they may
and must have a co-existency in those who are justified.
It is evident, therefore, from the scriptures of Truth, that neither faith
nor works can procure our admission into the heavenly temple. Christ, as our
Great High Priest, can alone enter by his own blood into the Holy Place. In
heaven he sits as a priest upon his throne, and there, appearing in the
presence of God for us, his living care will perfect, what his dying love
began. Through him then we must approach the mercy-seat; by him we must
enter into the celestial city. O! how precious is our Almighty Savior. To
him we must look- on him we must depend- from him we must draw every needful
blessing. His name is as ointment poured forth. He is the balm of Gilead and
O that our hearts may ever be in tune, to sing the praises of the Lamb who
was slain, and has redeemed us unto God by his blood, until we join the
universal chorus in the world above, and crown him Lord of all!