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2. He Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2: 1, 5)

 

(2) Justified by Faith

 

    

We have discussed before, every one of us is a sinner before God; no one can by his (her) own effort save himself (herself) and come before God.  Give thanks to God that he sent his only Son to be the savior of mankind.  The meaning of the name “Jesus” is “saving his people from their sins”.  God used the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross to deal with our sins; and used the death of Jesus Christ to free us from the control of the sin nature.

Through Jesus Christ, God completed the salvation plan – “the way of crossing over from death to life”, entirely by grace with no human efforts involved.  So how do we “cross over from death to life”?  It is also through our faith in Jesus Christ -- all we have to do is to accept.  Other than that there is nothing we can humanly do to make it happen; because through our accepting Jesus Christ, we are united with the Lord in death, in burial, and in resurrection.

When we talk about “the way of crossing over from death to life”, the emphasis is on our life: in the past we were “in Adam” and were dead in our transgressions and sins; through “crossing over from death to life” we are united with Christ and are born again to have new lives.  From the perspective of status or position, when Lord Jesus completed “the way of crossing over from death to life”, we all died with him and moved from being sinners to being justified (righteous).  Now let’s discuss what “justified by faith” is.

1.      Please give an explanation of Romans 3: 20-22

      Romans 3: 20-22 say, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”  Since we are all sinners, no one can rely on his own effort to be good and satisfy the requirements of God; therefore the world can only be saved by God through “justification by faith”.  What is “justification by faith”?  The above passage of scripture tells us that no one can be righteous on his (her) own so God wants to give us his righteousness.  In other words, when we confess to be sinners and accept Jesus as our savior we die with him on the cross and we are buried with him (Lord Jesus has satisfied the requirements of the law by dying on the cross so when we accept Jesus as our savior he has paid our debt under the law), and when we are resurrected with the Lord, God’s righteousness is given to us.  We are not righteous on our own and cannot be deemed righteous no matter what we do.  The righteousness we have is from God.          

   

2.      What is “the way of justified by faith”?  (Romans 3: 21-26; Ezekiel 18: 4, 20; Isaiah 53: 11; Acts 13: 38-39; Galatians 2: 16)

1)      What is the way of “justified by faith”?

      All men are sinners, no one is righteous, but through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ and by the grace of God those who believe in the Lord are justified freely.  This is the way of being “justified by faith”.

2)      What does it mean to be “justified”?

      Romans 3: 20-26:” Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

      Romans 4: 2-8: “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God.  What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’  Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him’.”

      The above few passages of the Scripture contain phrases like: “God who justifies the wicked”, “to whom God credits righteousness apart from works”, and “whose sin the Lord will never count against him”.  From these we see that to be justified means we are not righteous but God counts us to be righteous so that we are “justified”.  There are two parts to being justified, one is that our sins are forgiven and washed clean by Lord Jesus’ blood; the other is that God gives us the righteousness of Lord Jesus Christ.  Praise Jesus; we are able to be justified because of our knowledge of the righteous servant (see Isaiah 53: 11).  The way of crossing over from death to life not only gives us new life but also change our status from being sinners to being justified.  God credits us to be righteous and declares us to be righteous.  Thank you Lord!     

3)      How do you become “justified”?

·         We cannot be justified by the law

Romans 3: 20: ”Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; …..”

Galatians 2: 16: “…. by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Romans 3: 28 says that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

·         We are justified solely by God’s grace:

Romans 3: 24 says that we are justified freely by God’s grace apart from the law and our works.  It’s solely by grace and the blood of Jesus Christ.

·         Because of our knowledge of the righteous servant (Jesus Christ) we are justified; we are justified by Jesus’ blood; we are justified because of our trusting in Jesus.

Isaiah 53: 11“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”  Who is this righteous servant?  It’s Lord Jesus Christ who is the righteous servant, he is completely righteous.  Hallelujah!  “By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many.”  To believe in Jesus is to know that Jesus has assumed our sins.

Romans 5: 9: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”  It is by Jesus Christ’s blood that our sins are forgiven.  To be justified is in fact to be forgiven of sins.  Thus, God’s part is to forgive our sins and to justify us; our part is to exercise our faith.

Acts 13: 38-39: “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” 

How can we be justified?  It is apart from the law, apart from our works and is entirely by God’s grace.  Through the blood of Jesus and our faith we are justified.  God gave us the righteousness of Jesus because Jesus is the fully righteous Christ.  He is sinless and is the one who erases our sins.  The Lamb of God is without blemish and undefiled and his righteousness is given to us, this is the so called “justified by faith”.

4)      “Justified by faith” is “by grace and through faith”: 

Our salvation is also “by grace and through faith”.  The salvation plan God completed enables us to be united with the Lord through our faith and since Lord Jesus is a perfect man who keeps all laws thus through our trust in Him we are justified through faith. (see Romans 3: 26, 4: 5, 5: 1

3.      Why do we say that “the way of justified by faith” is not abolishing the law but strengthening the law?

We have said the law requires us to do this and that and yet everyone fails, no one can keep the whole law.  Thus we are all sinners (breaking the law) before God.  The laws are such that even if you only violate one of them, you violate all of them.  Therefore, no one can be justified by observing the law.  Should the requirements of the law be met?  Of course!  We are able to be “justified by faith” because Jesus Christ was able to meet the requirements of the law.  He kept the whole law and committed no sin.  When we confess to be sinners and accept Jesus Christ as savior we are without righteousness; however, we are like a branch connected to the vine – it is because of God that we are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Corinthians 1: 30).  Through being united with Christ and receiving the grace of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is transferred to us so we become righteous and are thus justified.  After we have been saved, we continually follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act (see future lectures) so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  And through this process we gradually become truly righteous.  This shows that the law must not be abolished, its requirements must be met; and “justified by faith” is to strengthen the law rather than to abolish it.  Because we are unable to meet the requirements of the law on our own so God provides another way to manifest his righteousness aside from the law, that is, he gives his righteousness to all believers.  Those who believe are those who are united with Christ so the righteousness of Christ becomes their righteousness.  Before believing in the Lord, we have nothing, but as stated in 1 Corinthians 1: 30, God causes us to be in Christ and united with Christ so that the abundance of Christ becomes our abundance.    

4.      Why “justified by faith” has always been God’s promise and his preferred way?  (Romans chapter 4

1)      “Justified by faith” didn’t just start in the New Testament era:  In Old Testament, when God made promises to Abraham he believed God and it was credited to him as “righteousness”.  Romans 4: 1-5: “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about – but not before God.  What does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’  Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”  Romans 9: 6-9: “It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, ‘it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.  For this was how the promise was stated: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.’”   These scripture passages mention that not all Abraham’s descendants are his children rather it is through Isaac that his offspring will be reckoned.  God’s promise is not in general terms but instead is very detailed and specific.  Abraham believed God’s promise and it was credited to him as righteousness.  God has kept the same principle throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament eras, that is, God makes a promise and whoever believes it will be credited as righteousness.

2)      Hebrews 12: 17 mentions the story of Esau, the oldest son of Isaac, who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob.  Later, though he sought the blessing with tears he could bring about no change of mind because he did not treasure the birthright of being the oldest son.  God promised Abraham that through his offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, therefore the Israeli oldest sons are blessed (in Judah tradition the right of inheritance goes to the oldest son).  Esau’s action of despising the significance and status of being the oldest son equates to despising God’s promise.  In contrast, Jacob took the fact that the oldest son is blessed seriously; he knew the blessing from Jehovah is passed down through the oldest sons so he fought very hard to obtain this right.  In our eyes, Jacob was cunning and wicked, so why did God love him?  It is because Jacob treasured God’s promise (God will surely deal with his wickedness).  

3)      Hebrews Chapter 11 talks about the forefathers of faith:  By faith Abel “was commended as a righteous man” (11: 4) and Noah “became the heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11: 7).  In the Old Testament era whatever God said to Abraham he believed; God told Noah to make an ark, he obeyed; God revealed to Enoch that disasters would come when Methuselah died so Enoch walked with God; ……..  What does God want from men?  God credit those who value God’s promises as righteous.

4)      Romans 4: 6-16 say: ”David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.’  Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?  We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.  Under what circumstances was it credited?  Was it after he was circumcised, or before?  It was not after, but before!  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.  So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.  And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.  It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise worthless, because law brings wrath.  And where there is no law there is no transgression.  Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.”  This scripture passage clearly says that being credited righteousness is totally outside of the law and it cares not whether one is circumcised or not.  Whether you are circumcised or not cannot be a sign of being “credited righteousness”.  Being credited righteousness depends on whether you follow Abraham’s faith, in other words, it matters whether you believe in God’s words.

Throughout Old and New Testaments God had been valuing people, seeking people, and choosing people based on the criterion of whether they would accept God’s promise.  Likewise, today in John 3: 16 God made the following promise: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Do you accept this promise?  If you just accept it then you will be credited righteousness, it has nothing to do with your works.

5.      What is grace? (Romans 4: 4; 11: 6)          

      Romans 4: 4 says: “when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift”; and Romans 11: 6 says: “if by grace, then it is no longer by works.”   Today, we are justified by faith – God credited us righteousness when we have not done anything, so it is all by grace; it is all done by Lord Jesus.  The question is:  Do you want to accept it?  If you do, then it is yours.  It is all by grace, we cannot claim any credit for it.

6.      How do you describe the faith of Abraham?  (Romans 4: 3; 16-25)

      Romans 4: 16-25 say, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.  As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.  Against all hopes, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’  The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”   Let’s examine Abraham’s faith:  By human account, it’s impossible for Sarah and Abraham to have a child at their age.  But Abraham believed that whatever God said, it would be so.  Since God had made the promise to him, so even when it seemed utterly impossible he was still full of hope; he believed that God could create something out of nothing and could raise people from the dead.  Abraham’s unwavering faith set a good example for all of us.  We believe that whatever God has said will come true and as long as God has promised he will make it happen.  Why do we often suffer from a lack of faith?  It’s because we can’t see it -- although God has spoken but we look around us and don’t see any signs of God’s promise coming true, right?  Abraham paid no attention to what other people were saying or to the circumstance that he was in.  All he cared about was what God had said to him.  This is the faith of Abraham.           

      If we want to emulate Abraham’s faith then we should emulate his paying attention to God’s words only and nothing else.  Because if God willing, even the dead can be raised up and nothing can turn into something.  It was impossible for Abraham to have a child at his age but God made it happen, and he was willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice because he believed that Isaac would be raised from death.  It is written in the Bible that “figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death”.  He could have pleaded with God by saying, “Oh God, didn’t you say that it is through Isaac that my offspring will be reckoned and that through my offspring all nations will be blessed, then why do you want me to offer Isaac as a sacrifice?”  But that wasn’t on his mind, what he minded was what God asked of him.  As long as it was the command from God he would obey because God said he would have a son when he had none so he believed that even if Isaac was dead he would be raised from death.  Such was the faith of Abraham.  Lord, I pray that you give us this kind of faith – whatever God says I’ll obey!  Amen.        

7.      What is the relationship between Abraham and future believers of Jesus who are both credited as righteousness?  (Romans 4: 16; Galatians 3: 9)

      Romans 4: 16 says: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.”  Abraham was “credited as righteousness” because of his faith in God’s promise.  He believed in whatever God said.  What we want to learn from Abraham of course is not getting a son at the age of one hundred; rather we want to emulate his faith – accepting whatever God says.

      Galatians 3: 9 says: “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”  In the era of the New Testament what do we believe?  We will be blessed by emulating Abraham’s faith and have a firm belief in God’s promises such as: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”; “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”; “if you confess with your mouth, (Jesus is Lord), and believe in your heart (that God raised him from the dead), you will be saved”; etc.  That’s how we emulate Abraham’s faith – he believed in whatever God said to him.  Likewise, today God uses the words in the Bible as well as our faith to credit us as righteousness.

8.      What are the blessings associated with being “justified by faith”? (Romans 5: 6-11)

      Romans 5: 6-11: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  From here we see that being “justified by faith” has blessings in three areas:  (1) We are justified by Jesus’ blood, reconciled with God, and saved from God’s wrath; (2) We are saved because Jesus is alive, that is, through Jesus’ resurrection we enter into the kingdom of God and are called God’s children, and we moved from being sinners to being of righteousness; (3) We also rejoice in God through Jesus Christ!  We are justified by faith and become righteous people.  If we constantly keep our eyes on the Lord we shall lead a life that is full of peace and joy, that is, a life of rejoicing in God.

      We thank God that he made us alive; he not only gave us life but also changed our position from being sinners to being righteous.  Because of our sin nature it is impossible for us to be righteous and also no one can become righteous by his or her own efforts.  However, aside from the law and the deeds, God gave his righteousness to all those who believe in him; this is the so called “justified by faith”.  “Justified by faith” is not new, we learn from the Old Testament that our forefather Abraham was “justified by faith”; he accepted God’s promise and obeyed God’s command so God credited him as righteousness.  Likewise, today we accept and trust God’s promise and God credits us as righteousness and deems us righteous.

             Prayer: Oh Lord, we thank you, thank you, thank you.  When we were dead in transgressions and sins you made us alive.  Oh Lord, through Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross you completed the way of “crossing over from death to life”; not only enabled us to receive new life but also changed our status from being sinners to being justified.  The righteousness of God has been given to us because of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Praise Jesus, all the glories be unto you!  May the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten us and put this truth in us so that our faith may grow ever stronger.   Hear our prayers, in Lord Jesus Christ’s name, Amen!

 

 

 

 

 


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