Chapter IV, Of Justification (continued)

Christ, so we wrote in our last article on the subject of justification, is worthy of life eternal. He is the Son of God in human nature. And He humbled Himself deeply into death and hell in perfect obedience of love. Hence, it was entirely according to the justice of God that in the same measure that He humbled Himself He should also be highly exalted and attain to the state of immortality in eternal glory. This is the teaching of Scripture. Thus we read in Philippians 2:6-11: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath also highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name pf Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The righteousness of Christ is an everlasting righteousness. And because He is our representative head, we ark also worthy of eternal life in Him.

The next question which we must discuss is: what is the relation between justification and faith?

This indeed is an important question. All Scripture emphasizes that we are justified by faith only. Even in the Old Testament it is already said of Abraham: “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Gen. 15:6. The faith of Abraham was faith in the promise of God, the one and the same promise essentially that was already given by God in paradise in what is called the protevangel. It was the promise of the seed of the woman. And the seed was Christ. It was this promise that was the object of Abraham’s faith. His faith, therefore, was saving faith. Abraham believed God through Christ. And we read that God accounted that faith of Abraham for righteousness. We may remark here that this passage presents that relationship of faith and justification not as a mere subjective reality on the part of Abraham, so that we are justified before our own consciousness. On the contrary, the text speaks of an objective act of God. God counted Abraham’s faith for righteousness. And this undoubtedly means that all our righteousness is in Christ only, and that faith is the bond that unites us with Christ, so that through faith we are righteous in Christ before God. Thus the apostle Paul explains the relation between faith and justification, especially in his epistle to the Romans. And in chapter 4, verses 3 and following, the apostle refers to the text in Genesis 15:6: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The apostle shows emphatically that justification by faith is opposed to justification by works, so that even faith itself can not be counted as a work and cannot be considered a basis for righteousness. Already in verse 2 the apostle had written: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” And in verses 4 and 5 he continues to emphasize that justification by faith is of mere grace. For he writes: “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.” And this faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness not because of the worthiness of his faith, but because it was strong enough to believe the promise of God, and through the promise to cling to Christ. Confer alsoRom. 4:17-22. In this section the faith of Abraham in regard to justification is explained more fully: “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” The same truth is evident fromRomans 3:20-31. There the apostle writes: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

In Romans 5:1 the relation of justification and faith is conceived of rather from the subjective point of view. There we read the well-known words: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the original we read literally “justified out of faith.” The emphasis therefore seems to fall on faith as being the source of our justification in the subjective sense of the word, that is, before our own consciousness.

This same truth is taught in Galatians 2:15-17: “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that 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 the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of’ sin? God forbid.” The same thought is expressed inGalatians 3:5-11: “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” And the same thought is expressed in Galatians 3:22-24: “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

From all these passages it is abundantly evident that we are justified by faith only; and secondly, that this faith whereby we are justified is not another work. It stands opposed not only to the works of the law, but to all merit, to all works that are accomplished by man as such. Faith is not meritorious in any sense. Besides, that nevertheless it is accounted by God for righteousness is very evident in the passages we quoted. And, further, that the basis of this imputation on the part of God is the promise to which faith clings is also evident. And the promise is Christ, so that His righteousness and holiness is the only and ultimate ground of our righteousness before God.

From all this it should be rather plain how we must conceive of the proper relation between faith and justification.