JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that without faith no man can serve God acceptably or be saved eternally. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). In this lesson we will study the faith that saves.
There are different kinds of faith. These are saving faith and faith that will not save. In Matthew 15:28, we read of “great faith”; in Matthew 8:26 we read of “little faith.” Devils, of course, will not be saved, and yet we read, “The devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Again, in John’s gospel this statement is made: “Nevertheless among the chief rulers, also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42,45). Jesus said, “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32,33). Belief and faith are the same; they come from the same root word. To believe in Christ but to be afraid to confess him is to have the kind of faith that will not save. This compels us to ask: “is saving faith?”
Faith includes trusting the death of Christ for our atonement. “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” (Romans 3:25,26). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This trust in the merit of the death of Jesus Christ must expand into confident faith in his intercession for us. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Faith also includes doing the will of God, for the Saviour said, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). After his resurrection from the tomb Jesus said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). Seriously reflecting upon these two passages will compel all to see that obeying the words of Christ is absolutely necessary. This is not to say that man himself can earn or merit the favor of God either in this life or in the life to come. But it is to say that unless our faith is strong enough to cause us to obey the commandments of God’s word; it is not strong enough to save us.
In Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:9-11, the statement is made that Abraham was saved by faith without works. However, this statement was made with special reference to the Mosaic law, and particularly to the rite of circumcision. Abraham found favour in God’s sight when his faith cause him to obey God’s commandments. This was done prior to the giving of the Mosaic covenant and prior to the time that circumcision was commanded. Therefore, we find favor in God’s sight by faith working through love, without obeying the Mosaic law or observing the abolished religious service of circumcision.
One of the most complete treatments of the subject of saving faith is found in the book of James. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, by ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (James 4:14-18). The last sentence does not admit that it is possible to show faith apart from works, but it is rather a positive declaration that no man can show faith apart from works, but it is rather a positive declaration that no man can show faith without works. If you believe that God is one, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, please think for a moment on whether it is possible for you to show that confidence, demonstrating it to your fellowmen, in absence of works of obedience. The mere mental act of accepting a thing or being as true is an intangible act that cannot be shown. It is an utter impossibility to show faith in the absence of works of obedience. Therefore, it is essential for us not only to hear the words of Jesus but to do them.
James continues his argument on saving faith by saving, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seeth thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works faith was 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 2:19-23). The fact that Abraham by faith did the thing that God commanded him to do was what approved Abraham in the sight of God. His works of obedience perfected his faith. When Abraham was called to go out into a land that he did not know, but that he was to receive for an inheritance, he obeyed and went out. When God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac for a sacrifice upon an altar he was not disobedient to his heavenly command. These acts of obedience perfected the faith of the great patriarch Abraham and in his perfect faith he was saved. All this was accomplished before the Mosaic law was given and before the rite of circumcision became a national institution. Therefore, Abraham was not saved by the works of the Mosaic law but he did obey and his faith was necessary in order for him to be approved of God.
Next, James says, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:24-26). When the spirit departs from man’s physical frame, death ensues. The spirit of man then goes to God who gave it; the body is committed to the dust. When works are separated from faith, the faith is as dead as a body separated from the spirit. Man is not, and cannot be, saved by something that is dead, lifeless, and dormant. Rather, man is not, and cannot be, saved by something that is dead, lifeless, and dormant. Rather, man is saved by a healthy, living, pulsating, active faith – a faith that is conjoined with works of obedience and that does not question the commands of God. Our faith must impel us to obey the commands of our Maker. Therefore, THE FAITH THAT SAVES IS THE FAITH THAT OBEYS. Obedience of faith is necessary to our acceptability with God (Romans 16:26). In the book of Acts we have an outstanding example of this in the conversation of the Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas were in prison, but God released their bonds by means of a great earthquake. The jailer was wakened and would have killed himself if Paul had not prevented him. When the full import of what had happened sank into the conscience of the jailer, he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house” (Acts 16:31). Had they stopped here without giving the jailer additional information concerning Christ, the man might have asked, as did the man born blind (John 9:36). “And who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” It was, therefore, necessary for Paul and Silas to speak “unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32). They doubtless told the jailer of the commandments of Christ and of his commission to the apostles: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). Therefore, it is said, “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes: and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:33,34). It is not said the jailer believed in God until after he had perfected his acceptance of the message by being baptized in obedience to the commands of Jesus.
This case of conversion vividly demonstrates the undeniable truth that faith, in order to save, must obey God’s law. Not that man can earn his salvation, but that man must do something in order to receive the free and unmerited favour of God. We should ever keep in mind that the words faith and belief are comprehensive terms and that they include obedience to God’s law. In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded the believing Jews to repent and be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. By faith they obeyed his words. Therefore, baptism for the remission of sins is justification by faith.
Section 1-Fill in the blanks
Without __________ it is impossible to please God.
Without __________ it is impossible to please God.
Abraham found favour in God’s sight when his faith caused him to __________ God’s commandments.
It is impossible to show faith without __________ of obedience.
The Philippian jailer showed his faith in God by being __________ in obedience to the command of Christ.
We find favour in God’s sight by __________ working through __________.
Baptism for the remission of sins __________ by __________.
Section 2-Choose the Correct Answer
Faith without works is:
a saving faitha perfect faithdeadactive
A saving faith is belief plus:
the love of praise of menobedience to God’s commandmentsfear of what other people may think
Abraham’s faith was perfected by:
his works of obediencehis trust in his own wisdomhis love of his homeland
The faith that saves is the faith that
A man is justified by
faith onlyworks onlybelief in Christ and obedience to his commands
Section 3-Complete the Scriptures
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from __________ to light, and from the power of __________ to __________, that they may receive __________ of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by __________ that is in me” (Acts 26:18).
“For with the heart man __________ unto righteousness; and with the mouth __________ is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
“So then faith cometh by __________, and hearing by the __________ of God.” (Romans 10:17).
“That your __________ should not stand in the __________ of men, but in the __________ of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5).
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