CHAPTER 24 -- The Justification of Faith
"We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." Rom. 3: 28.
The Lord has revealed to us two ways,
which should be able to lead us to Him and salvation. Along the one the
law leads us, along the other grace. Both ways are good and come from
God: yet there is after all only one of the two for us to use, by
reason of our weakness. The law is good for those who have the power to
obey and to follow it. Grace is the way for those who are powerless and
can accomplish nothing. The law demands and must be fulfilled: grace
gives and needs simply to be received. The law says, "Do this and thou
shalt live"; grace says, "Believe and thou shalt be saved." The law
demands works, yet gives no strength to produce them: grace asks for
faith, which it also of its own power awakens by its promises -- faith,
which is nothing but the acknowledgment of weakness and a consent to be
willing to receive everything for nothing. The law directs me to the
height, to a mountain too steep to climb: grace to the valley, where I
have only to sink down to be preserved.
Of the utmost importance is it that I
should know well the distinction betwixt these two ways, choose the
right one, and walk in it. For in our present sinful condition there is
only one of these ways that is still really of service to us, although
man on the contrary would just very fain walk in the other. Well is it
for us that God has left us in no doubt as to which one is wished for
and approved of by Him.
It was especially the Apostle Paul whom
God chose to point out to us clearly the way of salvation -- as he has
done most fully in his Epistle to the Romans. The conclusion of his
argumentation we have in the text quoted at the head of this chapter.
He had shown how all mankind, Jews as well as heathen, had missed the
glory of God. They could not fulfil, they did not wish to fulfil, the
law of God. The law must be perfectly obeyed, otherwise it works only
wrath. The law knows nothing of grace, only of right. God has searched
the world, and there was none righteous, not even one. By the law every
mouth was stopped, and the whole world made guilty before God. It was a
declaration of the law itself, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
(Rom. 3: 20). "But the righteous shall live by faith." That, the Lord
Jesus had proclaimed. By His death God had reconciled the world. He had
allowed the punishment and the demands of the law to be fulfilled. He
has permitted an everlasting and infinite righteousness to be brought
in. For nothing had God suffered it to be offered: without price and
without money is this righteousness ours, through the free gift of God.
In the case of the corrupt, curse-deserving, and powerless sinner,
there can be no talk of service or works: only of faith, "Submission to
the righteousness of God." Where that faith in Jesus and the word of
His grace is found, there is the sinner made partaker of the
righteousness of God, faith being simply the eye to see it as it was
offered, the hand to receive it, and the activity for appropriating it
for himself. He that believeth is justified.
What folly, then, is it still to look to
one's own works or merit. Sinner, are you resolved to work? Then must
you keep the whole law, and that perfectly; and thus you shall
certainly be condemned. Do you desire to be justified? Only believe in
Christ and His righteousness, in God and the promises of His grace, as
intended also for you. By that faith man is justified without the works
of the law.