What Justification by Faith Really Means


 "John saw Jesus coming unto him and said, Behold the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world // And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (John 1:29, 1 John 1:7)

    Far too many Christians profess to trust in Christ, yet deny Him in their lives by constantly striving to achieve holiness by their own efforts. They know that salvation is by grace, but they still look to works to make them holy (Galatians 3:2-3). They profess to believe that they are justified by faith, yet think that keeping the law [i.e. obedience] makes them righteous. While it is good and right that we should put sin out of our lives, and rid ourselves of everything that in any way appears to be evil, that is not what makes us holy in the sight of God! As far as God is concerned all of our efforts at holiness are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). There is only one thing that will cleanse us of sin, justify us, and make us truly holy before God, and that is the forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus.

    Those who think that "justification by faith" is not something that makes a person holy, but instead something that allows them to get by with being less than holy, are under a delusion, for nothing could be further from the truth! People who think that way have it backward, for it is the law that makes us sinners, not grace. It is the law that makes us unholy, not forgiveness. And, it is forgiveness (not works) that cleanses us of sin and makes us holy before God. In short, the law condemns us to hell, while forgiveness gives us heaven. The law slays us spiritually, while forgiveness brings us life. The law makes us unrighteous, while the blood of Christ makes us righteous. Furthermore, because God does not change, no sinner can enter heaven and no sinner ever will enter heaven. Therefore, the law cannot save anyone. We are saved by the blood of Christ alone!


    In order to better understand what I am saying I want you to try to visualize your sins being washed away by the blood of Christ. Close your eyes if necessary and picture all of your sins being washed away. Picture a cleansing flood coming in, swirling all around you and washing away every filthy stain. Picture that flood flowing right through you, washing away every foul thought and every evil desire so that you begin to shine with a righteous glow. Picture yourself standing before God radiant with holiness. Radiant not because of your works, but because every sin has been washed away. That is true holiness! That is how God sees us when we trust in Christ! That is the perfect righteousness of Christ Himself (Romans 10:4). And, nothing that we do, no set of rules that we keep, could ever improve one bit on such perfection. Because our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, we are just as pure in the sight of God as Christ Himself. Therefore, when we stand before God it is as if Christ Himself were standing there in our place, for His righteousness has become our righteousness, through faith (Galatians 3:6). He took our sin upon Himself and has given us His righteousness in exchange for it. As it is written, "by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).


    Knowing the perfection that is ours in Christ, it is clear that true obedience (obedience in the sight of God) is not the obedience of the law but the obedience that is ours through faith (Romans 4:13-15). In other words, it is those who trust in Christ, not those who seek righteousness by the law, who are truly obedient (Romans 6:17, Galatians 3:1, Romans 10:3-4). In fact, that is why only those cleansed by the blood of Christ are citizens of His heavenly kingdom, even though God rules over all men (Mark 1:15, Hebrews 11:13). That is also why only those cleansed by the blood of Christ are truly saints of God (Ephesians 1:1), children of Abraham (Galatians 3:6,7,29 and 4:28), and God's chosen people (Romans 2:28-29, Ephesians 1:4). Moreover, because we have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, we can be certain that God loves us and will hear our prayers (John 16:23-27).

    Although the Spirit of God will not dwell in sinners, once our sins have been washed away He comes into our heart and works through the gospel to nourish our faith and keep us in faith (Galatians 3:2, Romans 1:16, 1 Peter 1:5). In other words, just as God has brought us to faith by His Word, He will keep us in faith by His Word. Just as He has saved us by His grace, He will keep us by His grace (Romans 10:17, 1Peter 1:5, Romans 1:16, 1Thessalonians 2:13). For that reason, those who have a repentant heart need never fear that they will lose their salvation, for The preservation of our faith rests on God's strength, not our strength. The Bible does warn the unrepentant that they are in danger of falling, but those warnings are meant to bring them back to repentance, not encourage them to trust in works (1Timothy 1:9, Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 10:26-27, or 1Corinthians 9:27). God keeps us in faith by keeping us repentant.


    Because the blood of Christ makes us pure and holy before God, God loves us and wants only the best for us (John 16:27). For that reason, when we trust in Christ all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). If riches are for our good, then God will make us rich, and if poverty is best for us, then God will make us poor. Therefore, we should trust Him in all things (Job 2:10). While some of the trials that come into our lives, such as aging, are a part of the general decay in the world, others come to keep us in faith and bring us closer to God. Such was the trial that Job experienced.

    The Bible tells us that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:8). However, it was not the law that made him righteous, for the law had not even been written at that time. On the contrary, what made Job righteous was the only thing that can make anyone righteous, the blood of Christ (Job 19:25). Nevertheless, even though it was faith in Christ that cleansed Job of sin and made him righteous in the sight of God, he still expected to have God's blessing on his life because of his works (Job 23:7, Job 27:6, Job 33:9, Job 32:1). Therefore, God allowed trouble to come into his life so that he would acknowledge his sin, and recognize the fact that his own righteousness was vile in the sight of God (Job 40:4). In that way, God rescued Job from the soul destroying delusion of self-righteousness (Galatians 5:4).


    Once we are righteous in the sight of God (through faith in Christ), the Holy Spirit comes into our heart and we become new creatures (Galatians 3:5-6, 5:17 and 6:15). Furthermore, the knowledge that we are righteous through faith in Christ becomes a motivation to continue in righteousness. I am not talking about keeping the law, but about walking in a clean conscience by doing that which we know in our heart is right and good (Job 27:5-6). Because we love being free from the condemnation of sin, we do not want to do anything that would bring condemnation. Willful sin would rob us of the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our sins are forgiven, for even if no one knew that we had done evil, we would know and God would know (Hebrews 10:26). Therefore, we would feel condemned and unclean. In short, a defiled conscience would rob us of the joy and peace of mind that comes with knowing God sees no fault in us.


    Christ did not free us from the law so that we could transgress the law! Instead he freed us from the law so that we can be righteous without the law. For it is the law (not sin) that condemns us, and it is the law (not sin) that will send us to hell if we do not trust in Christ. Moreover, because we love Jesus and appreciate the righteousness we have in Him, we love that which is right and good and pure in His sight. In fact, because those who walk by faith avoid all that appears evil, the behavior of those who have been freed from the law is better, not worse, than the behavior of those who walk by the law. And, as long as we do not sin willfully (as did David with the wife of Uriah) no sin is ever imputed unto us (Romans 4:6-8, 1 John 5:18, 1 Kings 15:5). For that reason, when we trust in Christ God is pleased with our giving and all else that we do (Romans 10:4, Romans 8:33).