Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Justification Sola Fide
The story of Abraham is a story of grace and faith. God comes to him and calls him. God promises to bless him and make him the father of many nations. All the odds were against him, Abraham and Sarah had no children. Yet he believed that promise and hoped against all hope. He didn’t always live or act like he believed it. He stumbled and struggled with it, here and there. But ultimately it wasn’t about who Abraham was or what he had accomplished that set him apart. It was about WHO called him and what HE was about to do through him. Abraham was chosen to play an instrumental role in God‘s redemptive story. By faith he became part of this great story of grace.
The apostle Paul has been hammering this truth about God’s righteousness being revealed through faith in Christ. In chapter 3 of Romans Paul has argued that sinners are justified by God’s grace as a gift, through Christ’s sacrifice and it is to be received by faith, apart from the works of the law. In verse 26 he says ‘It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.’
How can God be just and justify the ungodly? Or how can God justify it to himself when he justifies people like you and me? God’s justice demands that sin be punished. God’s holy love compels him to step in and do something about it, namely take the punishment himself. Jesus on the cross met the demands of God’s justice and demonstrated God’s love by taking upon himself the penalty of sin for all of us. Justice and love met on the cross and as a result God’s free gift of grace was extended to all who would believe. That which was true since before the foundation of the world now had been manifested and accomplished.
The apostle Paul is making it clear that faith is not just a necessary condition but it’s a sufficient condition for justification. Faith is the appropriate response to God’s grace extended to us and there is nothing that we can add to it. Paul tells us that ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8). Grace precedes faith, grace is the gift offered and faith is receiving the gift. Grace initiates and gives, faith responds and receives. Even in receiving we need help. God’s prevenient Grace stands ready to help. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit of enabling and assisting people to respond to God.
Justification by faith alone is the key and central issue of Reformation. The reformers considered justification by faith alone essential to the gospel. The reformers had to rescue this truth from manmade laws and traditions. It had been buried underneath the dust of centuries. It is this Good News that we find in these passages and it never gets old. It’s still as fresh and relevant as ever. As it was with Abraham so it is with us today. As it was with the believers in Rome so it is with us today. By faith we become part of the great story of Grace.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound!