So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Oh, to be morally and spiritually clean, to have the past reconciled and the present and future completely redeemed! If there is any sense of morality, any awareness of the holiness of God and our obligation to be morally as our Father in heaven, we will long for justification. If the Spirit has ever brought conviction to our hearts – and without conviction it is impossible to be saved – we will ache in our hearts for the complete forgiveness and restoration of God.
Yet there is a danger always present in this regard, that we might seek our justification on the basis of our own works. We may try to atone for our failures by “never doing that again” or by “reading the Bible everyday” or by some other work of the flesh. These are good things to do, even things that we should do, but they do not justify us before God.
Only the works of Christ for our salvation, only His death, resurrection, and intercession for us before the Father can be the basis of our forgiveness. Twice in the half-verse above Paul used the word “justified.” Justification is a strong word, meaning something different than forgiveness. To be forgiven, and in Christ we are forgiven, by its meaning has a reference to our past sins. If we try to justify ourselves, however, we insist that we never did anything wrong in the first place. So when the Bible speaks of justification through faith in Christ, it means that through His grace we are brought to a position as though we had never sinned.
Our dedication cannot achieve this. Neither can our promises or our good intentions or any amount of good works. We are justified through faith on the basis of God’s grace in Christ. We may choose to feel better about ourselves through our works or we may choose to see ourselves as God sees us through believing in His Word. Through faith we enter into the victory over past and present sins.
A mother recently told a story of her young son saving his AWANA points to purchase for her a plate for Christmas, only to trip and break it. He wept for an hour because he so wanted to give it to her. We can understand what the child felt, for often we will trip up in our own life through temptation and break into pieces the opportunities God has given us. But the lady’s child should not imagine that the Christmas plate was the basis of his acceptance by his mother, or that it atoned for all the bad things he had done. Neither should we imagine that we are accepted through our works.
But because we are accepted on the basis of grace, God sees us not as monumental failures, but as those justified and redeemed, who are now special recipients of and projects of His grace. To wish to bring something to God out of gratitude is understandable and even admirable. Just as there is something wrong in a child who never wants to express his gratitude to his parents, so there is something wrong about a saint who never wishes to express his worship of and gratitude to God by living a life of obedience. But our acceptance is based on Christ and is ours through faith.
If you have repented of your sins and trusted Christ as your Savior but still have trouble believing that Christ accepts you fully, it is because you probably still are trying to be accepted through your works. Simply believe in God’s written promise: we are justified by faith in Christ. He will in due time bring the assurance our hearts long for if we believe.
Lord, let us see You as the answer to our sins, and to be built up in our faith in You. Amen.