Welcome to Theology Tuesday, where we discuss essays that I'm writing for a NANC Counseling exam. Today I'll begin a three part series in Soteriology. If you're like me, you might be scratching your head at that word. I'll do the dictionary work for you: It's the study of the doctrine of our Salvation.
Is Theology as dry and dusty as an old moth-ball-ridden library? Well, it can be, I guess, but studying this over the three-weeks time left me dancing... and there's no room for dust when you're kicking up your heals to this!
(A friend said these theology posts are too long... but hang in there! It's worth it!)
So... to begin!
Part one: “Justification by faith alone.” Discuss the meaning of this phrase.
First, I’ll define a few important terms. Justification means “to declare righteous.” What does that mean? To be righteous means “morally upright, without guilt or sin.” We know that none of us are righteous. We all have sinned and have the guilt associated with that. Romans 3:23 says that everyone has sinned, and Romans 6:23 says that the wages, or punishment, for our sins is death. So how are we, as guilty sinners, ever to become righteous?
The answer is that we can’t become righteous by ourselves. The Bible describes us as being dead in our sins. (Ephesians 2:5). A dead man cannot bring himself back to life again, just as a smashed spider cannot wake himself up and begin to crawl again. We need something outside of ourselves to change us and breathe life into us again.
No amount of good works or noble actions can erase the bad mistakes. They are constantly accumulating in our life. The good does not out-weigh the bad. In fact, the good things we do only condemn us more, because in doing them, we acknowledge that there is a right and wrong way to live, and so often we choose the wrong way. (Romans 2:14-15).
This is the beauty of the cross. Jesus, as God, came as a man and did indeed live that perfect, righteous life. (Romans 5:19). He was morally guilt-less and upright. Legally speaking, he had not earned the punishment associated with sin, which is death and separation from the Holy God. However, he allowed himself to die so that God could place the wrath that we deserve for our sins onto Him.
Now, God’s Word says that if we believe in Jesus and His death and resurrection from the dead, God will do two things: First, He will remove our sins from us; sins in the past, present, and future. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:12). This means that we “have no penalty to pay for sin, including past, present, and future sins... we are not subject to any charge of guilt or condemnation.” (Grudem 724-725) “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?” (Rom 8:33-34). (Note: This is the part where I started dancing in my chair!)
It doesn’t end there, however. If it did, we would be morally neutral. Our sins are removed, but that is not all. God then goes one step further and places the righteousness of God through Jesus onto us. Just as Adam’s guilt was placed, or “imputed,” onto us, and our sins were imputed to Christ on the cross, so now His righteousness is imputed to us. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19).
It is evident from the Bible that this is a gift of God and not something we can earn on our own. (Romans 3:24). As mentioned already, we were dead in our sins, and it was God that made us alive. “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). It wasn’t after we cleaned ourselves up that He died for us. It was while we were still sinners.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). There is no room for a faith and (fill in the blank) approach to God’s grace. Fill that blank with baptism, going to church, giving to the poor, or being a good person. Romans 3:20 is clear that no one will be justified by following the law. This is repeated clearly again in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast.”
When we have faith in God, we are choosing to not depend on ourselves for our salvation. As Grudem explains, we essentially say, “I give up! I will not depend on myself or my own good works any longer. I know that I can never make myself righteous before God. Therefore, Jesus, I trust you and depend on you completely to give me a righteous standing before God.” (Grudem p 730). This is the beauty of the Gospel. It is the beauty of the grace of God, and it should cause us to love Him all the more.
Now, are you ready to dance? This LONG blog is ending with a song that you should turn up and sing loudly based on this awesome truth. Now, it may not really be a DANCING song, I'll post one of those later, but it's one that fills your heart with thankfulness.
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pages 722-732.