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Monday, November 24, 2014

Justification--by Faith or by Grace?

Let me make two statements and you decide which of the two is closer to the truth: (1) justification is by faith, or (2) justification is by grace.
If you are perplexed, note what Ephesians 2:8, 9 says: "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." That's true; it's impossible that our faith could even exist were it not for grace being first. Our faith is a response to God's grace. So, we are saved by grace, but the instrument, through which we receive and appreciate that grace, is our faith. And when the text says we are saved by grace, the "we" must mean the human race, because God's grace is not doled out selectively according to whether people do something good to deserve it, or not.
His grace is given to all as freely as air circulates around the globe. Christ has become the second Adam, reversing the "condemnation" that the first Adam brought upon the entire human race. Thus He gives, not merely offers, His grace to everyone alike. Many despise His grace, and choose to rebel, but whenever someone believes, he is simply responding to the initiative that Christ has taken in his salvation.
Now, back to our question: are we justified by grace, just as we are saved by grace?
Justification and forgiveness are the same; and we read often in the Bible that God's forgiveness has preceded our need for it. For example, when wicked people crucified the Son of God, He did not wait for them to repent first; He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Before Peter denied Him Christ forgave him. In becoming the new Head of our human race, Christ took us into Himself; He took our sin into Himself, and died to pay its penalty; and the death He died was what the Bible calls the real thing, the second death. And this is the only reason why God can treat the human race as though they had never sinned. If He were to treat us as we deserve we would die immediately. We are all subjects of grace!
One wise writer has said that by His sacrifice, Christ has pronounced a "reprieve" upon us; and that is what Paul says: just as Adam brought upon us all a "judicial ... verdict of condemnation," so Christ has pronounced on us a "judicial ... verdict of acquittal" (Rom. 5:15-18, NEB). All, by grace! And our faith becomes the instrument whereby we receive and appreciate this grace, so that then we are "justified by faith."
Hold your head high! You are a child of grace. Now, live so as to prove it.
--Robert J. Wieland

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