Sacred Winds Ministries

Christian outreach through music and education.

Sola Gratia and Sola Fide: The Gift of Justification

by John Lucas

Suppose  someone comes up and, without warning, punches you in the nose. Now even though it really hurt, you decide you are going to be the bigger person and forgive that person. But instead, they reply, “You don’t need to forgive me, I have already forgiven myself!” Now on top of that, a third person who just stood by and watched you get punched comes up and says, “Hey, don’t either of you worry about it. I’ve already forgiven you both!” What’s wrong with this picture? Who is the only person that has the right or the power to forgive? You guessed it: the one who received the punch from the start. The person who did the punching does not need to forgive himself, and the one who saw the punch doesn’t need to forgive. It is only the one who has been punched who can forgive.

At its root, the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about how we receive forgiveness and who ultimately can forgive us. We need forgiveness because we have sinned against God, abandoned his purposes for us, and run from his presence. According to the Bible, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV). This popular verse has been used in gospel tracts, sermons, and memorized for witnessing opportunities. Yet it is the following verse that provides the answer we need to our sin problem: “…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:24).  The life changing good news that sinners like us can experience forgiveness for our sins and go to heaven is condensed into this one potent word: justification.

Justification is a term borrowed from the legal world showing how a person who is morally and legally guilty (unrighteous) can be declared innocent (righteous) with God. Essentially, to be justified means to be declared righteous in a forensic sense. Think about a person condemned to prison. They committed a crime and are found guilty by the judge. Condemnation does not make that person guilty; the judge simply pronounces the verdict based on the evidence. In the same way, to be justified doesn’t mean we are innocent, but it means we have been pronounced innocent by God. When it comes to salvation, we have no righteousness to argue our case; we are far from innocence. So the only hope we have to be “justified,” or declared innocent before God, must come from God himself. That is why Jesus came to planet earth, lived a sinless life, and died on a cross: to justify sinners such as us.

But how do we receive justification? It obviously isn’t something we can earn, and it also isn’t something that is automatic for everybody. The answer is found in Romans 3:24 where Paul writes, “and are justified by his grace as a gift.” Paul also says in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Justification is the gift of God’s grace given to us because of his great love for us (see John 3:16). And just like any gift, we simply receive it to experience and possess it. Again, Paul wrote in Romans 5:1: “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Getting justification right is essential to getting the gospel right. Martin Luther once called justification “the article of a standing or falling church.” And John Calvin wrote that it is “the main hinge on which religion turns.” What is it about justification that makes it so important to the Christian faith? First, justification is the way every single person can experience true hope in this life or the life to come. Salvation is a free gift because we can’t save ourselves. Anyone who receives the gospel of Jesus can freely obtain eternal life because of justification. Second, justification gives us assurance in our relationship with God. Because Jesus has justified us by his righteousness, we never have to fear that God will ever make us pay the penalty for our sins. Forgiveness has come fully and finally through Jesus’ work, and when we accept his atoning work, we are justified. Clean. Forgiven. Forever. Soli Deo Gloria, which means to God alone be the glory!

John Lucas is Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Pikeville, KY.


Your recording of "Voyage" is brilliant!!!

Jody Nagel
Composer, Voyage of Discovery

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