Understanding Faith

Faith is synonymous with belief or trust. It also implies loyalty to a person or a thing. Having faith in something is to have complete reliance on that something. You have faith in the bridge to hold you up as you cross over it – you are relying on, trusting, believing and being loyal to the idea that the bridge is secure enough to allow you to cross it.

Personally, I have trouble having faith in bridges, especially the kind that swing or go over water. I am not confident that the bridge can carry me safely across without sending me plummeting to a slow death below. I lack confidence in the bridges’ stability and security. Why? Because bridges have been faulty before and I am rather accident-prone. I cannot see the underpinnings of the bridge to assess its stability. But many people are trusting in those unseen parts to carry them over.

Christ, however, is someone that is safe to trust. We can rest in loyalty to Him, because He will not let us go. I am completely convicted of the fact that Jesus can be relied on and believed. I can trust Him because He is God. His will is perfect. My faith in Christ is dependent upon Christ’s will not mine – because it is up to Him to be trustworthy. And God never changes, He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Not only is God trustworthy, but He is completely worthy of our faith in Him. God is Holy. He is so completely, perfectly Holy that He is entirely otherly. We can not even grasp at anything more than a mere idea of what this Holiness could look like. We can understand the attributes of Him, but His perfection is beyond the limits of our mortal imagination. In His perfection and holiness, He is completely powerful, all-knowing, and just. His righteousness demands our worship, adoration, and faith.

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

 

Faith in God is not something that we in our natural state can do. For the unregenerate, they completely lack the ability to do God’s will. There is no good in them. Those that are unsaved cannot do the will of God nor can they please God. Faith is required for salvation – but it has to be given by God. Faith is an outworking of God’s grace to undeserving people. Both Grace and Faith are divine gifts that God has bestowed on His chosen people.

 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

 

“Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8

 

 

Understanding Justification

Justification is an act of God. It is a legal declaration that our crimes against God have been paid for and we have been credited with all the righteousness of Jesus. Justification does not describe the inward change that happens when God gives someone a new heart. We cannot be accepted by God unless we are justified or declared righteous.

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,  even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;  whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26

 

“The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.” Romans 5:16

 

We know that we are utterly depraved sinners, completely unable to seek God on our own. We are all sinners ever since Adam and Eve doomed the entire race with their disobedience to God, and we daily sin in every regard simply because we do not love God with all of our heart, soul and mind nor do we love our neighbor as ourselves. Every single sin is treason against God, for every single sin is an act of defiance declaring that sin is the god whom we serve that moment. So, we all stand before the Just Judge and He has declared us guilty. Our guilt against a perfectly Holy and Immortal God requires something of equal payment – eternity tormented in Hell with the wrath of God being poured out on us.

But God, out of His goodness, sent His Son, Jesus, who was perfectly Holy, to die in our place. Our guilty sin was placed upon Him and the wrath of God poured out on Him.  So now, we stand before God, guiltless. Our crime of Treason was paid for on the cross. So, in the moment of salvation, the righteousness of Christ was applied to our debt, and we can stand justified before Him.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Our entire justification has nothing to do with any good thing that I might do, nor is it the sum of all that I possibly could do over my entire lifetime. My stance before God is solely dependent upon what Christ has already done in my place.

 

Understanding Sanctification

 

Sanctification is being set apart for a divine purpose, it means to make holy and consecrated.  Sanctification is both a one-time event and a process.  It is a one-time event in that it happens by God at the moment of conversion. This Positional or Declarative Sanctification describes the inward process that occurs at salvation – when God gives us a new heart with new desires. In that moment that we are saved, we are marked as belonging to Him and Holy.

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10

“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11

But the Bible also tells us that until we arrive in Glory, we are stuck in an earthly body that is by no means perfect. Often times we behave in unholy ways. So, we are called then to work alongside God in Progressive Sanctification, or the process of learning to die to self, resist sin, and live for Christ.  We have to learn to live in ways that reflect what we already are in Gods eyes: Holy

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1

“Sanctify them in your truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

“Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

 

Justification, Sanctification and Faith

 

What do justification and sanctification have to do with faith? Both are graces of the Gospel. Justification and sanctification always go together. Guy Waters from Ligonier said, “First, whereas justification addresses the guilt of our sin, sanctification addresses the dominion and corruption of sin in our lives. Justification is God’s declaring the sinner righteous; sanctification is God’s renewing and transforming our whole persons—our minds, wills, affections, and behaviors. United to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection and indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, we are dead to the reign of sin and alive to righteousness. We, therefore, are obligated to put sin to death and to present our ‘members to God as instruments for righteousness’.”

We are initially saved by God-given faith that we then place in Christ.  Immediately our guilty sentence is paid for and we are immediately sanctified. We then are slaves to Christ and are commanded to flee from all sin and to live a life consecrated to Him and we embark on a journey of sanctification. The more we grow in faith, the more we do these things. It is by living for Him that we are transformed into the image of His Son and we can rest in knowing that God will complete what He has set out to do.

Martin Luther said because of faith, we “freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!”

Faith is the only instrument of justification. Faith is given to us by God. It is not any good deed that we might do. Nor does it add to what Christ has already one. Faith is merely the receiving of Christ’s righteousness that is offered. This faith does produce good works. It is by these good works that faith is made evident.  This is how saving faith is proven to be genuine – and not a false claim.  We are not justified by our good works. Our righteousness cannot be obtained by legalistically adhering to God’s laws, as we can see in the book of Romans, but all of our righteousness is imparted to us from Christ when we are justified.

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” Romans 4:4-5

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6

“To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:18

In Acts 26, we can see that we are sanctified by faith. Faith is essential for not only our justification but also for our sanctification. We have to trust in God in order to obey Him and to grow in maturity. It is through faith in Christ that we are able to be fruitful. We cannot obey God in the difficult matters if we do not have faith that He is sovereign, He is safe to trust, that He will keep His promises. Faith is believing that what God said is completely true.

I recommend you listen to God’s Attribute of Faithfulness: https://strivingforeternity.org/faithfulness/