“We are saved not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”
Total Justification by faith was Martin Luther’s great spiritual and theological breakthrough. It did not come easily. He had tried everything from sleeping on hard floors and fasting to climbing a staircase in Rome while kneeling in prayer. Monasteries, disciplines, confessions, masses, absolutions, good works-all proved fruitless. Peace with God eluded him. The thought of the righteousness of God pursued him. He hated the very word “righteousness,” which he believed provided a divine mandate to condemn him.
Light finally dawned for Luther as he meditated on Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” He saw for the first time that the righteousness Paul had here in mind was not a punitive justice which condemns sinners but a perfect righteousness which God freely grants to sinners on the basis of Christ’s merits, and which sinners receive by faith. Luther saw that the doctrine of justification by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (per solam fidem) because of Christ alone (solus Christus) was the heart of the gospel and became for him “an open door into paradise…. a gate to heaven.”
We all want to be right. How do we become right with God? How do we become justified? The apostle Paul wrote: “It [faith] shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:24-25).
What does it mean, He “was raised because of our justification”? What does this phrase mean in the original language in which it was written?
If truly we believe we are justified, then why do we still hang on to works we do as what is saving us? Why do we still cling on to laws “thou shalt not do this” thou shalt not do that” as a determining factor to be saved? Was the coming of Christ for the redemption of mankind in vain or a joke? (Titus 3:4-5) sheds more light on this.
Where to go from here
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8-9). Justification comes from the blood of Christ!
True justification begins with us recognising our need for it. We need the help of Jesus Christ and the help of God’s Holy Spirit to come to the point of seeing ourselves as we really are, and being willing to admit our mistakes and sins.
Justification involves the acceptance of Christ’s blood; it involves having a commitment to living God’s way of life. This commitment is demonstrated through faith, repentance and baptism.
“Self-justification is futile! “It is God who justifies” “You are justified…Don’t let anyone condemn you”. (Romans 8:33).