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Catechism Class: LD23 Q61, Justification (3)


Justification Part 3.

It is really important that we try to understand the doctrine of Justification. The catechist deals with it over three questions in Lord’s Day 23, and we have already covered the first two of those. Now we arrive at Q61, where the catechist asks, ‘Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith? The answer we must give is, “Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.” So, in this our last look at the doctrine of Justification, we will look at two more important and very practical truths, firstly, what we might call ‘Fideism’ – the erroneous belief in having faith in my faith’ and secondly, one of those famous Solas of the Reformation, Sola Fides – Salvation, by Faith ALONE.


Our instructor admits that he is not acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of his faith. Yet there certainly is, in some branches of Christendom, a belief that you must work up faith within you, that your salvation is some kind of a reward for your great faith in God. Our instructor will have none of that. I do not have within me the faith that I need to appropriate salvation, it is granted to me by God, at conversion, to enable me to appropriate God’s provision for me in Christ. Ephesians 2:8  

Faith is simply INSTRUMENTAL to my salvation. God saves sinners, who have nothing whatsoever to offer him, and he gives them the faith that they need to believe. That God given faith is the means by which we embrace Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:30  We don’t have faith in our faith, we have faith in Christ! Now we can make sense of our instructors admission, Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God Here’s Psalm 25:5-8. The tune is Leominster.

5 Your tender mercies, LORD,
remembered let them be,
and loving-kindnesses, for they
are from eternity. 

6 My sins and faults of youth,
O LORD, will you forget?
With tender mercy think of me,
and for your goodness great. 

7 The LORD is good and just;
the way he’ll sinners show.
In justice, he the meek will guide;
his path he’ll make them know. 

8 All pathways of the LORD
are truth and mercy sure,
to those who keep his covenant
and testimonies pure.

Let’s move on to our second, and perhaps more important truth contained in this question. Years ago I watched an old black and white reel to reel film on the life of Martin Luther. There was a scene in the film where Luther was reading and teaching through the Book of Romans. He was a monk and a theologian, but he was a man deeply troubled about his soul. He strived hard to find peace with God, to be right in the sight of his Creator, but nothing that he did would bring peace to his troubled soul.  He had taken vows, entered the monastery, completed hours of religious exercises, visited Rome, crawled up the steps of St Peter’s Cathedral on his hands and knees, but nothing, no religious works could ever satisfy the emptiness of his soul, or assuage his conscience or remove the deep guilt and condemnation that he knew was his lot, – and the terror of his eventual doom, when he will stand before God at judgement day… But he was reading Romans and he came to 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.”  In the movie, Luther lifts his pen, and writes in the margin of his Bible the word, ALONE! And that’s what we we learn in this second part of question 61. The just shall live by faith alone. The catechist teaches us “I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.” That became one of the pillars of the Reformation, the redeclaration of the New Testament’s teaching that salvation is by grace through faith, with no possibility or need for any works on our part. 

Needless to say, Luther’s teaching on justification by faith alone brought him into further conflict with the Catholic Church. The Catholic reaction to the Reformation was the Council of Trent, which, in 1547 issued a statement on justification. Here’s what the Catholic church decreed in Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. 

I think that RC Sproul can explain this much better than me. Sproule wrote:– By contrast, the Reformers said justification is based on the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus. The only ground by which a person can be saved is Jesus’ righteousness, which is reckoned to him when he believes.”

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