"By Faith Alone" Sola Fide (Romans 5:1)

The 16th Century German Reformer, Martin Luther, called it “the article upon which the church stands or falls.” The article in question is that of justification by faith alone. To Luther, whether this doctrine was believed and preached or not was the basis by which we judge if it is a true church! A church ceases to be a church when it ceases to declare that sinners are reconciled to God by no other way than by faith.

We live in a day of religious tolerance, when truth, it is said, should be sacrificed on the altar of relationships. May our voice sound with the noble martyrs of generations of the true church who say with the apostle Paul, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’

The doctrine of justification by faith alone is essential to the gospel. The gospel ceases to be ‘good news’ if it ceases to declare that Christ alone has accomplished our salvation. Theologians have always understood that when we say we are justified by faith alone, we are really saying we are justified by the work of Christ alone. That’s why this doctrine is so important. If we contribute anything more to our salvation than simply believing what Christ has already done, we cheapen His work of grace and declare it insufficient. Now let’s look at Romans 5:1 and may we stand in awe of what Christ has done for us.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We will break down this verse into three parts.
1. The Means of Justification ‘. . . having been justified by faith . . .’
2. The Result of Justification ‘. . . peace with God . . .’ and,
3. The Person of Justification ‘. . . through our Lord Jesus Christ:’

But let’s begin by defining justification:

“Justification is God’s act of pardoning sinners and accepting them as righteous for Christ’s sake.”

It is a forensic, or legal, term meaning that sinners are declared righteous.

It is a positional term meaning that we are declared righteous positionally before God, even though we are still practically speaking sinners.

1. The Means of Justification “ justified by faith”
What did we do to merit such a divine pardon? Nothing! What is the means by which this pardon is received? By Faith and Faith Alone! Not by our good deeds. Titus 3:5 states,

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.

Nor is it as may false religions teach, that it is faith plus human effort or faith plus sacrifices or faith plus confession to an earthly priest. No the reformers were right when they said in the face of Rome in the words of John Calvin,

Let it therefore remain settled . . . that we are justified in no other way than by faith, or, which comes to the same thing, that we are justified by faith alone!

Yet some of us still try to take credit for our own salvation. “Yes, we’re saved by faith,” we say, “but I supplied the faith.” No! God, the Holy Spirit knew you would say that so He inspired Paul to write Eph. 2:8-9:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that (faith) not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.

Romans 4:16 tells us that salvation “is of faith, that it might be by grace.”

2. The Result of Justification “peace with God”
This is the ‘good news’ of the gospel. This is the glad tidings of great joy of which the angels spake in Luke 2 as they announced the Saviour’s birth. With the coming of Christ into the world, comes peace. This is the good news that we have to proclaim to a lost and dying world. We are to go into the world and ask, “Sinners, why do you still war against the Almighty, He has delivered us from the thing that caused us to be separated from Him.”

2 Cor. 5:18-21 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

3. The Person of Justification “through our Lord Jesus Christ”
Now we move to the primary cause for our justification that results in our peace. It is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which is alone sufficient to satisfy God, thereby giving us peace with Him.

There are three words that are important when we speak of the atonement:
Substitution, Propitiation, and Reconciliation.

First, Christ is our substitute. If we do not believe this, then we have no reason for believing that God will not punish us for our sins. Our great confidence lies in the fact that God has already punished our sins on His cross. That’s why God can be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

Second, Christ is our propitiation. It is only because He is our substitute that He is able to be our propitiation. This word won’t mean much to you if you think of God as only being loving with no wrath toward sin. But if you believe in the God of Prov. 6:16, who hates sin and if you believe in the God of Ps. 7:11, who is angry with the wicked every day, this word will be of great comfort to you.

The word “propitiation” means to satisfy wrath. Every religion in the world believes in some form of propitiation. They believe that must attempt to satisfy the wrath of their god(s) by their works or sacrifices. But Bible Christianity is the only religion that says God has satisfied His own wrath. We were helplessly deserving of God’s wrath toward us for our sin, but God set forth Jesus to be our propitiation or satisfaction.

Rom. 3:25-26 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Christ satisfied the wrath of God for us on the cross of Calvary. He is our substitute that He might be our propitiation that He might be our reconciliation.
Rom. 5:10 tells us that “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.”

In Col. 1:20-22, Paul says Christ made peace by reconciling us to Himself. Christ alone is our reason for peace with God and our state of declared righteousness before Him! Again, to be justified by faith alone is to be justified by Christ alone!

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel in which sinners are justified before God by faith alone. In other words, salvation is by grace alone. You cannot earn salvation by good works, it must be received through faith (by believing what God has done through Christ).

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

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