Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.

1 John 5:1 NLT

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for me in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

In my heart, I am assured that God’s faithfulness will bring God’s Word to pass in my circumstances, intervening in my life, and meeting my needs. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive my sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on my life, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over me.

Faith, if it is to be sure and steadfast, must lay hold upon nothing else but Christ alone, and in the conflict and terrors of conscience it has nothing else to lean on but this precious pearl Christ Jesus. So, he who apprehends Christ by faith, although he be terrified with the law and oppressed with the weight of his sins, yet he may be bold to glory that he is righteous. How? Even by that precious jewel Christ Jesus, whom he possesses by faith.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,1998),99.

Faith is looking away from ourselves to another. Faith is total dependence on another. When faith stands in front of a mirror, the mirror becomes a window with the glory of Christ on the other side. Faith looks to Christ and enjoys him as the sum and judge of all that is true and good and right and beautiful and valuable and satisfying.

John Piper, “Assessing Ourselves With Our God-Assigned Measure of Faith, Part 1.”

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

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Grace Has Visited You

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Phil. 3:8-9 ESV

Justification by faith is God’s acceptance of us to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted to each of us, sinners. Justification is an immediate legal work of God in which he forgives all our sins, counts Christ’s righteousness as our own, and declares us righteous in his sight.

If you have come to rest in the righteousness of Christ and have quit trying to parade your own, you know grace has visited you.

Paul David Tripp, Twitter feed


Consummate Glory in God


Glorifying God

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel.

Isa. 44:23 NLT

Glory is the manifested presence and power of God in our lives and through his church. Glory is pictured in the Bible as the bright, shining radiance that surrounds God’s ineffable perfection. Glory is the presence of God in all his faultlessness, beauty, sinlessness, holiness, majesty, power, sufficiency, and love.

How do we glorify God? First, we need to be mindful that we cannot add to God’s glory. Second, glorifying God means to acknowledge his perfect presence, to value him above everything, and to make him known to all. Last, glorifying God involves heartfelt thanksgiving for his grace and trust in his infinite love.

Basil the Great stated that we glorify God when we reject performance orientation and receive Christ’s righteousness. God is exalted when we turn our backs on our “good works” accept Christ’s righteousness as our own. Receiving Christ’s righteousness is being made right with God–our justification. Justification is an immediate work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s sinlessness as ours, and declares us right in his sight. God is most glorified when we look to the Cross for our salvation.

What is true glory and what makes a man great?

‘In this,’ says the Prophet, ‘let him that glories, glory that he understands and knows that I am the Lord’ (Jer. 9:24).

This constitutes the highest dignity of man, this is his glory and greatness: truly to know what is great and to cleave to it, and to seek after glory from the Lord of glory. The Apostle tells us: ‘He that glories may glory in the Lord,’ saying: ‘Christ was made for us wisdom of God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written: he that glories may glory in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

Now, this is the perfect and consummate glory in God: not to exult in one’s own righteousness, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone.

Basil the Great, 330-379, Homily on Humility 20.3.

HT: Trevin Wax



His Righteousness

Righteousness: Being Right With God

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.

Rom. 1:16-17 NLT

When we look to Christ in faith and believe that his death was our death, and that his punishment was our judgment, and that his blood shed is our forgiveness, we receive by God’s grace his righteousness. This righteous declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we are declared in right standing with God. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment.

Justification is an immediate work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s righteousness as our own, and declares us righteous in his sight. Christ’s righteousness is not only declared to be our righteousness in heaven, but this righteousness also transforms our life here on earth. The Reformation tradition is unwavering: the imputed righteousness of Christ is a free gift; it cannot be earned. It can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone

Righteousness apart from the law; righteousness apart from human doings; righteousness apart from man’s deserving; righteousness given freely to those who do not desire it. Righteousness streaming from the heart of God because of the nature of His being. This is the theme of the Word of God. Look into your own heart and see whether you are trusting, even in a small fraction, in something that you are doing for yourself, or that you are doing for God, instead of finding that you have ceased from your works, and are resting on the righteous work that was accomplished on the cross of Calvary.

Righteousness that you must choose by abandoning any hope of salvation from anything that is in yourself, or could produce by yourself; God’s own righteousness, and the only righteousness that can produce practical righteousness in you.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, “Righteousness Without the Law,” in Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 364.


Laying Hold of the Promise

The Promise of Salvation in Christ

Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Heb. 7:25

Saving faith believes God’s word and actions in Jesus Christ while staking our lives on His promises.  Faith relies on God’s guarantee in Christ that all our sins have been forgiven, forgotten, and defeated. We are now bound in covenant to Christ placing our lives in his hands. His covenant is an binding promise that the Lord God will love us unconditionally all the days of our lives.

True faith passively receives the benefits of Christ’s victory on the cross resulting in active obedience to Christ’s commands and acquiescence to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith does not involve meriting salvation by human work. However, genuine faith will bear good fruit: an expression of the life of Christ in us. Good deeds are not the foundation of our acceptance with God, but the correct response and fruit of a living relationship with him.

More than merely mentally ascending to the basic facts of the gospel message; saving faith involves life-changing repentance, heart-felt surrender, and supernatural empowerment to obey. Saving faith grabs hold of the promise that all that Christ did on the Cross is more than sufficient for our salvation and more than powerful to change our lives.

Faith alone lays hold of the promise, believes God when He gives the promise, stretches out its hand when God offers something, and accepts what He offers. This is the characteristic function of faith alone. Love, hope, and patience are concerned with other matters; they have other bounds, and they stay within these bounds. For they do not lay hold of the promise; they carry out the commands. They hear God commanding and giving orders, but they do not hear God giving a promise; this is what faith does.

Faith is the mother, so to speak, from whom that crop of virtues springs. If faith is not there first, you would look in vain for those virtues. If faith has not embraced the promises concerning Christ, no love and no other virtues will be there, even if for a time hypocrites were to paint what seem to be likenesses of them.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works: Lectures on Genesis, Vol. 3 (1961)

HT: Miscellanies


No Condemnation: The Story of William Herschel

He Took Our Place

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Rom. 8:1 NASB

Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.  Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself on the Cross.

Justification is his acceptance of us in the sight of God to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted, credited, and positionally granted to us. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred the legal standing of Christ’s sinlessness making us free from the condemnation of sin, the fear of death, and the accusations of the devil. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a free gift; it cannot be earned. It can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone.

The story is told of William Herschel. As a young boy he loved military music, and growing up in Hanover in Germany he joined a military band. When his nation went to war, he was one of those leading the military band. As a young man he was totally unprepared for the horrors of war, and the result was that before long he deserted his military unit and fled the battle scene during an intense period of fighting.

He fled to England, and began to pursue further training in both music and science. Thinking he was in the clear, he grew and prospered in his new country. In fact he made various scientific discoveries that made him famous, and he gained great renown for his musical abilities. However, after Herschel came to the British Isles, another Hanoverian also came to live there—George who in fact became the King of England. King George knew of Herschel’s past desertion of the army and summoned the great musician and scientist to appear before the royal court. Herschel went with fear and trembling, and when he arrived in the palace he was told to wait a considerable time in an ante-chamber to the throne room. Then finally, one of the King’s servants came to Herschel and handed him a document and told him to read it.

He opened it with fear, only to discover that it read ‘I George pardon you for your past offenses against our native land’. George had pronounced the verdict of no condemnation on William Herschel, and in fact the document went on to say that for his outstanding service to humankind as a musician and a scientist, he was now to become Sir William Herschel: he was to be knighted! He had gone from criminal to honored dignitary in an instance, quite apart from what he might have deserved according to German law (the penalty for desertion was death). Paul is saying that this is what God’s pronouncement of pardon does for all of us who accept it. It not only removes the source of alienation; it places us in a favored relationship with God.

Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia : A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 195.


The Divine Law Court


Evangelical Essentials (Part Six)

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Phil. 3:8-9 (NKJV)

Many criticize the Reformation’s understanding of forensic/imputed righteousness because of the law court metaphor. The law court metaphor was used by the Apostle Paul frequently in the letters to the Romans and the Galatians.

What God does for us in justification is similar to what the judge does in a law court: He does not change the defendant by turning him or her into a new kind of person; rather, he declares the defendant innocent of the charges brought against him or her . . . Justification reminds us that our standing with God is by grace and that thankfulness should be the hallmark in all our dealings with him.

[Douglas Moo, Romans: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 56-57.

A law court seems impersonal and abstract–too judicial. Imputed, or forensic righteousness, seems to teach a declaration in heaven of righteousness for the believer without the corresponding transformation of character on earth. The problem with rejecting this understanding is that this is the exact image that the Apostle Paul uses in Romans 1:16-17 and in Romans 3:21-26.

The phrase the “righteousness of God” (dikaiosune theou) means that an individual is vindicated in a divine law court because of the work of Christ. The term signifies that people who are still sinners stand not guilty before God because of the gift of righteousness. This righteousness from God is truly a gift (Rom. 5.17), it is from God (1 Cor. 1.30), it is received by faith (Gal. 2.20, Rom 9.30-31), it is reckoned therefore making it a status (Rom. 4:3, 5, 6, 9, 11; 6.11) and it has as it’s source the very nature of God therefore making this gift what Martin Luther called an “alien righteousness” (Phil. 3.9). Church Father, Clement of Alexandria, agreed when he stated, “Justification means both the discharging of the debt of sin, and the crediting (imputation) of Christ’s righteousness” (Stromata V:5).

The problem that I, or anyone of you, would have with the doctrine of imputed righteousness is when a believer claims to have a righteous standing before God and yet lives inconsistent with the holy standards of the New Testament. This inconsistency occurs when Evangelical preachers neglect to recognize that the righteousness of God (dikaiosune theou) also means transformation. That is, the righteousness of God is the saving power of God to change an individual’s life and transform them into the Christ-like character.

The righteousness of God is not only a status, but is the very power that transforms us into righteous people. Romans 1:16-17 (RSV) is emphatic concerning this truth:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’

In other words, the declared righteousness of God is an effective righteousness in that it transforms an individual’s life.  Romans 8:1-4 teaches that Christ died destroying the power of sin which enables us to live the righteous life God demands.”Justification, whose sole condition is penitent faith, is never lacking in fruits of faith, by which the believer is assured that the Spirit is working within.”

[Thomas Oden, John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 206.

Therefore, the righteousness of God (dikaiosune theou) declares us righteous in the Father’s court of law while simultaneously transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

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What is the Imputed and Imparted Righteousness of Christ?


Evangelical Essentials (Part Five)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)

Justification by faith is God’s acceptance of me to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted to me, a sinner. Justification is an immediate legal work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s righteousness as our own, and declares us righteous in his sight.

[Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 723.]

Evangelicals believe in the imputed (i.e., Lutheran, Reformed, Wesleyan,etc.) and imparted righteousness (i.e., Wesleyan) of Christ, this phrase and these terms can be confusing and intimidating. The imputed righteousness of Christ is summarized by a sentence in the Lake George blessing: “God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself not counting men’s sins against them.” Imputation is the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to my account. This imputation is twofold: we receive Christ’s holiness and forgiveness and Christ takes upon himself our guilt and judgment.

Impartation is Christ releasing within us his very life so that moment-by-moment we may experience his presence enabling us to make righteous choices. In summary, Christ’s righteousness is a gift which can be described as a wedding garment—a white robe of righteousness—completely covering us in Christ enabling us to spend a lifetime of communion with the Father (Isa. 61:10). This same righteousness is imparted to us on a constant basis enabling us to display of the fruit of the Spirit, as we trust Christ in our weaknesses and struggles.

[Bob Mumford, The Agape Road: Journey to Intimacy with the Father (Nashville, Tenn: Lifeway Press, 2000), 57-59.]

This declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we have been declared righteous. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment. This new status declares me righteous in God’s sight; free from the condemnation of sin, the fear of death, and accusations of the devil. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a gift; it cannot be earned. This gift can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone (Rom. 3:26, 28; 4:5; 5:1, Gal. 2:15-16). Christ’s righteousness is not only declared to be my righteousness in heaven, but this righteousness also transforms my life here on earth.

John Wesley concurs that the righteousness of Christ is both imputed and imparted (his word is implanted):

That Christ’s righteousness is imputed means that ‘all believers are forgiven and accepted, not for the sake of anything in them, or of anything that ever was, that is, or ever can be done by them, or ever can be done by them, but wholly and solely for the sake of what Christ hath done and suffered for them.'”

I believe that God implants righteousness in everyone to whom He has imputed it. Implanting is a lively horticultural metaphor, as distinguished from a declarative, juridical metaphor. It requires daily nurturing, not a simple bang of a gavel.It is the fruit of our acceptance with God, not the ground of it.

[Thomas Oden, John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity:A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 207, 208.]

In brief, Christ’s righteousness is a transformative righteousness in that it effectively changes those who have been declared righteous by God.


Why I’m Not (Eastern) Orthodox


“Because I Am Committed to Key Distinctives of the Protestant Evangelical Tradition.”

Daniel Clendenin puts into words from his experience my own commitment to Evangelical truth: original sin, penal substitution, imputed righteousness, justification by faith, and sola scriptura, etc.

While Protestant evangelicals have never agreed on the precise meaning or mode of the sacraments, they have historically emphasized two related truths that diverge from the Orthodox understanding of the sacraments. Evangelicals urge the necessity of personal conversion through the faith and repentance of the individual believer, as opposed to the Orthodox idea of regeneration by the sacraments.

Also, while evangelicals wholeheartedly embrace the full-orbed New Testament descriptions of the work of Christ (reconciliation, ransom, redemption, forgiveness, adoption, etc.), since the Reformation, justification by faith and substitutionary atonement have enjoyed pride of place in our understanding of the doctrines of sin and salvation. Luther urged that Christianity would stand or fall with this doctrine; Calvin called it “the hinge upon which all true religion turns.”

In the history and theology of Orthodoxy it is startling to observe the nearly complete absence of any mention of the doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, “theosis” (literally, “deification”), or the progressive transformation of people into full likeness to God, in soul and body, takes center stage. (2 Pet. 1:4). Further, the Orthodox reject the idea of inherited guilt; we are guilty only for our own sins rather than for the inborn consequences of Adam’s fall. Conversely, evangelicals argue that this forensic framework for sin and salvation is not merely a historical and unduly negative carryover from Augustine and Anselm, but rather is the clear teaching of Paul in his Letters to the Romans and Galatians.

Read Daniel Clendenin’s entire essay entitled, “Why I’m Not Orthodox: An Evangelical Explores the Ancient and Alien World of the Eastern Church” originally published in Christianity Today (January 6, 1997): 33.

HT: Journey with Jesus