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Justification by Faith
Justification is a term which is used in the Bible, especially by Paul, to tell us about how God accepts us despite our sinful nature. It is a legal term which means that the Heavenly Judge has pardoned our sins.
Nothing by ourselves
Evangelical Christians believe that God forgives us (justifies us), not because of any good thing that we do, but simply because we trust in Him. We believe this because we realise that even our best works are not perfect. They do not reach the standard of Divine purity which is necessary to please a holy God.
How shall we answer the heavenly Judge when he calls us to account? Let us contemplate that Judge, not as our own unaided intellect conceives of him, but as he is portrayed to us in the Bible, with a brightness which obscures the stars, a strength which melts the mountains, an anger which shakes the earth, a wisdom which takes the wise in their own craftiness, a purity before which all things become impure, a righteousness to which not even angels are equal. Let Him, I say, sit in judgment on the actions of men, and who will feel secure in standing before His throne? (John Calvin)
As our works are so below the standard which God desires, He has provided a way to Heaven which does not depend on our merits. When Jesus died he represented all of his followers in that death. Instead of each of us being punished for our sins the death of Jesus acts as a wonderful substitute so that we can be set free.
To take part in this great act of forgiveness all that we must do is to turn our hearts to God with a sincere and honest faith. We have been promised that any who come unto Him, He will in no wise cast out.
This faith is not the bare and dead agreement to certain doctrines which some men make it to be. Rather, faith is a vibrant belief which turns our whole hearts to seeking after God, and resting on His mercy for our salvation.
"Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God. It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith!
"Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith.
"It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn't know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works." (Martin Luther)
The teaching of Christianity is simple:
We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 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 Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:3-7)
We are forgiven by God, through grace alone and through faith alone. By grace alone, means that all of our salvation, from beginning to end rests on the mercy of a loving Father. By faith alone means that we are forgiven, not because of our own righteousness, but because we trust that the Father who loved us so much that He sent His own Son, will forgive us for our sins.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)