This week we discussed another pillar of the reformation, Sola Gratia (meaning by grace alone), but before we get into that, let us first shortly recap what we have learned about Sola Scriptura, which literally means by Scripture alone. Two weeks ago, we established two major causes of the divide between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, the “formal” cause and the “material” cause. Today we will focus more on the “material” cause of this dispute, “How can one be saved?”, or “How can one be justified with God?”.
Let us first open our Bibles on Ephesians 2:1-9
In regards to a relationship between an individual and God. The assumption: we are not right with God because of our sin. Sin separates us from God. We are by nature object of God’s wrath. His eyes are too pure to look at evil and we are sinners. There is an unbridgeable gap between the Holy God (having no darkness in him) and us (who have fallen into the darkness of sin). Martin Luther had always confessed the sins he had done; however, this did not solve everything. After confessing his sins, he would leave the church and even before he reached home, he would feel guilt from his sins and promptly returned back to church. The pastor would tell him to go back home but he refused. His heart finally found rest when he read the book of Romans and Galatians. From reading the book of Romans and Galatians, Martin Luther concluded that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, this gave him peace.
Paul wrote letters to the church of Galatians because the church taught the public that one can not be saved unless he/she is circumcised under the law of Moses. Paul argued fiercely (in Galatians 3: 6-14) that no one could be saved by observing the law and that they can only be saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. This leads to a question:
Why can’t we be justified by observing the law?
-First of all, it is simply impossible:
Because of the impotence of the law. The law (eg. 10 commandments) by itself cannot give life. God commanded us to obey these commands, but we cannot be justified through these laws, for their purpose is to prove that all humankind are guilty for they would have broken the law whichever way they lived. The Law is said to be like a mirror. It’s importance lies in showing that your face is dirty, but the mirror cannot clean your face. However, this does not imply that the mirror is insignificant. Without it, you would never know that your face is unclean. This “mirror” makes us realise that we are sinful, to show and remind ourselves that we are unclean. The law then, is there to convict that you are sinful because you have been breaking the law.
The impotence of the law-keeper/ law-doer; If you want to be justified by observing the law you have to do everything it says; which is utterly impossible. Everyone in this world has definitely broken the law of God. The ten commandments are impossible to obey and additionally, these laws are linked meaning that when an individual breaks one of the commandments, he/she would have broken all of it as well. An example is the commandment, ‘Do not steal’; this would mean never to steal anything anyone else has, including the time that God has given you for you to do good things for his glory and if you do not use it wisely say, sleeping for too long or procrastinating, then you have stolen God’s time and you have broken one of His commandments (Also breaking the commandment of obeying your parents as you have also wasted their time and money as well). It is a chain reaction in breaking every one of the commandment. Imagine a leaking bucket. How many holes must be present on the bucket for it to be called a leaking bucket? How big must the hole be? One hole and even the smallest hole would make the bucket a leaking bucket.
– Also, it is illegitimate:
God never intended for us to be saved by works (Galatians 3:6). Only by having faith and believing in God, Abraham was counted to be righteous for his faith. And because of his great love for us, we were made alive in Christ Jesus.
Some sections from the Westminster Larger Catechism speak of this:
Q. 70. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accept and accounted their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, by only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace
Why is justification by grace alone? There are 4 reasons to this:
(a) God provided Christ
(b) God accepted Christ’s satisfaction (The redemption that came by Jesus Christ on the cross)
(c) God imputes to us Christ’s righteousness
(d) God requires nothing of us but faith, which is His gift to us (faith itself is His gift for us)
Christ bore our sins and the wrath of God. Christ’s righteousness is being imputed to us; that is why we are justified through faith alone and his grace alone through Christ Jesus.
The law of God is His expression, the law is holy and righteous, the law is there to as if say: I condemn you but you must go to Christ and only through Him you can satisfy the law. When God justifies us, our relationship with God is different, then the law is good and precious. We then understand that the law is his Holy Expression. Galatians 3:10 “For all who rely on works of the law are “under a curse; for it is written, cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Let us also look at Galatians 5: 13-15. It says that we are free from the law, as we are all justified by God. However, we are also free FOR the law. (1) + (2) are tied to one another, it can not be separated. We are free not to indulge in sin but free to obey his law because his law is more precious than gold, sweeter than honey.
How can we see that his law is more precious than gold, sweeter than honey?
The key to understand God’s love on the cross, is to also understand that He loves us more than anything. Once you understand, this prompts us to love Him. Thus, it won’t be hard to obey Him.
If you love someone you’d do anything, even if it’s impossible to accomplish. There is a difference between a slave that is doing everything that the master asks out of sheer obedience and a wife who is doing everything that her husband asks out of love and respect. There is a difference in motivation even if the task is similar. The wife does it like to do it because she loves her family. The slave hates to do it and sees it as an obligation.
“The key is love; if you understand God’s love, you will follow his commandments as it is not difficult. Love gives you strength and pushes all boundaries. If you love somebody any work he/she asks, you would see that as reasonable and your emotions would say that work is desirable and your will will say it is doable.