In Romans 4:3-5 and 18-24, Paul referred back to Genesis chapter 15 (specifically v16) the promise from God to Abram (later called Abraham) “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abram realised that (and God also knows) there is no hope in bearing a child for both he and his wife were already old (“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and the Sarah’s womb was also dead” Rom 4:19), but he had faith that with god’s power and grace, He is able to even change “no hope” to “hope”.
So what does it mean by justification by grace alone?
- It is a gift “to the one who does not work” (Rom 4:5a)
From the last sharing about Sola Gratia, we learned that work is being put and compared alongside with grace, and now, work can also be put together and discussed with faith. For us, that “did not work” but trust God, it is truly by grace alone, through faith alone that we are justified. We did not work for it, we did not earn it, “so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9)
- It is to the “ungodly” or wicked ones
It is not because that we are righteous, or holy that we are being justified. Paul clearly said this in the bible that He justified those that are wicked and ungodly (Rom 3:5).
But here comes the problem, if we look at what King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:15 “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent – the LORD detests them both.”, what Paul mentioned here seems to contradict with what Solomon had wrote. As we can see clearly from Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So which one is correct? Why are there contradictions?
Firstly we need to know what “Faith” means. Faith connects us to Christ. But faith is not our own righteousness, it is the instrument that connects us to the righteousness which is IN CHRIST. We are justified because the Father sees the righteousness in us that is in Christ Jesus (which are connected through faith).
There is an illustration which can help you to understand more of this. If we turn on the tap, there is water flowing, filling up our cups. So where did the water come from? Is it from the pipe? The water source is from the reservoir, faith is the pipe. Faith is not our righteousness, the righteousness is in Christ (reservoir), and faith (pipe) alone connects us (the wicked & ungodly) to the source of his righteousness. Faith cannot be our righteousness because that would be works, and that it is from works that we earned the righteousness, and it is no longer grace. How can we be with Him? It is through faith alone.
- “His faith counted as righteous”
So how does our faith be counted as righteous?
An illustration explains this very well. Here is another illustration by Join Piper (but be reminded that there is no perfect analogy to everything, this illustration cannot fully describe this case but nonetheless it can help us to understand).
A dad asked his son to clean his room before he goes to school and if he does not see a clean room before he comes back from work, the son would not be able to watch the football match tonight. But as usual the son got caught up with all the works and games and forgot to clean the room. When the dad came back, he saw that the room was not cleaned and so he helped the son to clean the room and now the room is clean, it is perfect. And when the son came back and saw the clean room he realised that he forgot to clean the room and he turned to the dad and admitted and confessed to his dad and he accepted the consequence that he will not be able to watch the football match today. But now the room is clean (although not cleaned by himself), the Father said, “Because you have confessed with a contrite heart and that now the room is clean, I allow you to watch the match tonight.” As described in Philippians 3:9 “…not having a righteousness of my own that ones from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith”. The righteousness is imputed to us.
We see in the bible that whenever there are verses about “justified by faith”, the Greek original text is “διὰ πίστεως” (through faith), but never “διὰ πίστιν” (on the account of faith).
It is not anything that we did or will do justify us, it is not from our works. It is by grace alone through faith alone that we are justified by Him. Abraham just believed, the only thing that he did was to realise that he cannot do it by himself. There is nothing in him or that he does can make him righteous.
Q1: Where does the faith come from?
It is a gift. (Eph 2:8-9) And how can we get the gift? It is up to the giver. It is His sovereignty and His grace alone that we can believe in Him. However perfect we can share the gospel to somebody, however persuasive is our speech, however hard we pray, we can never change God, it is up to God that whether He will give the gift. For them to reject the gift is their won responsibility, but to accept the gift is by His grace. However note that prayer DOES change things, but prayer never change God.
Q2: The “faith” in other religions.
The faith in us makes us unite with Christ, we are in Christ, and Christ is in us. It is called the “mystical union”. It is not mystic, but mysterious. It is like there is a bucket sunk in the well, the bucket is in the water, and the water is in the bucket. There is nothing like this in other religions.
Q3: What about Muslims and Jews that believe in the “same” YWH as Christians?
If anyone rejects Christ, the faith is already different, there is already a difference to the God we are believing. We believe in the trinity of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. We believe in different God, the faith is totally different. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (Jn 14:6). If they reject Christ, they can’t even reach the Father.