Justification may be defined as that act by which unjust sinners are made right in the sight of a just and holy God. The supreme need of unjust persons is righteousness. It is this lack of righteousness that is supplied by Christ on behalf of the believing sinner. Justification by faith alone means justification by the righteousness or merit of Christ alone, not by our goodness or good deeds. - R. C. Sproul in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
My life has been a study in contrasts. I have proven time and time again that I can sin with the best of them. I am in the midst of cleaning up “another fine mess I have got myself into” right now.
I often get discouraged as a Christian. I feel that I am not making progress. I know that I often face set backs in some key struggles in my life with sin. I know I sin, and the more I learn about Christ’s requirements, the more aware of each sin I become.
Should I despair of my salvation? Should I doubt that Christ has changed my heart? Sometimes if growing in holiness as I should is running; I’m not running. Sometimes I’m just walking. Sometimes I don’t walk, I just crawl. Sometimes I don’t even do that well.
I have noticed a change from before I came to Christ, if I’m not running, I am walking. If I’m not walking I am crawling. If I’m not crawling, I am at least facing in the right direction. I at least have the earnest desire to improve. This is the daily repentance I live in as a Christian. It’s a change of mind that, over time, results in a change of behavior. But that change in my life is not the reason I continue to try. I continue to try because of doctrines I believe. I’ll summarize them.
We are saved by grace, God’s favor extended to us when we do not deserve it. We are saved, if we are saved at all, by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, based on the promises of Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.
By grace alone. This is 2,000-year-old, 200-proof, un-watered-down, 100% pure, uncut, unearned, unlimited, unvarnished, marvelous, amazing, greater-than-all-our-sin, unmerited, unfathomable, Christ-earned, G-R-A-C-E. It is God acting in history on His own initiative to save His people. We are saved by God. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Through faith alone. Not by faith, as if faith is the reason we are saved, but through faith. Faith is the confident trust we have that what Christ did, He did for us. Faith alone. No adding of our works to merit salvation in any way. No adding works in any form, even those good works which come from God’s work in our hearts. (Romans 3:21-31)
On account of Christ alone. We are saved because God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and suffered the wrath our sins deserve on our behalf. Christ’s works earn us salvation, not our works, and not the works of the saints who have gone before. We are credited with His perfect life (2 Corinthians 5:21) and our sins are paid for by His underserved suffering (Isaiah 53).
Based on the promises of Scripture alone. The Bible tells us we must live a perfect life to earn favor with God. Not just pretty good, perfect (Matthew 5:48). It tells us what to believe about Christ and what He did and what that earned for us. It talks about Christ’s work on every page. It tells us how to do good works which come from a heart filled with gratitude for what Jesus did on our behalf. It is the basis for our faith because it is the only entirely truthful record of the work of Christ and the interpretation of that work we have.
For the glory of God alone. This is the ultimate pay off for the Christian: to glorify God (Col. 3:23). To cause God’s name to be praised and honored. To share the gospel with others that they would live for God’s glory.
Some of you just recognized the five “solas” of the reformation. (I’ll spare you the Latin. Feel free to google search this later.) This is my understanding of the doctrines that are the basis of my faith. They are the reason I can live with the sometimes heavy load I carry. They are the reason I continue to struggle with sin. They are the reason I have faith in the midst of my shortcomings. They are the reason I do not give up.