Question: What is the faith taught in God’s Word by which the sinner is justified in God’s sight?
Answer: It is faith in “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3: 24) that justifies the sinner. But the implications go much deeper than appears on the surface:
(1.) That the sinner recognizes his own condition of imperfection, sin, separation from God, and his sentence, even if he does not understand fully and correctly what the penalty for sin is – death, destruction. It implies this, because to admit that God has provided a redemption implies that there was need for redemption on the part of the sinner, and that a condemnation rested upon the sinner justly because of sin.
(2.) Faith in the redemption implies that the sinner discerns at least something of the sinfulness of sin; and that he desires to escape, not only from the extreme penalty of sin (death, destruction), but also from the other features, such as his own imperfections and his alienation from God. Such a faith implies repentance – a desire to return unto God and to righteousness. It means dissatisfaction with sin, and a longing desire for righteousness, which is glad to avail itself of the Divine provision in Christ. This faith implies not only a desire for the forgiveness of the “sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3: 25), but also a desire to live godly, righteously, soberly, and to henceforth avoid all sin, so far as possible.
(3.) This faith justifies us in God’s sight. God, through the merit of Jesus’ great sacrifice, can be just in recognizing those who, although still blemished by sin and unworthy of His notice, have thus, by His appointed way, through the merit of the redemption, come back to a condition of mind and heart which He can thoroughly approve (Romans 3: 26).
(4.) It is called justification by faith, because it is not an actual justification, which would mean that the sinner was made actually perfect. But justification by faith indicates that, although actually imperfect, he is now accepted of the Lord, and treated by Him as though he were perfect. His heart or intentions are now perfect, and the sacrifice for sins, which by faith he has shared, is reckoned as covering past short-comings.
(5.) This new condition of justification implies determination on the part of the justified one to live righteously in thought, word and deed, to the extent of ability. At first this may seem comparatively easy, but soon he finds out differently. The weaknesses and tendencies of his own fallen nature, and similar weaknesses in those with whom he daily and hourly comes in contact, tend to oppose his resolves for a life of righteousness, justice, equity, toward God and men. He finds the necessities of life and the conditions of the world to be a current that is difficult to swim against – that neither his own flesh nor the world in general are friends to grace to help him on to God. He must either join with the majority in unfaithfulness to the higher sense of righteousness, truth and love, or else reckon himself dead to the world – a living sacrifice to God and His righteousness.
(6.) This becomes a turning point in the pathway for the justified. A few go on to full consecration to the Lord (Romans 12: 1). But the majority seem to retrograde from the standard of righteousness, and become content to avoid the grosser sins, and to live on the common plane of worldliness.
(7.) Many stop at this point of decision, unwilling to compromise righteousness, but also unwilling to bear the reproaches and sacrifices demanded by a life of full consecration. These have the spirit of the truth, though not in overcoming measure. But the Lord bears with such patiently for a time, peradventure, under His disciplines and the instructions of His Word, they may see their privileges and learn that the things they would sacrifice are but loss and dross as compared with the rich rewards in the Kingdom (Philippians 3: 8).