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Justification By Grace Through Faith

All humanity has a problem! The problem is two-fold: first humankind has

inherited a nature that is radically corrupted (Rom 3:23). The other side of the coin is that

humankind commits actions congruent with its depraved character (Gal 5:19). This two-

edged sword also has a dual-edged effect. Because all individuals live within the context

of some societal structure their sinful actions have repercussions on that society. Sir Isaac

Newton’s third law of physics states, “forces always occur in pairs” or, put in a more

popular way, “Every action has an opposite but equal reaction.” This law can also be

applied to the implications that sin and sinful actions have on the social order. In other

words, no one sins alone and no is alone in being a sinner. Newton’s law can also have

another positive implication. Paul would describe it like this, “But where sin increased,

grace increased all the more” (Rom 5:20 New International Version).

The fact that humankind is thoroughly depraved and hopeless to save or justify

itself should not, however, be seen as hopeless. We are, even in our depravity, still the

image bearers of God. And He has provided a means by which we could understand who

we are, that is, the Law. However, we also understand those outside the community of

Israel did not necessarily know the Law. That is why Paul informs us there is another law

of conscience that preceded the Mosaic commands.

The Creator writes the law of conscience upon the hearts of His creation. Paul

reminds us that Gentiles, not possessing the written code, can and do fulfill the law of

God inasmuch as it is inscribed upon their hearts and has a conscience witness - a

conscience forged in humanity by its Creator (Romans 2:15). Positively this law upon the

heart leads humankind to act in the image of its Creator; therefore, any act of compassion
by fallen humankind is a right response to the law of God upon the heart.

Negatively the law upon the heart stands in judgment because, with full

understanding, humankind is prone to rebel against what is written on the heart;

therefore, acts of rebellion are in direct conflict with the known law written on the heart.

After all, the law written on the heart also revealed sin (Rom. 7:7). When this known law,

written on the heart, is rejected; communion between Creator and creation is broken

(Genesis 3) and there is sin. However, sin is not the final authority in the eternal affairs of

humankind. God provided the laws of Moses and conscience as a means of grace

whereby humanity would recognize their sad sinful state. But with equal opposition God

also provided the necessary sacrifice to restore the broken relationship through Jesus

Christ. How then does sinful humankind appropriate the grace offered in Christ to

overcome his terrible state? By what means can the sinner can appropriate salvation and

be credited righteousness?

A thread of hope begins Genesis 3:15 that informs humankind of a promised seed

who would “bruise” the head of the tempter. From that point forward there is a

redemptive thread leading up to the climax of the incarnation, that is, the crucifixion and

the resurrection of Christ. These two events delivered a strike to the head of the serpent

and the chasm between Creator and creation was and is forever crossed. Therefore, the

promise of justification is fulfilled in Christ who has become the “atoning sacrifice” for

the sin that separated humankind from God (Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10). Consequently

when the sinner puts his or her faith in the Jesus Christ and His work at Calvary that

person is justified and becomes righteous (Rom 3:24, 28).

Provision for all of humanities increasing sinfulness comes only through the

incarnate life of Jesus Christ. As Kinlaw (2005) so wonderfully posits, “ the key to a

person’s possibilities lies in someone else” (p. 135). Christ bore our sins to Calvary and

in bearing them provided that “we might die to those sins and live for righteousness” (1

Peter 2:24 ISV) making it possible to live “godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12b).

Christ in His humanity joyfully “endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2) and scorned the shame of

the cursed tree that the “problem of all problems” (Kinlaw, 2005, p.107) would be atoned

for, once and for all, by offering Himself first (Heb. 7:27). Therefore, Christ is the

provision for each and every human being to be justified from the penalty of sin and

declared righteous.

All those who have come short by rejecting the known will of God are now

offered free redemption by the blood of Christ. All who call upon the Name of the Lord

will be saved (Acts 2:21). All who respond to God’s effective grace by repentance and

who come into union with Christ through baptism will be filled with the Spirit of God

(Hoekema, 1987, pp. 64 & 115; Jn 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; 10:44-48; 19:4-7). Obedience to the

call of God judicially justifies, lovingly adopts and instantly sanctifies the unregenerate

sinner. God does His part by offering grace, humanity responds to that grace by faith;

God then acts responsibly to justify and humankind moves toward perfection empowered

by the Spirit.

On the surface the state of humankind seems hopeless. However, the bright ray of

hope piercing through the dark night comes in the form of a Cross-and the one hanging

on it: Jesus. For every increase in sin there is also an exponential increase in the provision
of grace. This grace exerts itself by convicting the heart of the unregenerate to put their

faith and trust in Jesus Christ.


Hoekema, A. (1987). The Wesleyan perspective. In S. Gundry (Ed.), Five views of

sanctification. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Kinlaw, D. (2005). Let's start with Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.