Today I wish to direct your attention to an article by Rod Rosenbladt over at Modern Reformation. This article is entitled “Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification“. It has been up for a while now and it deals with the question of justification, which is the preeminent question of the entire Christian life: “How am I to be saved?”
In medieval Catholicism, the answer to this question consisted of a kind of works-righteousness: One must first be sanctified enough to merit justifying grace, and the essence of justification was a change in the human heart–a gradual transition from unjust to just. Grace, in this way of looking at things, was nothing more than an infused power which enabled one to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to move oneself from the category of unjust to just. The results of grace over the course of one’s Christian life, if it were present, would be obvious: fewer and fewer sins.
Now look at how we evangelicals view justification and grace. Is it any different? I don’t think so. We talk a good game when we say that justification depends entirely on faith and not at all upon works–but we have completely and totally redefined faith so that it is in fact a work. We know that saving faith is present in the life of a believer because we will see a gradual transition from ungodly to godly, from unjust to just. Grace works inside of the believer to enable him/her to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and live a life pleasing to God. Sound familiar?
Rosenbladt responds by saying that justification has nothing to do with anything at all that we do, it is instead entirely the work of Christ on the cross which justifies us. Grace has nothing to do with helping us do anything for God; rather, it is simply unmerited and undeserved favor.
This article is must reading for those of us in the world of evangelical Protestant-dom. We are dying from trying to do this justification thing on our own effort. It ain’t gonna happen. It has to come from God, when we stop trying to do it on our own.