Justification by Faith Alone—Works

After over 25 years of pastoral ministry shepherding people through the problems and challenges they face, there are a few things that I’ve noticed that have stood the test of time. 

  • The problem someone brings to you is rarely their real problem, and they are seldom cognizant of this fact. 
  • One of the most prevalent challenges is the expectation for immediate solutions. Many hope for a single Bible verse or quote that can instantly transform their situation or a technique that can immediately alleviate their emotional distress.
  • Most people want to be comforted and coddled, not challenged or changed.
  • Most counseling involves some cocktail of fear, anxiety, insecurity, and loneliness. 

The actual problem facing most people in these situations is a failure to apply their lives to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Now, most of the people I counsel in my shepherding ministry affirm justification by faith alone in principle, at least with their mind. Still, there is a disconnect between the truth they say they believe and their reflexive response to life.

After attempting to get them to see the root of the problem, my goal is to convince them that justification by faith alone is the most practical and transforming truth. Too many professing Christians think about justification by faith alone merely as an idea or theory. But for the believer, justification by faith alone is a living reality and the very core of their eternal hope. 

Hear the real-world practicality of Paul’s explanation,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”(Romans 5:1-5)

The gospel truth of justification by faith alone must be ever present in our minds and deeply embedded in our affections. The work that often needs to be done involves dwelling on and meditating on this grand truth daily until we cannot think about ourselves, others, life, family, friends, community, circumstance, past, future, our longings, or anything else apart from the gospel coming into view (1 Corinthians 2:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Imbibing the truth in my heart and mind that, despite my sinfulness, I am now fully pardoned through simple faith in what Christ Jesus has done for me through his sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection is always transformative. Justification by faith alone—works!

When we truly understand that justification by faith alone means that I am not only forgiven but also fully known and fully loved, accepted into God’s presence by grace alone, then grace becomes the principal feature of my worldview. It becomes the model by which I see myself, others, and all else in life and death. 

But herein lies the problem: this approach of applying one’s life to the truth of justification by faith alone seems too simple and too obvious. For many, it doesn’t seem secret enough and they think well yeah, of course, I know that, but what else (how can you really help me)? Indeed, it is simple, but there is a vast difference between simple and easy. Doing so is not easy at all because there are so many things at work in a fallen world that blind us to the reality of gospel joy and contentment found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In fact, many people have a long-developed habit of viewing the world daily outside the lens of justification by faith alone. Changing that fact rarely happens quickly and takes spiritual discipline and gospel determination. The instant, Ted Talk, self-help, and social media world we inhabit attunes us to distraction and instant gratification and points us in the direction of instant answers and quick fixes.

Applying every aspect of our lives to the Doctrine of justification by faith alone is not easy, but it is the only thing that really works and enables us to do work that matters for all eternity. Think about it this way: when you wake up in the morning knowing because of the gospel, you have nothing to prove, then you have the freedom to do that day what matters most and to enjoy and appreciate all the people and circumstances that come your way. Thus, the apostle Paul said, “For freedom Christ to set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

By |May 13th, 2024|Categories: Blog, Featured|

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today