Doctrine is extremely important. It separates sheep from goats, believers from unbelievers. Even so, many downplay it to the point of it being unnecessary. Christians need to stand firm on the doctrines of the faith. Can doctrine sometimes cause division within the church? Sure, of course. But that doesn’t mean the doctrine is less important.
The most important doctrine of the Christian faith, you could argue, is the doctrine of justification. Don’t be afraid of the big word. Biblically defined, in justification, God “declares sinners righteous in His sight in the divine law court” (source).
But wait, you may be asking, how do we become justified? The Bible tells us explicitly in numerous places.
- “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” (Rom. 3:28)
- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 5:1)
- “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Rom. 1:17)
There are so many more passages that reflect this beautiful, redemptive message: we are justified by placing our faith—and our faith alone—in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Nothing more. No works, no efforts, no nothing. And the faith you exercise to trust in Christ isn’t even your own—it was a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). You can’t boast about anything.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone is a hill Christians must die on. There must be no compromise, no cowardice, no downplaying. Justification is of eternal importance.
In 1618, Reformed theologian Johann Heinrich Alsted said this about the doctrine:
The article of justification is said to be the article by which the church stands or falls.TGC Article
If we lose justification by faith alone—which has so many other implications wrapped up in it—we lose everything. We lose the very gospel itself.
So, at this point we ought to know what the doctrine of justification is and why it’s important—it’s how sinful humans are made righteous in God’s eyes! With that said, what does this doctrine have to do with our everyday lives? How can justification by faith alone help the everyday Christian?
Justification by faith alone humbles us because we know redemption wasn’t our doing. When we look at Scripture and see our salvation is not the result of works done, of charity given, or of service offered, then it’s all the more difficult to swell up with pride. Justification by faith alone leaves no room for conceit, arrogance, or smugness. When understood biblically, this doctrine should leave us humble.
Justification by faith alone pushes us forward to become more like Jesus—even when we struggle. I’m still as much a child of God on a bad day than I am on a good day. My righteous standing before God doesn’t depend on my ability to keep it together or how many times I do this or that, but solely on the merits of Christ. In light of that, it helps me to keep pressing on in sanctification, knowing my salvation rests not on me, but Jesus.
Justification by faith alone may sound and look like an intimidating doctrine, but I assure you it’s not. It’s a doctrine we must know, must believe, must bank our life on. We have been justified—made right in the eyes of God—by faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah.
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