The Practicality of Justification
The doctrine of justification by faith alone teaches that it is God alone who justifies a sinner by declaring that sinner to be righteous (or just) on the ground of the imputed righteousness of His Son. Far from being an abstract or tedious exercise in speculative theology, the doctrine of justification by faith alone grounds us when we’re prideful, supports us when we’re weary, and propels us with joy into praise. Here are just a few practical ways that justification by faith alone impacts our Christian walk:
First, justification by faith alone teaches us that you’re as accepted by God on your best day as you are on your worst day.
We all have bad days. Days where we get a parking ticket, an unexpected bill comes in, your boss gives you an extra assignment, and everything seems to be going against you. In your frustration you yell at the kids, kick the dog, and lash out at your spouse.
The doctrine of justification teaches us that in that moment of sinful frustration and angry outbursts you are as accepted by the Father as Christ is accepted. God sees you with as much affection and tenderness in that weak moment as he sees His very own Son, because it’s not your performance that makes God love you.
God accepts you because he sees in you the very perfections, the very obedience and faithfulness of his very own son. There’s nothing left in you for God to condemn. You have been made a beloved son or daughter, equally as accepted by the Father as the very Son of God himself. You’re as accepted by God on your worst days, as you are on your best days.
Second, justification by faith alone teaches us that your salvation is as secure on your best day as you are on your worst day.
If you have been declared righteous before God, the Perfect and Holy Judge of the universe, and IF the basis of His declaration is the perfect work of His Son on your behalf, then there is nothing that is lacking from your case. You’ve been vindicated by God Himself. Who can bring a charge against you?
What more needs to be done on your account? Nothing. What is lacking from your salvation? Nothing. What more need you do to make sure that God really loves you? Nothing. What Bible reading or church attendance or generosity or acts of mercy do you have to do in order to be in God’s good graces? None. Your enemies can’t condemn you. Your feelings can’t condemn you. Your falling into that same sin again can’t condemn you. Christ has done it all. Nothing in our hands do we bring, simply to the cross we cling. Your salvation is as secure on your best day as you are on your worst day.
Third, when you know you’re completely justified, you no longer have to compete with others.
You can congratulate with genuine joy when others get praised instead of you, when they get the place of honor, when they get the recognition instead of you. You don’t have be jealous or discontent, because you’ve already been declared complete and righteous. You have nothing else to prove.
The Sovereign King of the universe has said before all of His angelic host, and will one day declare in front of all creation that you are righteous, that you are just, that you are complete, that you lack nothing needed for eternity in heaven, that you have nothing within you to condemn or that is worthy of wrath.
If the God of Heaven has said that on your account, what does it matter if someone gets a little more attention than you? If God’s attention is on you, what more attention do you need? Why must we get all wrapped up in competing with others, when the eternal, all-knowing Father thinks that we are enough, that we are perfect in His Son, that we lack nothing, and that we are, in Christ, worthy of all of His affection and joy? Let us not be held captive to prideful competition with others, because we have been made the apple of God’s eye through the work of His Son.
Fourth, when you know you’re completely justified before God, you aren’t held captive to the opinions of others.
You no longer have to be enslaved to what others think about you. You don’t have to defend your reputation. You don’t have to put up a front, and act like you’ve got it all together. You don’t have to pretend and wear a mask. Men, you don’t have to be the funniest, or the strongest, or the richest, or the cleverest, or the smartest. You don’t have to be critical of others, and correct everyone to show off your intelligence. Women, you don’t have to have the perfect house, or cook the perfect meals, be the perfect wife and mother, or produce pinterest-level cuteness at all times. It’s ok to be ordinary and average because God has declared you special to him.
We’ve already been tried and declared perfectly righteous by the Sovereign Judge of the universe. What can anybody else’s opinion do to you? Don’t fall into the trap of being bound by another’s opinion. You don’t need their affirmation, you have been affirmed by your Heavenly Father. You don’t need their praise; your heavenly father has already told you in Christ, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” You don’t need to have your beauty or your wit or your intelligence praised by men; you’ve already been accepted and beloved by the Father. When you know that you stand justified before God, you’re no longer held captive to the opinions of others.
For more on the doctrine of justification, see these resources:
Justification by Faith by James Buchanan
“Justification by Faith Alone” by Jonathan Edwards
The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone by John Owen