Does Holding to “Justification by Faith” Conform to the Will of the Lord?

By Zhao Hui

At dusk, while at table, the couple, Gu Hanlin and Li Yan, were talking. Gu Hanlin said, “There is one thing I still don’t get. The pastor often says ‘justification by faith.’ However, having believed in the Lord for years, we still often live a life of committing sins and confessing sins. In terms of such actions, we cannot be called righteous. So, I think holding on to ‘justification by faith’ doesn’t surely conform to the Lord’s will.”

After pondering for a while, Li Yan said in confusion, “What you said is the actual But the Scripture says, ‘Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus’ (Romans 3:25-26). These verses clearly tell us that as long as we believe in God’s salvation, we can be called righteous. It is because of the salvation of Jesus Christ that we believers in Him can be gratuitously justified. These words are also right.”

Shaking his head, Gu Hanlin said, “It’s not that simple, I think.”

Li said, “Oh, yes. Tomorrow, we’re going to attend our co-worker meeting. How about we discuss this question with others?” Gu Hanlin nodded as he ate.

The next day, at the co-worker meeting, Pastor Wang said on the lectern, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture says, ‘That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness’ (Romans 10:9-10). From the scriptures, we can know that because of believing in and following the Lord, we can be approved by Him and called righteous. Besides, when the Lord arrives, we can be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven. Today, Brother Gu has raised a doubt. He thinks we still live in sin, and so we can’t be called justified. Today, on this issue, let’s have a discussion.”

On hearing Pastor Wang’s words, Zhou Jian said at once, “I agree with Pastor Wang’s viewpoint. As long as our hearts believe and our mouths acknowledge, then we have been saved. Besides, the Bible says, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23-24). The Lord Jesus has been crucified for us, and redeemed us from sin, so we can be justified freely. Although we still can commit sins, God doesn’t see us as sinners. This is ‘justification by faith.’ In my opinion, it’s entirely in line with the Lord’s will.” Most of the co-workers nodded approval.

Liu Dazhi questioned, “As to the question about justification by faith, I don’t think it’s as simple as we imagine. That the Lord Jesus was crucified as the sin offering for us is an undeniable fact. However, it can’t prove that we are righteous people. A so-called righteous man has his righteous actions. For example, at the critical moment, in order to protect the two angles, Lot gave his two daughters in exchange for them and set his life aside. This was a righteous action. Besides, regardless of personal safety, Rahab the harlot protected the two spies in a crisis. This was a good deed. Like Job, when he endured all sorts of trials, he, relying on the faith in Jehovah, didn’t deny the name of Jehovah but bore testimony for Him. He was called righteous by God. From the above facts, it can be seen that the righteousness we think differs from the righteousness that God approves. Therefore, only by holding faith will we be justified—such understanding of us isn’t in accordance with God’s will.”

Gu Hanlin agreed, “Yeah, I agree with Brother Liu’s viewpoint. Whether we can be called righteous is not based on what we say, but based on whether we can practice righteousness, that is, whether we have good deeds or righteous actions. Just as the Scripture says, ‘by works a man is justified, and not by faith only’” (James 2:24).

Pastor Wang argued, “My fellow co-workers, although what we have done can’t compare with the testimonies of the saints through the ages, after accepting the Lord Jesus, we also have forsaken all and expended for Him, and suffered and paid the prices for Him, and these good behaviors can be approved by Him, too. Because the Scripture says, ‘If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward’ (1 Corinthians 3:14). Thus, all those we have done for the name and work of the Lord will be commemorated by Him, and can be called righteous.” As soon as Pastor Wang’s voice subsided, Zhou Jian immediately chimed in, “Right! The Lord knows our trekking, expending and laboring for Him, and He will remember these.”

Liu Dazhi retorted, “For what purpose do we trek, expend and work hard for the Lord? Simply for satisfying Him? Or for the blessing of being taken up to heaven when He returns? I think that the people who are really praised by the Lord are those who truly trek and expend for His work, without any impurities and intentions. They do God’s will as their mission, don’t make conditions and speak of reasons, don’t concern about personal gains and losses, but act completely in order to love and satisfy the Lord. Just like Abraham, when God asked him to offer up Isaac, he could bear great pain to part with what he loved to offer Isaac, obeying God without conditions. What God praises is man’s sincerity and unconditional obedience, but not merely the outward sufferings and sacrifice of man. Consider another example. In order to do God’s will, Noah built the ark for over a hundred years. He didn’t have his personal intentions, nor did he demand anything from God, but instead he accepted His commission, obeyed Him and acted according to His will. Now, look at us. How many of us sincerely expend for the Lord? In our belief in God, we regard God as a cornucopia, a Swiss Army knife; we take it for granted that we make demands of God and ask Him for blessings. How can it be said that our sacrifices and expenditures with such intentions are for the Lord? And how can we gain His approval and be called righteous by Him? For another example, in the Bible, the Pharisees, chief priests, scribes sacrificed and expended for God over the years, and served God in the temple every day, but why did the Lord Jesus not call them the righteous but denounced them with the ‘Seven Woes’? Because the hearts with which they believed in God were impure. In their faith in God, they labored and expended in order to maintain their own status, power and livelihood. When they saw many people followed the Lord Jesus as He came to work, they were jealous, and resisted and condemned Him, and at last crucified Him on the cross. Aren’t these facts worthy of learning from or reflection?”

Then, Gu Hanlin said earnestly, “Exactly! We believe in God indeed with such intentions. Even if we sacrifice and expend, we are for gaining blessings, the crown and eternal life. This is a fact. It seems that it is worthy of deep thought of whether the viewpoint of “justification by faith” is right or not.”

Pastor Wang said in a loud voice, “I admit what you said. But the Lord has borne all sins for us and He won’t see us as sinners. This’s enough. The view, justification by faith, will never be wrong, for the Scripture says, ‘And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God’” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Just as he finished speaking, Zheng Xiaohui asked calmly, “Pastor Wang, the Lord has borne all sins for us, but it only can be said that God doesn’t remember our sins; however, we still live in sins every day, and can’t cast off sin. Taking our sin with us, we won’t see the Lord, because the Bible says, ‘For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7) and ‘holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). If according to ‘justification by faith,’ then how can we explain these two verses? Can it be that we are holy and are called righteous by God after the Lord Jesus redeemed us with His life? Now, which of us doesn’t live a life where we commit sins during the day but then plead guilty to them at night? So, what we believe—justification by faith—isn’t in line with the Lord’s will at all.”

Everyone all started talking about it. “I think Sister Zheng’s viewpoint is relatively right. Only when we become holy can we be called righteous, but when we are sinful, we can’t.” “Right! Only relying on the salvation of the Lord Jesus is not enough, because we still live a life of sinning in the day and confessing at night. Can we see the Lord if we don’t become holy?” “Yes! Seems justification by faith is not as simple as we imagine.” Hearing the murmur of discussion, Pastor Wang couldn’t say anything more.

Zhou Jian retorted, “Although we are sinful and can’t overcome sin by ourselves, we can rely on the Lord Jesus to become holy, because the Bible says, ‘And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1). ‘Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification’ (Romans 4:25). The Lord Jesus was crucified to take on the sins of us and was raised for our justification. He is merciful and loving. Even though we commit sins, won’t He forgive us?”

Liu Dazhi said vehemently, “Co-worker Zhou, I don’t agree with your opinion. The Lord is merciful and loving, but He is also righteous and holy. For instance, the Pharisees, believing in God but not knowing God, suffered the curse of God. The Scripture says, ‘But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid’ (Galatians 2:17). ‘For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’ (Hebrews 10:26-27). From this, we can see the Lord also has the righteous and majestic side. If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, we won’t gain the Lord’s forgiveness. Often sinning, we can’t be called righteous by Him.”

Zheng Xiaohui said genuinely, “That’s right! We think we can be righteous freely only by faith in the Lord, but it doesn’t accord with the facts. Let’s recall the records in the Bible. Although Judas was chosen as one of the disciples of the Lord Jesus, he betrayed the Lord because of clinging to money, and at last he burst open in the middle and died full of regret. Besides, as to those scribes and Pharisees, although on the outside they suffered and sacrificed for serving God, they nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross, severely offending God’s disposition, which led to the destruction of Israel. Thus, it can be seen that the Lord won’t bring those who resist Him into God’s kingdom. So, if we only believe justification by faith but not pursue to be holy, we cannot gain God’s approval.”

Glancing at Liu Dazhi and Zheng Xiaohui unhappily, Zhou Jian turned his head away and didn’t say anything more.

Liu Dazhi continued, “Yes. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). And the Revelation 22:14 records, ‘Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.’ From the teaching of the Lord and the prophecy of Revelation, we can see that if we believers want to be approved by God, we must obey the Lord’s way, and put His words into practice to achieve to know and love Him. Only when being purified can we be compatible with Him and be qualified to enter God’s kingdom.”

All the co-workers whispered to each other and discussed. At that time, with an unhappy face, Pastor Wang said in a harsh tune of voice, “Brothers and sisters, don’t argue. It’s getting late. As for the question about ‘justification by faith,’ let’s conclude our discussion here. All right. Let’s pray and call it a day.”

At night, sitting on the sofa, Gu Hanlin talked with Li Yan about the meeting in the day, saying, “I find Brother Liu and his wife Sister Zheng fellowshiped with great insight in the recent several meetings.”

Li Yan nodded and said, “I have found that in the last meeting. Now, their speech not only is insightful but has the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.”

Gu Hanlin said excitedly, “Why don’t we visit them to seek and discuss with them tomorrow?”

Li Yan smiled, “Good idea! I was just thinking the exact same thing. Tomorrow, let’s go to their home.”

You may be interested in this article: “Having Been Justified by Faith,” You Will Enter the Kingdom of Heaven? How the Lord Said?

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