by Paul George
There are those who claim we must be sanctified, that is holy, before we can be justified. They claim universal holiness or obedience must precede justification. Unless they mean that justification at the last day, the claim is not only impossible it is contradictory. It is not a believer in Christ but the non-believer that needs to be justified. God does not justify the godly, but the ungodly; those that are holy but the unholy. The good Shepherd does not seek and save those that are in His flock but those which are lost and without a shepherd. He pardons those who need His pardoning mercy. He saves from the guilt of sin, and, at the same time, from the power of sin, sinners of every kind, of every degree, men who, till then, were altogether ungodly; in whom the love of the Father was not; and, consequently, in whom dwelt no good thing, but evil, pride, anger, love of the world, the genuine fruits of the carnal mind which is enmity against God. These are the ones that need a Physician.
A person, before he/she is justified, may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, do good works, do what is good and profitable to men. But it does not mean that they are good in themselves, or good in the sight of God. All truly good works follow after justification and they are good and acceptable to God in Christ, because they spring out of a true and living faith. All works done before justification are not good, in the Christian sense, because they are not based on faith in Jesus Christ, although they may be founded on some kind of faith in God. They may be done because God willed and commanded them to be done, but strange as it may seem to some people they have the nature of sin.
Those who doubt this have not considered the reason why no works done before justification can be truly and properly good. The argument is, no works are good, which are not done as God has willed and commanded them to be done. Works done before justification are not done as God has willed and commanded them to be done, but according to the will of man. Therefore, no works done before justification are good. God has willed and commanded that all our works should be done in charity; in love. In that love to God that produces love to all mankind. But none of our works can be done in this love, while the love of the Father is not in us; and this love can not be in us till we receive the “Spirit of Adoption, crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.”
It is important we understand the terms by which we are justified. We are justified through faith in Him that justifies the ungodly. Paul told the Romans, “the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” He that believes is not condemned but has passed from death to life. For the righteousness, or mercy, of God is by faith in Jesus Christ to all and upon all that believe. Therefore we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law; without previous obedience to the moral law, which we could not, till now, perform.
It is also important we remember, faith is evidence or conviction, of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Therefore, justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;” but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for our sins. That He loved us and He gave Himself as a sacrifice for us. God, for the sake of his Son, pardons the one who has in him no good thing. And whatever good we had or do from that hour when we first believe in God through Christ is brought into our heart.
This is the fruit of faith. First the tree is good and then the fruit is good also. Therefore, we have a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of Christ is available for all the world, but that He has made a full and sufficient sacrifice for us and a perfect cleansing of our sins, so that we may say, with the Apostle, He loved me and gave Himself for me. For this is to make Christ my own.
Paul claims there is no justification without faith. He claims if we do not believe we are condemned and so long as we don’t believe that condemnation cannot be removed, but “the wrath of God abides on us.
As “there is no other name given under heaven,” than that of Jesus of Nazareth, no other merit whereby a condemned sinner can ever be saved from the guilt of sin so there is no other way of obtaining a share in His merit, than “by faith in His name.” So that as long as we are without this faith, we are “strangers to the covenant of promise,” we are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and without God in the world.” Whatsoever virtues we may have, what good works we may do, there is no profit in them, for we are a “child of wrath,” still under the curse, till we believe in Jesus.
Therefore faith is the necessary condition of justification, the only necessary condition. This is a point that we should carefully consider. The very moment God gives faith, for it is the gift of God, to the ungodly that faith is counted to him for righteousness. Until that moment the ungodly has no righteousness at all, not so much as negative righteousness, or innocence. But faith is imputed to him for righteousness the very moment that he believes Not that God does not see the ungodly as what he is, but as “He made Christ to be sin for us, that is, treated Him as a sinner, punishing Him for our sins, so He counts us righteous, from the time we believe in Him: That is, He does not punish us for our sins. He treats us as though we are guiltless and righteous.
The difficulty some have in accepting the proposition that faith is the only condition of justification is due to not understanding faith is the only thing without which none is justified. The only thing that is immediately, indispensably absolutely requisite in order to be pardoned is faith. Although a man should have every thing else without faith he cannot be justified. If a man in a full sense of his total ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or do good, and his absolute destiny to hell-fire casts himself wholly on the mercy of God in Christ, which he cannot do but by the grace of God, is forgiven in that moment. Who can say there is something more required of him before he can be justified?