Lesson 7 – The Doctrine of Justification by Faith

 The Doctrine of Justification by Faith

Aim:                                To show how a sinner can participate in God’s righteousness by faith.

Scripture:                      Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 5:2.

Word Definitions:      See Part II, Lesson Six.


There are two ways to be right before God.  One way is to do everything right.  This is by works of law.  The other is to accept God’s gift of righteousness by faith.  See Romans 5:17, 18.  Paul calls this the law of faith or principle of faith (Rom. 3:27).  He also said, “by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”   Romans 3:20.  We must accept the fact, mankind, in the nature of Adam with the knowledge of good and evil, can never do everything right.  However, this is not the only premise for our need of God’s righteousness.  We must have God’s righteousness as our guide in life. 

Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  Matt. 5:6.  He presented this in the context of “how to be happy.”   It is a spiritual law of life.  It is not a declaration about one who does no wrong.  The righteousness of God is something a Christian desires for his or her spirit (self) with the same passion we desire food and water.

Attaining a gift of God’s righteousness is necessary in order to have God’s righteousness as a guide for our lives.  Both blessings come to Christians by faith in God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  God has now manifested His righteousness in this new age (Rom. 3:21, 22).  The Israelites stumbled over God’s righteousness “in Christ” while pursuing a law of righteousness.  They, for the most part, did not walk by faith but sought to establish their own righteousness.  See Romans 9:30-33.

The law demanded righteousness and it functioned “as a tutor to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”  Gal. 3:24.  When anyone does not accept God’s righteousness “in Christ” by faith, he or she has missed their only chance of having God’s righteousness as a guide in this life and therefore, eternal life with God.  Christians receive a gift of God’s righteousness based on the doctrine of justification by faith; however, our program for sanctification requires us to be slaves to God’s righteousness (Rom. 6:18-22).

What does it mean to be justified by faith?  The word justified means to make, or declare right.  “In Christ” God declares faithful Christians are 100% right.  He allows it to be so “as a gift by grace” because of our faith.  God’s righteousness is manifested “in Christ” and we are justified to participate in this righteousness although we of ourselves are not righteous.  We are not willful sinners.  You cannot be a willful sinner and walk by faith at the same time.  However, we are sinners by ignorance and weakness.

God’s nature will not allow Himself to fellowship sinners.  However, God can and will fellowship “one who has missed the mark” (a sinner) because He counts him or her as righteous “in Christ.”  The following scriptures should be studied in relation to the above statements:

And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.  Phil. 3:9

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.  Rom. 5:17

Abraham is a live illustration of how the law of faith works.

For what does the scripture say?  And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Rom. 4:3

King David recognized this blessing.  He said the same thing by quoting a scripture giving the opposite side.  “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”  Rom. 4:8  This is the doctrine of justification by faith.  It is the only way a Christian can have a sustained relationship with God.  We must have faith in the blood of Jesus in order to have a gift of God’s righteousness.  Then we must have faith in the gift of His righteousness in order to avoid guilt complexes about our own sins committed in weakness and ignorance.  Here is how it all came about.  Jesus Christ came into this world.

Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of man.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. Phil. 2:6-9

Because of the perfect life of Jesus in an Adam nature like ours and His dedication to doing God’s will, even to His death on the cross, God is justified in establishing the “in Christ” age in this world with Christ as the head.  Because of all Jesus did at the cross Christians have His blood as a propitiation; that is, when God sees our faith in the blood of Jesus as our sin offering, God reckons us as righteous.  Jesus, our High Priest, offers His own blood.  This is our mercy-seat before God’s throne (Rom. 3:25).

We are justified by the means of a free gift.  We are redeemed from the powers of sin and death “in Adam” in the world, but we are also continually redeemed from the guilt of our own weaknesses (Rom. 3:24).  We can now live in fellowship with God “in Adam-in Christ.”  We can view His righteousness as our law of life without fearing His wrath.  We need not feel guilty about our own weakness of character while we work at bringing our personality into conformity with God’s glorious Person.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  II Cor. 5:21

The righteousness of God is revealed to us “in Christ” from faith to faith.  The greater our faith, the more of God’s righteousness we are able to witness and the more we are able to conform to His glory.  Read Romans 1:17 and II Cor. 3:18.  We are obedient to our faith (Rom. 1:5).  We are slaves to God’s righteousness which will lead us to holiness (Rom. 6:19).  We can understand why the theme of the Roman letter is “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 

Questions for Discussion

  1.  Give the two suggested ways of being right before God.
  2. List the two facts that man must accept about himself while he lives in the flesh.
  3. The Israelites made a great error.  What was it?
  4. What was the purpose of the Law God gave to Moses?
  5. What does it mean to be justified by faith?
  6. Why is it illogical to think justification allows willful sin?
  7. Paul quoted two statements made concerning Abraham and David.  Explain how they arrived at the same conclusion.
  8. How can a Christian be in God’s fellowship and not feel guilty about his or her unrighteousness?
  9. Why has God revealed His righteousness to us “in Christ?”
  10. What did Jesus teach about a Christian’s passion for the righteousness of God?


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