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Pastor's Corner

Pastor's Corner 

10/18/17

Reformed, Always Reforming: Sola Fide, part 2

Sunday we considered the Reformation teaching, Sola Fide, or “by faith alone.” This teaching affirms how we come into a righteous standing with God or what we call justification. In justification our sins are pardoned, and we are "counted and accepted" as righteous. The Confession says regarding justification, “imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.” (WCF, 11.1) This teaching of Scripture removes the fear of God’s wrath and causes us not to lean on the strength of our faith but on its object, Jesus Christ.

The Roman Catholic Church taught that faith was the innate ability of all, while the scriptures teach man’s inability. The Church taught that good works were an essential part of meriting salvation, but the scriptures teach salvation through faith alone.

But this leaves a question,"How does God view our continued sin?" Maybe even more personal, "how do I view my continued sin?" Luther used a phrase to describe the believer's identity, “simul justus et peccator,” which translates, “simultaneously righteous and sinner.” RC Sproul explains it this way, “In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin; we’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, we are then considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the gospel.” (Luther and the Reformation, Dr. R.C. Sproul)

This is an important distinction that expresses the reality that we’re still sinners. God didn’t remove our flesh. The phrase affirms our status with God as saints, as God declares us righteous in Christ. God justifies us, but we remain sinners and our good works, even after our conversion, don’t merit anything with God. Our obedience is the “fruit and evidences of a true and lively faith” (WCF 16.5), but they don’t merit pardon for sin and are only accepted through Jesus. Even today, as believers, our obedience is “accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.” (WCF 16.6) In other words, God isn’t impressed and doesn’t move toward you because of your obedience.

This means that we can’t look to our obedience and feel good about it. This is a pretty common experience called self-righteousness, which undermines our faith in Christ. It also means that we can’t despair in the face of our sin. In both cases, self-righteousness and despair, our faith has moved off of Christ onto self. Self-righteousness says, “I don’t need Christ, I have my obedience.” Despair says, “I’m hopeless because I have no power to change.” Both lose Christ as the object of faith.

So, come Sunday, and let’s consider what it means to live as sinners, justified by faith in Christ.

~Pastor Tim