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A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Do You Access the Grace of God?

Access into Grace

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we 
have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. --Romans 
5:1,2

In the theological battles that followed the Protestant Reformation none were more important than the 
struggle over the relationship of faith to the salvation of the soul. Against Rome the Reformers insisted that 
salvation was by faith alone. Against the Reformation, Rome expressed her doctrine clearly at the Council of 
Trent: Sixth Session:

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that 
nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in 
any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

The issue was, and is, not unimportant. Rome has never yielded on this, for to do so would eliminate the 
whole system upon which her wealth and influence depend.

But a major crack soon appeared in the ranks of those who opposed Rome. The Remonstrance [followers 
of Arminius] and the Socinians [Unitarians] brought in a deadly error that has become widespread in 
evangelical circles in America. This was the idea that faith takes the place of righteousness in the eyes of 
God. The faith of the individual substitutes for Christ’s righteousness. Subjectivism replaces the objective 
anchor of the obedience of Christ.

Although there were many variations of the error, the essentials were something like this: “God knows that no 
sinner can do that which will make him just before God. Obedience to all the precepts of the Law of God 
lies beyond man. Man would therefore be without hope, if God did not require of him something which man 
could do. 

In mercy and grace, God sent His Son into the world to show man that He loved him. If man 
would just open his heart and believe that God loves him, then God would accept his faith instead of 
obedience to His law. Like a bankrupt, man cannot pay the whole bill, but God will accept what man can 
pay. Man can choose to believe, and God accepts that faith in place of righteousness. God accepts man’s 
good intentions of which faith is the prize and gem.”

The doctrine does not bear the weight of the examination of Scripture. The Bible is clear. It is the 
righteousness of Jesus Christ, and His perfect obedience to the law, including suffering its penalty on the 
cross, which clears man’s debt and sets him free. God cannot deny Himself, and He cannot pretend that man 
has fulfilled the law when man hasn’t done so. Justification is not based upon some pretense in God or some 
overlooking of transgression. This would require God to deny His own word: Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy 
for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ; visiting 
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the 
fourth generation. The mercy that God shows does not involve clearing the guilty.

The text quoted above gives the true doctrine. It is by faith that we have access into the grace wherein we 
stand. It is grace that brings us to Jesus Christ, and it is His righteousness that satisfies the debt we owe to 
God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the 
righteousness of God in him.

The righteousness which the redeemed offer to God has nothing of them, but is wholly the perfect 
righteousness of Jesus Christ. He took our sin, so that His righteousness could be imputed to us. Paul clearly 
makes the case in Romans 7:18,19 “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to 
condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made 
righteous.”

Just as the sin of Adam came upon all men to condemnation, so the righteousness of Jesus Christ comes 
upon all those who believe in Him. By faith we see that Christ died for our sins and we give assent to the 
verdict of God concerning His Son: Galatians 2:19-21 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might 
live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life 
which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I 
do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The doctrine of the Arminians and Unitarians has been devastating on morality and decency among those 
who are in error. Good intentions replace obedience, and good feelings are offered in place of good deeds 
and sound doctrine. If God will settle for some human-generated good feelings concerning Jesus Christ apart 
from union with Him, then why shouldn’t my neighbor be satisfied with my good intentions? “I am convinced 
that I had no idea I was breaking the law,” becomes the excuse for every crooked politician who corrupts 
the law. “He is such a loving man,” is a justification for every kind of misdeed among the clergy. Truth gets 
overwhelmed with globs of sentiment and professed intentions. “God knows my heart,” is supposed to cover 
all.

But doesn’t Paul say that Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness (Romans 4:22)? The great 
theologian Charles Hodge wrote on this verse: “Faith justifies by appropriating to ourselves the divine 
promise. But if that promise does not refer to our justification, faith cannot make us righteous. The object of 
justifying or saving faith, that is, of those acts of faith which secure our acceptance with God, is not the divine 
veracity in general, nor the divine authority of the Scriptures, but the specific promise of gratuitous 
acceptance through the mediation and merit of the Lord Jesus Christ.” {Charles Hodge, Commentary on 
Romans 4:22)

Abraham was justified by faith because his faith united him to Jesus Christ, who was present in the promises 
of the Old Testament. Just as Paul wrote to the Galatians: And the scripture, foreseeing that God would 
justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be 
blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. [Galatians 3:8,9] Abraham by faith 
looked forward to the coming Redeemer, just as we look back to Him.

As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it:

Q61: Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?

A61: Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the 
satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; [1] and I can receive the 
same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only. [2]

1. I Cor. 1:30; 2:2

2. I John 5:10; Isa. 53:5; Gal. 3:22; Rom. 4:16

There is a great difference between the reality itself and the means for attaining the reality. As far as salvation 
is concerned, the reality is Christ. He is obtained only by faith. Those who trust their faith will not be saved.
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