KEY THOT: Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
KEY THOT: Paul makes it quite clear that we are justified by faith alone. To add anything else would make salvation no longer a gift but a reward: "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." Salvation is not "faith-plus" but "faith alone" -- "sola scriptura", the battle cry of the 16th century reformers. But how is faith expressed?
Paul explains that in Romans 10:9: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). So faith implies we confess Jesus as our new Master and believe that He has conquered sin and death through his resurrection. Faith stands on this twin rock of historic facts. This is the starting point: we are justified (declared righteous) not based on what we have done but based on what Christ has done on our behalf at the Cross.
So that begs the question: What about the sacraments of Baptism and Communion? Are they even necessary? My own personal conclusion after years of scriptural reflection is that these two sacraments are necessary for sanctification, but not salvation. This morning as I was awaking (before I read today's text), this phrase keeps echoing in my head: "justified by faith, sanctified by obedience." I believe this is what the Spirit is saying to me and also to the churches.
Those who have trusted Christ before baptism are justified by their faith. But if they are want to grow and become like Christ, and made fit for heaven they have to follow his footsteps into baptism:
- Matthew 3:13-15 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.
Father thank You that salvation is a free gift we received by faith and in which we grow though our obedience. Amen.