Faith, Justification and Life (Salvation, cf. Rom. 10:10)
(1) According to the Bible we all come into the world like Adam and Eve, totally ignorant (cf. Isa. 8:4), knowing neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:17; Num. 14:29-33; Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:15f.; Heb. 5:13; cf. 1 K. 3:7,9).
“… your little ones … have no knowledge of good or evil ….” (Dt. 1:39).
(2) The way we learn to differentiate between good and evil is by learning law or commandment (Gen. 2:16f.; Dt. 4:9; 6:7; 31:13; Ps. 78:5-8).
Paul writes: “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.”
(Rom.7:7, cf. 3:19f.; 7:1,13, Gal. 3:19).
(3) God’s intention is that we should be righteous and blameless (Gen. 2:17; 4:7; 6:9,22; 7:1; 18:19; Lev. 19; 22:31-33; Dt. 10:12f.; Mic. 6:8; Mt. 5:17-20, etc.).
“You shall be blameless before the Lord your God” (Dt. 18:13, cf. Gen. 17:1).
“… he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4)
(4) In order to become righteous we must keep the whole law to perfection (Pss. 15:1ff.; 24:3-5; Isa. 33:14-17; Ezek. 18:5-9,19; Rom. 2:13; Jas. 2:10; 1 John 3:7).
“And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us” (Dt. 6:25).
(NB: Circumcision, which symbolised the law, required total obedience, Gal. 5:3, cf. Dt. 27:26; Gal. 3:10; Jas. 2:10. Though technically a Jewish boy did not become personally responsible for keeping the law until the age of 13, the mere fact that circumcision occurred on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3) meant that he was bound by what he came to know and understand, cf. Rom. 7:1.)
(5) The ultimate objective for all men and women is knowledge of God, life and salvation (John 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13), but the absolutely indispensable precondition of life, or new birth, is righteousness. It is a basic biblical axiom that only the righteous will live whether by faith (Rom. 1:17) or law keeping (Mt. 19:17). To become righteous in fact we must keep the entire law perfectly (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11,13,21; 33:15; Mt. 19:17b, Luke 10:28; Rom. 2:13; 7:10; 10:5, etc.). Mere acquittal from and pardon for sin are clearly not enough, since they do not constitute actual righteousness (cf. Rom. 5:21).
“For it (i.e. the law) is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Dt. 32:47).
(6) Since we all prove incapable of keeping the law in order to become righteous in the sight of God (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16), we are in dire need of a righteousness other than our own – what Luther called an ‘alien righteousness’ (Phil. 3:9; Rom.21-26; 10:3f.).
“For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18).
“Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24f.; cf. 6:6).
(7) The only man in the entire history of the human race to keep the law (John 15:10, cf. Eccl. 7:20), to please God and thereby gain actual righteousness and life was Jesus (Mt. 3:17, cf. Heb. 5:7f.; Ps. 21:1-7). He thus put himself in a position to achieve perfection (Mt. 3:15; 5:48, cf. 19:21; Heb. 5:9f.) by giving himself as a ransom for his people (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:9ff.; John 10:11ff.; 19:30).
“He committed no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).
“Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1; 3:5, cf. Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14).
(8) While our sin is imputed to Christ by faith, his righteousness is imputed to us as a free gift by faith (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:15-21; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18).
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
(9) If we have faith in him, we are justified by divine grace as a gift (Rom. 3:24). Having accounted us righteous (i.e. justified us) in Christ, God grants us eternal life in accordance with his promise made repeatedly but most specifically in Leviticus 18:5. Thus we are born again by the Spirit (John 3:16; Gal. 3:2,5,14,21f.,26) and rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God (Rom. 5:2; 2 Cor. 4:17; Col. 1:27; Tit. 3:7, etc.).
“And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).
“Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11-13).
“… so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18).
“But now that you have been set free from sin … the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:22-23).
(10) Once we are born again and have eternal life our goal is to bear the fruit of righteousness (Rom. 7:6; Gal. 5:22f.; Eph. 2:10) and to achieve the perfection in Christ which is impossible under the law (Gal. 3:21; Heb. 7:19). Even in this we depend wholly on Christ who forgives our shortcomings and cleanses us till we stand blameless before him on the Great Day (Eph. 1:4; 1 John 1:8-2:1; Heb. 12:23).
Summary and Order of Salvation
In sum, we are called as sinners, our calling leads to faith, our faith leads to justification, our justification leads to regeneration and/or adoption, and finally our regeneration leads to our complete sanctification or perfection and glorification which, by God’s grace, is our predestined end as the children of God (Rom. 8:16f.,30).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.