Monday, July 26, 2010

The Object to Faith

We have been discussing the faith that justifies, focusing on Paul’s summary beginning in Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul continues by asking some rhetorical questions such as in verse 34, “Who is to condemn? [No one. Why?] Christ Jesus is the one who died [as condemned].” In fact, there are four particulars which support the negative response to the question. Who will condemn a justified person? No one because Christ Jesus died, was raised from the dead, ascended to the Father’s right hand, and is there to intercede for the justified saint.

Clearly, Jesus Christ is to be the object of our faith. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Paul preached “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). We repent to God against whom we have sinned; we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because He is the Savior. However, we must be clear about what we are to believe in Jesus for. How is Christ the object of faith? In what particular are we to believe Him for? We are to believe in Christ who died.

Many fail to make this distinction. Without question, Jesus Christ is such that we ought to be drawn to His person. He is altogether lovely. There is none to match His excellencies and glory. However, as wonderful as He is, none of these qualities which we so admire in Him can justify anyone. These ought to elicit our love, but it is only Christ as dying that answers to the need. We are justified by His death. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).

The disciples did not understand that He came primarily to die—that “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). He spoke of His impending death, but they argued about who should be greatest and who should sit on His right and left hand in His kingdom (Luke 9). They were taken by His person, His miracles, His wisdom, and His glory, but they could not imagine Him going to the cross to die for their sins. “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This [to be killed, (v. 21)] shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). Not until after the resurrection do the disciples finally get it that Jesus can save them only as He died a sinless sacrifice in their stead. Thus Paul argues, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

We are justified by faith, but that faith is to be in Christ’s dying, bearing our sin as He suf-fered the full force of God’s wrath in our place. God did not spare His Son, but delivered Him up to death in order that we might be justified.

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