Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.(Romans 3:27-28)
Why is it that God requires faith and not works? Why is it that God’s salvation is only accessible to those who believe in His gospel ? Part of the answer to this question is in the quote above.
We have seen that man is so bankrupt, he is so estranged from God and corrupted, that there is no way that he can save himself. He is condemned and there is nothing he can possibly do to justify himself before God. Salvation is entirely of God.
The requirement of faith underscores this. There is nothing man has to ‘glory in’ except the saving work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Faith is a response to God’s initiative, an open hand ,receiving the gift of God’s love and forgiveness. It removes boasting entirely.
It was unbelief that brought us into ruin. Had Adam and Eve only believed in the goodness of God, the right of God to impose limits on them for their good, we would not have fallen. And it is unbelief that has ever been our own plague.
The serpent presented a different view of God to the first man and woman, by implying that God was with holding back something that would be good- a share in his own Divinity. ” God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes shall be opened, and you will know good and evil…“ ( for yourself, and on your own terms).
Believing the serpent’s slander against God, they “broke faith”, launching out in independence from God, grasping for that which they believed had been denied them.They would live on their own terms and be their own people, they would decide for themselves what right and wrong are.
This is the meaning of unbelief; not doubt and skepticism, but independence from God.
All sins are expressions of unbelief, therefore the scripture says “Whatever is not of faith is a sin”(Romans 14:22).Why do we sin? because we believe not! We are estranged from God because we no longer believe Him.
Why do people fornicate? They do so, because they don’t really believe that God’s plan of marriage is the best for them. Why do they take drugs to alter their consciousness? Because they don’t believe in God’s reality for them. Why do they steal? Because they reject the things God has given them, or they rebel against God’s order of productive work.All sin is unbelief.
Faith and Love are intrinsically linked, to quit believing is to quit loving and vice versa. The only way to believe in God is to love Him, and the only way to Love Him is to believe Him.
God is good, and knows best, and He has the right to impose limits on any of us. We can know that those limits are for our own good and His glory. But we have to believe that God is good.
A Christian conversion is a reversal of this process of unbelief. We come as sinners again to God, helpless and bankrupt, deeply estranged from His glory and splendor, and from the joy of His communion.We can offer Him nothing of any value, we can only believe in the good news of His own salvation. All on our part is humble response.
Salvation by faith in the substitute, Jesus, cures us of our deepest problem and the fountain of all of our corruption, independent pride. God ordained faith because it really does humble us, it takes Self out of the picture, it rightly gives God all of the glory.
If salvation were indeed by works, of the Law or otherwise, than boasting would be inevitable. “We are the good people, who don’t smoke or drink, we home school our children and never watch dirty movies.” But whether it be in gross sins or exalted religion, the principle of proud Independence from God, self effort and self promotion, all are an abomination of God.
We can only utter with grateful, trembling lips, along with the blessed hymnist:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.