Relevant for Christian Living
Sometimes the temptation is to think Doctrine, in general, is just stuff for the head, for the academics, for those in institutions. In the church though, we’re about the heart.
Well, the biblical authors would strongly disagree. Doctrine really matters for the Christian life and they don’t see any type of divorce between the two. When we talk about the doctrine of justification we might ask Is this really relevant for Christian living, for how we live the Christian life and what it means to even be a Christian on a daily basis?
The answer is emphatically yes, absolutely. One of the things I have to keep being reminded of is that every morning when I wake up, I need to preach the gospel to myself again afresh, because I forget it and because, let’s just face it, each and every one of us struggles with sin and temptation.
If we’re not reminded of the gospel—and the implications of the gospel with justification—the temptation can be that we start to live as if the gospel doesn’t exist.
If we’re not reminded of the gospel—and the implications of the gospel with justification—the temptation can be that we start to live as if the gospel doesn’t exist, as if it’s not real, as if it didn’t happen. We start to live as those who haven’t been justified, as those who don’t have a new status, a new identity in Jesus Christ.
But, the great news is that we do have that new status, that righteous status in Christ. And so that should change everything. Let me just give you one example. The Protestant Reformers like to say that we are justified by faith alone. That word “alone” is absolutely key. That one word separates the Reformation from Rome. But they also followed that with another statement: While we are justified by faith alone, the faith that justifies is never alone.
The Fruit of Faith
What they meant by that is simple. The faith that justifies us, the faith that points us to Christ, the faith through which we are declared right—this faith then produces fruit. It produces good works so that our works do not play any role as the basis of our right standing with God—but they certainly must and do follow if one is right with God.
The Reformers sometimes were accused of rejecting good works as if we believe that we’re justified by God’s grace alone through faith alone. Well, then the Christian life and good works are irrelevant. They fired back an answer and said absolutely not.
Paul does the same in his letters. While he argues very strenuously that we are justified by God’s grace alone, he’s then quick to point out that God's grace always produces the fruit of the Spirit. The faith through which we are justified then takes on living action so that our lives are more and more conformed into the image of Jesus Christ our Savior.
For Martin Luther, Scripture alone was of ultimate authority for Christians, yet this did not mean that there were no other means of discovering truth.
Works have no value before a perfectly holy God. Instead, place your faith in Jesus alone.
The Protestant Reformists believed that Scripture is our final authority—and that made a difference in the layout of the church itself.