“A man is justified by faith” [Romans 3:28]
This is Reformation Day, commemorating the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. It is appropriate that today we should consider the foundational truth for which he contended, justification by faith alone or sola fide.
In its defense, Luther wrote, “Well then I, Dr. Martin Luther, unworthy heralder of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, do confess this article that faith alone without works justifies us in the sight of God, and I declare that in spite of……the pope, all cardinals, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, kings, princes, nobles, all the world, and all devils, this truth shall stand forever.”
Justification is God declaring man to be righteous. Paul makes it clear that this act of God is not based on the sinner’s own righteousness, for he asserts that it is “without the deeds of the law.’ No naturally born son of Adam ever kept the law of God perfectly: “There is none righteous, no, not one” [Romans 3:10]. God has pronounced the whole world guilty before Him. Therefore, justification cannot be based on the sinner’s own righteousness or keeping of the law.
But there is another way of obtaining righteousness. When the sinner truly believes the gospel, God removes all of his sins [Rom. 4:6] and imputes to him the perfect righteousness of Christ [Rom. 4:2-3, 22-24]. At that moment of faith, God views the sinner as righteous, but not because of the sinner’s own righteousness or law-keeping. By imputation, God reckons the sinner to be righteous. Because this happens at the time the sinner believes in Christ, we can clearly state, with Paul and Luther, that a man is justified by faith alone. [Dr. Mark Allison].
“When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen. This is the chief article from which all other doctrines have flowed.” [Martin Luther].