For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:28 NASB
We persist, we continue to assert, we have concluded, we are eternally convinced of this: it is apart from works that we are justified. It is not a confidence in what we do, it is a confidence in Christ and His work on our behalf, that saves us. He has justified us, it is nothing of ourselves.
We want anointing. We want blessing. We want answers. We want transformation. We want repentance. We want growth. We want all kinds of things. We are not interested in hazy theological points of doctrine.
In Isaiah 7, Ahaz has just become the new king of Judah. Taking advantage of the transition of power, and Ahaz’s greenness on the throne, the king of Israel joined up with the king of nearby Aram to take advantage of the situation. Their armies are camped in Ephraim, right near the Judean border. Ahaz and the rest of Judah are freaked out by this, and they are shaking in their boots!
Isaiah is sent with the word from God that these two kings are nothing, they are “stubs of smoldering firebrands”. They ought not be worried about it. God will graciously protect Judah and take care of the problem apart from their work. He tells Ahaz to ask for a sign to confirm it. However, Ahaz is a practical king; he cannot take the word from some weird prophet that God will do something while he just stands by and does nothing. He must work. He does not want to ask for a sign because he has more faith in the power of these two kings than in the power of God.
So, he places his faith in the king of Assyria to come and help him. He pays him with silver to come and fight his cause. So God predicts the king of Assyria will come and fight, and will turn on Judah and fight, and that only the remnant will be blessed.
Even so, we fear and shake at the wrong things, and place our faith and make dalliance with the things that we ought to fear more. We marginalize and downplay the gracious word from God, and turn to practical means to achieve our ends. Our practical means do more harm than the original thing we so feared.
When we marginalize our justification, and center our thinking around a works-based sanctification, we make this exact error. Our justification is everything. We are to persist in thinking so. Our blessing and our works and our confidence lies in Christ, not in ourselves. When we have regrettably sinned, we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. We can still pray, we are still blessed, we are still accepted, because we believe that our sin is avenged abundantly and forever on the cross. There is no greater repentance than this belief. Our regret and our promises to change cannot condemn our sin more than it has been condemned by the cross. All of our plans to reform, all of our promises to change, all of our strategies to be more sanctified, are pure nonsense. They make it worse. By such plans we say, we do not believe the gracious word, we are more practical than that. We do not need a sign. We do not need God to act on our behalf! We will take care of the problem. We thereby make the work of Christ to be of no account and nullify the grace that Jesus suffered and died to obtain.
I am here to persist in saying, we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. I will stand aside and watch the Lord redeem me and rescue me and reform me! I surrender my own failed agenda. I put my justification at the front and center of my life. Believe it!!!