Justification (4): True Righteousness

When we were in Rehoboth I read Martin Luther’s Concerning Christian Liberty as part of my study on justification.  As I read I kept noticing two themes:

First, it is justifying faith apart from works that yields true obedience, because only justifying faith results in grateful love to God, which is the spring of all true obedience.  Justification by works ultimately says, “I will obey God in order to get something.”  But that is not love.  That is not true obedience.  Second, it is justifying faith apart from works yields glory to God, because it gives credit to God for both the commandments and the fulfillment.  Justification by works says, “God gave the commandments, I gave the fulfillment.”  But justification by faith says, “God gave me them both.”  In the latter, God does more, and God is therefore more honored.

But it was when I read this paragraph that I realized that these two aspects of justifying faith – its resultant genuine righteousness and its God directed nature – are connected:

“The First Commandment, which says, ‘Thou shalt worship one God only, is fulfilled by faith alone.  If you were nothing but good works from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you would not be worshiping God, nor fulfilling the First Commandment, since its impossible to worship God without ascribing to Him the glory of truth and of universal goodness, as it ought in truth to be ascribed. Now this is not done by works, but only by faith of heart. It is not by working, but by believing, that we glorify God, and confess Him to be true.  On this ground faith alone is the righteousness of a Christian man, and the fulfilling of all the commandments.”

My take away: I am only pleasing, honoring, and obeying God as I ought when I give him 100% of the credit for it.  If I obeyed the law perfectly, but out of my own strength and for my own justification, I would not have attained true righteousness, for not giving God all the glory and credit is itself unrighteous.  Its only when I realize I have no righteousness to give that I can start to find real righteousness.

As the newer worship song “All I Have is Christ” puts it:

Now Lord I would be Yours alone, and live so all might see

The strength to follow Your commands could never come from me

Oh, Father, use my ransomed life in any way You choose

And let my song forever be, my only boast is You

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