Faith, Works and Justification Study Notes

Rev Gary L Evensen
@2005 NJUPC INC

 

The topic of this bible study is: Water Baptism: Faith, Works and Justification

Some are concerned that in acceding to the teaching that Water Baptism in Jesus name is essential to salvation they are somehow accepting a teaching that advocates a works based salvation.

A salvation which is not based on simple faith in Jesus Christ, but rather based on works that we do to be saved, baptism being defined as one of those works.

We are going to look into how baptism is a step of faith which leads to the seal of the righteousness and justification of your faith that you proclaimed when you trusted in Jesus Christ as your personal savior

In the book of Romans we find an interesting reflection on the issue of faith and works in reference to the children of Israel

31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “ Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 9:31-33 (NKJV)

The children of Israel had pursued the law of righteousness, yet never arrived at the law of righteousness.

How could this be?

Because they did not seek the law of righteousness by faith, but sought it by the works of the law. When Jesus Christ came on the scene instead of accepting the natural progression of faith, which would bring them to the Messiah they rejected him, instead opting to retain the works of the law and stumbled at that stumbling stone, and to this day retain the works of the law as the way to attain righteousness and the vast majority still reject the Messiah.

The scripture speaks against thinking you are saved by works of righteousness. In Titus 3:4-5 the Apostle Paul addresses this issue:

4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

Titus 3:4-5 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul here speaks of being saved through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the spirit, not by works of righteousness.

But the washing of regeneration he is speaking about here is water baptism and it is not being referred to as a work of righteousness but rather the kindness, love, and mercy of God our Savior towards fallen mankind.

Let me draw your attention to the blackboard where I am going to put up 2 Greek words which represent by the washing (3067) of regeneration (3824) both from Dr Strongs Greek Dictionary.

When God covenanted with Abraham, Abraham had faith in the promise of God and his faith led to action on his part

10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

Romans 4:10-12 (NKJV)

Notice what the scripture said in Vs 10
How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

When was faith accounted – before he was circumcised when he believed, now the word translated accounted here in the Greek does not imply his faith was fulfilled

Again I turn your attention to the blackboard, the word means to take an inventory of or estimate, as verse 11 will point out his faith was not sealed until he took action

Notice again verse 11

11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,

Abraham then received the sign of circumcision which was a seal of the righteousness of the faith he expressed before he was circumcised, his faith was not sealed until he acted upon that which God told him to do

Lets go back to Vs 12

12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

The scripture shows us here that Abraham is the father of those who walk in the steps of faith!

What are steps of faith?

Steps of faith are actions which God has asked of you to do in response of the acceptance of the words of faith spoken by God.

God required Abraham to do something in order to demonstrate his good faith as part of the covenant arrangement and that action became the seal of the righteousness of his faith. Faith is never an unresponsive issue, God always requires an action from us in response to the words which he has spoken which we then claim to have faith in.

If Abraham had merely expressed faith in Gods covenant and not performed that which God had asked him to do, that is the physical acts of circumcision, He never would have had the seal of the righteousness of Faith applied and consequently would have never entered into that covenant relationship with God

Consider James 2:20-24

20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

James 2:20-24 (NKJV)

The scripture declares faith without any activity involved, that which we call works, is dead faith and that we are foolish to think that faith is alive without the works that follow faith.

I can say it no clearer than the scripture declares in James 2:24 a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Water baptism is a step of faith for the New Testament believer and the same way the act of circumcision became the seal of the righteousness of the faith of Abraham, Water Baptism becomes a seal of the righteousness of the faith that you expressed when you believed, or as modern terminology states, acts as a seal of the righteousness of the faith that you expressed when you trusted in Christ and accepted him as your personal savior.

Until you take that step of faith, by going down in the Waters of Baptism, the seal of the righteousness of faith still waits to be applied to your faith and as the scripture relates in Romans 4:12 Abraham is not yet your father because you have not walked in the steps of faith, for the scripture declare that Abraham is the father of those who also walk in the steps of faith.

12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

Romans 4:12 (NKJV)

Until you go down in the waters of Baptism and have been filled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, your faith not yet been justified.

Consider 1 Cor 6:9-11

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Cor 6:9-11 (NKJV)

That Justification of faith actually takes place when a person acts upon faith

Looking back to James 2:20-25 and expanding upon it, we see not only the subject of faith and works but justification

20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

James 2:20-25 (NKJV)

We see here the justification of Abrahams and Rahabs faith came after they acted upon the faith that was in there heart, and that action, the thing we call works, justified there faith!

Consider also Joshua, Moses successor. A promise was given to Joshua in Joshua 3:13 that when they crossed the river Jordan the waters would stop!

13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.”

Joshua 3:13 (NKJV)

Joshua could have camped with the Israelites on the bank of the River Jordan, declaring his faith in God’s promises until he grew old and feeble; but the waters of the mighty River Jordan would never have stopped flowing to let them across. He sealed his faith in God by starting out to do the impossible with only a promise of God in his heart. But as the soles of the feet of the priests dipped into the water, the mighty River Jordan stopped flowing and they walked across on dry ground.

Can you imagine the thoughts of doubt that could have crept into the mind of Joshua. That’s not the way its done, all Moses had to do was stretch his hand out to part the waters before anybody took a step, but God is asking me to have them step into the waters before the miracle would take place.

But faith won out over doubt and Joshua commanded them to step into the waters and when they did the power of God stopped the mighty Jordan river because of faith that was followed by action.

Without any action Abrahams, Rahab’s or Joshua’s faith would never have been justified.

When you act out your faith, you show that your faith it is alive.

The word justification means to render just or innocent

Justification involves forgiveness of sin, including the removal of all guilt and punishment, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

It is through justification that God declares a sinner to be righteous and justification itself is inseparably linked with obedience to the gospel.

All aspects of salvation, from initial justification to progressive sanctification to our ultimate glorification come by faith in God and not by human works. It is by faith in the plan of God that you go down in the waters of baptism. You must understand that water baptism is not a human work, but rather a part of the plan of God for the redemption of fallen humanity, and by being baptized you are not performing a human work of the flesh but rather you are expressing your faith in the redemptive plan of God and it is that faith in God that leads you to the waters of baptism.

If you have never taken that step of faith and had the seal of the righteousness of your faith applied, never had your faith justified by following the plan of God and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and filled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I want to encourage you to find a man of God who will joyfully baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins to start you on your next step of faith.

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