A.: Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.
We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone, unaccompanied by other Spiritual graces, unproductive of good works to the glory of God....These graces are “the fruit of the Spirit,” inseparably connected with faith and produced by the same Spirit that produced faith in the same person, i.e., “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, selfcontrol” (Gal. 5:22–23). (851)
These graces, to be sure, are distinguished from faith, but they are inseparable from it. The Bible makes unmistakably clear that we are NOT justified by love, or hope, or self‑control, or kindness, or godliness, but BY FAITH ALONE. At the same time,
with equal emphasis, it must be said that the faith that is the instrumental cause of our justification is not a solitary faith unaccompanied by the host of Spiritual graces that amount to Christ-likeness of character and heart. (852)
Although such Spiritual graces always accompany true faith, it is not because of these graces manifested in us by the Spirit that God justifies a sinner. (852)
"I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention Faith alone in this question, we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to be the only cause of justification (Gal. 5:6; Rom. 3:22). It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone;…" 216. John Calvin, quoted in Sproul, Faith Alone, 128. (853)
Spiritual graces have reference to what God does within the heart and life of the believer in the life-long process of sanctification, which process, although distinct from justification, begins with justification. Sanctification is the subjective and continuous work of God within the believer, shaping him more and more into the image of Christ. Justification is that objective act and declaration of God outside the believer on which his eternal right standing with God is based. (853)
...good works have no role in our justification before God, although they do play an important role in our sanctification as proof of true justifying faith, and hence, glorify God and are encouragements to the believer to continued faithfulness. (855)
"By what right or in what sense the good works which the Spirit of Christ performs in us are called ours, Augustine briefly teaches when he draws an analogy from the Lord’s Prayer: saying, that the bread which we there ask is called “ours” on no
other ground than simply that it is given to us. Accordingly, as the same writer elsewhere teaches, no man will embrace the gifts of Christ till he has forgotten his own merits." 224. Sproul, Faith Alone, 157. (857)
The reason our good works do not merit justification and cannot justify is twofold: (1) Any works we do before we are regenerated are not good, and hence are of no merit before God whatsoever, for “there is none who does good, no not one.”...(2)
The good works, which are done by the regenerate person, that flow out of justifying faith, are not good enough to meet the perfect demands of God’s Law, and hence, are not meritorious. (857-858)
...three sound reasons why our doctrine encourages godly living, rather than careless living.
(1) While believers in Jesus are not rewarded or blessed in direct proportion to what their works deserve, they are rewarded and blessed graciously according to their works....He accepts and blesses both our persons and our good works because of the merit of Christ in which we stand and live. ...
(2) Sluggishness and negligence in living the Christian life cannot be “indulged without bringing our title to the inheritance [God has promised believers] into doubt.”232 Jesus said that true believers could be distinguished from false prophets by their manner of life: “by their fruits you shall know them.”...Although the Bible consistently affirms that our good works are in no way the meritorious basis of our justification with God, nevertheless, they are legitimate evidences of our justification. ...
(3) “[F]ree justification does not diminish the believer’s legitimate self‑interest in his good works.”235 The gospel of the Bible brings out an inseparable relationship between faith in Christ and the righteousness of Christ it embraces, on the one hand, and holy character and holy living on the other. That relationship is that of
means to an end....
"Redemption from the curse, and gratuitous restoration to favor, are the means; restoration to holiness the end.… The man who understands that Christ has justified him, not by, but in order to, good works, cannot possibly slight their importance."236
232. Dabney, Discussions, 1:88. ; 235. Dabney, Discussions, 1:92. 236. ; Dabney, Discussions, 1:92–93.
The Catechism says that faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God not… as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification (LC, Q.73). ...
What is the misconception being answered in these words? It is this: faith in Christ is the basis of our justification, i.e., God justifies the believer BECAUSE he believes in Jesus; faith is the cause for some people being accepted with God while others, remaining in unbelief, are condemned. (867)
What is wrong with this interpretation? (1) It is not taught in the Bible. (2) It makes the action of man, i.e., believing, the basis of salvation rather than Jesus Christ....(3) It is a covert way of reintroducing another version of the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification that teaches that the basis of justification is an inherent and infused personal righteousness rather than the imputed righteousness of Christ. (4) It is a return to a subtle form of salvation by works. (868)
What does the Bible say? Profoundly this: it is not faith that saves; it is not even faith in Christ that saves; it is Christ who saves through faith. (868)
Faith in Christ alone is THE instrument by which justification is received, neither the cause nor the basis of justification....Faith is the hand that receives salvation and the reliance which rests upon Christ alone. (869)
Three points of resemblance the bronze serpent incident and Christ and the gospel are: (1) As the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole, so Christ was lifted up on a cross; (2) As the bronze serpent was made by divine command in the likeness of the poisonous “fiery serpents,” so Christ was made in the likeness of sin‑poisoned
humanity; and (3) As the sinning Israelites, snake‑bitten and dying, looked to the brass serpent and lived, so sinful, perishing men and woman, poisoned by that old Serpent, Satan, look in faith to the crucified Jesus, and live forever. ...
It was held up so that by obediently and trustingly looking up to it they might acknowledge their sin, their helplessness and their hopelessness apart from the mercy and power of God, in true repentance of sin and in true faith in God’s method of salvation. ...
Why is faith described as “looking”? To look is to believe, to give credit to a person, to count as true what he says....Everyone who believes in Christ, who counts as true what He has said and promised, and who looks away from their sinful, helpless and hopeless condition to Him alone for salvation will be saved. We are not saved because we look, as if there were some merit or magical power in our looking; but we are saved as we look to Christ. (871-872)
The gospel method of salvation, therefore, is worthy of all acceptation. It reveals the divine perfections in the clearest and most affecting light, and it is in every way suited to the character and necessities of men. It places us in our true position as undeserving sinners; and it secures pardon, peace of conscience and holiness of
Justification frees the believer’s conscience from the crippling burden of sin and guilt. It makes us free in Jesus Christ (John 8:31–36). (874)