(Article for publication week of 2-20-AD 2013)
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;" (Romans 4:16). To say that a sinner is justified by faith is synonymous with saying he is justified by grace, as our text this week plainly shows. When a poor sinner trusts in Christ Alone for salvation, he simply receives what God has graciously provided in His Eternal and Coequal Son. Believing in Christ for salvation is all of God's sovereign grace.
First of all, please note well that our text this week opens with "therefore." In other words Paul is summarising all he has written up to this point in Romans. The pronoun "it" in our text refers to the scheme of justification which is the major theme and argument of the Roman letter. Justification is of faith, that it might be by grace.
Believing in Christ for salvation is the very opposite of trying to earn salvation by your own works as Paul plainly says in Romans 3:28 ("Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."), and in Romans 4:5 (" but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness"). You see in these two verses that faith and works are contrasted, as grace is contrasted with works in places like Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6; and II Timothy 1:9.
Furthermore, faith may be shown to be all of grace by the fact that faith itself is the gift of God, as Ephesians 2:8-9 so plainly shows. No one has faith in and of himself. Faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Faith is produced by regeneration, and necessarily follows it, but never precedes it (John 1:12-13). It is all of grace that any sinner is able to believe in Christ for salvation.
When a sinner believes in Christ for his whole and sole Righteousness, he does not contribute anything to his own salvation. God furnishes everything; we furnish nothing. I want you to get this straight now; faith is not man's part in his own salvation. You have no part in salvation, for it is all of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Salvation is not brought about by anything that a sinner does, but it is the production of the Triune God. God does not justify a man by doing most of the work, and then leaving it up to sinners to finish what he Himself has begun. A thousand times no! Salvation is all of the Lord from first to last. Salvation is by the electing love of the Father, the Imputed Righteousness of the Son, and the converting power of the Holy Spirit. We have nothing we can offer to God but sin. If we tried to add anything to what God has done through His Son, it would only defile it.
Saving faith is an empty hand that simply receives what Christ has done. Augustus Toplady expressed justification by faith in the hymn "Rock of Ages" when he wrote "nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling." Have you ever come to Christ like that? Have you ever thrown yourself on the mercy of God and just cried out, "Lord have mercy on me the sinner"? Have you come to the end of yourself to see that all your efforts and pretended self righteousness was all in vain? Well, I have good news for you! There is salvation free and full for such. This is saving and justifying faith, to see yourself as utterly lost and ruined, and flee to Christ for your only Refuge. May the Blessed Spirit Who moves like the wind work in your hearts this very moment and grant you grace to believe in Christ Alone for everlasting salvation.