I commend a recent letter to the editor for the excellent explanation of the doctrine of justification. It isn’t a question of “Am I accepted before God?” It is a question of “Is Christ accepted before God?” True believers are “in Christ” and God credits the perfect righteousness of Christ to their account. There is nothing we do to earn a righteous standing before God. It is a gift. We are saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-10) This doctrine, however, does not give us a license to continue in sin.
The author’s mistake is in the singular emphasis on the doctrine of justification, excluding much of the rest of Scripture. Apostle Paul anticipated those who would use grace and the doctrine of justification as a license to sin. This is why, after a lengthy discussion of justification, Romans 6 begins with, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase?” Paul answers, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) Christ’s work enables us to “walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17) “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6) “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lust.” (Romans 6:12)
If I applied the author’s theology to my life I could readily justify living an adulterous lifestyle. Faithfulness to my wife would not be necessary because being an adulterer doesn’t negate the finished work of Christ.
Nothing in the word of God gives me the license to presume on God’s grace and ignore his clear instructions regarding the pursuit of a righteous lifestyle. The doctrine of justification cannot be ripped from the pages of Scripture at the expense of other great doctrines — like sanctification. Here’s to the whole counsel of God’s Word!