“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ … for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

— Galatians 2:16

Most people don’t get it. The darkness of spiritual ignorance has pervaded people’s minds, leaving vast numbers abjectly ignorant of this central doctrine of Christianity.

What am I talking about? The doctrine of justification by faith—the fact that we can have eternal life because Christ’s death has cleansed us of all sin, making us worthy to live in God’s presence.

Do you understand justification by faith? If you don’t, you’re not alone. So many, including Christians, can’t explain it. If you were to ask people from a variety of church backgrounds how to get to Heaven, I believe that most answers would include a work or act. “I go to church every Sunday.” “I keep the Ten Commandments.” “I try not to hurt people.” But none of these answers matches what the Bible teaches us about salvation.

So how do we become “justified?” The Westminster Catechism describes it most aptly, saying that justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous because of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross. What does that mean? Most important, it means that God sets us free from eternal punishment by His will, not our own. The only thing we can do is accept the gift by faith.

God is the only one who can justify us, and yet we continue to try to justify ourselves. Someone once said to me, “I can justify everything I have done to God.” Though most people wouldn’t state it that way, many people try to do just that. But the doctrine of justification condemns every person’s effort to justify himself or herself. Only God can justify us. He does it once and for all, completely and perfectly, in the twinkling of an eye.

Who are you trusting for your salvation: yourself or God? Only God’s free grace can save you. Accept His undeserved favor, and stop your striving. Allow Him to give you the free gift He offers, and just watch where it will take you.

“Justification is the pivotal point around which all else turns.”
Geerhardus Vos