There are many things that frustrate me about living in South Africa. The state of our roads, the lack of electricity, the squalor that so many of our people need to live in, the corruption and wasteful expenditure… the list goes on, but, as it is with every country, you need to balance it up with the positives, the natural beauty, the warmth of its people, the never-say-die and boer-maak-n-plan attitude, the love for family and community… but for me the overwhelming reason why I love my country is the freedom with which I have to express my faith and that there are so many like-minded people.

This is not to say that there aren’t people who are selfish, who are not Christians, haters of all that is good…. I agree, one just needs to look at the news. But if you travel to other countries, in particular Western countries - countries that were bastions of the Faith - there is a contempt for Christians and open ridicule for the Word of God. In South Africa going to church on a Sunday or informing someone that you are a Christian is generally respected… even if they don’t agree with you

What do I mean by this? Well, I am often asked what I am doing on the weekend… or if I was available on a Sunday morning… I am all too happy to announce that “I am going to Church”... 

I am not ashamed to say so - this sometimes leads to an awkward silence - but almost always to some follow-up questions.

“... oh, which church do you attend?” To which my reply is Medway Community Church… which is quickly followed by… “so what denomination is that?”

What is your reply? (wait for the audience to respond)

I have two stock standard answers, depending on the person who has asked.

THE FIRST: Christian Brethren - we are conservative evangelical Christians - not unlike the Baptists

Medway, as a church, has been around for some 60 years, and has its roots in the Christian Brethren or Open Brethren movement. Which started in Irish Universities in the 1820’s, before spreading across the globe. Today there are reported to be some 26,000 assemblies.

If someone is from a church’d background this will make sense if they do not then it normally results in confusion.

I had a colleague once who had asked me this question, and a couple days later, when preparing for a school camp, they did a double take when telling me about the showers… in that split second I realised they had associated me with the Closed Brethren… I, of course, did not waste the opportunity and told them that getting water on my head was against my religion but if they provided a shower cap I should be okay.

Of course we don't refer to ourselves as a Brethren church or an assembly any more, certainly like we used to when I was growing up… we accept beleivers from many different backgrounds and denominations.


THE SECOND: We are not part of a denomination - we are inter-denominational - we are a bible-believing church

What do we mean by this?

The premise of the brethren movement was a frustration with both the Catholic and Anglican Churches, and a return to Scripture, not the church, as the ultimate authority on matters of faith and practice. Our churches independently formed autonomous bible believing assemblies, which connect, cooperate and fellowship with other churches who share a similar doctrine and practice.

If it aint in the bible then out it goes!

EITHER WAY - So what do you believe… What does that mean? 

Well it is for that very reason that we have been systematically unpacking our Statement of Faith over the last 2-3 months. Various speakers, both from this church and from our normal speaking roster have covered various topics, including:

  • The Triune God
  • Jesus
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Life after death
  • The Church
  • The return of Christ
  • His purpose in all of these
  • And last week David look at the purpose of Marriage

Not all of the speakers explicitly made this clear, so you will be forgiven for thinking that these were stand alone sermons.

The reason that I remind you of this is that, although there are still two topics to be covered in the form of “Communion” and “Baptism”; this will be the final talk this year in this series and this morning we will be looking at ‘Justification by Faith Alone’ and what that means.


While working in London, Zena and I lived in a very small flat in Putney, which consisted of two rooms, the bedroom (with a small bathroom) and lounge/kitchen. The lounge was so small that when I slept on the futon, when we had guests around, the top of my head touched the one wall and my feet touched the other.

Zena’s parents joined us on a couple of occasions, and on one of these vacations we took a trip to Oxford. It was the middle of winter and it was cold and wet, but Claude was adamant on walking half-way across the city, but why… he would not tell us… The reason, in the end, was to visit a man-hole cover in the middle of a busy street… WHY? Because this was not a man-hole cover, but rather a large stone plaque on the ground that marked the location of where three reformers Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley had been burnt at the stake almost 500 years ago.

You see Claude had attended bible college and had love for Church history.

In my ignorance I was completely oblivious to the sacrifice and stand that so many Godly men and women had made during the reformation. For their bravery and unswerving dedication to upholding and defending the Gospel, they were tried and found guilty of heresy and burnt at the stake.

The freedom that we so gladly enjoy today, is built on the shoulders of those that have so fiercely defended the Gospel.

For almost a 1,000 years access to the Word of God was shrouded in Latin and hidden for selfish gain by the Roman Catholic Church. 

Once the language of choice shifted from Greek to Latin, the Catholic Church, through a system of censorship, controlled the printing of the Bible in Latin.

It wasn’t until the invention of the printing press, and the nailing of Martin Luthers 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, that the reformation began. His writings sparked a debate that provoked the most serious controversy in the history of the Christian church.

The controversy resulted in the five key Reformation doctrines and are usually referred to by their Latin names: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), and soli deo Gloria (glory to God alone).

Out of these five doctrines there is one that stands out, one upon which all the others rest! Justification by faith alone


Let’s read Romans 3:21-31

Righteousness through faith

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Here in Romans 3, the Apostle Paul deals with the subject of Justification. And it is in these six tightly packed verses that he reveals the very “heart and soul” of the letter, and arguably scripture itself.

You see the teaching of Justification by Faith Alone is what separates biblical Christianity from all other belief systems. In every religion - including in those that would try and place themselves under the umbrella of Christianity - man is working his way to God.

Leon Morris, a biblical scholar, says that these verses might possibly be “the most important single paragraph ever written.” 

That is quite a statement, isn’t it?

The Bible uses a number of different words to describe how God saves sinners.

For example, the word atonement is used 4 times in the entire New Testament. (One of those references is here in Romans 3:25).

The word reconciliation is used only 4 times in the New Testament.

The word redemption is used 9 times in the New Testament, and 17 times in the Old Testament.

The word justification and righteousness, which share the same Greek root word, are used hundreds of times in the Bible.

The mere frequency of the use of the word, indicates that justification is the central idea in salvation.

Other biblical scholars agree.

Calvin called justification “the main hinge on which salvation turns.”

Cranmer believed that justification was “the strong rock and the foundation of Christianity.”

Martin Luther, the cantankerous old man, himself wrote, “When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen…. This is the chief article from which all other doctrines have flowed….”

So what is justification? The word justification comes from the law courts and describes the act of a judge in acquitting an accused person. “…it is a legal term indicating the process of declaring a person righteous.”

Let me put it another way. Justification is the opposite of condemnation.

When a defendant is found to have broken the law, they are pronounced guilty by a judge.

To be condemned does not necessarily mean the person is guilty. Many innocent people have been condemned and find themselves in prison.

Oscar Pistorius maintains his innocence, but was found guilty and declared a murderer. He is a condemned criminal.

It is the same way with justification, the person is declared to be just or right in relation to the law, but this does not make them righteous.

A person can be declared righteous on the basis of their own righteousness; that person would be declared innocent in a court of law.

But in salvation, we have no righteousness of our own and are not innocent, we are declared righteous on the grounds of Christ’s atonement.

You see, Justification is the dramatic and sudden transition from the status of a condemned criminal awaiting a terrible sentence to that of an heir awaiting a fabulous inheritance

Justification is an act of God’s free Grace, in which he pardons our sin, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, but only because of Christ’s righteousness ascribed to us, and received by faith alone.

JUSTIFICATION answers the singularly most important question in life of, “How can we become right with God?”

So based on this foundation of information, this morning we are going to consider “8 things you should know about Justification by Faith Alone”

8 things we need to know about Justification by Faith Alone

Justification by faith is a whole-Bible doctrine

Some Christians may be surprised to learn that the doctrine of justification by faith is not only found in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament too.

We see this clearly in the first verse (v21) of the passage.

But now… for us to understand this “but now” we need to go back two verses and read it in context… Romans 3:19-20

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

What Paul is saying here is that now in what Jesus has done…. The righteousness of God has been made known… and the Old Testament Law and Prophets stand testimony to that… it is almost as though they are in the witness box in the court giving testimony

Genesis tells us that Abraham, in response to God’s promise, “believed in the LORD and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Gen15:6)

Job sought to justify himself before God and in the end abandoned his own righteousness (Job 42:1-6)

David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet in the Psalms he speaks of the blessing of justification

Isaiah prophecies that the servant of the Lord will “make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11)

And Habakkuk teaches us that “the righteous shall live by His faith” (Habakkuk 2:4)

In other words Justification was always God’s plan, right from the beginning, it wasn’t an afterthought, rather it was woven into the tapestry of scripture and is revealed in Jesus and the New Testament.

Justification by faith is taught by the whole Bible, but it is more clearly taught in Paul’s letters, which is the second point

Justification by faith is articulated most clearly by Paul

Most biblical scholars agree that the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is seen most clearly in Paul’s letters, and especially in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians.


Well before his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul or Saul as he was known had been zealously persecuting God's church. Act 3:8 tells us “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

In other words Paul in his persecution of the early Church had a working knowledge of law and the judicial system. He knew what it meant to declare someone guilty before the law irrespective of their innocence.

In addition, and more importantly, this was his calling by God. Paul sums up the point of his letter to the Romans in 1:17

17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Justification by faith is at the centre of Paul’s argument in the letter.

Similarly, it is at the centre of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Galatians 2:16 

16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

In this passage we can see how Paul contrasts justification by faith with justification by works of the law, which leads me to my next point.

Justification by faith is another way of saying we are not justified by our works.

Justification is a completed work of God, No additions!

Paul makes this distinction in 3:28 “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Again in Chapter 4 he draws a contrast between the work and the believer “4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

You see if our justification and salvation relied on our efforts then it would not be God's grace, His free gift! If it was then he would owe us something, he would have been obligated to save us.

If you recall, Jesus taught us that the one who is justified before God is not the one who boasts in his or her own righteousness, but rather a sinner who cries out to God for mercy.

Can you see why the Church in the 15 century was so adamant to crush the reformists? Because their entire doctrine had perverted scripture and held the people captive to a system of good works… in so doing it put them in a position of power, where people were obligated… they had perverted scripture and the reformation stuck at the very heart of their political and social power.

No one is righteous before God, no not one. No amount of self-improvement and piety will ever change this.

But hold on. If we are justified by OUR faith, isn;t that still something we do? What role does our faith play? This question leads me to my fourth point.

Justification by faith does not mean that our faith is the ultimate cause of our justification

Paul clearly teaches us that we are justified by faith, but this does not mean that our faith is the ultimate reason that we are justified.

Rather the ultimate reason for our justification is that Christ “was delivered up [by God] for our sins and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25)

Why then does Paul say that we are justified by our faith? Well, because our faith is the thing that unites us to Christ.

Faith is a belief in the truth of the gospel, as well as trust in the God of the gospel.

It is an act of the heart directed towards the word of God, God himself, and to the resurrected Christ.

We see this most clearly here in Romans 3:25, “25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

Our faith plays no active role in the Justification process other than the vehicle by which we are able to receive His righteousness.

 And why what is God’s motivation “to demonstrate his righteousness

Verse 26 goes on “26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

If our faith is the inward act of the heart, believing and trusting in Christ, does that mean our outward actions don’t matter? This leads me to the fifth point

Justification by faith affirms that good works follow from faith

The doctrine of Justification excludes our good works as a means or cause of our justification. But it also affirms that acts of love and good works are a result of our faith… think of it as a fruit of our faith

James in James 2:22 teaches us that our faith is made complete by our works, he concludes in v24 that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)

This appears, certainly on the surface, to be contradictory….

One the one hand Paul teaches that our salvation is not based on our works… And James is now says that a person IS justified by works… okay so which one is it guys?

Rather than seeing it as contradictory,  it is better to see James’ teaching as a correcting of a misinterpretation of Paul’s teaching - one that would say that our works don’t matter at all

James teaches us that our works matter

Genuine faith must result in good works… good works that God has prepared for us…

Ephesians 2:10 reads “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Good works is evidence - coming back to the courtroom analogy - good works is evidence of our sincere faith - it is evidence that we have been justified

Another way to put this is that good works is an our working of our faith

Being declare Justified, does not mean that we are now suddenly innocent, we are sinners saved by Grace

We will always be Sinners saved by Grace, both now and in eternity

Yet while we here on earth we are also being sanctified - or being made more like him

Good works are evidence of Christ working our lives. It is the very knowledge of our Justification and God’s Grace that motivates good works and our spiritual growth

The sixth thing we need to know about justification is that 

Justification by faith results in the inclusion of ALL believers as God’s people

Justification by faith alone speaks fundamentally about the individual’s standing before God!

There is nothing in and of myself that can justify me, so the one necessary conclusion, as Paul right states in 3:29-30, is this…

29 …is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,”

You see if “all have sinned” and we are justified by his grace as a gift, through “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” then it follows that God is the God of both Jew and Gentile. HALLELUJAH

Our justification before God by faith results in the creation of a family of faith that includes all believers, Jew, Gentile, slave or free.

All too often through human history and the history of the church, classes of people have been created to differentiate between people.

Despite our differences, as believers, we are all united to Christ by the Spirit and by faith, our sins have been imputed to His account, and his righteousness has been imputed to our account.

By having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we can be seen as sinless, as Jesus is sinless. This is amazing grace! We are not righteous in ourselves; rather, we possess Christ’s righteousness applied to our account

Justification by faith is an embattled doctrine

It comes then as no surprise that the doctrine of justification by faith alone often finds itself in the middle of controversy.

Paul speaks of it in his conflict with false teachers, where in letters to the Galatians they were giving the believers a hard time about not being circumcised.

Although there were a number of doctrines that defined the reformation, Justification in Christ Alone was the key doctrine on which the reformers were unwavering and were prepared to be martyred.

It should also not come as a surprise that this very doctrine is once again under attack, it is not lost on the evil one nor modern day false teachers that if they are able to erode the biblical understanding of justification by faith alone, like the church in the middle ages, they will be able to destroy the church

There are vast religous ststems with complex theologies that teach the false doctrine of Justificaiton by Works… But as Paul reminds us in Galatians, they are teaching “a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:6-7)

It is there for our responsibility to know what it means and to be able to defend it position

Story of Chris Wahlberger - ended up going to the Catholic Church, because he believed that you needed to earn your salvation

Justification by faith brings Glory to God

There is something about justification by faith that gives particular glory to God.

Paul, in Romans 4:20-21, says this of Abraham’s faith

20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

The promise of God in the gospel is that he will justify the ungodly and even bring the dead to life in Christ

So when we, like Abraham, acknowledge the gospel to be true, and when we trust that God will do it, we give him particular glory through Jesus Christ

This is why Paul in the first book of Ephesians says that the great aim of hearing the gospel, believing it, and receiving the Spirit as the down-payment of our future inheritance is all “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Being justified by faith does not draw attention to ourselves and our “great” faith but rather to Christ and God’s GREAT work of redemption through him. “To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen”


Without an understanding of Justification by faith alone, we cannot truely understand the glorious gift of Grace - God’s “unmerited favour” - becomes “merited” in our minds, and we begin to think that we deserve salvation.

The doctrine of Justification by faith maintains “pure devotion to Christ”

Holding to justification keeps us from falling into the lie that we can earn heaven

There is no ritual, no sacrament, no deed that can make us worthy of the righteousness of Christ

It is only by His Grace, in response to our faith, that God has credited to us the holiness of His Son.