Question: What is the doctrine of Justification by faith alone? How is it misunderstood by the Churches of Christ?
Ask a member of the Church of Christ what the doctrine of justification by faith alone is, and they will most likely tell you 'It is a doctrine teaching that a person can be saved simply by believing the basic facts or truths of the Christian faith.' These facts may include believing in God, believing that the Bible is the Word of God, and believing the facts that Jesus died on the cross and rose again.
But here the Church of Christ member will often justify their rejection of this doctrine by saying, 'But even the demons believe and of course this doesn't do them any good whatsoever.'
Here it's important to know that those who believe we are saved by personal faith in Christ do not believe salvation is merely by believing facts of the Christian faith, or by simply believing in some general way that Jesus lived, died on the cross and that He rose again.
Rather, we are believing God's promise that Jesus Christ saves us.
That is, as Abraham "believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness", we are also believing God's promise that on the cross, Jesus took upon Himself and received in His body ALL of God's wrath, anger, and righteous indignation for OUR sin, and that God punished Jesus (our substitute) so that He would NOT have to punish us, and raised Him from the dead.
Please note, if God has spent all of His anger and wrath for OUR SIN out on Jesus Christ, He is no longer angry at us. As Jesus said in John 5:24, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." John 5:24
However, there is another important point that Church of Christ types often fail to understand- that Jesus Christ lived holy for us as well. That Jesus lived holy FOR US so that the basis of us going to heaven is based on His perfect life, and not our own.
The Word of God tells us that ‘God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,’ (Galatians 4:3) and that Jesus became FOR us “our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30
Question: So where is Justification by faith taught in the New Testament?
There are 154 places in the New Testament that tell us salvation is by believing, that it is by trusting, that it is by placing our faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Romans 1:16 Paul writes “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, For it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” He continues on to say, "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."
People often assume that the righteousness Paul is speaking about here is God's own personal righteousness. And they aware that they are not righteous and that God is righteous, and they cannot understand how there can be much good news in a gospel that reveals God's own righteousness and holiness to a people who are not righteous.
But when Paul speaks about 'the righteousness of God that is revealed' in this passage, he is not speaking about the same righteousness by which God Himself is righteous. But rather he is speaking about a righteousness that God bestows and gives freely to all and upon all who will believe.
This righteousness is not a righteousness that arises out of ourselves by our own moral or religious conduct or obedience to all the commands given to us in the New Testament. Rather it is the gift of righteousness that God gives to all and upon all who will believe and place faith in Jesus Christ.
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe." Romans 3:21-22.
The bottom line is that people are to believe upon Jesus Christ, to trust in Him as their Savior. As Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
It is that simple.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” John 1:12
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“Most assuredly, I say unto you, he who hears my Word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Rom. 1:16
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.” Eph. 2:8
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 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." Gal. 2:15, 16
These are just a few of the verses, 154 places in the New Testament in all, where the Bible says those who place faith in Jesus Christ HAVE eternal life.
Other References to Consider:
Romans 1:16-17, 3:21-31, 4:1-25, 5:1-2, 9:30-33, 10:1-21, 11:1-23
Galatians 2:11-21, 3:1-29, 5:1-6
Ephesians 1:1-21, 2:1-10