I am hanged up on soteriology. I love to think about the Cross and what was accomplished there, for the sinner. Primarily because this was obscured to me when I was an RC and because this was side stepped when I went to Evangelia or as Evangelia went on. I can not get enough of it and it does not seem to bore me. I hope it does not get side-stepped again in the Liturgical Wars going on. I am fighting some funny things to say about this, but I do not want people to stumble so I better not.
It is amazing how a preposition determines correct or wrong thinking. Christian theology is a matter of getting your prepositions right. Neglecting it ruins the message of God.
Take 1 John 5:
11And the testimony is this, that God has given us (S)eternal life, and (T)this life is in His Son. 12(U)He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
There is something objective here, absolutely: God has given people of the world eternal life...but this is in the Son. From that, it can be turned to this...
Every one has eternal.
Can you see the implication of that? Even if one says " Every one has eternal life, whether or not one believes it or not" -- there is still something missing here. Boy, this is really sounding universalistic does it not? What gives? The phrase "in the Son".
Take the case again on justification - JBFA. Actually the slogan is meant to be considered in its completed thesis...we are justified through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. Dropping that last phrase gets all the trouble and confusion even amongst us who affirm this. What happens when what is implied is dropped? Faith becomes the focus, per se as an end point. You don't talk about Christ, you talk about faith.
Technically when it comes to justification: I like its definition such as "accounting or reckoning as righteous". The "being declared righteous" makes me want to search for a goose bump audible experience from God, so I rather think of "treating as righteous". Besides, justification is an attitude of God, it happens in the heart of God, it does not happen inside me. It is not an experience inside me, it is in God's being, it is happening outside me, it is happening in God. I believe it is happening in God by what Scripture says. I do not feel it.
Going back to Abraham in Genesis 15, you will notice that God did not come to Abraham with a proposal saying "Look, I am going to give you a promise, and if you believe this, then I will count you as righteous, ok,? Deal or no deal? It does not seem it happened that way. There was no proposal, rather there was a promise. Abraham simply trusted that, as if "ok if you say so". It was reality for him.
From the Apology of Augsburg-- Article IV:
For the Law requires of us our works and our perfection. But the Gospel freely offers, for Christ's sake, to us, who have been vanquished by sin and death, reconciliation which is received not by works, but by faith alone. This faith brings to God not confidence in one's own merits, but only confidence in the promise, or 45] the mercy promised in Christ. This special faith, therefore, by which an individual believes that for Christ's sake his sins are remitted him, and that for Christ's sake God is reconciled and propitious, obtains remission of sins and justifies us.And
46] Thus, because faith, which freely receives the remission of sins, sets Christ, the Mediator and Propitiator, against God's wrath, it does not present our merits or our love [which would be tossed aside like a little feather by a hurricane]. This faith is the true knowledge of Christ, and avails itself of the benefits of Christ, and regenerates hearts, and precedes the fulfilling of the Law.
86] But since we receive remission of sins and the Holy Ghost by faith alone, faith alone justifies, because those reconciled are accounted righteous and children of God, not on account of their own purity, but through mercy for Christ's sake, provided only they by faith apprehend this mercy. Accordingly, Scripture testifies that by faith we are accounted righteous, Rom. 3, 26. We, therefore, will add testimonies which clearly declare that faith is that very righteousness by which we are accounted righteous before God, namely, not because it is a work that is in itself worthy, but because it receives the promise by which God has promised that for Christ's sake He wishes to be propitious to those believing in Him, or because He knows that Christ of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. 1, 30You can see right away that the Apology does not even remotely suggest universalism. But why is it that when some presentations are heard it sounds that way?
You can also see the role of faith, that it is nothing as such, but if it is talked about without context, it can sound - hmm, may be I have to see to it that I have faith, or what amounts to faith in faith.
Faith is nothing but a hand that grasps the promise of the payment of sins at the Cross of Jesus. It has what it holds on to. The hand analogy is really quite good for me here. Hold on to a spanner, you got the spanner. Hold on to a hammer, you got the hammer. It possesses what it is holding on to etc.
But the thing that controls you from going down hill to universalism or going up to having faith in your faith is "IN CHRIST". The promise of redemption, like one pastor I heard, said that it, is not somewhere out there floating on air, rather it is located in one single spot, IN CHRIST. Neglect this and we are open to confusion.
It appears to me that when we start asking do we have faith, we are not looking at Christ, we are looking at our faith. lt is like the hands clasping at each other, not holding an external object.
My position is to keep on looking at my reconciliation, i.e. the payment for my sins, that what I owe by way of righteousness and by way of my sin has been paid for -- at the Cross of Jesus, all of them, no more, dealt with. I try not to look at my justification or analyze it, because it is something that happens in God, I trust my sins been paid for, dealt with, taken away, my debt paid in full, finished, what I owe God Christ provided and answered for. It is easier for me to think of my debt of sin being paid because I got to learn about the teaching of Romans and Galatians etc only after I believed - at the work of Christ at the Cross. Yes indeed I do rejoice that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to me, but the side of that came from my reconciliation.