The Need for Faith

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

- Romans 3:10-20

Before we can begin to live by faith, we must be saved by faith. We already have seen that no one can please God or come to Him without faith, and such faith is given by God Himself. The question before us now is how faith in God leads to everlasting life. We will answer this question by examining the doctrine of sola fide, or justification by faith alone, the cardinal doctrine of the Protestant Reformation.

But before we can address that question, we must see why faith is necessary at all. In Romans 3, Paul gives one of the Bible’s classic statements on the condition of sinful humanity. Quoting from several psalms, as well as from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, he declares that ‘ “There is none righteous, no, not one.” ’ In other words, no human being is pure, obedient, and unstained by sin. Not one of them understands the things of God; none of them seeks to come to God. Every one has “ ‘turned aside,’ ” that is, they have rejected God’s way. No one does good, he says. They sin freely by their words. They are destructive and bloodthirsty. They want nothing to do with peacefulness. And most heinous of all, they have no fear of God. Thus, all are lost and dead in their trespasses and sins.

At this point, Paul introduces the law of God. The law, he says, speaks to those who are under the law; in other words, all people. Every human being has a responsibility to obey all of the provisions of the law all of the time. And every single one fails to do so. Therefore, the law acts like a neon sign, broadcasting God’s standards for all sinful human beings to see, to the end that “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” By posting His requirements for His creatures, God takes away any excuse, any claim of ignorance, and any self-righteous posturing. All of the human race stands before Him condemned and accountable. There is no question of the law being posted as a standard for people to keep; they simply cannot do it. That is why Paul can say that “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” The law is given not to save from sin but to produce awareness of sin.

So this is the dilemma: All men are sinners. And the law—often seen as the way to God—is not a way to salvation at all. Man needs justification but cannot justify himself. That’s where faith comes in.

Coram Deo

John Calvin said the law of God is a mirror to reveal our sin and drive us to Christ. It is more than a list of do’s and don’ts designed to show us how to obey God. Think about it—aren’t you glad our God accepts us on the basis of grace, not because we perform in a specified way? Praise him for His deep, deep love for you.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
Jeremiah 9:23–24
Ephesians 2:4–7
Titus 3:5–6

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.