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浅释称义

作者:乔·克鲁斯 牧师日期:2013-10-11 9:40:10浏览数:7890
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前言

“所以(有古卷作“因为”)我们看定了,人称义是因着信,不在乎遵行律法。”(罗3:28)

奇妙真相:未等美国南北战争正式结束,亚伯拉罕•林肯(美国第十六任总统)就与世长辞了,但他却在生前颁布了著名的《解放宣言》——豁免美国所有的奴隶。

一天,一名被豁免的奴隶(内战期间从南方逃到华盛顿特区定居)来找林肯。他从口袋里掏出一笔钱,交给总统。“为什么给我钱?”林肯问。“为表达感激,因为你让我获得了自由。”那人回答。但总统拒绝了。

“我是由衷地感激您,所以必须要有所表示。”他执意要林肯收下。

总统思考了片刻说:“先别急着给钱,我想让你看些东西。”于是,他带那人到街上漫步。“看到那栋房子了吗?有位妇人住在里面,为使你们获得自由,她的独生子阵亡了。还有那栋,看到了吗?为了解放奴隶,那位妇人失去了三个儿子。”林肯指着几栋房子说。“再看那座不同寻常的住宅,里面也住着一个孤苦伶仃的妇人。南北战争期间,她的丈夫和两个儿子反目,分别加入敌我部队,全都捐躯沙场了。”最后,总统转身问这个想有所表示的人:“想必你在思考自由的代价,现在还打算给我钱吗?”

“我终于明白,对于那些作出如此牺牲的人来讲,这笔钱简直是一种侮辱。”那人与林肯会面后如是说。

一个存在争议的问题

我想谈谈基督教内一个颇具争议的教义——称义,理解它有助于与基督建立正确的关系。“称义”一词困扰着很多人,甚至压得他们喘不过气来。但我认为,藉着研经与祈祷,查明上帝对这一关键教义的启示,是可以消除困惑的。

许多基督徒担心自己的得救问题;而其他处在信仰边缘的人(几乎要信了)则并不晓得称义的真谛,也不确定自己能否真地被算为义,因而不敢向基督迈出第一步。不知你属于前者还是后者,无论如何,我劝你花些时间通读本文。那种困惑与恐惧完全没有必要。相信以下的学习会成为莫大的祝福,它不但能提供相信的理由,且能使人有信心面对上帝为你存留的未来。

何为称义?

既然称义是本文的重点,我们最好先为它下一个准确的定义:“证明(某人)为义;赦免其过;宣告无罪;不必遭受重罪的疚责与惩罚。”看来,称义是无罪的合法宣告。得称为义便意味着上帝宣布你为义人。

按照圣经的描述,世人(除耶稣外)无一例外地犯了罪,理当遭受死刑。因此,靠基督称义,意味着上帝宣布你蒙了赦免,未被冒犯救主的罪所玷污。

然而,若非上帝的恩典,谁配“得称为义”呢?毕竟一次犯罪就足以丧失永生。我们在《喜乐的泉源》中读到:“若是你愿将身心献给祂,接受祂为你的救主,那么你以往纵有再大的罪愆,上帝必因耶稣的缘故称你为义。”(7章15段)该书作者继续描写了称义之道:“基督的品格代替了你的品格,上帝就因此悦纳了你,好象你未曾犯罪一样。”

论到称义,一位布道士这样说:“它意味着上帝视你‘如同义人’,仿佛从未犯过罪。”上帝看到的不是你污秽的衣服,而是祂爱子的义,且将那义视为你的。

得称为义

听起来,这真是堕落人类的佳音,特别是因为多数人还在公然违抗上帝。但对那些依然渴慕真理的人,将如何称义呢?你若对信徒逐一询问,可能会得到多个答案。有人说因信称义;有人说因行为称义;还有人说二者缺一不可。不过,这与你问多少人无关,关键是圣经怎么说,这才是我们要关注的问题。

“感谢上帝,因祂有说不尽的恩赐!”(林后9:15)这里称救恩是恩赐。罗马书6章23节强调了这一点:“因为罪的工价乃是死;惟有上帝的恩赐,在我们的主基督耶稣里,乃是永生。”显然,称义绝非赚得之物。

想像一下,发薪日到了,老板递给你一个信封,笑容可掬地说:“这是你的礼物(英文中‘礼物’与‘恩赐’是同一个词)。”接过信封,你兴高采烈地走出办公室,一头钻进车里(因不想让人看到开启“厚礼”的急切心情),拆开信封,快速搜了个底儿朝天。但除了平素的工资之外,竟然没有任何所谓的礼物。想必你会怨恨老板,为什么?因这薪资是你赚来的,而非礼物。

救恩是一种恩赐。顾名思义,恩赐无法赚得。你曾否收到过自己赚来的礼物?若有,那绝非礼物,因为任何赚取之物都不能称之为礼物(恩赐)。倘若你必须付出——不论是金钱、交易、或者服务——才能获得某物,即便是在事后支付,那东西也不能算作礼物。

罗马书5章17,18节记载:“若因一人(亚当)的过犯,死就因这一人作了王;何况那些受洪恩又蒙所赐之义的,岂不更要因耶稣基督一人而得生命吗?如此说来,因一次的过犯,众人都被定罪;照样,因一次的义行(耶稣),这恩赐就白白地临到众人,使之称义得生命了。”(KJV直译)看来,人称义是因着“恩赐”。

按照圣经的论述,人是靠行为称义,还是靠因信而得之恩赐称义呢?根据以上的经文,答案似乎不言而喻,无庸赘述了。但为了更加明朗,我们不妨进一步查考耶稣对称义的阐述。

耶稣口中的称义

路加虽是外邦人,却对耶稣的教训,尤其对因信称义是恩赐一事,有深入的理解。若想明白称义的道理,我建议先从路加福音18章的比喻入手,那无疑是最好的途径之一。我们先来阅读这段经文,然后再进行深入的研究:

“耶稣向那些仗着自己是义人,藐视别人的,设一个比喻,说:‘有两个人上殿里去祷告:一个是法利赛人,一个是税吏。法利赛人站着,自言自语地祷告说:‘上帝啊,我感谢祢,我不像别人勒索、不义、奸淫,也不像这个税吏。我一个礼拜禁食两次,凡我所得的,都捐上十分之一。’那税吏远远地站着,连举目望天也不敢,只捶着胸说:‘上帝啊,开恩可怜我这个罪人!’我告诉你们:这人回家去比那人倒算为义了。因为,凡自高的,必降为卑;自卑的,必升为高。”(9-14节)

在基督时代,众多的宗教领袖都有一个误区:人要靠自己的好行为称义。他们依仗自己的“义”,同时却鄙视他人为卑贱的罪人。

比喻中的两个人物形成了鲜明的对比。法利赛人——犹太教的一个宗派——以恪守律法而闻名。而税吏却放荡不羁,是邪恶生活方式的代名词。在耶稣时代,人们或许认为法利赛人是得永生的首选,但主却不这样看。请注意,圣经记载那法利赛人“自言自语”地祈祷。换句话说,他在向自己祷告,而非恳求上帝。随后我们看到他感谢主的理由:因他不像某些人,例如身边这个罪孽深重的税吏。此外,法利赛人还强调自己定期禁食,以及交纳什一的好行为,唯恐上帝忘记他的“功德”。这段“自我介绍”或许属实,而且听起来这人还算不错。“你们的义若不胜于……法利赛人的义,断不能进天国。”(太5:20)但他并未谦卑地感激上帝的恩惠,反而将“个人履历”(好行为)作为骄傲的资本。

那税吏的态度却判若云泥。他甚至感觉自己不配进入圣殿的台前,于是远远地站着,不敢靠近圣坛。罪疚与羞耻感使得他低头捶胸——悔罪的姿态,这切实体现了为罪痛悔的态度。税吏恳求上帝怜悯他这个卑微的罪人。那法利赛人喋喋不休,向上帝炫耀了一箩筐的好行为,而这税吏却没有一件可献上的善行。所以,与前者不同,他单单呼求上帝的怜悯。

故事要点:照基督所说,那天回家后得称为义的竟是为人不齿的税吏。也就是说,那位受人敬仰的法利赛人并未称义,尽管他又是交纳什一,又是定期禁食,貌似在度一种值得效仿的、顺从的宗教生活。

并不复杂

这个比喻极为重要,而且意味深长、发人深省。税吏为何被称为义?据他自己的交代,我们得知他不是赚到了义。他并未说:“主啊,我虽是罪人,但请祢看看我过往一切的善行。”不,他独独呼求怜悯。税吏也没有任何命令上帝的口吻:“主啊,我是个罪人,祢必须要怜悯我。”对他来讲,恳求上帝的怜悯需要一定的信心,因为周遭并无确凿的、实物的证据可以表明他会蒙怜悯。恩典务须恳求,并凭着信心领受。在比喻的结束,基督应许说:“凡自高的,必降为卑;自卑的,必升为高。”(14节)税吏谦恭地低头捶胸,痛悔己罪,因他羞愧难当,不敢望天。据耶稣所说,若谦卑地来到主前,真心懊悔,忏悔己罪,恳求祂的怜悯,那么,我们从教堂回到家就“算为义了”。

这就是福音。今天,不论何人,不论还背负着什么罪担,只要行这税吏所行的,便大可放心。在天父那里,基督的义已经归在你身上了。你已蒙赦免,白白领受了主的恩赐。

这复杂吗?

金钱无用

下面的经典对白对理解称义颇具启发:“于是使徒按手在他们头上,他们就受了圣灵。西门看见使徒按手,便有圣灵赐下,就拿钱给使徒,说:‘把这权柄也给我,叫我手按着谁,谁就可以受圣灵。’彼得说:‘你的银子和你一同灭亡吧!因你想上帝的恩赐是可以用钱买的。’”(徒8:17-20)

彼得在斥责一个名叫西门的人,那人似乎是以行邪术为生。他目睹彼得和腓利按手在撒玛利亚人身上,心想:“哇,使徒受了圣灵就变得这般神通广大。要是我具备这样的能力该有多好,我肯定会生意兴隆,财源广进。”于是掏出银子,希望使徒将这能力卖给他。

彼得的回答迅速、到位、切中要害,甚至严厉刺耳。这一答复基本可以归结为:“让你的钱见鬼去吧!”对彼得来讲,视主的恩赐为可出售的商品实为荒唐至极、大谬不然。

尽管倡导“恩赐可买论”之人受到圣经严厉的谴责,很多人却坚持认为救恩可以购得。这一教义与西门的行径如出一辙。

主为何这般痛斥“恩赐可买论”呢?“因为在上帝面前,你的心不正。你当懊悔你这罪恶,祈求主,或者你心里的意念可得赦免。”(徒8:21,22)

回到本书开头的故事,那个被豁免的奴隶想付给总统一笔钱,作为自由的报酬。但对林肯来讲,鲜血就是自由的代价,金钱是对牺牲的一种侮辱。(既已付上鲜血,何须再用金钱购买自由。)

为将我们从撒但的奴役下赎出来,上帝付上了什么?基督的宝血。天父既已舍弃了独生爱子的性命,付钱还有意义吗?对于白白赎买我们的上帝来讲,这岂不是奇耻大辱吗?

常言道:“没有免费的自由”。基督已偿清了你我无法偿还的债务。如此说来,用金钱或善行换取救恩是多么愚不可及啊!以弗所书2章8节证实:“你们得救是本乎恩,也因着信;这并不是出于自己,乃是上帝的恩赐。”(KJV直译)

另一个恰当的例证

现在,我希望大家随我查考路加福音23章的一个故事:钉死在耶稣旁边的两个强盗。它展示了一幅震撼人心的画面,揭示了称义可以达到的极点。“那同钉的两个犯人,有一个讥诮祂说:‘祢不是基督吗?可以救自己和我们吧!’那一个就应声责备他说:‘你既是一样受刑的,还不怕上帝吗?我们是应该的,因我们所受的与我们所作的相称,但这个人没有作过一件不好的事。’就说:‘耶稣啊,祢得国降临的时候,求祢记念我!’耶稣对他说:‘我实在告诉你:今日你要同我在乐园里了。’”(39-43节)

另一卷福音书记载,这两名强盗一个在耶稣的右边,一个在左边。他们罪名相同,均因煽动叛乱、扰乱国家治安、甚或谋杀而被定罪,而且从事这些恶行的经费都是盗取的赃款。

有趣的是,尽管他们罪状相同,结局却不同:一个得救,一个灭亡。这两个人发觉自己身处绝境,无力自救摆脱痛苦与死亡;也都拿不出能确保自己免遭厄运的筹码。

根据马太福音27章39至44节的记载,我们发现这两个人都曾嘲笑基督。然而,随着事态的发展,显然有一名强盗开始关注基督的举动,并反思自己的态度。他们的确都目睹了基督的痛苦,然而内心改变的只有一人。圣灵究竟如何启发了那人的心,我们不得而知。但我推断,对于基督所行的神迹他定有耳闻,也听到人诵读以赛亚书53章的经文(基督受难的预言),或有关弥赛亚受难的诗篇(22篇)。随后,他可能看到士兵在十字架下为基督的衣服拈阄(正应验了诗篇22篇18节的预言:“他们分我的外衣,为我的里衣拈阄。”),又听到基督大喊:“以利,以利!拉马撒巴各大尼?”(正应验了诗篇22篇1节的预言:“我的上帝,我的上帝!为什么离弃我?”)

但另一名强盗对眼前的情形无动于衷,反而决定再次讥诮耶稣。“祢若是基督,可以救自己和我们吧!”(KLV直译)“若是”一词足以表明他的不信。信才能救你。这时,另一名强盗应声责备他说:“你既是一样受刑的,还不怕上帝吗?我们是应该的,因我们所受的与我们所作的相称,但这个人没有作过一件不好的事。”换句话说,“都死到临头了,你还不怕上帝吗?不要再让耶稣难过了,我们不都是死刑犯吗?当然,不同的是,你我死有余辜。”

知道这叫什么吗?悔改。他在忏悔,承认自己罪有应得。但愿上天不要按你我的罪——违背上帝,伤害同胞——待我们。一想到这些,我便不寒而栗。我可不想得到应有的报应,只想得蒙耶稣的救赎!

随后,那强盗做了一个简短的祷告:“耶稣啊,祢得国降临的时候,求祢记念我!”这就像在殿中祈祷的税吏一般,“主啊,开恩可怜我这个罪人。”彼得也是如此疾呼:“主啊,救我。”纵然简短,因为命悬一线,没有时间多求,但果效非凡。

我们来思考耶稣当时的处境:犹大叛变;门徒纷纷离去;全人类的罪压在祂身上;与天父分离;肉体遭受着剧痛;但令人惊奇的是,即使这样,耶稣也没有说:“听着,你现在最好不要烦我。看不到我肝肠寸断、心如刀割吗?”

救主没有这样回答,而是向那人保证:“我实在告诉你:今日你要同我在乐园里了。”上帝向我们提供的救恩是言之凿凿,还是模棱两可呢?祂是不是说:“或许,有这样的可能”呢?不,绝不。基督当即给了那人救恩的保证。我们知道,这名强盗会与第一次的复活(义人的复活)中有份,跻身于圣徒的行列。他是因信称义。圣经对于那强盗的记载到此为止,所以我们只能猜测,至于自己是否真地得赦,他必须完全信赖基督的话。但当步向死亡的幽暗之时,救主的保证一定给予了他极大的安慰。

此时此刻,你也可以获得同样的安慰。因为耶稣说:“我实在告诉你”。

礼物的功效

圣经教导说:“人的礼物为他开路,引他到高位的人面前。”(箴18:16)你曾否觉察到礼物能改变态度?既已受人礼物,你就难以复之刻薄。

为引政客的关注,说客们(专指受雇与某些机构或公司,对政府官员或议员进行游说之人)常常向其奉送礼物。一旦官员收了礼,那就意味着他要花时间听你游说,甚或在立法时偏袒你的观点。毕竟,如果某人为你提供了费用全免的假期,在度假期间,你总不能连他的电话都不接吧!那样做岂不太过无礼了!

称义是上帝赐予人类的厚礼。在这一事上,礼物开路(尽管比政治活动要廉洁磊落得多)原则也一样适用。这就是信心与行为争论的焦点。不过,这个道理并不混乱,本不该争论。我们是因信称义,这一点显而易见。称义是无偿的恩赐,它有案可查,可作定案。

雅各的论述怎么解释?

难道行为与称义毫无关联吗?当然不是。请注意,这里说的是有“关联”,而非关键。称义绝非赖乎行为,永远不会。理解这一点至关重要。为进一步说明,我来举个例子。

“我们的祖宗亚伯拉罕把他儿子以撒献在坛上,岂不是因行为称义吗?”(雅2:21)等一等,雅各与保罗的论述岂不是相互抵触:“好在今时显明祂的义,使人知道祂自己为义,也称信耶稣的人为义。”(罗3:26)难道圣经自相矛盾吗?

在研究称义的过程中,我们着重强调人“得救是本乎恩,也因着信”。(弗2:8)那么,雅各的论述该做何解释?如果你现在仍很困惑,那也没有关系。众使徒与早期教会的领袖都曾对此百思不解,何况我们。好在圣经提供了明确的答案。我们知道,两位作者的论述均有感于同一位圣灵,并且都纳入了圣经。那么,圣经还可信吗?当然,这一点毋庸置疑。

为便于理解这句令人困惑的经文,我们看雅各紧接着写了什么:“可见信心是与他的行为并行,而且信心因着行为才得成全。”(雅2:22)信心如何与行为并行?这里的“成全”是指完全、完美、完备。之所以在这里出现,是为了表明亚伯拉罕的行为是因着信。也就是说,他的行为证明自己有信心。或说,他的行为证明自己被称为义了。保罗与雅各的论述之所以看似矛盾,是因为他们所写之书信的受众不同。为领信徒更接近上帝的旨意,不同的信众需要不同的信息,这是常有的事。我来解释一下:如果周遭尽是律法主义者,我会强调恩典;若皆是自认为已蒙称义之人,我自会强调降服与顺从。这并不矛盾,反倒让称义的道理更为完整全面。

明白这两位作者的写作背景尤为重要。保罗当时在劝勉犹太信徒,因他们强迫外邦人遵行摩西一切的律例,为要换取称义。所以他在信中强调:救恩是自天而来的恩赐,人无法赚得。然而,雅各书信的受众是初信之人,他们误以为既已因信称义,顺从便无关紧要了。

我们再来回顾法利赛人与税吏的比喻。那税吏垂目痛悔,恳求上帝的怜悯。耶稣说这人回家去倒算为义了。我们要问:那人是否晓得自己称义了呢?同样,人能知道自己称义了吗?

请容许我以反问的方式作答。我们若因信得救,自己知道吗?那税吏是否只恳求怜悯,却不期待领受所求之恩呢?毫无疑问,我们须承认,当圣灵会对自己的心灵说话,赐予平安时,表明祈祷已蒙垂听。我曾为某些问题祷告并苦苦挣扎,随后便感到一股“突如其来”的平安涌入心田。这恰恰证明你的祈求已上达于天,呈于祂全能的手中。

所以,依我之见,那税吏回家之后晓得上帝算他为义了。

赦免会影响行为吗?

上帝对那税吏说:“你的罪赦了”。那人因此就判若霄壤了吗?从某种意义上讲,的确如此。进殿的时候虽为罪人,无地自容地站在上帝面前忏悔;回到家,基督的义便算作他的义了。但更大的问题是,既然知道自己已得称为义,他的言行举止是否会有所改变呢?

我坚信真正得蒙拯救之人必定伴有行为的转变。人会在他身上看到圣灵的果子。

设想一下:不知为何,彼拉多吩咐士兵说:“我想释放十字架上的一名强盗。”于是,兵丁选择了能与基督同进乐园的犯人。他们拔下那人手脚上的长钉,包扎了伤口,以便能愈合。当然,纵使他痊愈了,手脚的钉痕也不会消失,但毕竟保住了性命。

你认为他会否从此改邪归正、洗心革面?在十字架上,基督白白赦免了他,你想他会回到从前束缚自己的罪恶当中吗?倘若他甘心重蹈覆辙,那么他在十字架上会是真心相信吗?这些问题无需回答,依我之见,得蒙拯救之人的态度与举止便可见证其称义的真伪。切勿迷信地认为,基督徒万不可谈论好行为,唯恐被称为律法主义者。要知道在圣经当中,大谈特谈好行为之重要性的使徒与先知比比皆是。行义绝非罪恶——止住恶行也绝无错误。“这样,善行也有明显的;那不明显的也不能隐藏。”(提前5:25)看来,得救之人的行为很“明显”,因为皆是善行。观果知树,观察一个人的行为便可判断他是否称义。提摩太前书6章18节再次指出:“又要嘱咐他们行善,在好行为上富足。”(KJV直译)

拉动马车

下面这个简单的例证虽不能堪称完美,但我认为它有助于理解称义的道理。假设你有一辆马车,我们把车比作行为,马比作恩典——自天而来的馈赠。要想把车拖出泥坑,你有三个选择。要么用马拉;要么自己推;或者干脆把车留在坑里,等待永远的灭亡。

设想,你汗流浃背地推着马车,而马却被系在车尾,悠然自得,若无其事。这样做入情入理吗?为何否认恩典的存在,试图靠自己的力量出离坑洼呢?你一切的努力终究要付之东流,绝不可能靠一己之力把车推出泥坑。现在,假设你撇下马车说:“不要它了,我要骑马直奔应许之地。”在我看来,不论行程在哪里结束,你终将两手空空。

但有了马,尤其是将它安置在车前,情形自会大相径庭。马——称义——必须一马当先,走在前面。只有这样,马车——好行为——才会确保你在终点能有个交代。

“我们原是祂的工作,在基督耶稣里造成的,为要叫我们行善,就是上帝所预备叫我们行的。”(弗2:10)在罗马书描写人因信得赎的也是这个作者(保罗),教导义乃为恩赐的还是他。但这里,保罗却说人应当关心自己的行为,因它与人的结局息息相关。按照他的描述,我们一旦称义,便被更新再造了,一举一动都有新生的样式。“你自己凡事要显出善行的榜样,在教训上要正直端庄。”(多2:7)

基督徒不应向对待脏话一般看待“善行”二字。我很不解,为什么一提到好行为,人们就颇感不悦。除非你用行动证明自己是真基督徒,不然宇宙诸生灵和世人何从得知呢?

何为真行为?

若在基督里称义,一股新的力量会赐给你,使你度全新的生活。对此,雅各这样写道:“‘亚伯拉罕信上帝,这就算为他的义。’他又得称为上帝的朋友。”(雅2:23)人就是这样因行为称义的:“亚伯拉罕信”;这“信”就是他得称为义的“行为”。他坚信上帝,甚至不惜将百岁所得的儿子献上。关于信心与行为,约翰福音6章28,29节传递了极为重要的信息。“众人问祂说:‘我们当行什么,才算作上帝的工呢?’耶稣回答说:‘信上帝所差来的,这就是作上帝的工。’”看来,耶稣也赞成此种解释。

我们是因行为得救吗?是的。什么行为呢?信。请再次阅读29节:“这行为(工)就是……信。”(KJV直译)信需要付出努力吗?当然。有时你并不想信,需要祈求勇气和力量去相信主的话。

信靠上帝需要付出努力,因为人的本性已被扭曲,易于相信魔鬼的谎言。撒但歪曲证据,使人疑惑,并怀疑眼所不能见之物。所以,上帝知道信不会垂手而得,我们必须选择付出努力。不过,你若恳求上帝赐你信心,祂必定乐意帮助你。

以下这段话是一位杰出的宗教作家所写,她清晰阐述了信心与行为。:“基督用祂完全的顺从满足了律法的要求,我唯一的指望在于仰望祂作我的替身和中保,祂为我完全顺从了律法。我因信祂的功劳,就摆脱了律法的定罪。祂将祂的义披在我身上,祂的义满足了律法全部的要求。祂引进永义,我在祂里头得以完全。祂给我穿上无瑕无疵的衣服,带我到上帝面前,这衣服没有一丝一缕是由人手所织。一切都属基督,一切的荣耀、尊贵、威严都归给除去世人罪孽之上帝的羔羊。”(《信息选粹》卷一,第143页,怀特•艾伦 著)

有时,信是一种挑战。因为人往往放不下居功自傲的态度,说:“主啊,我会协助祢将我变成义人。”或说:“主啊,感谢祢,因我不像其他罪人。请看我的善行清单,这都是为祢做的。”丢弃我们污秽的衣服——所谓的义(“我们都像不洁净的人,所有的义都像污秽的衣服;”赛64:6),放下骄傲,承认自己的义都当归荣耀于上帝,做到这些或许很难。人称义是因恩典,除了信之外,其它一切行为都无济于事。圣经记载,人若虚己遵行这真理,上帝必使我们升高。切勿让自己愚蠢的高傲成为路障,乃当相信福音,让上帝高举你为祂良善而忠心的仆人。

福音是非常浅显的真理,我们为此感谢上帝。你我都可来到上帝面前祈祷:“主啊,开恩可怜我这个罪人。”也可以求告说:“主啊,祢得国降临的时候,求祢记念我!”或呼求:“主啊,请看耶稣的义袍,不要看我污秽的衣服;帮助我在生活中向他人彰显祢的恩惠;使用我这卑微的瓦器为祢成就善工。”我们可以说:“主啊,我相信若有祢的帮助,我必能顺从。”耶稣会肯定地答复每一诚恳的祈祷:“我实在告诉你,照你所求的成就了吧!”。

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英文:

Assurance: Justification Made Simple

By Joe Crews

Introduction

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” —Romans 3:28

An Amazing Fact: Abraham Lincoln didn’t live long enough to witness the official end of the Civil War, but he was able to give the famous Emancipation Proclamation—freeing every slave in America.

One day, a former slave living in Washington, D.C., who had escaped from the South during the war, approached Lincoln. He took some money from his pocket and offered it to the president. “What is this for?” asked Lincoln. The freed slave said that he only wanted to pay Lincoln for securing his freedom. But the president answered, “I can’t take your money.”

The ex-slave protested, explaining, “But I want to give you something. I am so thankful!”

Lincoln paused a moment, thinking, and then said, “Before you try to offer that again, I want to show you something.” The president then began walking around the neighborhood, until finally he pointed, saying to the grateful man, “You see that home over there? There’s a woman who lives there that lost her son, her only son, in this war fighting for your freedom.” And he continued, “See that house over there? That woman lost three sons fighting for your freedom.” Then he said, “You see that house over there? That’s an unusual house. In that house the woman lost her husband and two sons fighting on opposite sides.” Then the president turned to the man and said, “When you consider how much your freedom has already cost, are you going to give me money?”

The ex-slave said later of his encounter, “I realized that it would be an insult to offer money after they had paid so much.”

A Controversial Question

I want to look at a controversial subject in Christianity that we need to understand to have a right relationship with Christ—justification. It’s a word that confuses so many people, and brings up so much baggage, but

I think we can help stem that confusion by searching in the Bible and asking God what He has to say about this pivotal facet of faith.

So many Christians are worried about their salvation. Others who are on the edge of belief don’t know what justification really means, if they can truly have it, and they’re afraid of taking that first step toward Christ. If one of these describes you, I urge you to take a few moments and read through this short book. That confusion and fear is completely unnecessary, and I believe what you find out in this study will be a tremendous blessing for you, giving you confidence to face the future God has in store for you and providing a reason for you to believe.

What Is Justification?

Since our study centers on justification, it’s wise to have a good definition. To justify means “to demonstrate or to prove to be just, right or valid; to declare free of blame; absolve; to free of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin.” Therefore, justification is a legal declaration of innocence. If you’re justified, you’re declared just.

According to the Bible, every human (except Jesus) who has ever lived has sinned and is guilty for crimes punishable by death. Therefore, to be justified by Christ means that the Lord declares you to be forgiven, untainted by the crimes you have committed against Him.

Yet who has the right to be declared justified without the grace of God, especially when even just one sin disqualifies a person from eternal life? In the book Steps to Christ, we’re told that “if you give yourself to Him and accept Him as your Savior, then sinful as your life may have been for His sake you are accounted righteousness” (p. 65). The author then goes on to say how justification really works: “Christ’s character stands in place of your character and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.”

One evangelist put it this way: “Justification means God looks upon you just as if, ‘like just-as-if-ication.’ He looks upon you just as if you had never sinned.” Instead of seeing your filthy rags, God sees the righteousness of His Son in your place, and you are accounted righteousness.

Obtaining Justification

This sounds like a pretty good deal for fallen humanity, especially since most of it continues to live in open rebellion against God. But for those who are still interested, how are we to obtain that justification? If you ask each individual in the church, you’re likely to get several answers—from faith to works, and some will even say both. Well, it’s irrelevant how many people you ask. All that matters is what the Bible has to say about it, so that’s what we’re going to concentrate on.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). According to this verse, salvation is a gift. Romans 6:23 underscores this idea when it says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Justification is apparently not something for which we work.

Imagine that you go to the office on Friday and your boss hands you an envelope. He smiles brightly and says, “Here’s your gift!” That’s really exciting to you, so you walk out, get into your car (because you don’t want to look too eager), and open the envelope. You dig and dig through it, yet all you find in there is your regular paycheck that amounts to covering your regular hours. Most likely you’d resent your boss calling it a gift. Why? Because you earned it.

Well, salvation is a gift, and thus by definition you cannot earn it. Have you ever received a gift that you earned? If so, it wasn’t a gift, because anything ceases to be a gift if you’ve done something to earn it. If you can only take possession of something with a payment—whether it’s money, a trade, or service—even after the fact, it’s not really a gift.

Romans 5:17, 18 says, “For if by one man’s [Adam] offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (emphasis added). This free gift results in justification.

According to the Bible, are we justified by works or by a gift that comes in response to faith? The answer seems clear by what we have already read from Scripture, but let’s get more information from Jesus.

Jesus Explains Justification

Luke was a gentile who really understood the teachings of Jesus, especially when it concerned justification through faith as a gift. If you want to understand the science of justification, the parable found in Luke 18 is one of the best ways to learn it. I want to quote the entire text here, and then we’ll look at it more closely:

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9–14).

One of the problems in the time of Christ was that many of the religious leaders believed they were made righteous by their good deeds. They trusted in their own righteousness while they looked down on others as worthless sinners.

The two men in Jesus’ parable offer greatly contrasting figures. The Pharisee was a part of a sect of Judaism known for its rigid stance of obeying the law, while tax collectors (publicans) were associated with a very loose and scandalous lifestyle. Pharisees might have been considered the obvious choice for eternal life by most people of Jesus’ day, but Jesus had different ideas. Notice that the Pharisee is said to pray “thus with himself.” In other words, he’s praying to himself and not so much to God. He goes on to thank God that he’s not like the worst sinners of the world, and more than that, he reminds God that he tithes and fasts regularly. It’s probably an honest resume, and technically it’s a good one. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the … Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). But instead of thanking God for His goodness in humility, he’s thanking God for his resume as a point of pride.

The tax collector, however, doesn’t even feel worthy to approach the front of the temple; instead, he stands back and cowers before the altar. His feelings of guilt and shame cause him to bow his head and beat on his breast, a sign of repentance—a genuine display of his sorrow for sin. He pleads to God to be merciful on him, a lowly sinner. Where the Pharisee has so much to offer God, the publican has nothing good to offer. Thus, also unlike the Pharisee, he’s appealing solely to God’s mercy.

Here’s the point: According to Christ, the one who went home justified that day was the reviled tax collector, which means the respected Pharisee did not, even though he was paying his tithe, fasting twice a week, and most likely living an exemplary religious life of obedience.

It’s Not Complicated

Luke’s parable is extremely important, and it is big. How did the tax collector obtain justification? By his own admission, we know he didn’t earn it. He also didn’t say, “Lord, I’m a sinner, but look at all the good things I’ve done.” No, he simply asked for mercy. Nor did he make any demands like, “Lord, I’m a sinner, now give me mercy.” It took faith for him to ask for God’s mercy, because he has no tangible evidence that he’ll have it. Grace must be asked for and received in faith.

At the end of this parable, Christ promised that “for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The tax collector smites his breast, repents, even humbly bows his eyes because he’s too ashamed to look up to heaven. So according to Jesus, if we come to God humbling ourselves, truly repenting of our sinful deeds—confessing our sinfulness—and pleading for His mercy, we will go home from the house of God justified.

That’s good news. That means if you, whoever you are and with whatever sins you carry today, do what this publican did, you can rest assured that before God, Christ’s character is accounted to you. You are forgiven; you have been given the gift.

Is that complicated?

The Power(lessness) of Money

Acts 8:18–20 tells a very interesting story that has a lot of insight regarding justification:

“Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”

Peter is addressing a man named Simon, who appears to be some kind of sorcerer for hire. He witnessed Peter and Philip laying hands on the people of Samaria. As the power of the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and miracles occurred, Simon thought, Wow! Just think how my business would profit if I had that power! So Simon offered them money, hoping that they could sell the power of the Holy Spirit to him.

Peter’s response was quick and to the point, even harsh. His response basically boils down to saying, “To hades with your request!” For Peter, it was outrageous to think that the gifts of God could be purchased for money.

Yet many people believe and insist that salvation can be earned the same way—by purchase. This theology is not any different than what Simon tried to do, even though the Bible has such a severe response to those claiming they can pay for what God gives!

Why does the Lord react so strongly to the notion that His gifts can be purchased? “Thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Luke 18:21, 22).

Go back to the beginning of this book and read the amazing fact about the former slave. He wanted to give money to Lincoln as payment for his freedom. But for Lincoln the price was already paid in blood, and to take money for it would be an insult.

What has been paid for our freedom from Satan’s bondage? The blood of Christ. Do you think offering money to God, who gave the life of His only Son, makes much sense at all? Might it be insulting to God to be paid for the gift He has offered freely to you?

The saying goes that “freedom isn’t free.” Christ paid your debt because you couldn’t pay it. How silly then would it be to give God money, or works, to obtain your salvation in light of the work Christ already did on your behalf? Ephesians 2:8 confirms, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

Another Good Example

I now want to go to the story found in Luke 23. The story of the two thieves who died on crosses next to Jesus gives us a stirring picture of the extremities to which justification can reach.

“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (vs. 39–43).

In another gospel, we also learn that these thieves, one hanging on Jesus’ right side, the other on His left side, were guilty of the same sins. They’re both guilty of sedition against their government, perhaps even of murder, and to support their activities they stole.

The interesting thing is that even though they have identical records as sinners, one is saved and one is lost by the end of the story. They also find themselves in the same helpless position, unable to do anything to save themselves from their suffering and death. Neither one has anything to offer to secure their liberation from the cross on which they hang.

We also read in Matthew 27:39–44 that both mock Christ at one point. However, as the hours go by, apparently one of them begins to notice Christ’s behavior and begins to rethink his attitude. Indeed, they both are witnesses to Christ’s suffering, yet only one of them has a change of heart. We don’t really know how the Holy Spirit illuminated his mind. I suspect he heard someone talking about Jesus’ miracles, or perhaps he heard someone reading from Isaiah 53 or a messianic Psalm about the sufferings of the Messiah. He then could have seen the soldiers gambling for His clothes at the foot of the cross, and heard Christ cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Then the other thief, unchanged by the condition he’s in, decides to raise his voice against Jesus again. “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” This thief’s lack of faith is readily apparent in his choice of words: “If.” You need faith to be saved. But the other thief steps in to rebuke him. “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” In other words, “Even now, don’t you fear God? Don’t give Jesus a hard time, because we’re dying for the same things. But the difference is, we deserve what we’re getting.”

Do you know what this is called? Repentance. He’s confessing his guilt. He’s admitting that he’s getting the just reward for his deeds. Heaven forbid we should get the just rewards for our deeds against God and our fellow man. It makes me shudder to even think about it. I don’t want my reward; I want Jesus’ reward!

The thief then offers a short prayer to Jesus. “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” It’s like the publican in the temple who said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” It’s the same outcry as Peter’s, who cried out, “Lord, save me.” It’s short because that’s all the time he has left in the world. Yet it is powerfully effective.

Amazingly, in the midst of all His agony, the betrayal of Judas, the crushing weight of the sins of the world on His soul, the abandonment of His disciples, the separation from the Father, and all the physical pain He was experiencing, Jesus didn’t say, “Look, don’t bother me now. Can’t you see I’m having a hard time?”

No. He says to the thief, “Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (NKJV). How does God offer us salvation? Does He say, “Maybe. There’s a possibility”? Not at all. Right then and there, Christ gave the man His assurance of salvation. We can know that this thief is going to be in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the saints. He was justified by faith.

We don’t hear from the thief again, so we can only assume that he had to hang his faith that he was forgiven solely on the words of Christ. But that must have brought great comfort to him as he faded into the darkness of death.

You can have that same comfort right now. Jesus says, “Assuredly.”

What a Free Gift Might Buy

Proverbs 18:16 teaches, “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” Have you ever noticed how a gift can change an attitude? It’s pretty hard to be unkind to someone who has just given you a gift.

Lobbyists who want to get the attention of politicians are constantly sending them gifts, and if those gifts are received it means the lawmaker needs to give these special interests his or her time. After all, if someone gives you an all-expense-paid vacation and you won’t even take their phone call … well, that would be really rude!

This principle, though much purer than politics, holds true when God gives us the incredible gift of justification. This is the point where the controversy between works and faith comes in. It shouldn’t be confusing or controversial though. It’s really quite simple: We are justified by faith. It is a free gift, and you can put that on the books. Case closed.

What about James?

But aren’t works connected with justification? Absolutely. But the operative word is “connected.” Justification does not depend on works. No. Never. This is very, very important to understand, so I want to give you an illustration that makes it clearer.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21). Wait a second. Is James contradicting Paul’s message in Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Is the Bible contradicting itself?

In our study of justification, we’ve made a strong case that we’re saved by grace through faith. How then can we deal with James? If you’re confused right now, that’s okay. The apostles and early church leaders were also confused. But we have a clear answer from the Bible. We know that the Holy Spirit inspired both writers, and that both of these passages are Holy Scripture. Is the Bible still trustworthy? Yes, it is.

We need to go one more verse in James to understand this perplexing passage: “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (NKJV). Faith, then, works together with works. How? When we read the word “perfect” in this sentence, it means complete. When used in the sentence, it means Abraham’s works by faith were made manifest, that is, they gave evidence to his faith. In other words, his works proved he was justified!

The problem stems from the fact that Paul and James are talking to two different groups of believers. It happens all the time: Some Christians need a different message than others to draw them close to God’s will. Let me explain: When I am in a room full of legalists, I talk about grace. When I am in a room full of people who believe in righteousness by presumption, I talk about surrender and obedience. It’s not a contradiction, but complementary teachings that form complete picture of justification.

In the Bible, Paul was dealing with Jewish believers who were trying to force gentile converts to keep all of the law of Moses in order to be justified. Paul responded to this by saying that people can’t earn salvation; rather, it comes as a free gift of God. However, James is dealing with new converts who have come into the church believing that since they’re justified by faith, obedience doesn’t really matter.

Let’s go back to the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector once more. When the tax collector repented and asked God for mercy, Jesus said he went home justified. Here are some good questions to ask ourselves: Did the publican know he was justified when he went home? Likewise, should a person know when they’re justified?

To answer these questions, I want to ask you another set of questions: If we’re saved by faith, should we know it? Should the publican have asked for mercy not expecting to receive it? We should readily acknowledge that the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts to give us the peace that God has heard our prayers. I have prayed about certain problems, agonizing over them, but then later felt a sudden peace flood my soul. It’s that feeling that your prayer got through to God, and it’s all in His very capable hands.

I believe the tax collector went home knowing he was justified in the eyes of His God.

Here’s the Rub

God says, “You’re forgiven” to the tax collector. Is he therefore a different man? In one way, he certainly is. He came as a sinner to stand humbly before God, and now he goes home covered with Christ’s righteousness. But the bigger question is, will he behave differently now that he knows he’s been justified?

I strongly believe that if you’re truly saved you will show a definite change in behavior. The fruit of the Spirit will be made manifest in you.

So just imagine that for whatever reason, Pilate told his soldiers, “I want to let one of those thieves go.” So his soldiers choose the one who Christ guaranteed access to heaven on resurrection day, and they remove the nails and bind his hands and feet so that he will heal. He’s scarred for life, of course, but he lives.

Do you think he would have been different? Would he have returned to the sins that put him in bondage before the moment Christ freely gave him forgiveness? If he did willingly return to the sins of his past, do you think he was a true believer on the cross? I’m only asking because, to me, real justification can be witnessed by the attitude and behavior of the one who has been saved.

Don’t fall for the lie that Christians are never to talk about good works because that makes them legalists. The Bible is filled with apostles and prophets talking about how important good works are in this world. It’s not a sin to do good—it’s not wrong to stop sinning. “Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid” (1 Timothy 5:25). This passage shows us that the works of the saved are evident because they are good. You’ll know a saved person by their fruit! First Timothy 6:18 reiterates, “That they do good, that they be rich in good works.”

Moving the Wagon

It’s a primitive and imperfect illustration, but I think it will help make some sense of all this. You’ve got a wagon called works, and you have a horse that’s called grace—a free gift from God. You want to move the wagon out of a ditch, and you have several options. You’ve got the horse, you can push, or you can just leave the wagon in the ditch, which symbolizes eternal damnation.

Picture yourself pushing the wagon while the horse is tied to the back of the wagon. Does that make any sense? Why deny the free gift exists and try to get out of the ditch with your own effort? After all, it’s not possible to push the wagon out of the ditch by your own effort. Now imagine that you just cut the wagon loose and say, “I’m just going to ride off to the Promised Land without the wagon.” It seems to me that wherever you end up, you’re going to have nothing.

Having that horse sure makes a big difference, especially when you put it in front of the wagon. The horse, justification, has to come first. When you do that, the wagon, good works, ensures that you have something to show for the end of your journey.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The person who wrote this passage in the Bible is the same person who wrote that we are saved by faith in Romans. It’s the same person who said righteousness is received as a gift.

But here in Ephesians, Paul says that we should care about our works, that they make a difference in the end. He says that if we are justified, we have been remade to do good works. “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, [and] sincerity” (Titus 2:7).

Christians shouldn’t treat the phrase “good works” like they are dirty words. It’s a wonder to me why people get upset when we talk about the fruit of good works. How will the hosts of the universe and the people on earth know that you really are for Christ unless you have something to show for it?

 

The Real Work of Every Believer

When you’re saved in Christ, a new power is given you to live a new life. This is what James is talking about when he says, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23). That’s how a man is justified by works: Abraham believed; that was his “works.” He believed enough to offer up his son.

Jesus supports this interpretation. John 6:28, 29 is an extremely important passage about works and faith. “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

Are we saved by works? Yes! What are those works? Belief! Read that passage again. “This is the work … that ye believe.” Does it take effort to believe? Yes. Sometimes you don’t feel like believing, and you need to pray that God will give you the courage and strength to believe in His Word.

There is an effort involved in trusting God, because our whole nature has been driven to believe in the lies of the devil. He makes us doubt by twisting the evidence, and we doubt those things we cannot see. So God knows it takes effort to believe, that we must choose it. But if you pray, He will gladly help you believe.

Here’s a passage by a brilliant writer who makes great sense of works and faith.

“By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety Who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him Who brings an everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garments of which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ and all the glory, honor and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (1 Selected Messages, 396).

Believing is sometimes a challenge because it’s so hard not to give ourselves credit and say, “Lord, I’ll help you make me a good person.” Or “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other sinners, and here is my list of good things I’ve done for you.” It can be hard to lay aside all of our filthy rags disguised as righteousness, to let go of our pride, and to confess that He gets all the glory for our righteousness. We are justified as a gift, through no action of our own except believing in that gift. The Bible says that if we will humble ourselves to this truth, God will lift us up. Don’t let your lowly pride get in the way; rather, let God exalt you as His good and faithful servant by believing in His gospel.

And the good news is a very simple truth. Thank God for that. We can come before God and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” We can pray, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” We can ask, “Lord, please see Jesus’ righteous raiment and not my filthy rags.” Yet we can also say, “Lord, help me show others your grace in my life.” We can pray, “Lord, use me as your instrument of good works.” We can say, “I believe, and so I will obey if you help me, Lord.”

And to each prayerful request, Jesus will answer, “Assuredly.”