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Needled about Faith

19 November 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

A few unfortunates in our world have allergies so severe they must carry with them an epinephrine injection. If they should ever come into contact with a honeybee or a peanut or, heaven forbid, a latex glove, they can open up their single-dose pre-filled automatic injection device and jam it into a thigh, thus preventing sudden and horrible death.

On such an occasion, the not-so-unfortunate might say, “My epinephrine saved me,” or, if he has a certain sense of humor, he might instead say, “My single-dose pre-filled automatic injection device saved me.” Both statements would be true, though not in the same way.

The difference is important. A needle won’t stop an allergic reaction, no matter how advanced and state-of-the-art a needle it might be. It is only the instrument by which one receives and applies epinephrine. Put more bluntly, if you have a severe enough reaction, you can jam empty needles in your thigh all day without doing any good. Epinephrine arrests deadly reactions; needles do not.

Nevertheless, the needle matters. I’m sure those who need them are glad for the availability of single-dose pre-filled automatic injection devices. Without them, lives would be lost.

Likewise, don’t despise faith; without it none will be justified in the sight of God. But don’t think that your faith makes you just. It is only the instrument by which you may receive and apply the justifying righteousness of Christ.

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