How the cross enables ‘liberal’ church


Following on from yesterday’s post on Council Estate Christianity, I preached through Romans at the end of last year and have seen the need for justification by faith alone to be re-established in my life and church life as the sole basis for acceptance before God and so of each other (Romans 15:7). This means that the church in tough areas might be seen, at times, by other conservative churches, as liberal.

I do not want to be misheard. I am not advocating the teaching of liberalism, which undermines God’s holiness by a denial of the law. I am arguing for a high view of justification by faith.

Justification by faith alone means that when a sinner looks at the cross and sees the Son of God dying in his place for his sins so that in his heart he repents of those sins and find he has faith in Christ as Saviour, he is made right with God, accepted and adopted as a son. This is the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without works (Romans 4:5) and the sole basis for Christians to accept each other across great divides (Jew-Gentile, Romans 15:7).

There are a number of implications of this, including:

  1. religious traditions and practices lose their power to unite or divide (Romans 14).
  2. the rich and poor mix are able to share hospitality without being patronising or pretentious (James 2).
  3. cultural differences including race and youth culture, where it is not immoral, are overlooked (Romans 10:12)
  4. believers are concerned to know what others think of Christ and do not divide over other matters of doctrine but seek to grow together in knowledge of God (Ephesians 4)
  5. there is no need for moral compliance for the sake of acceptance, everyone is accepted on the basis of faith in Christ alone (Romans 15:7) and so ability to change is not a measure of faith. New believers need not be rushed to comply to the law, but rather they have time and space to grow into Christ likeness whilst mature believers bear with the weakness of the young (Romans 14). This is where the church might appear liberal, though holding to an orthodox justification by faith and upholding the law.  A church with a high view of justification by faith will be messy, even apparently liberal, while new believers work through what it means to live as slaves to righteousness (Romans 6), under the teaching of the word at church and at home, at their own pace.
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