Victor Borchard

Justification is
By grace alone
Through faith alone
In Christ alone.

One day, I was doing pre-marital counseling with an elderly couple. I got the impression that she was saved, but he wasn’t. I had some pastoral concern that he was marrying her for her money. He claimed to be a Christian, but I wasn’t sure he knew what that meant. Maybe you’ve had that experience, too. Someone professes faith in Christ, but you don’t want to give them a false assurance of salvation. Pastorally, I wanted to discern a little more clearly if these two were going to be unequally yoked. Remembering something I learned from Larry Moyer, I pulled out a napkin and drew three circles on it. Inside of the first circle, I wrote, “W.” Inside of the second circle, I wrote, “C+W.” Inside of the third circle, I wrote, “C.” Like this:

The “W” stands for works. Many people are trusting in their good works to save them. The “C+W” stands for Christ plus works. Christ did his part, but we have to do ours. A third group of people are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation. Then, I asked them a question. Which circle are you trusting in? She pointed to the “C,” but he pointed to the middle circle. She was trusting Christ alone, but he was trusting Christ plus his works. It’s a huge difference. Finally, I drew a line beneath each circle. I wrote a word on each line like this:

W: If we could be made right with God through our own good works, then the death of Christ was unnecessary. As it is written in Galatians 2:21, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” C+W: If we could be made right with God by trusting Christ and our good works, then the death of Christ was disappointing. He started the job, but didn’t finish it. He’s a savior who needs my help. C: But if trusting Christ alone makes us right with God, then the death of Christ is satisfying. Jesus paid it all. Upon a life I did not live and upon a death I did not die, rests my eternal hope. As it turns out, that couple didn’t get married after all. She was able to see that he wanted her money more than he wanted her. She also saw that she shouldn’t marry an unbeliever.

“In Christ alone, my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.”
– Keith Getty / Stuart Townsend

“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified… I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
Galatians 2:15-16 & 20-21

Which of those circles would you point to as the object of your faith (aka what you’re trusting in to get you to heaven)? Why? Was there ever a time in your life when you would have pointed to a different one? If so, why the change?