Question 29: How can we be saved?
Answer: Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.
Conversion to Christ through faith and repentance results in our justification before God, which includes the forgiveness of our sins and the imputation, or counting, of Christ’s righteousness to us. Our standing before God in Christ is one in which we are perfectly righteous, not because of anything we have done, but because Christ’s covenant obedience counts for us as those who are “in Christ.”
The doctrine of imputation (or “counting” to us of Christ’s righteousness) is one of the most precious truths of the gospel, for it alone explains how God, who is always true to himself and uncompromising in his standard of holiness, can nevertheless hold us in his favor and reward us with eternal life in spite of our unworthiness. God demands absolute perfection, and in Christ, that is exactly what we have by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Romans 4:1-8. What does this passage teach us about justification? What does it teach us about faith and works? How should we respond to Paul’s teaching here?