Justification by faith, then, is justification by depending upon the word of God only and expecting that word only to accomplish it.
Justification by faith is righteousness by faith, for justification is the being declared righteous.
Faith comes by the word of God. Justification by faith, then, is justification that comes by the word of God. Righteousness by faith is righteousness that comes by the word of God.
The word of God is self-fulfilling, for in creating all things, “he spake and it was.” (Psalm 33:9) And when He was on earth, He stilled the raging sea, cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, raised the dead, and forgave sins, all by His word: there, too, “he spake, and it was.”
Now the same One who, in creating, “spake, and it was,” the same One who said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” (Genesis 1:3) the same One who on earth spoke “the word only,” (Matthew 8:8) and the sick were healed, the lepers were cleansed, and the dead lived—this same One speaks the righteousness of God unto and upon all that believe.
For though all have sinned and come short of the righteousness of God, yet we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth… to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:24, 25)
In creating all things in the beginning, God set forth Christ to declare the word which should cause all things to exist. Christ did speak the word only, and all things were. And in redemption, which is creation over again, God set forth Christ to declare the word of righteousness. And when Christ speaks the word only, it is so. His word, whether in creating or in redeeming, is the same.
“The worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”(Hebrews 11:3) Once there were no worlds, nor was there any of the material which now composes the worlds. God set forth Christ to declare the word which should produce the worlds, and the very material of which they should be composed.
“He spake, and it was.” Before He spoke, there were no worlds; after He spoke, the worlds were there. Thus the word of God spoken by Jesus Christ is able to cause that to exist which has no existence before the word is spoken, and which, except for that word, never could have existence.
In this same way precisely it is in man’s life. In man’s life there is no righteousness. In man there is no righteousness from which righteousness can appear in his life. But God has set forth Christ to declare righteousness unto and upon man. Christ has spoken the word only, and in the darkened void of man’s life there is righteousness to everyone who will receive it. Where, before the word is received, there was neither righteousness nor anything which could possibly produce righteousness, after the word is received, there is perfect righteousness and the very Fountain from which it springs. The word of God received by faith—that is, the word of God expected to do what that word says and depended upon to do what it says—produces righteousness in the man and in the life where there never was any before; precisely as, in the original creation, the word of God produced worlds where there never were any worlds before. He has spoken, and it is so to everyone that believeth: that is, to every one that receiveth. The word itself produces it.
“Therefore being justified (made righteous) by faith (by expecting and depending upon the word of God only) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) That is so, bless the Lord! And feeding upon this blessed thing is cultivating faith.
(This article was first printed in the January 17, 1899 issue of The Review and Herald. It is also found on pages 23-25 of the book Lessons on Faith by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. I added some verse references that were left out in the original. Editor)