Sermon - Sola Fide
Practical Justification by Faith Alone #101
|A sermon on justification by RandyP|
Preliminary Prep Audio:
- Justification (being right with God)
- Justification in the complete works of Jesus Christ (taking sin/forgiving sin/eternal promise + justification/giving righteousness (declaration + direct influence + Holy Spirit))
- Justification by faith in the completed works of Jesus Christ (faith as means of receiving)
- Sola Fide as it came to be known
- Practical Justification by Faith Alone #101
- Brief examination (other more thorough resources available)
- What it is?
- Why it is vitally important to believers of all generations?
- How it could be useful to each of us today? (Use to ourselves/others)
Practical personally - common thread of transformation
Practical corporately - reforms held responsible for framework/reproducible/foundational/transformitive
"Justification (being made right) with God by faith in the completed work of Christ alone".
Please turn with me: kjv@Galatians:2:11-21
- Let me quickly try to explain first why there is a need for Justification at all:
- God is extremely Holy (think like the Apostle John "He is light and in Him is no darkness at all")
- Man is dark and in him is the desire either to stand toe to toe with him rebelliously or to hide ourselves completely from HIS great probing light; and if to be reconciled to God then by our terms and certainly not HIS.
- God cannot bring man into HIS Holy presence until the man is somehow made "right" (light)
- The man cannot make himself "right" (not even if he so wanted) There is always a sinful remnant in us that imposes it's own sinful demands and conditions; whether by it's own corrupted interpretations of the Law or by it's own corrupted notion of works and it's desire to earn this "rightness" by it's own self worth or by it's own corrupted notion of divine fairness.
- The love and grace of God (inherent in HIS Holiness) seeks to do for man what man is both unwilling and incapable of doing for himself, yet at the same time the righteous and just demands (inherent in HIS Holiness) must eternally be satisfactorily met. How then does God alone go about doing all that? Christ alone By all that is left man in his present condition - faith alone
- For us to become "right" with God (on God's terms) required a two fold action on HIS part:
- Take away the sin - placing it over Christ. (popular to leave it at that)
- Take the righteousness of Christ - place it over man. (extremely unpopular because man wants to avoid it altogether)
- Note: How closely related "righteousness" is to "being right" (justification)
- Note: both actions occurred (past tense) while we were yet ungodly
- Note: neither action received is received by works or the law (now dead/crucified), but by faith (all that is left us at that point)
- Note: it effects not only how God sees us (judicial determination), but also how we see God + ourselves (in relationship - reverence leading to knowledge/wisdom/instruction)
- Note: it is the new stunning recognition/acknowledgement (Epignosis) of God and HIS work through Christ (who He really is/What He has really done/how we fit within that) that becomes for us the real transformation/renewing of our mind (the determining factor therefore for then any resulting works)(works created/ordained for).
- All living praise and revence should be given our merciful God:
- that righteousness is not just a magisterial declaration forensically issued now at the throne of Heaven, it is a direct influence upon us guiding what is said and done, how an issue is seen and resolved. Remember that the fear/reverence of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge/Wisdom/Instruction, and that our reverence is based upon His complete all sufficient work in Christ
- and that particular righteousness of His is all important to standing today where we are and someday soon when we stand before His throne with His pardon by unconditional covenant already in hand.
Let's go ahead now and read today's text: kjv@Galatians:2:11-21
- Points to highlight:
- Living/Practical matter:
- Problem = not being straightforward with the truth of the gospel/hypocrisy (then/now)
- Symptoms = withdrawn/separated/cowering to others judgment (then/now)
- Prescription = bringing to remembrance doctrine of justification by faith (note what not prescribed)
- These men seeking to be justified in Christ (especially Peter/Barnabas)
- These men are of the belief that they are in the right
- building back up those things that justification in Christ has destroyed
- is Christ therefore a minister of sin?
- by this could it be said Christ died in vain?
At the heart of the doctrine of justification by faith is a very controversial notion many intelligent thinkers have fought over for centuries. It is that difficulty that you and I have to come to a thorough understanding about right from the start:
nkjv@Galatians:2:19-21 @ For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God....
You see the idea of Christians being dead to the law is offensive to most people. In a rebuke over similar legal matters nkjv@Galatians:5:11 Paul calls it the "offense of the cross". The dispute isn't so much over the position of unbelieving sinners in regards to the law (guilty/bound to), it is more about the position of the law in the lives of believers towards justification. The offense that can be taken is considerable, but it is not only the offense that we are being asked to consider, it is the resulting actions that might be taken by Christians (even by leadership) of placating the offended thereby compromising the very gospel of Christ (not being "straightforward" with the gospel of truth).
On the first point (law) let me state that this passage isn't the only passage where Paul addressed this concept however.
nkjv@Romans:7:4-6 @ Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another - to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.(for instance and other passages)
Remember now that the Apostles we're all in agreement with Paul's presentation of this gospel nkjv@Acts:15:1-35 adding only the care of the elderly and widows to it. That Peter acknowledged Paul's many writings only adding that they were tougher to understand for those who wrest "untaught/unstable" with scriptures as a whole kjv@2Peter:3:15-16. And that James was in agreement with this "the perfect law of liberty" kjv@James:1:25 going as far as saying that we should "speak and do as if judged by the law of liberty" kjv@James:2:12 .
On the second point (placating) we see it in Paul's anticipation of the Jews next question "is Christ therefore a minister of sin?". That is the argument against justification by faith in a nutshell - that believers in salvation by Christ still sin and that if you remove the just demands of the law you are essentially giving them license to sin all the more. "Is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!".
Here's the funny thing however, Paul can just as well ask that of their gospel as they could of his. Could it not be said that their insistence upon the law continuing in the life of the believer is actually giving license not to rest in the all sufficient completed work of Christ upon the cross and His grace?
In our passage today we have a case study of the thin doctrinal line that can easily be transgressed by any one of us. The gentile believers in Antioch are not sinning by seeking fellowship and dinner with their guest Jewish converts from Jerusalem. It is rather the Jewish converts that are making a scene in front of their gentile hosts by withdrawing from them over the issue of a simple meal (the breaking of bread in fellowship). In the attempt to keep themselves "right" with God (as they interpret it by the law) they are sending a message and setting an example of superiority to and intolerance of the remaining body of believers. You'll recall all the times Jesus called to our attention all the various efforts of the religious elite to obey the letter law that in fact broke the intent of the very same law in every way!
Worse yet, Peter and Barnabas not only are allowing these converts to do just that, they are siding with them at least by appearances adding to them (perhaps unintentionally) their support by confederacy. Certainly everyone in this case study is doing what they see as right in order to remain "right" with God, but just as certainly the "rightness" that each one seeks is not even close to occurring. The question then that really must be asked is how one is truly made "right" with God (on God's terms, by God's declaration) without as a consequence themselves sinning by the very act?
Then there is the issue each of these men needs to ask himself: "Am I somehow setting aside the grace of God"?
What is being addressed by Paul in this passage is a very common problem among us all: seeking to be justified by Christ, but lacking the discernment of what that justification means; lacking the fortitude to stand for it once we have finally discerned what it actually is.
- October for me marks 38th Anniversary of my rebirth October 1979
- Level of Christian maturity functionally? 7yr old+-? (stunted - I hope to explain how/why)
- Set backs to my growth (I hope to have figured out so as to help younger..)
- Perhaps more than any other single identifiable cause - I have come to believe (much like Martin Luther himself came to realize after much personal anguish and searching) that years of set back are not because of a lack of faith in Christ for salvation, but a lack of understanding the complete work of Christ towards my justification (being made right) with God now having been saved.
- Looking back I believe, had I better understood today's topic:
- I would have either avoided the set back else seen my way out of it much sooner
- If today's version of me could meet up with that younger version of me - what advice would I give myself concerning this topic?
- How would the younger me likely best receive my more "seasoned" more "stately" advice?
Here's part of the problem as I now see it - the younger me always shied away from the very idea of "doctrine" (so I would have thought - it's more like in striving to keep emphasis on relationship, I was instead driven to/fro by every wind of faulty doctrine). Therefore I was quite oblivious to the straightforward truth of justification in Christ as a result I to became withdrawn/separated/compromising to the judgments of my own/others.
- Brief History (EDITOR: SKIP BRIEF IF TIME IS LONG):
- Convicted by the Holy Spirit October 1979
- Spirit connected me instantly to a wonderful Christian influence (Scott and Gnara)
- Met Melody, had kids, had perhaps the most productive time of Christian outreach of our lives
- Then came the teaching (doctrines) of Kenneth Copeland and Haggen etc.. / a strange personal fanaticism / the break up of the little Baptist church we had been so deeply involved in
- Years of self blame followed by years of avoiding both church and doctrine all together
- I was coming close through spiritual atrophy to giving up my faith when both my son and daughter came under their own personal convictions of our "like precious" faith (Praise God!).
- I suddenly realized how quickly the years of stunted growth had become decades: SET BACKS
- Instead of coming immediately back into the church, I came instead into a "Lone Ranger" phase of my walk mostly through private outreach to homeless veterans and addicts and a needing Christian lady with cancer.
- The tests and challenges and frequent set backs of dealing with these men and their problems lead me into the realization of the need for substantive yet practical doctrine and that realization eventually led me back to the corporate body of the church. (Amazing how the Holy Spirit works isn't it?)
That younger undisciplined version of me got me into a whole lot of trouble and heart break.
- The first thing I would tell younger myself today is:
- There is no way of making up for the time you spend drowning in your spiritual set backs.
- You don't intend for these things to happen, but they do.
- I know that there is a very natural aversion to doctrine as a whole, but this one doctrine of justification by faith (by faith alone) in particular is going to become the one thing most beneficial to you in and as a result of these times of setback.
- As much as you want to try avoiding doctrine, as much as you think that you are able through certain types of preachers and churches and "non-denominations", you in fact are dealing with nothing but doctrinal matters.
- There is no separating yourself from doctrine - it might as well be sound doctrine that you are following after.
- This doctrine of justification by faith is an absolute essential to the daily faith and as much as we think that we understand it and intellectually consent to it, until we are able to live it forward in our every action as Christ would mean for us to live it, it is nothing but a quaint notion till then.
I am not sure how he would have received that advice - he probably would have argued and called me an nosy old man!
How would I talk to him about that? Sola Fide... The doctrine of justification by faith and by faith alone? (I'd say listen here you young whipper-snapper)(Mr. Know it all smarty pants!)
Let's try to apply it to the spiritual "set backs" and stunted growth that I have experienced the majority of these blessed 38 years of my rebirth.
- That first initial taste of sweet agape fellowship (Scott and Gnara), the newness, the passion, the hunger, the exploration and love and vibrant intensity etc.. You have all that going and you don't want anything getting in the way of that, like a honeymoon romance you expect for things to always be just that way.
- good/natural order/single minded interest
- Newness + Naiveté
- old remnant/building back
- aversion to meat/emphasis on relationship
- modern gospel lacks/poor understanding/avoiding need
- everyone seeking to do right (all this rightness amounting to a whole lot of wrong) (Think of how many times Peter in his earlier days offered Jesus advice on what a Christ rather should be doing)
- resorting to works/law/cheap grace/offense/separation/factions
- The doctrine of justification in Christ by faith alone suggests to me this: as much as we think that
- Despite Pastor's straightforward preaching there is little straightforward aplication
- It also tells us that just like works of the law can be problematic, so too can be the good works (even the church and religious works) we attempt for ourselves to do.
- not having come to the understanding foundational to culturing it
- searched for bigger and better experiences I suppose and not being well grounded I easily feel pray to the hospitality of strange strange doctrines such as the prosperity and holiness theology
- Neither my head nor my heart was in a place to be of any real support to my Pastor
- strange fanaticism for these strange doctrines
- Properity/Word Faith and the charismatic holiness teachings have little if anything to do with the true justification doctrine (crucified to self so that Christ lives in me). They are more about God making things right with them on their terms rather than them being right with God on His. Very little is said about the continuing issue of sin (other than confession), the continuing issue of poor eyesight, the withdrawal and separation they feel towards non-charismatic believers. Most importantly, they consider faith as being generated from within by self determination and persuasive enough upon God to determine what He is willing to do for them (their determination becomes God's).
- It is not only the strange doctrine itself that is concerning it is the strange fanaticism/insistence that develops all around it despite the many scriptural and temporal proofs against it.
- There are people/lives/broken hearts/railings/accusations/false perceptions. There are things one might do as a result that might well alter the course of their Christian walks for the rest of their Christian lives.
- Was I the one prepared to be this rock in such times of turmoil? Did I possess the proper discernment of being right with God to readily be of any assistance to any of these people? No, I was the one probably damaged the most (perhaps also my Pastor who left ministry for years as a result).
- dumping all this guilt and disillusion upon yourself
- 1 step forward 2 steps back thing for me from 1986? to what 2008? Eventually you find yourself in a deep deep spiritual hole.
- attempt filling void/massive debt/work day and night and odd hours to pull back out of/near breakup
- The question at this point is why did the Lord allow me to suffer all of this? Why the initial agape experience if only to allow me to beat myself over the head with it several years latter? The only conclusion that can logically be made is to correct my faulty understanding of justification "being made right with God" (clearly by this stage I was not being right with Him). It was not for a lack of understanding salvation per se; nor a lack in my understanding about forgiveness of my sins (I still depended on Him for that). My story could have ended at that, but by His mercy and grace it did not.
- atrophied - not being of any help
- repeatedly asked to respective churches
- Chris doctrinal debates reviving interest/Dan radio reviving teaching
Half the Issue
But surely you see from our passage today, discerning the proper means of justification and it's wonderful practical implications is only half of Paul's stated concern. It is equally a concern that any one thus having this better discernment (being brought by the testimonies of their own lives into this discernment) would cower to the more aggressive antagonistic lacking such discernment for fear of offending them more than they are already offended.
Of course there is that natural tendency in most of us not to want to offend anybody and not wanting anybody in the group to be offended at anyone else. Too often though our compassion sides with the first to be offended. There is that, but there is also the frequent lack of preparation to give a proper account of the faith (understanding what it is, but not how to defend it). On our part that equates to plain old sloth and sleepiness.
The problem becomes twice as difficult going up against a believer that doesn't hold scripture to the same value as you, that puts church tradition or private interpretation or cultish sentimentalism over and above what scripture states. Let me add an additional complexity to the matter that I have observed, where the leader amply stands firm defending the doctrine for the sake of the congregation, but is cut off at the knees by the compromising/placating spirit of the rest of congregation. I get the sense of just how difficult the coming about of a reformation really is.
What might well be the most sobering thought of all (especially if you are of the belief that one is justified by faith and works): We can easily agree that in the 1500's there were a lot of things going on in the Roman Catholic Church that would be cause for grave concern especially regarding it's teaching on true justification. Right? But, were the Reformers justified in breaking apart from that Church body? In other words was what the Reformers ended up reluctantly doing considered by God a "good work", a work that would set them right with God on His terms? Would it have been a better "good work" to remain in the body and worked our reformed beliefs into it?
You see that is the problem with what we think of as "good works": they are only good as far as we ourselves see them. Recall that Israel once broke apart from Judah leaving us a north and a south kingdoms. Israel (Ephraim) (10/12 tribes) could at that time be said to have been in the right considering the oppression that the wicked king of Judah had placed them under. Never once after that bold move was Israel ever to be remembered being in the right or doing the good works.
The point of this isn't to have us go down now and join the Roman Catholic church; what's done is done (and perhaps it was all that was left for the reformed movement then to do). The point is that for over 450 years now there has been no reason for them to listen to our challenges, no reason for them to properly respond to our challenges, there has been little or no influence within their ranks to reform, there is no political will for them to do anything other than what they've done since roughly the 10th century when the Eastern Orthodox church broke away from them too.
I don't have the answer unfortunately, all I have is the sobering question was any of this on the part of any one party a "good" work earning for them justification with God?
- So where does that leave you and I?
- Are any of us made right with God by the law?
- Are any of us made right with God by our own works?
- Are any of us made right with God by any works we perform as a body of believers?
- Are any of us right with God in any respect other than Christ having took upon Himself sin for us there at that Cross so that we might be given the declaration/influence of His righteousness?
Let's review today's passage:
Open for questions if time
Prayer of thanks for the mercy and righteousness leading to justification purchased in Jesus Christ
Alter Call - if prompted
This message today will likely be controversial to some that will hear it live or in the online archive. There are those that will just close off any further consideration. There are those that ask their spiritual counsel if any thing that has been said is true and their counselor will close off any further consideration of this for them. But for the few of you out there that this message has unsettled and have questions or viable critiques, I hope that you would allow me to explain the doctrine more thoroughly than I could have in this short sermon.
If any of this has interested any of you enough to look further into this great foundational pillar of reformed doctrine please see me or my website likepreciousfaith.us for additional resources.
SolaFide1 - Sermon prep and notes to more scriptural links
SolaFideVerses - Verses pro and con (please examine each in full context)
PaulNazariteVow - Paul twice submitted himself to a Nazarite vow of consecration. What does this mean for the doctrine of justification by faith?