Sunday, November 23, 2008

Justification By Faith Alone In Christ Alone

I'm preaching through the Book of Galatians in our Sunday morning services. I think it has been a pretty good series and my church folks seem to be growing through it as well.

Last Sunday, as well as today, I was preaching through chapter 2 and in the midst of Paul's defense of his apostolic authority and his confrontation with Peter and his hypocrisy, Paul gives perhaps the best treatment of the topic of justification that you will ever come across.

We must come to the same starting point by understanding the truth that the heart of man's spiritual dilemma is that he is incapable of overcoming the total sinfulness that separates him from the holy God. How can a guilty and condemned sinner be made righteous and thereby acceptable to God? The provision of justification by faith is God's answer to that dilemma and need.

Here is Galatians 2:15-16 "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."

The first part of his argument here is that, Paul says that, even we who are Jews by nature ... have believed in Christ Jesus. When Paul talks about the Jews he is saying that they of all people know what it is to live by the system of law. The Jews were the recipients of the Law. Yet even we were saved by believing in Christ Jesus, not by the law. And if we, as Jews, cannot be saved by the law, how can we expect sinners from among the Gentiles to be?” With or without the law, Paul was saying, no person is saved who has not believed in Jesus Christ!

Martin Luther said that if the article of justification by faith is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost. In this passage in chapter 2 Paul introduced this most essential doctrine in the epistle. Paul uses the verb form of justification four times in verses 16-17 and the noun form once in verse 21, where it is rendered "righteousness”.

The basic term was originally used forensically of a judge's declaring an accused person not guilty and right before the law. It was the opposite of being declared guilty and condemned. The truth of the scriptures is clear, if you have accepted God free gift of salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ and NOTHING else you are declared innocent before a holy and righteous God. Romans 8:1 tells us: "There is therefore now
no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 5:1-2 tells us:"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

Throughout Scripture justification refers to God's declaring a sinner to be guiltless on the basis of faith in Him. It is the free and gracious act by which God declares a sinner right with Himself-forgiving, pardoning, restoring, and accepting him on the basis of nothing but trust in the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Three times in Galatians 2:16 Paul declares that salvation is only through faith in Christ and not by law:

First statement is general: a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.

Second is personal: even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law.

The third is universal: by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified (Psalm 143:2)

All three affirm the same great reality.

The bottom line is that any and all claims that salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ plus something else are blasphemous, satanic lies. There can be no effective or acceptable human addition to Christ's work. If this could be true, then it means that Jesus life, suffering, death and resurrection were NOT sufficient to satisfy God's holy demands. To add insult to injury, if man has the ability to add to the finished work of Jesus, then both God the Father and Jesus have lied to us. Jesus said on the cross that the work of salvation was finished, then he bowed His head and gave up His spirit and three days later God the Father put His stamp of approval on the finished work of Jesus by raising Him from the dead. Once again let me say any and all claims that salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ plus something else are blasphemous, satanic lies.

This passage is as forceful and undeniable a statement of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone as can be found in Scripture. First Paul establishes it on the basis of his apostolic authority. Second, he establishes it on the basis of his own experience. And third, he establishes it on the basis of God's Word in the Old Testament.


Joshua James said...

These sermon briefs are awesome. I am in the process of beginning to witnessing to some family members. They are realizing they are gaining minimal in the Catholic church and are asking questions. This particular passage and the others you mentioned will be very helpful in my witnessing. Thanks. And I can't wait for the next posting, I am gathering a lot from these, and leading myself in new directions in my own personal studying!

Hope you have a great week!

Pastor Steve Cox said...

Hey Josh,

Glad your enjoying my posts. been praying for you! btw, Where are you located these days - - Drop me a note via e-mail.

BrianTheGreat said...

Missed you at the game Saturday. I enjoy reading your blog. I am waiting for your deer pictures. I don't think I will be out in the woods until second shotgun.