Faith stands in antithesis to works; there can be no amalgam of these two (cf. Gal. 5:4). That we are justified by faith is what engenders hope in a convicted sinner’s heart. He knows he has nothing to offer. And this truth assures him that he needs nothing to offer, yea, it assures him that it is an abomination to God to presume to offer. We are justified by faith and therefore simply by entrustment of ourselves, in all our dismal hopelessness, to the Saviour whose righteousness is undefiled and undefilable. Justification by faith alone lies at the heart of the gospel and it is the article that makes the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing. Justification is that by which grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life; it is for the believer alone and it is for the believer by faith alone. It is the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17; cf. 3:22).
It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to licence and looseness. Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Justification is not all that is embraced in the gospel of redeeming grace. Christ is a complete Saviour and it is not justification alone that the believing sinner possesses in him. And faith is not the only response in the heart of him who has entrusted himself to Christ for salvation. Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (cf. Gal. 5:6). And faith without works is dead (cf. James 2:17-20). It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1, 2).
As you reflect on the significance of Christ’s coming this Christmas, allow me to make one suggestion that may actually add to your holiday cheer: Don’t begin in Bethlehem. That may sound scrooge-like, but hear me out.
Bethlehem looms large in our minds during Christmas, and rightfully so. The prophet Micah had predicted centuries earlier that a ruler would hail from this obscure town (Mic 5:2). As King David’s birthplace, Bethlehem would also be the scene of the Messiah’s birth. In that sense, it’s difficult not to think of Bethlehem this time of year. That’s fine, but don’t forget that the Christmas story was set in motion long before the nativity scene.
Bethlehem wasn’t the beginning.
Jesus spoke of the glory he had with the Father “before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). As the Second Person of the Trinity, He was in communion with the Father and the Spirit from all eternity. We’re even told that the world was created through Him (Jn 1:1; Col 1:16). To be sure, He took on flesh at a point in time, but His role in God’s plan of redemption did not begin in a manger in Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago. Christ was not thrust on the scene unexpectedly. Out of His own free grace He set His sights on rebellious sinners like you and me before the foundation of the world. The eternal Word became flesh for us and for our salvation (Jn 1:14). This is the infinite grace of the Incarnation. And the nativity scene was our first glimpse.
As you reflect on Christ’s birth this Christmas and as you talk about it with others, be sure to include the little town of Bethlehem. But don’t start there: go back, much further back, and marvel at the One who planned the nativity scene from the beginning in order to rescue us from the judgment we deserve. Marvel at the grace of the Son of God who, as Paul says, “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
Give thanks that in those dark streets of Bethlehem shone the Everlasting Light.
I will venture to say that most Christians don’t know how God saved them. I don’t mean how God paid for their sins, but how he brought them to faith. That means many Christians miss out on the benefits of knowing this.
On one of the blogs I followed, it was suggested that we in the modern age should read some of the men of ages past like Jonathan Edwards. I have read Edwards before and must admit that it is a hard read because of the way language was used 250 years ago. But I for some reason, I have found that his treatise on The History of Redemption is really not all that hard to read from a language perspective, but it is extremely hard to read if you don’t read it slowly and take some time to digest it. What follows is not a pureed meal, this is steak that requires a lot of chewing to savor the flavor of what Edwards is talking about. I hope you will journey along with me as I share a classic work by Jonathan Edwards.
The History of Redemption
GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND DOCTRINE
“For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever, and my navigation from generation to generation.” Isaiah 51:8
The design of this chapter is to comfort the church under her sufferings, and the persecutions of her enemies. The argument of consolation insisted on is, the constancy and perpetuity of God’s mercy and faithfulness towards her, which shall be manifest in continuing to work salvation for her, protecting her against all assaults of her enemies, and carrying her safely through all the changes of the world, and finally crowning her with victory and deliverance.
In the text, this happiness of the church of God is set forth by comparing it with the contrary fate of her enemies that oppress her. And therein we may observe,
1. How short lived the power and prosperity of the church’s enemies is, “The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool,” i.e. however great their prosperity is, and however great their present glory. They shall by degrees consume and vanish away a secret curse of God, until they come to nothing. All their power and glory, and so their persecutions, shall eternally cease. They will be finally and irrecoverably ruined, as the finest and most glorious apparel will in time wear away, and be consumed by moths and rottenness. We learn who those are that shall thus consume away, by the foregoing verse, viz. those that are the enemies of God’s people, “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling.”
2. The contrary happy lot and portion of God’s church, expressed in these words, “My righteousness shalt be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.” Who are meant as those that shall have the benefit of this, we also learn by the preceding verse, viz. They “that know righteousness,” and “the people in whose heart is God’s law,” or, in one word, the church of God. And concerning this happiness of theirs here spoken of, we may observe two things, viz. 1. Wherein it consists. 2. Its continuance.
(1.) Wherein it consists, viz. In God’s righteousness and salvation towards them. By God’s righteousness here, is meant his faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises to his church, or his faithfulness towards his church and people in bestowing the benefits of the covenant of grace upon them. These benefits, though they are bestowed of free and sovereign grace, are altogether undeserved. Yet as God has been pleased, by the promises of the covenant of grace, to bind himself to bestow them, so they are bestowed in the exercise of God’s righteousness or justice. And therefore the Apostle says, Heb. 6:10, “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love.” And so, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So the word righteousness, is very often used in Scripture for God’s covenant faithfulness. So it is used in Neh. 9:8, “Thou hast performed thy words, for thou art righteous.” So we are often to understand righteousness and covenant mercy for the same thing, as Psa. 24:5, “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psa. 36:10, “Continue thy loving kindness to them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.” And Psa. 51:14, “Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.” Dan. 9:16, “O Lord, according to thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away.” And so in innumerable other places.
The other word here used is salvation. Of these two God’s righteousness and his salvation, the one is the cause, of which the other is the effect. God’s righteousness, or covenant mercy, is the root of which his salvation is the fruit. Both of them relate to the covenant of grace. The one is God’s covenant mercy and faithfulness, the other intends that work of God by which this covenant mercy is accomplished in the fruits of it. For salvation is the sum of all those works of God by which the benefits that are by the covenant of grace are procured and bestowed.
2. We may observe its continuance, signified here by two expressions, forever, and from generation to generation. The latter seems to be explanatory of the former. The phrase forever, is variously used in Scripture. Sometimes thereby is meant as long as a man lives. So it is said, the servant that has his ear bored through with an awl to the door of his master, should be his forever. Sometimes thereby is meant during the continuance of the Jewish state. So of many of the ceremonial and Levitical laws it is said, that they should be statutes forever. Sometimes it means as long as the world shall stand, or to the end of the generations of men. So it is said, Ecc. 1:4, “One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.” Sometimes thereby is meant to all eternity. So it is said, “God is blessed for ever,” Rom. 1:25. And so it is said, John 6:51, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” And which of these senses is here to be understood, the next words determine, viz. to the end of the world, or to the end of the generations of men. It is said in the next words, “and my salvation from generation to generation.” Indeed the Continue reading →
The sermon I have chosen to share, I’m afraid, would more than likely get the Prince of Preachers booted out from behind the pulpit of most churches today. I hear many people talk about Spurgeon and the fact that he was a great preacher, but then I hear their doctrine, and have to think to myself, they only say that Spurgeon was a great preacher based on reputation, not because they read his sermons and know what he taught. For if they did happen to read just 15 or 20 of Spurgeons sermons, and there are over 3000 to choose from, I think they would find that their own views of Doctrine are vastly different that what Spurgeon believed. I love to read Spurgeons sermons and I think he was a tremendous preacher and theologian. I don’t believe this because of his reputation for packing out a church Sunday after Sunday, I believe this because his sermons make me angry; they cut me; they make me take a look at the absolute sovereignty of God. Hebrews 2:9-10 –
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
God, was for a short time during His incarnation, made a little lower than the angels, but as the verse above states, ALL things flow from Him and ALL things belong to Him. That, my friend, is a sovereignty that none of use can claim. Until we learn that God is sovereign in all things, and that is a process that will continue until we are perfected in glory, our theology, our doctrine, our beliefs are beneath what they should be.
So, with that, I share the following:
NOS. 41, 42
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, SEPTEMBER 2, 1855,
BY THE REV. C H. SPURGEON,
AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14.
IF there were no other text in the Sacred Word except this one, I think we would all be bound to receive and acknowledge the truthfulness of the great and glorious Doctrine of God’s ancient choice of His family. But there seems to be an inveterate prejudice in the human mind against this Doctrine—and although most other Doctrines will be received by professing Christians, some with caution, others with pleasure—this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded! In many of our pulpits it would be reckoned a high sin and treason to preach a sermon upon Election because they could not make it what they call a, “practical” discourse! I believe they have erred from the Truth of God. Whatever God has revealed, He has revealed for a purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which may not, under the influence of God’s Spirit, be turned into a practical discourse—“for all Scripture is given by Inspiration of God and is profitable” for some purpose of spiritual usefulness. It is true, it may not be turned into a free will discourse—that we know right well—but it can be turned into a practical Free Grace discourse. And Free Grace practice is the best practice when the true Doctrines of God’s Immutable Love are brought to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners! Now I trust, this morning, some of you who are startled at the very sound of this word will say, “I will give it a fair hearing. I will lay aside my prejudices. I will hear what this man has to say.” Do not shut your ears and say at once, “It is high Doctrine.” Who has authorized you to call it high or low? Why should you oppose yourself to God’s Doctrine? Remember what became of the children who found fault with God’s Prophet and exclaimed, “Go up, you bald-head! Go up, you bald-head!” Say nothing against God’s Doctrines, lest haply some evil beast should come out of the forest and devour you, also! There are other woes beside the open judgment of Heaven—take heed that these fall not on your head. Lay aside your prejudices—listen calmly, listen dispassionately—hear what Scripture says! And when you receive the Truth, if God should be pleased to reveal and manifest it to your souls, do not be ashamed to confess it! To confess you were wrong, yesterday, is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser today. Instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honor to your judgment and shows that you are improving in the knowledge of the Truth of God! Do not be ashamed to learn and to cast aside your old doctrines and views. But take up that which you may more plainly see to be in the Word of God. And if you do not see it to be here in the Bible—whatever I may say, or whatever authorities I may plead—I beseech you, as you love your souls, reject it! And if from this pulpit you ever hear things contrary to this Sacred Word, remember that the Bible must be first—and God’s minister must lie underneath it!
We must not stand on the Bible to preach—we must preach with the Bible above our heads. After all we have preached, we are well aware that the mountain of Truth is higher than our eyes can discern—clouds and darkness are round about its summit and we cannot discern its topmost pinnacle. Yet we will try to preach it as well as we can. But since we are mortal and liable to err, exercise your judgment—“Try the spirits, whether they are of God”—and if on mature reflection on your bended knees, you are led to disregard Election—a thing which I consider to be utterly impossible—then forsake it! Do not hear it preached, but believe and confess whatever you see to be God’s Word. I can say no more than that by way of introduction.
Now, first. I shall speak a little concerning the truthfulness of this Doctrine—“God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” Secondly, I shall try to prove that this Election is absolute—“He has from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” not for sanctification, but, “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Thirdly, this Election is eternal because the text says, “God has from the Continue reading →
I recently had the opportunity to listen to two sermons by Paul Washer on the book of Ephesians. As usual, they have challenged me to rethink how I think about God and who He is. I’ve included a partial transcript I made of the second sermon. I’ve included the audio files of both sermons and you can listen to them by clicking on the links provided at the bottom of this page.
From Ephesians 1, Part 2:
When does God get scandalous for man? When does God become scandalous for man? When we talk about His love? No. When we talk about His mercy? No. When do people get angry when we talk about God? When we talk about His righteousness. Now think about that. When you say that God is righteous, men get angry. Now why would men get angry at the idea of a righteous God? Because man is not righteous.
What is the great scandal about the Law of God? When I’m speaking, especially at universities, I hear people say all the time – “I don’t want to hear about the Law of God!” “Why, I ask?” “Because it suppresses me, it oppresses me and holds me down.” I had a student actually stand up and say that one time. I asked him, in front of the entire audience, please explain to me which law is oppressive? Which one do you hate? Is it ‘love your neighbor as yourself?’ Is it ‘you shall not lie or bare false witness?’ Is it ‘you shall not commit adultery and steal another mans wife or that you should not reduce another human being to an object to be used for your sexual pleasure?’ Exactly which law is it that oppresses you and if God’s law does oppress you, then what does that say about you?
You see, the reason why men are hostile towards God is this, God is good, and men are not. When we talk about this mass of humanity we are talking about a mass of people given over to corruption, hostile towards God and hostile towards His law. But also we are talking about a humanity that loves evil and refuses reconciliation. Now think about that, a humanity that not just loves evil, but a humanity that refuses reconciliation.
Humanity cannot come to God. Men cannot come to God on their own. When I say that people respond, “Well, if men cannot come to God on their own, then God is wrong in judging them in the same way we would be wrong for judging a man who was blind for not being able to read a sign on the road. What do you mean, man cannot come to God?” I mean that because Jesus said that. But what is the explanation and why is such a man held guilty? Man cannot come to God because man will not come to God and he will not come to God because he hates Him. He hates Him because He is good.
Have you ever seen an old lady whose face is etched with bitterness and you say to her, “Ma’am, you must forgive your husband.” She responds, “I cannot forgive him.” Now, she speaks the same language as her husband and they live in the same house. She is not saying she cannot, she is saying she will not and why will she not? Because of her hostility towards her husband.
What about a political prisoner who is in chains? The king comes down to the dungeon and says, “I will throw open the door, all you have to do is bow your knee to me and acknowledge my sovereignty.” The prisoner leaps up, grabs the door, slams it closed and says “I would rather rot in prison than bow my knee to you.”
That is man.
Jesus said this in John 3:19-20:
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
Light came into the world. I’m always hearing people say that if the believers would just live like Jesus then people would be converted. No, you would have a lot of believers crucified. Jesus came into the world and what did the world do? They crucified him! Why? He gives us the reason:
…that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Jesus said in John 6:44:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
In John 6:65:
And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
I want to read a paragraph that I have written here in my notes to make myself as clear as possible.
When the scriptures speak about election, it is not in the context of a mass of humanity victimized by the devil, that wants to be saved, but lacks the faculties to do so. That is the way, a lot of times, men are presented; victims. No that is not the context. The context is this. It is in the context of a mass of humanity that is morally corrupt, hostile towards God, that rejects every offer of redemption and that would rather spend an eternity given over to corruption and the misery’s of hell than to be subject to God in heaven.
One of the reasons why certain people have so much difficulty with election and they have so much difficulty with hell is because they think man is good, that there is something good in man that wants God. There is a little spark, there is a little something, there’s got to be some goodness in there somewhere. Therefore they say hell is immoral, how could God throw man in hell? What you need to understand is that that is not true. Hell is moral because man is immoral. The only reason they may look a little moral in the context of present society is because the grace of God is restraining their evil. But if God where to pull back, man would become monsters of iniquity. So every time you see some vile crime that comes out on the local news, or some atrocity committed by some government that is beyond the mind to comprehend, realize that that is you apart from the grace of God.
The parable of the soils (Matt 13) is direct evidence against the unbiblical doctrine of “libertarian free will” since it is the quality of the soil that determines whether or not it bears fruit. Libertarian free will proponents teach that the choices people make are not determined in any sense by the character or inclinations of the people who make them, which would render this parable meaningless. Fact is, the soil can not choose its nature, therefore it can not choose its fruit. Therefore, the soil must not only be prepared by God (Rom 9:23) the seed will not grow unless the Lord causes it to grow (1 Cor. 3:6).
We all agree that faith is not a work since it points away from self to Christ for salvation, but many make it into a work when they declare that it has its source in a good heart and so turns our eyes back from Christ to a self-generated faith apart from grace alone.
It is “because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30-31)