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Faith Alone: The Material Cause of the Reformation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 11, 2021 12:01 am

Faith Alone: The Material Cause of the Reformation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 11, 2021 12:01 am

We are declared just in God's sight not by baptism, nor by penance, but through faith alone in Christ alone. Today, R.C. Sproul identifies the underlying cause of the Protestant Reformation.

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Some say were justified by faith alone. Others say that faith plus good works save us. In the 16th century. That argument came to a head this issue touched the very heart of the Christian faith because the question of justification is designed to answer the deeper question how can an unjust person possibly survive the judgment of a just and holy God question as to the underlying cause of what some say was the most important church history since Pentecost, the Protestant Reformation. How can an unjust person survive the judgment of a holy God is a question that suggest a significant today as it was five centuries ago this week on Renewing Your Mind. We are pleased to feature Dr. RC Sproul series God alone. This series is going to fall the so-called soul was of the Protestant Reformation at the church where I'm the minister of preaching and teaching we have on our bulletin every Sunday morning a list of the five solos of the Protestant Reformation and they include Sola the day which means justification by faith alone. Sola Grazie salvation is by grace alone.

Solus Christus that our salvation is through Christ alone Sola script Torah that the sole authority that binds the conscience of the Christian is the Bible alone, and then finally Sola Dayo Gloria to God alone belongs the glory and so were going to start our study of the solos by looking at the first one Sola file and I'd like to address that subject under the subtitle of what was the matter with the Protestant Reformation said again what was the matter with the Protestant Reformation.

Now some people would answer that question by saying the matter with the Protestant Reformation was there was one because it produced the largest schism in the history of the organized church.

Others see the Protestant Reformation as the acme of spiritual recovery of biblical Christianity in church history, and that therefore a sort of golden age of the biblical faith well when I asked the question what was the matter with the Protestant Reformation. I'm not using that word matter in the normal way that that expression is indicated when we say what's the matter was something we main what's wrong with it were, what was the fault of it but I mean something quite different. When I say what was the matter with the Protestant Reformation.

What I mean by that is what was the essence, the substance the stuff or what we call in philosophy, the material cause of the Protestant Reformation. What was the chief issue that provoked such massive consequences as this split that occurred in the 16th century and when historians of theology and of church history.

Look back to the 16th century, though often use distinctions originally set forth by the philosopher Aristotle when he distinguished between different types of causes and they will distinguish between what's called the formal cause and the material cause, and when the church historians distinguish between the formal material causes of the 16th century Reformation labels like the formal cause intellectual background to the issue was a dispute over the seat of final authority that binds the Christian conscience and will look at that separately under the title of Sola script Torah.

But what is called the material costs. Again, the substantive issue that was the poor point of dispute was the doctrine of justification and the Protestant view is expressed in the shorthand of the Latin Sola the day and justice Sola is similar to solo.

If you take flying lessons in the first time you fly solo. That means that you fly the plane by yourself that you fly it alone and if you stand up in church on Sunday morning in the choir and sing a solo that means no one else is singing with you. Your there all by your lonesome singing the song well. The same word is behind the word Sola which means alone and we've heard the motto of the United States Marine Corps semper fidelis, which means always faithful and were not familiar with that we are familiar with the him that we sing during the Christmas season, a d'Este fidelis, which means overcome, all ye faithful. We have a word in the English language, where we speak of fiduciary responsibilities responsibilities that require good faith and so on. So here what were talking about is the Latin word for faith and the phrase Sola file means by faith alone and again as I say this is shorthand for the central issue of the Reformation which focused on the question of justification and the Protestant reformers set forth the doctrine that are justification is by faith and by faith alone, without any mixture of good works or merit on our part. Now to understand Sola fee day in its historical context, we have to understand something about the theological dispute based on the Roman Catholic understanding of justification. But first, a word about justification itself and its relevance to the 16th century to the first century after the 21st century.

At the heart of this dispute was not a tangential debate over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or in a needless controversy over pedantic points of theology and of doctrine that professors disagreed about. But this issue touched the very heart of the Christian faith because the question of justification is designed to answer the deeper question how can an unjust person possibly survive the judgment of a just and holy God. Now in our day. I find that people really don't care that much about the doctrine of justification. It has been reduced pretty much to a nonissue. Just as the differences among churches historically over the substance and the meaning of the gospel itself that those differences have now been minimized as being no significant matter because were living in a time in the first place of relativism that says truth is relative, or pluralism.

This is there many different approaches to truth and views of truth and doctrinal issue should never divide us because what really counts are personal relationships not doctrine that despite the New Testament is replete with apostolic concern about correct doctrine, but that's not where the church is in this day and age, and sometimes we have to ask the question why will try to answer that question will only use a little anecdote I was driving my car down the highway and I was listening to my friend Alastair bag on Christian radio and he was giving the second of his addresses on being an almost Christian, and he talked about people who are exposed to the preaching of the gospel, who joined the church to come Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, but who have never really committed their lives to Christ and in the context of this particular radio program at the end of his message.

Where Alastair was basically giving an altar call over the radio. He said to the people in his own congregation. There are some of you here today who heard this message of the gospel and are untouched by your indifferent to it and you have not responded to it and you perhaps today will not respond to it. And for you people. What you are faced with is the judgment of hell itself, and then he went on to give a recapitulation of the biblical doctrine of the last judgment and of hell and told his congregation. What awaited those people who rejected the gospel of Christ and basically what he was saying this is that those people who reject the gospel of Christ stay in their sins and remain on justified and we think back to the Old Testament to David's rhetorical question, if the Lord would mark iniquities who would stand as rhetorical because the question is obvious that the answer is no one and what Alastair was trying to awaken 21st-century Americans to with his message was that promise that divine promise from the lips of God, that all men will be brought into his judgment and will be judged according to the righteousness of Christ and those who are found wanting will be sent into the abyss of hell is a doctrine that the church doesn't believe anymore because of it. Did believe it. It would preaching and if it did believe it justification would be just as much a theological issue today as it was in the 16th century safe. If you're going to understand the upheaval that came about in the 16th century. Understand that the church in the 16th century believe the last judgment. The church in the 16th century believed in the wrath of God. The church in the 16th century believed in the justice of God and the church in the 16th century believed in hell. That's why center stage was the question how can I be saved recently published a book with the simple title saved from what a book that I wrote at the risk of offending the intelligence of anybody out there, why would anybody asked the question what were safe from isn't axiomatic. It is not manifest in the clear. What were safe from is the wrath of God.

That is to come.

I would think it would be axiomatic, but it's not before announcing what I'm safe from her bad habits, addictions, social failure, psychological deficiency, broken relationships, and all the rest and wastes are so concerned about the relationships that we have in this world we don't even worry about the relationship that we have with the just and holy God. But what the Christian faith is about. In the first instance is not the restoration of human relationships. Although it cares very much about human relationships in the first instance is, it has to do with the repair of our relationship to God and so that the center is the question how can a sinner escape the judgment of God. How can a sinner possibly be accepted by God in God's judgment and justice have written a whole book on this by the way called faith alone, which I think is one most important books ever written and encourage those who want to look deeper into this doctrine of justification by faith that they would please read that book. Let's look now at what is the issue at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century. Something may come as a surprise to many Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church then as now believe that justification is by faith, by grace and by Christ freely issues that are captured in the essence of Protestant thinking ours.

I've already mentioned solo fee day by faith alone.

Sola Grazie by grace alone.

Solus Christus through Christ alone and because of that, many Protestants believe that the Roman Catholic Church did not believe in justification by faith or in justification by grace or in justification by Christ. That's simply not true because very early. The church had to combat the heresy of Pelagius and Irish monk who challenged St. Augustine in the early church and taught that people can be saved without grace, the people can achieve lives of perfect righteousness without any assistance from God. And so for Pelagius. People don't need grace, they don't need the help of Christ, he would say that grace and Christ facilitate salvation that is make it easier and assist in the process, but they're not absolutely necessary that we haven't within our own power to live lives of perfect righteousness. Now yet understand that the Catholic Church roundly and soundly condemned Pelagianism in the ancient world again in the 16th century and as recently as the Catholic catechism that the Roman Catholic Church emphatically does not believe that people can be saved by their own righteousness, without any help from God, what do they teach in the 16th century.

What do they continue to teach the while they teach that faith is a prerequisite.

Faith does three things for justification.

Faith is what they call the unlit CM that is the initiation or the beginning of justification. They also say that faith is the fundamental or the foundation of justification and they also say that faith is the raw to explore the root of justification. So you see that faith is of critical importance. According the Roman Catholic Church in three ways.

With respect to justification. It's important to start the process of justification is the initiation. It's the foundation upon which justification is established and the third is the very core or root of our justification. So to say that the Roman Catholic Church doesn't believe that faith is necessary or that you can be justified apart from faith, is simply to seriously slander and misrepresent room. Secondly, the Roman Catholic Church is always taught that grace is necessary and necessary prerequisite for justification and without the grace of God that is infused into the soul sacramentally which will look at more closely. In a moment. Without that grace may be left back in the hopeless condition of Pelagianism of having to try to earn our way into heaven simply on the ground and basis of our own righteousness in our own merit and Roane rejects that and of course the Roman Catholic Church affirms the necessity of the atonement of Christ and of the work of Christ to help us in our justification and suggested brief recapitulation.

Rome believes that justification is by faith is by grace, and it's by Christ. What room doesn't believe is that justification is by faith alone or by grace alone or by Christ alone, but rather it combines other elements.

For example, in the Roman Catholic view, it is faith plus works that gives us justification. It is grace plus merit that gives us justification. It is Christ plus me and my inherent righteousness that gives me justification. That's the formula in a nutshell, the reformers objected strenuously to this and said no.

Our works do not count towards our justification. I explained that more later that we have no merit of our own, of any kind that we bring before God as the hymn writer, Augustine's top lady wrote in rock of ages. It's nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling so this is crossed out by the reformers. This is crossed out by the reformers and my inherent righteousness is crossed out so that you have faith alone, grace alone in Christ alone while briefly for the Roman Catholic Church. Justification begins with baptism and baptism is called by Rome, the instrumental cause of justification know what that means. Very simply, is this back in Aristotle's day when Aristotle divided different types of causes. He used an illustration of building a statue in the material cause of the statute is the stone out of which the statue is made, the efficient cause is the sculptor who uses his instruments to bring about the shaping of the statute, but the instrumental cause would be the chisel and the hammer the instrumental cause of Rembrandt's Nightwatch was his paintbrush.

It was the instrument he used to bring about the effect and so according the Roman Catholic Church, the instrument that God uses to bring justification to the needy person is in the first instance, the instrument of baptism.

In baptism, the person who is baptized receives and in pouring or an infusion of what is called justifying grace or what is called the grace of the righteousness of Christ. That is when the person is baptized something happens inwardly, the soul is infused with divine grace and if that person cooperates with that infused or poured in grace and baptism, and not only cooperates with it but a sense to what the Latin is cooperate all right at our Centauri. If you cooperate with that infused grace and ascent to that grace then you are in a state of justification wherein you remain until or unless you commit mortal sin. And if you commit a mortal sin. The reason why mortal sin is called mortal sin is that because it kills the inhabiting grace that is poured into your soul at baptism we have this infusion of grace. And that's good until you commit a mortal sin when you commit a mortal sin, that grace is killed, it's destroyed and so you are now no longer in the state of justification and you have to be re-justified.

While that doesn't mean you go back to baptism but there's a second sacrament that's crucial to this process in the Roman Catholic system and that's the sacrament of penance and the sacrament of penance is defined by the Roman Catholic Church as the second plank of justification for those who made shipwreck of their souls for the first plank is baptism. The second plank is penance, and will look at that more closely in the next lecture but you see that in both cases, justification is acquired instrumentally through the sacraments. The reformers said no. The instrumental cause of our justification is not baptism, it is not penance his face in Christ that is the pool or the instrument that links us to Christ and all that he has done for us by which we are made just in the site will look at that and the other issues that attended. In our next our understanding of the gospel must be precise, is referred today from Dr. RC Sproul, even small deviations from the biblical formula of salvation result in disastrous perversions of the gospel were glad you joined us today for Renewing Your Mind by we Webb we are pleased to present RC series God alone this week on her program. It's a 10 part treatise on the five solos of the Reformation with devotion to Scripture. RC helps us see the importance of understanding God's plan for salvation would like to send you the three DVD set of the series when you contact us with a donation of any amount you can make a request or you can call us her number is 800-435-4343 if you downloaded leaders free app all 10 of the video lessons will be available immediately in your learning library, you can begin watching right away while you wait for the DVDs to arrive in the mail so we invite you to request the series God alone.

Our phone number again is 800-435-4343 or web address is Renewing Your if you'd like to know more about the app you confided in both Apple and android app stores. Just search for legal ear and let me spell it for you.

It's LYG O in IE are what you've installed it on your phone or tablet, you'll have access to articles blog post video segments in an archive of past Renewing Your Mind programs. Thank you for being with us today and I hope you make plans to join us again tomorrow and as we close. Let me give you a preview of what Dr. Spruill will be covering Martin Luther disagreed with Rome's use of indulgences. The people were confused and the gospel was obscured, but his protest didn't stop there. The focus of attention broadened from the abuse of the sale of indulgences to this whole system of penance because Luther's on it.

A clear departure from the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone this Tuesday on Renewing Your Mind

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