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Faith Alone: Justification

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 9, 2020 12:01 am

Faith Alone: Justification

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 9, 2020 12:01 am

Our works will never save us, but true joy and freedom come from trusting in the finished work of Christ. Today, R.C. Sproul presents the doctrine of sola fide -- justification by faith alone.

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The fundamental question that the doctrine of justification is trying to answer is the question how can an unjust person ever survive the final judgment of a just and holy God. The foundational doctrine of soul and free day salvation by faith alone. Next on Renewing Your Mind. Martin Luther said good justification by faith alone is the article which the church stands reforms is a powerful sleep and it really defines the fundamental difference between Christianity and all other religions that even defines the differences within Christianity were glad you joined us today for Renewing Your Mind is Dr. RC Sproul continues his series. What is reformed theology as we continue our study on the basic themes of reformed theology. You recall that in our last session we looked at the formal principle of the Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of Sola scriptorium and today were going to look at what the historians call the material cause of the Reformation the central controversy over which the whole debate raged, which was the doctrine of Sola fee day and the term Sola fee day contains this Sola again which means alone and fee day is the word for faith coming from fidelis. Remember the Marine Corps motto Semper Fi or separate fidelis or the M a d'Este fidelis to come all ye faithful Sola fee day means faith alone, and this was the central assertion of Martin Luther that provoked the serious controversy of the 16th century and he was speaking to the question, how is a person justified in the sight of God, not before we give a brief exposition of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

I want to take a few moments to recap for you.

The urgency that the magisterial reformers felt about this issue. They did not think that the debate over justification was an argument over some fine point of theology whereby theologians get together and nitpick over secondary issues and so on, but they were convinced of not only the truth of justification, but faith alone, but also believe that it was of critical importance. Luther said that justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls. Now we could view that from the vantage point of the 20th century, perhaps, is an exaggeration. There is an overstatement, but I'm just mentioning at this point that it was clearly Luther's conviction that this doctrine was so important because it touched the very heart and soul of the gospel itself and again it is Luther's contention that justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls. And if the article upon which we stand or fall because it is the article that reveals to us how we are redeemed. Calvin took a similar view of the importance of the doctrine. He used a different metaphor. He said that justification by faith alone is the hinge upon which everything in the Christian life turn in our own day. JI Packer in his preface to Buchanan's 19th-century work on justification used another striking metaphor, where he likened the doctrine of justification by faith alone to the mythological figure of Atlas whose task it was to bear the world on his shoulders and what Dr. Packer was saying with this analogy was just as Atlas is required to hold up the world so the doctrine of justification by faith alone is that which holds everything else up. Well the controversies we know flared and ended in the most serious fragmentation of Christendom in the history of the church and became the most volatile controversy of all time. Not again before I get into an exposition of it. I'd like to read a couple of comments from Luther first evolved and expanded comment of his view of the importance of it and then second, a comment that referred in later years of Luther's life to his profound concern that the recovery of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone would be short lived. First, his expanded comments on the importance of it.

He says this doctrine is the head and the cornerstone it alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves and defends the Church of God and without it, the Church of God cannot exist for one hour and again he said the article of justification is the master and Prince, the Lord, the ruler and the judge over all kinds of doctrines it preserves and governs all church doctrine and raises up our conscience before God. Without this article the world is on her death and darkness. No error is so mean so clumsy and so worn is not to be supremely pleasing to human reason and to seduce us if we are without the knowledge and the contemplation of this article, and then as I said in his later life he made this observation there are few who know and understand this article and I treated again and again because I greatly fear that after we have laid our head to rest.

It will soon be forgotten and will again disappear and indeed we cannot grasp or exhaust Christ, the eternal righteousness with one sermon or thought for to learn to appreciate him as an everlasting lesson which we shall not be able to finish either in this or in yonder life not like it had my own personal observation to those of Luther, Calvin and Packer, it would be this that I think that the doctrine of justification by faith alone of all the doctrines of systematic theology is relatively easy to grasp with the mind.

It's not that complicated or so arcane right to use the only specialized experts in the field of theology.

Congrats. But to get the doctrine from our heads into our bloodstream's is another matter all together because it is one thing to understand a doctrine.

It is another thing to have it be the controlling aspect of the faith by which we live before God. Another thing I want to say before we proceed to an exposition is that we are not saved by a doctrine. It's not faith in the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

That is what redeems a person. It is the content to which the doctrine points that is so central and crucial to our salvation will again we asked why the fundamental question that the doctrine of justification is trying to answer and succeeds in that attempt is the question how can an unjust person ever survive the final judgment of a just and holy God. And as soon as we asked that question we see instantly why it is a matter of great importance, not just a question of darting eyes and crossing tees and passing and examine systematic theology, but is the question of how are we to stand before God we remember David's anguish and pathos and poignancy in his question, old Lord, if thou should mark iniquities who would stand in it was a rhetorical question because David understood the answer to that question. He was experiencing something that we all should experience the moment our conscience alarms us to the presence of sin in our lives. He said oh God, if you keep a record if you keep track and if you bring this into the judgment who can stand in the answer is obviously what no one can stay. I just had a conversation yesterday with a friend of mine who is Jewish and he was asking me questions about Christianity and wanted to know what's the basic difference between the Christian faith in his own religious background and I said to him what you do with your guilt, and he began to fumble around and he said well I guess I just have to keep trying harder to obey the laws to keep kosher, and to repent when I do wrong, and so on. And then I went beyond that and I said okay.

How is God going to forgive you if no atonement has been made for you other than the sacrifices of bulls and goats and that led us into a lengthy discussion of what the gospel proclaims at its heart because the good news is that God according the apostle Paul is both just and justifier of sinful people. Now let's look at those concepts as they are put together with God is both just and justifier. Both of these concepts have to be clear in her mind if were going to understand the gospel of the New Testament. The gospel does not say that God simply unilaterally declares forgiveness to everybody in the world. Certainly the doctrine of justification includes the doctrine of divine mercy and of the remission of sins. That's very important to us in. It sets forth before our eyes, a God who is a forgiving God, but I remember when I was a student in the Netherlands that I had great difficulty trying to learn a foreign language in which to do my doctoral studies and one of the biggest problems I had with the language is the same kind of problems we all have when we learn other languages and thus the problem of learning the peculiar idioms of a nation or of a particular language.

Somebody was talking the other day and he said why don't make any bones about that. And one of the people who was standing nearby was a guest in this country. He had learned English and he was just completely befuddled by that expression, make no bones about it.

This is what world does that mean we had to explain the nuances of that strange idiom. One of the idioms and through me when I was in Holland was an idiom that was used by one of my professors when he was talking about how God responds to the sin of human beings and he said God does not look at sin through his fingers and that stop making contracts that have no idea what he's talking about God doesn't look at our sin. Through his fingers and it wasn't till much later, when I was trying to practice learning vocabulary by reading Perry Mason novels and Dodge that I read a little episode in Perry Mason case where a policeman was talking to a man who was illegally parked, but there was an urgent reason for it and the policeman was talking to the man about another matter and wanted the man to accompany him somewhere in Manson will I can't keep my car here.

Are you going to give me a ticket for parking. This way the place so don't worry about a look at it through my fingers says we use the expression wink at it and the point is that when God in his mercy offers forgiveness to those of us who were guilty before the whole process of divine forgiveness does not mean that God simply winks at our sin and therefore and thereby compromises his own righteous character or his justice, his way of justifying guilty people is worked out from all eternity. In such a manner that God himself remains just again that brings us back to the original question. If God is just and I am not just and I have to face is just judgment. How can I possibly stand.

What I am in need of most desperately for all eternity is to be justified. Now what the Bible says is that God is both just and the justifier so that however he works out his justification. He does it without compromising his own justice, and the second point here that is so crucial is that it is God who does the justifying. Now that's not difficult to understand what the implications are clear on pay if it is God who is the one who justifies. What does that say about my ability to justify my self. I can't do anything to justify myself, nor can anyone else justify me in this world, nor can the church justify me. It is God and God alone who can pronounce the final verdict of my justification or my lack of it.

So in the first instance, the reformers of the 16th century insisted that justification is for rent sick and so they were teaching what is called for rent sick justification. Now this term is a term that is not commonly used in the church. The most frequent place where we hear references to forensics is in criminal trials on Perry Mason are the O.J. Simpson trial or something. We hear about forensic pathology or forensic evidence we have state forensics that involve competition in debate in public speaking and so one. Because the term forensic here has to do with some kind of announcement or pronouncement in the arena of law. So when we talk about justifications being forensic we mean by that that in the final analysis, God justifies us when he declares pronounces that in his sight. We are considered deemed or rug guarded as just so forensic justification involves God's declaration of a person's being just in his sight.

And as I say it is a legal declaration by which God declares a person just now use the string of words. A moment ago that I want to elaborate on. I said he judges us declares us or deem sauce or reconciles or counts us as just now to get a hold of that we have to do a little foray now in the some simple Latin that we've explained in other courses that will take the time to do it again it is Luther's summation of the sum and substance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in his famous slogan sumo US this at Paca tour symbol is the word from which we get the English simultaneous US. This is the word for just at work for and paca tour. We get the word impeccable or peccadillo, and so on is the word for sinner. So what Luther is saying is that in the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

What is happening here is that those who are justified are at the same time just and sinner.

Luther's not engaging in contradiction here.

He doesn't mean that we are just and sinner at the same time and in the same relationship. In other words, it's a different sense that we are just from the sense in which we are sinner.

Now the good news of the gospel according to Luther is precisely at this point that what Luther is saying is that the glory of the gospel is that God pronounces people just while they are still sinners, that he declares a person to be righteous in his sight and before his law when under analysis. They are still sinners. Now it is not judgment of declaring somebody just who in and of themselves is not just that creates so much of the controversy over the doctrine and has led some critics of the Reformation to say that the reformers postulated a legal fiction that has God guilty of lying saying that somebody is righteous, when in fact they are not, but the biblical concept of justification rests upon God's reckoning or counting people to be something that in and of themselves they are not.

It reaches all the way back to the book of Genesis to the 15th chapter of Genesis, when God made certain promises to the patriarch Abraham and the author of Genesis tells us that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness and what Paul speaks of in the New Testament is the same concept by which God accounts or reckons people who put their trust in Christ as being just not because their faith atones for all of their sins, or because their faith is such a supreme form of righteousness that it covers all of our unrighteousness, but rather the reason why God counts us righteous is because of the work of Christ in our behalf and so I conclude this introduction to the doctrine of justification, which will continue in our next session by saying that really the expression justification by faith alone is theological shorthand for justification by Christ alone because the fundamental issue is this on the basis of whose righteousness does God declare anyone in the Reformation answered that clearly the only ground by which God is being righteous is something of suspiciousness, righteousness is the foundational tenet of Christianity. It's a doctrine that Martin Luther and the reformers of the 16th century rediscovered and it's our focus this week here on Renewing Your Mind glad you joined us the lesson we just heard is from Dr. RC Sproul series. What is reform theology. These maybe new ideas for you. Perhaps you've heard the reform theology has something to do with predestination were something about five points but you may be unfamiliar with the details. The great 19th century British pastor Charles Spurgeon once said that the reform theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.

We agree and that's why were making this 12 part series available to you for your donation of any amount. Call us at 800-435-4343 able send it to you but you can also make your request online and Renewing Your number again is 800-435-4343 reform theology or Calvinism is a minority viewpoint among Christians today. Why is that look in her teaching fellow Dr. Steven Lawson answered that question that one of our conferences.

There are no truths that glorify God more than are what are specifically stated in the doctrines of grace and so it's not a secondary issue. It's it's not a minor point in the Bible.

It's it's it's literally in the heart of God and he is a saving God is the very nature of God to be a saving God in the doctrines of grace, I believe, bring into clear his focus in most vivid detail the purity of sovereign saving grace. And so those who resist. I grew up in an Arminian church. I I I know this personally and experientially. No one ever hit the brick wall of Calvinism harder than I hit it and bounced off that wall and got up and ran at it again. It just kept bouncing off and once you begin to see the the pure unvarnished truth of the sovereign saving grace of God.

Once you begin to see it in certain tax Ephesians 1 Romans nine John 10 John six John 17 pretty soon Genesis 1 Genesis 2 Genesis 3. There I yeah exactly the point that I was going to make is you see it everywhere.

I mean these verses begin to multiply everywhere before your eyes, and in some is like every day. If you're in this discovery.

You wake up to new wonders in the word of God and you you wonder how did I miss this hatted. I swim over this this this treasure that was lying beneath the surface as I was his speed reading over these texts and then once your eye sees it, that it is like your breathing heavens air and and you come to a greater realization and understanding of what God has done for us in Christ and how special his particular grace is and so to answer the question why do so many resist it. It's it's a lack of knowledge of Scripture. And it's also pride and arrogance and these truths are the great pride pressures that leave all of us on our knees before the throne of grace and saying why me Lord, and so I'd I know because my pride needed crushed in my arrogance needed to be crushed and I thought I was doing God a wild favor by leaving the bank and going to seminary as though I were it's doing something that God needed and that I was doing God a favor and when I got to school, and these truths overwhelm me. II realized it was the total halfway around. I was not doing God in favor God had showed sovereign, unconditional, unmerited, eternal favor and mercy and grace towards me in this, Dr. Steven Lawson with us during the explanation of God's sovereignty and salvation and will return tomorrow with another message from Dr. scroll series. What is reform theology. We hope to see you right back.

Thursday four Renewing Your Mind

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