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Christ Alone: Our Mediator

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2023 12:01 am

Christ Alone: Our Mediator

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 15, 2023 12:01 am

Jesus Christ is the Mediator and Champion who does for His people what we could not possibly do for ourselves. Today, R.C. Sproul displays the preeminence of Christ's work in our salvation.

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The whole doctrine of salvation by grace rests on the principle that the law of God has been fulfilled by Christ and by Christ alone. That what the first Adam failed to accomplish and plunged us into misery, the new Adam or the second Adam took upon himself the burden to obey all of the commandments of God and to fulfill the covenant. And what is so gracious about the covenant of grace is that the covenant of grace does not destroy the covenant of works, but rather says the covenant of works can be fulfilled for you by a mediator that God appoints.

Why didn't he just appear and then die the next day? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham and thanks for joining us for Renewing Your Mind. As R.C. Sproul continues his series unpacking those gospel truths that were rediscovered during the Protestant Reformation, he's going to help us see that the work of Christ in our behalf is much broader than merely Christ's death upon the cross. And how when we understand this, it really helps us see how good the good news is.

Here's Dr. Sproul. Today we're going to continue our study of the solas of the Reformation. We've already examined Sola Fide, the doctrine of justification by faith alone. And we've looked at sola gratia, that salvation is by grace alone. And today we're going to look at solus Christus, S-O-L-U-S in this case, which means by Christ alone, or more particularly because of Christ alone. The threefold recitation of the solas in the Reformation went like this, that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

And so I've mentioned already when we looked at the doctrine of Sola Fide that the concept justification is by faith alone is really theological shorthand for the idea that our justification is by Christ alone. And what we want to do now is to explore in what sense our justification is rooted and grounded in the person and work of Christ. I think to get a handle on this and the way the Reformed churches were thinking throughout the ages, we need to look briefly at the 17th century Reformed Confession, the Westminster Confession of faith in the seventh chapter because the seventh chapter of that Confession explores the whole concept of the covenant that God makes with His people to be with His people. And so we need to look at the threefold recitation that issues in the final analysis in our salvation because the basic structure of biblical history and the basic structure of the relationship between God and His people is the structure of the covenant. We remember that in the upper room when Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples that there He instituted the new covenant when He said this is the covenant shed in My blood and so on. And so we're familiar at least basically with these concepts of covenants. But a distinction is made in Reformed theology historically that's very important to our understanding of justification. And that is the distinction between what we call the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. And to indicate that distinction let me read briefly from some passages found in the 17th century document of the Westminster Confession by faith. It begins in the first section with this statement, the distance between God and the creature is so great that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward but by some voluntary condescension on God's part which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.

Now what are they saying here with this somewhat archaic language? What they're saying is the very fact that God makes a creature places that creature in debt to the Creator. And the thing made owes inherently and intrinsically obedience to the One who has made Him. And so God in creating us has no obligation whatsoever to enter into any promissory agreement with us. He owes us no blessings.

He owes us no benefits. And we owe Him our very lives. And so even if it were conceivable that man in creation obeyed God perfectly, that would be his necessary duty. And if we lived lives of perfection as Jesus indicated in the New Testament, we would still only be unprofitable servants because we would have simply done our duty.

And we would have no right to expect any kind of reward or blessing from God. But God in His kindness and in His grace, as the Confession says, condescended to the creature and voluntarily entered into a covenant relationship with the people that He created. We saw in the old covenant that God said to Israel, I will be your God and you will be my people.

He didn't have to do that. So that when we make this distinction between a covenant of works and a covenant of grace, we have to understand that in the broader sense, every covenant that God enters into with us is a gracious covenant. The fact that there even was a covenant of works that promised blessing on the basis of obedience was gracious. That's one of the reasons why there's an awful lot of controversy that is unending about this distinction. Some say, well, they're all covenants of grace and so we shouldn't talk about a covenant of works and so on.

But there is a reason for this distinction historically, and I think it's an important one. Let's look further at the Confession. In the second portion of it, we read this statement. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works wherein life was promised to Adam and in him to his posterity upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. God had set apart the tree of life and the understanding here in Reformed theology is that the situation in which Adam and Eve found themselves in the garden was a situation of probation. God had given commands to them to fulfill and prohibitions that they were not to disobey. And the promise was that if they obeyed God, they would receive life. If they disobeyed, they would die.

The day that you shall eat of it, you shall surely die. That was the negative sanction of the original covenant, which we call the covenant of creation or the covenant of works. It's called the covenant of works because the consequences of the actions of our first parents would be determined by their works, blessing and life if they obey, death and curse if they disobey. And we see what happens as it's recorded in the third chapter of Genesis and then reiterated in the New Testament in Corinthians and in Romans where the Apostle Paul speaks of the first Adam through whom man was plunged into ruin. The whole of mankind was participated in the fall because through one man's disobedience, death came into the world.

Now let me comment on something here that is often missed in our culture. Sometimes we think that when we become Christians, that when we are redeemed, when we are saved as it were, that what happens is that we now have paradise as Adam and Eve experienced it before the fall restored. Remember John Milton's classic work, Paradise Lost? We all realize that in our participation in the fall of Adam and Eve that we have all lost that original state of righteousness, that original state of blessedness that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall. We have lost that situation in that condition of paradise. And so we assume that when we are saved, we are now restored to that original position of which Adam and Eve were the principal participants of blessedness.

But that is not accurate. That's not what happens. If that's what happened in our redemption, then all that would be accomplished by our salvation would be to be placed back in that state of probation. We would be placed back in a state of innocence, but we would not have achieved the benefits of perfect obedience.

We would not have the tree of life to enjoy. But what we are told in the New Testament is that through the work of Christ and through His ministry as the new Adam or as the second Adam, those who are in Christ are not simply restored to a state of innocence, but rather with Him we gain the blessings that would have been ours in Adam had Adam and Eve not sinned. And so the position that we enjoy now for eternity because of the work of Christ is far greater than the position Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall. And so we see this difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The first covenant was the covenant of works. Life was promised to Adam and in him to his prosperity.

However, section 3 reads, man by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace, wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of him faith in him that they may be saved and promising to give unto all those that are ordained under eternal life his Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe. So in the beginning of Genesis, after the fall of Adam and Eve, you realize that God then visits a curse, a curse upon Adam and his labor, a curse upon the earth, a curse upon Eve, and the curse upon the serpent. And yet in the curse on the serpent, we hear the rudimentary elements of the covenant of grace. In the first instance, God had said to Adam and Eve, the day that you shall eat of it, you shall surely die. Now that day, they suffered spiritual death, but they did not suffer thanatos.

They did not suffer biological death. God tempered mercy with his judgment and promised through the curse that was given to the serpent that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent while in the process, having his heel bruised, and we call that the proto-evangel, or the very first announcement of the gospel. That is the announcement that God is saying, look, you have failed to keep the covenant of works, but I'm going to make another covenant with you. And that covenant is based upon a promise of a future person who will be the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent in your behalf. And then God calls Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and gives him the promise of the future blessing and the promise that through him all of the nations of the world would be blessed, and we call that the Abrahamic covenant, which was again an expression of God's covenant of grace.

Abraham believed God, we read in Genesis 15, and it was counted unto him to righteousness. Before he had done any works, he was justified because he had faith in the promises of the future. Then that becomes spelled out in much greater detail under the covenant of Moses, the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, and he gave them his law. And at the giving of the law, he sets sanctions down before him. He said, if you keep this law, blessed will you be in the country, blessed will you be in the city, blessed will you be when you sit down, blessed will you be when you stand up, blessed will you be all over the world. Blessed will you be all over the place. But if you fail to keep my commandments, then what?

Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country, and cursed will you be all over the place. And so even then, the covenant of grace was being administered through the law, but even at that point we know that the law was not given as a way of salvation, but rather to direct the people to their dependence upon God's grace. Now, when we talk about solus Christus, we talk about the ministry of Jesus in bringing redemption to pass for us, we see that critical to our justification is the work of Christ. Now I'm going to go into this in more detail later, but now just to give you a foretaste of it, I want to make a statement that may sound a little strange to you. I've been saying all along that the biblical view of salvation is justification by faith alone.

Now I'm going to say something different, so you have to listen carefully. In the final analysis, justification is by works alone. The only way anybody can ever stand before God on the day of judgment is to stand justified by works. Now wait a minute, we've already labored to point that the New Testament says, by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. And I'm not taking that back, but what I want us to understand is that when the Reformers say that justification is solus Christus because of Christ alone, the whole doctrine of justification by faith, the whole doctrine of salvation by grace rests on the principle that the law of God has been fulfilled by Christ.

And by Christ alone. That what the first Adam failed to accomplish and plunged us into misery, the new Adam or the second Adam took upon himself the burden to obey all of the commandments of God and to fulfill the covenant of works. And what is so gracious about the covenant of grace is that the covenant of grace does not destroy the covenant of works, but rather says the covenant of works can be fulfilled for you by a mediator that God appoints.

See that's the basic distinction. The covenant of works is still there, but it is obeyed not by us, but by our mediator, our champion who fulfills all of the terms of that covenant in our behalf. Now when we looked at Sola Gratia and we saw that our justification was by grace alone, we said it is not by grace plus merit. We said that we bring no merit before the judgment seat of God because we have no merit of our own. The merit by which we are justified is that merit that belongs properly and exclusively to Jesus and to Jesus alone. So now we're talking, remember when we talked about Sola Fide, by faith alone, I showed you that the basic issue of the by faith was what was the instrumental cause of justification.

Was it the sacrament or was it faith? But we said that even faith is not the ground of our justification. Faith is not the meritorious basis by which we are declared just in the sight of God. Faith, you recall, is merely the instrument by which we are linked or connected to the one whose righteousness is the only ground of our justification. And so if we would say, what is the ground of your justification? On what basis does God declare you just? The only answer we can give is through the merit of Christ alone. It's His merit, not mine. Now remember, the great issue, the great divide of the 16th century, we've already said was on the differences between infused grace and imputed righteousness.

Do you remember? That the Roman Catholic Church said that God will not declare a person just in His sight until or unless true justice, true righteousness, inheres in the person. Now they can't have that true justice and righteousness in themselves, again, unless they have the assistance of grace, the assistance of faith, the assistance of Christ, but still in cooperating with that grace, man still has to come to the place where he has true righteousness inside of him before God will declare him just.

The Reformation said no. The minute we put our faith in Christ, God counts His righteousness completely for us. He transfers legally to our account the righteousness and the merits of Christ. And this is why Luther said that the righteousness or the justice by which we are justified, according to the New Testament, is what Luther called a eustitium alienum, an alien righteousness.

And the word alien there means a stranger or a foreigner, somebody other than ourselves. The alien righteousness by which we are justified is that righteousness, again, properly speaking, that belongs to Christ and to Christ alone. You remember also that I said that the righteousness by which we are justified is a righteousness extra nos. It is a righteousness pro nobis but is extra nos. Now let me explain that.

Extra nos simply means apart from us. It's not my life that gets me into heaven. It's not anything that I've done that earns me a passage into heaven.

I have nothing in my hand to come to the gates of heaven. All of my works, my best works, as Augustine said, are splendid vices. My finest works are always tainted to some degree by the flesh that abides in my life. But there is no taint.

There is no blemish. There is no marring of the perfection of the righteous works of Christ. So that the righteousness by which we are justified is not our own but it is extra nos.

Extra means apart from us. And yet the good news is it is a righteousness that is pro nobis, that is a righteousness that is for us. Karl Barth once said the most important Greek word in the New Testament is the little word huper, which means in behalf of. And so when we say solus Christus, we are saying that our salvation is wrought by God through Jesus Christ alone in our behalf. He is the mediator and the champion who does for us what we couldn't possibly do for ourselves. Now we'll explore more of that in our next session. Now that is good news, that Christ does for us what we could never possibly do for ourselves.

That was R.C. Sproul as he continues this study through these gospel truths that were rediscovered in the sixteenth century. I can remember how transforming it was in my thinking when I first heard that Christ is the second Adam. And that's why this study, God alone, can be so helpful for us because there's just so much depth to understanding the gospel. We're pleased to make this series by Dr. Sproul available to you.

It's actually ten messages in total across three DVDs. And for your donation of any amount, not only will we send this series to you, we'll give you digital access to both the audio and the video so you can listen to it wherever you are in the free Ligonier app, as well as access to a digital study guide. So you can make your gift today and request your copy of God Alone by R.C.

Sproul at or by calling us at 800 435 4343. And that series again is God Alone. Many people in the church today, when they want to know what God says, they listen for a still small voice. But where should we turn if we want to know what God says? This is not a new controversy. And in fact, it was a battle in the 16th century. And tomorrow, Dr. Sproul will remind us that just as it was in the 16th century, it is absolutely vital today for us to know where to turn when we want to hear the voice of God. Join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-15 03:44:07 / 2023-03-15 03:52:04 / 8

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