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1269. Justification: A Righteousness Not My Own

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
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June 9, 2022 7:00 pm

1269. Justification: A Righteousness Not My Own

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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June 9, 2022 7:00 pm

Dr. Brent Cook of the BJU Bible faculty continues a doctrinal series on soteriology entitled “Our Great Salvation.”

The post 1269. Justification: A Righteousness Not My Own appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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J.D. Greear
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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.

The school was founded in 1927 by the evangelist Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. His intent was to make a school where Christ would be the center of everything so he established daily chapel services. Today, that tradition continues with fervent biblical preaching from the University Chapel platform. Today on The Daily Platform, we're continuing a study series entitled Our Great Salvation, which is a study of the doctrine of salvation or soteriology. Today's speaker is Dr. Brent Cook.

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Gary Weir, will introduce him. It's our privilege this morning to continue our doctoral theme for the semester, which is on our great salvation, which we've been singing about this morning through Christ and what he's accomplished on our behalf. And it's a great privilege to have Dr. Brent Cook, one of our Bible professors here at BJU who teaches many of the key courses in the Bible core.

That's a part of our curriculum as the speaker today. And he's also the pastor of University Baptist Church in Clemson, South Carolina. So we look forward to what the Lord has for us today, learning more about our great salvation as Dr. Cook comes. Well, let's turn to Matthew in the 19th chapter.

Matthew chapter 19. On October 5th, 2014, a baby boy was born in Donglong City in the Guangdong Province of southern China. He was born with a cleft lip and palate and in need of several surgeries. Five days later, he was abandoned, left on an industrial bridge in a very rough section of town, left there with the litter along the edge of the road. And discovered by the police, he was placed in an orphanage. Twenty-two months later, his adoptive mother, my wife, arrived in China to bring home our son Asher. Asher came to us with the clothes that he was wearing, a little lollipop in his mouth, and a little broken blue suitcase containing Legos, a bottle, a towel, and a thermos.

And I'm not actually telling you this to make you feel sorry for Asher. I'm telling you to make the point that he came with considerably more than my other two children. They came naked. And every one of us, even the abandoned orphan, began a process of accumulation very early in life. But we entered the world with nothing. And every one of us, no matter how much we accumulate, must enter the new world precisely the same way, with nothing. Jesus Christ told the Jewish ruler Nicodemus, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. You come into God's kingdom like a naked little infant. And just like my children were wrapped in clothing they did not earn, so we are wrapped in the robes of Christ's righteousness.

That's justification. Justification is God's declaring me righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness, not my own. Now when I was asked to speak on this topic, the subtitle that I was given was, A Righteousness Not My Own.

And it's actually that subtitle that I would like to develop today. In Matthew 19 we will discover another ruler, like Nicodemus, who wants to discover the secret to eternal life. And unfortunately he is clinging to his own righteousness. Let's just read the account, beginning with verse 16. And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good?

There is none good but one that is God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said unto him, Which?

Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and thy mother, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept for my youth up, what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven and come and follow me.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Now Mark's account tells us this man was a great landowner. Luke's account in the NASB says that he was extremely rich.

And Luke's account also tells us that he was a ruler of the people. He sounds like an ideal convert, does he not? But Jesus turns him away.

The key to interpreting this story is found in verse 16. When the man says, What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life or that I may have eternal life? He assumes that his good actions will secure for him eternal life. And he of course is in a great position to do a great many good works.

Think about what you could do if you were a ruler, or if you were very wealthy, or if you were in vast estates. If eternal life comes about by good deeds, this man is better positioned than probably all of us to secure access to heaven. Now for the sake of instructing the man, Jesus will initially follow along with his train of thought. Jesus tells him, Go keep the commandments.

And the man responds, Well I have. But Jesus knows that his heart is addicted to wealth. And earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that it's not enough to merely keep the commandments.

It's not enough to say, Well, I've never murdered, and I've never committed adultery, but I've never stolen. Actually, your entire heart would have to be absolutely perfect to get into heaven. So how would you know that your heart was absolutely perfect when it comes to the use of your wealth? Well Jesus again said in the Sermon on the Mount, You need to lay up treasure in heaven, not on earth. So how would you know, if you were very very wealthy, that your heart was entirely set on the kingdom of heaven? And the answer is verse 21. Here's how you know. If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven and come and follow me.

Just get rid of it all. And then you know if your heart is perfect with regard to your wealth. Now is Jesus saying that Christians can never have wealth?

No. Jesus interacts with other rich people and he does not put this kind of burden on them. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells the rich that they are not required to just impoverish themselves, but they are required to be rich in good works. So why does Jesus tell this man to go sell everything? And again, the answer is verse 16. The man's starting assumption is that he can do some good thing to earn access to heaven. And Jesus is merely exposing his heart's condition by showing him that there is something that he really cannot do because of his addiction to wealth. And so verse 22, he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions. Now examine very carefully what Jesus says next. Verse 23. Then Jesus said unto his disciples, verily I say unto you that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And listen to the ESV. Only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.

With difficulty. Verse 24. And again I say unto you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. In verse 23, Jesus says it's very difficult for a rich man to get into the kingdom. He holds out very little hope for the wealthy man. But then in verse 24, Jesus says it's impossible for the wealthy man to get into the kingdom. There is no way that a camel can ever pass through the eye of a needle. That's an impossibility.

So how on earth does a rich man get into the kingdom? And further is Jesus contradicting himself. It sounds like he's saying it's really difficult. And then he's saying actually it's impossible. But which is it?

Let's attempt to answer both questions. A popular interpretation of verse 24 claims that the eye of the needle was a small little portal in the wall of Jerusalem. It was a little gate that was kept open after the main gate was shut at night. It was defensible because of its very small size. And only with great difficulty could a great big large lumbering camel just sort of squeeze his way through.

It was difficult for the camel to get in but still possible. And this interpretation was widely popularized in the 19th century. And it shows up earlier. Shakespeare knows of it. And some of Canterbury in the 11th century knows of this interpretation.

But it doesn't go back any earlier so far as we know. The interpretation sees verse 24 as parallel with verse 23. Verse 23 says it's difficult for a rich person to get in. Verse 24 uses an illustration to confirm that difficulty.

But there are three problems. First of all, there is no archaeological record of such a gate. Secondly, the interpretation dates the Middle Ages when people had no archaeological knowledge of Jerusalem at all.

And thirdly, the interpretation abuses the context. Look at verse 25. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed saying, who then can be saved? The disciples are not thinking, oh, he's referring to that little portal in the wall.

It's really difficult but still possible. That's not what they were concluding. They concluded no one then can be saved. And that's precisely the conclusion Jesus intended they draw. And that's why Jesus responds in verse 26 with men, this is impossible. That's the point.

It is impossible. Jesus also was not thinking of little camel bites. He is thinking about a literal impossibility. Well then, are verses 23 and 24 contradictory? Verse 23 again says it's difficult. Verse 24 says it's impossible.

What do we make of this? And the answer is actually quite simple. It's difficult, verse 23, because the rich man has to realize it's impossible by his own good works. That's the point.

Both statements are true. It's very difficult for a rich man to recognize that he needs a righteousness that's not his own. And it's always been that way with the world's wealthy. They have to humble themselves. They have to come into the kingdom the same way a poor man does. And that's very difficult for a rich man to recognize. But if a rich man recognizes that all his wealth and all his power and all his prestige and all his positions aren't going to do him any good whatsoever, well then, verse 26, with God all things are possible. So the whole point of the passage is that we need a righteousness that's not our own.

That's what the message is communicating to us. Now I have a question for you. Do you suppose that we went through all the trouble and expense of adoption because we really wanted that broken little blue suitcase?

I mean, my wife just had to have it. We wanted Asher's financial assets, right? Well, believe it or not, all that stuff got left in China.

Somewhere in a dump, I assume somewhere over there. We wanted Asher. Now that's a pitiful example compared to God's redeeming grace. But when God set his affection upon us long before we were born, do you suppose that he was interested in all the wealth that we'd accumulated in life? All of our positions of power and prestige? And do you suppose the creator of heaven and earth and all the bright stars in the universe really needs our broken little suitcases? Justification has nothing to do with what we can offer to God and everything to do with what God offers to us, the righteousness of Christ.

And just as an aside, let me ask a second question. Would you have turned away the rich young ruler? If a man of great wealth or power or influence came to join your church, would you be tempted to let him in? Are we tempted to Christianize politicians because we think the gospel can only succeed in the wings of political power? Are we tempted to speculate about how much success the gospel would have if a great politician or celebrity or sports superstar would just convert?

I mean, if Warren Buffett or Tom Brady or Bill Gates converted and joined my church, wouldn't that be awesome? Well, the disciples certainly thought that way. And Matthew writing years after this event seems to have understood their folly. And he points out in verse 25, they were exceedingly amazed at how Jesus dealt with the rich man. Jesus just turned away a superstar.

And that's not all. Matthew actually arranges this narrative right in the heels of another embarrassing episode for the disciples. Look at verses 13 and 14. Then were brought unto him little children that he should put his hands on them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me. For of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Now imagine that. The disciples turn away the little children. And they want to accept the rich man. Jesus, on the other hand, accepts the little children and turns away the wealthy man. It's children that don't come into the kingdom with arm loads of wealth and arm loads of good works think they're going to please God. And all of my interaction with my own little children, it has yet to even occur to them to offer their good works to God.

They come with a very simple faith. And Jesus says, let them in. Now in the aftermath of the incident with the rich young ruler in chapter 20, Jesus is going to tell us a highly unusual and counterintuitive parable. And I want to turn your attention to it now. This is a parable that illustrates further the deficiency in the rich man's thinking.

And let's read straight through it and understand initially it is puzzling. Chapter 20 and verse 1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace and said unto them, go ye also into the vineyard.

And whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle and said unto them, why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, go ye also into the vineyard.

And whatsoever is right, that shall you receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard said unto his steward, call the laborers and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more. And they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, saying, these last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them and said, friend, I do thee no wrong.

Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that as thine and go thy way. I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last, for many be called but few chosen. Now understand that when Jesus told parables, he often did so in order to make a very particular point. If you try to find a particular meaning in every tiny detail, then you will miss the point. Or if you read more into the parable than Jesus intended, you will badly misapply it. So for example, is this parable designed to teach a Christian businessman how to compensate his employees? No, that's not the point.

Then what's the point? Well essentially, Jesus tells a story of a man who hires laborers to work in his vineyard, but he hired them at different hours of the day. Some worked a long hard day, others worked shorter portions of the day, but they all got paid the same amount. Doesn't that strike you as unfair? It's supposed to strike you that way. In our conventional understanding of how the world is supposed to run, the person who works harder should get paid more.

That's only fair. But Jesus is deliberately taking a standard convention that you and I recognize as just unfair and he's turning it on its head. But he's not doing so in order to attack our standard conventions. So again, why is he doing this?

What's the point? Well the point is that God is not a debtor to any man. The point is the eternal reward that you receive from God is not commensurate with your work in this life. In our conventional understanding, when an employee performs a service for the employer, that employer actually becomes a debtor to the employee. The employer owes him a paycheck. And if you try to shirk your responsibility and not pay your employee the way we all pay our debts, the law will come after you.

It's supposed to work that way. During my college days, my brother and I worked for a businessman and he didn't pay us a wage. He kept promising but not delivering. Well thankfully my brother was dating a young lady who is now his wife and her dad owned the building that the businessman rented and her dad was Italian. And he had three grown sons and they reminded you of the Italian mafia. And when he found out, let's just say we got paid very quickly. That's because the employer is indebted to the employee.

He's got to pay. Well that's precisely how the rich man looked at God. I performed so many good works and God used to stamp my time card with eternal life.

Right? Wrong. That's not how it works in the kingdom of heaven at all. That's the point of the parable. God does not owe anybody anything. Verse 15, it's all his to do with as he pleases.

God always interacts with us on the basis of grace, not debt. That's the point. When God looks at you the sinner and pronounces you perfectly justified in his sight, it's not because of any reward that you earned or any broken little suitcase of treasures that you're pulling along behind you. It's because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. That's justification. That's the point. Now look at the conclusion of the parable in verse 16. So the last shall be first and the first last. And I wonder, have you ever quoted that verse out of context?

I bet you have. We so often read it as if God is some sort of cosmic Robin Hood who's there to sort of redistribute the rewards of the wealthy. We often misinterpret it as a statement of radical reversal. The last in line goes to the front.

The front line goes to the end, right? Wrong. It's not a statement of radical reversal. It's a statement of equality. Those who labored in the vineyard all day long and those who labored for an hour, they are all rewarded equally on the basis of grace, not of debt.

That's the point. So let's put this all together. Here is a rich young ruler who thinks that he can earn God's favor in a conventional contractual arrangement. I produce good works for you God and God, you pay me my reward. Well, if you want to try to get in the kingdom that way, then go get busy.

Go so every last thing that you have and give it all to the poor. In fact, if you want to work your way into the kingdom, your debt is going to be so enormous that you'll never enter. Well then how do I get into the kingdom?

Well, here's a glorious alternative. God is no man's debtor. You come to God with nothing at all. No power, no wealth, no positions, no influence, no title, no fame. If you are the poorest person in this room and if you are the richest, if you are the most talented or the least talented, then here's what you bring.

Nothing. Bring nothing to God. And God has a plan of salvation that does not discriminate. He gives the righteousness of Christ equally to the poor and to the wealthy. The kingdom of heaven is rather like Dodo's glorious line in Alice in Wonderland.

Everybody has won and all must have prizes. Now I don't know how to preach on justification in a year like this without mentioning Martin Luther. This coming October 31st, 2017, will mark the 500th anniversary of Luther's nailing of the 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. Luther was challenging the indulgence system of the Roman Catholic Church. But what lay behind Luther's hammer blows was not a bold, fiery German preacher. What lay behind those blows was a tortured soul who couldn't pay his debts. He came to God as if God owed him something.

But he couldn't find an answer to a very old question. How can a man be just with God? Luther, like the rich young ruler, made every attempt to earn favor with God through endeavors at personal righteousness. And his striving for righteousness through meritorious deeds became legendary. He wrote, I honor the Pope with such reverence that I would defy all papists who have ever lived, or still do, to outdo me. But he confesses he found no solace for his soul. He wrote, though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience.

I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly I was angry with God. That sounds like the rich young ruler just turning his back on Jesus. But then Luther confesses he at long last discovered not his own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ, what he calls the righteousness of God. And he wrote, at last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, in it, the righteousness of God is revealed. He who through faith is righteous shall live. And he wrote, here I felt that I was all together, born again.

And that's how Luther came into the kingdom, with nothing at all, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Let's pray. Our Father, we are so thankful that you have made available to each of us, the rich, the poor, the talented, those who come with so little human ability, those with positions of power, the weakest and the lowliest among us. You've made available to us all the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and it's his righteousness alone that we claim for salvation. And it's in Christ's name that we pray. Amen. You've been listening to a sermon preached by Bible professor Dr. Brent Cook. Thanks for listening to our program, and join us again tomorrow as we continue the doctrinal study series called Our Great Salvation here on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-07 07:55:37 / 2023-04-07 08:05:06 / 9

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