“The greatest single reason why the church is declining is that it has ceased to go out to the lost. For some reason, evangelism has become something to do in church – within the walls of the church building. The church today expects unbelievers to come to it, when in fact the church should go out to them. Effective outreach will take place when Christians realize that the starting point of the Great Commission is to move out from the comfort zones of ecclesiastical structures into the lives of the lost around them. From the pulpit to the pew – from the pastor to the parishioner – the perspective of evangelism must be that of a proactive, aggressive endeavor.” (“Outreaching,” Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry)
The question of “faith alone” is the question of how one gets saved. How one defines and explains faith will answer the question, “How can I get to heaven”?
Galatians 2:16 says, “Yet we know that a person is not justifiedby works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Justification comes through faith in Christ and only in Christ .
Why can we NOT save ourselves? Romans 3 says there is no one who has ever been or ever will be righteous (vs. 10-11) and we all fall short of God’s glory (vs. 23). To put it simply, we can’t get to heaven on our own.
Why? Our blood and our lives are polluted with sin. If any of us COULD keep the law, we WOULD BE saved by works, but NONE of us keep the law of God.
So, if we cannot save ourselves, we must be saved by Someone else. That’s where II Corinthians 5:21 comes in. “For our sake he [the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin [He was totally un-depraved but treated as if he was depraved.], so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God [We are totally unrighteousness but see as perfectly righteous.]” (II Cor 5:21).
Martin Luther often said semper simul iustus et peccator, which means “justified and at the same time sinners”. This is a strange paradox that we are both righteous and sinful at the same time. But, that’s imputation!
You could say positionally – we are righteous – but practically we are not. So, if you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you are viewed as righteous positionally even though you are still a sinner practically. Why? Because when the Father looks at evidence of your righteousness, He sees His Son’s righteousness on your behalf.
Jesus righteousness is credited to us because of our union with Him as Christians – “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, their faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
Faith + works is not salvation, but faith + works is evidence that we are saved. Even John Calvin would say, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith that justifies IS NOT ALONE: just as the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is by alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light.” Faith is not works but is proven BY works.
Faith is proven when someone acts upon their trust. Obedience proves faith.
If you get faith right, you get the Gospel right. If you get the Gospel right, you get eternity right. Let’s get eternity right. Sola Fide.
In a remote place of the world there was a Garden called Eden. There was a man and woman, named Adam and Eve, who had utopia. All they had to do in order to continue enjoying this blissful home was to obey one law. And if they obeyed that law, their relationship with the Creator would be perfect and sweet. Unfortunately, they couldn’t even manage that one command from God. Through the temptation of Satan, Eve and then Adam sinned.
Utopia became a world polluted by sin. As a result of their sin, a perfect fellowship with the Creator had been broken. Adam and Eve no longer had the privilege of walking with God without fear; now their sin made God both their Creator and Judge.
A relationship was broken, but thankfully it WAS NOT beyond repair. The reconciliation that would need to take place between man and His Creator would be made possible, but not by any human means.
Man certainly tried his best to earn that salvation back. He spilt the blood of enough goats and bulls and made plenty of sacrifices on an altar to seem to get that perfect fellowship back, but his sacrificing was less than adequate. It wasn’t enough, because it wasn’t perfect. Every animal that was sacrificed in the Bible had a blemish; it lacked perfection.
God’s demand for a relationship with man could only come one way: through a perfect lamb, which was not in existence on this polluted Earth. The Father’s design for reconciliation would have to come via the commissioning of His own beloved Son to earth.
When Jesus came to the womb of Mary, He was God incarnate. His life of 30+ years was one of perfect obedience to the Creator. Thus, he became the only one who could bring reconciliation between man and God.
When He was sent by the Creator to the cross, He joyfully embraced that bloody sacrifice. When He hung on that cross for those hours of His crucifixion, God looked down on Him from above and poured out His wrath and fury for all of man’s sins. Every sin committed since Eve took a bite of that fruit in the garden was paid for on the cross.
Thus Jesus was treated on the cross as He lived all of our sinful lives. In exchange for God’s treatment of His Son on the cross, we are then treated as if we lived Jesus’ life.
His death brought back the possibility of reconciliation between God and man.
And now, as a result of that Cross-death, we need only to call out to Jesus as Lord and Savior to be reconciled to God and receive the salvation offered to us and made possible by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.
First, it is NOT the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Some also call this the unforgivable sin (Mark 3:29). It is the sin the Pharisees were accused of breaking when they accused Jesus of delivering a man from a demon through the power of the Evil One and not the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:22-32).
The problem is always context. No one speaks anywhere about sinning against the Spirit. He speaks of sin in very general terms – as being against God.
Second, it is NOT a moral sin.
Catholics have come up with two categories of sin: venial sins (or lesser sins) and moral sins (sins that the Bible say bring about death). The most notable sins that the Law says brings death are murder and adultery (Leviticus 20; Numbers 18). And the O.T. Law does make a distinction between sins committed willfully and sins committed in ignorance (Leviticus 4-5; Numbers 15).
Here’s the problem: all unrighteousness is sin (I John 5”17). Minor sins are not somehow more tolerable than other sins. All sins lead to death – the curse brought on from Eden. Plus, what do we do with murderers like Paul or adulterers like David?
Finally, the sin which leads to death IS denying Christ as Lord or rejecting the Gospel.
This view makes the most sense, because at the end of life, we are not measured by how much robbing we did (e.g., the thief on the cross) or how many Christians we killed (e.g., Saul before he was converted), we are gauged by our acceptance or rejection of Christ.
In his Gospel, John wrote, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). The sin that leads to the ultimate of spiritual deaths has to be our rejection of Jesus Christ.
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Credits: Music, and alt. and additional words – Doug Plank
Original verses – Augustus Toplady (1772)
Now why this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief His spotless Son for us?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Now canceled at the cross?
Jesus, all my trust is in Your blood
Jesus, You’ve rescued us
Through Your great love
Complete atonement You have made
And by Your death have fully paid
The debt Your people owed
No wrath remains for us to face
We’re sheltered by Your saving grace
And sprinkled with Your blood
How sweet the sound of saving grace
How sweet the sound of saving grace
Christ died for me
Be still my soul and know this peace
The merits of your great high priest
Have bought your liberty
Rely then on His precious blood
Don’t fear your banishment from God
Since Jesus sets you free
“There are certain things which have to be said over and over again, of necessity, and yet this is the marvel and the wonder of the cross, that however many times a man may preach about it, he has never finished preaching about it. There is always something fresh to say, always something new. There is a great central message that is always there, but nothing is so wonderful as to see that one thing in different ways. … During these twenty-six years in my Westminster pulpit there have been times when in my utter folly I have wondered, or the devil has suggested to me, that there is nothing more for me to say, that I have preached it all. I thank God that I can now say that I feel I am only at the beginning of it. There is no end to this glorious message of the cross, for there is always something new and fresh and entrancing and moving and uplifting that one has never seen before.”
Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Cross: God’s Way of Salvation