Jesus Christ suffered the ignominious death of the cross nearly two thousand years ago. About 30 years later, the apostle Paul penned the message of justification. Before the end of the first century, the Person of Christ was attacked, conditions required of the sinner to obtain salvation inundated the gospel-message, and rituals invaded the worship.
Almost 500 years ago, during the Protestant Reformation, sincere and courageous men attempted to separate from the conditions developed over the intervening centuries. In 1618, church leaders convened in the city of Dort in the Netherlands to discuss the distinctions of free-will and free-grace religion. Though they didn’t agree on many articles of doctrine, both groups departed holding to the tenet that the individual must exercise faith as the condition to be right with God. As always, error that is closest to the truth, but is not the truth, is the most dangerous.
Our country began with the cry for liberty and opportunity for all. It is the supreme system of government for citizens of this world. Inexpediently, these democratic-republic ideals found their way into theology. A confusing misconception has resulted, leading men to think Christ is an equal opportunity Savior; He is not! Christ exclusively died and intercedes for those given to Him by the Father. To them alone the Holy Spirit grants repentance unto the acknowledging of the truth and faith that rests in “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”
The apostle Paul said man is naturally ignorant of and offended by the gospel. Some stumble over it and others ridicule it. Most attempt to assimilate it into their free-will doctrines or their Reform theology. Both make it “another gospel,” meaning a perverted one. God’s called sheep aren’t ignorant of or offended at the gospel. They love and count it their salvation.
The doctrine called “justification by faith” is the singular false doctrine that unites false Christendom. This spurious doctrine says justification is accounted or appropriated on the condition of the sinner’s faith. Who holds this false doctrine, you ask: those holding to man’s assumed free will, those teaching decisional-regeneration and decisional-justification, many who embrace Reformed doctrine, and even many under the sovereign grace banner. When faith is made to be a condition for justification both faith and justification are corrupted.
Contrarily, the notion that it is something inside of us or something we do that has anything to do with saving us from sin or justifying us before God is foreign to the gospel of God’s grace. Justification by faith requires an act of man’s will. The imputation of righteousness, which alone justifies, was a sovereign act of God’s will. Justification in no sense rests on the will or works of the offender of God’s holy character, law, and justice.
Faith is God’s gift to His elect, in order that they may rest in the justification God declared in their behalf. When Christ said, “thy faith has saved thee,” it wasn’t the act of faith but the object of faith: Himself. Upon God’s elect hearing this message of Christ, by the Holy Spirit’s regeneration, they find it irresistible in their mind, affections, and will. They inwardly, consciously, and personally embrace Christ and His message of salvation. When an elect sinner hears, understands, and embraces the true gospel of God’s saving grace, he will repent of (turn from) any profession of faith made under “another gospel.”
The preacher’s principal responsibility is to preach the gospel. He must preach the gospel in totality, not in parts and portions. He must declare in the fabric of his message the golden thread of the gospel, being God’s sovereign election of grace. It is not the work of the gospel preacher to tell anyone “God loves you,” or for that matter, “God justified you.” Both statements are infinitely assumptive, yet the first statement is the fundamental theology and methodology of a large portion of false Christendom.
The principal aspiration of true believers is to know God and to know Him as He is. That is a fearful yet wonderful journey. If God is God at all, He must be sovereign; if He is sovereign at all, He must be sovereign in salvation. The Christian message is clear: Christ did all the obeying and God did all the justifying. Let preacher and people alike explore the depths of the riches of God’s verbally inspired word and immutable gospel!
The Biblical doctrine of the Gospel may be simply stated:
- God the Father, possessing all wisdom and knowledge, by grace chose all who would be saved from sin.
- God the Son, possessing all authority and power, became flesh, satisfied divine wrath, substituted Himself for chosen sinners acquitting them of iniquities and earned righteousness by which God justified them.
- God the Holy Spirit, possessing all dominion and understanding, to those chosen, extends an irresistible call revealing what God did for them before the foundation of the world and what Christ did for them at the cross.
It is my prayer you, the reader, will carefully and prayerfully consider these matters. I hope you find them enlightening and encouraging.
David Simpson, Pastor