Faith Alone. Sermon manuscript:
Good-morning Connection Church, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jonathan Hansen.
I have been coming to Connection Spearfish for, I believe, six or seven years now. This church has impacted me in more ways than I could say. God has achieved in me the most spiritual growth in my life within this church. I love this Church with a deep and passionate love. The people of this church are more than just a congregation to me, you are my family. I have shared meals with you, spent holidays with you, laughed with you, wept with you, bleed with you.
I am not exaggerating when I say, I love you. When Paul writes in his letters to “the beloved” it makes perfect sense to me. You, the body of Connection Church Spearfish are beloved to me.
But as with all things, times come to an end. God would not have us sit in complacency in the same place for our lives. He calls out into steps of faithfulness. For the past three years I have been wrestling with God’s clear calling upon my life into ministry. I knew I was called to be a pastor, something that faithful men in this body confirmed. However, I did not know what specifically that meant. Through the past couple years, those faithful men have worked to equip me and help clarify God’s call upon my life. It became clear that Katharine and I were to move to Lead, SD to plant the Connection Church there.
We have successfully moved into our home there and will begin meeting for Sunday services within the next couple weeks. God has been so gracious to us in clarifying the call and opening the doors for us to be faithful with what He has given us. But since we have moved and I am beginning to pastor my own church up there, the time has come for us to leave here. We are being sent out from this body to be faithful and obedient to God’s call upon our lives.
With this in mind I began to pray and seek God’s guidance in what to preach on for my last week here with you, beloved. What words of encouragement could I give to the people I have grown along side and worshiped next to. Perhaps I could challenge you to grow in an area of weakness? Or perhaps I could leave you with something uplifting on this last blessed Sunday together. While I hope to do all of these things today, I cannot simply do any one of them. If this is to be my last Sunday with you, I am bound to my conscience to declare the gospel to you. If I am to leave you with anything, it will be the message that salvation is only found in faith alone, in Christ alone.
Introduction of the text.
Open with me to Romans 5:1-2.
Explanation of Romans.
Paul wrote the letter of Romans to the church in Rome while he was in Corinth. The letter to the Romans is a heartfelt plea from Paul to these people. Paul addresses the deepest written record of his theology in this letter. He lays out salvation, election, Christ and Law, grace, faith, and much more. In the previous chapters Paul has addressed the very nature of man and salvation. Specifically in the previous verses Paul has made it clear that salvation has always been by faith, using as an example that Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the law.
Reading of the text.
So stand with me for the reading of God’s word. Romans 5:1-2,
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Dear Heavenly Father, help me to speak clearly please. Lord, let this not be about me or my words to these people. May I clearly communicate the truth of your Word. If I am to say anything that is against your Word, silence me, Lord. Close these people’s ears, and do not let them hear me. But Lord, I ask that you would open hearts to hear the truth of the Gospel. Let these people leave here today having heard that salvation is all a gift of Grace achieved through faith alone in Christ alone. Lord, let us come to know you deeper as we study your Word, together.
The year is 1510, the world is a different place than it is today. The government and the church are one. Unified under the banner of the “Holy Roman Empire.” The Catholic Church reigns supreme, dictating what is to believed, said, and done in order to merit salvation. The common man has no access to the Word of God and rely upon the select few who have been trained to preach to them and administer the Lord’s Supper. The common man is spiritually enslaved to the teachings of “holy mother Church.”
Removed are the days of the apostles teachings of salvation being in faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Added to faith is the doctrine of merit. Christ’s work on the cross is no longer taught to be all that is needed to justify us before God. Instead, one must work and earn merit in order to be justified. It was claimed that whatever unholiness that you had within you would be expunged through countless years in purgatory until you were holy enough to enter heaven. If you cannot work enough, you could purchase “Indulgences.” By giving money to the church you could receive a writ that would set you free from your time in purgatory.
In other words, you must work or pay to be justified.
This was simply the system of the day, and you did not upset the system. Those who did were branded a heretic, and killed; normally by burning. No, you simply must have faith in Christ then knuckle down and work our your full salvation on your own.
One young monk took this very seriously. If anyone were going to earn their salvation, it was going to be him. He joined the Augustinian cloister after a traumatic experience where he had sworn his life to being a monk if God would save him, an oath this young man took extremely seriously. He was acutely aware of his sins. Often he would spend hours in confession, confessing everything he could think of, afraid that any unconfessed sin would be enough to anger God and send him to hell. Even when he would be doing well in his life, he would run to confession to confess pride at his strength. The monk hearing his confession at one point told him to get over it and “come back when you have some real sin to confess.”
“Real sins?” pondered young Martin Luther to himself. Any sin before a holy God would be enough to condemn him. Years went by and Luther began to preach and grow in his studies, but never escaping the gnawing pains of his wretched sin and enmity with God. Eventually this lead to Luther viewing God as a tyrant who demanded perfection, and no matter how hard Martin tried, perfect was outside of his reach. He knew that he was sinful to the core.
1516, a man named Erasmus restores the New Testament to it’s original Greek. Martin Luther receives a copy of this monumental work, and begins to devour the Scriptures. He lights upon Romans. Could it be? Could it be that man can be justified and have peace with God simply through faith? Is faith alone really enough? As he devoured the Scriptures there was no denying it. Salvation was through Faith Alone.
503 years ago yesterday, on October 31, 1517 when the practice of selling indulgences had again become commonplace, Luther would take a stand by nailing his 95 theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, calling into account the practice of indulgences to gain justification. This is commonly referred to as Reformation Day, as it sparked the protestant reformation. It changed the course of the world and made the Scriptures available to all men, and re-established the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Passages like this one we are looking at today have been world changing throughout history. The idea of salvation through faith is not just important, but vital. But why is that?
Let us look closely at what these two verses are saying: Read verse one.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, in his clear restatement of what he has covered so far, starts with the word “therefore...” That word means “In light of what I have previously talked about...” or “Because of what I just said...” Remember, Paul has just finished showing us that salvation is not by works of the Law, but through faith in Christ by using the example of Abraham. So for clarity we can read this as “Because righteousness comes through faith not works of the Law, and since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are justified by faith, nothing else, and this faith gives us peace with God. Faith in Christ is what makes us right with God.
Paul moves from “therefore...” to the pivotal phrase, “since we have been justified by faith...” This is key. As Christians, our only hope of justification is through faith. We hold no hope in our works, thoughts, wisdom, or deeds. We will not be made right through those. We are made right, through faith.
The fruit of this faith is peace with God. We, enemies of God can have peace with Him. We, who do nothing to merit this justification, can have peace with God. We, who deserve hell and punishment, can have peace with God. This is not something we deserve, but is a gift. And this gift, this grace, is achieved in only one way.
“Through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” The object of our faith is not our own works. It is not our own strength to obey God. Our faith must be founded upon Jesus Christ alone. He alone is enough to put our faith in.
Point 1: If we have been justified by faith , we have peace with God.
This is what shook Martin Luther to the core in the 1500’s. After bring taught that he must work to earn and keep his justification his entire life, this was like the first glimpse of light after a long darkness. This was how all of the reformers felt. it is why the motto of the reformation was “Post Tenebras lux.” “After Darkness Light.” You see, it wasn’t his works that made him right with God, it was faith and faith alone.
This is why faith has been referred to as the “anti-work.” Because it is the statement that you are not trusting in what you did, because you know that you could never do enough, but it is trusting in what someone else did in your place. That they did enough. And this is a beautiful picture that I think really helps us grasp the weight of these verses. The system was saying “If you only do enough good deeds, you’ll be fine.” but Luther knew that he could never do enough good deeds to have peace with God. But when he read these verses, and saw that peace with God was found only in faith in Christ, not works, it changed everything.
Truly the fact that we are not saved by our works but through faith in Christ, is light a light in the darkness of our world. Just like a single match can take a room from blackness to light, and spark a fire that warm the whole house; so can this idea light hope into our hearts, and spark a fire that burns with passion for God.
Today I think we have a similar but different problem. The difference is that in the 1500’s people understood their sin. They saw God as Holy and themselves as sinful. Their problem was they believed that they could earn right standing with God through ritual and works. Today I believe we don’t see ourselves as sinful before a holy God. We don’t see God as Holy and just in punishing our sin. In fact, sin is rather taboo to discuss or address. It is hate speech to claim that something someone is doing, thinking, saying, or being is sin, especially when that sin is accepted by society.
The similarity is that society still buys into the idea of works based righteousness. Although the world views man as mostly good, the idea is still permeating that as long as you do more good than bad, you’ll probably go to heaven. Since people are mostly good, why would God send them to hell? But let’s think about this. Man is not mostly good, we are enemies of God, totally corrupt. How hopeless is a system that believes you must outweigh your bad deeds, thoughts, actions with good deeds, thoughts, and actions. And add to that the fact that scripture is clear, one sin is enough to condemn us before a holy God. There is no hope in this system.
This is one reason that the doctrine of salvation through faith alone is so vital. Works based systems provide no hope. We cannot work hard enough, long enough, or strong enough to earn our right standing before God. The extraordinary theologian, Calvin clarifies the struggle of the 1500’s and sees the struggles of today’s culture with shocking accuracy. He says,
“When any one strives to seek tranquillity of conscience by works, (which is the case with profane and ignorant men,) he labours for it in vain; for either his heart is asleep through his disregard or forgetfulness of God’s judgment, or else it is full of trembling and dread, until it reposes on Christ, who is alone our peace.”
He is saying when we rely upon works for our righteousness we do one of two things. We forget about God’s judgement, or we are filled with terror. Our only hope for peace is in Christ. Christ is the open door that we have access to faith, grace, and peace with God. Which brings us to our second point.
Point 2: Through Christ, we gain access into grace through faith, the only way we can stand before God.
Verse 2 says,
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand...”
“Through Christ...” Truly Jesus is the door. He is the only way into God’s presence.
“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. Jn 10:7”
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jn 10:9
Christ is the beginning of and object of our faith. Eph 2:8, He is the chief cornerstone. 1 Peter 2:4 He is our all in all. Through Him, what beautiful words. God’s perfect and glorious plan of redemption was for us to gain access into grace through faith that is given through Him! This leaves me speechless.
We stand outside of God’s grace, condemned because of our sin and rebellion against God. We are His enemies, and He in His grace, in His sovereign plan makes a way of salvation that is completely orchestrated through Him, to give us access into grace, through the gift of faith.
We are outside of God’s grace. Lost and away from God’s love. But our saviour, the Good Shepherd, comes to us. He seeks us out. Not that we sought Him, but He sought us and brought us to the pen.
We were straying, seeking meaning, purpose, and fulfilment on our own. these desires led us to to the cliff’s edge. We, seeking our own fortunes become battered and bruised and filthy. We were far from Him, but He sought us out. He plucked us from the thorn bushes and cliff edges. He gently brushed the thorns from our matted wool, lifted us upon His shoulders, and carried us back to the pen. He puts us in the pen, cleans our wounds, washes us, feeds us, and loves us. He is our way into grace. Our faith in Him is because of who He is. We hear His voice calming us, and we know it. It calms our hearts as we are carried into this grace He has for us.
We do not gain access by what we do. We gain access through faith in Christ. We do not gain access by being good enough. We can never pay enough penance to earn out way into God’s grace. We cannot pay enough money to find ourselves in right standing before God. Even if by some miracle our supposed good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we are still hopeless to stand before the holy God! The only access into grace is faith in Christ.
And we must see the importance of the object of our faith. It is not simply faith that grants us salvation. I may have the greatest faith in history in a worthless object and will find myself burning in Hell for eternity. Faith is not what saves you! It is who you have faith in. The works based lies are still lies that depend on faith. But that faith is hopeless. Faith is the purchase of an indulgence to say your sin is forgiven is a hopeless faith! Faith that your merit, earned by confession or paying penance is false faith.
Hear me please, your faith in your religious acts, or in your supposed goodness will not measure up. They are false faiths. The only faith that will stand, and allow us to stand before God is faith in Christ. Faith in what He did for us. Are you trusting what He did? Or are you trusting in something else? Is the weight of your eternity in Jesus Christ? Or is it something that will fail you?
If your faith is in Jesus Christ, our only response is what Paul gives us next.
Point 3: Now we rejoice in hope .
“And we rejoice in hope of the Glory of God.”
The only appropriate response to going from death to life, from hell to heaven, from lost to found is rejoicing. Our response to being saved is to rejoice! To me, this seems like the most straight forward response! Our escape from the fires of hell has been purchased and all we must do is trust in the buyer. Rejoicing and glorifying God seems to be the least response we can have!
If someone saved your life, how would you respond? Your standing in the middle of I-90 with a semi truck flying at you at 75 miles an hour. You’re frozen in fear, unable to move. You want to run, but your feet are stuck in place. If it strikes you, you will be paste. But at the last second, someone throws you out of the way, saving you from becoming road pizza. You stand up, drenched in sweat from the heat of the moment, wipe your forehead and the tears from your eyes, look at the person who threw you to safety from certain death and say, “Well, thanks. See ya.”
Or worse, you are going to face torture and eventual death for horrific crimes against a righteous King. You deserve death. But when your punishment is due to come, you find out that the prince, the King’s son, has taken your place. He has endured hours of torment and torture to free you from your due punishment. As you walk down the hall to be released, the prince is hauled past you, bloodied and beaten in your place. Skin falling off, no longer the right color of flesh due to the blood staining. You are given the opportunity to thank your saviour. And you spit in his face, laughing, saying “Who wouldn’t die for me. Look at me, I’m amazing.”
We hear stories like that and should be repulsed. But, even this does not do justice to the heart that does not weep and rejoice over Christ, God the Son, giving His life to save wretched sinners like us. He was brutalized and bloodied, executed in the most vile way to save those who don’t deserve it.
Why then do we have such lack luster worship? We are the people of God, correct? Does our worship then reflect that of people who’s very souls have been saved from the flames of hell itself? And I don’t just mean our congregational singing on Sundays. No, worship is a lifestyle of rejoicing for what God has done for us. But let’s just think about that element of worship when we gather together on the Lord’s Day. We worship through singing, reading of the Word, preaching, giving, and fellowship. It saddens me when I see people bored in time of worship together. It saddens me when I see people un-enthused about the reading of God’s Word or hearing sound teaching.
I love you, really I do. Like I said at the opening, you are all truly beloved to me. But if we are being honest, beloved, our worship is rather lack luster considering what we claim to believe. I’m not trying to be mean, or harsh, but it’s true isn’t it? As someone who has sat in this congregation, in seats just like you’re in right now for seven years, If I were to be brutally honest, our worshiping together on Sundays does not really reflect the passion that we should have for what God has done in us. Why is that? Why is it that we don’t tend to really understand the full glory of what God has done for us? Paul said that he was convinced that no bad thing could even dampen the glory that we will have, Romans 8:18. Yet we can’t even be bothered to be here with fellow heirs of Christ, singing and listening, and giving, and loving if there is a slight snow. Doesn’t that seem a little off to you?
I think that it is precisely because we really don’t know who God is, and by extension, we don’t know who we are.
Point 4: Theology leads to Doxology .
Knowing God, and in consequence knowing ourselves, will lead to the most beautiful and unhindered praise.
Theology simply means the knowing God, or the study of God. Doxology means praise. In essence knowing God better leads to praising God better. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? How can we praise someone we don’t know? How can we really worship someone we don’t know? The answer is, we can’t. We can’t worship someone we know nothing about.
I’ve used this example before but it applies so well here. What if i were tell you that I love my wife. I love my wife Lisa so much. Her curly blonde hair, her dark brown eyes, her 5’11 height. I love her so much. She means the world to me. Well, anyone who knows me would know that those statements, no matter how heart felt are garbage. Anyone who knows me, knows my wife Katharine. The straight haired, brunette, with greenish blue eyes, who is not 5’11.
I could sing this fictional woman’s praise for hours on end, and it would be pointless. No matter how passionately I proclaim my love for my wife, if i know nothing about her, those claims are empty. You would walk away either going, “Jonathan does not love his wife at all!” or “Is Jonathan married to someone else, other than Katharine?”
Let me now ask you this, are you married to someone else other than God? You see, we have failed in the church these days. We have popularized this idea that theology and doctrine are boring and unnecessary. Men in the position of shepherd have lied to the sheep, leading them astray. They have and still do claim that doctrine divides, so we must avoid it. For those of you who don’t know, doctrine means “teaching.” And they are right on one count. Doctrine does divide. It divides truth from lie. But these unfaithful men have taught that theology (knowing God) is unessential to the Christian faith.
In doing this, people have not lost theology, they have lost sound theology, right theology, correct theology. In essence, we have incorrect knowledge of who God is. We are declaring our love for a false god. Or as R.C. Sproul put it in a most famous interview,
“This is what’s wrong with the Christian church today. We don’t know who God is.” - R.C. Sproul
I say all this, not to be mean, or harsh, or dramatic. I say all of this because I love you. Because I want you to see the importance of knowing who God is. You cannot worship someone you don’t know. The Christian should be consumed with a passion to know God. To really know God. We shouldn’t view it as boring or unnecessary to get to know God. We should view it as absolutely vital! If we love God, studying everything about Him won’t bore us.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone is not just head knowledge that should make us shrug our shoulders and mutter an “amen” then live as if nothing has changed. The doctrine of justification by faith alone should change everything!
Application: Have you been justified by faith?
Are you here, trusting in yourself for salvation? Are you trusting in your parent’s faith to save you? Are you trusting in your good works? If you are, you are trusting in a false hope that will let you down and end with you in hell. I care too much about you to mince words.
The only way to be saved from your sin and eternal punishment is to repent and trust in what Christ did in your place on the cross! Do not leave here without doing that! Do not leave with your faith in anything other than Jesus Christ alone! This may be your last chance. This may be your last call. If you walk out that door, trusting in anything other than Jesus, you may never get the chance to heart this call again! God is being merciful to you. He is giving you the chance to confess that you are a sinner, and trust in His work on your behalf. Do not walk away unsaved, I beg you. I will be right here, eager to talk with you, to pray with you. Come, make it right with God. Do not ignore the Spirit drawing you, pulling on your heart.
Application: Can you rejoice in hope ?
But for those of you who are saved, can you rejoice in hope? Do you have hope in what Christ did for you? If you have been justified through faith alone in Christ alone, you can have hope! Even if you have just trusted in Him today, you can have hope in Him. Martin Luther once said, “When I look at myself, I do not see how I can be saved. But when I look at Christ, I do not see how I can be lost.” That it the attitude we can have as Christians when we are trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. Rejoice as ones who are saved from eternal punishment! Rejoice as pardoned criminals. Or to use the terms of Scripture, rejoice as the saved elect of God.
Application: Fall in love with knowing God.
But Connection Church Spearfish, my last admonition to you is this: Fall in love with knowing God. Beloved, do not be distracted of bored by theology. I beg you, be fed by knowing God more. Strive to know who He is, what He thinks of everything, what He likes and dislikes. Strive to know who God is. Please, my beloved, do not be pulled away and along by any lie. If you know God, you will know the truth.
I have loved my time with you beyond words. God has used many of you to strengthen and grow me. I leave you now to follow where God is calling. Be faithful. Be courageous in the truth. Do not abandon gathering together. Be strong in this uncertain time. But most of all, beloved;
Stand on the authority of Scripture Alone, By the Grace if God Alone, Through Faith in Christ Alone, all for the Glory of God Alone.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all, Amen. Let’s pray.
Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software, 3:02 PM November 2, 2020.