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December 10, 2017 Five Part 5

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is Romans 4:1-5. READ.

 

[I. Introduction] One of the wonderful and most blessed things to come out of the Reformation of the 16th century was what has come to be known as the Five Solas. Sola is the Latin word for “alone.” The reason that these “Solas” are important is because people have a strong tendency to think that their acceptance by God depends upon them. But this belief is deadly to spiritual and emotional health. The Solas help protect us from stinkin’ thinkin’. Now, there are aspects of the Christian life that do depend upon us. Our sanctification – our growth in holiness – does depend on our cooperation with the Lord. (But even our sanctification is ultimately rooted in Christ Alone as our supply of life to make sanctification flourish.) Our rewards – what we will receive from the Lord when he returns to the earth – also depend upon our faithfulness. But the Solas focus upon our being made right with God at the beginning of our spiritual life, what is known as justification.

 

Every person needs justification because no one is right before the eyes of God once they begin to sin. Since everyone sins, and that is no small matter, everyone is condemned. We desperately need to be made right with God! We desperately need to be justified. If we die in our sins we have no hope. Simply put, we need salvation from the righteous wrath of God. God’s severe judgment against sin is right because sin is mutiny and hateful rebellion against a good and holy God.

 

Every person needs salvation.

 

We have already seen that the purpose of our salvation is Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone. However, it is not just the purpose of our salvation that is for the glory of God alone. The purpose of our very lives is for the glory of God alone.

 

The sufficiency of our salvation comes from Solus Christus – Christ alone.

 

The source of our salvation is because of Sola Gratia – grace alone, as is the source of our forgiveness for our sins after coming to Christ. Even the source of our joy, once we come to Christ, is by grace alone.

 

These three Solas are great blessings because when we understand them we will not be deceived into thinking that our salvation has its purpose, sufficiency, or source within us.

 

Today we will see that the appropriation of our salvation is by Sola Fide – by faith alone.

 

[II.] The first question we should answer is: What is faith? We must ask this question because there is a great deal of misconception regarding faith. Sadly, even some who have been Christians for many years do not know what faith is. The best way to answer the question, “What is faith?” is to be clear on what faith is not.

 

Faith is not a leap into the dark. The 19th century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, popularized the expression “leap of faith.” This phrase suggests that we are to believe without adequate evidence, that we are to just exercise our will to believe even though there may be no good reason to believe. To take “a leap of faith” seems to be the same thing as having “blind faith” (another expression that is both popular and wrong).

 

There was a band in the 1970’s by the name of Blind Faith that was very talented. If the names Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker mean anything to you then you may have heard of them. They certainly were not a Christian band but, just like the Doobie Brothers (also not Christians…at least not back when they were making records) who recorded the song Jesus is Just Alright, they recorded a song by the title In the Presence of the Lord. It’s a great song. [play]

 

Blind Faith is good if you are a rock band but it is not good if that is the kind of faith that you have.

 

Atheists and agnostics attempt to define faith is a way that separates faith from reason and evidence.  One atheist defines it this way: “Faith is the word one uses when one does not have enough evidence to justify holding a belief, but when one just goes ahead and believes it anyway.”[1]

 

Faith, as it is revealed in the Bible, is based upon evidence and reason. Faith includes knowledge. I like the way one Christian author has put it: “The common notion that ‘where there is knowledge there can be no faith, and where there is faith there can be no knowledge” is likewise just as false as false can be.’”[2]

 

Listen to the author of Hebrews:

 

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2             For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3             how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4             while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. [3]

 

There is good exhortation in this passage. Notice it says that we must pay closer attention to what we have heard. This is more than just good advice. There is something that we must do. That is, pay closer attention to what we have heard. Are you paying closer attention to what you have been hearing in church? Or, do you daydream? Are you paying closer attention to what you have been hearing in church? Or, do you just listen to the message and then forget about it the rest of the week and the rest of the year? I know that there are at least two people in this church that actually study the sermons and share them with others. I do not say that is a good idea just because they are my sermons. That is a good idea for any sermon given in a Bible-believing church.

 

The author of Hebrews says we must pay closer attention to what we have heard. Why? Because we might drift away. Drifting away is something that can happen to anyone. It can especially happen to those who think their faith is strong and they will not be the one who drifts away. The things that we are sure of now may change into uncertainty for a multitude of reasons, sometimes not for the reasons you think. A person often drifts away because either matters in the church or things in their personal lives are not going according to the way they think they should go. When that happens they subconsciously begin to look for reasons to avoid church and sometimes even avoid the Lord. That is what it means to drift away.

 

The way to prevent drifting away is to pay closer attention to the things that you have heard from preachers of God’s word and to God’s word itself.

 

What we have believed is not only the words of men inspired by God but we have believed the messages of angels. The words spoken by angels are reliable!

 

We must not neglect the salvation that has come to us.  For the inspired author to tell us not to neglect our salvation – he is writing to those who are already followers of Christ – what does this imply? (Answer: It implies that we may neglect our salvation once we have it.)

 

This salvation was first declared by the Lord Jesus Himself (vs. 3) and it was faithfully repeated and expounded upon by his apostles. We need to nurture it. We need to pay closer attention to it! These are all nuggets of gold in the first few verses. But verse 4 is the most germane to our topic. See that God did not just expect people to believe what was spoken without any evidence. He bore witness with signs and wonders and miracles. Signs, wonders, and miracles are evidence that God was at work in Jesus! Signs, wonders, and miracles are evidence that God was at work in the lives of the apostles after him. Not just in Jesus and the apostles, but also by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed to his followers!

 

[Show diagram.]

 

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy:

 

            And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25             correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [4]

 

Observe that his desire was that those who did not have faith yet would come to “a knowledge of the truth.” Faith includes knowledge.

 

One theologian’s description of faith is apt here.

 

We believe in a thing when we consider ourselves assured of its truth, in a person when we perfectly trust him. Believing is thus something different from guessing, supposing, conjecturing; it is not arbitrarily assuming as truth something of which we are not able to know…”[5]

 

That was written in the 1800’s. It was true then and it is true now. Faith is not about wishing, but about confidence, and the facts make the difference. 

 

The Reformers were all in agreement on what constitutes faith. They understood that faith consisted of three elements; knowledge, assent, and trust. If one of these is lacking then true faith is not present. It is something less. Knowledge is simply that which we know to be true. Assent is that we agree with what we know to be true. One can know something but resist it or deny it outwardly.

 

What distinguishes faith from knowledge or just mere assent is trust. When a person not only understands, but trusts in what they have come to know then they have genuine faith. This is especially true of Christ. We are called to not merely acknowledge who Jesus is, as important as that is, but we must trust in His Person. We trust Him! This is the faith we are to have!

 

You see faith is not less than knowledge. It is more than knowledge! Let me repeat that because it is important. Faith is not less than knowledge. It is more than knowledge!

 

[III.] Sola Fide – Faith Alone – was (and is) the proclamation that we are made right with God, that is, we are justified, by faith without our own good works. The Roman Catholic Church taught not that we were justified by works (that is a false representation), but that we are justified by our faith and our works. This is the same formula that most cults use to get you into their net.

 

Do you realize how freeing this is? When you do not have to muster up good deeds for God to accept you, your spirit soars in freedom and you rejoice in what God has done for you, not what you have to do for God!

 

Look again at Romans 4:3-5.

 

            For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4             Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5             And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, [6]

 

“Abraham believed God” – that is faith. “It was counted to him as righteousness” – that is justification.

 

“To the one who does not work but believes” – that is Faith Alone!

 

So, you see that Sola Fide is not just an idea that the Reformers had. It is God’s idea revealed in Scripture.

 

Here is a vital point: There is such a thing as false faith. What will distinguish true faith from false faith is our obedience, what the New Testament most often calls “works.” Therefore, although our deeds have nothing to do with our being accepted by God (justified), they will always follow genuine faith. If there is no obedience following faith then there was no biblical faith to begin with.

 

There was a man in Philadelphia who owned a company and was seeking to hire someone. Two men came into his office the same morning seeking employment. He told them both the same thing. “I’m looking for someone who will have faith in me and loyalty to the company.” They both affirmed that they were who he was looking for. He took both of them on. That same day he took them to the yard and said, “See that pile of bricks out there? Carry them over to the other end of the yard and stack them up.” By nightfall they reported that they had completed the project. He said he would see them both in the morning.

 

The next day both men showed up for work.  They anticipated a new assignment. To their surprise, he instructed them to carry the same bricks and stack them up where they had originally found them. One man complained. The other got busy without a word. It was an all-day job, but by 5 o’clock it was done.

 

The next day the owner had them take the pile of bricks back to the other side of the yard again. This went on all week. At the end of the week one of the men said, “I’m not going to waste my time doing busy work. I’ll take my week’s pay and say my farewell. The owner cut the man a check and sent him on his way.

 

The following Monday the remaining man showed up for work and, sure enough, this time he had to move the pile of bricks by himself. He couldn’t get it done by 5 so he stayed until 6:30 but got it done. By the end of the second week he was beginning to wonder if the owner knew what he was doing, but he trusted him and did his work in silence. That Friday he was given a new and bigger responsibility—to go downtown and bid on a large quantity of sugar. Not recognizing him, the people at the auction were surprised by the bid of this total stranger. When it was accepted, the auctioneer asked who would pay the bill. “Mr. Girard,” the man replied. “I am his agent.” He was given a better job with even a little more pay.

 

You see, both men said that they trusted the owner and would be loyal to the company, but only one was. Real trust shows itself in deeds. Real faith shows itself in obedience.

 

One of the Reformers used to say, “A man is saved by faith alone but never by a faith that remains alone.” How we know whether we have saving faith is whether we love His law and rejoice to live by it. But we also know our works contribute nothing to our being declared to be righteous by the Living God.

 

We appropriate salvation by faith alone.

 

“Lord, thank you for making the way to you so easy! We could not do it were it not for your grace alone through faith alone. Amen.”

 

 

 

[1] Peter Boghossian,  A Manual for Creating Atheists (Durham, NC, Touchstone Publications, 2013) 23.

[2] Roy Deaver in the Forward of: Thomas B. Warren, Logic and the Bible (Jonesboro, Ark.: National Christian Press, ©1982), vii.

 

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 2:1–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 2:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Oosterzee, Johannes Jacobus van, Christian Dogmatics: a Text-Book for Academical Instruction and Private Study (BiblioLife, 2009), 639.

 

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 4:3–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.