THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (2)
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “The Doctrine of Justification by faith only”. Her main text was taken from the Book of Romans. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” … “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 1:16, 17: 3:19-24).
THE BOOK OF ROMANS – INTRODUCTION
Concerning the major doctrines of salvation, The Book of Romans is the most important Book in the Bible, followed by the Book of Ephesians. God used the Book of Romans more than any other book to ignite revival all over the world. Great men of God got converted thru the study of Romans. Among them were St. Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, John Wesley, and others. The Book of Romans was written by Apostle Paul. He was one of the most intelligent men who ever live on earth. He was born in Tarsus, one of the three greatest cities at that time (the other two were Athens, Greece and Alexandria, Egypt). His father sent him to Jerusalem to study under the famous Gamaliel. Paul was highly educated. He was a lawyer, a religious pharisee. He was also born a Roman citizen. That gave him many rights and privileges. The letter to the Romans simply starts with his name: ‘Paul’. Many consider this letter to be the greatest piece of human writing.
JESUS PREACHED THE GOSPEL
“After John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:14, 15). It is called the Gospel (the Good News) of the Kingdom of God. Our Lord is the King of that kingdom. God promised that one day the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer will come! He will crush the head of the serpent! The Kingdom came with King Jesus! Sinners are commanded to repent and believe in the Gospel! To repent it means a complete change of mind, of the way of thinking. The sinner must truly repent of his own sin, of pride, of self-righteousness. The sinner must believe that he is an enemy to God and that he needs a Savior. He must believe that King Jesus is the only Savior for men. Faith in Christ Crucified is the key to experience salvation, to have eternal life. A sinner’s life is like a man’s house in ruins, like after war or earthquake. He must remove the fallen walls and clear the ground before God can build a new one! This is the Gospel we preach: Christ Crucified and Resurrected! Stop looking at yourself! You can’t save yourself! Look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith! Salvation is a revelation and a miracle! Repent and believe! Do both!
JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE AND BY FAITH ALONE
Justification by faith alone is one of the greatest Biblical doctrines. You must study it and try to understand it. It’s power to save comes only by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. This is the power of the Gospel! God shows you how He saved you! The word ‘justification’ is found especially in the New Testament. The general definition is this: based on the merit of the sacrifice of God’s Son on the Cross, God the Father declares the sinner to be a saint! This declaration starts with immediate effect, and it is eternal! Justification is Forgiveness of sins, a new Covering (the imputation of Christ’ righteous upon the sinner) and a new Standing of the sinner before God! The opposite word is ‘condemnation’, the act of finding someone guilty of sin, an enemy of God! Justification as a concept appears even in the Old Testament. “Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Ex 23:7). “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked” (Deut 25:1)“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord” (PV 17:15)
The doctrine of Justification says that The Sovereign God, The Creator of the universe, The Eternal Judge, declares a sinner righteous, based on the merit of His Son Jesus Christ, who died as a substitute for that sinner. God reckons Faith in Christ Crucified as righteousness. Justification is a legal term, a forensic term. It is a declaration done by the Judge in the court of the universe, that the sinner is guilty no more and free from condemnation. He is now a child of God! He can now come freely, without fear, without shame, before God. A sinner cannot stand before God! Justification is God’s work, done by Grace alone. Once God declares a sinner justified, he is free from the penalty of the law. God sees that one as righteous in His presence because he is now found in Christ! No man can be justified by works, by keeping the law of God. It is only by faith, by Grace alone!
The Catholic Church and other denominations, believe that sanctification comes before justification. They believe that God infuses grace into the sinner, thru the baptism or the Holy Communion. They believe that as man comes to church, he gets holy little by little, and he will finally be justified. That is why many people ‘try to make heaven’ by obeying the law, by their good works. This is a wrong doctrine! Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a Roman Catholic monk. He tried to be free from the guilt of sin by obeying the law. He discovered that it was not possible. He became frustrated. One day, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of his understanding and he saw that justification is by grace, by faith, thru Christ, Thru the Word of God and for His glory alone! Immediately he became born again! Because of that he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He started the Reformation. A great revival started with Luther’s conversion. This is a great part of the History of the Church Universal.
The truth is that Justification is done by God before sanctification! Based on the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, God the Father declares a sinner justified. God does not justify the righteous man. He justifies the sinner! Justification does not change a sinner internally. Justification is a once and forever act. It is the beginning, the foundation of salvation. After that, comes Sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit, which is a process that lasts a lifetime. It changes the justified sinner into a mature believer. Justification is an act done outside the sinner. Sanctification is a process done inside the heart of the justified sinner. Justification is more than forgiveness of sins. It is also a spiritual covering. The Justified sinner is now dressed in the imputed righteousness of Christ, having a new standing before God!
These are some basic points about Justification:
• Justification comes apart from the law; that is, we cannot earn justification through rule-keeping or our own good works.
• Justification is made possible in the sacrificial death of Christ; it is based on the shed blood of Christ.
• Justification is the free Grace gift of God bestowed on those who receive by faith the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
JESUS FORGIVES AND HEALS A PARALYTIC (Lk 5:15-26)
Jesus became famous especially because of His healing the sick. The more famous He became, the more he withdrew to be alone with His Father and pray. His prayer life sustained our Lord all His days on earth. These are great lessons for us! Abiding in the secret place of the Most High God, praying and worshipping God, is the secret of a successful and fruitful ministry!
In Luke chapter 5 we see a wonderful story, how our Lord healed a paralytic. The four men have faith that Jesus can heal their friend. The paralyzed man has faith too. You see the great compassion the friends have. This reflects God’s mercy. The man was paralyzed lying on a mat. This paralysis was the result of an injury to the spine or the last stage of syphilis (an incurable sexually transmitted disease at that time). It is possible that the man still connected his sexual sins with his sickness. They damage the roof so that their friend can come to Jesus, who was teaching the Word of God. We are told that the power to heal sick bodies was present. The sick man had faith that he can be healed. This is the perfect example of a man who needs forgiveness of sins and healing of the body. They wanted healing but Jesus refused their request initially. Jesus gave the man something better. Forgiveness is greater than healing. Jesus saw their faith! Jesus saw inside the sick man’s heart. He knew that he was repentant! Jesus calls him: ‘Man… Friend… Son’ (Mt 9:2). The men’s faith manifested as a desire to come closer to Jesus. Their faith was not easily discouraged by hindrances. They knew that they had to pay for the damaged roof. But faith is stronger than the rebuke from men. Jesus saw ‘their faith’. That includes the sick man’s faith too. He wanted physical healing. Jesus gave him something better. He justified him. He forgave his sins. This is the gift of eternal life, the greatest gift of all. The religious leaders were there like secret police, to investigate Jesus! They grumbled saying: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Lk 5:21). They were right in saying that only God forgives sins. This is because sin is an offence against God. But they were wrong in their spirits because they did not believe that Jesus is God! This tells us that it is possible to have the right doctrine and still be lost! Examine your heart and not only your mind!
Our Lord knew their secret thoughts of the religious leaders and confronted them saying: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” (Lk 5:23, 24). Humanly speaking, it is easier to say: “your sins are forgiven”. It is harder to say: “Rise up and walk”. This is because the miracle of healing must be proved for people to see. But the truth is that forgiveness of sins is much harder than physical healing, even for Jesus (I am speaking as a human being)!!! This is because our Lord died on the Cross, for God to be able to justify us, to forgive our sins. Our Lord forgave the man’s sins and healed his body. He paid the price for man to become children of God; the greatest price of all!
Finally, the healed man stands up healed. He carries the mat that carried him. He came thru the roof, now he leaves thru the door. All men praise God for witnessing ‘strange, extraordinary things’ that day! This is another great lesson: there is no sin Jesus cannot forgive! There is no sickness that Jesus cannot heal! May your faith rise and walk! Give glory to the Savior! Worship the Lord!