14 April 2007

Justification by Faith Doesn't Render Holiness Superfluous

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. This week's selection is the introduction to "A Call to Holy Living"—a sermon first preached on Sunday morning, 14 January 1872, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

T is a very great fault in any ministry if the doctrine of justification by faith alone be not most clearly taught. I will go further, and add, that it is not only a great fault, but a fatal one; for souls will never find their way to heaven by a ministry that is indistinct upon the most fundamental of gospel truths.

The merit by which a soul enters heaven is not its own; it is the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am quite sure that you will all hold me guiltless of ever having spoken about this great doctrine in any other than unmistakable language; if I have erred, it is not in that direction.

At the same time, it is a dangerous state of things if doctrine is made to drive out precept, and faith is held up as making holiness a superfluity. Sanctification must not be forgotten or overlaid by justification. We must teach plainly that the faith which saves the soul is not a dead faith, but a faith which operates with purifying effect upon our entire nature, and produces in us fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God.

It is not by personal holiness that a man shall enter heaven, but yet without holiness shall no man see the Lord. It is not by good works that we are justified, but if a man shall continue to live an ungodly life, his "faith" will not justify him; for it is not the faith of God's elect; since that faith is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and conforms men to the image of Christ.

We must learn to place the legal precepts in their right position. They are not the base of the column, but they are the capital of it. Precepts are not given to us as a way to obtain life, but as the way in which to exhibit life.

The commands of Christ are not upon the legal tenor of "this do and live," but upon the gospel system of "live and do this." We are not to be attentive to the precepts in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Our master motive is to be gratitude to him who has saved us with a great salvation.

I am sure that every renewed heart here will feel no opposition to the most holy precepts of our Lord. However severely pure that law may seem to be which we have read just now from this fifth chapter of Matthew, our hearts agree with it, and we ask that we may be so renewed that our lives may be conformed to it. The regenerate never rebel against any precept, saying, "This, is too pure;" on the contrary, our new-born nature is enamoured of its holiness, and we cry, "Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes."

Even though we find that when we would do good evil is present with us, yet our inmost soul longs after holiness, and pines to be delivered from every evil way. At any rate, Dear friends, if it be not so with you, you may well question whether you are indeed the children of God. My desire, this morning, is to insist upon the precepts which tend to holiness, and I pray the Holy Spirit to excite desires after a high degree of purity in all believing, hearts.

Games Sinners Play

Too many persons judge themselves by others; and if upon the whole they discover that they are no worse than the mass of mankind, they give themselves a mark of special commendation; they strike a sort of average amongst their neighbors, and if they cannot pretend to be the very best, yet, if they are not the very worst, they are pretty comfortable.

There are certain scribes and Pharisees among their acquaintance, who fast thrice in the week, and pay tithes of all they possess, and they look upon those as very superior persons whom they would not attempt to compete with them; but they thank God that they are far above those horrible publicans, and those dreadful sinners, who are put outside the pale of society, and, therefore, they feel quite easy in their minds, and they go to their place of worship as if they were saints, and bear the name of Christian as if it belonged to them; they share in Christian privileges, and sit with God's people, as if they were truly of the family, their marks and evidences being just these, that they do about as much upon the whole as other people, and if they are not first they are not altogether last.

The nests of such people ought to be grievously disturbed when they read Matthew 5, for there the Master insists upon a higher standard than the world's highest, and tells us that except our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. In our text, the great Master asks of those who are professors of his faith, that they should not only do as much as others to prove their title, but that they should do more than others; and he makes this a test question concerning their being really his followers: "What do ye more than others?" (Matthew 5:47).
C. H. Spurgeon

7 comments:

The Doulos said...

"We must learn to place the legal precepts in their right position. They are not the base of the column, but they are the capital of it. Precepts are not given to us as a way to obtain life, but as the way in which to exhibit life."

Priceless. I wish I had said that. Perhaps I will next time I teach or preach on these subjects...

dec said...

"Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes."

When I read sermons like this I feel pulled in two directions. On one hand, Spurgeon's prayer (above) looks to Christ for our obedience. On the other hand, Spurgeon seems to want us to try really hard to be holy.

In this same sermon, he says:
What saith the Scripture? "Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect;" after this perfection we are to strain, and towards this mark of our high calling we are to press.

I don't want to take Spurgeon out of context. He strongly states that Christ is our victory. But he also says that we should strive really hard for perfection. Since Christ is our victory, shouldn't Spurgeon clearly state here that we should seek Christ alone for our perfection?

Later in this sermon, Spurgeon pulls me in two directions in a single sentence:
Let us take care that we quench not the Spirit, that by our unbelief we restrain not his divine energies; but let us strive, God striving in us, after the highest conceivable standard of holiness and of separation from the world.

If our unbelief quenches the Spirit, does our striving after the highest conceivable standard of holiness and separation bring us faith? Or does striving to know Christ, to become more dependent on Him, to walk by His Spirit? Where do we look for our victory over unbelief and unholiness?

The Doulos said...

dec said:"When I read sermons like this I feel pulled in two directions. On one hand, Spurgeon's prayer (above) looks to Christ for our obedience. On the other hand, Spurgeon seems to want us to try really hard to be holy."

The reality is that both of these are true statements. We are made positionally holy and righteous by faith in Christ and by that alone. It is God's declaration of our standing before Him, based on His monergistic work in us.

We are also called to "work out our salvation", becoming in practice what we already are in position. This is a synergistic work in which we cooperate with God's Spirit to progress in holiness of life. It is hard work, enabled and empowered by the Spirit.

As Spurgeon states here, "Precepts are not given to us as a way to obtain life, but as the way in which to exhibit life."

DJP said...

dec—isn't the tension you feel in Spurgeon the same tension we see in Scripture? The classic being:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13)

The flip side of "without me you can do nothing" is "with me you can do something." The balance is hit in Romans 8:13b—"if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." You put to death the deeds of the body, but you do it by the Spirit. He does not do it in our stead; we do not do it on our own.

Hope that's of some help.

Kaffinator said...

"He does not do it in our stead; we do not do it on our own."

Perfectly put! Thanks for the blessing this Sunday morning.

DJP said...

Thanks; I have to put things simply because I'm simple (points to head).

dec said...

A.W. Tozer from his Pursuit of God:

"The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do."