14 March 2009

Fifth Address: The Present Reality of Justification, Jerry Bridges (PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

by Dan Phillips

NOTE: I have now added the pictures I took.

At 6:30, the host church's pastor Robert Briggs (who has the Scottish accent I wish I had) gladly introduced a chorale made up of members and attenders of Immanuel Baptist Church. The good brothers and sisters sang of God's gracious salvation.

This is a good opportunity for me to express appreciation for Immanuel. They were most gracious hosts, and made all of us welcome. I particularly want to thank Scott Blaising for making sure that I had internet access, to bring these posts to you. Scott was endlessly and cheerfully helpful, and took great pains to make sure I was set up. Also, thanks to ACE's Denise Malagari (who is also Managing Editor at the Reformation 21 site) for making me welcome in my role as your on-the-scene reporter.

My final session began at 7pm Saturday with a call to worship by Rick Phillips, who read 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. Then we sang the favorite hymn of at least two Phillipses (Rick and Dan) — "And Can it Be?" — and Pastor Briggs read Galatians 2:17-21). One more hymn, and Jerry Bridges came to preach.

Paul repeats over and over again in this section that we are not justified by works of law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the focus of Galatians 2:15-21.

Galatians 2:20 is a favorite verse of those who take a passive approach to sanctification - I don't do anything, Christ lives through me. So all I do is trust Him for sanctification, as I had trusted Him for salvation; I am but a glove on His hand. But that is not what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20. The passage has to do with justification.

Paul is emphatic that a curse is on everyone who does not do all the works of the Law (Galatians 3:10). A grade of 99% is a failing grade. That is why we must be justified by faith, not works of Law, or we are under a curse.

Faith has two elements. It involves a renunciation of any confidence in our performance as a basis for our relationship with God. It also involves reliance upon Jesus Christ alone. So we don't say, If I've had my quiet time, I have a relationship with God; if I have not, I might as well go back to bed. No, if I am relying on my own performance, in place myself under a curse.

Then Bridges focused again on Galatians 2:20, particularly on the words "the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Bridges says "faith in the Son of God" means Paul is speaking of justification, and not sanctification. Paul never uses the phrase in another sense, he argued. So, given that justification is a point-in-time, past event, how does Paul speak of an ongoing life-dynamic?

The answer, Bridges says, is the most important thing he will say this evening. For Paul, justification was not only a past even that he could look back to, but also a present event having an impact on every day of his life. We have a tendency to base our ongoing relationship with God on our performance. We are saved by grace, but then we try to change the rules of the game, and live by performance. Every day, Paul looked outside of himself to Jesus Christ's shed blood and righteousness. As Romans 5:1 says, having been justified, we have peace with God, now.

We must work at turning away from ourselves and relying entirely on Jesus Christ. If we do not, we will default into a performance-based relationship. We must be proactive, we must preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.

John Owen
wrote in Communion with God that it is the daily of saints to consider the great provocation of our sins. Start the day confessing your sin. The Gospel is only for sinners. Then Owen says they lay down their sins at the Cross. Then, Owen says, draw night, and take from Him that righteousness which He has wrought out for you. "And you must do this every day," Owen adds.

What will happen when we do this? In 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 we see that we will live, not for ourselves, but for Jesus Christ. The love of God squeezes us in from all sides and points us in one direction, to live for Jesus Christ. God's love as shown in the Cross focuses us and aims us, not like a shotgun blast, but like a rifle bullet.

And so, the impetus for sanctification is the Cross, which is not only the beginning of our Christian life, but its eternal focus.

Dan Phillips's signature


Frank Turk said...

I am absolutely agog at your blogging this weekend. You were a regular Challies, dude.

All I did was sit in the sun room with Ray and Phil and laugh at Phil's stories of evangelical mayhem. We missed you here.

Phil said...

Dan, I believe it's because Paul's talking about the present implications of justification in Galatians that the mode of sanctification is part of that whole consideration. If we are affirmed, vindicated, justified by God at all for attempting to keep the Law, Paul says that implies justification by works. To be 'of the works of the law' and to 'fall from grace' is having been freed from the law by Christ's righteousness, to take up with legal obligations again to try to establish a works-based righteousness. But no righteousness, holiness, obedience, favour or blessing could ever come by the Law. Rather, it ever is 'the law of sin and death' to 'stop the mouth'. It's not just one can't get 100% by the law. It's not just a quantitative thing. It's that as soon as one is of that system, he gets 0% by it. No quality. All he can produce in answer to the obligations of law is the works of the flesh. The law remains the strength of sin. The Spirit is continuously supplied only as, by faith, we see ourselves as the righteousness of God in Christ, and blessed on account of it, dead to the law. That produces the fruit of the Spirit by the power of God. As new creations who are not 'dying to live' but 'living because they have died and been raised to newness of life already'...Have you seen this? Taking away the veil .

Stefan said...


Amen to that sermon. It ties in well with my comment on the previous post, re sanctification, and the need to turn back to the Cross—but Pastor Bridges articulated it better than I ever could, and I'm especially grateful for his citing of John Owen on this.

On another note: "Then we sang the favorite hymn of at least two Phillipses (Rick and Dan)." That favourite hymn being...?

DJP said...

Aigh! Meant to say.

Amended post; check again.

Anonymous said...

It was great to meet you and have you out here blogging the conference. I'll look forward to another round of blogging and banter in 2010. Keep in touch!!

Marie said...

I'm so glad you posted the excerpts from Jerry Bridges' sermon. Our women's Bible study just finished up his "Respectable Sins", and his point about preaching the Gospel to oneself every day gave most of us pause. One of the best quotes was this:

"The assurance that God no longer counts my sin against me does two things. First it assures me that God is for me, not against me (see Romans 8:31). I am not alone in this battle with sin. God is not watching me from His heavenly throne saying, "When are you going to get your act together? When are you going to deal with that sin?" Rather, He is, as it were, coming alongside me saying, "We are going to work on that sin, but meanwhile I want you to know that I no longer count it against you." God is no longer my Judge; He is now my heavenly Father, who loves me with a self-generated, infinite love, even in the face of my sin. That assurance greatly encourages me and motivates me to deal with the sin."

If Bridges is half as edifying a speaker as he is a writer, it must have been an awesome conference.

Jonathan Ginn said...

I really enjoyed Bridges' second address. Preaching the Gospel to oneself is something I have constantly read throughout his many written works. But to actually hear him say it was something. His message was definitely something for me to chew on, and also served to motivate me to consider my life and different areas that I need to work on.

candy said...

Bruce and I enjoyed Bridges session as well.

Russ said...

This harmonizes well with John Piper's "Future Grace."
pdf sample at
book order page at

with free seminar mp3s at
How interesting that what Jesus chastized His disciples was not their lack of gratitude as we wrongly imagine should be the basis of the Christian life, but their unbelief in "Future Grace."
How easily popular eisegesis traps us!

Dave .... said...

It was nice to meet you at the PCRT - what a weekend! And you captured it. Thank you for the recollection. My own notes don't match your blog posts.
If anyone can attend one of the PCRT conferences, do yourself a blessing and go. This year's theme of "Justification" was pivotal in my growth in Christ (thanks to Alister McGrath writing on that subject).
And you, PyroManiacs, thank you. I would not have know the PCRT was in Sacramento with out you.


DJP said...

It was good to meet you too, Dave.

Drop me an email, would you?