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This week we will be wrapping up our study of Sola Fide, or Faith Alone – justification through faith alone. Next week we will begin to look at Sola Gratia – Grace Alone.
To recap, the Five Solas of the Reformation – again, we don’t know that the Reformers themselves actually used these terms, but the terms do summarize the teaching of the Reformers. The Reformers stated that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone, which includes four of the Solas or the “Alones,” with the fifth sola being Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone.
Last week we looked at what Jesus said about salvation through faith alone when we looked at multiple passages where Jesus taught this and then we looked at Paul’s teaching of faith alone in the book of Romans and this week we will look at what Paul had to say (and God, Him being the Inspirer of Paul’s words) in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, so please open your bibles to the letter to the Galatians and as we get there, let me tell you we will also look today at a couple other issues – what about James and James chapter 2? The biblical response would be, “What about James and James chapter 2?” W will look briefly at James chapter 2 and we will also look at the source of saving faith which will lead us into next week as we begin a study of Sola Gratia.
The best way to understand Paul’s treatment of salvation by faith alone is to merely read the text. Again, keep in mind this was a letter to be read to the church at Galatia in its entirety. We won’t read the entire letter but we will read large sections to see how Paul lays out his case. To set up the situation, Paul is writing to the church at Galatia. He knows that they are falling under the teaching of the Judaizers, people who profess Jesus as the Messiah but also state that one must become a Jew by observing the law to be saved. Paul had encountered this at Antioch and he mentions an encounter he had with Peter while at Antioch. What may seem to us to be a small thing – Peter switching seats at meals – for Paul endangered the very Gospel of grace that he had taught the Galatians.
Let’s start reading at chapter 1, verse 6:
“6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
At this point Paul hasn’t said what the problem is, but he certainly has said there IS a problem and that problem is worthy of damnation in Paul’s eyes. There is only one Gospel and Paul is going to be very particular in defining that Gospel and as we will see, it is a Gospel of salvation through faith alone.
So what’s the issue here in Galatians? Paul is coming down on those who teach that in order to be saved, one must be circumcised. We see this explicitly in 5:2, where Paul says “if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” If circumcision were necessary for salvation that brings up the question “how is a woman saved?’” Just asking – food for thought, isn’t it?
If we go to chapter 2, we see Paul giving an account of an encounter he had with Peter while they were in Antioch, beginning in verse 11. We read that Paul confronted Peter to his face because he used to dine with the Gentiles but once the Judaizers showed up he ate with them instead. Paul calls Peter out for living like a gentile – though he himself was a Jew – and also requiring gentiles to live like Jews. Please note that Peter wasn’t preaching circumcision – all Peter did was buddy up to those who were. Paul considered that action as endorsing another Gospel. People say in our age that doctrine doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be particular on matters, even matters of preaching the Gospel. Paul’s words here – inspired – breathed-out – by the Spirit of the living God, state otherwise.
Verse 15 is where Paul defines what he means. Let’s read:
“Gal 2:15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; Gal 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Paul narrows his focus here and talks about a certain group of people within the family of faith in verse 15 – “we” being those who are Jews by birth and this is the same ”we” of verse 16 – just like in Romans, when we discussed personal pronouns, personal pronouns make a difference. In verse 16, Paul says even those who are Jews by birth know that a person is NOT justified y works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. Look at verse 16 and verse 17 carefully. Note that what Paul says in verse 16, he reverses in verse 17. (Draw on board)
It is clear here that Paul says justification is through faith alone. We go to verses 20 and 21:
“Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 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.
Gal 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Paul says he lives now by faith in the son of God and that if righteousness were by the law, then there was no purpose in the death of Christ. Think about that one – if any obedience to the law is the basis for justification, then Christ’s death was meaningless. Then Paul starts chapter 3 by calling the Galatians “foolish.” I have another translation that calls the Galatians “unthinking.” Paul fires off a series of rhetorical questions – questions designed to provoke thinking from these unthinking people and he again calls them foolish in verse 3 right after he asks them if they received the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith, bringing to mind Paul’s words in Romans 10 when he said faith comes by hearing, right? Verse 5, Paul asks another question – “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith – and Paul again brings up the Hebrew Scriptures to make his pint – a salient point given that Jews and their insistence upon circumcision was the issue here – Paul, as he did in Romans 4, quotes Genesis 15:6, where Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. As he does in Romans 2, Paul, in verse 6, then states that it is those of faith who are sons of Abraham.
All I want us to do now is read verses 7 through 14:
“Gal 3:7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
Gal 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
Gal 3:9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Gal 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Gal 3:12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”-
Gal 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Then to verse 23:
Gal 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
Gal 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
Gal 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
All we have to do is read the text and it’s clear – Paul can’t make it any clearer – justification is through faith alone and not by any works of the law.
One more passage – turn to chapter 5, the first four verses. There are two points to make here, one with regard to circumcision and one with regard to the assurance of salvation. Let’s read:
“Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Gal 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
Gal 5:3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.
Gal 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
First, let’s discuss the assurance of salvation. Once someone finds out you believe in the assurance of salvation – that a person can’t lose his salvation – that someone may very well say to you, “Well, you know, Paul says you can fall from grace.” Remember the response I told you about when someone throws “judge not lest ye be judged” in your face? You’re supposed to say in response, what? “Twist not Scripture lest ye be like Satan.” Anyone who says Galatians 5:4 says you can lose your salvation is twisting Scripture. What is Paul saying here – does he say a person can fall from grace? Yes, he does. Does that mean a person can lose their salvation based on this statement? No. Look at what Paul is saying here – in verse 2 he says that, as he did back in chapter 2, verse 21, that if you accept circumcision, then Christ is of no use to you. He then reiterates (“I testify again”) that every man who accepts circumcision is obligated to keep the whole law – and his conclusion if that’s the case? Verse 4 – you are severed from Christ – cut off from Christ – you people who would seek to be justified by keeping the law – even if only one part of the law and if you try to be justified in that manner, you have what? Fallen from grace. Those who fall from grace were never justified in the first place, were they? No, they weren’t, so they couldn’t lose their salvation because it’s something they never had.
Remember last week I wrote on the board “faith” and then started putting check marks, signifying works needed for salvation if one believes in faith plus anything? Which work then justifies you? You never know. Once you start that slippery slope, where does it end? Paul makes that same point if we go farther in chapter 12 with a rather shocking statement in verse 12 – “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” If circumcision is necessary for salvation, Paul says, somewhat sarcastically, the why stop there? Keep cutting!
I also told you we’d look at James. On the audio we heard two weeks ago, one of the pastors interviewed said to let “Paul and James duke it out,” as if they disagreed on the issue of justification through faith alone. Turn to James chapter 2. As we’re getting there, those who wish to say James believed in justification by works would have to then admit that James contradicted himself. We won’t turn there but if we were to go to Acts chapter 15, we’d see that the council at Jerusalem addressed the very same issue Paul dealt with in Galatians – those who wished to say that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Who was one of the leaders of that council which spoke out against keeping the law as a requirement for justification? James. Read Acts 15.
Let’s start James 2 at verse 8:
“Jas 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
Jas 2:9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Jas 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
Jas 2:11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
Jas 2:12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.
Jas 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
Jas 2:16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
Jas 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Jas 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!
Jas 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
Jas 2:22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
Jas 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”-and he was called a friend of God.
Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Jas 2:25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
Jas 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
If we were to start at verse 10-whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become accountable for all of it – who does that sound like? Paul. Galatians 5, verse 3.
Verse 14 is key here – what if someone has faith but not works? James is talking about someone who is already proclaiming themselves to be a Christian – not one who is seeking to be one. Can that faith save him? Verses 15 and 16 give us examples of faithless acts – not faithful actions – and James then asks, “What good is that? He says in verse 17 that faith – by itself – that does not express itself through works – is dead. As we start verse 18, what is behind James’ point here is another one of our big words and that word is antinomianism. This means “against the law.” This is the same issue Paul dealt with in Romans 6 after having explained the Gospel of God’s grace – that all one has to do is “believe” – accept something as true – and then do nothing else in obedience to the commands of God afterward. No one would believe that, would they? Sure they would. Many people who belong to a movement called “free Grace” would. I’ll give you another one – Charles Stanley. Do we have Stanley’s book “Eternal Security” in the library? We shouldn’t. Here’s what Stanley believes and this is from his book (read excerpts):
The demons know who Jesus is, right? Not only here in James but in Acts 19 and the account of the sons of Sceva – they were attempting an exorcism and the evil spirit said what? “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” In James 2:20, James asks one of those rhetorical questions to a foolish person – as if this should be basic knowledge – that faith apart from works is useless?
If we take verses out of context, this is a classic passage where we can run into trouble – verse 21 talks about Abraham being justified by works, right? Verse 24 says that a person is justified by works, right? Verse 23 says that Abraham was counted as righteous and declared to be a friend of God by works, right? No, verse 23 says he was counted righteous by faith. Does James contradict himself here – again? No. Justified in this sense is an affirmation or a confirmation. The works here are not grounds for a man’s justification but a confirmation of the justification he has been given through his faith as James himself says in verse 23. This is nothing more than an affirmation of what Paul said in Ephesians 2 – we tend to focus on verses 8 and 9 but forget about verse 10:
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Eph 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We cannot leave verse 10 out of this because it is a completion of the thought here because it starts with “For.”
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Saving faith necessarily results in works – we are saved in order that we can be obedient to God’s commands where we could not be obedient before.
Where does this faith come from? Does everyone have faith? Is it just a matter of exercising something that is buried deep down inside every man? Remember I read from our statement of faith a few weeks ago, which says that man is dead in trespasses and sins and is by nature a child of wrath and the Fall has destroyed his desire and ability to say yes to God’s commands? Remember Romans 12:3? God has assigned to each a measure of faith? Remember 2 Thessalonians 3; 2 – not everyone has faith? Which is right? They both are – Romans is referring to believers only while 2 Thessalonians is referring to mankind as a whole. So how does anyone believe if they can’t believe? That’s what we’ll cover in the next three weeks, but as an introduction – it’s a gift. Now, is the gift given to everyone? No, it isn’t. Is that fair? Who are you, O man, to answer back to God, using Paul’s words in Romans 9.
That quote from Ephesians 2 says that it is the gift of God – I’ll let the scholars argue about whether “it” refers to faith or grace or being saved – I would say, “Yes.” The gift really goes back to Ephesians 1 where Paul says that the Ephesians were chosen before the foundation of the world – that’s the gift. God, according to verse 4 of Ephesians 2, is rich in mercy and made them alive in Christ – that’s the gift. Paul, in Philippians 1:29, gives us another answer to this question along with the answer to the question that Dr. Rapa posed during the sermon last week – why do we suffer? We suffer because it’s a gift from God – Philippians 1:29. (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2, 1 Cor. 4:7, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 Tim. 1:14) We have faith because it’s a gift from God.
We will cover the issue of the source of our faith in much more detail as we review Sola Gratia – Grace Alone – beginning next week.