Salvation by Faith

Ephesians 2:8-9

by Paul George

“For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

All the blessings which God has bestowed upon mankind flow from His grace or favor; His free, undeserved favor. We can not lay claim to the least of His mercies. There is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least of the gifts we receive from the hand of God. Whatever righteousness may be found in us is a gift from God. The greatest gift we can receive from God is salvation. A gift that was given to us “while we were yet sinners.” By grace we are saved through faith. Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation.

In order that we do not fall short of the grace of God we need to know:

I. What faith is it through which we are saved.

II. What is the salvation which is through faith.

The faith by which we are saved is not the belief God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him and that He is to be sought by glorifying Him as God, by giving Him thanks for all things, and by a careful practice of moral virtue, of justice, mercy, and truth, toward our fellowman.

Secondly, it is not the faith of demons. Satan and his demonic force believe there is not only a wise and powerful God, gracious to reward, and just to punish; but also, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, the Savior of the world. We find demons confessing, “I know who You are, the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34). The great enemy of God and man believes, and trembles in believing, that God was made manifest in the flesh; that He will “tread all enemies under his feet;” and that “all Scripture was given by inspiration of God.”
Thirdly, it is not the faith the Apostles had while Christ was yet upon earth; though they believed on Him and left all to follow Him. Although they had the power to work miracles, to “heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease;” even “power and authority over all devils;” and, were sent by their Master to “preach the kingdom of God.”

What faith is it then through which we are saved? It may be answered; first, in general, it is a faith in Christ and God through Christ. It is the faith that is sufficiently, absolutely distinguished from the faith of the Apostles while Christ was on earth and from the beliefs of demons. It is the faith that is not merely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head. It is a disposition of the heart. It is written in the Scripture, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;” and, “If thou shalt confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, You shall be saved.”

This is the difference of the faith which the Apostles themselves had while our Lord was on earth, that it acknowledges the necessity and merit of His death, and the power of His resurrection. It acknowledges His death as the only sufficient means of redeeming man from death eternal, and His resurrection as the restoration of us all to life and immortality; inasmuch as He “was delivered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”

Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of His life, death, and resurrection; a dependence upon Him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a relation-ship with Him, and cleaving to Him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.

II. What salvation it is, which is through this faith, is the Second thing to be considered.

First, whatsoever else is implied it is a present salvation. It is something attainable on earth, by those who are partakers of this faith. The Apostle told the believers at Ephesus, and the believers of all ages, not, you shall be (though that also is true), but, “You are saved through faith.”

We are saved from the consequences of sin. This is the salvation which is through faith. This is that great salvation foretold by the angel, before God brought His First-begotten into the world: “You shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” And neither here, nor in other parts of the Bible is there any limitation or restriction. All His people, or, as it is elsewhere expressed, “all that believe in Him,” He will save from all their sins; from original and actual, past and present sin, “of the flesh and of the spirit.” Through faith that is in Him, all mankind are saved both from the guilt and from the power of sin. We are delivered from the guilt of all past sin, for all the world is guilty before God, insomuch that should He “be extreme to mark what is done amiss, there is none that could escape the guilt of sin for “by the law is” only “the knowledge of sin,” but no deliverance from it, so that, “by” fulfilling “the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in his sight.” Now, “the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ, is manifested to all that believe.” Now we “are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” God has sent Him forth to be propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of the sins that are past. Now has Christ taken away “the curse of the law, being made a curse for us? He has “blotted out the judgment that was against us, taking it out of the way, nailing it to His cross. “There is therefore no condemnation now to them which” believe “in Christ Jesus.”

Being saved from guilt, we are saved from fear. Not indeed from a filial fear of offending; but from all servile fear; from that fear which has torment, from fear of punishment, from fear of the wrath of God, whom we now no longer regard as a severe Master, but as an indulgent Father. We have not received again the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father and the Holy Spirit also bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God. We are also saved from the fear, though not from the possibility, of falling away from the grace of God, and coming short of the great and precious promises. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit which is given to us. And hereby we are persuaded (though perhaps not at all times, nor with the same fullness of persuasion), that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Through this faith we are saved from the power of sin, as well as from the guilt of it. So the Apostle declares,
“You know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abides in Him sinneth not” (1 John 3:5ff.). Again, “Little children, let no man deceive you. He that commits sin is of the devil. Whosoever believes is born of God. And whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” And, “We know that no one who is born of God sins, but He keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him (1 John 5:18).

Those who are by faith is born of God does not sin, by any habitual sin; for all habitual sin is sin reigning in the heart and sin cannot reign in any that believe. Nor by any willful sin: for his will, while he abides in the faith, is utterly set against all sin and abhors it as deadly poison. Nor by any sinful desire; for he continually desires the holy and perfect will of God. Nor does he sin by infirmities, whether in act, word, or thought; for his infirmities have no concurrence of his will and without this they are not properly sins. Thus, “he that is born of God does not commit sin”: and though he cannot say he has not sinned, yet now he does not sin.

This then is the salvation which is through faith, even in the present world. A salvation from sin, and the consequences of sin, both often expressed in the word justification; which, taken in the largest sense, implies a deliverance from guilt and punishment, by the atonement of Christ actually applied to the soul of the sinner now believing in him, and a deliverance from the power of sin, through Christ formed in his heart. So that he who is thus justified, or saved by faith, is indeed born again. he is born again of the Spirit to a new life, which “is hid with Christ in God.” And as a new-born babe he gladly receives the sincere milk of the word, and grows in the might of the Lord his God, from faith to faith, from grace to grace, until at length, he comes to “a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Now, thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, forever and ever. Amen.

Redeeming the Storms

by Dave Strem

The paper has been full of stories about the storm.  It has been good to see neighbors pulling together with neighbors, sometimes people that never talk to each other  becoming acquainted and helping each other.  To see communities team together.  To have a government that actually has the resources and moves to help.  We are very blessed.  Life is full of storms.  As devastating as hurricanes can be, many of you would welcome a hurricane compared to some of the life storms that you are facing.  A crushed car, an uprooted tree, or a roof torn off a house sometimes is much easier to fix than the problems some of you are facing.  Hurricane Charley blew by our area in about an hour.  Some of you have been fighting battles and weathering storms that have lasted months, even years.  Some of you are fighting battles that without God’s intervention you are guaranteed to lose.  And yet, you keep on fighting because giving up just feels worse.  Jesus said that you will always have trouble.  But Jesus went on to say, “But I have overcome the world’s troubles.  I bring good news.”  Jesus came to make a difference amid the storms of life.

Sometimes we wonder, when storms are hitting, how can I go on?  Do I want to go on?  Why should I go on?  “I do not know how to fight this.  It just seems that my life is an endurance contest.”  And you question yourself and you question God.  “God, hello, are you watching?  I am your child.  Do you see what is going on here?  Are you there?”  And you get that silent reply.  Most times we want those storms to go away, but they keep on day after day.  They stick with us.  There is a false belief that bad things should not happen to good people.  Especially God’s people.  But bad things do happen to good people.  Joseph was sold into slavery and then he was betrayed again and again.  David was hunted down by Saul.  Christ was betrayed and crucified.  Paul was beaten, imprisoned, and eventually beheaded.  Bad things do happen to good people.  We want trouble-free living, but God wants us to grow, to live, to develop.  He is a God who knows how to turn your troubles, the troubles you are guaranteed to have, into great blessings for you and those around you.  We want our troubles to go away, but God wants to use them and see something wonderful develop in our lives.

I could have you turn to James where it says, “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials because they will develop your perseverance which will develop a mature and well-rounded character, a character without flaw.”  That is God’s design and desire and many times troubles, storms, are the sandpaper that build that character.  Peter says the same thing.  In our passage today, Paul does not say it just with words, but also with his life.  No other disciple of Jesus suffered more persecution, pain, and troubles than Paul.

Philippians is a letter written by Paul to one of his favorite churches.  Because he could not be with them, he did the next best thing—he wrote to them.  I want you to catch the flow of the letter.  He starts off in verse one, “Paul and Timothy, to the saints who are in Philippi.”  Basically, that is his way of saying, “Hi, you all.  Hi!”  Then he goes on in verse three and says, “I thank God every time I remember you.”  He is encouraging them by telling them, “I am proud of you.  I am thankful for you.  God is at work in your midst and it is encouraging to me and I want to encourage you on in that work.”  And so he goes on and says, “My prayer for you, my dream for you, is that your love will continue to flourish.”

Verse 12 signals a change of pace.
Look at that verse 12, the first word is “now” because he is changing what he is talking about.  He is changing the subject.  For the first time, he addresses his situation.  He says, basically, “Don’t worry about me.  Don’t worry about me.”  The Philippians had heard that Paul had gone through a lot of struggles.  They loved Paul and they did not like what had happened to him.  And so they sent Apaphroditis with a gift to help meet his needs.  Verse 12: “Now, I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel and everyone else knows that I am in chains for Christ.  It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”  Then in verse 15: “It’s true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others are doing it out of good will.  The latter do so in love knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preached Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains, but what does that matter. The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true that Christ is proclaimed.  And because of this I rejoice, yes, I will continue to rejoice.”  Paul is saying all the way through here, “Don’t worry about me.  What has happened to me has really turned out great.  I am thrilled.”

At this time, Paul was under house arrest for preaching the gospel.  Paul had been through so much that it is hard for us to comprehend the peace of heart he has.  Turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 11.  “I’ve been flogged five times with the Jew’s lashes—thirty-nine lashes each time.  I’ve been beaten by Roman rods three times.  I’ve been pummeled or stoned and left for dead once.  I’ve been shipwrecked three times.”  We only know about one time, but three times he says. “I’ve been shipwrecked.  And, I’ve been lost at sea for a night and a day.  I’ve traveled by foot year in and year out.  I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends and struggle with foes.  I’ve been at risk in the city.  I’m at risk in the country.  I’ve been in danger by the desert sun and by sea storm and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers.  I’ve known drudgery and hard labor and long, cold nights without sleep, without food, without friends.”  Paul endured storms just to get to Rome and then when he gets there, he is handcuffed to a palace guard twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for two long years.  But he says, “Don’t worry about me.  I’m doing fine.”

Paul was not simply chained to a guard, the guard was chained to Paul.  The guard could not get away.  What many people saw as an obstacle, a hindrance, a restriction, Paul saw as an opportunity.  One-by-one the whole palace guard was impacted by his faith, by his hope, by his character, by his testimony.  One-by-one until you get to the end of the book of Philippians and he says, “All the saints here greet you even the household of Caesar.”  The household of Caesar?  The servants of Caesar’s household, the governors that worked with Caesar had heard about Paul’s testimony and some had become Christians.  The whole guard knew about it and they shared the truth they learned with others.  The way you respond to life’s storms can make an eternal difference.  That is the purpose for them.  That is the redeeming factor for them.  That is Paul’s message to the Philippians.  God wants to help you redeem the storms.

You are going to go through storms.  You want to merely endure them?  Why not make them worthwhile?  Why not let God have His way with them?  Why not have God involved with you in them for His purpose?  This passage shows us the great benefit they can bring to our lives and gives you the key to unlocking them for your future.  How you respond to storms can make an eternal difference.  First of all, it can make a difference in you.  I could take you to that passage in James where it says storms develop a perseverant spirit.  That is worthwhile for you.  That is of benefit for you.  God will use the storms to shape, to batter, to prune, to strengthen your life and your character.  I could have you look down at verse 18 of Philippians chapter one where it says, “Because of these things I’ve been going through, I rejoice.”  And I can tell you when you go through storms with God, you will have cause to rejoice for the good things, for the good results, for the strengths that He will bring to your life because it is in your weaknesses that His strength is made known.  Knowing you are not alone in this world is a powerful realization.

We spend millions of dollars every year on satellite dishes out in the middle of the Nevada desert or the New Mexico desert just listening to outer space for someone saying, “Hello?  Hello, we’re here.  Are you there?”  It is important for us to know that we are not alone in the universe.  Mankind wants to know that we are connected, that there is something more, that we are not just happenstance that just sprung up and oozed out of the earth.  God wants us to know that our lives are significant.  We have a hunger for significance.  And that is what God wants to use storms for in our lives, to give them significance.

Secondly, the way we respond to storms can make a difference to others.  There are people in the hospital every day that are going through heart problems.  Some with God, some without God and it is your choice how you will go through similar storms in your future.  How you respond to life’s storms can make an eternal difference in you and also in others around you, particularly in unbelievers.  Look at verse 13, it says, “It’s become clear to everyone that I am in chains for Christ.”  They saw what was happening in Paul’s life.  Everyone—the palace guards, the servants, even the government officials–heard about Paul and his amazing Jesus.  It became the talk of the town and they did not just hear about it, they saw the reality of it in his life and that is what made the difference.  People can hear about your faith, hear about your testimony, hear that you go to church, but when they see some tangible results in your life, then all of a sudden, it takes on greater meaning.  It becomes real to them and gives them hope that it might be real for them as well.  Your storms can spark interest in Christ and show the reality of Him in your life.  People want faith in rotten times.  They want to know there is help out there and when they see that you have found help in Jesus, it makes a difference.

Our world is hungry for authentic faith.  Not church faith, but authenticity.  How you respond to life’s storms will make a difference in the lives of those around you, particularly unbelievers.  The example of Paul inspired the other Christians in Rome.  Paul’s fellow believers in Rome were encouraged to share their faith with others.  The believers there in Rome had received a letter from Paul about 10 years previous teaching them the foundational truths of their new faith.  But they were under persecution, they were scared, they were running, they were meeting secretly.  Suddenly, the whole town is talking about Christianity.  It brought encouragement to them to speak about their faith.

When storms hit our lives what can we do to unlock their potential?  Look at verse six.  “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”  He who began with you will stay with you.  Spiritual courage is gained by knowing that God will never give up on you.  God is with you to help and carry you through.  The first thing we need to do when the storms hit is to hold onto God.  Get reconnected.  Our first response usually is, “Oh, no!  Why has this happened?”  Satan is going to attack you when the storms hit.  “See, if God really loves you, He would not let this happen.”  Satan attacks us amidst the storms.  And even though God turns storms to good things, Satan keeps on attacking.  You would think Satan would learn that God can turn it around?  The thing is, many times, we do not let God turn it around and Satan wins.  We listen to the wrong side.  We get discouraged.  We pity ourselves.  We feel like a victim.  And instead of blossoming by God’s grace, we shrink back, we hide out, we cower, we run away.

Hold on to God.  The biblical word for this holding on is “faith.”  The world may betray you, dump on you, discourage you.  Christians may let you down, abandon you.  But your God is bigger than all of them.  Get a hold of God and trust that God is working in that situation.  Sometimes it is incredibly hard to see.  Sometimes you will never see what God is doing and why those storms came into your life.  And you may never know. But you know what?  Believing that God is working in your situation even if you cannot see it directly changes your attitude.  That is faith.  That is trusting that God is involved in the things that you never see.  You have to go through it anyway, why not go through it with God?

Secondly, do not simply hold on to God, but declare your Lord.  Why are you doing the things you are doing?  Do those around you know why you are doing the things you are doing?  Do you give Christ credit when you do things?  When you help someone, are you just being a humanitarian or are you being Christian?  Many times we do things just to be a “nice guy.”  But what has motivated your niceness?  Without declaring your Lord, you are not being a witness, you are just being a humanitarian.  You are just being nice.  Give God the glory.  Now, that does not mean you have to start preaching at them or be overbearing.  When storms hit, declare your Lord.  “I do this because Jesus has done so much for me.”

And then thirdly, let love flourish.  “My dream for you is that love will continue to flourish in your life.”  That is ministry.  That means coming alongside others who are hurting and helping them.  What motivates your love?  Why do you give?  If it is for any other reason than to give to others what God has given you, the motive is wrong.  Not just incorrect, as in making a mistake or an error, but morally and spiritually wrong.  When storms hit, love becomes much more valuable.  Love redeems the storms.  Let God love others through you!

When storms come your way, how can we learn to recognize how those storms can be redeemed?  Number one, look at the storm.  What is happening; what is threatened?  Number two, look at who you are bound to in the storm.  Who are you tied to?  Who are you chained with?  Who might God want to influence through that storm you are going through?  And thirdly, talk to God to determine how to redeem it.
If there is one word that describes God it is redemption.  Many have a mistaken notion of God.  They see Him as judgmental and harsh.  But Scripture reveals a God who always wants to restore sinners and help them to create something beautiful out of their lives.  Condemnation always follows human rejection of God’s offered grace and forgiveness.  God’s heart is revealed most in redemption.   And God’s redemption is not based on whim and arbitrary choice.  The Bible says that before the foundations of the earth were set, the Lamb of God was slain.  In other words, our Universe was created by a God who at His core is governed by a redemptive heart!  That is the big picture–the Son of God coming to redeem humankind by purposely dying and shedding His blood.  This was important because it opened up an avenue for God’s holiness to be satisfied and thereby allowing His love to be exerted on our behalf.  But God’s redemption did not stop there.  God also wants to redeem the little things because that is who He is.  God wants to redeem troublesome situations, the storms of life that batter us and too often beat us into submission.  We could not participate in Creation because that is a God thing.  We could not participate in the central drama of history, the cross on Calvary’s hill.  That belonged to the Father and the Son.  But, because we have a God who is redemption-minded, we can participate in redeeming life’s events, good or bad.  It is how we can most become like Jesus Christ!

Living by Faith

Romans 4:4-5

by Paul George

There are those who claim we must be sanctified, that is holy, before we can be justified. They claim universal holiness or obedience must precede justification. Unless they mean that justification at the last day, the claim is not only impossible it is contradictory. It is not a believer in Christ but the non-believer that needs to be justified. God does not justify the godly, but the ungodly; those that are holy but the unholy. The good Shepherd does not seek and save those that are in His flock but those which are lost and without a shepherd. He pardons those who need His pardoning mercy. He saves from the guilt of sin, and, at the same time, from the power of sin, sinners of every kind, of every degree, men who, till then, were altogether ungodly; in whom the love of the Father was not; and, consequently, in whom dwelt no good thing, but evil, pride, anger, love of the world, the genuine fruits of the carnal mind which is enmity against God. These are the ones that need a Physician.

A person, before he/she is justified, may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, do good works, do what is good and profitable to men. But it does not mean that they are good in themselves, or good in the sight of God. All truly good works follow after justification and they are good and acceptable to God in Christ, because they spring out of a true and living faith. All works done before justification are not good, in the Christian sense, because they are not based on faith in Jesus Christ, although they may be founded on some kind of faith in God. They may be done because God willed and commanded them to be done, but strange as it may seem to some people they have the nature of sin.

Those who doubt this have not considered the reason why no works done before justification can be truly and properly good. The argument is, no works are good, which are not done as God has willed and commanded them to be done. Works done before justification are not done as God has willed and commanded them to be done, but according to the will of man. Therefore, no works done before justification are good. God has willed and commanded that all our works should be done in charity; in love. In that love to God that produces love to all mankind. But none of our works can be done in this love, while the love of the Father is not in us; and this love can not be in us till we receive the “Spirit of Adoption, crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.”

It is important we understand the terms by which we are justified. We are justified through faith in Him that justifies the ungodly. Paul told the Romans, “the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” He that believes is not condemned but has passed from death to life. For the righteousness, or mercy, of God is by faith in Jesus Christ to all and upon all that believe. Therefore we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law; without previous obedience to the moral law, which we could not, till now, perform.
It is also important we remember, faith is evidence or conviction, of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Therefore, justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;” but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for our sins. That He loved us and He gave Himself as a sacrifice for us. God, for the sake of his Son, pardons the one who has in him no good thing. And whatever good we had or do from that hour when we first believe in God through Christ is brought into our heart.

This is the fruit of faith. First the tree is good and then the fruit is good also. Therefore, we have a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of Christ is available for all the world, but that He has made a full and sufficient sacrifice for us and a perfect cleansing of our sins, so that we may say, with the Apostle, He loved me and gave Himself for me. For this is to make Christ my own.

Paul claims there is no justification without faith. He claims if we do not believe we are condemned and so long as we don’t believe that condemnation cannot be removed, but “the wrath of God abides on us.
As “there is no other name given under heaven,” than that of Jesus of Nazareth, no other merit whereby a condemned sinner can ever be saved from the guilt of sin so there is no other way of obtaining a share in His merit, than “by faith in His name.” So that as long as we are without this faith, we are “strangers to the covenant of promise,” we are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and without God in the world.” Whatsoever virtues we may have, what good works we may do, there is no profit in them, for we are a “child of wrath,” still under the curse, till we believe in Jesus.

Therefore faith is the necessary condition of justification, the only necessary condition. This is a point that we should carefully consider. The very moment God gives faith, for it is the gift of God, to the ungodly that faith is counted to him for righteousness. Until that moment the ungodly has no righteousness at all, not so much as negative righteousness, or innocence. But faith is imputed to him for righteousness the very moment that he believes Not that God does not see the ungodly as what he is, but as “He made Christ to be sin for us, that is, treated Him as a sinner, punishing Him for our sins, so He counts us righteous, from the time we believe in Him: That is, He does not punish us for our sins. He treats us as though we are guiltless and righteous.

The difficulty some have in accepting the proposition that faith is the only condition of justification is due to not understanding faith is the only thing without which none is justified. The only thing that is immediately, indispensably absolutely requisite in order to be pardoned is faith. Although a man should have every thing else without faith he cannot be justified. If a man in a full sense of his total ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or do good, and his absolute destiny to hell-fire casts himself wholly on the mercy of God in Christ, which he cannot do but by the grace of God, is forgiven in that moment. Who can say there is something more required of him before he can be justified?