Sermon #8 Galatians Series
Title: Justification by Works – A Criminal Doctrine
Text: Galatians 2:21
Subject: The Infirmity Of The Law And The Power Of Christ For Righteousness
The doctrine of justification by works is a criminal doctrine. No matter how often this heresy is refuted, it asserts itself again and again. If ever it gains the least foothold it makes great advances. It was for this reason that Paul was determined to give it no place. He boldly opposed everything that bore any resemblance to salvation by human merit. Therefore, when Peter sided with the Judaizing party at Antioch, and seemed to agree with those who taught that the Gentile believers must be circumcised, our bold apostle withstood him to the face. He always contended for salvation by grace. He strenuously opposed every idea that the keeping of the ceremonial or the moral law could merit any favor from God. No one could ever be clearer than he in declaring that men are not saved, or justified by works in any degree, but solely by the grace of God. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” With Paul grace meant grace, and grace alone. He could not endure any tampering with it, or any destruction of its meaning.
It is bad enough that the ungodly transgress the commandments of God. In this our guilt is horrifying. And yet men commit the very sin of sins, when they so defiantly and boldly refuse the grace of God and the salvation he has wrought by the slaying of his Son. “This is blasphemy more horrible than can be expressed,” said Luther. There is no sin, which is more detested in Scripture, than the contempt of grace, and the denial of Christ. And, yet, there is no sin more common among men.
Proposition: To teach that salvation can be obtained by anything apart from the sacrifice of Christ, or by anything placed in connection with the sacrifice of Christ, done by man; is to frustrate the grace of God and say that Christ died in vain.
1. The proof of the crime.
2. The popularity of the crime.
3. The proclamation of the convicted.
I. The proof of the crime.
I want, first of all, to prove to you that the doctrine of justification by works is a criminal doctrine.
A. The twofold crime.
There are two great crimes contained in the doctrine of self-justification.
1. The first crime is the frustration of the grace of God.
NOTE: The word, which is translated frustrate means to “set aside, to disesteem, to despise, to bring to nothing, or to reject. Now anyone who hopes to be saved by his own efforts rejects the grace, or free favor of God. He regards it as useless, and in that sense he frustrates it.
QUOTE: “The grace of God is plainly the grand manifestation of the free sovereign love of God in the way of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ and the faith of the gospel. To frustrate that, is to act in such a way as to lead to the inference, that this display was either unnecessary or insufficient for its avowed purpose.” John Brown.
Let me explain.
a. If righteousness comes by the law then there is no need for grace.
(1.) No innocent man would ever go into court and ask for mercy. Justice is what he wants.
(2.) It is only when a person feels that the law condemns him that he pleads for mercy.
(3.) If keeping the law will win God’s favor, we do not need his grace.
(4.) If religious performances will gain for us God’s required righteousness, we have no use for his grace.
b. If righteousness, in any measure, comes by the law, then the grace of God is, at best, only a secondary matter.
To mix law and grace is to deny grace altogether (Rom. 11:6).
c. Those who teach that man has anything to do with his salvation, take the sinner away from his confidence in Christ.
(1.) As long as a man can find any hope in himself he will never look to Christ.
(2.) If a man is taught to look to himself, he will do so in vain.
(a.) He cannot keep God’s law.
(b.) He has no faith.
(c.) He cannot forsake sin.
(d.) He must look only to Christ.
d. If man is justified by works, then God is robbed of his glory.
(1.) This is a crime the demons of hell can never commit, for God has shown them no grace.
(2.) This is a crime the heathen are not guilty of, for they have never heard of God’s grace.
2. The second crime, which the doctrine of self-justification is guilty of, is it makes Christ to be dead in vain.
a. Some say that the death of Christ was not necessary for man was not, after all, totally guilty. (Pelagianism)
b. Some say that Christ’s death was insufficient, and that man has his part to perform.
(1.) The Papist
(2.) The Arminian
c. How dishonoring this doctrine is to Jesus.
(1.) Did he not cry, “It is finished?”
(2.) Did he not seal the covenant by his blood?
(3.) Did the father not accept his sacrifice?
B. The terrifying conclusions.
1. The doctrine of justification by works is a sin against all three Persons of the Sacred Trinity.
a. Against the Father, for he sacrificed his Son in vain.
b. Against the Son, for he failed in his mission.
c. Against the Holy Spirit, for he has borne false witness.
2. The doctrine of justification by works gives no hope to sinners.
3. This doctrine would silence the praises of the saints in heaven.
II. The popularity of the crime.
This atrocious crime is committed by the great masses of mankind.
A. Why is this crime so common among men?
1. Justification by works seems so plausible.
NOTE: Many erroneously suppose that such doctrine breeds virtue.
2 The doctrine of justification by works is natural to the human heart.
a. This is the common, essential ground of all heresy.
b. This doctrine arises from natural ignorance.
(1.) Men are naturally ignorant of God’s law.
(2.) Men are ignorant of their guilt.
c. This doctrine arises from pride. Man hates the idea that he needs grace.
3. The doctrine of self-justification is very commonly accepted among men, because it makes light of sin.
B. How is this crime so commonly committed by men?
1. Some commit this crime by making light of the gospel. They think nothing of it.
2. Some are guilty of this crime, because they deny their guilt.
3. Some are chargeable with this crime, because they despair of having God’s grace because of the greatness of their sin.
(a.) Would you limit his power?
(b.) Would you deny his promises?
(c.) Would you make light of Jesus’ death?
4. Some are guilty of this crime, because they mix the gospel with human philosophy.
5. Men commit this crime against heaven in apostasy (Heb. 6:6; Gal. 5:4).
II. The proclamation of the convicted.
A. The powerful conviction of the sinner.
1. The law must do its work (Rom. 3:19).
2. The Holy Spirit must do his work (John 16:8-11).
3. Now the sinner knows he has no hope in himself.
B. The prevailing confession of the sinner.
1. Our only hope is grace.
Grace, ‘tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to mine ear.
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.
Grace first contrived the way
To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan.
Grace first inscribed my name
In God’s eternal book;
Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb
Who all my sorrows took.
Grace led my roving feet
To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour I meet,
While pressing on to God.
Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.
a. We renounce all human merits.
b. We love the sound of grace.
2. Our only confession is substitution – Christ is All.
a. Christ is our Substitute.
b. Christ is our Foundation.
c. Christ is our King.
d. Christ is our Priest.
e. Christ is our Life.
f. Christ is our Praise.
(1.) He has opened the gates of heaven for us!
(2.) He has shut the gates of hell for us!
C. The precious consolation of the Savior.
1. God’s grace can never be frustrated! (Job 23:13; Psa. 33:11; Pro. 19:21; Isa. 46:10; Heb. 6:17).
2. Christ’s death can never be in vain! (Isa. 53:11).
1. Sinner, your guilt is great.
2. Sinner, you are helpless.
3. Jesus alone can save guilty sinners.
4. Jesus Christ is our one Foundation. Let’s build upon him.
5. We must stand opposed to this crime in every form.
6. You cannot make too much of Christ. He is all!