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Sermon #29 — 1st John Series


      Title:                     The Commandment of

the Gospel


      Text:                                  1 John 3:23

      Subject:               Faith in Christ

      Tape#                              1st John #29

      Reading: Romans 10:1-21



The title of my message is — The Commandment of the Gospel.


Many religious people have a foolish and deadly enchantment with the law of God. In many houses of worship the Ten Commandments are written out in large, bold letters and hung upon a wall, in some conspicuous place for all to read. There are some churches where every Sunday the congregation mournfully chants, “Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep thy law.” Some are even so foolish as to enter into a covenant for their children and vow before God that “They shall keep God’s holy commandments, and walk in them all the days of their lives.” The pulpit, which should proclaim freedom and liberty in Christ, lays a heavy yoke of bondage upon men, which they cannot bear. Men and women are taught from their youth up to groan under the yoke of the law and to labor after righteousness where it can never be found. If I had my way, wherever there is a plague hanging with the Ten Commandments, I would hang another, larger plague, inscribed with these words: — “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified.”


The law of God, the Ten Commandments, was never intended by God to produce righteousness of any kind, to justify sinners, or to be a rule of life for God’s people in this world. The law was given to convince us of our sin, to condemn us for sin, and to show us our need of a Substitute. But it was never intended to be a means of attaining righteousness. Just the opposite is true. The law was given to convince us of the impossibility of attaining righteousness by our own works. — “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). Will men ever learn the difference between the law and the gospel? I doubt it. Preachers make a mixture of the law and the gospel and serve out the deadly poison with such regularity that the people are so stupefied that they do not know the difference. In most places, for every ounce of gospel there is a pound of law! That will never do. If the message of the pulpit is not all gospel, all mercy, all grace there is no soundness in it.


If God will enable me to preach today, I want to turn you entirely away from yourself, and so lift up Jesus Christ before you in his redemptive, saving glory that you cannot help looking to him alone and trusting him alone to save you. I do not ask you to produce any obedience whatsoever to the law of God. I am calling upon you to trust the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Substitute. I do not set before you the commandments of the law, which you can never perform, and by which you must be condemned. Rather, I set before you this day the blessed commandment of the gospel. This is the commandment of the gospel given by God the Holy Spirit: ¾ “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). This is the one commandment you must obey. And if you obey this commandment you will live forever.


Proposition: The one thing God requires of every sinner is faith in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Divisions: I want you to be saved by the grace of God. And I know that the only way you can be saved is by obeying this commandment of God. You must believe on his Son, Jesus Christ. I want you to listen carefully as I tell you five things about faith in Christ. May God the Holy Spirit give you ears to hear.

1.    In order to be saved you must believe on the Son of God.

2.    Faith in Christ is a gift of God.

3.    There are no pre-requisites, conditions, or qualifications you must meet before you can trust Christ.

4.    God commands you to trust his Son.

5.    Through faith in Christ we fulfil the law of God.


Must Believe


1st — In order to be saved you must believe on the Son of God. — That faith which saves the soul is believing on a Person, depending upon Jesus Christ for eternal life. We are not saved by believing certain religious dogma, no matter how true and orthodox the dogma is. We are not saved by believing certain facts about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, no matter how accurately those facts may be perceived. We are saved by believing a Person. — Saving faith is not consent to a proposition, but commitment to a Person. Specifically, in our text John tells us three things we must believe about the Lord Jesus Christ.


We must believe that Jesus Christ is God the Son.— “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son.” No one will ever trust Christ as his Lord and Savior until he is convinced in his heart that Christ is God. Those who deny the Godhood of our Savior are infidels. Their religion is blasphemy.

·      Jesus Christ our Savior is God (Isaiah 9:6; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:16).

·      No one but God himself can forgive us of our sins and save us.


We must believe that he who is God the eternal Son is also “Jesus,” the Savior. — Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man that he might save men. Because of his great love for sinners, the Son of God came into this world as a real man to save us (2 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Timothy 1:15). — He who is the sinner’s Substitute must be both God and man in one glorious Person.

·      Only man could suffer.

·      Only God could satisfy.


Believing that Jesus is both God and man, we must trust him as the Christ. — The title “Christ” means “Anointed One.” He is the one ordained, anointed, and sent of the Father into this world on an errand of mercy. God sent his Son into this world, not to make it possible for sinners to save themselves, but that he might save sinners. It is his responsibility as the Christ of God to bring many sons to glory. We must believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, having come into this world to save sinners, has fully accomplished his mission.


·      Faith trusts the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:19). — His obedience to the law as a man fully satisfies the requirements of the law for all his people.


·      Faith trusts the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:12). — We heartily rejoice in the doctrine of the atonement, limited, effectual, blood atonement. Christ, by dying in the room, place, and stead of sinful men, bore the terror and curse of the law until justice itself was satisfied and demanded no more. Faith sees and relies upon the fact that Christ, by his one great sacrifice for sin, has put away all the sins of his people (Hebrews 9:26; 1 John 1:9).


·      Faith trusts the intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:25). — We rest our souls upon the fact that God our Father will not and cannot refuse the prayer of his Son (John 17:20).


Faith is something more than simply believing the truthfulness of these things. Faith is acting upon God’s revelation. Faith is trusting Christ, relying upon him.


      Illustration:         The Chicago Fire

                                                                                    The Brazen Serpent


I am calling upon you to…

·      Believe God

·      Trust his Son.


God’s Gift


2nd — In order to be saved you must believe on the Son of God. But be sure you understand this ¾ Faith in Christ is a gift of God.

·      Faith in Christ is not hereditary.

·      Faith in Christ cannot be produced by human logic or religious atmosphere.

·      Faith in Christ is not the result of providential judgment or even the terror of eternal damnation.

Saving faith, true, heart faith in Christ is produced in the hearts of men by the gracious operation of God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:10; 2:8-9; Colossians 2:12).


In order for a sinner to trust the Lord Jesus Christ three things have got to happen.

1.      No man will ever trust Christ until he hears the gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:13-17).

2.    No man will ever trust the Lord Jesus Christ until he is regenerated, born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:3).

3.    No sinner will ever trust the Son of God until he is revealed in his heart by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:6).


Faith in Christ is produced by the revelation of Christ in the heart. As soon as a man sees Christ he will trust Christ.


      Illustration:         Job – “Now mine eye seeth thee.”

                                                                                    Paul on the Damascus Road.


No Prerequisites


3rd — You must believe on Christ. Faith in Christ is the gift of God. Thirdly, and perhaps of all that I say today this is the most important thing you will hear ¾ There are no pre-requisites, conditions, or qualifications you must meet before you can trust Christ.


Self-righteousness is like the pesky mole. Drive it out of one hole, and it will quickly find another. We have perhaps driven it out of the den of good works as a ground of hope before God. But it has found another hiding place. These dens of darkness have many names: — “fitness for faith,” — “conditions of conversion,” — “suitability for salvation,” — and “qualifications for grace.” No matter what name you use, it is the same. The reasoning is this: “Salvation is by grace alone. It is not what you do, but what Christ has done that saves you. But, before you can trust Christ and be saved, you must be terrified with conviction, or you must weep and mourn over your sin, or you must desire holiness, or you must repent, or you must long after Christ, or you must come to see yourself as a lost sinner, or you must see and understand the doctrine of the gospel.”


This kind of doctrine may sound good to many, but it is only a round-a-bout way of preaching works salvation and mixing law and grace. Anything that is placed between the sinner and Christ as a condition or qualification for faith is works.


The gospel of Christ is addressed to sinners as sinners. — “This is his commandment, that we should believe on his Son Jesus Christ.” There are no qualifications or conditions to be met. Christ died for sinners. God saves sinners. The gospel is for sinners ¾ Not awakened sinners ¾ Not sensible sinners ¾ Not convicted sinners ¾ Not lost sinners ¾ Not repentant sinners ¾ Just sinners!


The moment a man places any condition or qualification of any kind upon the sinner before he can trust Christ and be saved, he ceases to preach a gospel of pure grace.


Perhaps you are asking, “Bro. Fortner, what can be wrong with using whatever means we can to make men know their desperately sinful condition, and thereby making them sense their need of Christ?”


Seven Evils


Here are seven evils of preaching conditional faith:


1.    It reverses God’s order.


Repentance, conviction of sin, and lamentation over sin are not pre-requisites for coming to Christ and trusting him. These things do not precede faith. They are the results of faith (Zechariah 12:10; John 16:7-14).


2.    It makes our experience, rather than the finished work of Christ the basis of our hope before God.


Illustration: The Letter – “I know that I am a child of God because 21 years ago, (on a certain day), I came to see that I was a lost sinner, and I trusted Christ.”


3.    It keeps men and women from trusting Christ.


Conditional faith provides men with a place of refuge short of Christ himself.


Illustration: “I am a lost sinner, but I am seeking the Lord.”


4.    It gives sinners some ground of boasting before God.


Illustration: “God saved me by his grace, but I came to see my lost condition. I repented. I was in great lamentation over my sin.”


5.     It forbids any real assurance for God’s elect.


If true faith in Christ comes only after repentance, conviction of sin, a great sense of sin, or any other condition, then I must always be plagued with questions like these:

·      Have I repented enough?

·      Have I been convicted enough?

·      Did I really sense my sinfulness enough?

·      Did I know enough?


6.    It offers no immediate hope to perishing sinners.


The gospel says, “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The gospel says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But these preachers of conditional faith say ¾

·      After you feel your sin, believe.

·      After your heart is melted, harden not your heart.

·      If you really know your lost condition and your guilt, you shall be saved.


Illustration:   The Thief

                                                                                    The Jailor

                                                                                    “Happy Jack”


7.    It promotes an arrogant and judgmental attitude toward the people of God.


If believers must meet certain standards and pre-requisites in order for their faith to be true faith, we must make our acceptance of a brother dependent upon his experience, rather than upon his faith in Christ. And the only standard by which we may judge another man’s experience is our own.


            Illustration: Barnard and Shelton’s secretary


M’Cheyne said, “We must not close with Christ because we feel him, but because God has said it, and we must take God’s Word even in the dark.”


Spurgeon wrote, “All that is of nature’s spinning must be unraveled, and everything that getteth into Christ’s place, however dear to thee, and however precious in itself, must be broken in pieces, and like the dust of the golden calf, must be scattered upon the water, and thou wilt be made to sorrowfully drink of it, because thou madest it thy trust.”


God’s Command


4thI want you to see from our text that God commands you to trust his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. ¾ “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son.”


My friend, the basis, the motive, and the reason for your faith is not your deep conviction of sin, your great remorse over guilt, or your fear of eternal ruin. Stop looking for those things, and look to Christ. You must believe because God said, “Believe.”


If God commands you to do something, you are responsible to do it.

·      An invitation may be accepted or rejected without fear of offending.

·      A command must be obeyed.


If God commands you to do something, you can be assured that you have the right and privilege of doing it.


Illustration: It was right for Israel to borrow the jewels of the Egyptians, because God commanded it.


You may come to Christ. You may trust Christ. You may believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ¾ because God himself commands you to do so.


The greatest evil you can commit in this world is to disobey the commandment of the gospel. If you refuse to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you spit in God’s face and call him a liar (1 John 5:10). You are saying, “God almighty is a liar.”…

·      “I do not need a Savior.’

·      “The blood of Christ cannot wash away sin.”

·      “God will not save sinners.”


Law Fulfilled


5th — Our text plainly shows us that, through faith in Christ we fulfil the law of God.


The whole purpose of God’s law is to drive sinners to Christ. When we trust Christ, we fulfil the law’s purpose (Galatians 3:24-25). The whole requirement of the law is fulfilled in that sinner who trusts Christ’s blood and righteousness (Romans 3:31; 8:4; John 6:29).

·      The law requires righteousness.

·      The law requires satisfaction (Exodus 13:2, 13; 2 Corinthians 5:21).


Application: Isaiah 45:22


      Illustration: The artist and the beggar.





Don Fortner








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