Many individuals in the Bible exhibited faith in God, including an unlikely Gentile named Rahab. Though Rahab was a pagan from Jericho known for her sin, she showed the kind of faith that was able to risk it all. In this message from James 2:25-26, Pastor David Platt challenges Christians to put their faith in action by being bold for Christ. He shares three realities of justification.
- Christ is the basis of our justification.
- Faith is the means of our justification.
- Works are the evidence of our justification.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, I invite you to open with me to James 2. Let me also invite you to find Joshua 2, a lot like we did last week. I want to show you two passages of Scripture side-by-side this morning. While you’re turning there, just a side note to the glory of God in this faith family—two of the songs we sang this morning, that last one and then the song Sovereign God, both were written by leaders in our worship ministry. And so praise God for the gifts and the grace that He has entrusted to this faith family that are echoing to His glory.
My goal today for our time in the Word is two-fold. First, I want us to pick up where we left off last week, thinking about justification and how what James is saying here fits in with the whole picture in the New Testament. And more than anything, I want every one of us to have a clear understanding of justification, of what it means to be declared right before God. There are few things more eternally important than that right there. If we are confused or deceived there, it affects everything. So I want us to have clarity about what it means to be declared right before God—justification.
And then second, I want us to think together maybe a little more practically about radical experiment, and how to put our faith into action. I want us to talk about the proposal that the elders and leadership of this body has put before this faith family, and address maybe some of the thoughts and questions that may be in our minds when we think about this as a church and as individuals and as families. And then I mentioned last week, after our worship gathering tonight, from 7:30 to about 9:00, we’ll have question and answer dialogue, and then the same thing on Wednesday night 6:30 to 8:00 in the Student Center down the hill.
And so those two times, one, to provide a forum where we could dive into any questions you have, particularly along the lines of justification and salvation and how that relates to giving to the poor. If you’ve got questions about those sorts of things that would be a great forum for that. Or the whole picture of the radical experiment—what does this look like in our individual lives and our families, to really save, and sacrifice for the sake of urgent spiritual and physical need around the world? And what does this look like for us as a church? Any questions about the proposal that’s on the table. So I wanted to provide a couple avenues for that—tonight, 7:30 to 9:00, and then Wednesday night, 6:30 to 8:00.
Okay, James 2. I want us to start in verse 14, where we started this journey two weeks ago looking at faith in action, particularly as it relates to caring for the poor. And I want us to start in verse 14, get to verse 25 and 26, which is where we’re going to camp out today, in these last two verses of James 2. I’ll start in verse 14,
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that— and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (Jas. 2:14–26).
Now you might have verse 26 underlined; we looked at this two weeks ago. This is the main theme of the second half of James 2. It’s mentioned three different times. Verse 17, “Faith by itself without action is dead.” Verse 20, “Faith without deeds is useless.” Verse 26, “Faith without deeds is dead.” And what James has done is he’s given us an example, illustration, of this in Abraham. And then he says, “In the same way”—which shows us he’s not giving us a new truth here. He’s giving us another illustration of the same truth.
“In the same way, Rahab”—now Rahab’s story is probably a little bit less familiar to us than Abraham’s story was, so that’s why I want you to go with me to Joshua 2 real quickly here, and I want us to get the picture of Rahab in Joshua 2:1.
Here’s the setup. God’s people, the people of Israel, are on the brink of the Promised Land, and God is about to lead them to take that land for His glory. The first major city in the land is Jericho, and so Joshua sends out some spies, a couple of spies, to go into the land— specifically Jericho—and scout it out. So that’s where we pick up in Joshua 2:1, “Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”
Now side note real quick—kind of a shady beginning to Joshua 2, but the reality is during that day it was common for those whose profession, so to speak, was what Rahab was doing would also serve as an innkeeper. This is a house that would be on the outskirts of town that people would stay in as they were going through, so to just get that out on the table.
The king of Jericho was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.’ So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’
But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.’ (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, ‘I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.’
‘Our lives for your lives!’ the men assured her. ‘If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.’
So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Now she had said to them, ‘Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.’
The men said to her, ‘This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.’
‘Agreed,’ she replied. ‘Let it be as you say.’ So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, ‘The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us’ (Josh. 2:2–24).
Now there’s so much to unpack in Joshua 2, but the question I want us to think about right now is why in the world is James in the New Testament bringing up this prostitute from the Old Testament? This is where I want to give you a glimpse of radical Rahab. I want you to think about what is going on in this story in her life.
She was a Recipient of Scandalous Grace in James 2:25–26
First of all, Rahab was a recipient of scandalous grace. I don’t mean immoral grace, I mean shocking, jaw-dropping, “what in the world is going on” kind of grace. You come back to James 2 and you see this connection between—think about it—Abraham and Rahab.
Patriarch of the Jewish nation. A prostitute in a Gentile nation. A wealthy man of the highest social order. A woman of the lowest social order. A noble man. A common citizen. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder. Abraham and Rahab? And you can almost hear it in James’ voice in verse 25, “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did?” Let me show you one other place, Matthew 1. If this is not circled in your Bible it needs to be circled in your Bible.
It may have been from what we’ve looked at before here in Matthew 1, but remember when Ruth…When we were talking about how God was taking a Moabite woman and grafting her into His family? And we see Ruth’s name in the line that leads to Jesus in Matthew 1? Well, let me show you another name here in Matthew 1. This is the lineage of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Verse 5, Matthew writes, “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was” who? “Rahab.” Circle Rahab there. “Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.”
You catch that? Rahab was Ruth’s mother-in-law. What kind of family tree is this? Moabite women? Prostitutes from Jericho? Oh, brothers and sisters, this is really good news, that the holy God of the universe would look beyond rampant sinfulness and draw the most unlikely of persons into His line, into his family. It is the only reason why any of us are in this room this morning, because the God of the universe has looked past the filth of sin in your life and my life, and He has adopted you and me as His sons and daughters—heirs of His Kingdom. That is totally scandalous grace. It’s shocking. It’s jaw-dropping. She was a recipient of scandalous grace.
She Feared and Revered the Sovereign God
Second, she feared and revered the sovereign God. She feared and revered the sovereign God. Did you hear what Rahab said to the spies in Joshua 2:11? She said, “When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Now catch this—all Rahab had was some hearsay. A little bit of knowledge she had heard. She had heard about how the people of God had walked through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground. The middle of the sea on dry ground. And she’d heard about how they had defeated these kings. And she said, “I know about your God.” A little bit of knowledge about God, but she believed it. “Your God is God above heaven and earth. Your God is sovereign.” She knew God was sovereign over all things. She knew that she was accountable to Him. She knew that judgment was coming upon her and her land under this God.
And this is key. We’re about to think about what Rahab was risking in what she did, and what it cost her to do what she did in Joshua 2. But before we even get there, I want us to
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see why she was risking it all in Joshua 2. It’s because she believed God. And when you believe God for who He is—God in heaven above the earth—when you believe this God, then you are willing to risk it all.
That’s the picture in Abraham. Why would he be willing to sacrifice his only son? Because he believed God. Why would Rahab be willing to risk her life? Because she believed God. It is faith that produces radical obedience. She feared and revered the sovereign God.
She Risked it all for the Spread of His Glory in James 2:25–26
Third characteristic: as a result of this, recipient of grace, fearing God, she risked it all for the spread of His glory. I want you to think with me about what Rahab was risking there in Joshua 2. If the king of Jericho knew that these men were still in her home, and she was harboring spies—if found out—she would have been executed immediately, and likely her family along with her.
Traitor. Treason. No question. Rahab was putting her life on the line, risking it all. This is why James, this is why the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 11 sets up Rahab, the prostitute, as a hero of faith. Why? Because she was willing to risk everything, trusting God without hesitation, without reservation, and without qualification. The question I want to put before us this morning is where are the women of faith like that in this room? Where are the women of faith who are willing to risk it all? Everything that is dear to you, to put it on the line in trust, radical trust, of God.
Where are the men of faith in this room who are willing to risk it all in obedience to the Word of God for the spread of the glory of God? Who are willing to do that which goes against the culture around them? That which makes no sense, that which risks everything, because you believe in God? Are we as a church, as the people of God, thousands of years after Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and thousands of years after Rahab risked her life on the line, are we as a church willing to take risks in obedience to the Word of God for the spread of the glory of God?
This is the story of redemptive history; men and women who have passed down the baton to us. We cannot sit here in comfortable faith listening to the Word, but not risking our lives to obey it just like those who have gone before us have.
I want to be totally honest with you. When it comes to this whole radical experiment thing, there is a bit of fear in me. There’s this question—are we really ready to do something like this as a church? Are we really ready for something like this? I hear things, and I have conversations with some who say, “We move so slow as a church. What are we waiting for? Yes, let’s run!” And then I have conversations with some who say, “We move so fast as a church. Should we even be doing this?”
So I step back. And then I think; I think about this room at 4:00 last Sunday afternoon. If you are here, you know this room was filled with people all across this bottom level last Sunday at 4:00. I wish you could’ve seen the tears in DHR representatives’ eyes as the people just kept rolling in. They were stunned to find out how they could do foster care and adoption, and they had told me that a miracle—they would need 150 families in order to take care of needs that they have before them. And last Sunday afternoon, 160 families and individuals in this church signed a card that said, “We want to begin the foster care or adoption process.”
God is good, and you are risking. That is not an easy step. That’s individuals and families, 160 of them across this faith family, willing to step into the unknown; bring in children that are going through who knows what, serving families that are going through all kinds – there’s a lot of risk in that. And I think about history of this church – and this is even before I even came. I’m told that there was conversation, especially in the early days of Brook Hills—some of you who were here—among leaders who talked about, “What if we could give 50 cents of every dollar away? What if we could radically spend like that for the sake of needs in Birmingham and around the world?” This is before most of us were even here.
And sure, there are all kinds of questions that are out there about what does this really mean for us as a church? Over the last two weeks, you have as a faith family submitted 2,741 ideas about how we can save and sacrifice for the sake of urgent spiritual and physical need around the world. 2,741, and I know that because they’re have been some incredible volunteers who have taken every single thing you have written down or emailed in and compiled it. 2,741 rows in an Excel spreadsheet. Now some of those are repeats. There’s some of those that are in the tens or even hundreds.
Things like “adjust the thermostat.” That was prevailing. Like there’s “amen’s” in the room, okay? So “adjust the thermostat.” There was others—“ways to conserve utilities.” “Turn off the waterfall.” “Eliminate shuttles.” There were things like that. And then and what we’re doing with every single one of those is we are taking them, they are in categories, and we are in the process of disseminating that to leaders in those specific areas to think, “All right, what can we do, what can’t we do?”
And there are some things that are on there about “cut salaries,” and I want you to know— and this is not me speaking for me, but this is something where, as elders and the personnel team have already begun talking about some of these things, we want to be really cautious when dealing with people’s livelihood. And we want to be really cautious not to legislate obedience in certain people’s lives for them. Instead to entrust leaders with whatever God through His church entrusts to them, and entrust them to use that for the glory of God in whatever way is best for their life. And there are other things that… Obviously there’s a lot of expenses that just can’t be avoided. There are still ways, in personnel and in facilities, and what can we do to minimize? But there’s a lot of questions that are out there, again, keeping the goal in front of us. Our eyes fixed on urgent need; children dying of starvation and preventable diseases. How can we serve them and save and sacrifice here, for their sake?
And then the challenge to think about this as individuals and families. Heather and I are in the middle of discussions about, “Okay, what is this going to look like? How does this play out in our lives?” And heard all kind of different, creative ideas that you’re thinking through on how to save and sacrifice. And we’re setting up, if we move forward with this, a simple website where we can have a forum to share ideas and spur one another on as a community of faith; think together about how we can give our lives, spend them radically for the sake of God’s glory among urgent spiritual and physical need.
And we’ve got time to walk through these questions; we’re going to be ramping up toward 2010 if we decide to move forward with this. And obviously saving as much as we can now, until then, but really, really putting it into high gear when we think about 2010. And then there’s the other part of the proposal—it’s $525,000.00 that would go specifically to 21 child survival programs across India. These are pictures where children are very impoverished, and many times not making it to age 5, and so we can take these across India—take India. And some might ask, “Why India?” Or “Why Compassion?” which is who those child survival programs are through.
And the reality is there are obviously all kinds of places of need in the world, and there’s great need in many, many different places in the world. And there are great avenues that are serving need in many places in the world. I think we have to be a bit careful here—and this is a bigger discussion than this—but for so long, we as the church have farmed out caring for the poor and making disciples to para-church organizations. The local church has not been doing it, and so para-church organizations have risen up to do that which needs to be done. And there are great para-church organizations all over the place.
But somewhere along the way, things get a little backwards, because the situation gets to be such that para-church organizations now vie for all of the church’s resources, and the local church exists to keep the para-church organizations alive and operating, when the reverse is actually the case. The local church is God-entrusted with this mission, and para-church organizations can be used to serve and accomplish the mission of the local church, but it’s the local church that needs to be taking initiative and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Anything that can help make that happen… And so that’s the picture we’re trying to go for here.
Okay, as a faith family, if we’re going to sacrifice and look at everything we do through the lens of urgent need among children in particular, then how are we going to give best and wisest to urgent need among children? Okay, where is the need the greatest? And we look at India—41%. That’s almost half of the world’s poor in one country. Say, “Is there any way where we can have sustainable long-term impact on kids there, feeding them, medical care, gospel, through the local church?” And then that leads us… Now, this makes sense now. Para-church serves local church.
It’s not about giving to Compassion as much as it is about the church going to the brothers and sisters that we have in India where their children are not living to five, and saying, “We’re going to help you. We’re going to serve you with the gospel. We’re going to save and sacrifice here for your sake there.” That’s the picture, and you just step back—the whole deal, is it risky? Yes. Will people still come if you don’t have all the trappings that we’re so comfortable and used to? I don’t know. We have less money. We have more money. I don’t know.
But I do know this—I know that we stand in a long line of men and women like Abraham and Rahab who have gone before us, and who have stepped out in obedience to the Word of God and pray under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. And have trusted that the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills is not only able, but He has promised to give His people everything they need to accomplish what His word has told them to do. And so why not take some risks and trust in God and see what He does? Now that kind of language makes us all feel a little uncomfortable, and there’s a way in which risk needs to be informed and wise.
I was reading C.T. Studd, which you’ve heard me talk about him before. The name says it all. The guy was radically committed to taking the gospel to the nations. I was reading back, I came across something in his biography just this last week, and it just struck me. I want to read two excerpts from C.T. Studd. He said, “Christ’s call is to feed the hungry, not the full. To save the lost, not the stiff-necked. Not to call the scoffers, but sinners to repentance. Not to build and furnish comfortable chapels, churches, and cathedrals at home in which to rock Christian professors to sleep by means of clever essays, stereotyped prayers, and artistic musical performances.” Tell us what you’re really thinking, Studd!
But to raise living churches of souls among the destitute. To capture men from the devil’s clutches and snatch them away from the very jaws of hell. To enlist and train them for Jesus and make them into an almighty army of God.
But this can only be accomplished by red-hot, unconventional, unfettered, Holy Ghost religion, where neither church nor state, neither men nor traditions, are worshiped or preached, but only Christ, and him crucified. Not to confess Christ by fancy collars, clothes, silver crosiers or gold watch chain crosses, church steeples or richly embroidered altar cloths, but by reckless sacrifice and heroism in the foremost trenches.
That’s a good word, Studd.
And then… Now this is a guy, this is a guy who when it was time for him to retire, he decided instead he was going to go to Sudan with the remainder of his life. And people said, “Just relax, man! Live out the last few years.” And near the end of his life, he wrote this letter to the church. Part of it said:
Too long we have been waiting for one another to begin. The time for waiting is past. The hour of God has struck. War is declared. In God’s holy name, let us arise and build. The God of heaven will fight for us, and we for him. We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of the saints of Christ, and the gates and minions of hell shall not prevail against us. Should such men as we fear before the whole world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world? We will dare to trust our God. We will venture our all for him. We will live and we will die for him, and we will do it with his joy unspeakable, singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man, and when we come to this position, the battle is already won and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts. We will have a real holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.
I read that, and I think, “This is James—daring faith and works.” Now informed, wise, risk… And I want to make sure that you have as clear a picture as possible of especially this… First, what God has given us in 2009 that we’ve been able to save. I want to make sure that you’ve got as clear a picture possible as where that will go. So I want you to watch this with me. Again, this is a picture of us saying as a church, “How can we best help children with the resources that God has entrusted to us?” And this is a picture of what these child survival programs are doing.
So that we as a church might go to some of the neediest parts of the world and serve our brothers and sisters there, and alongside one another take the gospel and physical resources to meet needs for the glory of Christ. How can recipients of scandalous grace fear and revere a sovereign God and take some risks for the spread of His glory? Now all of that leads to verse 26, this last statement, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (Jas. 2:26). And I want you to follow with me here. This is more important than foster care, and it is more important than radical experiment or anything like it.
For just the next couple moments, these last couple moments we have, I want to go through each one of these pretty quickly, but I want to speak… If I could, I would love to do this individually with every single person in this room, every man, woman, student in this room. Do you know that you are right before God? Do you know that you have been declared right before God? Not the person beside you, in front of you, behind you. I want to make sure, based on Scripture that we know what God has said about whether or not any one of us is right before God.
Summation of Justification
Three Realities in James 2:25–26
Summation of justification: three realities. First, Christ is the basis of our justification. How are you and I as sinners declared right before a God who is holy? How can we be declared righteous when we are so not righteous? There’s sin that pervades us, and there’s nothing we can do to get rid of it. It has stained us. So how can you or I be declared right before God? We need someone else who is righteous to stand on our behalf. We need another’s righteousness to be credited. It’s the language James is using, Paul uses—credited to us. And this is what Christ has done. He has lived the righteous life that you could not live. And then He died the death—sinful death, death, payment of sin—He died the death you deserve to die.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Christ takes our sin upon Himself, and He takes His righteousness, and He clothes us with it. So if I were to ask you—if we were having a one-on-one conversation right now and I were to ask you, “How do you know you’re right before God?” If your answer would begin with, “because I,” then stop. If your answer would begin with “because I did this” or “because I have done this,” then you may be missing the entire point of the gospel. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done if Christ hasn’t done what he has done. How are you declared right before God? Because Christ.
Because Christ lived the life I could not live, and He died the death I deserved to die. That’s the starting point; this is the basis of our justification, the work of Christ on a cross. Christ crucified. Basis of our justification.
Now begs the question, “He did this—well, how is that applied in my life? Is it just automatic? When He died on the cross everybody’s declared right before God? Or is it something you have to be born into, or is this something you need to do in order to have that applied in your life?” That leads to the second facet here. Christ is the basis of our justification; faith is the means of our justification.
Don’t miss this. Faith is the anti-work. Faith is trust. It is submission, surrender. It is realization that there is nothing you can do to make yourself right before God. He must do this in you. And it’s trusting Him to do this in you. It’s trusting Him to cover over your sins by what He has done on the cross. It’s trusting in Christ as Savior from your sins, and the Lord of your life. This is faith.
Faith is not intellectual assent. Faith is not, “Well, I believe Jesus died on the cross.” Big deal! Demons believe that. Faith is Scriptural, biblical. Picture of faith—it is a turning from self to trust in Christ. Have you trusted in Christ? This is the means of justification. “Since we have been justified through faith,” Paul says, “we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). Through faith. This is not some one-time walk an aisle, sign a card, recite a prayer. This is a trust your heart and your life into the hands of the only one who can save you, and it leads to this last part.
Works are the evidence of our justification, because when that kind of trust is there faith bears fruit. That’s what we’ve seen over the last two weeks. Does this mean that our works now become the basis of our justification? Absolutely not. Be careful. Don’t go there.
Christ’s work, the basis. Our faith in him, the means. Our work… Now we’re talking here about works that are fueled by faith, not fueled by the flesh that don’t bring honor to God. Works that are fueled by faith bring great glory to God. Works are evidence of justification. This is the whole picture in James 2. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. Why? Because he believed. He believed, he had faith, and consequently he was willing to sacrifice his son. Rahab believed, she had faith, and consequently she risked it all. Works that flow from faith—evidence of our justification.
Two Reminders in James 2:25–26
Now, two reminders that are all-important. Number one: all three of these realities are only possible by the grace of God. They’re only possible by the grace of God. Now obviously we think the first reality, “Sure, what Christ did on the cross, that’s grace.” But don’t miss this, the second two realities are also totally fueled by grace, made only possible by grace.
Think about faith. We were sinners, children of disobedience, children of wrath. There was nothing in us to draw us to God. We had turned away from Him. We were dead in sin. How can those who are dead be given life? It must be given to them. You can’t decide to come to life all on your own. There has to be grace that is given here. And this doesn’t absolve man’s responsibility; it’s a whole other topic. But the picture is this is the grace of God.
And then in our works, in our obedience, this is living grace. It’s grace at work in our lives. The way I picture it… And I want to be careful here, because the illustration breaks down, so don’t carry it too far. Just kind of leave it on the surface here. But imagine giving your child money for them to buy you a present. Did they really give you something? Yes, and not really, because you’re the one who made it possible. The reality is any offering that I present before God that is pleasing to Him is only possible because of what He has already given and is at that moment giving to me. Grace—foundation of the basis, means, and evidence of justification.
And then, second reminder – and I want you to write this down, but then we’ll wait to start shuffling your things around and packing up, because I want you to let this soak in. This is where this whole deal’s been leading to. All three of these realities are ultimately involved in judgment before God. Here’s what I mean by that, and here’s what I believe Paul, James, the entire New Testament teaches.
When you stand before God in heaven—I’m talking final justification here, when it will be declared openly and finally eternal destiny—all three of these are involved in this picture. By what basis will you or I ever enter into the presence of God for all of eternity in heaven? Not, “Because I;” “Because Christ.”
The basis on that day for justification, just like it is today, the basis is what Christ has done on the cross and in the resurrection. Now how did that become a reality in your life? “Father, nothing in my hands I bring; simply to the cross I cling. I don’t have anything but what you have done for me. You have opened my eyes to my need for you, and by your grace I’ve trusted in Christ to cover over my sin.” Faith, the means.
And then in the background… Not as the basis or the means, but in the background, there’s fruit that shows this faith was there. This was not demonic intellectual belief. There’s not perfection in the background, but there is the fruit of faith that is there on that day, so that what Paul has said is absolutely true in Romans 2:6, God on that day “will give to each person according to what he has done.”
2 Corinthians 5—we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be given what is due on account of what we have done in the body. And I want to emphasize this because—and this is pastorally speaking here—for us in this community, we are operating… When someone dies—now I’m not talking about anyone in particular at all, no one individual. But when someone dies in our culture, community here, which is littered with churches… When someone dies, even if there has been no fruit of faith in Christ, people’s immediate conclusion is, “Surely they are with God in heaven.” And it’s not true. It’s not true.
Now this is why I emphasize I’m not talking about anyone in particular, because no one of us knows the secrets of a man’s heart, and I am not anyone’s eternal judge, nor are you. God is the eternal Judge, and so certainly we’re not going to make a commentary on anyone, “Well, they’re definitely in hell. They’re definitely in heaven.” But God, who is the Judge, has spoken, and He has said, “Faith without works is dead, and it doesn’t save.” And this is where this is so hard, because… So difficult. I pray the Holy Spirit would take this word and apply it in your life where it needs to be applied. Because I know there are men and women, students, all across this room, who know that Christ is the basis of your justification, and you by faith have received Christ’s work on your behalf, and there’s fruit that’s flowing from that in your work.
It’s not perfection; it’s in progress. But there’s fruit that’s flowing from that. And I want you to hear this and be encouraged—so encouraged. I want you to hear this and look forward with anticipation to that day. But on the other hand, if you are here this morning, and either you know you are not a Christian, or you have thought you are a Christian but there is no fruit in your life of faith in Christ, the last thing I want you to do is feel encouraged, looking forward to that day. I in no way want to just be a hellfire and damnation preacher for the sake of it, but more importantly, I do not want to deceive you. The Word of God says that Christ is the basis, faith is the means, works is the evidence of justification. If these things are not a reality in your life, then you have great reason to fear eternal wrath on that day. And I pray with the Spirit of God that those words would soak into your heart for the first time today, and you would see what Rahab saw, that God is sovereign, I am sinful, and I am deserving of His judgment, and I need Him to save me. And that right now, in your heart, for the first time, you would say, “Christ, He has done the work for me!” And He has. And that you would say in your heart for the first time today, in your heart, “Yes, I need Christ to do this for me. I need Him to change me from the inside out; to cover over my sin and give me life. Life that will bear fruit to His glory in the days to come.”
And when you trust in Him like that, you trust in Him right now, in this holy moment, in this room, the God of the universe looks down upon your life and He says, “Righteous in Christ.” He declares you righteous by His grace at this moment, if you will trust in Him.
Will you bow your heads with me? This is so important. We’re not going to sing, stand. I want to invite you to bow your heads, close your eyes, and just focus for a moment on this question, “Do you know that you’re right before God?” And if you do, then in this moment I want to invite you in this moment to be assured of that which has been declared of you based on Christ—faith is the means—and you would ask Him to continue to bear fruit through your life.
But if you do not know that, then right now in this moment I want to invite you, I want to urge you, to trust in Christ. To put aside your pride, to turn from yourself, to see what Christ has done—the work on your behalf on the cross. To cling to Him for the first time in your life. Not just to believe He’s done it, but to cling to Him. To confess that He is the only Savior of your sins, and the Lord over your life. And by the grace of God, He declares you righteous, right now, in this moment. His Word speaks that over you. It’s not about works that you can do to produce this; it’s works that now flow from this, what He has done in your life, as He transforms your life for your good and His glory. If you need to do that, then I invite you to do that right now.
- She was a recipient of scandalous grace.
- She feared and revered the sovereign God.
- She risked it all for the spread of His glory.
Summation of Justification…
- Three realities…
- Christ is the basis of our justification.
- Faith is the means of our justification.
- Works are the evidence of our justification.
- Two reminders…
- All three of these realities are only possible by the grace of God.
- All three of these realities are ultimately involved in judgment before God.