Salvation By Grace Alone – A Life Or Death Issue
Lost unregenerate sinners left to their own natural reasoning will always come to the wrong conclusion concerning God’s way of salvation – “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
What way seems right to sinful man?
The way of morality, sincerity, and religious effort is what “seemeth right” to sinful man. We are taught all our lives by well-intentioned, misguided individuals that “good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell”, and because of the deceitfulness and wickedness of our evil hearts we believe it to be true – See Jeremiah 17:9.
This error in judgement is evidence of the moral and spiritual depravity of EVERY CHILD OF ADAM. By moral and spiritual depravity, I am not implying men are incapable of being moral, sincere, or highly religious, even to the point of appearing righteous (holy) to other sinners – “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the (required by) law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:6)
“Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:28)
Matter of fact, men are quite capable and readily willing to do things to save themselves – “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing SHALL I DO, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)
The problem lies in the fact God has NEVER told any sinner to DO ANYTHING by way of obedience to save themselves, keep themselves saved, or to even recommend themselves to God. You can’t find this error anywhere in the Word of God. Man might say it, but God has never said, “I’ve done my part, now you do your part.”
THAT’S WORKS SALVATION!
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 3:16)
The Apostle Paul couldn’t have stated it any more clearly. He told us NO ONE can be justified (declared legally righteous) by keeping the ten commandments. He went on to tell us the only way any sinner can be declared legally righteous before God was by Christ’s faithfulness to fulfill all the conditions of salvation by establishing the ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS that demands the eternal salvation of all those for whom He established it at Calvary. The Lord Jesus Christ came here ON PURPOSE, not to save the righteous those who suppose themselves to be righteous), but to save SINNERS – “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
All of those Christ died for will in time come to see their exceeding sinfulness and they will rest upon Christ’s righteousness alone as their ONLY HOPE of salvation giving evidence that Christ redeemed them at Calvary.
We must have a righteousness in which God Himself cannot find a flaw, a righteousness which God cannot mend, a righteousness which neither sin nor Satan can mar; and unless we have on a righteousness of this nature, we can never enter into the blessedness of the world to come.
Where, then, are we to find it?
Eternal praises to the matchless mercy of a covenant God, we have it in the blessed Person, glorious work, and spotless obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ!
And, therefore, as it was essential for Him to fulfill all righteousness for His people, He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, with all His mind, and with all His strength. He began at the beginning, and went through holily, righteously, and steadily every step of the law of God and all in justice and righteousness. He fulfilled every iota of it, and gave it immortal glory and honor. The law could only require the perfect obedience of a perfect man, but He gave it the perfect obedience of the God-Man, and stamped forever a holy dignity and majesty on it, in order to manifest that this glorious righteousness is suited to every sinner’s case, to all their needs, and to honor and glorify all the perfections of God; and thus He has “forever perfected them that were sanctified,” all those who were set apart for Himself. They are perfected forever in His own blessed obedience and spotless righteousness; and this righteousness which God gives shall endure forever.
As for you who have a righteousness of your own, you never can feel your need of Christ’s righteousness. You do not know your need of it, and it is an insult to your pride to mention it. But, for the poor creature who feels himself to be a loathsome, vile, and ruined sinner, and is brought experimentally to feel what he is before a heart-searching God, and that every iota of the law is against him – for God to give this righteousness to him, to put it upon him and communicate the power of it to his soul, why it will raise and exalt him to such a blessed enjoyment of God’s righteousness that his tongue will sing aloud and speak forth praise to the honor and glory of His blessed Name; and he will say, “My soul shall be joyful in my God; I will glory in the God of my salvation; for He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness; He hath adorned me with the garments of salvation.” Isaiah 61:10.
The righteousness by which we are justified is not our own righteousness, but the righteousness of another, even the righteousness of Christ: That I may be found in Christ, says the apostle, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ. (Philippians 3:9) Now, the righteousness of another cannot be made ours, or we be justified by it, any other way than by an imputation of it.
The same way that Adam’s sin becomes ours, or we are made sinners by it, the same way Christ’s righteousness becomes ours, or we are made righteous by it. Now, Adam’s sin becomes ours by imputation, and so does Christ’s righteousness, according to the apostle: As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so, by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous.
The same way that our sins became Christ’s, his righteousness becomes ours. Now our sins became Christ’s by imputation only; the Father laid them on him by imputation, and he took them to himself voluntarily; they were placed to his account, and he looked upon himself as answerable to justice for them. Now, in the same way his righteousness becomes ours: “For he, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Corinthians 5:21.)
The world of christendom would have us to understand that when the Lord said this while He hung on the cross, He intended it to apply to all men without any exceptions, whatever. But consider this.
Is there a prayer ever prayed by the Son of God that the Father did not absolutely answer?
If God the Father does not forgive all men everywhere of their sins, then the Son prayed an ineffectual prayer. This can never be! Some at this point would clarify the Lord’s words as, “Father forgive everybody who wants your forgiveness”. But this is clearly not what He said, nor was it in His mind.
How do we know?
Scripture makes it clear.
The very night before His death He openly prayed to the Father for the people He represented. These are those He identified no less than six times as those the Father gave Him (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). He knew who they were, the Father knew who they were. He repeatedly said this so that it would be abundantly clear to us. He wanted us to know this prayer was specifically for them. Note the amazing statement He made in v 9, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me”.
He was not praying for the world, but strictly and solely for them.
Now, will anyone be so arrogant to say that the Son of God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, changed His mind the next day when He hung on the cross and said, “Father forgive them”?
Did the agony of the cross somehow cause Him to reconsider His view and to now begin praying for men He refused to pray for the day before?
If He changed His mind, He cannot be God (Malachi 3:6).
Not so! He made it clear exactly who He would do this for. He plainly told the Pharisees He came for His sheep (John 10:11, 15). And He distinguished His sheep by contrast to those He said were not of His sheep (John 10:26). These Pharisees were not His, He did not die for them. He came to exact a forgiveness for them, meaning His own sheep, the ones the Father gave Him. That is all. And that is good.