Faith Alone Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
And the Bible says that there is something about the blood of Jesus Christ that satisfies the wrath of God.
January 20, 2004
Title: Faith Alone
Call to Worship: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes....For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16 –17).
Text: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
October 31, is an important date in history. On that date, in 1816, Scottish Missionary Robert Moffat, sailed off to South Africa, where he was sent by the London Missionary Society. He boldly began evangelizing dangerous, savage, and cannibalistic tribes. One of the first men he won to Christ was a man named Afrikaner, who was the most notorious outlaw in the south of Africa.
Robert and Mary Moffat had a remarkable missionary career, and it was their ministry that inspired David Livingstone, who may be the most famous missionary.
George Muller, a German who spent his youth committing crimes, was converted to Christ on October 31 in 1852. He went on to become one of the most effective humanitarians and evangelists of the nineteenth century. He is especially noted for his ministry to orphans.
October 31, 1896, marks the birthday of Ethel Waters who overcame incredible odds to become one of the most popular African-American jazz singers in the United States. She is best remembered, however, for her conversion to Christ and her signature song at Billy Graham’s Crusades. When she sang “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” many were blessed and others had their hearts made ready for the preaching of Mr. Graham.
On October 31, 1517, a 31-year-old German monk named Martin Luther nailed to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg a list of 95 theological points he wished to debate, touching off the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was not only a great reformer, Bible translator, political leader, preacher, and theologian--he was also a musician. He was born in a small village that was known for its music, and he grew up listening to his mother sing. He himself joined a boys’ choir that sang at weddings and funerals. He became proficient with the ute, which is an instrument that we call a recorder, and very often his volcanic emotions erupted in song. When the Protestant Reformation began, Luther determined to restore worship to the German church. He worked with skilled musicians to create new music for Christians that would be sung in a language they understood, instead of Latin. He helped revive congregational singing and wrote a number of hymns. Luther once wrote: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits....A person who...does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God...does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” Well, that’s a little strong, but I believe that music adds to any worship experience. Luther’s most famous hymn is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” It is based on Psalm 46, and it reflects Luther’s awareness of our intense struggle with Satan. When he faced difficulty and danger, Luther would often resort to this song, saying to his associate, “Come, Philipp, let us sing the 46th Psalm.”
We can see that a lot happened on October 31, but I believe that for us, the most important event happened when Martin Luther took a stand against the excesses and corruption that was in the church of his day. His first act began the movement that is called the Reformation. He listed 95 objections to the theology and morality of the clergy and nailed the document to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The great message that he stated publicly was Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone. That’s not only the great theme of the Reformation; it is the theme of this passage in Ephesians, Chapter 2.
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:1–9)
This chapter begins with the little conjunction “and”; so it is actually continuing the thought of the first chapter. Paul has been talking about that tremendous power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is the same power that made us, and it is the same power that can give all of us eternal life. Paul wrote to us about the richness of salvation, and he explains it this way: In the first three verses the subject is the Human Condition. The first thing we notice in verses 1–3 is the hopelessness of our human condition. In these three verses, Paul describes our condition without Christ in six different ways.
He says that we are dead in our transgressions and sins (v.1). The word in the Greek for transgressions comes from two smaller words: a preposition meaning beside, and a stem word meaning to fall. The word transgression literally means to fall beside the road. Have you ever tried to climb up a steep path, lost your footing, and slid back down? Have you ever taken a false step? That’s the idea here when Paul speaks of transgressions.
The word sin means to miss the target. No matter how hard we aim at perfection, we keep missing the mark.
Now, I want to read verse 1 again: “And you hath he quickened (or made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
Verse 2 says that we are living just like the rest of the world. That is, we are living according to secularism, according to the way of the world, or according to the principles of this world. The word “world” as it is used here, doesn’t mean the physical universe. It means the society, civilization, life pattern, or life style of the world today.
The devil takes this dead material (that’s us since we are dead in trespasses and sins) and he energizes us. That’s the reason cults are as busy as termites. False religions put us to shame with their enthusiasm. But it is Satan who is energizing them. Some inquisitive person may ask, “Why do you say that we are dead in our trespasses and sins.” This is how I would answer:
First of all, I didn’t say it, God did! And He also said, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Adam’s sin made us the sons of fallen men, and we have the same nature that Adam had. It’s a fallen nature with no capacity or inclination to please God.
We are sinners in three ways:
• We are sinners because of Adam’s sin.
• We are sinners because we inherited Adam’s sinful nature.
• We are sinners because we sin.
Those who don’t have Christ are spiritually dead. Only the Spirit of God can speak so that dead men and women hear. Thank God, the Spirit of God did speak and continues to speak so dead men are able to hear.
A famous judge traveled around this country, years ago, giving a lecture entitled: “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” A great preacher followed him on his speaking tour with this message, “Millions Now Living Are Already Dead.” He was more accurate than the judge had been. Millions, actually billions, are dead in trespasses and sins.
An old Irishman was asked to define a cemetery. He said, “A cemetery is a place where the dead live.” That describes our world.
Paul describes, in these verses, a person that doesn’t have a spiritual life; someone who lives according to the life style of the world. That person is constantly walking on the wrong path, and their conduct conforms to the world’s low standard of morality. They do what comes naturally. That’s how the man or woman without Christ really is. The only hope for anyone in this condition is to experience the grace of God that comes through faith in Christ.
Folks, we follow the ways of the world, so we’re headed in the wrong direction. We read in Matthew 7:13, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”