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Direct download: IBC_20100126.mp3
Category:Solas -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

“Sola Gratia”

Sermon Series: Solas

Ephesians 2:8-10

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Ginn, Lead Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon January 19, 2020

 

 

 

Outline:

 

  1. Saved by grace

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

  1.    We have a problem

 

  1. We have a provision

   

           

  1. Saved through faith

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

  1. Faith is a response

 

  1.    Faith is a requirement

       

 

  1. Saved for works

 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

           

  1. God works in us

 

  1. God works through us

 

 

 

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

 

 

 

“Amazing Grace” is, perhaps, the best-known and best-loved hymn of all time.  The beauty and simplicity of its melody (which you just heard played) is only eclipsed only by the hope and depth of its lyrics. 

 

Listen to the first stanza: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  Was blind but now I see.”

 

The author of these words, John Newton, was, by his own admission, a “wretch.”  Now, that’s not a word we use every day. It means, “a miserable person; one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune; a base, despicable, or vile person.”  You may think that’s an exaggeration on his part.  But he was a wretch.  He was a slave trader, a blasphemer, and a rebel.

 

You know the song, I trust, but you may not know the story of the author. So I want to tell you a little bit about the life of the man who wrote that song. John grew up in a home where his mother was an instrument maker and his father was a sea captain. His mother passed away when he was about 7 years of age, and so he was reared in those later childhood years by his father. He loved his father. He looked up to his father. His father was a sea captain, and so, get this, when he was 11 years old, John Newton went to sea. He made his six voyages across the oceans with his father before his father finally retired as a sea captain. Well, he had not gotten enough. He dreamed about the adventures of life on the open seas, but his dream was soon turned into a nightmare, and I want to tell you about it. 

 

He boarded a merchant ship and plied that trade for a while. But one day, he was in a port and he was pressed into naval service. We don't understand that term because we have an all-volunteer military. There's no draft. You volunteer if you want to serve. But back in those days in Jolly Old England, you could be pressed into service; that is, basically, you’d be captured and you would be forced to serve in the military, and so it was with John Newton. So now, he's no longer living a carefree life of a sailor aboard a merchant ship. He is now in the Royal Navy.  He kind of chafed under the regimen of that life. He ran afoul of his captain and was whipped, humiliated and demoted. He contemplated either murder of the captain or suicide. Before that could happen, he was able to escape and got aboard a slave trading ship called the Pegasus. He did not get along with the crew and was cast off in Africa. He was picked up by a slave trader, and became a slave himself in Africa until he was rescued. He said of that period that he was “a servant to slaves.”

 

Later in life he wrote, “I sinned with a high hand, and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others.” Newton lived a hard life with equally harsh consequences.

 

God got his attention though. In 1748, Newton’s slave ship was nearly wrecked by an intense storm.  Surrounded by crashing waves, ferocious winds, creaking timbers, and the cries of the souls on board, John fell to his knees and pled for grace. He was born again on board that ship that tempestuous night. 

 

He comes to know Christ and begins to learn of the word of God and how to live as a Christian, but he's still a slave trader himself. He captains a slave trading ship. He hauls many a slave across the oceans into slavery, but God begins to convict him about the wickedness of that. He becomes friends with a man named William Wilberforce who was the primary advocate in England for the abolition of slavery. John Newton became an ally in that cause, and of all things, this once slave trader, blasphemer, rebel, becomes a pastor of a local Baptist Church there in England. He began to be hymn writer, and he wrote those lyrics that we know and love, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”  

 

God’s grace, which reaches anyone, anywhere, saved a wretch like John Newton—not just from the terror of that storm but from the grip and guilt of his sins. Newton wrote the song now known as “Amazing Grace” years later, while serving as a pastor in Olney, England. 

 

Today, his lyrics still inspire, encourage, and instruct people about the radical reality of God’s amazing grace. It gives “wretches” like us hope.  It makes blind people like us see. And that is amazing! Only grace—sola gratia—is able to save sinners. For him, grace was amazing. 

 

God help us if we ever get to a point where we're not just astounded by grace, that it would redeem wretches like you and me, friend. But that's the nature of his grace; it is amazing. We're going to look at that theme this morning in a message entitled, Sola Gratia, the Latin phrase which means “grace alone.” I'm going to base the message today out of; really, I think the classic passage in the Bible about grace. Open your Bible please to Ephesians chapter 2, and we're going to begin reading in verse 8 and carry it through to verse 10. I’d like us all as a sign of our respect for God's Holy Word to please stand as its read. Precious words are these. Give it your very best hearing.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Let’s pray. 

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated. 

 

We're celebrating 100 years here at Istrouma this month, and as we thought about this wonderful season of our church’s life, we thought we’re going to go back to some of the foundational principles upon which this great church has been built. Jesus himself, of course, is the Cornerstone. We're going to come to him in the next Sola series message. But we're looking at some of the great foundational principles, and among them are things like Sola Scriptura, which was our opening message in the series. There, I talked about how the word of God, scripture, is our only sure and sufficient guide to all matters of faith and practice, scripture. Then, last week, we took up the theme of Sola Fide, which is the Latin phrase for “faith alone.” Remember, we talked about the Philippian jailer who was terrified, near death. He fell down and he cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” The Apostle Paul answered him with words as clear as a bell, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your household.” Believe. That's how we're saved, Sola Fide.

 

Now, today, we're taking up the third of these messages, and it's entitled Sola Gratia, which is the Latin for “grace alone.” By the way, if you're new to Istrouma, we don't usually work in Latin here but this is an exceptional season of our church’s life, and it's fun for you to know these terms, even if we never revisit them again in terms of the Latin terminology. But bear with us; here it is, Sola Gratia, grace alone.

 

I want to begin in verse 8 and say that we are saved by grace. That's the first point, Sola Gratia. We are saved by grace. Look at the opening words to verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved.” You'll notice Paul is actually talking about something in the past, right? He says, “You have been saved,” not “You will be” or “You are being.” He uses the past tense because he's addressing this letter to the church at Ephesus. He's talking to believers. He says if you want to know how it is that you came to have life, it's by grace that you came to this life. It's by grace you have been saved. I know I'm talking to a lot of folks here that by grace you’ve been saved. But I am talking to some, and I don’t know who you are, but I'm talking to some who will be saved by grace. I pray that even this day you'll come to know the grace of God in truth.

 

What is grace? It is one of those church words. If I were to ask you to define grace, how would you do it? What is grace? A lot of people will define it in this way, two words: “unmerited favor.” What does that mean? “Unmerited” means you don't deserve it, and grace is God's unmerited favor to us. He loves us in spite of our sin. He forgives us in spite of our rebellion. He takes us to heaven though sin once stained us. It is unmerited favor shown us because of what Christ has done.

 

I'll give you an acrostic that I learned as a kid. I've always remembered it, and I think it's very helpful. If you'll take the letters of the word “grace,” I’m defining it for you, what is Grace? G-R-A-C-E. Write down beside each letter these terms:

            G          God’s

            R          Riches

            A          At

            C          Christ’s

            E          Expense

 

Did you get that? Grace. God's riches at Christ's expense. That's what grace is. What are God's riches? God's riches would be his forgiveness; his patience with us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance; it’s heaven as our eternal home; it's abundant life, joy-filled life, peace, here and now. Those are God's riches, and they come to us at Christ's expense. In other words, those great gifts that I've named were not free. Someone paid for them that they might be ours, and it was at Christ's expense that they come to us. So that is grace. We are saved by grace.

 

I want to say two things about this. Number one, we have a problem. Houston, Baton Rouge, Luling, Lafayette, Monroe, South America, Africa, Asia, we have a problem. What's our problem? Our problem is, in a word, sin. I want to refer to jewelers for just a moment. I know we've got a couple of jewelers in our church, and I appreciate them so much, and I hope you’ll frequent their business. But these jewelers are very ingenious. If you say “I want to buy a diamond,” you know what a jeweler will often do? They'll take out a piece of black velvet fabric, and they’ll lay that black fabric down, and then upon that black fabric they’ll place the diamond or diamonds. Then they'll put a large spotlight shining down on those diamonds. Why do you think they put the diamonds against that black backdrop? It is so that you will be able to appreciate in all of their brilliance the beauty of the diamond. A diamond against a white counter may not glisten and shine as well as that diamond against a black backdrop. What's the point? You'll never fully appreciate the brilliance and beauty of grace until you see it against the black backdrop of our sin. That's why we're amazed by grace, that we, though sinners, can be forgiven and accepted by a holy and righteous God. When I see his grace against the backdrop of our filth and sin I'm amazed by it. Yes, our problem is our sin. 

 

Let me show you this in the text. If you’ll look to verse 1 of this very same chapter it'll be very clear. Let me begin reading there in Ephesians 2, verse 1: 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked [that’s describing us, folks], following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

 

Now, let me pause right there. He's describing humanity. You might be tempted to think that because we’re Christians we are above what he calls the “sons of disobedience.” You know, we can look down our spiritual noses at those “lesser humans.” We’re the Christians. But look at what verse 3 says. I love this. He says:

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh…

 

Folks, look. I once walked in the passions of the flesh. I did things of which I am ashamed. Just like John Newton; he didn't have much on me, if any. I, too, am a wretch, a sinner, and when I see God's grace given me against the backdrop of my past, and how I lived in the passions of my flesh, I'm amazed and I hope you are as well. Now, that's our past. That's our problem, right? But I've come to tell you good news, not bad news. That's bad news. Let me give you some good news. Though we have a problem, it is answered by God's provision, and that's the next sub point. We have a provision. You’ll see this as we continue reading this very passage. It says, Ephesians 2 verses 4 and following:

4 But God, being rich in mercy...

 

Let me pause to ask you to do something. As I'm reading this, I want you to watch for the word “grace,” and when it occurs, I want you to count it. All right, let’s see how many times it occurs in these verses. We are sinners. We once walked in the passage of our flesh. He says, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses [even then, he loved us, yes, he], made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and [he] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [And then verse 8, our key verse] 8 For by grace you have been saved... 

 

How many times in what I just read, including verse 8, does the word “grace” appear? Three. Exactly right. Not once, not twice, but three times over he is stressing to us God's provision for our problem. Sin is addressed by grace, and by grace we are saved. 

 

I want to give you an illustration that I hope will help turn the light on in your understanding of this. I'm going to tell you a make-believe story. It's the story of a father. This father had an only son, and he loved his boy as fathers do. The boy got old enough to go out on his own. One day the boy was out, and he was attacked by some thugs. They beat him and they robbed him, and in the course of their attack the young son was killed. It was a brutal murder, and the father was heartbroken, as you can imagine. 

 

The father considered how he might deal with those who had murdered his son. He thought of four possible responses he could make. First of all, he could seek vengeance. Do you know what vengeance is? Vengeance is when you take the law into your own hands. Without police, without courts, without law, he would go and he would execute those that had killed his son. In vengeance the criminals would get worse than they deserve, because really, everybody has a right to a fair trial. Everybody has their day in court. Vengeance is inappropriate. God says, “Don't seek vengeance. Leave that in my just hands,” right? “Vengeance is mine,” the Lord's says. But he considered vengeance.

 

Secondly, he said there's another option. I could seek justice. That could be my response. Leave it to the police to find the criminals; leave it to the court to try them; the jury to decide on their guilt or innocence; and the judge to declare the sentence. Now if vengeance giving them worse than they deserve, justice is giving them straight-up what they deserve. 

 

But then he thought of a third possible response. He thought, I could show them mercy and forgive them for what they've done and plead mercy in the court on their behalf. That would be unbelievable, would it not? I think it's beyond most of us to respond in that way. If vengeance is getting worse than what they deserve, and justice is getting what they deserve, mercy would be not getting what they do deserve. Yes, they deserve a sentence. They deserve prison. They deserve punishment. Perhaps they deserve execution. But mercy would say, “No.” 

 

Then, there remained one possible response. Not vengeance; not justice; not even mercy, as great as it is. There remained the option of grace. Now if vengeance is getting worse than you deserve, and justice is getting what you deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve, what would grace be? Grace would be getting what you don't deserve. What if in that story the bereaved father looked with pity upon the criminals and said, “Not only do I forgive you, I want to adopt you into my family, and I want you to inherit the riches that would have been my son’s. You say, “Preacher I can't stand the thought of that. That's unbelievable that anyone would respond in that way.” and I would say, “Yes, wouldn't it be amazing? It would. And that's why we refer to it as “amazing grace.” 

 

Friend, we are those criminals. Do you not see that? It was your sin and my sin for which Christ was nailed to the cross, not for any guilt of his own. God in love looked down at his only beloved there. God could have sought vengeance upon us. He certainly could have executed justice or stopped short at mercy, but he went all the way, and he would adopt us into his family. Are you a part of God's forever family? Friend, if you're not, you may be this very day. How do you get into his family? You’re saved by grace.

 

Now, number two. Not only are we saved by grace, but, number two, we’re saved through faith. When you read your Bible, I think you know this now, but let me just say it, every word in the Bible matters. Every word. You can't even change the prepositions. You can't say you’re saved by faith. You're not saved by faith, you’re saved by grace, but you’re saved through faith. 

 

Now, let's explore this just for a moment. Because God has been gracious in giving his son, you might be tempted to think that everybody's going to be saved. We’re saved by grace, and that's God's action in Christ on our behalf. He died for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2 says. Well, if he died for everyone, and grace is available to everyone, then won’t everyone be saved? There are those who hold that position. It's called “universalism,” that everyone, universally, will be saved. Many of them will even say it’s because of Christ and his death on the cross that redeems everybody regardless of their response. But friend, I'll just say in response to that, and I don't have time to address it fully, I’ll just say they didn't get that idea from the Bible. The Bible teaches that there are two destinies, heaven and hell, and there are people who will spend eternity in heaven or in hell. So no, not everyone is saved, even by the grace of God, because you see, there is a response that is required of us, and faith is a response to God's grace. Now, if you would look there again at verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved [and we’re emphasizing those two words in bold] through faith.” Grace precedes faith, and that's very important, folks. Listen. Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Oh, it doesn't matter what you believe, just believe.” It's as though if you had faith, regardless of in whom you put your faith or in what you put your faith, just believe, and you will be saved. You can believe in Muhammad, you can believe in Confucius, you can believe in naturalism and you can believe in pantheism and worship the trees and the rocks and the lakes, it doesn't matter what you believe; just believe. We’re saved by faith. No, friends, we're not saved by faith; we’re saved by grace, the act of God in Christ, but it comes to us through faith. That's the means by which we make it our own.

 

God alone saves, and it is through faith that that salvation comes to us. Our faith, I'll say it this way, our faith has a focus, and that focus is Christ. Remember last week when we were talking about sola fide, only by faith are you saved, and we were talking about the story of the Philippian jailer who was terrified that he might die. An earthquake had shaken the prison where he was responsible for the prisoners, and in his terror he asked this point-blank question, “What must I do to be saved?” And the answer was as clear as a bell, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Notice the answer was not, “Believe and you will be saved.” No, that would be to truncate the answer. It would be to omit the central part. It is not “Believe and you will be saved.” It is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Take out Christ, take out his grace, his atoning death on the cross, and we will all be lost. It is grace that saves us through faith. Faith is our response to God's grace. I think of it this way, and perhaps this will be helpful to you. I think of grace as God reaching down from heaven to save a drowning world, drowning in our sins, and grace is him extending his hand to save us. I view faith as the response. Faith would be us looking heavenward and extending our hand to take the hand of grace. Here's the thing, folks, listen. When God's hand of grace is clasped by your hand of faith, salvation comes to you. His hand is extended. The only question that remains is, “Have you responded? Have you taken hold of that grace?” And you do so by faith, by entrusting yourself to him who died for your sins. That's how we get saved, by grace through faith. 


Faith is a response, and second here, faith is a requirement. You must believe. When I say sola gratia, only grace, some might misunderstand and think we're saying you don't even have to believe. Sola gratia, only grace, that's all that's needed. No, it's “only grace” in a special sense. When the reformers like Martin Luther used that term, they were referring to salvation coming to us by grace apart from works. Would you look at these verses again? Look with me. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast

 

It's in that sense that it’s sola gratia. It's not God’s grace plus your good works. You know, there are a lot of people who think that God admits people or rejects people into heaven on this basis. Watch. They think that God has this big scale in heaven, and on one side God's going to stack up the bad things you've done, the lies you’ve told, the lust you’ve felt, the immorality of your life, the dishonesty and the pride and the prejudice. He's going to stack all that up on one side. Then, bless your heart, he's going to come over here and he's going to stack up the good things you've done, and it's going to teeter. If you've done more good than bad, whew! You made it in. But if you did more bad than good, uh-oh, you’re lost. That's how most of the world thinks. The problem is, that is not what the Bible teaches. Sola scriptura teaches that it’s sola gratia, only grace through faith. We're not saved by our works. You see, if you were saved by the good things that that you did, when you get to heaven you be like this. You’d put your thumbs under your suspenders and you’d be like, “Hey, Lord. Good to see you. I got here because of the good things I did. You know, I was a good guy. I was faithful to my wife. I gave money. I was sweet to the little old lady down the street. I never robbed a bank. I'm good.” 

 

When we get to heaven, nobody's going to have their thumbs under their suspenders. You know what we're going to do? We're going to fall on our faces, and we're going to say, “God, how could you save a wretch like me? How great you are. How gracious you are that you would forgive me and save me.” It's all of grace, but it does require faith.  

 

Let me give you an illustration. I hope this will help. Can you see what this is? I got this in the mail this week from some sweet church members. They sent me this as a gift. It's a gift card for $200 to Fleming's Steakhouse. I’ll get a filet mignon with that. They sent this to me. It wasn't my birthday. It wasn't my wife's and my anniversary. I had not mowed their yard. Just out of love, they sent this to us. Do you know what you call that? Grace. You see, I have something that's valuable here and I didn't pay one red cent for it. It's grace. But is my belly full? And do you know why my belly isn't full? It’s because I have to redeem this. The way it gets redeemed is through faith. You see, I have to believe that this is not a gimmick that this is not a fake gift card. I have to believe that it’s real. I have to believe that the magnetic strip on the back is still good. I have to believe that they haven't already spent the $200 and just sent it to me as a gag. A curse upon them if they did that! No, I know, I know. I believe this is real, and as soon as my wife and I can carve out the time, we're going to go redeem this. We're going to sit down. I think I'm going to get a filet mignon. Could I get an “Amen”? Wrapped in bacon! With a baked potato, lots of butter, lots of sour cream – and no scallions. And I'm going to eat that. My wife, she’s going to get whatever she wants. In fact, I think we may even take a couple with us. Haven't chosen who it is yet; we've got $200! And I'm going to eat that meal, and they're going to bring a bill. You know what I'm going to do when they bring that bill? I'm going to slap that card down on that bill – paid in full by the merits of another!  Now, what's the point? This is grace, but I must exercise faith. I must possess it. I must make it mine, and I have to exert faith to do so. Christ offers you something much more than a gift card to Fleming's Steakhouse. In fact, I would just say pitiful in comparison. Pitiful in comparison. 

 

He offers us eternal life, and you don't pay a red cent for it. But somebody paid for it, and he didn't spend his money to do it; he did it with his blood. We were not redeemed with things such as silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ as of the spotless lamb of God. We’re saved by grace through faith. Faith is often expressed just through prayer. “Lord, I know I'm a sinner. Lord, I call on you to forgive me. I believe Christ died on the cross for me.” We make that profession through prayer and we acknowledge it and we receive by faith the gift he offers. 

 

That brings me to the last point. Sola gratia, only Grace? There are going to be a couple of people that protest what I'm preaching, and here's the way the protest goes; I know how this goes. There's going to be one group, and I'll call them legalists. They're going to say, “You mean I can be saved just by the grace of God, by putting my faith in him? You mean I don't have to do good works to save myself? That's too easy. No, no, no, they say.” They reject it. They say it's faith and works that redeem. That's the legalist. And there's another category over here, and they're going to say, “Oh, I'm saved by grace through faith and I don't have to do good works? Awesome! I'll walk an aisle, I'll pray a prayer, and then I'll just live like the devil until I get to heaven, and then I'm in by the grace of God.” That's wrong too. It’s the legalist and it’s the lawless. I'm going to do what I want.

 

How would the Bible answer the legalist and the lawless? He does it perfectly, right here in this text. Now, look at verse 10, “We're saved by grace through faith for good works.” We’re saved for works. Folks, look up here. Remember I told you every word in the Bible matters, every word? It’s not just big words like “grace, faith, works.” Those are big, momentous, weighty words. Even the little words matter – “by, through, for.” They're called prepositions. Little bitty words, but they matter. You can't switch them and have the truth. Like you can't say, “I'm saved by works unto faith or unto grace. No, you can't invert them. They are just as God gave them. So while I'm not saved by good works, I am saved for good works. 

 

Two things about this I want to stress: Number one, God works in us. I love this. This is so good! The Bible calls us his workmanship. You know, we've got some guys in our church who are craftsman. I can think of a couple of guys who do woodworking. They do some pretty exquisite work; I’ve got some of their crafts in my home. I think of some painters that we have in our church, great artists, and you know some of them. Well, did you know, we are God's work of art? The word here “workmanship” is the word poiema in Greek, and from it we get our English word “poem.” Listen, friend, listen. You are God's poem. They used it back in those days for a work of art. It could be a piece of poetry. It could be a song. It could be a painting. It could be a sculpture. We are God's – I put it to you this way – we are God's masterpiece. You’re not unimportant. You’re not without value. You’re not without gifts and talents. No, you’re the creation of God. And could I just say, we’re twice over the creation of God. I was his by virtue of creation, and now I'm his by virtue of salvation. I was a creation of God; he knit me together in my mother's womb, but I'm a new creation by means of salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If any man, boy, woman or girl is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” I've been made new in Christ. I am his creation and I am his re-creation. You’re God's masterpiece. You're his poem. You’re his painting. You’re his sculpture. 

 

This isn’t so that we can look in the mirror and admire ourselves.  Wow, aren't I amazing! I am God's masterpiece; I'm God's workmanship! No. Notice we’re created in Christ Jesus unto, or for, good works. You were created for a purpose. You were created with a plan in mind. Listen, I've been living out the plan of God in my life for many decades now, and the journey following Christ is tremendous. Oh, the things God has done. And my task in life is to listen for the voice of God and follow the Spirit’s leading, and it's your job as well. He wants to use you to change this world. 

 

I want to stress to you an opportunity coming next Sunday night. Folks, I know we normally only come here on Sunday mornings, but look at me and listen to me please, okay? I don't often ask you guys to go over and above, but I'm asking you to do it this coming Sunday. Come back to church Sunday night. Let's just repeat that together. Come back to church Sunday night. All right? 6 PM. Here's why. You're going to be equipped to do the good work of being an ambassador of the King. That's we’re made new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 is followed by 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are ambassadors of Christ, and we’re making an appeal that you'll be reconciled to God.” And God wants to use you to help this world come to Christ, to know the grace of God through faith. 


I'm going to tell you one last story. There's a great preacher, and I'm going to recommend him to you. He's a black preacher. His name is H. B. Charles, Jr., and if you like good preaching, look him up on YouTube. He told a story about a lady who was heartbroken. The reason she was heartbroken was she had received an heirloom from her grandmother. It may have even been passed down from a previous generation, but what it was was very simple. It was a handkerchief, and it had been passed down to her. It was a keepsake and she treasured it. But one day, she spilled a bottle of ink and stained that handkerchief. She was really sad and she was talking to a friend of hers telling what had happened. The friend said, “Send me the handkerchief.” It happens that her friend was an artist. He got the handkerchief, and he didn't tell her what he was going to do. He got the handkerchief, and using the stain of the ink as the starting point, he painted onto the face of that napkin a beautiful image. He made it a work of art. Now, H. B. didn't say what the work of art was, but I'd like to think it was the face of her grandmother. There was a face on the face of that napkin, and what was a mess became a masterpiece. She treasured that now that the stain, the mess, had become a masterpiece.

 

Why do I tell that story? You know why? You and I are like that handkerchief. The bottle of ink has been spilled on us by our sin and our disobedience, our trespasses. We look up, despairing because of the stain, and God in grace looks down and he actually takes those stains and he covers them, and he makes a masterpiece out of our mess. And the name of that is grace. Amazing grace.

 

Would you stand? Let’s sing together. 

Direct download: IBC_20200119.mp3
Category:Solas -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

“Sola Gratia”

Sermon Series: Solas

Ephesians 2:8-10

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Ginn, Lead Pastor

 10:45 AM Sermon January 19, 2020

 

 

 

Outline:

 

  1. Saved by grace

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

  1.    We have a problem

 

  1. We have a provision

   

           

  1. Saved through faith

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

  1. Faith is a response

 

  1.    Faith is a requirement

       

 

  1. Saved for works

 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

           

  1. God works in us

 

  1. God works through us

 

 

 

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

 

 

 

“Amazing Grace” is, perhaps, the best-known and best-loved hymn of all time.  The beauty and simplicity of its melody (which you just heard played) is only eclipsed only by the hope and depth of its lyrics. 

 

Listen to the first stanza: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  Was blind but now I see.”

 

The author of these words, John Newton, was, by his own admission, a “wretch.”  Now, that’s not a word we use every day. It means, “a miserable person; one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune; a base, despicable, or vile person.”  You may think that’s an exaggeration on his part.  But he was a wretch.  He was a slave trader, a blasphemer, and a rebel.

 

You know the song, I trust, but you may not know the story of the author. So I want to tell you a little bit about the life of the man who wrote that song. John grew up in a home where his mother was an instrument maker and his father was a sea captain. His mother passed away when he was about 7 years of age, and so he was reared in those later childhood years by his father. He loved his father. He looked up to his father. His father was a sea captain, and so, get this, when he was 11 years old, John Newton went to sea. He made his six voyages across the oceans with his father before his father finally retired as a sea captain. Well, he had not gotten enough. He dreamed about the adventures of life on the open seas, but his dream was soon turned into a nightmare, and I want to tell you about it. 

 

He boarded a merchant ship and plied that trade for a while. But one day, he was in a port and he was pressed into naval service. We don't understand that term because we have an all-volunteer military. There's no draft. You volunteer if you want to serve. But back in those days in Jolly Old England, you could be pressed into service; that is, basically, you’d be captured and you would be forced to serve in the military, and so it was with John Newton. So now, he's no longer living a carefree life of a sailor aboard a merchant ship. He is now in the Royal Navy.  He kind of chafed under the regimen of that life. He ran afoul of his captain and was whipped, humiliated and demoted. He contemplated either murder of the captain or suicide. Before that could happen, he was able to escape and got aboard a slave trading ship called the Pegasus. He did not get along with the crew and was cast off in Africa. He was picked up by a slave trader, and became a slave himself in Africa until he was rescued. He said of that period that he was “a servant to slaves.”

 

Later in life he wrote, “I sinned with a high hand, and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others.” Newton lived a hard life with equally harsh consequences.

 

God got his attention though. In 1748, Newton’s slave ship was nearly wrecked by an intense storm.  Surrounded by crashing waves, ferocious winds, creaking timbers, and the cries of the souls on board, John fell to his knees and pled for grace. He was born again on board that ship that tempestuous night. 

 

He comes to know Christ and begins to learn of the word of God and how to live as a Christian, but he's still a slave trader himself. He captains a slave trading ship. He hauls many a slave across the oceans into slavery, but God begins to convict him about the wickedness of that. He becomes friends with a man named William Wilberforce who was the primary advocate in England for the abolition of slavery. John Newton became an ally in that cause, and of all things, this once slave trader, blasphemer, rebel, becomes a pastor of a local Baptist Church there in England. He began to be hymn writer, and he wrote those lyrics that we know and love, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”  

 

God’s grace, which reaches anyone, anywhere, saved a wretch like John Newton—not just from the terror of that storm but from the grip and guilt of his sins. Newton wrote the song now known as “Amazing Grace” years later, while serving as a pastor in Olney, England. 

 

Today, his lyrics still inspire, encourage, and instruct people about the radical reality of God’s amazing grace. It gives “wretches” like us hope.  It makes blind people like us see. And that is amazing! Only grace—sola gratia—is able to save sinners. For him, grace was amazing. 

 

God help us if we ever get to a point where we're not just astounded by grace, that it would redeem wretches like you and me, friend. But that's the nature of his grace; it is amazing. We're going to look at that theme this morning in a message entitled, Sola Gratia, the Latin phrase which means “grace alone.” I'm going to base the message today out of; really, I think the classic passage in the Bible about grace. Open your Bible please to Ephesians chapter 2, and we're going to begin reading in verse 8 and carry it through to verse 10. I’d like us all as a sign of our respect for God's Holy Word to please stand as its read. Precious words are these. Give it your very best hearing.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Let’s pray. 

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated. 

 

We're celebrating 100 years here at Istrouma this month, and as we thought about this wonderful season of our church’s life, we thought we’re going to go back to some of the foundational principles upon which this great church has been built. Jesus himself, of course, is the Cornerstone. We're going to come to him in the next Sola series message. But we're looking at some of the great foundational principles, and among them are things like Sola Scriptura, which was our opening message in the series. There, I talked about how the word of God, scripture, is our only sure and sufficient guide to all matters of faith and practice, scripture. Then, last week, we took up the theme of Sola Fide, which is the Latin phrase for “faith alone.” Remember, we talked about the Philippian jailer who was terrified, near death. He fell down and he cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” The Apostle Paul answered him with words as clear as a bell, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your household.” Believe. That's how we're saved, Sola Fide.

 

Now, today, we're taking up the third of these messages, and it's entitled Sola Gratia, which is the Latin for “grace alone.” By the way, if you're new to Istrouma, we don't usually work in Latin here but this is an exceptional season of our church’s life, and it's fun for you to know these terms, even if we never revisit them again in terms of the Latin terminology. But bear with us; here it is, Sola Gratia, grace alone.

 

I want to begin in verse 8 and say that we are saved by grace. That's the first point, Sola Gratia. We are saved by grace. Look at the opening words to verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved.” You'll notice Paul is actually talking about something in the past, right? He says, “You have been saved,” not “You will be” or “You are being.” He uses the past tense because he's addressing this letter to the church at Ephesus. He's talking to believers. He says if you want to know how it is that you came to have life, it's by grace that you came to this life. It's by grace you have been saved. I know I'm talking to a lot of folks here that by grace you’ve been saved. But I am talking to some, and I don’t know who you are, but I'm talking to some who will be saved by grace. I pray that even this day you'll come to know the grace of God in truth.

 

What is grace? It is one of those church words. If I were to ask you to define grace, how would you do it? What is grace? A lot of people will define it in this way, two words: “unmerited favor.” What does that mean? “Unmerited” means you don't deserve it, and grace is God's unmerited favor to us. He loves us in spite of our sin. He forgives us in spite of our rebellion. He takes us to heaven though sin once stained us. It is unmerited favor shown us because of what Christ has done.

 

I'll give you an acrostic that I learned as a kid. I've always remembered it, and I think it's very helpful. If you'll take the letters of the word “grace,” I’m defining it for you, what is Grace? G-R-A-C-E. Write down beside each letter these terms:

            G          God’s

            R          Riches

            A          At

            C          Christ’s

            E          Expense

 

Did you get that? Grace. God's riches at Christ's expense. That's what grace is. What are God's riches? God's riches would be his forgiveness; his patience with us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance; it’s heaven as our eternal home; it's abundant life, joy-filled life, peace, here and now. Those are God's riches, and they come to us at Christ's expense. In other words, those great gifts that I've named were not free. Someone paid for them that they might be ours, and it was at Christ's expense that they come to us. So that is grace. We are saved by grace.

 

I want to say two things about this. Number one, we have a problem. Houston, Baton Rouge, Luling, Lafayette, Monroe, South America, Africa, Asia, we have a problem. What's our problem? Our problem is, in a word, sin. I want to refer to jewelers for just a moment. I know we've got a couple of jewelers in our church, and I appreciate them so much, and I hope you’ll frequent their business. But these jewelers are very ingenious. If you say “I want to buy a diamond,” you know what a jeweler will often do? They'll take out a piece of black velvet fabric, and they’ll lay that black fabric down, and then upon that black fabric they’ll place the diamond or diamonds. Then they'll put a large spotlight shining down on those diamonds. Why do you think they put the diamonds against that black backdrop? It is so that you will be able to appreciate in all of their brilliance the beauty of the diamond. A diamond against a white counter may not glisten and shine as well as that diamond against a black backdrop. What's the point? You'll never fully appreciate the brilliance and beauty of grace until you see it against the black backdrop of our sin. That's why we're amazed by grace, that we, though sinners, can be forgiven and accepted by a holy and righteous God. When I see his grace against the backdrop of our filth and sin I'm amazed by it. Yes, our problem is our sin. 

 

Let me show you this in the text. If you’ll look to verse 1 of this very same chapter it'll be very clear. Let me begin reading there in Ephesians 2, verse 1: 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked [that’s describing us, folks], following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

 

Now, let me pause right there. He's describing humanity. You might be tempted to think that because we’re Christians we are above what he calls the “sons of disobedience.” You know, we can look down our spiritual noses at those “lesser humans.” We’re the Christians. But look at what verse 3 says. I love this. He says:

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh…

 

Folks, look. I once walked in the passions of the flesh. I did things of which I am ashamed. Just like John Newton; he didn't have much on me, if any. I, too, am a wretch, a sinner, and when I see God's grace given me against the backdrop of my past, and how I lived in the passions of my flesh, I'm amazed and I hope you are as well. Now, that's our past. That's our problem, right? But I've come to tell you good news, not bad news. That's bad news. Let me give you some good news. Though we have a problem, it is answered by God's provision, and that's the next sub point. We have a provision. You’ll see this as we continue reading this very passage. It says, Ephesians 2 verses 4 and following:

4 But God, being rich in mercy...

 

Let me pause to ask you to do something. As I'm reading this, I want you to watch for the word “grace,” and when it occurs, I want you to count it. All right, let’s see how many times it occurs in these verses. We are sinners. We once walked in the passage of our flesh. He says, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses [even then, he loved us, yes, he], made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and [he] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [And then verse 8, our key verse] 8 For by grace you have been saved... 

 

How many times in what I just read, including verse 8, does the word “grace” appear? Three. Exactly right. Not once, not twice, but three times over he is stressing to us God's provision for our problem. Sin is addressed by grace, and by grace we are saved. 

 

I want to give you an illustration that I hope will help turn the light on in your understanding of this. I'm going to tell you a make-believe story. It's the story of a father. This father had an only son, and he loved his boy as fathers do. The boy got old enough to go out on his own. One day the boy was out, and he was attacked by some thugs. They beat him and they robbed him, and in the course of their attack the young son was killed. It was a brutal murder, and the father was heartbroken, as you can imagine. 

 

The father considered how he might deal with those who had murdered his son. He thought of four possible responses he could make. First of all, he could seek vengeance. Do you know what vengeance is? Vengeance is when you take the law into your own hands. Without police, without courts, without law, he would go and he would execute those that had killed his son. In vengeance the criminals would get worse than they deserve, because really, everybody has a right to a fair trial. Everybody has their day in court. Vengeance is inappropriate. God says, “Don't seek vengeance. Leave that in my just hands,” right? “Vengeance is mine,” the Lord's says. But he considered vengeance.

 

Secondly, he said there's another option. I could seek justice. That could be my response. Leave it to the police to find the criminals; leave it to the court to try them; the jury to decide on their guilt or innocence; and the judge to declare the sentence. Now if vengeance giving them worse than they deserve, justice is giving them straight-up what they deserve. 

 

But then he thought of a third possible response. He thought, I could show them mercy and forgive them for what they've done and plead mercy in the court on their behalf. That would be unbelievable, would it not? I think it's beyond most of us to respond in that way. If vengeance is getting worse than what they deserve, and justice is getting what they deserve, mercy would be not getting what they do deserve. Yes, they deserve a sentence. They deserve prison. They deserve punishment. Perhaps they deserve execution. But mercy would say, “No.” 

 

Then, there remained one possible response. Not vengeance; not justice; not even mercy, as great as it is. There remained the option of grace. Now if vengeance is getting worse than you deserve, and justice is getting what you deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve, what would grace be? Grace would be getting what you don't deserve. What if in that story the bereaved father looked with pity upon the criminals and said, “Not only do I forgive you, I want to adopt you into my family, and I want you to inherit the riches that would have been my son’s. You say, “Preacher I can't stand the thought of that. That's unbelievable that anyone would respond in that way.” and I would say, “Yes, wouldn't it be amazing? It would. And that's why we refer to it as “amazing grace.” 

 

Friend, we are those criminals. Do you not see that? It was your sin and my sin for which Christ was nailed to the cross, not for any guilt of his own. God in love looked down at his only beloved there. God could have sought vengeance upon us. He certainly could have executed justice or stopped short at mercy, but he went all the way, and he would adopt us into his family. Are you a part of God's forever family? Friend, if you're not, you may be this very day. How do you get into his family? You’re saved by grace.

 

Now, number two. Not only are we saved by grace, but, number two, we’re saved through faith. When you read your Bible, I think you know this now, but let me just say it, every word in the Bible matters. Every word. You can't even change the prepositions. You can't say you’re saved by faith. You're not saved by faith, you’re saved by grace, but you’re saved through faith. 

 

Now, let's explore this just for a moment. Because God has been gracious in giving his son, you might be tempted to think that everybody's going to be saved. We’re saved by grace, and that's God's action in Christ on our behalf. He died for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2 says. Well, if he died for everyone, and grace is available to everyone, then won’t everyone be saved? There are those who hold that position. It's called “universalism,” that everyone, universally, will be saved. Many of them will even say it’s because of Christ and his death on the cross that redeems everybody regardless of their response. But friend, I'll just say in response to that, and I don't have time to address it fully, I’ll just say they didn't get that idea from the Bible. The Bible teaches that there are two destinies, heaven and hell, and there are people who will spend eternity in heaven or in hell. So no, not everyone is saved, even by the grace of God, because you see, there is a response that is required of us, and faith is a response to God's grace. Now, if you would look there again at verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved [and we’re emphasizing those two words in bold] through faith.” Grace precedes faith, and that's very important, folks. Listen. Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Oh, it doesn't matter what you believe, just believe.” It's as though if you had faith, regardless of in whom you put your faith or in what you put your faith, just believe, and you will be saved. You can believe in Muhammad, you can believe in Confucius, you can believe in naturalism and you can believe in pantheism and worship the trees and the rocks and the lakes, it doesn't matter what you believe; just believe. We’re saved by faith. No, friends, we're not saved by faith; we’re saved by grace, the act of God in Christ, but it comes to us through faith. That's the means by which we make it our own.

 

God alone saves, and it is through faith that that salvation comes to us. Our faith, I'll say it this way, our faith has a focus, and that focus is Christ. Remember last week when we were talking about sola fide, only by faith are you saved, and we were talking about the story of the Philippian jailer who was terrified that he might die. An earthquake had shaken the prison where he was responsible for the prisoners, and in his terror he asked this point-blank question, “What must I do to be saved?” And the answer was as clear as a bell, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Notice the answer was not, “Believe and you will be saved.” No, that would be to truncate the answer. It would be to omit the central part. It is not “Believe and you will be saved.” It is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Take out Christ, take out his grace, his atoning death on the cross, and we will all be lost. It is grace that saves us through faith. Faith is our response to God's grace. I think of it this way, and perhaps this will be helpful to you. I think of grace as God reaching down from heaven to save a drowning world, drowning in our sins, and grace is him extending his hand to save us. I view faith as the response. Faith would be us looking heavenward and extending our hand to take the hand of grace. Here's the thing, folks, listen. When God's hand of grace is clasped by your hand of faith, salvation comes to you. His hand is extended. The only question that remains is, “Have you responded? Have you taken hold of that grace?” And you do so by faith, by entrusting yourself to him who died for your sins. That's how we get saved, by grace through faith. 


Faith is a response, and second here, faith is a requirement. You must believe. When I say sola gratia, only grace, some might misunderstand and think we're saying you don't even have to believe. Sola gratia, only grace, that's all that's needed. No, it's “only grace” in a special sense. When the reformers like Martin Luther used that term, they were referring to salvation coming to us by grace apart from works. Would you look at these verses again? Look with me. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast

 

It's in that sense that it’s sola gratia. It's not God’s grace plus your good works. You know, there are a lot of people who think that God admits people or rejects people into heaven on this basis. Watch. They think that God has this big scale in heaven, and on one side God's going to stack up the bad things you've done, the lies you’ve told, the lust you’ve felt, the immorality of your life, the dishonesty and the pride and the prejudice. He's going to stack all that up on one side. Then, bless your heart, he's going to come over here and he's going to stack up the good things you've done, and it's going to teeter. If you've done more good than bad, whew! You made it in. But if you did more bad than good, uh-oh, you’re lost. That's how most of the world thinks. The problem is, that is not what the Bible teaches. Sola scriptura teaches that it’s sola gratia, only grace through faith. We're not saved by our works. You see, if you were saved by the good things that that you did, when you get to heaven you be like this. You’d put your thumbs under your suspenders and you’d be like, “Hey, Lord. Good to see you. I got here because of the good things I did. You know, I was a good guy. I was faithful to my wife. I gave money. I was sweet to the little old lady down the street. I never robbed a bank. I'm good.” 

 

When we get to heaven, nobody's going to have their thumbs under their suspenders. You know what we're going to do? We're going to fall on our faces, and we're going to say, “God, how could you save a wretch like me? How great you are. How gracious you are that you would forgive me and save me.” It's all of grace, but it does require faith.  

 

Let me give you an illustration. I hope this will help. Can you see what this is? I got this in the mail this week from some sweet church members. They sent me this as a gift. It's a gift card for $200 to Fleming's Steakhouse. I’ll get a filet mignon with that. They sent this to me. It wasn't my birthday. It wasn't my wife's and my anniversary. I had not mowed their yard. Just out of love, they sent this to us. Do you know what you call that? Grace. You see, I have something that's valuable here and I didn't pay one red cent for it. It's grace. But is my belly full? And do you know why my belly isn't full? It’s because I have to redeem this. The way it gets redeemed is through faith. You see, I have to believe that this is not a gimmick that this is not a fake gift card. I have to believe that it’s real. I have to believe that the magnetic strip on the back is still good. I have to believe that they haven't already spent the $200 and just sent it to me as a gag. A curse upon them if they did that! No, I know, I know. I believe this is real, and as soon as my wife and I can carve out the time, we're going to go redeem this. We're going to sit down. I think I'm going to get a filet mignon. Could I get an “Amen”? Wrapped in bacon! With a baked potato, lots of butter, lots of sour cream – and no scallions. And I'm going to eat that. My wife, she’s going to get whatever she wants. In fact, I think we may even take a couple with us. Haven't chosen who it is yet; we've got $200! And I'm going to eat that meal, and they're going to bring a bill. You know what I'm going to do when they bring that bill? I'm going to slap that card down on that bill – paid in full by the merits of another!  Now, what's the point? This is grace, but I must exercise faith. I must possess it. I must make it mine, and I have to exert faith to do so. Christ offers you something much more than a gift card to Fleming's Steakhouse. In fact, I would just say pitiful in comparison. Pitiful in comparison. 

 

He offers us eternal life, and you don't pay a red cent for it. But somebody paid for it, and he didn't spend his money to do it; he did it with his blood. We were not redeemed with things such as silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ as of the spotless lamb of God. We’re saved by grace through faith. Faith is often expressed just through prayer. “Lord, I know I'm a sinner. Lord, I call on you to forgive me. I believe Christ died on the cross for me.” We make that profession through prayer and we acknowledge it and we receive by faith the gift he offers. 

 

That brings me to the last point. Sola gratia, only Grace? There are going to be a couple of people that protest what I'm preaching, and here's the way the protest goes; I know how this goes. There's going to be one group, and I'll call them legalists. They're going to say, “You mean I can be saved just by the grace of God, by putting my faith in him? You mean I don't have to do good works to save myself? That's too easy. No, no, no, they say.” They reject it. They say it's faith and works that redeem. That's the legalist. And there's another category over here, and they're going to say, “Oh, I'm saved by grace through faith and I don't have to do good works? Awesome! I'll walk an aisle, I'll pray a prayer, and then I'll just live like the devil until I get to heaven, and then I'm in by the grace of God.” That's wrong too. It’s the legalist and it’s the lawless. I'm going to do what I want.

 

How would the Bible answer the legalist and the lawless? He does it perfectly, right here in this text. Now, look at verse 10, “We're saved by grace through faith for good works.” We’re saved for works. Folks, look up here. Remember I told you every word in the Bible matters, every word? It’s not just big words like “grace, faith, works.” Those are big, momentous, weighty words. Even the little words matter – “by, through, for.” They're called prepositions. Little bitty words, but they matter. You can't switch them and have the truth. Like you can't say, “I'm saved by works unto faith or unto grace. No, you can't invert them. They are just as God gave them. So while I'm not saved by good works, I am saved for good works. 

 

Two things about this I want to stress: Number one, God works in us. I love this. This is so good! The Bible calls us his workmanship. You know, we've got some guys in our church who are craftsman. I can think of a couple of guys who do woodworking. They do some pretty exquisite work; I’ve got some of their crafts in my home. I think of some painters that we have in our church, great artists, and you know some of them. Well, did you know, we are God's work of art? The word here “workmanship” is the word poiema in Greek, and from it we get our English word “poem.” Listen, friend, listen. You are God's poem. They used it back in those days for a work of art. It could be a piece of poetry. It could be a song. It could be a painting. It could be a sculpture. We are God's – I put it to you this way – we are God's masterpiece. You’re not unimportant. You’re not without value. You’re not without gifts and talents. No, you’re the creation of God. And could I just say, we’re twice over the creation of God. I was his by virtue of creation, and now I'm his by virtue of salvation. I was a creation of God; he knit me together in my mother's womb, but I'm a new creation by means of salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If any man, boy, woman or girl is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” I've been made new in Christ. I am his creation and I am his re-creation. You’re God's masterpiece. You're his poem. You’re his painting. You’re his sculpture. 

 

This isn’t so that we can look in the mirror and admire ourselves.  Wow, aren't I amazing! I am God's masterpiece; I'm God's workmanship! No. Notice we’re created in Christ Jesus unto, or for, good works. You were created for a purpose. You were created with a plan in mind. Listen, I've been living out the plan of God in my life for many decades now, and the journey following Christ is tremendous. Oh, the things God has done. And my task in life is to listen for the voice of God and follow the Spirit’s leading, and it's your job as well. He wants to use you to change this world. 

 

I want to stress to you an opportunity coming next Sunday night. Folks, I know we normally only come here on Sunday mornings, but look at me and listen to me please, okay? I don't often ask you guys to go over and above, but I'm asking you to do it this coming Sunday. Come back to church Sunday night. Let's just repeat that together. Come back to church Sunday night. All right? 6 PM. Here's why. You're going to be equipped to do the good work of being an ambassador of the King. That's we’re made new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 is followed by 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are ambassadors of Christ, and we’re making an appeal that you'll be reconciled to God.” And God wants to use you to help this world come to Christ, to know the grace of God through faith. 


I'm going to tell you one last story. There's a great preacher, and I'm going to recommend him to you. He's a black preacher. His name is H. B. Charles, Jr., and if you like good preaching, look him up on YouTube. He told a story about a lady who was heartbroken. The reason she was heartbroken was she had received an heirloom from her grandmother. It may have even been passed down from a previous generation, but what it was was very simple. It was a handkerchief, and it had been passed down to her. It was a keepsake and she treasured it. But one day, she spilled a bottle of ink and stained that handkerchief. She was really sad and she was talking to a friend of hers telling what had happened. The friend said, “Send me the handkerchief.” It happens that her friend was an artist. He got the handkerchief, and he didn't tell her what he was going to do. He got the handkerchief, and using the stain of the ink as the starting point, he painted onto the face of that napkin a beautiful image. He made it a work of art. Now, H. B. didn't say what the work of art was, but I'd like to think it was the face of her grandmother. There was a face on the face of that napkin, and what was a mess became a masterpiece. She treasured that now that the stain, the mess, had become a masterpiece.

 

Why do I tell that story? You know why? You and I are like that handkerchief. The bottle of ink has been spilled on us by our sin and our disobedience, our trespasses. We look up, despairing because of the stain, and God in grace looks down and he actually takes those stains and he covers them, and he makes a masterpiece out of our mess. And the name of that is grace. Amazing grace.

 

Would you stand? Let’s sing together. 

Direct download: 03.__Sola_gratia.__Transcript_20200119_.pdf
Category:Solas -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

What would you say is life’s most important question? 

 

Someone might say that life’s most important question is, “Does God exist?”  That’s certainly important.  Another might suggest, “How did the world come into being?” Still another might get a tad more personal and ask, “How did mankind come to be?”  One immediately pressing question is, “Will LSU defeat Clemson on Monday night for the national championship?”  O.k., so maybe that one doesn’t make the cut.

 

The interesting thing is this: the Bible (and the Bible alone—sola scriptura) answers all of these questions.  Does God exist?  Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God.”  Yes he exists.  How did the world come into being? Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” How did mankind—you and I—come to be?  Genesis 1:2, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Isn’t that great?  God’s word alone answers the deepest questions of our existence.

 

But there is another question that is, arguably, life’s most important question. It is this: “What must I do to be saved?”  It is imminently personal and the stakes could not be higher. If there is a God (and we believe that there is), and, if there is an eternity awaiting (and we believe that there is), how can I gain that eternal life?

 

Jesus said that this is a supremely important issue.  He said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” In other words, if you could gain the whole world—all its riches and all its pleasures, yet you lost your own soul, what have you gained?  Nothing. All the world pales in comparison to your soul.  You must know the answer to this question: “What must I do to be saved?”

 

Here’s the good news: God’s word gives us the answer to that question as well.  Our aim this Sunday is to answer that question for everyone so that we can have eternal life and abundant life.

 

Solas

“Sola Fide”

Acts 16:25-34

 

  1. The context of life’s most important question

 

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25)

 

  1. Undeserved prison

 

  1. Undeterred praise

 

  1. The conversation about life’s most important question

 

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).

 

  1. Anxious question

 

  1. Answered question

 

  1. The change after life’s most important question

 

And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God (Acts 16:33-34).

 

  1. Produced by faith

 

  1. Proven by fruit

 

[BEGIN TRANSCRIPT]

Turn in your Bibles to Acts 16:25-34 to discover this.  Would you stand in honor of God’s word as it is read:

Acts 16:25-34

25 About midnight Paul and Silas [Now, I would interject, if you don’t know those names, Paul and Silas were early church leaders, and more particularly, they were missionaries taking the gospel where it had never been known. So, Paul and Silas] were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them [Again, I’ll interject, yes, they were in jail, and I'll tell you how they ended up there in just a moment, but Paul and Silas are in jail. They’re singing praises to God; the prisoners are listening to them. Now, verse 26], 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [Now, again, I am suggesting, that that is life's most important question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Now here comes the answer, verse 31] 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

 

Let's pray.

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated. 

 

As a church, we are celebrating 100 years of shared life. As an element of that celebration, we're revisiting some of the bedrock principles upon which this church is founded, and it's in a sermon series called “Solas.” Now that is a Latin word. Really, it's an anglicized version of it, and the word sola means “only.” There are some solas in the life of the Christian church that stand preeminently. We looked last week at the first of them, sola scriptura. Today, we're going to learn about sola fide. Sola scriptura, only scripture, is our guide to faith and practice. And now today, sola fide, only faith, brings salvation; faith in Christ. Sola scriptura teaches that sola fide is the only way to be saved. These two principles, Sola scriptura and sola fide, are intimately related to one another, and I want to demonstrate this by reminding you of the text we looked at last week, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17. You'll remember this:

All Scripture is breathed out by God [inspired by God] and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God [the people of God, if I could extend it in that way, that all of us] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

 

This was our passage last week, and it establishes the principle of sola scriptura. Now, I want you to see the verse that immediately precedes these two. Look at verse 15. Notice that it teaches that sola scriptura leads to sola fide. It says, verse 15, Paul speaking to Timothy, his young protégé, he says: 

[Timothy], from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [sola scriptura, the sacred writings, and notice what they have done. He says, so, the sacred writings] are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  

 

Do you follow that? There it is in verse 15, sola scriptura; sola fide. You have known the sacred writings; that is, God's word, and they have led you to have faith, sola fide, in Jesus for salvation. So, there are the two principles related closely to one another. Salvation comes to us through faith in Christ Jesus. That's the answer to life's most important question. No passage makes this any clearer than Acts chapter 16 where we find ourselves this morning.


I want us to consider life’s most important question in three steps. Number one, we're going to look at the context in which life's most important question was asked. Secondly, we're going to listen in on the conversation where life's most important question was asked and answered. And then, finally, I want to show you the change that knowing the right answer to life's most important question brings, the change in life that it brings. 

 

All right, so let's go back to the first of these points, the first step. I want you to see the context in which this question was first posed. Here in Acts 16, Paul and a group of his coworkers are on a missionary journey. Things are going well. People are saving saved. They’re following the Lord in believer's baptism. A church is being planted there in Europe for the very first time. Paul and his team are experiencing the joy of seeing God at work. There's one particular life to which I want to allude that plays into our passage this morning. It's the story of a little girl. I call her little; she was probably a teenager. This girl had an unusual power. This girl could tell foretell the future, and the Bible explains how it is that she could foretell the future. She was actually possessed by a demon, and by virtue of this supernatural power, she could foretell the future. 

 

Paul and his partners met up with this young girl. I won't tell the whole of the story, but I'll just say this. By the power of the gospel, this young girl was set free. I mean that in two senses. First of all, she was a slave to masters who were using her for their own profit. You see, people would pay to have their fortune told, and the slave masters had this girl in captivity, and were using her for their own profit. Again, I say that. This leads me to say a couple of things by way of lagniappe. First of all, fortune-telling is not just a thing of the ancient past. I could wish that it were so, but there still are fortune tellers in our day. I think most of these are just flat-out charlatans. They're just putting on a charade, a show. Perhaps some are demon-possessed, and they may have some capacity given them by spiritual forces.

 

I actually went on the web out of curiosity, and typed into a Google search engine “Fortune tellers, Baton Rouge.” I was curious to know, are there fortune tellers in our city today? What do you think the answer to that is? One of the responses was, “The 30 best fortune tellers in Baton Rouge.”  I clicked on it. There was a list of fortune tellers in our fair town. It included people who did things like fortune-telling, tarot card reading. There were mediums, self-identified. Some could cast spells including love spells, etc. No, this is not just something that's from ancient history. Even in our own day, there are people who dabble into these things. So it gives me a good opportunity to let you know what God thinks of these things. I want to read from the Bible, Deuteronomy 18 beginning in verse 10: 

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer [that is, one who calls up the dead to speak with them] or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. . . .

 

This is from the Bible. Folks, we ought to have nothing to do with these works of darkness. Even something as what seems to be innocuous as horoscopes. I think it's terrible that papers will often include horoscopes. Worse yet, they put them next to the comics in the newspaper. It doesn't belong there, and I would encourage you not to read that. Astrology; anything of the sort, God says that is all an abomination. The work of the gospel is to set people free from these things. God doesn't want us to consult with the dead or with spiritists or with mediums. No, He has given us his word, sola scriptura. He has given us his indwelling Holy Spirit to illumine our minds to understand the things that are in the word of God. I don't need a fortune teller. I don't need a necromancer. I have all that I need, sola scriptura, to be a guide by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who illumines these truths to our lives. Now, I told you, that's just lagniappe. I just gave you that for extra.

 

I'm also reminded to say this: This poor young girl was a slave to her masters. It's very evident to me they didn't care one whit about that little girl. They only used her for their own purposes. You know, you hear a lot today about sex trafficking, pornography. Could I just remind us all, those who peddle that, who push that, they care nothing for the boys and girls whose lives they wreck. They domineer them and they own them, and anyone who participates in these things supports it. God sees it equally as an abomination. We as God's people ought have nothing to do with it. Instead of abusing people, we ought to love them and want them to be free. It's exactly what the Apostle Paul and his team were doing. They were setting people free by the good news of Jesus, and this little girl among them.

 

Now, you would think, would you not, that everyone is going to be ecstatic that this little girl has been set free. Oh, that it were so. It wasn't so. Her masters see that their means of ill gain is gone, and so they haul up Paul and Silas on false charges. Two things result, and I want to mention them to you. One, undeserved prison time. Undeserved prison. Paul and Silas, if you can imagine this, were cast into prison. It's worth noting, friend, that if we stand for the Lord, we're going to face opposition in this world. Not everyone is going to pat you on the back. Now you may get a fair amount of that; certainly here at church, I trust that you’re encouraged as you follow Christ. We want to do that. But it won't be so with everyone. There will be those who will oppose. I, myself, have faced occasions of great opposition. The Bible says; this is 2 Timothy 3:12, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus was crucified. John was beheaded. Luther, of whom I spoke last week, was excommunicated. Jan Hus, the great Czech reformer, was burned at the stake. William Tyndale, who for the first time translated God's word into English so that all English speakers could hear the word of God in their heart language, he was burned as a heretic. Later he was exhumed and his ashes were sprinkled on the Thames River.

 

You come forward into our own day, I think about those believers in Libya not so long ago that were beheaded by ISIS because they believed in Christ. There will be opposition; there always has been, there always will be. Now it may not be as serious as these cases that I've named. Perhaps not even as serious as Paul and Silas, beaten now and imprisoned in stocks. But perhaps you'll be passed over for a promotion, or perhaps others will belittle you for your faith or some stance that you take on a moral issue, but I want to encourage us all as Paul and Silas did to remain faithful to the Lord despite the opposition that arises. 

 

So, prison is really not a surprise. But do you know what is a surprise? It's that, though they are imprisoned, undeservedly so, there arises their undeterred praise to the Lord. How do they answer the stripes that were put upon their back and their stocks in which they were bound and the prison in which they were jailed? They answered their prison with praise. You know, it's one thing to praise the Lord when the prison doors swing open and the shackles fall from our wrists. But I want you to take note, Paul and Silas were not praising the Lord after they'd been liberated, after their shackles had fallen from them. No, they are praising the Lord in the midst of their suffering, unjust though it was. No wonder, then, the Bible says that the prisoners heard them. Don't you know the prisoners heard them? Don't you know the jailer himself heard them? They were listening to them. Of course they were, because there is power in our praise, particularly when it’s in the face of hardship and difficulty. I know I'm preaching to many of you who, even today, sang songs of praise to the Lord in the midst of your trial. I want to say God is honored by that. Your witness is never more powerful than when you gladly praise Him in the midst of your trial, and Paul and Silas did. So, that is the context in which life’s most important question arose.

 

Now, secondly, I want to take you to the actual conversation in which life's most important question is both asked and answered. First, let's look at the asking of this question. The jailer discovers that Paul and Silas have been set free. They are singing, and someone said that as they sang, God took such pleasure in their song that God was tapping his foot along with the beat of their song, and it caused the earthquake. That's a little bit fanciful, but I like it, still. God sent an earthquake to that jail. The jailhouse rocked, for all of you 1950s folks. As the jailhouse rocked, the prison doors swung open. The shackles fell from their hands and their feet, if, in fact, they were shackled at both of those extremities. The shackles fell, and the jailer, realizing that the prison doors have swung open and that the prisoners have been set free, presumes that they've all escaped. You have to know that in that day, if you were the jailer, and your prisoners escaped, you would be executed for having failed at your duty. He sees this, is terrorized by it, and he draws his sword and intends to kill himself. 

 

Here's another point where I want to interject a thought. It's never right to take your own life; it's never right to take your own life. He's going to commit suicide. I may be speaking to someone this morning who is contemplating ending your own life. Maybe you're in a valley, a deep, deep valley, and it seems there's no escape from it. Could I just encourage you that suicide is never the answer? Paul and Silas, to their credit, step in and they tell the man, “Don't harm yourself. We’re all here.” Now, let's be frank. Here's the jailer who has put them into the deepest part of the prison. Perhaps he's even taken some joy in shackling them and in seeing their wounds from the beating that they took. You couldn't blame Paul and Silas if they just stood aside as the jailer killed himself, but motivated by Christ's love, they intervene and they say, “Don't harm yourself.” I'm reminded to challenge all of us, if you know of someone who is wrestling with deep depression, intervene. Speak to them. We have a counseling ministry here at Istrouma, and we can get help. There is help, and there is hope in Christ. Paul and Silas say, “Do yourself no harm.”

 

Upon their kindness, this jailer runs in before Paul and Silas and the Bible says that he falls down at their feet. You see, he's been impacted by what he's observed. He has seen Paul and Silas singing praises to God. He's heard that song. He's personally experienced their mercy when they defend him who once oppressed them. Paul and Silas could easily have escaped, but they haven't. They’re remaining there. So, impacted by what he has heard and seen, he asks life's most important question. It’s in verse 30:

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

 

Now, some might suggest that this question is related to the temporal crisis. He knows that the prisoners might escape, that the wrath of Rome is going to fall upon him; he's going to be executed, so he's asking, “Sirs, how can I escape my impending doom?” But I don't believe that's the real heart of his question, because the prisoners have not escaped. They’ve remained. His life has been spared. There is hope temporally. No, I believe he is asking an eternal question, “What must I do to be saved from my sins? What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I believe that's the heart of his question. And I love this question. I see in it his humility. He doesn't think he has all the answers, and I tell you, that's a healthy thing. Maybe you've come in today quite confident in yourself, presuming that you have all of the answers both to life and eternity. But have you ever come in humility to ask this simple question, “What must I do to be forgiven; what must I do to be saved? I want to be instructed. I want to be taught. I want God's answer to life's most important question.” I see his humility. I see his hunger. He rushes in. He falls at their feet. He is desperate. I don't know that anyone comes to salvation apart from desperation, hunger, and humility. This man has all of those traits, and for that reason, he asks life's most important question, “What must I do to be saved?”

 

Not only is the question asked, the question is answered. For all time, we know the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Point-blank question; point-blank answer. What must I do to be saved? What must you do to be saved? What must all humans do if they are to be saved? The apostle’s answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

 

I want us to think about that answer just for a moment. I want us to think of what the answer was not. What must I do to be saved? Notice that he did not say, “Join the church and you will be saved.” There are a lot of people that think that. They think, “Well if I'm going to go to heaven, I've got to be a member of some church or some faith. If I have my name on a church roll somewhere, then I'm good.” No. Joining a church of any stripe does not save you. It's not the answer to the question. He did not say, “Get baptized and you will be saved.” There's nothing wrong with getting baptized. In fact, he's about to get baptized. There's nothing wrong with joining a church. He's going to become a part, I believe, of the Philippian church that started with Lydia, was joined by the slave girl who was now set free. He's going to be, I'll just say, the third member of the church at Philippi. Nothing wrong with these good deeds, but it's not by good deeds that you are saved. Good deeds are the fruit of salvation in you, not the root of it, not the source of it. How do you get saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.

 

This answer is in harmony with the rest of the Bible. Listen to John 1:12:

But to all who did receive him [that is, speaking of the incarnate Christ], who believed [there it is, who believed] in his name [What is it to receive Christ? It’s to believe in him...to all who did receive him, who believed in his name], he gave the right to become [the] children of God.

 

How do you become a child of God? How do you get saved? How do you have your sins washed away? How do you go to heaven? You believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You trust in him. You receive him. 

 

John 3:16, the most famous verse in all of the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

 

How do you get everlasting life? How do you get saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus. 

 

Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God [unto] salvation to everyone who believes...

 

Eph. 2:8-9:

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast

 

The way to be saved is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There are basically two systems that are put forward as answers to this question. One is faith alone, sola fide, our theme for today. The other is that you’re saved by faith and works. They often will cite, those who hold the latter position, they’ll cite James 2:24. There the Bible says:

...a person is justified by works and not by faith alone

 

So now, we’re in a quandary. Are we saved by faith alone apart from works, or are we saved by faith and works? That's a pivotal question, and we must know the answer to it. I believe that the Bible is clear that salvation comes by faith alone. How then is it that James can say that you’re saved not by faith alone but also by the works that you do? How can we reconcile these two passages of scripture?

 

James, if you read the broader text there, is talking about the faith that saves. He says, “Show me your faith without works, and I'll show you my faith by my works.” James knew well that faith alone saves, but faith that saves is never alone. I'll say it again. Faith alone saves, but faith that saves is never alone, and that our works show the reality of our faith. If you have no works to demonstrate your faith, then what kind of faith do you have? James says that you have a dead faith, and he asks, “Can that faith save?” I'll answer the question, No, that faith can't save. Someone can say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus,” but they never go to church, they never follow the Lord in believer’s baptism, they have no heart for generosity, they curse, they swear, they sleep around, they rebel and break God's law. There's no fruit. There's no demonstration of a real faith. Can that type of faith, just verbal in nature, save? No it cannot. It has to be a genuine and real faith that is demonstrated in the life that ensues.

 

That brings me, then, to the last point, and that is the change that comes to the life that answers rightly life’s most important question, when the person knows the answer, and I'll put a capital “A” on it, the Answer to life's most important question. The Answer to life's most important question is a person, the Lord Jesus, and when you put your faith and trust in him and his atoning death on the cross, you are saved. 

 

Now listen, it brings change. Would you look in your Bible again, now, to verse 33?

And he [that is, the jailer] took them [Paul and Silas] the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God

 

What a tremendous paragraph that is! You see, the change in his life was produced by faith. He embraced the gospel proclaimed to him, and the change was produced by that faith. Now, that faith is proven by the fruit of good deeds. You see his baptism. Listen; if you’ve given your life to Christ, and you've come to saving faith, you ought to follow the Lord in believer's baptism. I'm probably talking to some folks in here that have not yet let your faith be made known through baptism subsequent to your salvation. I just want to challenge you to take that step of faith and demonstrate by it that you’ve put your trust in Christ. I may be speaking to some who’ve not yet committed to fellowship in a local church. We want to challenge you to not only believe but belong. Commit yourself to membership and service in a local church. I note this man's generosity. He set food before them. I note his joy; he is rejoicing now. He went from desperation and suicidal thoughts to great joy, and what made the difference? It was Christ in him that made the difference. 

 

Have you been changed? Is your life radically different because Christ indwells you? If not, this very morning I'm going to challenge you to give your life to Christ. 

 

I'm going to tell you one last story. I’m going to put on the screen a picture of a fellow whose name is John Harper. Some of you may know his name. John Harper was born into a Christian family May 29, 1872 in Scotland. He became a Christian 13 years later and had already started preaching by age 17. He received training at the Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, and in 1896 he founded a church, now known as Harper Memorial Church in Glasgow, which began with 25 worshipers but had grown to 500 members by the time he left 13 years later. 

 

In 1912 Harper, the newly-called pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, was traveling on the Titanic with his 6-year-old daughter. After the ship struck an iceberg and began to sink, he got Nana into a lifeboat but apparently made no effort to follow her. Instead, he ran through the ship yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!" Survivors report that he then began witnessing to anyone who would listen. He continued preaching even after he had jumped into the water and was clinging to a piece of wreckage (he'd already given his lifejacket to another man).

 

Harper's final moments were recounted four years later at a meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, by a man who said “I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’

 

“The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ [quoting the very verse I preached to you today]. Shortly after, he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper's last convert.”

 

He was also one of only six people picked out the water by the lifeboats; the other 1,522, including Harper, were left to die.

 

You know, it's interesting. There were only two kinds of people after the Titanic sank – those who were saved, and those who were lost. There were no other kind of passengers aboard the Titanic; those who were saved, and those who were lost. Could I just say on the ship of earth on which we sail, there are only two kinds of people – those who are saved, and those who are lost. That's why I say life's most important question is this: “What must I do to be saved?” Friend, the gospel message is this, believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

 

You say, “Man, is that all?” Yes, that’s all. That is all, because once you believe, it transforms life. I want to challenge you this morning to believe on the Lord Jesus.

 

Let’s stand. 

 

[Invitation]

 

[Prayer] 

 

 

 

Direct download: IBC_20200112.mp3
Category:Solas -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

“Sola Fide”

Sermon Series: Solas

Acts 16:24-34

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Ginn, Lead Pastor

AM Sermon January 12, 2020

 

 

 

Outline:

 

  1. The context of life’s most important question

 

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25)

 

  1.    Undeserved prison

 

  1. Undeterred praise

   

           

  1. The conversation about life’s most important question

 

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31).

 

  1. Question asked

 

  1.    Question answered

       

 

  1. The change after life’s most important question

 

And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God (Acts 16:33-34).

           

  1. Produced by faith

 

  1. Proved by fruit

 

 

 

 

 

What would you say is life’s most important question? 

 

Someone might say that life’s most important question is, “Does God exist?”  That’s certainly important. 

 

Another might suggest, “How did the world come into being?”

 

Still another might get a tad more personal and ask, “How did mankind come to be?” 

 

One immediately pressing question is, “Will LSU defeat Clemson on Monday night for the national championship?”  O.k., so maybe that one doesn’t make the cut.

 

The interesting thing is that the Bible (and the Bible alone—sola scriptura) answers all of these questions. 

 

Does God exist?  Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God.”  Yes, he exists. 

 

How did the world come into being? Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

How did mankind—you and I—come to be?  Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” 

 

From the Bible, we get the answer to all of life’s most important questions.

 

But I want to make the case this morning that there is another question that is, arguably, life’s most important question. It is this: “What must I do to be saved?”  It is imminently personal, and the stakes could not be higher. If there is a God (and we believe that there is), and, if there is an eternity awaiting all of us (and we believe that there is), how can I gain that eternal life?

 

Jesus taught that this is a supremely important issue.  He said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” In other words, if you could gain the whole world—all its riches and all its pleasures, yet you lost your own soul, what have you gained? Nothing. All the world pales in comparison to your soul.  Therefore, you and I must know the answer to this question: “What must I do to be saved?”

 

Here’s the good news: God’s word gives us the answer to that question as well.  Our aim this Sunday is to answer that question for everyone so that we can have both eternal life and abundant life.

 

Turn in your Bibles to Acts 16:25-34 to discover this.  Would you stand in honor of God’s word as it is read:

Acts 16:25-34

25 About midnight Paul and Silas [Now, I would interject, if you don’t know those names, Paul and Silas were early church leaders, and more particularly, they were missionaries taking the gospel where it had never been known. So, Paul and Silas] were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them [Again, I’ll interject, yes, they were in jail, and I'll tell you how they ended up there in just a moment, but Paul and Silas are in jail. They’re singing praises to God; the prisoners are listening to them. Now, verse 26], 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [Now, again, I am suggesting, that that is life's most important question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Now here comes the answer, verse 31] 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

 

Let's pray.

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated. 

 

As a church, we are celebrating 100 years of shared life. As an element of that celebration, we're revisiting some of the bedrock principles upon which this church is founded, and it's in a sermon series called “Solas.” Now that is a Latin word. Really, it's an anglicized version of it, and the word sola means “only.” There are some solas in the life of the Christian church that stand preeminently. We looked last week at the first of them, sola scriptura. Today, we're going to learn about sola fide. Sola scriptura, only scripture, is our guide to faith and practice. And now today, sola fide, only faith, brings salvation; faith in Christ. Sola scriptura teaches that sola fide is the only way to be saved. These two principles, Sola scriptura and sola fide, are intimately related to one another, and I want to demonstrate this by reminding you of the text we looked at last week, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17. You'll remember this:

All Scripture is breathed out by God [inspired by God] and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God [the people of God, if I could extend it in that way, that all of us] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

 

This was our passage last week, and it establishes the principle of sola scriptura. Now, I want you to see the verse that immediately precedes these two. Look at verse 15. Notice that it teaches that sola scriptura leads to sola fide. It says, verse 15, Paul speaking to Timothy, his young protégé, he says: 

[Timothy], from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [sola scriptura, the sacred writings, and notice what they have done. He says, so, the sacred writings] are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  

 

Do you follow that? There it is in verse 15, sola scriptura; sola fide. You have known the sacred writings; that is, God's word, and they have led you to have faith, sola fide, in Jesus for salvation. So, there are the two principles related closely to one another. Salvation comes to us through faith in Christ Jesus. That's the answer to life's most important question. No passage makes this any clearer than Acts chapter 16 where we find ourselves this morning.


I want us to consider life’s most important question in three steps. Number one, we're going to look at the context in which life's most important question was asked. Secondly, we're going to listen in on the conversation where life's most important question was asked and answered. And then, finally, I want to show you the change that knowing the right answer to life's most important question brings, the change in life that it brings. 

 

All right, so let's go back to the first of these points, the first step. I want you to see the context in which this question was first posed. Here in Acts 16, Paul and a group of his coworkers are on a missionary journey. Things are going well. People are saving saved. They’re following the Lord in believer's baptism. A church is being planted there in Europe for the very first time. Paul and his team are experiencing the joy of seeing God at work. There's one particular life to which I want to allude that plays into our passage this morning. It's the story of a little girl. I call her little; she was probably a teenager. This girl had an unusual power. This girl could tell foretell the future, and the Bible explains how it is that she could foretell the future. She was actually possessed by a demon, and by virtue of this supernatural power, she could foretell the future. 

 

Paul and his partners met up with this young girl. I won't tell the whole of the story, but I'll just say this. By the power of the gospel, this young girl was set free. I mean that in two senses. First of all, she was a slave to masters who were using her for their own profit. You see, people would pay to have their fortune told, and the slave masters had this girl in captivity, and were using her for their own profit. Again, I say that. This leads me to say a couple of things by way of lagniappe. First of all, fortune-telling is not just a thing of the ancient past. I could wish that it were so, but there still are fortune tellers in our day. I think most of these are just flat-out charlatans. They're just putting on a charade, a show. Perhaps some are demon-possessed, and they may have some capacity given them by spiritual forces.

 

I actually went on the web out of curiosity, and typed into a Google search engine “Fortune tellers, Baton Rouge.” I was curious to know, are there fortune tellers in our city today? What do you think the answer to that is? One of the responses was, “The 30 best fortune tellers in Baton Rouge.”  I clicked on it. There was a list of fortune tellers in our fair town. It included people who did things like fortune-telling, tarot card reading. There were mediums, self-identified. Some could cast spells including love spells, etc. No, this is not just something that's from ancient history. Even in our own day, there are people who dabble into these things. So it gives me a good opportunity to let you know what God thinks of these things. I want to read from the Bible, Deuteronomy 18 beginning in verse 10: 

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer [that is, one who calls up the dead to speak with them] or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. . . .

 

This is from the Bible. Folks, we ought to have nothing to do with these works of darkness. Even something as what seems to be innocuous as horoscopes. I think it's terrible that papers will often include horoscopes. Worse yet, they put them next to the comics in the newspaper. It doesn't belong there, and I would encourage you not to read that. Astrology; anything of the sort, God says that is all an abomination. The work of the gospel is to set people free from these things. God doesn't want us to consult with the dead or with spiritists or with mediums. No, He has given us his word, sola scriptura. He has given us his indwelling Holy Spirit to illumine our minds to understand the things that are in the word of God. I don't need a fortune teller. I don't need a necromancer. I have all that I need, sola scriptura, to be a guide by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who illumines these truths to our lives. Now, I told you, that's just lagniappe. I just gave you that for extra.

 

I'm also reminded to say this: This poor young girl was a slave to her masters. It's very evident to me they didn't care one whit about that little girl. They only used her for their own purposes. You know, you hear a lot today about sex trafficking, pornography. Could I just remind us all, those who peddle that, who push that, they care nothing for the boys and girls whose lives they wreck. They domineer them and they own them, and anyone who participates in these things supports it. God sees it equally as an abomination. We as God's people ought have nothing to do with it. Instead of abusing people, we ought to love them and want them to be free. It's exactly what the Apostle Paul and his team were doing. They were setting people free by the good news of Jesus, and this little girl among them.

 

Now, you would think, would you not, that everyone is going to be ecstatic that this little girl has been set free. Oh, that it were so. It wasn't so. Her masters see that their means of ill gain is gone, and so they haul up Paul and Silas on false charges. Two things result, and I want to mention them to you. One, undeserved prison time. Undeserved prison. Paul and Silas, if you can imagine this, were cast into prison. It's worth noting, friend, that if we stand for the Lord, we're going to face opposition in this world. Not everyone is going to pat you on the back. Now you may get a fair amount of that; certainly here at church, I trust that you’re encouraged as you follow Christ. We want to do that. But it won't be so with everyone. There will be those who will oppose. I, myself, have faced occasions of great opposition. The Bible says; this is 2 Timothy 3:12, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus was crucified. John was beheaded. Luther, of whom I spoke last week, was excommunicated. Jan Hus, the great Czech reformer, was burned at the stake. William Tyndale, who for the first time translated God's word into English so that all English speakers could hear the word of God in their heart language, he was burned as a heretic. Later he was exhumed and his ashes were sprinkled on the Thames River.

 

You come forward into our own day, I think about those believers in Libya not so long ago that were beheaded by ISIS because they believed in Christ. There will be opposition; there always has been, there always will be. Now it may not be as serious as these cases that I've named. Perhaps not even as serious as Paul and Silas, beaten now and imprisoned in stocks. But perhaps you'll be passed over for a promotion, or perhaps others will belittle you for your faith or some stance that you take on a moral issue, but I want to encourage us all as Paul and Silas did to remain faithful to the Lord despite the opposition that arises. 

 

So, prison is really not a surprise. But do you know what is a surprise? It's that, though they are imprisoned, undeservedly so, there arises their undeterred praise to the Lord. How do they answer the stripes that were put upon their back and their stocks in which they were bound and the prison in which they were jailed? They answered their prison with praise. You know, it's one thing to praise the Lord when the prison doors swing open and the shackles fall from our wrists. But I want you to take note, Paul and Silas were not praising the Lord after they'd been liberated, after their shackles had fallen from them. No, they are praising the Lord in the midst of their suffering, unjust though it was. No wonder, then, the Bible says that the prisoners heard them. Don't you know the prisoners heard them? Don't you know the jailer himself heard them? They were listening to them. Of course they were, because there is power in our praise, particularly when it’s in the face of hardship and difficulty. I know I'm preaching to many of you who, even today, sang songs of praise to the Lord in the midst of your trial. I want to say God is honored by that. Your witness is never more powerful than when you gladly praise Him in the midst of your trial, and Paul and Silas did. So, that is the context in which life’s most important question arose.

 

Now, secondly, I want to take you to the actual conversation in which life's most important question is both asked and answered. First, let's look at the asking of this question. The jailer discovers that Paul and Silas have been set free. They are singing, and someone said that as they sang, God took such pleasure in their song that God was tapping his foot along with the beat of their song, and it caused the earthquake. That's a little bit fanciful, but I like it, still. God sent an earthquake to that jail. The jailhouse rocked, for all of you 1950s folks. As the jailhouse rocked, the prison doors swung open. The shackles fell from their hands and their feet, if, in fact, they were shackled at both of those extremities. The shackles fell, and the jailer, realizing that the prison doors have swung open and that the prisoners have been set free, presumes that they've all escaped. You have to know that in that day, if you were the jailer, and your prisoners escaped, you would be executed for having failed at your duty. He sees this, is terrorized by it, and he draws his sword and intends to kill himself. 

 

Here's another point where I want to interject a thought. It's never right to take your own life; it's never right to take your own life. He's going to commit suicide. I may be speaking to someone this morning who is contemplating ending your own life. Maybe you're in a valley, a deep, deep valley, and it seems there's no escape from it. Could I just encourage you that suicide is never the answer? Paul and Silas, to their credit, step in and they tell the man, “Don't harm yourself. We’re all here.” Now, let's be frank. Here's the jailer who has put them into the deepest part of the prison. Perhaps he's even taken some joy in shackling them and in seeing their wounds from the beating that they took. You couldn't blame Paul and Silas if they just stood aside as the jailer killed himself, but motivated by Christ's love, they intervene and they say, “Don't harm yourself.” I'm reminded to challenge all of us, if you know of someone who is wrestling with deep depression, intervene. Speak to them. We have a counseling ministry here at Istrouma, and we can get help. There is help, and there is hope in Christ. Paul and Silas say, “Do yourself no harm.”

 

Upon their kindness, this jailer runs in before Paul and Silas and the Bible says that he falls down at their feet. You see, he's been impacted by what he's observed. He has seen Paul and Silas singing praises to God. He's heard that song. He's personally experienced their mercy when they defend him who once oppressed them. Paul and Silas could easily have escaped, but they haven't. They’re remaining there. So, impacted by what he has heard and seen, he asks life's most important question. It’s in verse 30:

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

 

Now, some might suggest that this question is related to the temporal crisis. He knows that the prisoners might escape, that the wrath of Rome is going to fall upon him; he's going to be executed, so he's asking, “Sirs, how can I escape my impending doom?” But I don't believe that's the real heart of his question, because the prisoners have not escaped. They’ve remained. His life has been spared. There is hope temporally. No, I believe he is asking an eternal question, “What must I do to be saved from my sins? What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I believe that's the heart of his question. And I love this question. I see in it his humility. He doesn't think he has all the answers, and I tell you, that's a healthy thing. Maybe you've come in today quite confident in yourself, presuming that you have all of the answers both to life and eternity. But have you ever come in humility to ask this simple question, “What must I do to be forgiven; what must I do to be saved? I want to be instructed. I want to be taught. I want God's answer to life's most important question.” I see his humility. I see his hunger. He rushes in. He falls at their feet. He is desperate. I don't know that anyone comes to salvation apart from desperation, hunger, and humility. This man has all of those traits, and for that reason, he asks life's most important question, “What must I do to be saved?”

 

Not only is the question asked, the question is answered. For all time, we know the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Point-blank question; point-blank answer. What must I do to be saved? What must you do to be saved? What must all humans do if they are to be saved? The apostle’s answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

 

I want us to think about that answer just for a moment. I want us to think of what the answer was not. What must I do to be saved? Notice that he did not say, “Join the church and you will be saved.” There are a lot of people that think that. They think, “Well if I'm going to go to heaven, I've got to be a member of some church or some faith. If I have my name on a church roll somewhere, then I'm good.” No. Joining a church of any stripe does not save you. It's not the answer to the question. He did not say, “Get baptized and you will be saved.” There's nothing wrong with getting baptized. In fact, he's about to get baptized. There's nothing wrong with joining a church. He's going to become a part, I believe, of the Philippian church that started with Lydia, was joined by the slave girl who was now set free. He's going to be, I'll just say, the third member of the church at Philippi. Nothing wrong with these good deeds, but it's not by good deeds that you are saved. Good deeds are the fruit of salvation in you, not the root of it, not the source of it. How do you get saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.

 

This answer is in harmony with the rest of the Bible. Listen to John 1:12:

But to all who did receive him [that is, speaking of the incarnate Christ], who believed [there it is, who believed] in his name [What is it to receive Christ? It’s to believe in him...to all who did receive him, who believed in his name], he gave the right to become [the] children of God.

 

How do you become a child of God? How do you get saved? How do you have your sins washed away? How do you go to heaven? You believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You trust in him. You receive him. 

 

John 3:16, the most famous verse in all of the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

 

How do you get everlasting life? How do you get saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus. 

 

Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God [unto] salvation to everyone who believes...

 

Eph. 2:8-9:

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast

 

The way to be saved is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There are basically two systems that are put forward as answers to this question. One is faith alone, sola fide, our theme for today. The other is that you’re saved by faith and works. They often will cite, those who hold the latter position, they’ll cite James 2:24. There the Bible says:

...a person is justified by works and not by faith alone

 

So now, we’re in a quandary. Are we saved by faith alone apart from works, or are we saved by faith and works? That's a pivotal question, and we must know the answer to it. I believe that the Bible is clear that salvation comes by faith alone. How then is it that James can say that you’re saved not by faith alone but also by the works that you do? How can we reconcile these two passages of scripture?

 

James, if you read the broader text there, is talking about the faith that saves. He says, “Show me your faith without works, and I'll show you my faith by my works.” James knew well that faith alone saves, but faith that saves is never alone. I'll say it again. Faith alone saves, but faith that saves is never alone, and that our works show the reality of our faith. If you have no works to demonstrate your faith, then what kind of faith do you have? James says that you have a dead faith, and he asks, “Can that faith save?” I'll answer the question, No, that faith can't save. Someone can say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus,” but they never go to church, they never follow the Lord in believer’s baptism, they have no heart for generosity, they curse, they swear, they sleep around, they rebel and break God's law. There's no fruit. There's no demonstration of a real faith. Can that type of faith, just verbal in nature, save? No it cannot. It has to be a genuine and real faith that is demonstrated in the life that ensues.

 

That brings me, then, to the last point, and that is the change that comes to the life that answers rightly life’s most important question, when the person knows the answer, and I'll put a capital “A” on it, the Answer to life's most important question. The Answer to life's most important question is a person, the Lord Jesus, and when you put your faith and trust in him and his atoning death on the cross, you are saved. 

 

Now listen, it brings change. Would you look in your Bible again, now, to verse 33?

And he [that is, the jailer] took them [Paul and Silas] the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God

 

What a tremendous paragraph that is! You see, the change in his life was produced by faith. He embraced the gospel proclaimed to him, and the change was produced by that faith. Now, that faith is proven by the fruit of good deeds. You see his baptism. Listen; if you’ve given your life to Christ, and you've come to saving faith, you ought to follow the Lord in believer's baptism. I'm probably talking to some folks in here that have not yet let your faith be made known through baptism subsequent to your salvation. I just want to challenge you to take that step of faith and demonstrate by it that you’ve put your trust in Christ. I may be speaking to some who’ve not yet committed to fellowship in a local church. We want to challenge you to not only believe but belong. Commit yourself to membership and service in a local church. I note this man's generosity. He set food before them. I note his joy; he is rejoicing now. He went from desperation and suicidal thoughts to great joy, and what made the difference? It was Christ in him that made the difference. 

 

Have you been changed? Is your life radically different because Christ indwells you? If not, this very morning I'm going to challenge you to give your life to Christ. 

 

I'm going to tell you one last story. I’m going to put on the screen a picture of a fellow whose name is John Harper. Some of you may know his name. John Harper was born into a Christian family May 29, 1872 in Scotland. He became a Christian 13 years later and had already started preaching by age 17. He received training at the Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, and in 1896 he founded a church, now known as Harper Memorial Church in Glasgow, which began with 25 worshipers but had grown to 500 members by the time he left 13 years later. 

 

In 1912 Harper, the newly-called pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, was traveling on the Titanic with his 6-year-old daughter. After the ship struck an iceberg and began to sink, he got Nana into a lifeboat but apparently made no effort to follow her. Instead, he ran through the ship yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!" Survivors report that he then began witnessing to anyone who would listen. He continued preaching even after he had jumped into the water and was clinging to a piece of wreckage (he'd already given his lifejacket to another man).

 

Harper's final moments were recounted four years later at a meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, by a man who said “I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’

 

“The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ [quoting the very verse I preached to you today]. Shortly after, he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper's last convert.”

 

He was also one of only six people picked out the water by the lifeboats; the other 1,522, including Harper, were left to die.

 

You know, it's interesting. There were only two kinds of people after the Titanic sank – those who were saved, and those who were lost. There were no other kind of passengers aboard the Titanic; those who were saved, and those who were lost. Could I just say on the ship of earth on which we sail, there are only two kinds of people – those who are saved, and those who are lost. That's why I say life's most important question is this: “What must I do to be saved?” Friend, the gospel message is this, believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

 

You say, “Man, is that all?” Yes, that’s all. That is all, because once you believe, it transforms life. I want to challenge you this morning to believe on the Lord Jesus.

 

Let’s stand. 

 

[Invitation]

 

[Prayer] 

 

 

 

Direct download: 02.__Sola_fide.__Transcript_Only.pdf
Category:Solas -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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Istrouma en Español

Solas

“Sola Fide”

Hechos 16:25-34

 

 

  1. El contexto de la pregunta más importante de la vida.

 

“Alrededor de la medianoche, Pablo y Silas estaban orando y cantando himnos a Dios, y los demás prisioneros escuchaban.” (Hechos 16:25).

 

  1. Prisión injusta
  2. Adoración inquebrantable

 

  1. La conversación sobre la pregunta más importante de la vida.

 

“Después los sacó y les preguntó: —Señores, ¿qué debo hacer para ser salvo?

31 Ellos le contestaron: —Cree en el Señor Jesús y serás salvo, junto con todos los de tu casa.” (Hechos 16: 30-31)

 

  1. Pregunta ansiosa
  2. Respuesta acertada

 

  1. El cambio después de la pregunta más importante de la vida.

 

“Aun a esa hora de la noche, el carcelero los atendió y les lavó las heridas. Enseguida ellos lo bautizaron a él y a todos los de su casa. 34 El carcelero los llevó adentro de su casa y les dio de comer, y tanto él como los de su casa se alegraron porque todos habían creído en Dios.” (Hechos 16: 33-34).

 

  1. Producido por la fe
  2. Probado por los frutos

 

 

 

Direct download: IBC_Espanol_20200112.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Solas

“Sola Scriptura”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

  1. The production of scripture

 

All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16a)

 

  1. Its inspiration

 

  1. Its implications

 

  1. The practicality of scripture

 

And profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16b).

 

  1. Our beliefs

 

  1. Our behaviors

 

  1. The purpose of scripture

 

That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).

 

  1. Our maturity

 

  1. Our ministry

 

[BEGIN TRANSCRIPT]

There's a towering figure in the history of Christianity whose name you need to know. His name is Martin Luther. I want to tell you a little bit about his story. Martin Luther was born back in the 1400s, more than 500 years ago, and he was a very devout young man. He loved the Lord, and as a result, he eventually became a monk, a priest, even a professor of theology. As those callings demand, he was a student of the scripture. He loved the word of God and he voraciously and ardently studied it. In the course of studying the Bible, the scripture, he became concerned about the discrepancy, or the chasm, that existed between what the scriptures taught and what the dominant church of that age was doing. He saw errors, he believed, and he saw abuses. I'll mention one. There was the practice back in those days of selling indulgences. Let me explain this. An indulgence was a forgiveness of sins. You've done something wrong and you want to be forgiven. Well, the church taught at that time that they had the power to forgive sin, and if you would give an offering, you could, by means of that offering, purchase an indulgence.  There was a guy who was traveling around Europe selling these indulgences. His name was Tetzel, and he had a little song that he sang, and it roughly went like this: “When the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

 

In other words, if you’ll give an offering big enough, your mother who’s suffering in purgatory can get out. Luther was troubled, to put it lightly, by these things because you don't see any of that in the Bible. It’s like, “Where do you get this, and why are you teaching that?” He viewed it as abusing the people. He said if the pope wants to build a new building in Rome, why doesn't he just do it out of his own treasury? He's fabulously wealthy. Why is he doing it on the backs of the peasants? So, Luther was upset. 

 

I will say, Luther loved the church, and Luther wasn't looking to be a rebel or to rebel or to get out of the church. He wanted to reform it. He wanted a renewal. He wanted to take the church back to its origins, to its roots in scripture. So, he set about one day to write down some of his concerns. He did them, and when they were numbered, they were 95 in number. They are known to history by this phrase, “The 95 Theses.” You know what a thesis is, like a thesis statement in your term paper, or you write a thesis for your master's degree. The plural form of thesis is “theses.” 95 theses. There were 95 points of concern, and he took those 95 theses that he'd written out and he nailed to the door of the church where he was like the parish priest. I know that sounds like he was defacing the property; he was not. In those days, the church door functioned like a bulletin board, and if you wanted to announce something, you could tack it to the church door and it would be seen by all. So, he tacked to the door of the church his points of concern. He sent out an invitation. He said, “If you want to discuss these things, then I want to invite you to a dialogue. Let’s talk about these things, and if there needs to be change, let's make the changes.

 

Well, it caused a furor all across Europe because the church was in league with the Holy Roman Emperor. And they held the reins of power and wealth, and Luther was like a bee in the bonnet. It caused a furor. Word got all the way to Rome about what Luther had done, and so the pope initiated a church council, called together leaders from across the empire, and the emperor himself sat presiding over this gathering. They were going to discuss the points of concern that Luther had raised, and Luther had raised many significant theological points of concern. At stake was Luther's life. You know, in our culture today, it’s hard to appreciate this because in our day if we have different viewpoints, it's no big deal. It's no skin off your nose. You believe one thing, I believe another; we just live in peace with one another. We have religious liberty. It wasn't so in those days. If you took issue with the church, you would face the wrath of the empire, and Luther’s life was at stake; certainly his career and livelihood. So he was on trial, and as the trial grew to its climax, Luther was asked if he would recant what he had written. To recant means you do an about-face. You say, “I was wrong. I take back what I said.” So they said, “Luther, here's your choice. You're going to be condemned, or you can recant. Which will you do?”

 

Luther felt these things very deeply, and he said, “Would you give me an evening to pray about what I’ll say. They said, “Yes, you may have an evening.” So, Luther went back to his room. Luther played earnestly, “God what should I do”? And through that evening of prayer and counsel with friends, he came back the next day and he stood before... now, put yourself in his shoes. Could you do this? He stood before the emperor and the might of the empire, and he was asked once again, “Luther, will you recant?” I want you to hear his response:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. May God help me. Amen.

 

When Luther said this, the fury of the empire came down upon him. He was excommunicated from the church. He was branded a heretic, and it was decreed that anyone who would take Luther's life would not be held liable for doing so. Fortunately for Luther, he had a confidant who was one of the princes of Germany, and he stole Luther away and hid him in a castle in a place called Wartburg. There, hidden away in the castle in Wartburg, Luther furiously, not angrily, but busily, set about translating the Bible into the common language of the people. The first German Bible was then published, and from it courage arose in Europe, and the first English translation by a man named Tyndale was published, and it set about a great renewal in the church, what’s known to history as the Great Reformation. 

 

Luther Stands as a colossal figure of history because of this principle, and I'm going to give it to you in two words: Sola scriptura. Sola scriptura. You see, this month, every Sunday, we're going to take a different bedrock principle of our church, and we're going to teach upon it. The first of them is this one, Sola scriptura, that is translated “only scripture.” No decree of man, no church council, no pastor can dictate anything that supersedes or takes precedence over God's revealed word. Do you want to know why Istrouma Baptist Church is a vibrant and growing church today? I'm going to tell you why. One of the primary reasons is because we stand upon this principle, sola scriptura; only God's word reigns supreme over our conscience and our faith.

 

I want to convince you of this same principle. That’s my goal this morning. To do so, I'm going to ask you to turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Let’s stand to our feet as a sign of our respect for God's word, and we’ll read these two verses: 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work

 

Let’s pray. 

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated.  

 

My wife and I were on vacation last week, and we thank you for giving us some days off. We traveled to Virginia where our children and grandchildren live. We had a great time hugging all those grandkid’s necks and just being with them. I want to thank Brad who preached in my absence last week. I heard he did a great job, and I thank you, Brad, for preaching God's word faithfully. But as we were on that trip and returning, my wife saw a church sign and it said this, “Daily devotions are better than yearly resolutions.” I like that. Daily devotions are better than yearly resolutions. We're at the time of New Year's resolutions, right? Everybody's got a New Year's resolution, whatever it is; lose weight, learn to play the guitar, whatever your New Year's resolution is. Could I just challenge you to this: Have a daily devotional. Daily time in the word of God because the word of God, sola scriptura, is our daily meat. It's our food. Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. I want to motivate you to this, all right? Not just to daily devotion, but to a lifetime of living out the principles of God's word. I'm going to do it in three headings. First of all, I'm going to talk to you about the production of scripture – how did it come to be? Number two, I'm going to talk to you about the practicality of scripture. And finally, I'm going to talk to you about the purpose of scripture. All right; let’s take these up. 

 

Number one, the production of scripture. How did it happen that we've come to hold in our hands this precious book here and now? I'm going to give it to you in these two words: inspiration and then implications. Inspiration and implications. “Inspiration,” what do I mean? I mean that God has given us this book by inspiration. Now the word often translated here “inspiration” is in the Greek language a very interesting word. In fact, it's a word that only appears once in all of the Bible. One time. It doesn't even occur in secular Greek literature of that day. It's a word that Paul coined. That is, Paul created this word. It didn't exist. The reason it's so unique it is because it is describing a process that is unique. The word is this: theopneustos. Theopneustos. It’s a compound word. It's got two parts to it. The first part is theos. Theos is the Greek word for God. Some of you knew that. We get our English word “theology,” the study of God, from theos. From the word theopneustos we get the root of our English word “pneumatic,” like a tire that's filled with air; that's a pneumatic tire, it’s an air-filled tire. Or “pneumonia,” when your lungs – you don't have enough respiration. It's the whole idea of breath or wind. So theopneustos is the wind of God. The breath of God. That's what is meant when it says “inspiration.” It is literally, all scripture is theopneustos; it is breathed out by God. Folks, this is phenomenal! No wonder he coined the term. There’s no other book like this book. 

 

You know, sometimes we use the word “inspired” very casually. Like you hear a beautiful song and you're like, “Oh man, that was inspired.” Handel's “Messiah” – people will say, “That was inspired.” Or maybe you read a book; let’s say Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love,” and you’re like, “Oh man, that book’s inspired!” Could I just say to you? There is no other book, there is no other song, there is no other sermon. You say “Pastor Jeff, what a sermon, he was inspired today.” Not like this. I depend upon God and I ask him to help me and fill me, but the words that I say are not perfect. God's word is perfect. I seek to be faithful to it, but I can be mistaken. Church councils can be mistaken. Popes can be mistaken. But this book, never mistaken. Why? Because it’s breathed out by God. Here's what the Bible says of the Lord in Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie…”  We all lie. God doesn’t lie. 

 

In Titus 1:2, God is described as the one who never lies. God can’t lie. 

 

Hebrews 6:18 says, “It is impossible for God to lie.” 

 

If God can't lie and these are his words, guess what? There’s no lie in this book. There’s no untruth. That's why we call it inerrant; infallible. It is perfect. It is God's word, and you can take it to the bank. Listen, people may lie to you. People may break their contracts with you. But God will never lie to you, and his word will always prove faithful. Take it to the bank. That's the inspiration.

 

Secondly, what are the implications of this? “Okay, big deal; this is God's inspired word. What's the significance of that?” Glad you asked. Let me give you a couple of the significances of this inspiration. Number one, it's true, and that's what I was just talking about. This book is true. But secondly, it is timeless. Psalm 119:89 says “Forever O Lord your word is established in the heavens.” That is, God's word will never change. It was relevant when Jesus trod this earth. It was relevant when Abraham lived. It was relevant when Jesus and the apostles lived, and friends, it's just as relevant today. It is timeless. “Forever O Lord your word is fixed or established in the heavens.” It will never change, and I'm so glad. This book is more relevant to your life than the newspaper that you picked up off your doorstep when you came out this morning. And by the way, nowadays, the newspaper that you get on your doorstep is already out of date. You know, you’d better look at your feed on your cell phone, right, to get the most recent story as it breaks. I want to tell you something. This book is more up-to-date than your news feed on your cell phone. It is timeless.

 

Listen, this is important. You young people listen to me. We’re living in a day where they talk about the “information overload.” Have you heard that phrase? I’ve talked to you before about what's called the “knowledge doubling curve.” Remember Buckminster Fuller, that scientist who said that from the dawn of humanity to the year 1900, human knowledge would double about every 100 years. Every once in a while you'd have an invention. The Chinese would invent fireworks. Then several hundred years later Gutenberg would invent the printing press. So knowledge grew very incrementally. But he said that when you get to the year 1900, when modernity is kicking in, knowledge begins to double every 25 years. Then you come up into the 1980s when he published his book, he said that knowledge was doubling every 12 months, every year. So every hundred years, every twenty-five years, every year. They say that now, with the Internet, and AI, artificial intelligence, human knowledge is doubling every 12 hours.

 

Now, an unintended effect of the doubling of knowledge is what's called the “half-life of knowledge.” Now, stick with me on this. I'm going somewhere! Listen. The half-life of knowledge. I've got some nursing students in here. I've got some medical doctors in here, so you can back me up on this. They say that when you go to medical school and you graduate, within 24 months half of what you learned in medical school is obsolete. You're an engineering student; they say that within a matter of a very scant few years, half of what you learned in engineering will be obsolete. Think about software developers. With software, there is the initial version, typically Version 0. Then V1.0, V2.0 etc. as updates and upgrades are needed.  But look here: there’s no Bible 2.0, nor need there be. There's not going to be a Bible 10, and do you know why? Because this is inspired. God breathed it out. And because it's so, it's true and it is timeless. Because of divine inspiration there is no date of expiration!  And all God's people said [“Amen”]. Doggone Right! Doggone Right. That's the production of scripture. 

 

Now, number two, the practicality of scripture. Young people, listen to me. I'm an old fellow now, and I've learned some things across the years, and I'm going to help you. I'm not going to charge you tuition or anything. This book that I hold in my hand is practical. You say, “Man, I don’t want to listen to a sermon. That's boring. That has nothing to do with how I live.” Nothing could be further from the truth. You're not going to watch a television program; you’re not going to Netflix something (Is “Netflix a verb?). You’re not going to watch something on Netflix that's more pertinent to your life or more practical than what I am teaching you this morning and every other Sunday as far as that goes. I'm the most relevant media in your life, if I could say that; someone who faithfully teaches the word of God, and I hope that I do. And your Sunday School teachers, your small group leaders, your Bible study leaders, because they're giving you the inspired word of God, and it's practical. He says that this inspired word is profitable. I love that word. It means useful. It means valuable. This is useful, this is valuable, this is practical, all right? And he gives us four ways in which it is practical. Watch this. Four ways it’s practical: for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Now, watch. Instruction is positive. “Here's what you ought to believe.” Reproof is negative. That's like, “Oops, you've got it wrong there; let me reprove you. Correction is also negative. And then the last word, training in righteousness is positive. So it's positive, negative, negative, positive. Do you see that? Those four characteristics are actually two pairs. The positive and negative first go together, and then the third and fourth, negative and positive, they go together. It’s what’s called in scripture a “chiasm.” Those two pairs go together. The first two pertain to our beliefs. The Bible gives us instruction as to what we ought to believe, and it reproves us when we believe anything different from that. But it's not just our beliefs that we get from the Bible. It ought to govern our behavior, and that's the last couplet. For correction; that is, when I’m off the path, and I’m behaving as I ought not, the word of God corrects me. And then it trains me in right conduct, righteousness, right living, making it practical. 

 

Let me give you a word picture that I think will help you. Every little boy's dream – let me help you with next year’s Christmas list, all right? Moms, dads, listen. You want to get your son a gift he’ll like? Get him a Swiss Army Knife if he's never had one. How many of you have ever had a Swiss Army Knife? Would you raise your hand up? Swiss Army Knife – there's nothing cooler in the world. The reason it's cool is because it's so practical. You've got a magnifying glass. You've got scissors. You've got tweezers. You've got a ruler. You've got a saw –  you can saw off a little branch. It's even got a hidden toothpick, did y'all know this? It’s pretty nasty; you can use that toothpick and put it back in the knife. That’s funny! Swiss Army Knife. But it's practical. 

 

The Bible is your spiritual Swiss Army Knife. It instructs you. It reproves you. It corrects you. It trains you in righteousness. For some of you, you're not into Swiss Army Knives. Let me just use this illustration. This is a smartphone. This is the Millennials’ Swiss Army Knife, right here. Have you ever thought about what a smartphone can do? It's crazy! It's a phone. It's an alarm clock. It's a stopwatch. It's a calendar. It's a secretary. I can speak into this, and it will transcribe in written form what I say. I can text. I can email. When we were driving from Virginia to Louisiana, I didn't have to worry about where to turn. This is a guide for me. I could go on; you get the idea. I know you love your smartphone. You wouldn't dream of going anywhere without your smartphone. You lose it, and you’d start having hives – “where’s my smartphone?” You wake up; it's the first thing you consult. It’s the last thing; you put yourself to sleep scrolling through Instagram picks. Hey, don't go anywhere without God's word. Hide it in your heart. Daily devotional in it. Live it. It is practical.

 

Now, to the end. The purpose of it. I’ll just give you these two. It helps us become mature. Do you know why a lot of people in church are immature? Because they don't know the word of God. You become mature, the Bible says, speaking the truth in love. We are to grow up into him who is the head. How do you grow up? You get the word of God in you, and then, not only will you be mature, you’ll minister. You’ll serve.

 

Our ministries grow out of our knowledge of the word of God. And, oh, the ministry that God wants to do through your life. You’re some of the most gifted, dedicated people I know, and as you imbibe the truth of God's word you're going to be equipped and strengthened to find your place in ministry, and conduct it.

 

We're going to conclude this morning by celebrating the Lord's Supper. I’m going to tell you one last story. There was once a ship in the British Royal Navy. It was called The Bounty. It had a captain who was very demanding; some say cruel, even. They were sailing in the South Pacific, and they happened into the Tahiti Islands. They set down their anchor, and they lived there in Tahiti for a period of time. The sailors, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. They’d come from cold, wet England, and here they are in balmy Tahiti. Palm trees swaying. Gentle breeze. Beautiful island women. The sailors reveled; they loved being in those islands. 

 

The captain finally had had enough, and he said, “All right, we're going to get on board, and we're going to leave. We're going to go about our duties.” Some of the sailors decided they would mutiny; that is, turn on the captain, and they did. They put the captain and some of the senior officers into one of those rowboats, like a lifeboat on the ship, and they sent them away. They commandeered the ship. They put on board the ship a couple of dozen Tahiti people, many of them women, and these sailors sailed off into the ocean blue with these beautiful Tahiti women. They ended up finding a small remote island called Pitcairn Island. You can look it up. Pitcairn Island. They sailed into the bay of this beautiful tropical island. They took off everything of value from the ship, and they burned the ship so that they would never be discovered, they hoped. Because, look, if you mutiny against the Royal British Navy, it's a capital offense, so they're hiding for their lives. There, they think they've died and gone to the Garden of Eden. They are living ungodly lives. They discovered how to make alcohol from one of the plants on the island, and they're drinking, and they’re being sexually immoral. 

 

But as the years go by, their Garden of Eden does what the first Garden of Eden did. It goes south. The men become jealous, fighting over the women. Many of the men are killed. Finally, there's only one British man still living. A number of Tahiti women are living. Now, they’ve fathered many children; kind of a colony there. The man is distraught. He sees the ruin and chaos about him, and he's searching through the things that they got off the ship, and he discovers a Bible and a Book of Common Prayer. He begins to study the word of God, and he becomes convicted of his sin and his need to repent and get right with God and get saved. And he does. Then he takes that same word of God, and he begins to teach the women he once abused, and the children. 

 

Many years go by. In 1808, an American ship happened upon that island. They went there. They needed water, and they landed on the island. They discovered these people; now listen. Where there had once been warring and violence and crimes, there was peace. There wasn't a jail on the island. There wasn't a need for one. And the people were all Christian. How did that happen? Two words: sola scriptura, God's word transformed their lives. God intends that nothing less happen with us. He wants to transform us by his word. Do you know the primary way we’re transformed? Here I’m coming to the end. Jesus said to those who heard him; he said, “You study the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. It is they that bear witness about me.” In other words, Jesus was saying, “It’s not enough to know scripture. You've got to know me.” He is the focal point of scripture. Do you know Christ? If not, this day, surrender your life to him, he who died on the cross, shed his blood, his body was broken for us. He arose from the dead so that we might be forgiven and transformed.

 

Let's stand with our heads bowed.

 

[Prayer]

 

[Lord’s Supper] 



 

Direct download: IBC__20200105.mp3
Category:Solas -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Sola Scriptura

Sermon Series: Solas

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Istrouma Baptist Church – Jeff Ginn, Lead Pastor

10:45 AM Sermon January 5, 2020

 

 

 

Outline:

 

  1. The production of scripture

All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16a).

 

  1.    Its inspiration

 

  1. Its implications

   

           

  1. The practicality of scripture

And profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16b).

 

  1. Our beliefs

 

  1.    Our behaviors

       

 

  1. The purpose of scripture

That the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).

           

  1. Our maturity

 

  1. Our ministry

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's a towering figure in the history of Christianity whose name you need to know. His name is Martin Luther. I want to tell you a little bit about his story. Martin Luther was born back in the 1400s, more than 500 years ago, and he was a very devout young man. He loved the Lord, and as a result, he eventually became a monk, a priest, even a professor of theology. As those callings demand, he was a student of the scripture. He loved the word of God and he voraciously and ardently studied it. In the course of studying the Bible, the scripture, he became concerned about the discrepancy, or the chasm, that existed between what the scriptures taught and what the dominant church of that age was doing. He saw errors, he believed, and he saw abuses. I'll mention one. There was the practice back in those days of selling indulgences. Let me explain this. An indulgence was a forgiveness of sins. You've done something wrong and you want to be forgiven. Well, the church taught at that time that they had the power to forgive sin, and if you would give an offering, you could, by means of that offering, purchase an indulgence.  There was a guy who was traveling around Europe selling these indulgences. His name was Tetzel, and he had a little song that he sang, and it roughly went like this: “When the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

 

In other words, if you’ll give an offering big enough, your mother who’s suffering in purgatory can get out. Luther was troubled, to put it lightly, by these things because you don't see any of that in the Bible. It’s like, “Where do you get this, and why are you teaching that?” He viewed it as abusing the people. He said if the pope wants to build a new building in Rome, why doesn't he just do it out of his own treasury? He's fabulously wealthy. Why is he doing it on the backs of the peasants? So, Luther was upset. 

 

I will say, Luther loved the church, and Luther wasn't looking to be a rebel or to rebel or to get out of the church. He wanted to reform it. He wanted a renewal. He wanted to take the church back to its origins, to its roots in scripture. So, he set about one day to write down some of his concerns. He did them, and when they were numbered, they were 95 in number. They are known to history by this phrase, “The 95 Theses.” You know what a thesis is, like a thesis statement in your term paper, or you write a thesis for your master's degree. The plural form of thesis is “theses.” 95 theses. There were 95 points of concern, and he took those 95 theses that he'd written out and he nailed to the door of the church where he was like the parish priest. I know that sounds like he was defacing the property; he was not. In those days, the church door functioned like a bulletin board, and if you wanted to announce something, you could tack it to the church door and it would be seen by all. So, he tacked to the door of the church his points of concern. He sent out an invitation. He said, “If you want to discuss these things, then I want to invite you to a dialogue. Let’s talk about these things, and if there needs to be change, let's make the changes.

 

Well, it caused a furor all across Europe because the church was in league with the Holy Roman Emperor. And they held the reins of power and wealth, and Luther was like a bee in the bonnet. It caused a furor. Word got all the way to Rome about what Luther had done, and so the pope initiated a church council, called together leaders from across the empire, and the emperor himself sat presiding over this gathering. They were going to discuss the points of concern that Luther had raised, and Luther had raised many significant theological points of concern. At stake was Luther's life. You know, in our culture today, it’s hard to appreciate this because in our day if we have different viewpoints, it's no big deal. It's no skin off your nose. You believe one thing, I believe another; we just live in peace with one another. We have religious liberty. It wasn't so in those days. If you took issue with the church, you would face the wrath of the empire, and Luther’s life was at stake; certainly his career and livelihood. So he was on trial, and as the trial grew to its climax, Luther was asked if he would recant what he had written. To recant means you do an about-face. You say, “I was wrong. I take back what I said.” So they said, “Luther, here's your choice. You're going to be condemned, or you can recant. Which will you do?”

 

Luther felt these things very deeply, and he said, “Would you give me an evening to pray about what I’ll say. They said, “Yes, you may have an evening.” So, Luther went back to his room. Luther played earnestly, “God what should I do”? And through that evening of prayer and counsel with friends, he came back the next day and he stood before... now, put yourself in his shoes. Could you do this? He stood before the emperor and the might of the empire, and he was asked once again, “Luther, will you recant?” I want you to hear his response:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. May God help me. Amen.

 

When Luther said this, the fury of the empire came down upon him. He was excommunicated from the church. He was branded a heretic, and it was decreed that anyone who would take Luther's life would not be held liable for doing so. Fortunately for Luther, he had a confidant who was one of the princes of Germany, and he stole Luther away and hid him in a castle in a place called Wartburg. There, hidden away in the castle in Wartburg, Luther furiously, not angrily, but busily, set about translating the Bible into the common language of the people. The first German Bible was then published, and from it courage arose in Europe, and the first English translation by a man named Tyndale was published, and it set about a great renewal in the church, what’s known to history as the Great Reformation. 

 

Luther Stands as a colossal figure of history because of this principle, and I'm going to give it to you in two words: Sola scriptura. Sola scriptura. You see, this month, every Sunday, we're going to take a different bedrock principle of our church, and we're going to teach upon it. The first of them is this one, Sola scriptura, that is translated “only scripture.” No decree of man, no church council, no pastor can dictate anything that supersedes or takes precedence over God's revealed word. Do you want to know why Istrouma Baptist Church is a vibrant and growing church today? I'm going to tell you why. One of the primary reasons is because we stand upon this principle, sola scriptura; only God's word reigns supreme over our conscience and our faith.

 

I want to convince you of this same principle. That’s my goal this morning. To do so, I'm going to ask you to turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Let’s stand to our feet as a sign of our respect for God's word, and we’ll read these two verses: 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work

 

Let’s pray. 

 

[Prayer]

 

Please be seated.  

 

My wife and I were on vacation last week, and we thank you for giving us some days off. We traveled to Virginia where our children and grandchildren live. We had a great time hugging all those grandkid’s necks and just being with them. I want to thank Brad who preached in my absence last week. I heard he did a great job, and I thank you, Brad, for preaching God's word faithfully. But as we were on that trip and returning, my wife saw a church sign and it said this, “Daily devotions are better than yearly resolutions.” I like that. Daily devotions are better than yearly resolutions. We're at the time of New Year's resolutions, right? Everybody's got a New Year's resolution, whatever it is; lose weight, learn to play the guitar, whatever your New Year's resolution is. Could I just challenge you to this: Have a daily devotional. Daily time in the word of God because the word of God, sola scriptura, is our daily meat. It's our food. Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. I want to motivate you to this, all right? Not just to daily devotion, but to a lifetime of living out the principles of God's word. I'm going to do it in three headings. First of all, I'm going to talk to you about the production of scripture – how did it come to be? Number two, I'm going to talk to you about the practicality of scripture. And finally, I'm going to talk to you about the purpose of scripture. All right; let’s take these up. 

 

Number one, the production of scripture. How did it happen that we've come to hold in our hands this precious book here and now? I'm going to give it to you in these two words: inspiration and then implications. Inspiration and implications. “Inspiration,” what do I mean? I mean that God has given us this book by inspiration. Now the word often translated here “inspiration” is in the Greek language a very interesting word. In fact, it's a word that only appears once in all of the Bible. One time. It doesn't even occur in secular Greek literature of that day. It's a word that Paul coined. That is, Paul created this word. It didn't exist. The reason it's so unique it is because it is describing a process that is unique. The word is this: theopneustos. Theopneustos. It’s a compound word. It's got two parts to it. The first part is theos. Theos is the Greek word for God. Some of you knew that. We get our English word “theology,” the study of God, from theos. From the word theopneustos we get the root of our English word “pneumatic,” like a tire that's filled with air; that's a pneumatic tire, it’s an air-filled tire. Or “pneumonia,” when your lungs – you don't have enough respiration. It's the whole idea of breath or wind. So theopneustos is the wind of God. The breath of God. That's what is meant when it says “inspiration.” It is literally, all scripture is theopneustos; it is breathed out by God. Folks, this is phenomenal! No wonder he coined the term. There’s no other book like this book. 

 

You know, sometimes we use the word “inspired” very casually. Like you hear a beautiful song and you're like, “Oh man, that was inspired.” Handel's “Messiah” – people will say, “That was inspired.” Or maybe you read a book; let’s say Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love,” and you’re like, “Oh man, that book’s inspired!” Could I just say to you? There is no other book, there is no other song, there is no other sermon. You say “Pastor Jeff, what a sermon, he was inspired today.” Not like this. I depend upon God and I ask him to help me and fill me, but the words that I say are not perfect. God's word is perfect. I seek to be faithful to it, but I can be mistaken. Church councils can be mistaken. Popes can be mistaken. But this book, never mistaken. Why? Because it’s breathed out by God. Here's what the Bible says of the Lord in Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie…”  We all lie. God doesn’t lie. 

 

In Titus 1:2, God is described as the one who never lies. God can’t lie. 

 

Hebrews 6:18 says, “It is impossible for God to lie.” 

 

If God can't lie and these are his words, guess what? There’s no lie in this book. There’s no untruth. That's why we call it inerrant; infallible. It is perfect. It is God's word, and you can take it to the bank. Listen, people may lie to you. People may break their contracts with you. But God will never lie to you, and his word will always prove faithful. Take it to the bank. That's the inspiration.

 

Secondly, what are the implications of this? “Okay, big deal; this is God's inspired word. What's the significance of that?” Glad you asked. Let me give you a couple of the significances of this inspiration. Number one, it's true, and that's what I was just talking about. This book is true. But secondly, it is timeless. Psalm 119:89 says “Forever O Lord your word is established in the heavens.” That is, God's word will never change. It was relevant when Jesus trod this earth. It was relevant when Abraham lived. It was relevant when Jesus and the apostles lived, and friends, it's just as relevant today. It is timeless. “Forever O Lord your word is fixed or established in the heavens.” It will never change, and I'm so glad. This book is more relevant to your life than the newspaper that you picked up off your doorstep when you came out this morning. And by the way, nowadays, the newspaper that you get on your doorstep is already out of date. You know, you’d better look at your feed on your cell phone, right, to get the most recent story as it breaks. I want to tell you something. This book is more up-to-date than your news feed on your cell phone. It is timeless.

 

Listen, this is important. You young people listen to me. We’re living in a day where they talk about the “information overload.” Have you heard that phrase? I’ve talked to you before about what's called the “knowledge doubling curve.” Remember Buckminster Fuller, that scientist who said that from the dawn of humanity to the year 1900, human knowledge would double about every 100 years. Every once in a while you'd have an invention. The Chinese would invent fireworks. Then several hundred years later Gutenberg would invent the printing press. So knowledge grew very incrementally. But he said that when you get to the year 1900, when modernity is kicking in, knowledge begins to double every 25 years. Then you come up into the 1980s when he published his book, he said that knowledge was doubling every 12 months, every year. So every hundred years, every twenty-five years, every year. They say that now, with the Internet, and AI, artificial intelligence, human knowledge is doubling every 12 hours.

 

Now, an unintended effect of the doubling of knowledge is what's called the “half-life of knowledge.” Now, stick with me on this. I'm going somewhere! Listen. The half-life of knowledge. I've got some nursing students in here. I've got some medical doctors in here, so you can back me up on this. They say that when you go to medical school and you graduate, within 24 months half of what you learned in medical school is obsolete. You're an engineering student; they say that within a matter of a very scant few years, half of what you learned in engineering will be obsolete. Think about software developers. With software, there is the initial version, typically Version 0. Then V1.0, V2.0 etc. as updates and upgrades are needed.  But look here: there’s no Bible 2.0, nor need there be. There's not going to be a Bible 10, and do you know why? Because this is inspired. God breathed it out. And because it's so, it's true and it is timeless. Because of divine inspiration there is no date of expiration!  And all God's people said [“Amen”]. Doggone Right! Doggone Right. That's the production of scripture. 

 

Now, number two, the practicality of scripture. Young people, listen to me. I'm an old fellow now, and I've learned some things across the years, and I'm going to help you. I'm not going to charge you tuition or anything. This book that I hold in my hand is practical. You say, “Man, I don’t want to listen to a sermon. That's boring. That has nothing to do with how I live.” Nothing could be further from the truth. You're not going to watch a television program; you’re not going to Netflix something (Is “Netflix a verb?). You’re not going to watch something on Netflix that's more pertinent to your life or more practical than what I am teaching you this morning and every other Sunday as far as that goes. I'm the most relevant media in your life, if I could say that; someone who faithfully teaches the word of God, and I hope that I do. And your Sunday School teachers, your small group leaders, your Bible study leaders, because they're giving you the inspired word of God, and it's practical. He says that this inspired word is profitable. I love that word. It means useful. It means valuable. This is useful, this is valuable, this is practical, all right? And he gives us four ways in which it is practical. Watch this. Four ways it’s practical: for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Now, watch. Instruction is positive. “Here's what you ought to believe.” Reproof is negative. That's like, “Oops, you've got it wrong there; let me reprove you. Correction is also negative. And then the last word, training in righteousness is positive. So it's positive, negative, negative, positive. Do you see that? Those four characteristics are actually two pairs. The positive and negative first go together, and then the third and fourth, negative and positive, they go together. It’s what’s called in scripture a “chiasm.” Those two pairs go together. The first two pertain to our beliefs. The Bible gives us instruction as to what we ought to believe, and it reproves us when we believe anything different from that. But it's not just our beliefs that we get from the Bible. It ought to govern our behavior, and that's the last couplet. For correction; that is, when I’m off the path, and I’m behaving as I ought not, the word of God corrects me. And then it trains me in right conduct, righteousness, right living, making it practical. 

 

Let me give you a word picture that I think will help you. Every little boy's dream – let me help you with next year’s Christmas list, all right? Moms, dads, listen. You want to get your son a gift he’ll like? Get him a Swiss Army Knife if he's never had one. How many of you have ever had a Swiss Army Knife? Would you raise your hand up? Swiss Army Knife – there's nothing cooler in the world. The reason it's cool is because it's so practical. You've got a magnifying glass. You've got scissors. You've got tweezers. You've got a ruler. You've got a saw –  you can saw off a little branch. It's even got a hidden toothpick, did y'all know this? It’s pretty nasty; you can use that toothpick and put it back in the knife. That’s funny! Swiss Army Knife. But it's practical. 

 

The Bible is your spiritual Swiss Army Knife. It instructs you. It reproves you. It corrects you. It trains you in righteousness. For some of you, you're not into Swiss Army Knives. Let me just use this illustration. This is a smartphone. This is the Millennials’ Swiss Army Knife, right here. Have you ever thought about what a smartphone can do? It's crazy! It's a phone. It's an alarm clock. It's a stopwatch. It's a calendar. It's a secretary. I can speak into this, and it will transcribe in written form what I say. I can text. I can email. When we were driving from Virginia to Louisiana, I didn't have to worry about where to turn. This is a guide for me. I could go on; you get the idea. I know you love your smartphone. You wouldn't dream of going anywhere without your smartphone. You lose it, and you’d start having hives – “where’s my smartphone?” You wake up; it's the first thing you consult. It’s the last thing; you put yourself to sleep scrolling through Instagram picks. Hey, don't go anywhere without God's word. Hide it in your heart. Daily devotional in it. Live it. It is practical.

 

Now, to the end. The purpose of it. I’ll just give you these two. It helps us become mature. Do you know why a lot of people in church are immature? Because they don't know the word of God. You become mature, the Bible says, speaking the truth in love. We are to grow up into him who is the head. How do you grow up? You get the word of God in you, and then, not only will you be mature, you’ll minister. You’ll serve.

 

Our ministries grow out of our knowledge of the word of God. And, oh, the ministry that God wants to do through your life. You’re some of the most gifted, dedicated people I know, and as you imbibe the truth of God's word you're going to be equipped and strengthened to find your place in ministry, and conduct it.

 

We're going to conclude this morning by celebrating the Lord's Supper. I’m going to tell you one last story. There was once a ship in the British Royal Navy. It was called The Bounty. It had a captain who was very demanding; some say cruel, even. They were sailing in the South Pacific, and they happened into the Tahiti Islands. They set down their anchor, and they lived there in Tahiti for a period of time. The sailors, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. They’d come from cold, wet England, and here they are in balmy Tahiti. Palm trees swaying. Gentle breeze. Beautiful island women. The sailors reveled; they loved being in those islands. 

 

The captain finally had had enough, and he said, “All right, we're going to get on board, and we're going to leave. We're going to go about our duties.” Some of the sailors decided they would mutiny; that is, turn on the captain, and they did. They put the captain and some of the senior officers into one of those rowboats, like a lifeboat on the ship, and they sent them away. They commandeered the ship. They put on board the ship a couple of dozen Tahiti people, many of them women, and these sailors sailed off into the ocean blue with these beautiful Tahiti women. They ended up finding a small remote island called Pitcairn Island. You can look it up. Pitcairn Island. They sailed into the bay of this beautiful tropical island. They took off everything of value from the ship, and they burned the ship so that they would never be discovered, they hoped. Because, look, if you mutiny against the Royal British Navy, it's a capital offense, so they're hiding for their lives. There, they think they've died and gone to the Garden of Eden. They are living ungodly lives. They discovered how to make alcohol from one of the plants on the island, and they're drinking, and they’re being sexually immoral. 

 

But as the years go by, their Garden of Eden does what the first Garden of Eden did. It goes south. The men become jealous, fighting over the women. Many of the men are killed. Finally, there's only one British man still living. A number of Tahiti women are living. Now, they’ve fathered many children; kind of a colony there. The man is distraught. He sees the ruin and chaos about him, and he's searching through the things that they got off the ship, and he discovers a Bible and a Book of Common Prayer. He begins to study the word of God, and he becomes convicted of his sin and his need to repent and get right with God and get saved. And he does. Then he takes that same word of God, and he begins to teach the women he once abused, and the children. 

 

Many years go by. In 1808, an American ship happened upon that island. They went there. They needed water, and they landed on the island. They discovered these people; now listen. Where there had once been warring and violence and crimes, there was peace. There wasn't a jail on the island. There wasn't a need for one. And the people were all Christian. How did that happen? Two words: sola scriptura, God's word transformed their lives. God intends that nothing less happen with us. He wants to transform us by his word. Do you know the primary way we’re transformed? Here I’m coming to the end. Jesus said to those who heard him; he said, “You study the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. It is they that bear witness about me.” In other words, Jesus was saying, “It’s not enough to know scripture. You've got to know me.” He is the focal point of scripture. Do you know Christ? If not, this day, surrender your life to him, he who died on the cross, shed his blood, his body was broken for us. He arose from the dead so that we might be forgiven and transformed.

 

Let's stand with our heads bowed.

 

[Prayer]

 

[Lord’s Supper] 



 

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Istrouma en Español

 

Solas

“Solo Scriptura”

 

2 Timoteo 3.16-17

 

  1. La procedencia de las Escrituras.

 

Toda la Escritura es inspirada por Dios…” (2 Tim. 3: 16a)

  1. Su inspiración
  2. Sus implicaciones

 

  1. La practicidad de las Escrituras.

 

“…y útil para enseñar, para reprender, para corregir y para instruir en la justiciar” (2 Tim. 3: 16b).

  1. Nuestra creencia
  2. Nuestro comportamiento

 

  1. El propósito de la escritura.

 

A fin de que los siervos de Dios estén plenamente capacitados para toda buena obra” (2 Tim. 3:17).

 

  1. Nuestra madurez
  2. Nuestro ministerio

 

 

Direct download: IBC_Espanol_20200106.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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