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TEXT: Galatians 2:20
SUBJECT: Watson on the Application of Redemption #1: Faith
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll begin a new Puritan study. It's called The Application of Redemption. The author is man we've studied before, Thomas Watson. The book it's taken from is one of my favorites, his Body of Divinity, first published in
Before we get to the book itself, let me spend just a few minutes explaining the title. The Bible teaches that our salvation is the work of the Triune God. Although Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, work together to save us, each Person plays His own part. Before the world was, the Father planned the salvation of sinners; at the cross, the Son accomplished our salvation; and now, the Holy Spirit applies the Father's plan and the Son's work to our souls.
Christians do not appreciate the work of God's Spirit as much as we ought to. Pentecostals might-but most Calvinists do not! We are not saved in eternity when the Father chose us; we are not at the cross when the Son died for us. But we are saved only if and when the Holy Spirit breaks into our lives, applying God's grace.
That's the topic for tonight, and the next few weeks, the Lord willing.
Solid theologians differ somewhat on the order of the Spirit's work. . There is room for honest debate here. In fact, I wonder a little bit about Watson's order here and there. But, whether he's right or I am-or we're both wrong-is not that important. The importan.t thing is to know the work God's Spirit in your life and to bless Him for it. That's what I hope to stir in you for the next month or two.
WHAT SAVING FAITH IS NOT
The first thing Watson takes up is Saving Faith. Note, carefully the word, "saving". The old Puritans knew that not every king of "faith" was saving in its effect. The demons, for example, very firmly believe in the existence of God and the Lordship of Christ. James says,
"You believe in one God? You do well-
the devils also believe and tremble".
By reading the Gospels, you'll see they go even further than that-that the demons confess the power, justice, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, though they believe and shudder at the Lord, their "faith" is not "saving".
Watson also distinguishes saving faith from what he calls "historical or dogmatic faith". This is the faith one has who has always gone to church and has never really thought too deeply about its Creed. He believes in Christ, but only as an article of faith. He may affirm the "manhood" of Christ, but he obviously doesn't know the Man. This was the faith of the Pharisees. And not saving.
He also says that saving faith is not "A temporary faith, that lasts for a time, and then vanishes". In the parable of the sower, the Lord tells us that some men "receive the word with joy"-but only for a while. They give up the Lord Jesus either because of persecution or because they're too busy with other things. Again, their enthusiasm for Christ is real, but because it wears off, it's not a saving faith.
WHAT SAVING FAITH IS
Now that we know what saving faith is not, Watson goes on to tell us what it is,
"True, justifying faith consists of three things: self-
renunciation, reliance, and appropriation or
applying Christ to ourselves".
Let's look at each in turn. By "Self-renunciation", he means the true believer gives up all hope of saving himself. That he does it-not only in his words, but also in his heart. The Pharisees were full of "worm talk", that is, calling themselves worms, unworthy of God's favor, the chief of sinners, and so on. But although they said the right thing, they didn't mean it. They trusted God-in some extent-to save them. But they also trusted themselves-their fasting, their prayers, their alms, and so on. True faith-Watson says-does not do this, but,
"It goes out of one's self, being taken off of
our own merits, seeing we have no righteousness
of our own.The sinner sees nothing in himself
to help, but he must perish unless he can find
help in Another".
The second thing is reliance. Saving faith does more than believe in Christ-who He is and what He's done. It goes on to trust Him.
"The soul casts itself upon Jesus Christ;
faith rests on Christ's person. Faith
believes the promise, but what faith
rests upon is the Person of Christ".
On this point, let me tell you a little story that our friend, Tom Wells, told me. There was an old pastor who had a son. When the son was about ten years old, or thereabouts, he was saved. Many years later, he asked his father if one had to believe in The Virgin Birth of Christ to be saved. His father said he did. But the son replied,
"I was saved long before I knew what
a virgin was".
What's the point? It's this: Faith includes believing the right things about Christ, but ultimately, it is trusting Christ.
The third thing Watson says about saving faith is that it includes appropriating or applying Christ to ourselves". This is not the clearest thing he ever said, so let me quote him for an explanation,
"A medicine, be it ever so powerful, if not applied
will do no good. The blood of Christ, without
faith in Christ will do no good.Faith is called
receiving Him. It is a hand receiving gold".
I'm not sure that clears it up either. Here's what he means: Faith includes an act of the will, a choosing, if you like-or even the word we Calvinists shy away from-a decision. We hear the Gospel offer of mercy and we say to ourselves (by the Spirit's work in our souls), "Yes, I'll take it".
Saving faith, therefore, is giving up any hope but Christ and relying on Him alone for salvation.
WHERE FAITH COMES FROM
From here, the Puritan goes on to tell us where faith comes from.
"Faith is wrought by the Blessed Spirit who is called
`The Spirit of Grace' because He is the spring of
all grace. Faith is the chief thing which the Spirit
of God works in a man's heart. He gives light to the
mind and subdues the will. The will is like a fortress,
which holds out against God: The Spirit, with sweet
violence conquers, or rather changes it; making the
sinner willing to have Christ on any terms; to be ruled
by Him as well as saved by Him".
I don't have to add much to this, do I? Saving faith is a work of man in the sense that men believe. But behind our belief, there is a Power and Grace that is more than human. The Lord doesn't believe for us, but He enables us to believe, and to do it freely of our own consent. In short, the source of saving faith is God. And that's exactly what the Bible says,
"For by grace are you saved, through faith,
and that not of yourself, it is the gift
of God, not of works, lest any man should boast".
HOW FAITH JUSTIFIES
Now that we know what faith is and where it comes from, Watson goes on to tell us why faith alone justifies, and other things don't, including love, hope, good works, humility, prayer, Bible reading, sorrow for sin or anything else we could name.
He uses the Puritan style, starting with "the negative".
"Faith does not justify as a work".
This means that faith is not a super-work. It's not "the one work" God requires of us to be acceptable to Him.
"Faith does not justify as it exercises grace".
This means that, although, faith stirs up every grace in the soul (love, hope, peace, longsuffering, etc.), it doesn't justify us by making us holy.
Faith is not better than hope, love, humility, courage, or zeal. No, it justifies-and they don't-for one simple reason,
"Faith justifies as it lays hold on it's object,
the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not because
of any inherent value in faith, but as
it lays hold on Christ".
Faith does not justify in itself. But faith justifies only because it receives Christ. Francis Schaeffer had it right when he spoke of
"The empty hands of faith".
Empty hands are good for one thing only: taking what is offered to them. That's why faith alone justifies-not because it's better than other things-but because it simply takes Christ.
THE EVIDENCE OF FAITH
If you cannot be saved without faith, then it behooves you to know whether you've got it or not. That is Watson's next sub-heading. He asks,
"How, then, shall we know a true faith?"
He gives five signs of true faith in the soul. Here they are,
"Faith is a Christ-prizing grace, it puts a high
value upon Christ, `To you who believe, He
Do you prize the Lord Jesus Christ above everything else? There are other things to love, but is Christ Number One? Clearly, unmistakably First on your list of Loved Ones? If you're eager to please others-but not Him-He is not. If you enjoy thinking about other things-good things, I mean-more than thinking about Him, He is not. If you believe in Christ, you esteem Him very highly. He is, to the believer,
"The fairest among ten thousands".
"Faith is a refining grace. Morality may washFa
the outside, faith washes the inside. Examine if
your hearts be an unclean fountain, sending out
the mud and dirt of pride and envy. If there be
legions of lusts in your soul, there is no faith".
This is sobering, isn't it? Faith does not perfect the believer, but it does change him. He isn't what he ought to be and what he will be, but he's also not what he used to be. The desires that once ruled him, no longer do. They're not wiped out completely, of course, but they are somewhat subdued. Faith, the Apostle said,
"purifies the heart".
Has your heart been "purified". Not perfected, but purified? If it has-even to some degree-then your faith is real and your salvation is sure.
"Faith is ;.
Faith produces obedience to Christ. To say we believe in Him while willfully and constantly disobeying Him is nonsense. James could not be clearer,
"You have faith and I have works;
show me your faith without your works,
and I will show you my faith by my works".
Works do not justify-only faith does that. But faith also works. By it's very nature. It's not that faith is part trusting Christ and part doing good-no that's not it at all! But trusting Christ leads to doing good. And, where there is no good, there is no trust.
"Faith is an assimilating grace. It changes the
soul into the image of Christ".
Of course it does. How can you meditate on Christ and not become more like Him?
"Faith grows. All living things grow".
This speaks for itself. A dead child will never grow into adulthood. But a living child will. Is your faith growing? Maybe it's retarded by laziness or cowardice or some other sin, but still, it grows. Or does it? A non-growing faith (over a period of time) is no faith at all.
HOW YOU KNOW YOUR FAITH IS GROWING
The growth of your faith is not as obvious as it may seem to be. Some people merely grow in ego-thinking their faith is growing, while in fact, they've got no faith at all. Others confuse faith with knowledge, as though "learning more things about Christ" is the same as growing in grace.
Watson says you can judge the growth of your faith in two ways: it's strength and it's sweetness.
"Growth of faith is judged by strength. We can do more
now than we could before. When one is grown up, he
can do that which he could not do when he was a child;
he can carry a heavier burden; so you can bear crosses
with more patience".
This is a very sharp observation! As the body grows, it can lift and carry heavier things. In the same way, as faith grows, it doesn't become quicker to condemn or reject others, but it becomes slower to speak and slower to wrath. Is your patience growing? Are you suffering fools longer now than you used to? If so-Watson says-your faith is growing.
"Growth in faith is seen by doing duties in a more
spiritual manner and with more fervency. When
an apple is fully grown it grows in sweetness.
So you perform duties in love and are
"Sweeter"! What a perfect choice of words! When the believer's faith is growing, his love for doing God's will is also growing.
A PARTING WORD TO THE FEARFUL
Watson closes the chapter by addressing people who believe in Christ, but feel their faith is weak. Does anyone here feel this way? I do. And I feel guilty about it. But there's good news for people who truly believe, but not as strongly as they ought to. Watson says,
"A weak faith receives a strong Christ.
and the promise is not made to strong
faith, but true".
That's encouraging, isn't it? We are not saved by the strength of our faith, but by the strength of our Savior! And the least faith-though it ought to be stronger-is acceptable to God.
"A weak believer is a member of Christ; and though
Christ will cut off rotten members from His body,
He will not cut off weak members".
If what Watson says is true-and it is-then
We can thank the Lord for our faith-because it is not "our faith" at all, but His gift!
We can be assured of His favor. If faith-all by itself-makes us acceptable to Him, then we are acceptable to Him, even though we leave many things undone and do many things we ought not to do.
We can grow in faith. If nothing pleases the Lord more than faith, then we ought to increase our faith. We do that in the usual ways: by reading the Bible, by praying, and by practicing!
"Lord, I believe;
help Thou mine unbelief".
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