John Wesley Condensed Sermon: Justification By Faith
The Condensed Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 5: Justification By Faith
John Wesley's Text on Justification By Faith
Scripture: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Romans 4:5.
INTRO TO THE SERMON:
The question of “How a sinner may be justified before God, the Lord and Judge of all” is a very important question, but a frequently misunderstood question.”
To help with this, let us consider:
I. The general ground of the whole doctrine of justification by faith.
1. Man was made holy in God’s image.
2. God gave a perfect law (of love) to man, which Adam could have obeyed.
3. God added one specific law (the tree) and a clear penalty.
4. “Man did disobey God…” with these consequences:
a. “And in that day he was condemned by the righteous judgment of God.”
b. “… the moment he tasted that fruit, he died. His soul died, was separated
c. “His body, likewise, became corruptible and mortal...”
d. “he hastened on to death everlasting; to the destruction both of body
and soul, in the fire never to be quenched”
e. These consequences applied equally to all men “as being contained in
him who was the common father and representative of us all.”
5. Though we were in this state, God sent Christ, “another common Head of mankind, a second general Parent and Representative of the whole human race. And as such it was that "he bore our griefs," "the Lord laying upon him the iniquities of us all."
6. This enables God to offer salvation “on one only condition, (which himself also enables us to perform,)” which will
a. “remit the punishment due to our sins,
b. reinstate us in his favour,
c. restore our dead souls to spiritual life,
d. as the earnest of life eternal.”
II. What does It mean to be justified?
1. What it is not:
a. it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is "sanctification;" which is…a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature.”
b. It is not “clearing us from accusation, particularly that of Satan”
c. It is “least of all,” “…that God is deceived in those whom he justifies; that he thinks them to be what, in fact, they are not; that he accounts them to be otherwise than they are.” For:
i. “The judgment of the all-wise God is always according to truth.”
ii. It would be inconsistent with “his unerring wisdom, to think that I am innocent, to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so.”
2. What it is to be justified by faith:
a. “The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins.”
b. It is that act of God the Father” to forgive, which implies:
i. God "will not impute sin" to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is to come.”
ii. “His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against him
iii. “God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him.”
iv. “[God] loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.
c. May also indicate “our justification… [at] the great day [of Judgement].”
III. “Who are they that are justified?” “…none but the ungodly.”
1. This is true because “…only sinners that have any occasion for pardon”
2. This is why it is wrong “that a man must be…holy, before he can be justified” or “that universal holiness or obedience must precede justification…” Whatever God’s conditions for justification, “it cannot be holiness. To assert this, is to say the Lamb of God takes away only those sins which were taken away before.”
3. Instead it is “sinners of every kind, of every degree: …all such as were evil and abominable” that are justified.
4. Objection” "Nay, but a man, before he is justified, may…[do] good works;"
a. Answer: He may do works that are “good and profitable to men." But it does not follow, that they are…good in the sight of God.
b. All truly "good works" (to use the words of our Church) "follow after justification;" and they are therefore good and "acceptable to God in Christ,"
c. Here is “why no works done before justification can be truly and properly good.”
* No works are good, which are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done.
* But no works done before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done:
* Therefore, no works done before justification are good.
IV. On what terms is an ungodly man justified? “On one alone; which is faith:”
1. What is justifying faith?
2. Justifying faith implies,
a. a divine evidence or conviction that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;"
b. a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for "my" sins, that he loved "me," and gave himself for "me."
3. Whenever “a sinner thus believes, be it in early childhood, in the strength of his years, or when he is old… God justifieth that ungodly one.”
4. Faith is distinct from repentance, which “God had given him before; but that repentance was neither more nor less than a deep sense of the [lack] of all good, and the presence of all evil.”
5. By affirming that this faith is the… "condition of justification," I mean,
a. There is no justification without it. "He that believeth not is condemned already;"
b. The very moment God giveth faith ….that "faith is counted to him for righteousness."
i. Not that God …thinketh him to be what he is not.” But that:
ii. God treated Christ “…as a sinner, punishing him for our sins; …he doth not punish us for our sins; yea, treats us as though we are guiltless and righteous.”
6. Why did God choose faith as the sole condition of justification?
a. Note that “It is not [appropriate] for us to call Him in question”
b. But one reason may be to "hide pride from man."
Sermon Invitation, with updated language:
“You ungodly one, who hears or reads these words! You vile, helpless, miserable sinner! I charge you before God, the Judge of all, go straight to Him, with all your ungodliness.
Take heed not to destroy your own soul by pleading your own righteousness…!
Instead, go to him as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and then you will find favor in his sight, and know that he justifies the ungodly…
"Look unto Jesus!" He is "the Lamb of God," who "takes away your sins!"
Let your plea be no works, no righteousness of your own! no humility, contrition, or sincerity! …No: Plead this alone: the blood of Jesus, the ransom paid for your proud, stubborn, sinful soul.
Who [is here], that sees and feels your inward and outward ungodliness? You are the man! I want you for my Lord! I challenge YOU to be a child of God by faith! The Lord has need of you. You that feel you are only fit for hell, are instead fit to advance his glory; the glory of his free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that cannot do good works of his own.
“O come quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God.”
For an overview of the life and influence of John Wesley, check out that link.
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For my own explanation of the Doctrine of Entire sanctification in modern language, check out The Pursuing Holiness curriculum at www.40daysofholiness.com.