Blog Entry

Sermon of the Week: No. 1239, "A Vindication of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith"

By Phillip Ort Oct 1, 2018

“This matter of justification by faith is the article by which a church must stand or fall.”


Charles Spurgeon treasured the doctrine of justification by faith. He believed that “It was the discovery that men are saved by faith in Jesus Christ which first stirred up Luther.” This doctrine was the “ray of light which fell upon [Luther’s] dark heart.” It was the “power” by which he “came into the liberty of the gospel.” However, in Spurgeon’s day the doctrine of justification by faith had come under attack.


Spurgeon noted that “a certain class of public writers” claimed “that it cannot really do any good to tell men that simply by believing in Jesus Christ they will be saved.” The charge was that such a doctrine would “certainly lead to the deterioration of the public morality.”


In response to this theological broadside Spurgeon steeled himself for conflict, saying, “We are all ready to set our seal to the clearest possible statement that men are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and saved the moment they believe.” Justification by faith was “the hammer by which popery was broken in the old time,” and it was not to be surrendered without a fight.


In first section of his sermon, Spurgeon asserted that “The reception of Jesus Christ by faith is, in itself, an avowal that we have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” For Spurgeon an essential component of faith was that “you regard yourself as dead with him – crucified with him.”


The faith which accepted Christ for salvation first had to admit that “I deserve to die.” Indeed, the very “marrow” of faith was this, “Christ for me, Christ in my room and stead.” Spurgeon acknowledged that God gives pardon, but insisted never “without giving repentance with it.”


In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon doubled down, saying, “As a matter of fact, the reception of Christ is attended with the crucifixion of sin.” He said from the moment he had accepted Christ that he felt “an intense hatred to sin of every kind.”


While Spurgeon had loved sin before, from that moment those sins became obnoxious. Yet, even while “the propensity to them was still there, yet the love of them was clean gone.” Thus, he was always on “patrol” for these “felons.” And when he found sin in his heart he “seized it” and “dragged it off to the judgment-seat.” In his heart he “scourged sin by repentance,” “smote it with rebukes,” and concluded “sin must die.”


In the third section of his sermon Spurgeon linked justification and sanctification by noting “The reception of Jesus Christ into the heart by simple faith is calculated to crucify the flesh.”


Here he noted that “the first point that helps him to crucify the flesh is that he has seen the evil of sin.” Sin had flooded the world with evil through “red-handed war,” “oppression,” “slavery,” “tyranny,” and “rebellion.” But still “God himself came down to earth…on an errand of love” to bring about “redemption.” And yet “sinful man could never rest until he had crucified his incarnate God.”


In this sin was shown not only to be evil, or wicked, but also a “deicide.” As Spurgeon said, “Every sinner, if he could would kill God.” But in the death of Christ the believer sees “an amazing instance of the great grace of God.” Looking to the crucified and risen Saviour Spurgeon could only exclaim, “Behold how he loved us!”


In the fourth section of his sermon Spurgeon concluded “The Holy Spirit is with the gospel, and where he is holiness must be promoted.” Indeed, wherever the gospel was earnestly preached “the Holy Ghost is there, taking of the things of Christ and revealing them unto men.”


Because of this Spurgeon could boldly claim that “faith is always linked with regeneration.” In short, “Wherever there is faith in Jesus Christ a miracle of purification has been wrought in the heart.” In Spurgeon’s view to “Deny this” was to “deny the testimony of the Scriptures.” And so the one solution for sin was to “Look to Jesus! Look and live!”


Why you should take up and read:


Charles Spurgeon was right in his belief that “justification by faith is the article by which a church must stand or fall.” Furthermore, he also knew that the free gift of salvation by belief in Jesus Christ, on the basis of his merit, did not lead to immorality. Rather, the redeemed lives of sinners would be “the grandest argument for the gospel. For a timely reflection on the doctrine of justification by faith let the reader take up and read.


Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:

Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.