There are three words in the Old Testament, three Hebrew words that can be translated “deliverance.” A synonym might be “rescue” or “escape.” But basically, these three words mean “to deliver.” And one of those words, yasha, is used three hundred and fifty-three times in the Old Testament. So it’s a very common word. And always in the Old Testament those three words refer to God delivering His people, God rescuing His people, God allowing His people by His power to escape threats or danger.
When you come into the New Testament there are two words, sōzō and rhuomai. They’re used about a hundred and thirty times, and they mean the same thing, “to deliver,” “to rescue,” or as we often translate them, “to save.”
But the Old Testament words are frequently translated with the word “deliverance.” For example, Psalm 68:20 says, “God is to us a God of deliverance.” Psalm 40, verse 17 says, “You are my help and my deliverer.” Salvation is a work of deliverance. It is the dramatic rescue of the sinner from all dangers: all ultimate, final, and eternal dangers; all that threatens eternal destruction.
In Romans chapter 11 and verse 26, Paul writes concerning the Messiah, the Savior, and he says this: “The Deliverer will come from Zion, and He will remove ungodliness and take away their sins.” And he’s actually quoting Isaiah 59.
Deliverance may not feel like a familiar word in Christianity – which makes me grateful that we sang it – but it is maybe the best word, maybe the most comprehensive and the most clarifying word to explain God’s gracious work in our lives. And maybe we can put it back in the Christian vocabulary, start talking about the fact that we have been delivered. But from what have we been delivered? That’s the important question that I want to address tonight.
The doctrine of deliverance is clearly unfolded for us in Scripture. Let me show you just a few samples of it. Turn to Romans chapter 6. And we’re going to do a lot with the Bible, so hang on to yours. This is going to be less like a sermon and more like a sort of group Bible study here.
But in Romans chapter 6, verse 17, we read, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered, having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I’m speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you now are ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”
You have been delivered from sin, unrighteousness, ungodliness, and death, into righteousness, godliness, sanctification, and eternal life. That is a significant deliverance.
And what delivered you? Go back to verse 17: “That form of teaching,” Doctrine delivered you. That system of doctrine. You could say systematic theology delivered you. How important is doctrine? You were delivered from sin and ungodliness and unrighteousness and death by doctrine.
Turn from there to Colossians chapter 1. Colossians chapter 1 and verse 12, familiar: “Giving thanks to God the Father,” – verse 12 – “who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” And here comes a form of that word again, “For He delivered us,” – it’s translated “rescued,” it’s the same word – “He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” So we have been delivered from sin and all that it involves. “And we have been delivered from the domain of darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son, where we have been given redemption and forgiveness of sins.” What God did in your life is a massive act of deliverance, a rescue operation. You were delivered.
But here’s what I want you to focus on. When it says in Colossians 1 that you were delivered from darkness and you became one of the saints in light, the imagery there is that you were delivered from the darkness of error into the light of truth; and the truth is in the Son of His love. You were delivered into the kingdom of the Son of His love, which is the kingdom of truth. That’s what I want to focus on. Salvation is an act by which God delivers you from error to truth.
Another passage that I just want you to look at for a moment – and I made reference to it a few moments ago – is 2 Corinthians chapter 10, 2 Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 3 through 5. “Though we walk in the flesh,” – and he’s not talking about carnality in the sense of sin. He’s simply saying, “We’re human,” in this context. “We are human.”
Paul is not admitting to being carnal, he’s simply saying, “We’re human, but we do not war with human weapons.” In other words, “We’re in a spiritual battle as believers. We don’t war with human weapons, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh,” – they’re not human; it’s not human ingenuity, human insight, human wisdom, human intuition – “but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”
We are engaged as believers in a war. It is a war against massive fortresses, massive fortresses. The word “fortress” means “a fortress,” “a prison,” “a tomb,” “great stone buildings.” This is a formidable enemy.
What exactly do the fortresses represent? The next verse. Verse 4 says, “The destruction of fortresses,” – verse 5 says – “destroying logismos.” We’re attacking ideas. Logismos means “ideas.” The word logos is there, which means “word.” Ideologies, theories, viewpoints, psychologies, philosophies, religions; any complex of ideas.
We then who have been delivered from error to truth are engaged in a war for the truth, and that war is to destroy all ideas. And what qualifies those ideas? Keep looking at verse 5, “every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” Any ungodly idea. Any ungodly idea. I mean this is what the Christian ministry is all about. This is what evangelism is all about. This is what missionary work is all about. It’s about smashing damning ideologies and crushing them under the weight of the truth. Any ungodly idea.
The Christian life is about doctrine. You were saved by believing sound doctrine; you are now in a doctrinal war against every ungodly idea or notion. And your responsibility is to smash these ungodly ideas, end of verse 5, “and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
You were saved when you came to an understanding of sound doctrine and you believed it. You are sanctified when you grow in your understanding of sound doctrine, and live it. And you are an effective witness when you know how to refute error with sound doctrine; that’s what your Christian life is all about as long as you live in this world.
Doctrine plays a role in absolutely everything. We’re begotten again by the word of truth, Peter says. Jesus said in John 17, “We’re sanctified by Your word; Your word is truth.” We evangelize with the Word; it is our only weapon.
Paul says in 1 Timothy 2 that salvation is coming to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4. Salvation is coming to the knowledge of the truth. That is so basic, so foundational. That’s how you are saved, by coming to the knowledge of the truth. So truth then becomes the entrance, a means of growth, and the very calling of your life as long as you live in the world. To know the truth is essentially to be able to believe savingly.
Paul says to the Romans, “How will they hear without a” – what? – “preacher?” And faith comes by hearing the word concerning Jesus Christ, to hear and understand and believe.
We are of all things the people of the truth. We are doctrinal people. We believe, for example, that the Scripture is true and the Scripture alone gives the true way of salvation. We believe that man is a helpless sinner cursed by God, headed for eternal hell. We believe that Jesus Christ is the second member of the Triune God come in the flesh, virgin-born, lives a holy life as the God-man, dies a substitutionary death, rises from the dead, ascends back to heaven, intercedes for us now, and will come again to establish His kingdom, and then finally reign over His people forever and ever in the new heaven and the new earth.
We believe that Jesus Christ lived a perfect and holy life, spoke the true words of God and nothing else. We believe that He did real miracles in the physical world, demonstrated full power over demons and angels. We believe these things because they’re in the Bible. We believe savingly that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as Scripture alone says. And we believe that salvation comes when the righteousness of God is imputed to us by faith in Jesus Christ and not any other way. These are all doctrinal truths. Those who have come to understand those truths and believe those truths and embrace those truths have been delivered. They have been delivered.
The language of deliverance, not necessarily using this specific word, is familiar language in the New Testament, and it attaches itself to the things that are true that we believe. Listen to 1 John 3:23. “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” Chapter 4, verse 15: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” Chapter 5, verse 1: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” And again, an accurate Christology, the true doctrine of Christ, the full doctrine of Christ is to be believed for salvation. Little wonder, of course, that Satan attacks the true doctrine of Christ as well as the authority of Scripture.
Jonathan Edwards writing in The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God wrote this: “Scripture refers to the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. These words exhibit the two opposite characters of the Spirit of God and other spirits that counterfeit His operations. For instance, the true Spirit makes people more aware than they used to be, that there is a God and that He is great and a sin-hating God. The true Spirit impresses people that life is short and very uncertain, and that there is another world. He shows them that they have immortal souls and must give account of themselves to God. They are exceedingly sinful by nature and practice, they are helpless in themselves.
“The true Spirit confirms people and things that are agreeable to sound doctrine. The Spirit who works thus operates as the spirit of truth,” as the Lord, by the way, calls Him in the upper-room discourse. “He represents things as they truly are, He brings men to the light; for whatever makes truth manifests His light, as the apostle Paul observed. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is the light that makes everything visible.
“The devil’s kingdom, on the other hand,” – says Edwards – “is a kingdom of darkness. His kingdom is upheld and promoted only by darkness and error. Satan has all his power and dominion by darkness; thus we read of the power of darkness. And devils are called the rulers of the darkness of this world. Whatever spirit removes our darkness and brings us to the light undeceives us. The spirit who convinces us of the truth does us a kindness. If I am brought to a side of truth and am made aware of things as they really are, my duty is immediately to thank God for it without standing first to inquire by what means I have such a benefit.” What a statement.
“But the heart of that truth,” – Edwards says – “when the operation raises people’s esteem of Jesus is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God.” The work of the Spirit of God confirms and establishes people’s minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us about Jesus.
Now I want to show you this in a text, 2 Corinthians, back to chapter 4 for a minute. You could spend an awful lot of time in this text, 2 Corinthians 4. But I just want to draw some what I think will be helpful thoughts from it.
Paul is committed to ministry. He’s committed to the proclamation of the truth. He does not, verse 2, adulterate the word of God; he proclaims it faithfully. And he says this at the end of verse 2: “not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” That is a stunning statement.
“When you preach the truth, you are commending yourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God? How is that so?” God has built into every human being a mechanism called conscience. He has also given to every human being a law written in the heart. Romans 2 says that, right? “The law of God is written in every human heart.”
So when you proclaim the truth, it reaches the law of God written in the heart. That is the only beachhead that you have into the unregenerate soul, the law of God written in the heart. That’s why it’s so important to preach the law. That’s why it’s so important to preach condemnation. That’s why it’s so important to make the sinner feel guilty and feel under judgment, and terrify the sinner. That’s all you have to appeal to is the law in the heart. And when the law in the heart is literally connected to the truth in the Scripture, the conscience goes into action and accuses the unbeliever.
Even so, verse 3 says, “If the gospel is veiled at that point, it’s veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they might not see” – listen to this – “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
Now let me stop there and just say this: the gospel is about Jesus Christ, and the gospel has light in itself. Did you get that? The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.
When you preach the gospel to an unbeliever, when you preach the law and then the gospel, when you strike his conscience with the law and then you preach the gospel, the gospel has its own light. That is to say there is a glory in Scripture. There’s a glory, of course, in God; there’s a glory in Christ. But there is a glory in Scripture. Scripture has its own glory. The gospel has its own glory.
How do people come to salvation? Not because you use some external, rational argument. But because you expose them to the person of Christ in the gospel of Christ in the very light of divine revelation. You don’t make excuses for the Bible; you don’t avoid the Bible; you don’t try another approach. The gospel itself is light. It has its own blazing glory.
So Paul says, “We don’t preach ourselves. We don’t come up with clever ideas. We preach Christ Jesus as Lord. And we’re nothing but slaves for His sake, because we know this: the same God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness and created light,’ is the same God who shines in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
How do sinners see the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ? They see it in the light of the gospel in Scripture. Gospel has its own light by the power of God, the grace of God, sovereign working of God.
Those of us who have been converted were struck by the law, conscience activated, the Spirit prompted us to repent because we were convicted of sin and righteousness and judgment; and the Spirit opened our blind eyes, stripped off the blinding of Satan, and we saw the light of the gospel of the glory of God shining in the face of Christ. Truth is everything. Sound doctrine is absolutely everything.
All of us who call ourselves Christians then should agree that there is a body of doctrine that is nonnegotiable. The articles of faith that make up this body of truth are the very essence of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. These are the real fundamentals of the faith. We talk about the fundamentals of the faith, let me see if I can just kind of lead you through an understanding of them.
They are doctrines. What I’m going to give you are doctrines, listen, so indispensable, so absolutely required that you must break fellowship with anyone who denies these doctrines. Did you hear that? You cannot engage in any kind of cooperative religious activity with someone who denies these doctrines.
Why is that so? Listen again to Scripture. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? What fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony has Christ with Belial? What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Come out from their midst, be separate; do not touch what is unclean.”
These are the fundamentals of the faith which must be believed to be saved, and these are the fundamentals of the faith that determine the alliances we can have as believers. Nothing is more clear from Scripture than the teaching that a boundary exists between true and false doctrine.
Paul said this in Galatians 1:8 and 9, “Even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached, let him be damned! As we have said before, so I say again; if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be damned!” And John writes, 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
And John says in 2 John, “Anyone who goes beyond does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” If your Christology is wrong, you’re not a believer. “And if anyone comes to you and doesn’t bring the true teaching about Christ, do not receive him into your house, do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
Listen, doctrine is so critical, you can’t be saved without it; and it defines who you can cooperate with in any endeavor that’s supposedly on behalf of God. These verses command us to keep spiritually separate from those who corrupt the essential truths of the gospel, who tamper with the glory of the gospel of Christ. Not only that, they attach the guilt of the false teacher’s evil deeds to the one who fails to distinguish between truth and error. That is stern language, stern language.
The apostle, writing under divine inspiration, pronounces, as we read, a severe curse: damnation on those who preach a corrupt gospel. He condemns false teachers and their bogus, religious systems. He places false Christianity in a category with the heinous sins imaginable. And then he warns us to never make alliances with people who are in that kind of error.
So what are those fundamentals that we have to believe that define sound doctrine and that determine our relationships? I’m going to give them to you, at least the ones that I believe are important – and I think you’ll see that.
First of all, if a doctrine is truly fundamental it must have its origin in Scripture, it must have its origin in Scripture. It cannot have its origin in tradition. It cannot have its origin in a vision. It cannot have its origin in a prophecy. It cannot have its origin in any mystical experience. It cannot have its origin in intuition. If a doctrine is truly fundamental, if it is a sound doctrine, it must have its origin in Scripture. It can’t have its origin in a papal decree or the magisterium, or a church council. It must have its origin in Scripture. So we say we must be relentlessly biblical.
It is Scripture that is able to make you wise unto salvation, 2 Timothy 3:15. The written Word of God therefore contains all true doctrine, consequently all fundamental and essential doctrine to make us complete, equipped for every good work. If there were necessary doctrines not in Scripture, then 2 Timothy 3:15 would be a lie. They’re all in Scripture, and only in Scripture.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 19, verse 7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, complete, converting the soul.” That means Scripture is sufficient. It is sufficient.
Now the Reformers knew this, and that is why the foundational sola of all solas was sola Scriptura, Latin for “Scripture alone.” And you can understand what a huge change that was in the Catholic world. Roman Catholic Church commonly pronounced damnation on people who held to sola Scriptura. They damned anyone who questioned the pope, the dogma of the church. For example, Canon 1 of the Seventh Session of the Council of Trent pronounces anathema, damnation on anyone who says that there are more or less than seven sacraments established by the church council.
So a few said, “I think there are eight. I think there are six.” Council of Trent damned you to everlasting hell for tampering with something the church came up with. Never mind that the sacraments among the seven of confirmation, penance, and extreme unction don’t even exist in Scripture. So you’d be damned for denying something that isn’t in the Bible to start with.
The canons and decrees of the Council of Trent are loaded with similar anathemas, making all the Council’s dictums fundamental doctrines. In Turretin’s words, “They are impudent enough often to declare as fundamental their own hay and stubble and whatever the Romish church says.” That’s where the conflict was in the Reformation.
According to the Bible, there is no spiritual authority outside the sacred writings of Scripture that gives us the wisdom that leads to salvation. No papal decree, no oral tradition, no latter day prophecy, no experience, nothing. So for something to be fundamental, it has its origin in Scripture, as all true doctrine does. Secondly, if a doctrine is to be regarded as fundamental it must be clearly set forth in Scripture, it must be clearly set forth.
Remember as a kid reading The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. That bothered me. Why is it a secret? Did this lady discover it? Was God holding this back? There are no secrets.
We often talk about the key to unlocking some truth in the Bible; there’s no key, because nothing’s locked. No secret knowledge, no hidden truth formula can ever qualify as a fundamental article of faith. There is no key to unlock any teaching in the Bible.
The truth of God is not aimed at learned intellectuals; it is simple enough for a child. Jesus said in Matthew 11 that He hid these things, God did, from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them unto babes. He’s talking about the apostles who were just lowly fishermen for the most part, about seven of them maybe, men who worked with their hands.
The Word of God is not a puzzle. The Word of God doesn’t have riddles. It’s not cryptic, it’s not mysterious, it’s not allegorical; it is plain and obvious. And I’ve taught on that a lot through the years trying to help people understand that it’s perspicuous. There’s a word you can use, which means “clear.” It’s clear.
How many times did Jesus say to the Jews, “Have you not read? Have you not read? Why don’t you read the Old Testament; it’s not hidden. Just read it; it speaks of Me.”
The point is not that every fundamental article of faith has to be supported with an explicit proof text. The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, is essential to true Christianity, and it is absolutely true, and it is very clearly revealed in Scripture; but you don’t find a comprehensive statement of the Trinity from any single passage of Scripture. Trinity’s pretty clear, especially at the baptism of Christ, where you have Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father all at the same time, which does a death blow to Sabellianism and Manichaeism and those heresies that had God once in awhile being the Father, then jumping over, putting His Son suit on, and then becoming the Holy Spirit.
Third thing, a doctrine to be fundamental must be regarded as related to eternal life, to eternal life. When we talk about what you must believe, you might not need to believe a certain eschatology. You might not, you know, need to believe a certain view of baptism or church order. You might waffle a little bit on an interpretation of a portion of Scripture. But fundamental doctrines must be believed, and fundamental doctrines are not only from Scripture clearly presented, but they relate to eternal life, anything that connects to eternal life. Therefore, anything in the flow of biblical soteriology.
Scripture is full of statements that identify the terms of salvation and the marks of genuine faith. Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God. For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.” You have to believe certain things about God, about Christ, and about salvation. It’s essential. Elsewhere we are told that eternal life comes through the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ – stated a couple of times in the book of John, even in the book of Acts.
You must believe in God as a Trinity; you must believe in Jesus as God, His deity. Our Lord Himself said, “You either honor the Father and the Son, or you don’t honor either of them.”
The bodily resurrection of Christ is a fundamental doctrine, because salvation depends on it. If you want to be saved, what does Scripture say? “If you believe in your heart that God” – what? – “raised Him from the dead, you’ll be saved.” That gets left out of a lot of things.
The entire book on The Purpose Driven Life never mentioned the resurrection. Millions of people read that book; it doesn’t have anything about the resurrection in it. You can’t be saved if you don’t believe in the resurrection.
The Bible says that justification is by faith; that’s a fundamental doctrine as well. Listen to Romans 4: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who doesn’t work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” That is a shocking statement to the legalism world. God doesn’t justify the godly, God justifies the ungodly.
How can you justify the ungodly? By imputing righteousness to them that isn’t their own. In other words, those who seek acceptance before God on the ground of their own righteousness will fall short. Only those who trust God to receive the imputed righteousness that He grants through Christ can be saved. This is precisely the very opposite of the doctrine of salvation in the Roman Catholic system.
It is at the heart of what is fundamental. So what is fundamental is biblical, clearly biblical, and related to salvation; and that puts you in the drivetrain of truth: a triune God; an incarnate God-man who is the Savior, lives a sinless life, therefore is the perfect substitute; dies a substitutionary sacrificial death, rises from the dead, ascends to heaven, is given the right hand of the Father as a reward for His accomplishment of salvation, with which God is fully pleased, and waits to return to establish His kingdom.
You have to understand justification. Romans 10 says about the Jews, “They do not know about God’s righteousness, so they seek to establish their own.” Anybody trying to get to heaven by his own merit, by a religious system, by good works, morality is going straight to hell.
That was the Reformation battle. That’s what Luther discovered when he discovered the just shall live by what? By faith. The whole system began to crumble. Romans 10:4, what the Jews didn’t know was that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Christ comes along, the law is set aside, and Christ becomes the end of trying to reach God through the law for all who believe.
All of these doctrines, biblical doctrines clearly revealed in Scripture that relate to salvation, constitute the fundamentals that must be believed. Does this relate to your life? It does, because you can’t even enter into eternal life, into the life of God unless you believe these things. And then as you walk in these doctrines and as you grow in the knowledge of these doctrines, and as you learn more and more about these things, the expansive exposure to the truth of these doctrines throughout your Christian life is what the Spirit of God uses to sanctify you.
Now every doctrine, men are forbidden to deny, is also essential. “What do you mean by that?” Well, there are people who – I’ll give you an illustration.
There are people who deny sin. Listen to 1 John. “If we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Down in verse 8: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” It’s not only what you affirm, it’s what you deny. If you deny your sinfulness, that could get us into a big discussion.
There are people who think that as a believer they can reach a point of sinless perfection. If you deny your sin, the truth is not you. You not only need a sound doctrine of Scripture and a sound doctrine of God and a sound doctrine of Christ and a sound doctrine of salvation, but you need a sound doctrine of sin in order to understand your own reality.
Another sort of negative approach. People ask me, you know, “What is sort of the basic thing that for you identifies a Christian?” It’s foundational. “When you look at somebody, what are you looking for when you know someone? What are you looking for?”
A verse that’s haunted me since I was very young is 1 Corinthians 16:22. It says this – this is fundamental: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be damned.” Wow. Is that simple enough? If you don’t love the Lord, damned.
What marks a Christian? Loving the Lord. What did Jesus say in John 13:34 and 35? “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples: not only do you love Him, but you love each other.” So this is something that you cannot deny. You can’t deny your sinfulness, and you can’t somehow believe you’re a Christian while refusing to love Christ.
I just don’t think the Christian life is a complicated thing, I think it’s just all bound up in loving Christ. That means you love everything that’s revealed about Him. Certainly you believe everything, from the virgin birth to the resurrection. You don’t want to twist and distort anything, because 2 Peter 3:16 says if you twist and distort anything, you bring on yourself destruction. So you don’t want to tamper with Scripture. So when you think about what fundamental doctrines are, they are those positive ones we talked about. And just a couple of samples of what you can’t deny, and that is you can’t deny your sin, and you cannot deny the need to love Christ, to love Christ.
Christ believed in sola Scriptura, didn’t He? “Man shall live not by bread alone, but by what” – what? – “every word that comes out of the mouth of God,” Matthew 4:4. Then in 5:18, He says, “There’s not going to be one jot or one tittle that will ever be removed from the Law until its all fulfilled,” down to the little points, the little vowel points in the original.
He believed in justification by faith before Paul. Remember Luke 18, the Pharisee and the publican? The Pharisee is saying, “I thank God that I’m not like other men like this terrible publican over here. I fast and I tithe.” He’s offering God his commendable life.
And the publican is on the ground, won’t look up, pounds on his chest, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” crying out for mercy and a righteousness he knew he didn’t have. And Jesus said, “That man went home justified.” That was justification by faith, not by works. That man went home justified rather than the other.
Jesus affirmed justification by faith. Jesus, of course, affirmed His own nature, and the nature of God, and the nature of the Holy Spirit. So just follow Christ and follow His pattern. He’s our model and He’s our example.
True doctrine is absolutely everything. It becomes not only your entrance into the kingdom, not only defining your life in the kingdom, but it becomes your protection, because doctrine understood begins to build your convictions, and your convictions become your protection. If you have very few convictions you are very vulnerable. The more sound doctrine you know – which is to say the more you know and understand about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Scripture – the more you embrace those things, take ownership of those things, make them your own; the stronger your convictions become; the more you move from being a spiritual child, 1 John 2, to being a spiritual young man who has overcome the Wicked One, 1 John 2:12 to 14.
John says, “I write unto you, little children, because you know Him who’s – you know the Father,” he says. It’s spiritual da-da. That’s a spiritual baby. “You know God.” Simple. “But spiritual children can be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine,” Paul says to the Ephesians.
So, he says, “I then write unto, young men, because the Word of God abides in you, and you’re strong, and you’ve overcome the Wicked One.” So the victory in your spiritual life and your Christian life is through the Word of God and knowledge of the Word.
Just on a personal note, I was mentioning this earlier, but I had the opportunity to write something for a book, and just did a little kind of inventory on my life going back to my youth and thinking about the things that I’d been exposed to. I grew up in a kind of Christianity where basically you had two levels. This is kind of the traditional Christianity of my childhood. You were saved, and then you were sort of just stuck. You were saved, you were on your way to heaven. Not much might show up in your life until you became surrendered.
Every sermon was ended with a call for some people to be saved and other people to surrender, consecrate, rededicate, reconsecrate. There was a sort of second level. There was level one: you were a Christian, but you needed to go to level two, because at level two you actually began to love Christ, and you began to obey the Word of God, and began to grow. I always try to figure out, “How do I get to level two?”
I did a week’s conference early in my ministry at a Bible college in the Midwest, and there was another speaker in the morning who believed that very strongly and was advocating it all week long while I was trying to advocate the opposite, back-to-back sessions. And he actually told the students, it’s on tape, “Don’t even worry about that second level. Wait till you’re, you know, in your thirties or something. Enjoy life before you have to make that kind of commitment.”
When I was very young I couldn’t figure out how to get to the second level. I’d go to camp and they’d tell me, you know, “You need to rededicate your life. Take a stick and throw it in the fire, and that’ll do it.”
And I went to camp one year, and we were all in a line throwing our stick in the fire hoping this would catapult us into level two. And the kid in front of me took off his watch and threw it in the fire, and then he said, “I want to give all my time to God.”
So I was sort of spinning my wheels, waiting for some mystical door to open to catapult me into spirituality. Even got involved with Campus Crusade. And they had one little booklet you got saved and became a carnal Christian by, and then you read the second book and you became a spiritual Christian. In the first one Christ wasn’t Lord, He was just Savior, and He didn’t become Lord until you popped up into level two.
But I could never figure out how to get to level two. So I never saw the Word as the means of my sanctification, I was always waiting for an experience. It never ever happened.
And then the Word got ahold of me in seminary. It just absolutely put a death grip on my mind and my heart, and I couldn’t get enough of it. And I put away those childish things and realized that the Word is what sanctifies us. Jesus prayed in John 17, “Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy word is truth.”
You know, it’s absolutely everything. It’s absolutely everything.
Father, we thank You for giving us the opportunity tonight to think about these things. And there’s so much more to be said than what I’ve said. And yet I just pray, Lord, that in Your grace and by Your Holy Spirit You will press into the hearts of the folks here all these things that come from Your precious Word. We’re a people of the truth. Our life is the truth. We’re saved by the truth, sanctified by the truth, strengthened by the truth, purified by the truth. We’re part of the fellowship of the truth. We proclaim the truth. And we want by gazing at the truth to be moved by the Holy Spirit from level of glory to the next, ever-increasingly conformed to the one who is Himself the truth, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Work that work in us, Lord, for Your glory we pray. Amen.