For many people, when they go to Old Testament, they leave confused. The Old Testament seems to be a disjointed collection of stories and full of different kinds of literature that don’t seem to hang together. When seen through the lens of covenant theology, the Old Testament, is a cohesive presentation of God and his plan to save sinners through his promised Christ. Who is this God? What is he like? Can he be trusted? How will he save us? Jon and Justin discuss these questions and more in today’s episode.
Semper Reformanda: Jon and Justin consider how important types and shadows are in the Old Testament–and how an over-emphasis of a literal interpretation of the Old Testament is unhelpful.
Resources:Our series on covenant theology
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By Ref Cast — 4 months ago
In the church, we care for souls. But what is it that we are doing in that work? It is our conviction that we are helping one another die well–with dignity and hope. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but we are convinced it’s biblical. In this life, we are weak and frail. We experience suffering and pain. Yet, Christ is our hope. And he has secured for us a life that is beyond this one.
Semper Reformanda: The guys discuss a theology of the cross versus a theology of glory. And, we consider the point of our sanctification.
Episode: Take Up Your Cross
Giveaway: “Recovering Eden” by Zack Eswine
FREE EBOOK: Theocast.org/primer
Justin Perdue: Hi, this is Justin. Today on Theocast, we’re going to be talking about what we are trying to do in the church when we care for people’s souls. A lot of things are said about these things, but it’s our position here that really what we’re effectively doing is helping people die well—helping people die with dignity and with hope, and that hope being in the Lord Jesus Christ. A lot of the things that are said about sanctification, even growth in the Christian life, give us the wrong idea. So we want to try to define some terms and define things appropriately today, as well as think well about our weakness and our frailty in this life, and the hope that Christ has given us in the life that is to come ,and to think well together about the faithfulness of God in the midst of our suffering and pain. We hope that this conversation is encouraging for you.
And then over in the SR podcast today, we’re going to get into some theology of the cross and theology of glory conversations. We hope that you enjoy that conversation as well.
We’re going to be effectively talking today about the care of souls and what it is that we’re doing in caring for souls in the church. The title of the episode is Dying With Dignity, which really is borrowed from something that John said on a podcast a few months ago about what we’re doing in the church as we watch over and care for people, which is this: we are helping people die with dignity and hope, and effectively we’re helping people die well, trusting in the Lord Jesus, knowing that deliverance has been accepted for them and that our final deliverance is coming because of Christ. And so this is a conversation in some ways about suffering, in some ways about sanctification, and trying to talk about it in a way that’s honest that squares with our experience. Because a lot of times, at least this is my take and I know you agree, that the way that growth and sanctification and even healing—to use some of that therapeutic language—is talked about. I think it gives us the wrong idea of what it’s going to be like.
This conversation today is, we hope, a kind of a reset. And I personally think it’s encouraging. We do not mean in saying this, in anything we’re about to say, we do not mean to sound fatalistic as though life is gonna be terrible and Jesus is going to come back. That’s not what we’re saying. We’re trying to biblically take a balanced posture on what it is the Lord is doing in our lives and what we can expect this life to look like between now and when we die, or between now and when Christ returns.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. When we use the word dignity, one of the things that came to mind when I first started to give this theology to our church—I was trying to describe to our church. What are we doing every week? What are we trying to accomplish? I always want to be careful not to tear the churches down, but a lot of what I was seeing presented by other churches has given such a bad taste in my mouth, because if that’s the end goal—which is big buildings, big programs, big livestream…
Justin Perdue: Everything bigger and better and higher.
Jon Moffitt: This is pro
By Ref Cast — 4 months ago
Justin talks about the thing that has most impacted his preaching. Jon and Justin then discuss how important it is to see that every promise of Scripture finds its fulfillment in Jesus.
Episode: Is Christ-Centered Preaching Dangerous?
“The Mystery of Christ, His Covenant & His Kingdom” by Samuel Renihan
“Preaching Christ in All of Scripture” by Edmond Clowney
“The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament” by Edmond Clowney
Semper Reformanda Transcripts
Justin Perdue: Welcome to Semper Reformanda. Here we are talking with our people, and we want to continue the conversation about whether or not the whole Bible is really about Jesus—and obviously our conviction and our position is that yes, it absolutely is all about Jesus.
We talked about typology, we talked about Biblicism and some other things in the regular episode. We’re just gonna keep this going. I know Jon gave us a couple of things that he wants to discuss in terms of the fallout of not reading the Bible the way that we are advocating.
But before we even go there, I said something in the 32nd intermission between the end of the regular podcast and the start of us recording this one that Jon wanted me to say to everybody. For me, from my perspective, there is nothing more important for preaching than this understanding of the Scriptures. I think that this understanding of the Bible is more transformative for a pastor’s preaching than almost anything else. I know there are some other big theological categories that could be put alongside this in the conversation, but this legitimately Christ-centered, redemptive-historical hermeneutic is so critical to gospel preaching from the entire Bible.
I’m a part of various groups of pastors in various ways, and I see a lot of email correspondence flying around—and these are seminary graduates, some of them have PhDs—and I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus but these are educated guys that are aiming to do faithful gospel ministry in their local contexts. They are asking questions of other pastors like, “Hey, guys. I’m wanting to do a series through this book of the Bible, kind of do a fly over it. It’s an Old Testament book. Can somebody just help me figure out how to preach the gospel from this book? I want to do a gospel-centered fly over of this. Can anybody help me think about resources that I can look at?” Of course it’s always good to reach out for help, but it’s sad to me that so many guys come out of seminary and are in pulpits, they are highly educated and very bright people, but they’re legitimately asking questions like, “How do I preach Jesus from Genesis?” Or, “How do I preach Jesus from 1 Kings?”
Jon Moffitt: I think the reason they ask that too is because what they think we mean is, “So here’s the exodus and here’s the data of what happened. Now I need to preach an altar call Jesus of repent and believe.”
Justin Perdue: Or the plan of salvation or something.
Jon Moffitt: Right. And there are even weird connections. I’ve seen people try to preach Jesus from the Old Testament—I’ve never heard this, I made this up—but, “As the children trusted the Lord and walked across the water, we need to trust the Lord and walk across the aisle and give our lives and dedication to the Father.” That’s a bad illustration, but people will do that. They make connections.
Justin Perdue: Or they’ll say, “Even if you’re afraid, you need to trust God and His promises,” which is true but there are a lot of better ways to preach it, like if we’re talking about the exodus.
Jon Moffitt: Again, this has to do with when you go to preach a redemptive-historical understanding of Scripture. This is why I think 2 Corinthians 1:20 is so important, because as I mentioned in the podcast, all the
By Ref Cast — 3 months ago
Here’s a controversial statement: Faith never saved anybody. While that may sound shocking to many Christians, it’s true. Faith doesn’t save sinners; Jesus does. Faith is simply the means through which the merit and work of Christ are applied to us. Jon and Justin talk about the confusion that exists in the church today and how we tend to place our faith in things that don’t save.
Semper Reformanda: Jon and Justin encourage the listener who has struggled with assurance and who is now being told he/she is an antinomian or a hyper-grace advocate. The guys also talk obedience under the sufficiency of Christ.
Our podcast on “Dying with Dignity”
Justin’s sermon on Genesis 12:10-14:24
Book Giveaway: “Putting Amazing Back into Grace” by Michael Horton
Jon Moffitt: Hi, this is Jon. Today on Theocast, here’s our topic: Faith Never Saved Anyone. I know it sounds controversial and it actually is. Justin and I are going to do our best to show you from a biblical and historical perspective what actually saves you—and it’s not your faith. Stay tuned.
At times we like to pick very punchy topics, but this one is a very significant and very important topic because of how much it impacts people’s day-to-day life, their choices of churches, and how they interact with Christ. We’re going to talk about the three different ways faith has been used within the history of evangelicalism and even within Scripture, and then present for you the biblical and historically Reformed perspective as it relates to our faith.
We’re going to start with examining how, in the last 300 years more prevalently, it has influenced the United States, and now broadly, even the world, that we put our faith into our faith—the idea that we have belief in something that gives us the confidence and the assurety that God is good with me, that I can be justified, and that at the end of my life all will be fine because I have faith.
So, Justin, why is it a problem theologically and biblically to say that my faith is what saves me?
Justin Perdue: The thing that we’re really answering today is if somebody were to ask you how you know that you’re saved, how you know you’ll be finally saved, how you know that you’ll make it to heaven, or however you want to frame that question. That’s essentially what we’re trying to wrestle with today. You just highlighted one of the answers that’s given. I would say that this is probably the very common answer amongst the average evangelical Christian in America: you know you’re safe when you have faith. That’s the answer. In one sense, you are offering faith as the thing that would save you. Or if you were to stand hypothetically—and this is taking some liberty with the illustration and we’re going to do this throughout—if you’re standing before the judgment seat and you’re being asked on, what basis should you be admitted into heaven, the answer on the part of many evangelical Christians would be, “Well, I believe.” And we’re going to unpack this more throughout this episode.
Dear friends, saints who are listening to this episode, if your answer to the question on what basis should you be admitted into heaven begins in the first person, you’ve gotten it wrong. If it begins with, “I have done anything,” including, “I believe,” that’s not the right answer.
Jon, I think it might be good for us to go ahead and lay our cards on the table quickly and then continue to unpack this. So, our answer to that question, biblically speaking, of “On what basis would we be admitted into heaven? On what basis are we reconciled to God?” The answer is Jesus. Period. He is it. That’s why we’re saying faith has never saved anybody; Jesus saves sinners and faith is the means through which the work of Christ is applied to us. We’re going to think more about that throughout this episode and we’re trying to get at it in several different ways.
The issue here, Jon, as I look at this, in answering this question, not only are you placing confidence in something that is related to you that is somewhat subjective in that sense, it just does not hold even biblically. I know immediately there are objections that always get raised to this. We even get this on our social media sometimes. People say, “What about like Luke 7 when Jesus looks at the woman of the city and says, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.'” We would respond to that by saying that the woman in that account comes to Christ in a Pharisee’s home. It’s very clear that she has no confidence in anything pertaining to her. She has no righteousness on which she’s going to stand, she’s not confident in herself in any way and is casting herself completely upon Christ as the one who can save her. So, it’s clear that the one who she is trusting is the one who does the saving. It is not her faith that does that. Faith, even in that account, is simply the means through which Christ’s saving work would be applied to her.
Jon Moffitt: Throughout all of the book of John, Jesus calls people to believe in him. Literally in John 6, they say, “Make it plain that you are the Messiah.” And he says, “I’ve already given you all the evidence, but you don’t believe in me.” That was his point. It’s not faith in general. He is proving to them that he is the source of their justification, or he is the source of their hope into the Kingdom. This even goes back to the rich young ruler when he walks up to Jesus, the one he should be trusting, and asks, “What must I do to be saved?” What he’s saying is, “What can I trust to get what I want?” And Jesus says, “I’m standing right here, and the fact that you don’t know that is the answer that you need.” So, he tries to crush the man who trusts in himself. The man literally starts with, “I’m trusting this so far. What else do I need to trust? I have obeyed the law.” In the end, Jesus sends him away because he’s unwilling to trust Jesus. It’s not faith in your faith. The way I would reword this, and this is going to sound heretical, and maybe we can kind of work it out, but the way I would say it is that faith is the evidence of your salvation. Because I am saved by Jesus, therefore I believe. So, you’re resting in the sufficiency of Jesus to hold on to you; you are not resting in the sufficiency of holding on to Jesus. Because Jesus saved me, therefore I believe that he is sufficient to carry me home. This is what Paul says: he who began a good work in you will complete it. Where are we putting our faith? In Christ.
Justin Perdue: It’s good to mention where this comes from in the contemporary evangelical movement. You had a lot of people back in the eighties or so who began to articulate things like this, where there was a good motivation to emphasize the freeness of the gospel. But then what ended up happening was it was kind of a hyper Arminian, very man-centered approach to this whole thing. You had Zane Hodges from Dallas Theological Seminary, famously in his book Absolutely Free, begins to articulate what is necessary is to have this one moment where you make this decision of faith, it’s this one act of faith, and then at that point, based upon that act, a person is secure forever. That’s where you get this language of “once saved, always saved” in this mechanical sense. What is the basis of that “once saved, always saved”? It was that one act, that decision of faith that you made at that one point, and you’re looking back to that as the ground of your assurance before God. That is problematic because then in that view, what ends up happening—and where Zane Hodges went with this—is that once you’ve made that one decision of faith, it really doesn’t matter what happens after that. It doesn’t even matter if you continue believing. It’s kind of crazy the way that it goes. I think that’s the greatest example that we could give of placing faith in your faith, or placing faith in one decision that you made, as the ground of your hope before the Lord and the ground of your reconciliation to Him.
Jon Moffitt: The problem starts with—and this is where the whole Lordship thing came out—the gospel that’s being presented. The good news is not this. The good news is Jesus Christ saves sinners and presents them as righteous by his own obedience. What they’re hearing is, “If you say this prayer, you can be saved,” or, “If you dedicate yourself, you can be saved.” It’s like you’re the acting agent in salvation; the gospel is Jesus is the acting agent in salvation.
Justin Perdue: I think one of the reasons why it’s so damaging is that if you’re putting faith in your faith and yeah, and faith is this one decision you made or this act of faith that you do, effectively, what you’re saying is that faith is a work that you accomplish. You’re saying that you are capable of mustering up faith, and that faith that you have produced is what is your confidence—and that’s a really big dilemma.
What I would want to say to those individuals who are going to say, “Well, I believe in Jesus, and that is the basis of my admittance into heaven,” I assume that if you’re like every other person I know in that your faith—pick your descriptor: the strength of it, the quality of it, the consistency of it, the vitality of it, the fervor of it, etc.—that ebbs and flows not only by the year or the day, but by the moment sometimes. If your confidence is based in something so subjective, like how you feel about Christ or how strong your faith is in this moment, how in the world could you ever have peace? And the answer to that is, if you’re saying and you’re objectively assessing it, you couldn’t.
Jon Moffitt: People put faith in all kinds of things that have no reality to them. I’ve met people who have all kinds of beliefs and things but there’s no reality to their faith. They believe strongly in it, but they cannot place a reality connected to their faith. You’re asking this question, Justin: how is it that you can go from condemned to child, from unrighteous to righteous? Faith is not what does that. Jesus doesn’t look at you and go, “Oh, you believe that can happen? Therefore, it’s yours.” No, there has to be a substance; there has to be a key access. For instance, just because I believe a plane can take me from point A to point B doesn’t mean that the plane actually does it until the plane actually takes me from point A to point B. Faith doesn’t make the plane fly; the plane does. So, Jesus is the one who saves and sanctifies and presents us as righteous. I know it sounds nuanced, but it is important because in the end, when I stand before God and He lets me into His Kingdom as His child, it has nothing to do with me and it has everything to do with what Christ did on my behalf. We reword faith and almost say it’s an acceptance. Do you accept the reality that without Jesus, you cannot be saved? Yes. I accept that. Do you accept the reality that without Jesus’ obedience, you cannot be seen as righteous? Yes. I accept that reality. Then you are given all the benefits of Christ; faith is acceptance, it’s not doing.
Justin Perdue: It’s not acceptance, it’s receiving. I would say it’s also trusting. The real question at the heart of the matter is who are you trusting? What are you trusting? Are you trusting in your faith? Are you trusting in something about you? Or are you trusting in Christ in his sufficiency? And that is where we’re headed with this whole thing.
I want to go ahead and introduce this now, Jon. I think people need to understand, and this is related to putting faith in faith and even faith being a work, that in the immediate aftermath of the Reformation, you had rightly a lot of people preaching and emphasizing faith over and against works to the extent that even back in the day—and I think this happens even in our context too, which is what we’re highlighting here—people made such a big deal about faith that it began to sound like faith was a work that we do that then reconciles us to God. It was even to the extent that Roman Catholic theologians responded to the Protestant Reformation. Some of them even drew the conclusion, “We see that you, like us, believe in salvation by works. You just have a different set of works. Yours is faith; ours is this other stuff,” in terms of the sacraments and the like, “but we all believe in salvation by works.” This is where Luther, Calvin, and the Reformers had to make great effort and take great pains to demonstrate that faith, first of all, was purely a gift from God, biblically speaking, and that it was not faith itself that saved anyone, but it was the object of our faith, namely Jesus, who saved us, and that faith was simply the means through which the righteousness and the suffering and the satisfaction made for sins by Christ are applied to sinners. Historically, this has happened before, and we, like the Reformers and the Protestants through history, need to be careful that we articulate this in ways that are accurate biblically and don’t turn faith into a work that we do that saves, but rather see faith as the means through which the work of Christ is applied to us.
Jon Moffitt: Quoting here Romans 10 real quick—just so you can hear it in Paul’s words. He’s talking about the legitimacy of what’s backing your faith, and he’s even using this illustration. Romans 10:6: “Righteousness based on faith.” Then he even says in verse nine, “Because, if you confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord,” where is he pointing? The object of your faith. He says you’re pointing it to the reality of who Jesus is. I believe Jesus is Lord, and he’s saying that’s the evidence or that’s what saves you. “And believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So, the faith is in the object of Jesus and what he did. I love that about Romans 10. We always use that verse as having to say it with your mouth in order to be saved and you miss the point. Faith is in who Jesus is and what he did—that’s what saves you; not the actual faith in itself. Just having faith.
Justin Perdue: It’s very clear that the presentation of the Scriptures is that it’s the righteousness of God, it’s the righteousness of Christ that’s being counted to sinners and faith is a means. Think about Romans 1:17, think about Ephesians 2:8-10, think about Philippians 3:7-9. It’s very clear that it’s somebody else’s righteousness, namely the very righteousness of God, in Romans 3:21-22, that is received by faith. So, it’s not faith itself that God counts to us as our righteousness; it is the righteousness of Jesus counted to us.
Jon Moffitt: And it’s evidenced by faith.
Justin Perdue: Let’s move on to the next. We dealt with placing faith in faith, which is a very broad evangelical issue. Now we want to speak more to an issue that would be more prominent amongst Calvinistic or Reformed-ish evangelicals.
This would be, as you put it before we recorded, if the first one is faith in our faith, this category would be many people putting faith in our faithfulness. The answer here would be something along the lines of on what basis should you be admitted into heaven. And you would begin to point to your obedience, you would begin to point to your discipline and your faithfulness. Because I understood these things, I believe these things, I did this stuff that then demonstrated and validated my faith. That’s the argument—that you need to prove the legitimacy of your trust in Jesus through what you do.
Jon Moffitt: Yeah. This is probably a subject that we handle all the time in Theocast. It’s definitely a tricky situation. We’re going to be a little bit more pointed in and try to be very nuanced and careful here. There’s a kind of a razor’s edge here and it feels like we can get pushed off onto either side. We are going to try to be as scripturally relevant here as we can, because what people end up hearing is that obedience isn’t necessary, and that is by no means Reformed, confessional, or biblical in any shape at all.
Obedience is a consequence. It’s what’s going to happen. Even Ezekiel says, “I’ll pull out your heart of stone and I’ll put it in a heart of flesh and will cause you to walk in my ways.” Obviously, Christians who have the Spirit’s power in them are going to obey.
Justin Perdue: I’m thinking of a bunch of Scripture passages: Romans 6—union with Christ, we’ve been delivered from the dominion of sin, we become obedient from the heart; Romans 8—we’re being conformed into the image of Christ; Romans 12—we’re being renewed in our minds. All of these things are our reality as a result of union with Christ by faith. Of course, like you just said, because we have been fundamentally changed and united to Christ and his Spirit is now at work in us, he is going to change us and that is going to result in good works and obedience. And we, along with the Reformed and the orthodox of all time, see that as a necessary consequence of saving faith and a necessary consequence of salvation. The problem is—and you said this so many times, Jon, and I agree with you—the problem is this kind of “prove it” mentality that exists out there because you start to try to make the stream flow uphill and you invert the relationship by saying, “Prove that you’re saved by what you do.” You actually can’t do that; you have to be saved first and then the fruit is born. And when you invert the relationship, we got all kinds of problems.
Jon Moffitt: We’ve gone from one side to the other, right. We are saved by our faith, now we’re being saved by our faithfulness—which no one would say in the conservative Calvingelical world. To be fair, that is what ends up leading people down that road, because what is the basis foundation? Where are they resting? What’s fueling their assurance? And what’s fueling your assurance is the evidence of fruit in your life. Often, I would even say, it’s not fruits of the Spirit, it’s fruit of Christianism that’s been handed down to us. As crazy as this sounds, the moment you say the desire to read your Bible daily is the evidence of your salvation and the ground of your assurance, I’m sorry, but that can’t be it because your desires for anything are going to ebb and flow up and down. This is why Paul talks about the war against the flesh and the Spirit against the flesh: we are going to have our desires that go up and down. Even if you were to say you don’t desire Jesus above everything else every single moment of every single day, you should not have assurance, again, you are saying the ground of your salvation—that which justifies you before God—is based upon either your actions or your emotions or your level of dedication. This is why in the Baptist world that I grew up in, the call to rededication was so relevant because it was like they were saying, “You should question whether you’re good with God. You should question whether God is going to save you because look at your life. You’re not fully dedicated to Him.” we would have these rededication services to the point where some would even get rebaptized—Justin, you know this world—because your assurance level dropped so low that it was like they were doing a re-up on the membership here just to make sure that all things are good. And when you are looking to dedication or faithfulness as the ground of your assurance, then you have a massive problem. This is why so many people who listen to Theocast contact us and say, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I truly have assurance because I am not looking to a prayer on one side, or I’m not looking to my faithfulness on the other side because prayer and faithfulness never saved anyone.”
Justin Perdue: Certainly, this whole premise of walking the aisle, praying a prayer, and making a decision one time, saving someone—that is foreign to the Scriptures. This other thing of the emphasis on your disciplines and your faithfulness and the fruit in your life, and basically pointing people to that to know that they’re saved, is a hopeless endeavor. I’ve said this recently, I think, but I’m going to go and say it again: none of us on our deathbeds will ever be comforted by our obedience. You know why? Because all of us who have been united to Christ and who have been given a new heart and a new spirit, who are actually tender in our consciences and want to obey, we will reflect back on our lives and we will be hyper aware, I trust, of how we could’ve done so much more. We could have obeyed so much more. We could have sinned so much less. You can’t comfort someone with that because we are imperfect at best, even in our obedience, and our sincerity and how we feel about obeying ebbs and flows. So, if we’re being pointed to that, not to encourage us—we agree with the confessions and the Scriptures that we can have our assurance bolstered by being shown the change in our lives—but if you’re being pointed to that as how you know and on what basis should you be admitted into heaven? “Well, I’ve got these good works to prove that I’m legit.” That is assurance robbing and peace destroying. Many saints have been wrecked by that, even in our modern context.
This, in my mind, is bad Puritan theology where there is an overemphasis on moral transformation. The gospel is assumed. Of course, Christ is preached and all that, but that’s in the backdrop. It’s the background and really, the focus is now on the Christian’s life, disciplines, obedience, performance, and the like.
If we begin to answer the question of on, what basis should you be admitted into heaven in the first person in any way, we are wrong. If it’s our faith, our obedience, or the fact that we persevere to continue, brother, sister, you’re looking in the wrong spot.
Jon Moffitt: To be clear, I want to go back and say this. I feel like people misquote me and Theocast quite often. I think Christians should and must be very disciplined in their lives as it relates to their sin and their actions, and I would even say, as it relates to the Word of God, because God’s Word and God’s people point us to the one who is saving us, and the more disciplined and dedicated we can be to focusing our attention on the substance of our salvation, the stronger our faith and obedience can and should be.
Justin, I know you’re about to get to this here in this illustration you’re going to use: the emphasis is put on your faithfulness, but the emphasis has to be put on Christ and his faithfulness. This is 1 John when it says what we are, we are not yet. But we, in anticipation of this, we purify ourselves as he is pure. The looking to is Christ, not to our faithfulness. I know people can feel like we’re being nuanced here, but I will tell you the flip on this: the difference between rest and no rest. You can rest seeking obedience, disciplining yourself, understanding the benefits of living a godly life, and loving those and giving grace, mercy, patience, and longsuffering, resting in the reality that it’s Jesus’ sufficiency that brings me home. Or you can pursue godliness and all of these other things as they ebb and flow, go up and down; as they do, so does your assurance, and so does your emotional dryness because you’re trying to find comfort in yourself and in your self-sacrificing, and it cannot be found. This is why Paul says, “I am,” present tense, “the greatest sinner I know.” And where does he find his hope? In the sufficiency of Jesus.
Justin Perdue: He does, which is where we’re turning.
The title of the episode, Faith Never Saved Anyone, is an entirely true statement. Faith does not save sinners; Jesus does. Faith, as we’ve been saying this whole podcast, is simply a vehicle, or a conduit, or a means—whatever word you want to use. It is the object of our faith that is the one in whom we trust who saves us. Even our confession and the ways that it will outline what saving faith is—it is receiving resting and trusting in Christ alone for salvation for all of it: justification, sanctification, and glorification. It is as 11.1 in the 1689 points out with respect to justification. It’s not that God infuses righteousness into us, but He pardons our sins and accounts us as righteous. How? He does it for Christ’s sake alone, not for anything produced in us or done by us. He doesn’t count faith itself, the act of believing, or any other obedience to us as our righteousness. Instead, God credits; He imputes. Christ’s active obedience to the law and passive obedience in his death is our whole and only righteousness by faith—and that is a beautiful definition of what justification looks like, and even of what saving faith looks like, and that’s what we’re trying to outline and articulate here today.
What we want to do now is continue to unpack this Reformed answer to the question, “On what basis should we be admitted into heaven?” The answer is Jesus. Period. There’s nothing else to say. He is the one who has saved us, and we look outside of ourselves always to him as the ground of our assurance and peace before God.
Jon Moffitt: I know you mean this, but not just Jesus, the good teacher, or Jesus, the good person—it’s Jesus, the replacement for our sins; the substitute; Jesus, the righteous one; Jesus, the intermediary, the one who intercedes for us; Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah. That’s the one who saves you. Just to be clear.
Justin Perdue: Like I said, from our confession, it’s his obedience to the whole law—so his righteous life—and its obedience in his death in which he paid for our sins, took the punishment we deserve as law breakers. It’s all of that counted to us so that we are not only viewed by God as though we have never sinned, we are also viewed as having all of the obedient works of Jesus credited to our account. It’s phenomenal news—and faith is the means by which all of that is applied to wretches such as we.
A few illustrations by teachers that most people that are listening to this podcast will probably have heard of, and these are really, really good and helpful. So, the first is Tim Keller. Keller has given an illustration at multiple points to demonstrate how it is God and His promises that saves sinners, grounded in what Jesus has done. So, he says to envision the Exodus where the people of Israel are going to be crossing through the Red Sea. This is an insane event where God miraculously parts the waters. Can you imagine what it would have been like to walk through on the floor of the Red Sea with these, we presume, walls of water on either side. You’re being pursued by the Egyptian army. Keller will rightly point out that you have to assume that there would have been people in that mass of Israelites walking through the Red Sea who would have felt all kinds of different ways about this event. Some of them would have been super confident in God and in Moses, their leader: “Here we go. God is going to deliver us.” And then there would have been some, no doubt, who would have been scared out of their minds. But as Keller points out rightly, both those who were confident and those who were terrified made it through to the other side. Why? Because God was their deliverer. It was not about them and their confidence; it was about God and His faithfulness.
Jon Moffitt: Again, it’s the substance of what saved them. Obviously, they had to believe. And how do we know that they believed?
Justin Perdue: They walked.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. That’s such a good illustration.
Justin Perdue: Another one. This one’s excellent. Don Carson. So, he presents this hypothetical conversation between two Israelites the night the Passover’s going to go down. God has said He’s going to come through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn. He has instructed His people as to what they are to do and how they’re to make this meal, kill a lamb, make this meal and eat it in haste, put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their house, and God’s going to pass over that household. Carson paints this picture of two men having a conversation about all this. One of them is absolutely losing his mind. He’s like, “I just don’t know about all this. I’m scared. I don’t know how this is going to go down. What are we supposed to do? How is this going to go down for us?” And the other man responds, “What are you talking about? The Lord has told us everything that we need to know. We can have complete confidence in what He has told us. We just need to do this with the lamb, and we need to put the blood on the doorposts and all this. Everything’s going to be fine.” And he’s super confident. The other guy goes, “Oh my gosh. Yeah, I guess I’m going to go do that. But I just don’t know. I just don’t know how this is going to go down.” So that happens. The one man in confidence goes and does the thing and the other man with a lot of doubt and fear and trepidation goes and does the thing. And then this question: whose house was visited by the angel of death that night? Neither. Why? Because the issue in terms of God passing over the house did not hinge upon the quality of the faith of the people; it hinged upon the quality of the promises and the One who made the promises; it hinged on His character, that the Promise Giver is the Promise Keeper, and it is His nature and His character that carries the day. It’s not how the people felt and how much confidence they have.
This last one has been circulating around social media lately and it’s so good. So, Alistair Begg is a preacher known to some, maybe known to many. There’s a clip two minutes long of him giving a message. He begins by saying some really helpful things about that first and third person stuff, about how, if you were to die and you stand before the proverbial judgment seat, you’re asked on what basis you should be admitted into heaven. If you begin to answer in the first person, he says we’re wrong. It must be answered in the third person because he has done these things, not because I believe, not because I obey, not because I continued.
And then he gives the illustration of the thief on the cross—and he takes some liberty with these things, but the point is still made. The thief on the cross, as people know, was cursing Jesus, and Jesus said some wonderful things to him, and this man ends up trusting in Christ and clearly taking Jesus at his word, where Jesus even looks at him and says, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.” Begg paints the picture of this man standing before the judgment seat, and there’s the angel there—again, he takes liberty—and the angel asks this man, “On what basis are you here?” And the thief says, “I don’t know.” “What do you mean you don’t know?” “It means, I don’t know.” So, this angel gets very frustrated and goes and gets his supervisor angel, who then comes to question the thief. And this supervisor angel asked the thief and he said, “Okay, tell me what you know about the doctrine of justification by faith.” And the thief says, “I’ve never heard of it in my life.” So, he says, “Okay, let’s then go to the doctrine of Scripture immediately. Let’s talk about that.” And it’s just crickets. Nothing. So even the supervisor angel is now frustrated with the thief and, and he says, “Okay, on what basis are you here?” And the thief looks at him and says, “Well, because the man on the middle cross told me I can come.” Even as he gives the message, the air is let out of the room and everybody’s like, “Amen, brother.” You know as a Christian, as someone acquainted with your own sin, you’re like, “That is right.” Because that is the only way that we could ever have peace: because Christ has told me, on the basis of his unshakeable life and on the basis of his death in my place, he has told me that I can come, and he has secured that for me. That’s good news. How did this shake out for the thief? He was cursing him one minute and now he’s in paradise. Why is he there? Because Jesus told him he could come.
Jon Moffitt: “I have come to seek and to save sinners.” And the thief on the cross is a great example of a sinner. “I’ve come to seek and to save the lost.” Not those who have found their way, but those who have lost their way. It is so counter self-righteousness so that none of us may boast.
Justin Perdue: Why is it that we can be confident? Not only because of what Jesus did for us while he was on earth, but like we talked about in a podcast recently, he has ascended to the heavens and sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for his own—all of us. He’s able to save us to the utmost. He advocates for us when we sin. His word stands. He’s telling us, “Those of you who have trusted in me, you can come. I am the one who guarantees that. I am the guarantor of the new covenant. I’m the mediator here and what I say goes.” The one in whom we trust, the object of our faith, is our confidence. It’s not our faith. It’s not our obedience. It’s Christ and what he’s done for us.
Jon Moffitt: One last illustration before we go over to our next podcast. The disciples are in a locked room. They’re afraid the Jews might find them. Mary’s already told him, “Hey, Jesus is alive,” but they still haven’t figured it out yet. These are cowards. Peter has rejected Jesus three times and knows he’s ashamed of it. Then Jesus appears in the room and the first word out of his mouth is “Peace be unto you.” And he goes back to quote Jeremiah where he says the prophets are proclaiming peace when there is no peace, because Israel is in the absolute rejection of God. And he says, “You are unwilling to repent.” These men who are in the room, not repenting, and Jesus appears before them and says, “Peace be unto you.” I love what John says: he showed them the scars on his hand and his side. The substance of their peace was Jesus’ death on the cross. My goodness. That’s something you should believe in.
Justin Perdue: Amen. It’s Christ’s gentle posture toward them as a gentle and lowly Savior. “Peace to you. Let me show you, my scars. My scars are your salvation.”
Jon Moffitt: “By his wounds, we are healed.” Not by our faithfulness, not by our faith, not by our obedience.
We’re going to continue this conversation in our family time. It’s where we gather together to talk about how we take this message and move it out into the world to encourage each other to ask hard questions. This is called Semper Reformanda. It’s a two-part ministry: we do a podcast every week right after this one to continue the conversation, and then we continue that conversation in local and online groups on our app. You could go in there and join the conversation, whether it’s in the Tavern or in a local and online group. So, if you want to learn more about that, listen to the podcast, join the group. You can go to Theocast.org, and we would love to have you there.
Justin let’s go ahead and head over to the other podcast. We’ll see you guys all next week.